About this project
Thank you to everyone who pledged - Contradiction is now funded and is in production, scheduled to be completed by Spring 2014.
To follow updates and to donate if you haven't already, please visit baggycat.com/updates
When we know someone's lying to us, we all dream about being able to catch him or her out. In Contradiction, you get to do just that over and over again!
Contradiction is an adventure game that uses 100% live-action video and a unique design to give you the freedom to move around at will, investigate locations, collect evidence and make notes. But the heart of the game is interviewing characters, asking them questions and spotting the lies they tell.
It's a system that makes you feel like you're really having conversations with characters, in which you get to see their reaction and embarrassment when you point out their lies!
The game also has a horror influence and is filled to the brim with tons of interesting, sometimes bizarre, startling and atmospheric mini-scenes that you encounter as you progress.
In short, I'm trying to make an atmospheric, well-shot, well-acted and genuinely interactive movie, something you can play alone or with friends on a dark winter's night by the fire.
I recently did an interview with 1001-up HERE in which I discussed it further. There's also an interview HERE I did with Eurogamer about my background in games. Check out the teaser video on Youtube HERE.
Contradiction is all about interrogating characters and spotting the lies they tell. You play a character called Inspector Jenks, a police detective assigned to the case of a student found drowned in a lake one morning. As you wander around different locations, Jenks makes note of objects you find, unusual things you see, events you witness and information you hear. You also meet several characters, who you can question about each of your notes. After telling you what they know, characters' replies are noted as a list of bullet points. But Contradiction is full of liars – and liars always slip up and contradict themselves. The name of the game is to listen to characters’ replies and spot the contradictions!
For example, to one question a character may mention that they were home on Friday night, then to another they say they went to Emma’s party. If you then discover that Emma’s party was also on Friday night, you’d know one of those replies was a lie. Pairing the two replies together causes Jenks to ask the character to explain themselves. The character may then come clean immediately and admit their lie, but more often than not they'll keep on lying, dodging the question and telling more lies, digging themselves a hole they eventually fall into.
Contradiction aims to create the feeling that you’re watching an emotionally engaging mystery movie but also confronting its characters and solving the mystery.
For me the key element I'm trying to introduce is the atmosphere that comes with real characterisation - characters you can look in the eye and believe in, who you also get to watch squirm and react when you confront them about their lies. It's all about the characters!
Most of the money will be spent on actors, crew, equipment hire and location fees - shooting it, basically.
We’re going to shoot this entirely on location - this won't use green screen or ugly compositing. Post-production effects can be used to minimise the need for props and sets, such as altering or removing existing signs, replacing house numbers or removing unwanted elements, including buildings, from scenes.
Please don't judge how this will look based on the interview in the demo - that's just test footage, shot with no lights or set dressing etc. For more info on my background as DP for TV commercials, please have a look at my WEBSITE.
Much more information is provided in the FAQs at the bottom, on how the game works, the story and the characters, etc. Check it out!
There are two main areas that on a sliding scale simply get better the more I can afford to spend. They are:
Actors: Getting great actors costs money. I'm going to try to get the best actors I can, but the more money I have the better they'll be.
Locations: Filming at a privately owned location means paying the owner. This is always negotiable, but sometimes the best places know they're the best places and charge for it. The more I can afford the better the locations I'll be able to afford, though I'll obviously be making the most of wherever I can get.
That's it! Contradiction is a new approach to creating an interactive video game, in a way that I hope will be as playable as it is atmospheric and engaging. Your help will be very much appreciated!
“The heart of the game is interviewing characters and trying to spot their lies, by pairing contradictory statements. It’s a really simple concept, but it’s deceptively powerful. That one device allowed me to write a huge and dense plot, full of personalities, scandals, affairs, secrets and lies. If I get the funding, I’m hoping to create an immersive, atmospheric, even emotional experience, that offers something genuinely new.”
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge of this will be making Contradiction within budget, finding enough affordable locations and finding the best actors, available at the right time. However this will all be part of the preproduction process. Preproduction is typically fraught with difficulties, but none insurmountable, usually! I have enough experience in the various roles involved in making drama and TV ads to be able to deal with any major problems.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Controlling your movement around the world will work by simply tapping or clicking the area of the image you want to move to. Also there will be areas within the image which you can move into in order to investigate - if something interesting is seen, you'll see Jenks examine it and sometimes note it down or, if it's small enough and nobody will miss it, put it into his bag.
When you want to use an object you can scroll through the list of notes (which includes objects) and click one. If the object is of any use, you'll see Jenks use it.
When you meet a character, selecting one of the notes from the list shows Jenks asking the character what they know about that note, phrased in a unique way for each note. So clicking the note 'Kate's Death' would show Jenks asking something like 'What do you know about Kate Vine?' or if it's unknown whether the character knows about Kate or not, he'd phrase it something like 'Did you know Kate Vine?' The character then tells you what they know and their reply is split into bullet points, which are shown when you click that note again.
Now you have their replies, you can ask the character to confirm them. This would be a clip of Jenks saying something like 'You said you knew Kate well?' or 'You went to college with Kate, that right?' and the character replying 'Yes.' Characters just say 'yes' or 'no' to these confirmation questions, but as these are short clips there'll be quite a lot of versions shot, just to break it up and make it feel more natural. The reason for having this confirmation element is so that you can work through replies looking for a contradiction in a natural way, that keeps up the pace. I thought about just going through and picking pairs, but I think it'll feel much more natural and maintain the illusion better this way.
As soon as you pair two contradictory reply points sequentially, you'll then see a new clip of Jenks asking the character to explain themselves (and them replying). After that, new reply points will appear and old ones (the lies) will disappear.
Because the clips are unique to each character, Jenks can phrase the questions appropriately for that character, changing it subtly to fit what's known about them. Also if a character gives you sensitive information that they don't want certain other characters to know about, Jenks will honour that and either phrase the question delicately or not allow you to ask that character at all. For instance, if someone admits to having an affair and asks you not to tell their husband, Jenks honours the request. Usually.
It's been asked whether seeing the same video clips over and over as you move between locations will get repetitive. The answer is that repetition is only noticeable and relevant if you can identify something that repeats. So the trick is avoiding clips that contain elements you can 'lock on' to - the main give away being faces and expressions. Seeing Jenks' movements from behind, when shot properly, doesn't actually get repetitive, because not only does it become much more difficult to 'lock on' to the repetition, it also becomes irrelevant. I've tried this and it's true! It's a trick I'm using throughout the game - repetition is only noticeable if you can lock on to something that clearly repeats. I explain a related concept in the FAQ below.
So because you're mainly clicking either notes or reply points, which appear as short sentences, the graphics in Contradiction are almost entirely limited to clickable text. This means that a transparent overlay of text might be the best solution for 16:9 screens. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it...
Dead time is when you're waiting at a location deciding which way to choose, or deciding what question to ask. Audio is looped and will continue throughout, but for the video, it depends where you are.
Locations are shown with nobody in shot, so in the case of interiors in buildings they'll be static shots. When you're outside you may see leaves moving on trees or water moving in a lake - in this case loops will be used. When in an interview situation, loops are used but the shot angles are designed to avoid seeing people's faces. About half of the items you collect are physical objects, so these will be shown, resting on Jenks' bag, while you're choosing the next question. The other half are notes, which will also be shown, written in Jenks' notebook, resting on his bag. Characters can be seen in these shots but out of focus. But it's unlikely, given the pace of the game, that you'll spend much time looking at these shots. The point of contradiction is that you'll be lining up questions in advance while the character is replying, so there'll be little dead time anyway.
This isn't a game in which you'll spend much time standing around wondering what to do. You'll generally be moving around or asking questions at a fair old speed.
Contradiction has the potential for a series of games, but the first story centres around an unusual and controversial business training course called Atlas, set up by two cousins. Atlas claims to teach its students unique skills which enable them to become highly successful business men and women, capable of making vast sums of money. Every couple of months, Atlas hold an intensive, two-week training conference. However, during the last conference, Kate Vine, a bright and capable Atlas student, was found dead in a nearby lake. Although the initial investigation suggests it could have been death by misadventure, Jenks is assigned to investigate Atlas.
During the investigation, Jenks discovers that Atlas employ some controversial training techniques, which critics say border on mind control. All current leaders and students deny this and claim it's simply scaremongering by certain students who weren't up to the challenge the course presented. However, following more research, it appears that there was another group who used the same conference facilities as Atlas a few years ago, who were connected to another student death. This group, called Third Eye, were a secretive cult that appeared to have some sort of occultist agenda, with members practicing occultist rituals, their true purpose remaining concealed behind a strictly controlled secrecy policy. They abruptly disappeared following a campaign by locals to rid them from the village and to the best of anyone's knowledge have never returned.
However, what are the secret connections between Third Eye and Atlas? You'll have to wait and see - I'm not giving any more away!
There are six featured characters, one detective and a number of incidental characters, both speaking and non-speaking. The crime is being investigated by Inspector Jenks, a quiet but imposing man, who looms over his suspects and intimidates them without effort.
Simon and girlfriend Emma met at college. Now post-graduates, Simon is working nights in a neighbouring village while Emma has started a PhD course.
Simon has a quiet arrogance that he hides with a polite manner. He has secretly come to think that by some sort of cosmic inevitability he is destined for stardom and great financial success, which tends to make his politeness seem false – as if he’s on the verge of saying ‘don’t you know who I am?!’ Simon attends the Atlas business course and has become almost obsessed with it, although – inevitably – he feels he is an undervalued student, who is capable of more. He knows more about Kate than he’s willing to admit, but feels no guilt and believes he is completely innocent. His relationship with Emma has the seeds of an abusive one, with controlling and domineering tendencies already starting to creep in.
In contrast to Simon, Emma is a quiet academic, who has returned to college to start a PhD course. She has many secrets and feels haunted and embarrassed by some of her past mistakes, making her conservative and cautious with her replies – even when there’s actually nothing to hide. She is constantly on the look out for hidden agendas and traps when she’s being questioned, but this is only emotional defensiveness, in part a result of her relationship with Simon. In fact when she’s forced into a confession, she’s relieved to feel unburdened. She knows Simon is bad for her and is seriously worried about what he might do if he found out about her past mistakes, even taking steps to protect herself.
James is a lodger at a farm owned by a bitter, divorced farmer, who leaves James well alone. James enjoys his own company and is seen as a loner by those who know him. His isolation has led to him becoming suspicious of virtually everybody he meets, especially Jenks. He’s condescending and cynical, but this is really a result of his isolation. James has developed a deep, semi-mystical philosophy, which has a surprisingly positive side – he believes strongly in social equality and wants to put the world right. But his isolation and lack of someone to talk to has turned him into a fully-fledged conspiracy theorist. It turns out that he knows little about Atlas, but he knows a lot about a cult called Third Eye who used to use the centre before Atlas and had an eerily similar agenda. James delights in telling you his conspiracy theories about Third Eye, capitalism and the demise of Western civilisation.
Of the two Atlas leaders, Paul is the straight man to Ryan’s comedian. He has a brilliant mind and a background in both science and psychology, but he’s essentially an introverted academic, under the thumb of both Ryan and his wife Rebecca. They call the shots and Paul jumps. In fact both have spotted and exploited Paul’s inherent submissiveness and indecisiveness. Paul’s only moment of madness was a very brief affair with a student on the course. Ever since, Paul has lived with the fear that Rebecca will one day discover what he did and do something drastic. The philosophy the three share leaves little room for forgiveness. Paul’s replies are guarded and he’s prone to stumbling over his words. He sweats at the slightest provocation. He views Jenks with both suspicion and fear.
Rebecca, Paul’s wife, runs the local pub, noted for its live music and drunken games. Rebecca and Paul have been together for ten years and their relationship is based on control and submission – Rebecca is in control, Paul’s in submission. In fact, Paul fears her wrath. Her replies are always clear and decisive, even when the truth is more ambiguous. Ambiguity isn’t something Rebecca appreciates, or, in truth, understands. She runs the pub with a military rule and has a voice loud enough to clear the place with a couple of words – ‘Everybody out!’ People do as she says. She is happy to talk to Jenks and wants the matter cleared up as soon as possible, and can be cynical of his questions if she fails to see their relevance.
Ryan is utterly in love with himself. He’s confident, aloof and naturally patronising, sometimes deliberately but often without realising it. Ryan has had a privileged life. He is privately educated and was given a financial kick start in business – and life – by his wealthy father. He has soared ever since, Atlas being just one in a line of business enterprises, each being successful enough to fund the next. He feels himself to be above moral norms, which he regards as nothing more than rules to keep the masses in check – the masses he doesn’t feel part of. He has created his own rules and morality, much of which has found its way into the ethos of the Atlas business course. He genuinely feels he is broadening students’ minds and freeing them from their unthinking, herd-like and morally conditioned past. He has little time for Jenks or the investigation, or, it would seem, Kate’s death.
As long as it can be done cheaply enough, some other languages can be supported in subtitles. The range of languages will depend on costs, basically. But if you're able to offer a translation please let me know!
I'm hoping to spend time on making this look as good as possible, which means finding the right locations, lighting them and set dressing them properly. Again this is one of the main reasons for seeking funding - HMI arc lights, location fees and props all cost money! Also please don't judge what it'll look like by the footage in the pitch video, that was shot with no lights and no set dressing, simply because I didn't have the funds to do it properly. This is a bit of a chicken and egg problem as you can see! However, there are ads and promos on my baggycat.com site that hopefully show what's possible with a bit of cash.
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