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White Night Postmortem: References

White Night Postmortem
It’s been so long since I promised to write about White Night. Since I started to work as a part time system specialist at a company here, I can’t really find the time to spend time on my personal works. I couldn’t even continue to work on my next project. As a result, postmortem posts were delayed.

Nevertheless, I want to pickup things where I left and start with a slow pace, unlike I promised. So, I’ll talk about references in games and mods.

Putting obvious references in a standalone game is just wrong. Obvious references will often irritate people and feel like a rip-off. Instead, giving some secret or faint references will make players feel like they achieved something. Because faint references are usually hard to see and understand, and only people who really loved the original source could see or understand them. And when they do, they will just smile and feel a little flattered, because they were treated specially.

On the other hand, mods are not standalone games and putting references in them usually makes people interested in the work, even like it. This, however, is a risk to take, as fanboyism took over the gaming world; and it is usually not possible to guess fanboys’ reactions beforehand.

I put lots of references into White Night, and different people got different ones. No one got them all, as expected, however some references are not found even by a single person. The reason that I put so much reference is, as I said before, that I really wanted to see which ones will be picked up most, and how people will react to them. It turns out I chose wrong game to mod, as most seen reference is to Penumbra, and lot’s of people thought that they were able to pick it up, while it was too easy. (Clarence and Philip, yeah)

On the other hand, Silent Hill references were obvious too, but people who got them are slightly less than people who got Penumbra reference. Another thing is, old hardcore Silent Hill fans are irritated by the obvious references to Pyramid Head and James-Maria letters. I can see why, as they were too obvious for hardcore fans. Because it was a spoon-fed reference for them.

So, here is the hint. References are usually good, but only when they are faint and hard to catch. No one wants to get spoon-fed references. However, it is said when no one gets it. So, how to put them?

As I’ve been reading or watching through reactions, people liked (and got) the Penumbra reference. I thought it was too obvious, however switching the characters (Clarence is the human being and Philip is the second personality) and giving it out in an asylum nurse note worked like a charm. I think the reason to this result is that I was able to bend it in the story and environment, and it didn’t feel off-topic. Other than that, it was a too obvious and spoon-fed reference.

However, my fellow developer Russ Money was bashed a lot for the Half Life reference he put in La Caza. The reason to that might be that it felt like a little out of place, whereas my Penumbra reference was in the same modern time setting and had nothing to do with the main story or puzzles. Still, putting references are usually a risk to take and consequences might be bad, if not harsh.

Here’s a list of references in White Night. Let’s see how many of them you’ve got in the game:

  • Denver State Hospital: There is a real mental asylum called Danvers State Hospital which is real as much as you are, and it exists in Danvers. This hospital was featured in the movie Session 9. To read about the real hospital check here. The Hospital History note in White Night was completely real until the re-opening part. I had to re-open the hospital for David, you know.
  • The default loading screen: It is actually where you first take control of David and walk towards. It’s the cover of the movie Session 9. It is also a reference in Silent Hill 3 too.
  • Where you were taken into the depths of the asylum on a gurney: It’s too obvious. It’s a reference to the movie Jacob’s Ladder. Also, Silent Hill: Homecoming includes the same reference in its opening cinematic.
  • The note ‘My Las Words’: It was a reference to the notes in Silent Hill 2. If you remember the doctor’s note where he says it’s a place both close and distant, you can actually correlate the note in White Night to the note in Silent Hill 2, as they were the doctor and the patient.
  • The room in the first level with chairs and tv is an inspiration from “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” movie.
  • Hospital History note is the real history of real Danvers State Hospital in its first pages until the re-opening. That re-opening part is my fiction.
  • Dr. Diane Selwyn, the doctor who re-opens hospital is a direct reference to David Lynch movie Mulholland Dr.
  • Dr. Patrick Parr is a reference to Blair Witch, Rustin Parr.
  • The note with Clarence and Philips is a reference to Penumbra: Black Plague, that’s pretty much obvious 🙂
  • Lockdown and Restoration note. That note includes many references but only a few people got it. ‘John Barker (was a Carpenter before)’ is an obvious reference to John Carpenter and Clive Barker. Richard Crichton is a reference to first Silent Hill game, but I didn’t expect anyone to see that. Thomas Redwood is a direct reference to Penumbra: Overture; and finally David is a reference to David Lynch; but almost everyone thought that it was protagonist himself, which is also true. That last reference was completely intentional, as a hint to David’s previous life, where he was not a doctor but a person with some kind of craft (or art).
  • Downstairs of the Hospital level was a reference to Brookhaven Hospital which was featured in Silent Hill 2 & 3. Many few people got it including my ex-gf.
  • Puzzle including breaking woods with an fire axe was a reference to Silent Hill: Homecoming
  • Ring puzzle was an obvious reference to Silent Hill 2 ring puzzle. Also taking the ring from the refrigerator was a part to the same reference. I don’t even mention Pyramid Head painting there.
  • The room with long stairs where player needs to climb a long way upward was a reference to Silent Hill 3.
  • Regressions Note where Dr. Patrick Parr talks about perception was an direct reference to a character, Itachi Uchiha (in Naruto manga). He was saying exactly same thing in one of his philosophic speeches.
  • Bathtub puzzle was a reference to Silent Hill Origins, sanitarium level.
  • Walking downstairs for a long time in tunnels was an obvious reference to both Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill Origins.
  • Monster Wheelchairs were an obvious reference to the movie Changeling.
  • Phone call in entrance was a reference to first Silent Hill game.
  • Piano puzzle was another obvious reference to first Silent Hill game.
  • Empty letters in the near end, was an obvious reference to Silent Hill 2.
  • Patient #6 Notes was a reference to Stanley Coleman in Silent Hill 3.
  • Tunnels level was a reference to the movie Session 9.
  • David’s trauma was a direct reference to Emiya Shirou character in Fate/Stay Night visual novel (also has an anime adaptation).

People who played these games and watched these movies could easily find these references. I’m surprised how no one mentioned Dr. Diane Selwyn being a direct reference to Mulholland Dr. Looks like I’m getting old (a reference to Southpark :P).

White Night is aimed to be more like Silent Hill Origins. I always smiled when I saw people saying “Silent Hill in FPS” and am quite proud of this reaction. Nevertheless, there are few people who complained me about how White Night was a rip off Korsakovia mod. Personally I took nothing from Korsakovia, and there is not a single reference; but I liked it a lot (try it if you haven’t already). I give this reaction to those people’s lack of experience on the products that references and inspirations I get from. I even get some reactions that people claimed how White Night is so like Nightmare House 2, which I wasn’t sure of if they were trolling or just […].

Finally, I got a lot of “This is like Penumbra”. I used very little textures from Penumbra series compared to what I’ve put in White Night. Most of these people were just happy to see something similar to something they like. However I’m quite sure they wouldn’t say so if I were to make White Night with exactly same levels on Source engine. Using HPL2 causes a pre-defined prejudice and only experienced or open-minded people managed to shake it.

That’s it. Please let me know what references you got and if you liked them. Next time I’ll be talking about something not directly related to White Night, but about gaming world: What I think about Let’s Plays.

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

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