Jonathan Boakes

Name: Jonathan Boakes

DOB: 07/11/73

Location: London, Cornwall, Scotland.

Current Employment: Self employed writer, games developer and interactive media creator.

Personal quote: The Woods were lovely, deep and dark.....

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Biog: Jonathan Boakes was born in Kent, UK, on the 7th of November, 1973. The family settled in Kent, after traveling from Cornwall to Wales and then to South Yorkshire. This was due to following various industries around the country, as Jonathan’s grandfather was a coal miner and later a worker for British Steel.

Growing up in “The Garden of England” was an influential era in Jonathan’s life, and would later play large roles in his photographic and adventure game produce. Photography was his first passion, and upon leaving school, he studied Photography and film studies at West Kent College in Tonbridge. His time at college was fragmented daily by long train journeys through “The Medway Valley”. The passing countryside and small rural train stations would later influence work such as 2001’s adventure game “Dark Fall: The Journal”. Endless afternoons spent in the college library, and hours exploring the local landmarks, were a highlight of this time and peaked in 1992 when he exhibited the photographic collection “These Modern Fields”. These photographs were an exciting and realistic profile of modern rural England.

In 1994, Jonathan left the south east of England to live in London. Here he pursued his photographic career, while working in a variety of other work placements. London based exhibitions included “N:Code”, “Underground” and “A Night in London: 1996”. Following these highlights, Jonathan returned to education to explore his new passion: Digital Media. This came about after witnessing the evolution of the home computer from expensive hardware to affordable creator of visual arts. In particular, Jonathan was drawn to PC adventure games such as Myst. The ability to use the computer as a portal to other realms was a delicious, intelligent and exciting experience, but it would be some time before he began building games himself. Instead, visual digital montages and fine art were produced up until 1998.

1997, Jonathan publishes “Ruin”, a graphic adventure game based around an abandoned church in Pluckley, Kent (famous for its many ghosts). Part college project, part independent production, “Ruin” was distributed to new media houses around London, in the hope of gaining employment. This happened quite quickly, and he began work for a large online content production house in Hoxton, East London. Sadly, working in the digital industry was not to be. The production of endless tedious advertising banners, artificial “lifestyle” web portals and tacky illustrations wore down Jonathan’s love of the medium. Rendering himself unemployed, he began thinking about the possibility of creating new media (and especially games) soon after, but trained as a sushi chef to earn those all important pennies; London is not a kind city to the low earning aspirational artist!

cortexa forensic dark fall

Further interactive material was produced (while filleting salmon and rolling Japanese finger food) which included “Cortexa” and his graduation piece “detektor”. Both of these works were well received, with “Cortexa” being shown at the Poitiers Film Festival in France to much appreciation. A sequel to "Cortexa" was produced soon after, and can be found here: "Forensic": Fictional crime scene investigation software.

Bolstered by his peers, Jonathan began working on “The Displacement”, an adventure game for the PC. Eight months later the game was finished and released (on the newly formed XXv Productions label). Sold online, the game was enjoyed by many a PC adventurer. This was the best of times, and the worst of times. The work was good, but was not paying enough to support further projects. So, Jonathan began work on his first full and commercial project “Dark Fall”. Taking his love of the countryside, strange rural locations, the supernatural and the existential theories presented in fantasy series “Sapphire & Steel”, Jonathan spent 18 months building the haunted train station and hotel in Dowerton. During this time, Jonathan promoted “Dark Fall” endlessly, which included artwork from the game being exhibited in New York’s Digital Salon.

“Dark Fall” was completed in April 2002, and was immediately presented for global purchase via XXv’s home PC. The game was a huge success, and earned itself a cornucopia of fabulous reviews:

In May 2003, Canadian/US games distributor “The Adventure Company” approached Jonathan with the possibility of publishing the game professionally around the globe. “Dark Fall” in now available worldwide in games stores, in several languages. Naturally, production of another title, “Dark Fall II”, began in earnest....

Released, in the US during September 2004, Dark Fall II (now renamed to 'Lights Out') was widely enjoyed, and earned great reviews and player feedback. The game was a very different beast to the first Dark Fall game, with a larger play area, integrated puzzles and a deeper mystery.

After completing the localised versions of 'Lights Out' (fully translated versions of the game were released in France, germany, Italy, Spain and Russia) , Jonathan held three exhibitions in London & Cornwall. Titled 'monolith', the exhibitions features fine art, photography and interactive media exploring the Neolithic monuments of Cornwall, and the South West coast of England. It was during this time that Jonathan met Matt Clark, who was working on his own adventure title, known as Barrow Hill. Featuring a stone circle, and a creepy setting, it was not long before the two designers began discussing future projects, and potential games. Within a couple of months, the decision was made (in Bodmin Moors Jamaica Inn) to approach M.R.James "A Warning to the Curious" as a possible contender for Jonathan's next project. This would be a very personal project, as the story had haunted Jonathan since childhood. You could say it helped form his perspective of the English countryside, ancient sites/monuments and twice told tales. Part of the initial research involved forming, and finding recruits, for a modern ghosthunting team, known as "This Haunted Land. Traveling the country, researching/investigating supernatural events may seem a little bonkers, but the experience still proves invaluable to Jonathan's writing, and influences the thoughts and faiths of all those who take part. Many of the hi-tech investigations are written up, by Jonathan himself. Some are tongue-in-cheek, others are downright frightening. All investigations feature maps, photographic illustrations. Some feature video, and audio recordings.

During this period, Jonathan also became involved in the sci-fi/fantasy epic "Destinies. Working with a screenplay by Jan Kavan, Jonathan was appointed 'Head of GFX' (but prefers 'Artistic Direction' which sounds less bossy!), and began sculpting the world of Anthranella (no, not a retirement home for drag queens!). Matt Clark was able to offer assistance with conceptual art, which helped form the unique, and startling world planned for this exciting 3rd person adventure game.

By December 2004, pre-production on Jonathan's own new game (which had now gained the working title 'The Lost Crown'), had begun, with hundreds of applications for outside filming. Camera crews would be filming across the East Anglian coastline, and also the South West. It was becoming obvious that the new project was vastly different to Jonathan's previous work, and would be taking his writing and designing skills in a new direction, and towards different technologies.

Featuring a full, and detailed, cast of virtual actors, The Lost crown would be a cross-between a modern fairytale, and a gothic television serial from the 1970's. Creating the cast offered new challenges, and steep learning curve. A decision was made, at the start of production, to keep the game as photographic as possible. Why re-build the English coastline in CGI when the real version could offer so much, if artfully used. Digging out the Thames & Hudson artbooks, and his Derek Jarman dvd's, Jonathan set to work crafting his vision of the East Anglian coast, complete with black crows, gravediggers and ominous landscapes.

The first press release for The Lost Crown was dispatched on the 7th of November, 2005. As the screenplay developed, and more screens began to materialise, Boakes was busy creating 'making of...' pages, creating an interactive map of the games 'real-world' locations and continuing his research with This Haunted Land. Many of the newer ghost investigations would make there way into the screenplay, in one form or another, making the game as realistic, and as paranormally (un)sound as possible.

Visit the website.

Production on The Lost Crown was completed over Christmas of 2007. A brand-new Vista ready version was published in the USA in February 08, with Britain and Europe following in the Summer of '08. The Lost Crown, although highly unusual and quirky, quickly gained a following, and harvested a crop of excellent reviews. The highlight being a 100% / A+ from Only a handful of other developers have received such recognition, making 3 years hard work all the more worthwhile. Jonathan himself, in his 'making of...' states that "Part of my aim, when creating The Lost Crown, was to present a melancholy, pastoral lament. A world that is both recognisable, but invisibly threatened by 'progress' and time itself. Perhaps I fear the landscape itself, something which I like to feel I know and love, could become a ghost of its former self, under-appreciated by modernity". Many could argue that the same description could be applied to adventure games themselves, which is why, perhaps, the game was instantly a hit with that community.

Jonathan Boakes, in the Summer of '08, announced, via his MySpace and FaceBook, that work had begun on his next title. ....which, it appears, will be a sequel to Dark Fall...Lost Souls.

The game was released, globally, in December 2009. Picking up several awards, such as Best First Person Adventure from Lost Souls proved to be the darkest, and most macabre game from Jonathan to date. Set back in the old train station and hotel at Dowerton, the game follows a lonely Police Inspectors journey into hell, to find a missing girl.

2013 - After a quiet period, developing and learning new technology and creation tools, Jonathan relaunc
hed the Last Crown website with news of the game development. After a noticable absence it was a positive move to reveal new artwork, screens and story for the much anticipated sequel to The Lost Crown.

The Last Crown - Blackenrock

Nigel Danvers is haunted. Ever since Halloween, after that brief but disturbing experiment with the Spiritboard, he has felt someone, or something, calling to him. What is the significance of the word 'Blackenrock'? Is it a name, an item, an event, a place?

Joining Nigel on his mysterious mission is fellow ghost-hunter Lucy Reubans. Together, they must delve deep into Saxton's murky past, to learn secrets long since buried by those that fear 'The Return'. Armed with upgraded ghost gadgets, they must seek answers from the dead and uncover a century old murder mystery.

The games will be released by Iceberg Interactive, to a gloabal audience, in 2014.

Blackenrock will take place before the events unfolding in The Last Crown: Haunting of Hallowed Isle, announced earlier by publisher Iceberg Interactive and currently also in development. The quadrilogy will be concluded with The First Crown.

Iceberg Interactive CEO Erik Schreuder says: “All ‘Crown’ games will be coming to Steam as well, and we’re currently very busy with putting The Lost Crown onto the platform as soon as possible - and aim to announce a launchdate for it in the near future.”

Written by XXv (now Darkling Room): 04/11/03
Last Updated: 06/04/2014