Shadows on the Vatican: Nightingale is an interactive short story in videogame form. It’s the first project powered by INarEn technology.
If you have already checked the game website, keep reading here for more in-depth information about the people behind the game, its production history and some details about its technical features.
You can buy the game on Steam.
Cristiano wrote Nightingale in 2017, as a short story. He gave new life to Elisa Flavi, a character he had developed many years before for a point-and-click adventure that was unfortunately canceled: Audere Semper. He decided to let her enter the narrative universe of Shadows on the Vatican, a videogame series he had been working on in the meantime.
When Dario read it, he had recently tested (and appreciated) Ink and its Unity integration, and the idea of turning Nightingale into an interactive short story started getting discussed.
After some editing and expansion, they had the Ink version of the short story. A functioning Unity prototype of the game took only a couple of weekends, but after that things happened and the project was put on hold.
A couple years later, they decided to resurrect Nightingale and let it be the first game release of Dario’s recently founded company, Binary Charm.
The UI was redesigned from scratch, achievements were added, and some ideas to enhance the presentation of interactive fiction were prototyped. The INarEn project was born, spawning a few software components focused on enhancing text display and navigation in a rewindable branching story.
When the core was done, it was time to throw some artists into the mix: Pierluigi took care of the visuals, and not one but two amazing musicians (Simone and Carlos) worked on the soundtrack, following Cristiano indications about what he had in mind for the key moments of the story.
After some more editing, polishing and testing, here we are: Shadows on the Vatican: Nightingale is out.
The short story is narrated in first person, so we tried to get the reader closer to the narrator by forcing him to read at a controlled speed. Cristiano recorded himself reading the story, “playing” the characters and using the pacing he had in his mind. After that, the voice recordings were used to drive the appearance of the in-game text.
So, when the reader gets to a part of the story for the first time, he’s forced to read it as the author imagined.
After that, it’s possible to skip it or play it in fast forward, and the UI supports the reader, providing the relevant options only when they apply. This is very useful when trying different branches, because it lets you appreciate the differences with zero frustration.
Another goal of the UI was allowing navigation to previous points of the story in a effortless manner: you can pause the playback at anytime and scroll back, or use the interactive timeline to get where you want even faster. All the navigation is doable by mouse, keyboard or gamepad (which is great for playing on a TV via Steam Link, for example).
Having control over the text playback timing, we were able to synchronize the soundtrack, which also enhances immersion into the story. The playback of different tracks is handled through tags in the Ink source of the short story, so Cristiano was able to decide when a specific track had to start and how (duration of fade-in/fade-out etc). Other tags control the unlocking of branching-related achievements.
You can get more in-depth information (and see some short videos) about these tech features on the INarEn page.