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Pilot Chapter: Fun facts and references (warning: spoilers!)

We thought it would be nice to use this time to discuss the Pilot Chapter argument in detail and explain some of the scenes that you’ve already played. Many of you asked us about the origins of the story, the ideas behind it, which decisions were taken, etc. Here, we will try to answer some of these questions and then you can share your opinions with us too.

H.P. Lovecraft

After taking the responsibility of creating the script, the first thing I decided was to tell a story close enough to our own vision of the horror genre without stepping outside our comfort zone, and at the same time, a story that was appealing to us from a creative point of view. I didn’t want to create an excessive, grandiloquent and complex chapter but a heartfelt and humble story, faithful to the genre’s roots; a sort of respectful entry in the horror game stage. That’s why this first chapter of The Last Door talks and breathes horror classic stories and imagery all around, especially H.P. Lovecraft’s. The simple fact that the lead character finds his way into an old manor and begins to uncover a hidden, horrible truth is a clear reference to this author (and his collaborators), in such works as “The Survivor” or “The Shuttered Room”. It feels like we’re following on his footsteps, or better yet, like he’s holding our hand while we walk through one of his tales.

Edgar Allan Poe

On the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe is also present in the game in many ways and forms, almost as if we are invoking his spirit. See for instance, the cat puzzle and its sorrowful meow leading us to the wall where a secret lies hidden. Anthony’s obsession with the cat is a reminder of the ill-fated protagonist of “The Black Cat” on the account of how he progressively lost his sanity. Is there a better way to round off this reference than using a crow? Indeed, “The Raven” is one of his most popular poems so we thought it would be interesting to make this continuing puzzle a ritual of sorts, using one iconic reference to merge into the next.

The Crows

So, what’s up with the crows? Why are they eating one of their own? What’s the reference here? Well, during the game we find a note in which Anthony tells us how he was feeling the contemptuous and censorious gaze of his relatives, from their pictures. Finally, we learn he couldn’t handle it anymore and he decided to remove and store them in one of the rooms. The crow scene somehow represents Anthony’s feeling of guilt towards his family. Originally, the crow in the backyard was meant to be just a dead crow, but in one of our team meetings an interesting idea came up – using a dying crow creates a feeling of uneasiness and discomfort in the player but it also works on a symbolic level. Like the dying animal, Anthony is the key to many secrets and we must hurry up before it’s too late.

When the crows get inside the gramophone room, you may remember the curtains being drawn and the (not so) subtle aesthetic change of the room. This is a clear reference to movie director David Lynch, a master of creating disturbing atmospheres through colour and light. In The Last Door, the curtains give the room that ominous look – red curtains are an iconic staple in some of Lynch’s movies like “Mulholland Drive” or the TV show “Twin Peaks”.

The Carnival of Venice

You may be wondering where in the hell does that terrible music that Devitt finds in the cellar come from. It’s a special version, arranged by Carlos Viola, of “The Carnival of Venice” by Niccolò Paganini. The real piece is known to create a sort of discomfort and restlessness to the listener so Carlos thought it would be the perfect choice. Paganini’s life history is very interesting too. He was accused of madness and of making pacts with the Devil; he eventually ended up in prison. It was a perfect reference for that particular scene and the overall atmosphere of the game.


The grandfather clock

When our protagonist steps inside the main hall for the first time, he remarks the grandfather clock is the only sound he can hear. This detail may seem trivial but it hides a reference and a tribute to the first point-n-click adventure I ever played, Maniac Mansion. There, when you first enter the mansion, there’s a clock ticking. That sound has stuck with me for years so I couldn’t help but include that reference in The Last Door.

The deer head

When I was thinking about adding some decoration to the house, the comedy “Murder by Death” immediately came to my mind, especially that scene where a group of detectives are having dinner and the eyes of a stuffed dear head on the wall begin to move, the host hiding behind it. Despite being a comedy, when I first watched it I was a little kid and many scenes caused me such impression that it remained in my memory for all these years. I thought it would be funny to include a deer head in the game.


The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)

Remember that crooked painting in the lower floor corridor? Perhaps some of you noticed it during your playthrough, but it is indeed a pixel version of ‘La Gioconda’. That corridor is decorated with landscape paintings and there are no pictures of Anthony or any of his relatives. However, I wanted the crooked painting to stand out, so I thought of creating a pixelated Mona Lisa. Plus, it was the perfect place to hide the maid’s rosary – behind that mischievous smile there’s gotta be a secret, right?

Barrels in the cellar

That was our little tribute to ‘Amnesia: The Dark Descent’, one of the most terrifying games in recent years. We thought those dark cellar filled with barrels were unforgettable, don’t you think?


And that would be all for now. Don’t hesitate to send us your questions and opinions 🙂
Until next time!

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“Pilot Chapter” Post-Mortem (Part 1)

This is my first post in the development blog, so let me introduce myself to all of you. I’m Mauricio, programmer of The Game Kitchen. For The Last Door I’m in charge of website programming and project management. In the following series of articles I will be guiding you through the development of the first chapter, and if everything goes well, will continue to do the same for the following chapters from here on out. Later, I’m planning on sharing with you other aspects as well, such as our business model, statistics and other stuff that I hope would be of your interest and even use.

So without further ado, let’s go!

An exhausting crowdfunding campaign

To pull off a successful crowdfunding campaign, Kickstarter or any other platform, is no easy feat if you’re lacking a certain reputation to precede you. The Game Kitchen is a relatively young team. Back in 2012, we didn’t even break our third year of existence yet, and of those, the first two years was exclusively dedicated to carrying out projects for other studios and companies. We didn’t have a successful project to call our own and, because of that, we didn’t even establish a regular fanbase. All of that makes getting visitors to a crowdfunding campaign really hard.

December of 2012 was one of the most stressful and busiest months in my life. That’s actually not a bad thing, considering the project got funded and hey, it’s just thirty days! But there’s something I didn’t expect, and I think none of the rest of us did either, and that’s the amount of work and stress level involved in just thinking about ways to make the project more visible and attract an audience to Kickstarter.

In our ingenuity we thought that part of the team would be enough to handle the campaign while the others would start working on certain aspects of the game to have them ready once we were up and running (and more importantly, funded). But that wasn’t the case as most of the resources were spent on the campaign, only exception being the creation of the playable prologue. Even though we barely reused any lines of code or assets from it, it turned out to be a good prototype and gave us a real and concrete vision of what we wanted to achieve in the first chapter.

Eventually, the campaign ended up being a moderate success and we were able to breathe easily again for a week or so while charging our batteries during the Christmas holidays (which in Spain last approximately until January 6).

The real work begins

We began the pilot for The Last Door in January 7. Ahead of us was one of the greatest challenges we ever faced: develop the whole game engine, the first chapter of the adventure and also the first version of the website. Everything in a mere 60 days.

On top of that, we ran into an unexpected bump on the road. Our colleague Alejo told us that, due to personal reasons, he wasn’t going to be able to continue in the team. He directed the crowdfunding campaign and also took a primary role in the project’s birth, but sadly we had to separate our ways for the development of the pilot chapter.

Our first step was setting up a rough planning of all the work ahead of us, and the team’s configuration if we wanted to carry it out. Soon, we decided some of the KS rewards and main features of the website would have to wait until the next stage of the development because we didn’t have enough resources to tackle them at the time. Luckily, the episodic, iterative nature of the project gives us a certain freedom: we would focus on the most essential features during this first stage, and then we could continue adding the rest, along with the following chapters.

Where to start?

From the point of view of production, which is an unassigned role that we all share using our collective intelligence, our first decision was to make a first sprint that would last for a little less than a month. We did it like that because we had to build a clear-cut, well-defined basis for every aspect of the game, and we thought it would be convenient for us to have a 30-days schedule where everyone could focus on their task.

The team in charge of the script and general design of the game, formed by our artists Enrique and Mateo, would be creating the main storyline, script and gameplay of the first chapter, all from a basic argument Enrique had going on in his head during December. Obviously, it had to be a script that would somehow “hide” the lack of features that would be entirely missing from the game because of time constraints, such as tree dialogs (that’s why there’s no other character to talk to in the first chapter) or navigation grids.

For the programming team, formed by Javier and Daniel, the top priority was to create the game engine. The coding of the prologue was done rather hastily during the campaign, so it was obvious it needed a deep and thorough analysis and refactorization if we wanted it to hold up a much longer gameplay and the potential inclusion of even more features in the future. Considering the script and design team would need a few weeks before finishing up the story, we decided it would be best to test our newly coded engine features creating a replica of the prologue.

The team in charge of the website, formed by yours truly up to this moment, would create a good basis that supported user profile management: people needed to be able to register, log in, edit basic information and identify themselves as KS backers to access their individual rewards.

Finally, we had to deal with some other production issues during this first stage. On the one hand, we had an ARG going on since the KS campaign and we wanted to keep it alive. Our partner Alejo, even though we knew he wasn’t going to be part of the development of the first chapter, showed a genuine interest in continuing in charge of this experience, one he himself had conceived and created in the first place. So that was settled. On the other hand, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to satisfy our players’ communication needs for two main reasons, the first being the huge amount of workload ahead of us and second and foremost, no one in the team really has enough command of the English language. So we thought it was imperative to get into the team some sort of “community manager” if we wanted to guarantee a fluid channel of communication with you, without linguistic limitations. So we started the search of the right person for the task.

To be continued…
The next part of this post-mortem will be available next week.