Beneath The Crimson Moon Category: Creative / Artistic

Name of Submitter(s): Sam Beale, Zack Finley, Gary Kings, Rob Pearce, Mitch Leatherdale, Ash Lake.
Name of Team: Shady Agents.
Organisation: University of South Wales

Beneath The Crimson Moon is the story of Minerva Canstone.
As she lies on her deathbed, she is trapped inside dreams of her mistakes.
She has run from her guilt her entire life, and now - as she dies, she is forced to confront it.
To progress, she must build.
To build she must destroy.

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story Masque of the Red Death, Beneath The Crimson Moon is an exploration puzzle game in which the player must find objects that can be destroyed. When destroyed, the materials gathered, can then be used to navigate obstacles by re-building other objects such as bridges or ladders.

URL for Entry:



Job Title: Zack Finley - Lead Programmer/Mechanic Design, Gary Kings - Lead Writer and Audio Design, Sam Beale - Visual Artist, Rob Pearce - Level Designer, Mitch Leatherdale - Level Designer, Ash Lake - 3D Modelling.

Background of Submitter:

We came together as a university team in second year, having already been friends and even worked together beforehand. This, however, was perhaps the first noteworthy project for us, with previous projects being far less informed, learning the ropes of game design. Beneath The Crimson Moon, for many of us, marked a time in our lives where we really came into our own as designers, and we learned lessons that we carried forward with us into future projects. These projects include:
The Old Gods Are Dead, a narrative focused game which is looking to be published on Steam in early 2016. The core team working on this includes Gary Kings, lead writer of Crimson Moon, and Rob Pearce, level designer of Crimson Moon.
Tempest, a multiplayer adventure of sailing and discovering treasure, featuring our lead mechanic programmer on Crimson Moon, Zack Finley. Plans to continue development of this are heavily underway.
Comet’s Tale, a platforming puzzle game designed as a third year university project, from Crimson Moon lead visual designer Sam Beale.
Sky Knights, a space shooter created as a third year university project, from Crimson Moon level designer Mitch Leatherdale and 3D Modeller Ash Lake.
There are other projects as results of various Game Jams and side projects, but there are the primary projects the team has moved on to create.

Problem / Challenge Space:

We were tasked with creating a game project for the GameCity Off The Map competition of 2014. The brief was to use Cryengine 3, and the themes presented to us were Gothic. We had a choice between Foothill Abbey, Whitby, or Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death. We chose the latter.

Approach / Methodology:

Much of the narrative research was done simply by having our team members dive into the gothic genre completely. We read The Masque of the Red Death many times between us, but we found that other sources within the genre served as equally strong narrative drive. Gary, our lead writer, decided to take a very Frankenstein approach to telling the story, as it is a story of science and creation, and the responsibility of that. We also looked at a lot of H.P. Lovecraft and more in the gothic genre. We also took into account other genres, such as science fiction and fantasy. We found the more we got away from Edgar Allen Poe’s work, the more we could enrich our new take on his story in original ways.
As for technical, we were all learning a new engine, Cryengine 3, at the time. While we all had experience with game engines before this project, the transition was incredibly difficult, and the lack of diversity in online tutorials meant we learned most of what we achieved via trial and error (mostly error). Zack Finley was the team member that took best to Cryengine’s ways, and so he took the role of lead programmer, and taught many of us a lot of what we needed to do.

Extent of showcasing BL Digital Content:

The materials presented to us by The British Library were the story itself and a collection of imagery relating to it. The book itself presented us with strong inspiration that runs through almost every facet of the story, and the imagery served as inspiration for our artist to define the visual style of the game. The British Library also offered us a complete sound library we could use, but we ended up using primarily our own audio, since the project demanded a fairly ambitious use of voice and music.

Impact of Project:

We released it for free online via IndieDB, and to date, the game has been downloaded over 750 times. We had many people play it at GameCity and our Graduation Showcase. We were surprised to see it featured in a short article on RockPaperShotgun which had many kind words to say. We also got a few other reviews from those who downloaded it which we found via blog sites. A few video play-throughs of our game also exist on youtube, one in English and several in Russian.

Issues / Challenges faced during project(s):

Many of the challenges we were presented were technical, as working with Cryengine wasn’t easy for many of us. There were a lot of missing features that we were used to relying on with other game engines, so simply learning them was difficult.
Narratively, the challenge came from our lead writer not being used to writing anything so devoid of humour. The gothic genre was a challenge for him to enter, which is what led to a lot of the research being in the science fiction and fantasy genres, elements of which were then heavily applied back into the original genre. The challenge for him was simply not being able to write jokes in there. He overcame this with sheer willpower and a lot of complaining, and is very proud of the outcome.
Early versions of the game included voice work by a friend of ours in the role of Minerva, but not being a voice actor, we had the challenge of finding someone else to voice the character before completing the game. During this process we found that the English accent we’d written the entire script for was a recipe for sheer boredom, and so we saught someone with a more distinctive accent for the role. We ended up with a brilliant young actress named Yasmin Galloway. She read our script like epic poetry and lended our words some much-needed gravitas.
Artistically, we hit our biggest challenge. We simply did not have anyone on our team who had any idea how to texture. One of us would have to learn ad take on that role alongside their current role, and even then we weren’t confident it would look at all good. So we instead decided to leave the world white, and try and work it into an artistic style as best we could. We did this through lighting and Sam Beale’s artwork that can be seen in the world. The red blood imagery on the white world ended up being the key look of the game. The narrative of the world being a fabricated dream of a dying woman accommodated the lack of colour, and played heavily into our the themes as we continued to write. The outcome was simple and often a bit broken and messy, but at it’s best moments, it looked quite nice and ended up defining the game’s style.