How Working with Theatre Actors Enhanced our Indie Horror/Mystery NightGhast

The Inspiration Behind NightGhast

Being an indie game developer who is also passionate about filmmaking, I have always strived to combine cinematic elements with interactive gameplay. My latest project, NightGhast, exemplifies this seamless fusion. It is a first-person horror game that plunges players into a sinister world populated by wicked witches and ominous widows. Created using Unreal Engine 5, NightGhast stands out not only for its spine-chilling storyline but also for the innovative methods we employed during its development. A significant aspect of our creative process involved collaborating with professional theatre actors, filming them on green screen, and integrating their performances into the game. This unconventional approach not only heightened the game’s realism but also opened up exciting possibilities for future endeavors.

The Vision Behind NightGhast

My background in filmmaking has always motivated me to create visually captivating and narratively rich experiences. While I have independently developed and published numerous indie games, NightGhast holds a special place because it allowed me to blend my dual passions of filmmaking and game development. The game’s narrative demanded a level of emotional authenticity that could only be delivered through the nuanced performances of real actors. This necessity led us to explore the utilization of real-time theatre actor shooting against a green screen as a pivotal component of our workflow.

The Role of ID@Xbox

The journey of NightGhast was greatly supported by the ID@Xbox program, which aids indie developers in bringing their creations to Xbox platforms. The ID@Xbox team played a crucial role during the certification process, offering invaluable assistance and resources. Their guidance ensured that NightGhast met all technical and quality benchmarks, allowing us to concentrate on the game’s creative aspects.

Integrating Real Actors into the Game

Employing Unreal Engine 5’s virtual production and cinematic tools enabled us to stretch the limits of traditional game development. Collaborating with skilled theatre actors, we recorded their performances on a green screen. This process involved capturing a diverse range of emotions and actions crucial to the game’s plot. Subsequently, the actors’ performances were imported as image sequences into Unreal Engine 5, where advanced virtual production techniques were used to seamlessly embed them into the game world. Although our budget was constrained for an indie project, I am pleased with how their contributions enriched the narrative. Looking ahead, if we have the opportunity to shoot real-time actors on a sophisticated virtual set, the results would undoubtedly be even more compelling.

Nightghast closeup

Realism and Authenticity

Integrating real actors brought a sense of realism to NightGhast

  1. Enhanced Player Immersion

Utilizing real actors facilitated the creation of more believable interactions and heightened the emotional bond between players and the game. The actors’ performances not only served a visual purpose but also conveyed the underlying tension and fear essential to a horror game, drawing players deeper into the narrative. For instance, one of the prominent antagonists in the game draws inspiration from Alpen folklore, embodying a mystical character named “Schnabelperchten.” We meticulously crafted her costume and makeup, a task that would have been nearly impossible if we had opted to develop her as a 3D model within our limited budget.

  1. Innovation in Game Development

This project showcased the potential of merging traditional filmmaking approaches with modern game development tools. By leveraging green screen technology and virtual production, we could create intricate scenes and character interactions more efficiently and with enhanced creative freedom.

Overcoming Obstacles

While the journey was fulfilling, it was not devoid of challenges. Filming on a green screen demands meticulous lighting and camera work to ensure the accurate capture of actors’ performances. Additionally, integrating these performances into a real-time engine like Unreal Engine 5 required overcoming issues like “video codes.” Initially, we encountered difficulties with video and audio codecs on different platforms, prompting us to develop new workflows and pipelines to manage the data and guarantee a seamless final product.

What Lies Ahead?

The success of NightGhast has opened doors to new opportunities for forthcoming projects. The methodology of using real actors filmed on a green screen can be implemented across various genres and game formats, offering a pathway to introduce more lifelike characters and performances into the gaming realm. This approach not only enriches the storytelling capabilities of games but also presents actors with the chance to explore fresh forms of performance art. NightGhast is a trailblazing blend of traditional filmmaking and cutting-edge game development, crafting a distinctive and immersive horror experience. This innovative approach sets NightGhast apart and charts a course for future projects that will continue to challenge the boundaries of interactive storytelling. As an indie developer, this journey has been incredibly gratifying, and I eagerly anticipate you immersing yourself in the strange and eerie world of NightGhast, now available on Xbox.