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A brief-ish history of the white chamber

the white chamber was first released to the public back in 2005 it's development took a long time and I thought you guys might be interested in a bit of history behind how it all came together.

Grand Beginnings

The real seed for white chamber came from my folder full of game story ideas. One was called The Dark Chamber it was about a bunch of people who wake up aboard a space station with no idea who they are or how they got there. The idea would be two-fold, firstly it turns out they prisoners who've agreed to be part of a deadly reality gameshow. However also the station has been subject to a great tragedy 10 years earlier which would also come into play. It was just a 1 page concept document I forgot all about.

The University Year

Actual development on the white chamber started in 2003 as a university project to build a simple adventure game, and I got Paul (my housemate at the time) involved to supply artwork. We wanted to make something simple, only 10 rooms and no NPCs to keep things manageable. So I went through my idea file, found The Dark Chamber and simplified it down to what I thought was a more manageable game. The university assignment itself was meant to be a programming task more than anything else so I coded my own adventure game engine, with all sorts of great features, and I was quite pleased at achievement at the time.

However as the deadline for the project approached two things were clear, firstly we'd underestimated exactly how big we'd made the game. It was only 10 rooms but each room had multiple versions and many animations and sprites to be done. Secondly although my engine was passable in terms of functionality it had no toolset, so everything had to be built by hand in scripts. Object placement was hard enough but writing the actual puzzle scripts was a nightmare. Still we handed in our incomplete game featuring about 4 rooms and a massive memory leak and I got a very nice mark.

The Japan Year

From there we wanted to carry on with production, and it was around then we brought Zak on-board to provide music. However Paul and Zak were due to spend a year in Japan as part of their university degree. Optimistically we thought we could co-ordinate online and keep going but things didn't really work out that way and the unfinished game lay dormant for an entire year.

By the time the guys got back from Japan the indie adventure gaming scene had matured and I came across wintermute for the first time. It's a powerful engine that can handle the high-res graphics we'd created for the white chamber, and more importantly it had a toolset I could work with. So we ditched my code and ported the game across to wintermute and production began again.

The Slow Crawl To Beta

It wasn't really clean sailing from there as we were all going through our final year at university at the same time as finishing the game. To be honest getting the white chamber finished is the reason I initially failed my dissertation and had to retake it. Still after a lot of long development days, including one full crunch week where we lived on 3-4 hours sleep per night we got the game finished. The first beta went out to 300 people at a UK anime convention, to be honest few of them bothered to play it. In retrospect it wasn't really worth staying up all night before the con burning hundreds of CD-Rs manually.

Around a month later we cleaned up all the bugs friends found in that early beta and put it up for download from our website. The game was finally finished. Well sort of, we'd given ourselves a deadline but had to cull a long list of stuff we wanted to fit in. Non the less it was released on the internet to an initially lukewarm response from the indie adventure game community but through word of mouth the game spread and spread to what seemed at the time like reasonable acclaim.

Reaching The World

At this point we were not completely satisfied with the game, and we also had people coming to us wanting to translate the game into their native language. So we started work on the "international edition" of the game, where we would add in a bunch of translations, voice acting, more endings, bug fixes and other tweaks that had been bothering us. This is hopefully the version of white chamber most of you will have played.

Over time we've released new versions adding in more languages until we stopped at Version 1.7 our so-called (and long delayed) "definitive edition" including not only German text but full German speech as well. I also put the source code of the game up on the website for anyone who wanted to learn from it or play around with it. To be honest this was the point when as far as I was concerned the whole white chamber project was done and dusted.

Post Script

However sometime around April 2009 a new and rather large group of gamers found the white chamber. It seems some rather enterprising Chinese gamers decided to translate the game themselves including not only the game's text but also text embedded into artwork. They posted their patch online and a link to our servers. First I heard about this was when my hosting company started complaining about the insane amount of CPU power our hosting was using.

Over a few month period there were over half a million downloads of the game from Chinese users, adding that to the downloads we've had over the years I would estimate well over a million gamers have downloaded the white chamber at this point. Humbling figures.

The big question I've left hanging for now is "whatever happened to Studio Trophis?", as that's a topic for another day. Hope you've played and enjoyed the white chamber, it's not perfect but it's got some nice elements to it and certainly a decent homage to my love of point and clicks when I was a kid.

Linkage

Welcome to the home of Locked Door Puzzle, the independent game development studio of Richard Perrin located in Bristol.

My primary focus is on creating expressive games that explore different forms of interactive storytelling.

For contact details check the about page.