Interview with Matt Clark - Beneath Barrow Hill

Interview by Peter Rootham-Smith (September, 2004)
Matt Clark Peter attended the European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) in London earlier this month and was able to spend some time chatting with Matt Clark and Jonathan Boakes.


Peter: Matt, you've started work on a game?

Matt: I'm creating and designing a game currently titled "Barrow Hill".

Peter: What kind of game is "Barrow Hill" going to be?

Matt: It's going to be a classic point and click Adventure game. It will explore a couple of scenes which have been influenced by my upbringing, and experience travelling around the country. Rather than a mysterious world it's going to be very much grounded in reality.

It's set in 2005 so coming out next year. Produced with Shadow Tor Studios and hopefully released in Spring. A lot of the design elements come from the natural world, it will contrast the different natural landscapes. That's going to be coming through in the game. So there's going to be lots of visual textures of nature.

Alongside the natural world will be the unnatural world of the man-made environment plunked down, being in direct conflict. That's going to be part of the story-line. The interaction between them.

Peter: Are you going to be using Director like Jonathan (Boakes)?

Matt: It is going to be in Director, whether it's Director 8 or Director MX not sure which to use at the moment.

Peter: People are going to say will it be like "Dark Fall"?

Matt: Like "Myst 1", same style. It's not going to be a supernatural spooky game. It's going for horror without a gore theme to it. There will probably be a comparison because it's very much a natural world, unlike the fantasy world you see in lots of other games.

Peter: Will you be interacting with other characters in the game?

Matt: There will be some characters in it which you will be hearing and interacting with throughout as the story progresses. So that should be quite good.

Peter: What started you on the path of making adventure games?

Matt: It was probably Myst too (like Jonathan) the first Adventure game I played all the way through. The Myst demo when it first came out got me interested in Adventure games.

Lots of different influences alongside games, from films and series which will also come through. Hopefully people will notice the influences of the kinds of genre.

Peter: Is it going to be told in episodes?

Matt: It is a contained story set on "Barrow Hill", the name is descriptive. But it is one little adventure, there are various stages to it as it unfolds, obviously, as you move around the environment. It's not going to be a very linear game.

Peter: To some extent Jonathan is looking over your shoulder?

Matt: Yes. In case anything delays it he's there to give it a kick.

Peter: For support?

Matt: Yes.

Peter: You helped Jonathan on "Dark Fall 2" with the sound?

Matt: Some bits and bobs. You'll see me in the credits there.

Peter: Have you worked on any other games?

Matt: I've always done computer graphics and artwork, but I've never put it into a game before. I've story boarded ideas all the time.

Putting it all together, having a complete pre-production concept with story boards and sketches and with test artwork, with computer graphics ready to go, is exciting.

Peter: You and Jonathan must have been busy with DF2 until recently.

Matt: "Barrow Hill" is going to be completed before setting a release date, there's not going to be any pressure of getting it done by a certain date. So there will be nothing missed out or rushed.

Peter: Is the game evolving as you go along?

Matt: Most of the ideas are there. I'm going back to holidays, thinking this and that could be included all the time, so I'm fine tuning production elements. A lot of work is based on going out and exploring the actual environment. Thinking this element will work, setting it in the actual landscape, setting it in South Cornwall.

Peter: What are you using for the rendering?

Matt: It's going to be through Strata. Some in 3D Studio Max and some in Lightwave, hooking up using Strata.

Peter: Are you full time on "Barrow Hill"?

Matt: Had lots of different ideas of what I'm doing. This is at the moment the only thing I'll be doing. I have more ambitions to do other projects in the future. I'm interested in doing film work as well, writing, directing. Something I'm going to try to bring to "Barrow Hill". I've done lots of theatre design work, hopefully this will come across without being theatrical.

Peter: We can expect more details in the future?

Matt: Yes, definitely. Going to be stills to look at as well. There will be lots of work done before Christmas. I'll have a nice Christmas break then go back into it next year to finish it for spring.

The web-site exists at the moment but there's nothing to see on it other than a splash screen. You'll see from the graphic that it's set in a bit of Cornish mythology of ancient time.

Peter: You've found the move to Cornwall interesting?

Matt: I've spent most of my childhood there so it feels like home. It's going back to my roots and ideas, to how I think of the ancient landscape rather than the modern interpretation of Druidic worship.

Copyright © Peter Rootham-Smith 2004. All rights reserved.