The Bitton Lighthouse

This post describes a detailed location in my homespun fantasy setting, Norkol. The illustration was provided by Ethan Myerson, an avid gamer and all round cool dude (he didn’t make me say that, either). If you decide to use the lighthouse in your game, I would love to know about it.

Off the coast of the Bay of Sighs stands a lighthouse. It is a lonely tower, standing on a tiny barren island, about a quarter mile from the Bitton harbor. Every night, the Keeper of the Flame lights the way for ships coming into Bitton, helping them steer away from the shallow waters where jagged rocks loom below the surface.

The lighthouse was constructed more than two centuries ago and is as sad a sight to behold at day, as it is welcome at night. From a distance, it looks like a pile of soot blackened rubble. The fire is lit in a giant stone cauldron with a silver plated steel lid. The cauldron is filled with a slow burning oil and tar mix, the light of which is strengthened by the polished lid. At sunrise the Keeper uses a mechanism of gears and levies to lower the lid and quench the flame, and before relighting it at dusk, he wipes down the silver before once again relighting the fire.

Yarik Eyestar

Yarik Eyestar is a sea captain in his early sixties who lost his leg two decades ago. He lives on the rock by himself. The only people Yarik speaks to, or even sees, is the crew of the supply boat that once a month delivers food and fresh fuel for the fires. Even to these men, Eyestar is terse and unpleasant. Despite their help in ensuring both his survival and the continued operation of the lighthouse, he never speaks more than needed, nor has he ever invited the crew inside the tower for a bite to eat or a taste of ale. Those who have met him speculate that solitude has made taken a toll on his mind, and the loss of his leg made him bitter.

Regardless of his moodiness, Yarik Eyestar is under lord Valharron’s protection as keeper of the lighthouse. Manning the fire is an appointment given in the lord’s name, to protect and guide ships wishing to dock in Bitton harbor, thus providing taxes and trade in lord Valharron’s town. As such, this position is regarded as an honor just short of knighthood.

Though he had an honorable and distinguished career in the lord’s navy, Eyestar is not without his secrets. The details of how he lost his leg have never been clear, and rumors say it was either a kraken that rose up and tore his ship and leg in half, or that he lost it after fighting down a mutiny aboard his last ship, The Purlpe Rose. He keeps detailed logs and journals of his life, but large portions are written in code. It is said the only visitor he ever gets is his old shipmate, Boyd Blackmast, once first mate on the Purple Rose, now an infamous and wanted pirate.

The Tower Interior

The tower has four levels above ground, but only very few windows. The bottom floor is always cold and is mainly used for storage. There is a primitive, tiny kitchen, a stack of three wine barrels and several crates of apples, dried ham and salted fish.

There is a staircase leading up around a central pillar of the tower, which doubles as a chimney. The pillar itself is made of large pieces of granite fitted so perfectly together, that it appears to be one solid pillar of stone. Each floor has a fireplace built into the pillar, but in the last several years only the one in Eyestar’s private quarters has been in use.

The main staircase makes up half the tower’s total height and is lit by torches along the outer wall. At closer examination, these torches are covered in cobwebs, and have not been lit in a long time.

The second floor holds the living quarters of the keeper. This is where Eyestar spends most of his days. The rooms are full of books and old sea charts, some of them his own, some left behind by the keepers that came before him, all of whom were picked from worthy sea captains in lord Valharron’s navy.

Captain Redwind, the keeper who preceded Eyestar was rumored to study the mystical forces of water, and some believe he hid rare spell books in the lighthouse library. Redwind died the same year, he retired from his post. When lighthouse keepers grow too old to do the hard physical labor that is filling the cauldron and polishing its large lid, they traditionally nominate their own successor. No one knows why Redwind picked Eyestar to follow in his footsteps, or how the two might have known each other.

The third floor holds the mechanism to raise and lower the heavy steel lid off the cauldron above. Barrels holding the oil and tar mix used to light the tower are stored nearby. The barrels hold about 10 gallons each, and are quite heavy. A series of chains and pulleys allow the barrels to be hoisted up and emptied into the cauldron. There is access to the roof where the cauldron itself sits.

The stone pot is half the height of a grown man and just as wide. When lit, yellow and orange flames dance lazily on its surface, some reaching as tall as three feet, before fading into the night. Neither water nor wind will extinguish these flames. A full cauldron may burn as long as a week before the fuel is gone, though Eyestar always makes sure to fill it when it reaches the half-way mark, so the flames always stay tall and bright.

Recent Events

Three days ago, and two days after the last shipment of supplies was delivered, the fire failed to light at dusk. That has never happened before. The next night, the fire was out again, and when the same thing happened on the third night, worry began to spread that something might have happened to the surly Keeper of the Flame. To find out, Lord Valharron sent a boat with two men to see what was going on. Dusk fell again, and neither fire nor men were seen. The next morning, another boat was sent to the lighthouse, this time with armed med aboard.

Maybe the keeper found something in one of those old maps, and has left the tower behind without telling anyone. Perhaps he left clues behind in a journal? Maybe there is a secret shaft, hidden beneath a crate of apples, leading down to some sinister place where unspeakable horrors await. Perhaps the shaft leads to an underground cave system, which Yarik decided to explore. Maybe he dug down there himself, or did he merely happen upon it? Is he lost? Is he dead? The party sent to explore will no doubt uncover the truth…

Music Video for “Save or Die”

Not too long ago, in this very galaxy, I wrote a song about that pivotal moment in gaming where it all comes down to the final toss of the dice. In old skool Dungeons & Dragons, Save or Die was a term used for extreme situations where a character’s life depended on a single roll. Those moments can be extremely intense, and the song is a tribute to that intensity.

The video was shot on an iPhone using a mix of normal video and timelapse. Shooting it was unplanned – I was feeling distracted after a night of very little sleep, and thought I’d play around with shooting timelapse stop motion, pushing a few dice around. After watching the first clip I got the idea of turning it into something else… I toned and processed it to match the mood of the tune and added floaty lyrics for cheese (and for bonus cheese, I used avQest aka “the Diablo font”).

If you like, you can download “Save or Die” via Bandcamp.

On a related note, I released a brand new song just yesterday called “Tale of The Farmer’s Daughter”. No video for that (yet?) but do check that and my other tracks out on the Words & Music page.

Ready to Rescue the Nebula?

Nebula Rescue is an arcade space game for iPhone, in which the objective is to score as many points as possible before time runs out, by tapping and swiping at space ships, rocks and slime. You could say the game play is a mix of Asteroids and Fruit Ninja. It also happens to be my first game ever designed for the iPhone.

Nebula Rescue is tied into Apple’s Game Center, allowing you to compete for highest score on global leader boards. My personal best, as it stands right now, is 1079 1329 points. After that particular game my heart was racing, my finger cramping and my brain screaming for more. I take that as a good sign.

Along the way, there are several things that can get in your way or help your cause. Keep the game going by picking up Time Crystals or unlock Bonus Time by shooting pesky UFOs. Do avoid hitting the Drones though, as that will cost you 2 seconds of game time, and hinder other performance based bonuses. The exception is using a Drone Zapper, which looks like a large crystal ball with some goofy lightning inside. Tap one of those, and all the Drones vanish – you’ll even get points for each one! There are also power ups that will freeze the timer countdown, shield the Drones or earn you double points for a limited time.

It has taken a couple of weeks to put the game together (not counting time spent on making the music). So far, my iOS apps have been coded the old fashioned way, but Nebula Rescue was created in Game Salad – which allowed me to do in weeks what would otherwise have taken months. Balancing game play is by far the hardest aspect of designing a game like this. The last few days have largely been spent on testing and tweaking details like spawn rates and how different bonuses and timing affect the balance of the game. The result is a fun game with plenty of challenge. The final touch is to add a few more sounds, and then I’ll finally submit Nebula Rescue to the iTunes App Store.

I hope you’re ready to collect space gunk and time crystals, shoot down UFOs and help rescue the nebula, when the game comes out.

Update: There is now a Facebook page for Nebula Rescue. Go Like it!