ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK REMAKE DEV BLOG
This is a summary of my progress and the creative liberties I have taken.
I have kept the general look but changed a lot of the interface mechanics. You can navigate the world with the keyboard now which makes walking around fast and painless. Items are dragged smoothly to/from your inventory area or you can quickly click an item on the screen to pick it up. Items in the inventory have numbers on their icons when you have several of them (crossbow bolts, spell ingredients etc.) There is no "room" button, and instead any item dropped in a room is visible in that room's screen. The verbs on the right have been exchanged for item-context verbs. Carrying the bag of salt creates a "SALT" verb which lets you throw a handful of salt any time, for example. Spells have their own verb section instead of having to carry scrolls and "use" them. You can quick-save and quick-load at any point (except reading or spell-making), even during cutscenes. Quitting the game saves your game and it is automatically resumed next time you start the game. The bar that contained your stats now contains the name of the room or the name of whatever you may be hovering the mouse over. "Holding" (dragging) an object gives you it's full description. When you are in water the orange eyes on the UI border become blue and squinty.
Since the verbs are gone and there is no "look-in" command, I compensated in various ways. For the hole in the bathroom wall I just drew a new zoomed-in screen of the crack. For the furniture containing crossbow bolts just clicking on the container opens it and makes you start dragging the new crossbow bolts item. For the crucible in the smithy crate I just made the crucible itself visible on the main screen. For items within other items (scroll in bible, seeds and key in biscuit tin) you just drag the containing item on the screen until the contents fall out. A few items can be picked up that previously couldn't, like the horseshoe in the smithy or three items in the gatehouse.
The music in the remake is the music from the MSDOS version of the game which is the one I had as a child. It will be easy to let the player decide whether they hear the music it has now (MSDOS) or the Amiga version's music which was MODs instead of MIDI. When the text scroll appears there is a paper sound effect. When you walk there is a step sound effect, and when you turn there is a rustle sound effect.
Since the game is from a time when backstory was expressed in physical manuals, I added a whole new reading interface to accomodate exposition. There's also a new spell-making interface which is explained in the "kitchen" section.
Many of the cutscenes are now skippable with the spacebar. The intro is now in two parts. The first time you skip
takes you to the conversation in the parlour, and the second time you skip takes you to the courtyard with the dagger etc.
I haven't finished the combat system but I've made a start, and I won't have the buttons (hack/parry/etc.) As in the original, you'll be able to interface directly with the main window and that's enough.
I extended the intro, changed the dialogue to make Elvira not inexplicably horrible to you, changed the sign outside the castle, and added my Obsoleet logo at the very beginning. Following a change to the spell ingredient system (see below) I decided not to bother to make the canvas bag functional. Now it's just an item you start with but it is discarded after the game intro.
The first part of the castle you visit is the barbican, the enclosed area
around the portcullis. There are doors either side of you and turning
toward one makes you automatically and blindly step through it. I changed it so
that you just turn around and can see what is through the doors before
you walk through them. I drew four new screens to accomodate this; a left
and right view for when the portcullis is closed and open. When you first enter
the castle gate, if you turn around you will see that the portcullis has closed
without you noticing. I drew a version with the portcullis still open instead
which you can only see before the capture sequence. Oh, and I added a "sign in"
sign next to the gatehouse. I did this to tell the rooms apart before I added
full turning and the reception window, but decided to keep it anyway.
The candle in the gatehouse now animates, everything pinned to the board has descriptions, and you can pick up some objects there that you couldn't before, like the ink well.
FLIPPED HOUSE ENTRANCE
The screen where you're facing the house entrance was oddly flipped. When you look at the same area from any other location you'll see what I mean. The light is coming from the wrong side and the details such as the flowers are on the wrong side. It was like this for PC and Amiga. I flipped it so it matches the others, but here is how it looks in the original game:
I've made the doorways something a bit more than black rectangles, moved
the smithy door left so you can see where it leads, made the smashed tower
visible from the courtyard and not just the ramparts, and filled in a few
blanks so that every room/step in the courtyard has a view for each of the
four directions. The crucible in the smithy also has a zoomed-in view when
placed on the furnace now. Even though I had the MSDOS version and the remake's
music is the MSDOS version's music, I added the Amiga's underwater background noise.
I always thought the sledgehammer from the garden shed was an odd thing to use for hammering a stake, especially since in the animation a mallet is clearly being used. So, I ditched the sledgehammer and put a new mallet item on the smithy workbench.
THE HOUSE (DOWNSTAIRS)
Most screens of the house have been tweaked in major or minor ways. I added
missing details to some screens, put signs outside the rooms, and changed
some things for consitancy. I added a new book to the library containing a bit
of backstory about the castle. The picture of the spellbook on the library shelf and
the absinthe bottle have been changed to match the item icons.
I've changed the event when the cook appears in the kitchen. In the original game, when you enter the house after being in the herb garden you would hear a scream and then get some arsey Elvira dialogue about a lard bucket (demon cook). Now, when the cook spawns, you find Elvira waiting for you in the house entrance and then you get some slightly less arsey dialogue about a lard bucket.
In the lounge, collecting the monstera leaf now makes it visually vanish from the screen.
The only visual change here is that Elvira ambiently looks around at random. The spell-making interface is a little different now. You give her all the ingredients you find so you don't have to carry them around or stash them, and you click on the spell-book for a new spell-making interface with transparent recipes. Elvira speaks to you when you find the spell-book or give her an ingredient for the first time. I want to add general chat with Elvira, the only friendly character, but haven't yet. Speaking of "friendly", I changed all the game's dialogue to make Elvira nice like she usually is instead of wretchedly insulting to you every time she speaks.
THE HOUSE (UPSTAIRS)
I changed some things around, added missing details like side-walls, and put a sign outside the toilet.
That locked room where Elvira hides from the demon cook is now accessible. It contains a box with some
documents for exposition. Since I got
rid of the "look in" verb the crack containing the bottle of laudanum has it's own zoomed-in screen. I also
added a few new flourishes here and there.
The vampira is now unreactive to the crucifix and grabs your wrist when you try to stake her but if you have the mallet (no more sledgehammer) then you can finish her off. Your hand holding the stake is now the proper colour and not pale blue like the vampira's skin, and I put some covers on her like in the zoomed-out picture of her.
I put the Gideon's bible on the bed instead of in the drawer because there's no "look-in" verb anymore. I could have had it pop out when clicked like the crossbow bolts but I think having it on the bed is a bit more visually interesting.
I made a few small adjustments of distant details for consistency, made the mushrooms vanish from the screen when you take them, added the door frame to the view of looking out of the shed so that it doesn't appear that you're outdoors, and painstakingly made it so that each individual plant in the herb garden vanishes from the screen when you take them. I also added a view of looking in to the maze because in the original simply turning to look at the maze caused you to enter it.
Internally, the whole maze is treated as a single room where a whole new dungeon-crawler-style
sub-system takes over. It uses textures based on the original screens but the whole thing has
been rebuilt. There are no flat wall anomolies anymore and the castle is visible in the distance. Plants
are drawn on-screen in consistant places. I've made the option to abridge the maze, ie. seal-off
those horrible complex dead-end sections, and that is the default mode which is handy because I
haven't actually made an options screen yet.
I got rid of the seams between the wall sections and added a directional lighting to them. I
even added a kind of pixelated ambient-occlusion to the ground edges.
I altered the map layout slightly to accomodate the new grid layout which doesn't create weird overlapping when you try to draw a map by hand, but the general flow and turn-order is exactly the same.
Lastly, the gremlin nest interior has been greatly tweaked.
DUNGEON CORRIDOR (CLOCKWISE)
In the original game there seemed to be a step missing at the end. Notice you can't get close to the far wall. Extra detail was also added.
DUNGEON CORRIDOR (ANTI-CLOCKWISE)
Extra details added, such as the pillars at the sides of the screen at the end of the corridor. As above, another room/step was added to bridge a gap.
I haven't changed much here, but here's some detail I added to the exit:
UPDATE: 13 AUG 2018
The interface to equip weapons and shields is finished, as is the interface for consuming items. Several cutscenes have been added. The cannon now works (and has new sound effects) and firing is now required for accessing the chest, and herbal honey is required for plundering the herb garden. I've made pretty much every cut-scene skippable - even most short ones like killing the werewolf. Pressing escape now shows the pause menu instead of instantly quitting. There's something off about the new crucifix melting animation (probably the lack of dynamic shadow) so it'll probably be improved later.
After the intro, you now start in the courtyard with a notebook that contains a checklist of tasks, such as find each key and the crusador's sword. I also changed the icon for the diary to match it's description. The empty room upstairs has a little extra detail so it's not so plain.
Behind the scenes I've tweaked many things. I've laid a bit more groundwork for combat and
the exact progress of fights is saved to savegames. I've always found the player stats to be a
little redundant and unexpressive. The plan is to just have timed buffs instead. So, instead of
a spell increasing your dexterity, it will give you a buff that improves your skill for a while.
I think I'll keep the skill stat, but group weapons together so there'll be a skill stat for
swords, one for axes, and one for knives, so switching from the longsword to the crusador's sword
won't be such a setback. I've made a start on the spell-mixing animations (not yet implemented)
but it's going to take a while. There are 80-odd animation frames plus a small secondary animation
that depends on which spell is being mixed (I think there are three variations). I'll probably
replace the spell verbs with icons so more can fit on the UI.
Drinking the absinthe tints the screen green for 200 steps, during which you can't perform an action from the contextual verb list or cast attack spells.
UPDATE: 14 AUG 2018
Spell verbs have been replaced with icons. Since there are nine offensive spells there can be
a 3x3 grid of spell icons. There would have been eleven but I have removed ice wall and fire wall. I added notches to the icons to
indicate how many charges you have for that spell - something I wish the original game had an indicator for. The actual spell for sizzling egges
is now just "sizzle", since "sizzling egges" is a weird name for an attack spell. There are three
confusion spells, three lightning spells, and three fire spells (counting fearfull as a fire spell).
The icons for every bottle item (except the wines) have been updated so they are more distinct and consistant. Absinthe has more shading, laudanum and dragon's blood are more unique, and those red bottles are now blue glass like the others. Bottles that contain ingredients instead of potions have a different aesthetic.
The following icons are: herbal honey, alphabet soup, sizzling egges, painfree / Neptune's breath, knighttyme pleasure, mushroom tenderness, thorny splinter, fingerlight, palmlight, cat & dog broth, demon's brew, iced magicke, absinthe and dragon's blood. I should mention somewhere that I haven't placed dragon's blood in the game yet. Lots to do.
While checking ingredient availability I realised that the ingredients in the herb garden were all in a stack of just 1 instead of
the correct amount. I wondered why you couldn't mix many spells. Honey was also in a stack of 1 instead of 4. I think I tweaked the
the odd recipe so that everything can be made at least once. I may tweak it again to prevent glowing pride from being mixed twice, wasting
The effects and descriptions of recipes and spells have been updated for the buff system. The spell "painfree" has been removed since it's effects are never actually explained anywhere (in-game or in documentation) and it's icon and spellbook slot is now for a recipe called "Neptune's breath" which will let you breathe underwater for the rest of the game. Sizzling Egges (sizzle) now damages enemy armour as well as causing the same damage as fire dagger. Fire spells (fire dagger, sizzle, fearfull) now do greatly increased damage against skeletons since the spellbook document that came with the game says fire spells can cause mummies to catch fire even though there are none in the game. That document is mad. It goes on about enemies using fire weapons, ice weapons, magical weapons, and various immunities and vulnerabilities to such attacks, even though there are none in the game, as if a lot of planned content was cut. Either way, my descriptions are accurate and concise. I've done away with certain penalties (drowsiness from overdosing etc.). I'll make it so you can't consume something again until it's affects have worn off. I just used my judgement for how much things should heal/buff you. The amounts may change, but it doesn't matter right now since there isn't even any meaningful combat yet.
The carving knife (which is possible to actually pick up in my version) and the cleaver are now equippable as weapons. The cleaver has to be picked up before the cook (lard bucket) spawns otherwise it is lost, as in the original game.
I've been wondering if I should stash Emelda's diary somewhere so you can get clues about the location of her lair and it's guardian, the signifigance of the crusador's sword and how it threatens her altar and the beast, and how she left the six keys to her lieutenants and sealed the tower.
For more info about changes, planned changes and things to consider, read the document in the download.