Knightmare Pilot 2004

Ooh, nasty…


Hello! And welcome to this feature about the proposed new version of Knightmare. All of these shots and this critical commentary come from the 13 minute pilot which is currently floating round the Internet. This appears to be an orc, and for some reason he is introducing the show. Say hello readers!

This slightly bewildered looking child here is Arthur. Thanks to the power of the new Televirtual VR technology he will turn into…

… Arthur the slightly bewildered and terrified looking dungeoneer. Point of note: he can see. Of course, the whole of the original game grew out of the fact that the player in the game couldn’t see any of the computer graphics wandering around blue rooms and so essentially had to wear a blindfold (or in this case an oversized helmet) to keep the illusion. Here this isn’t the case. The dungeoneer seemingly can see on some sort of screen what’s in front of him, and appears to be able to control the avatar directly.

The advisor element has been retained. This is Vishar who is Arthur’s cousin. It seems like Vishar can see everything we can see.

Advisors are good because talking and interaction is good.

You’ll have to forgive me here, this picture is rather darker than it appears on the recording. Each chamber is connected by tunnels which look a little bit like the insides of a human or possibly another animal.

What you can’t see (or indeed hear) is that there seems to be some comedy MIDI organ music in the background. In occupying the old 4:40/45 slot on Citv, the old Knightmare would have been aimed at the 12-14+ age range. These days Citv aims squarely at the much younger end of the spectrum. Arthur is 11, Vishar is nine. This would appear to be the age that this is being aimed at.

This is us looking at the Dungoneer looking around the first clue room.

The power of technology!

And here is that first room, it’s a clue room. It’s quite comforting to see some familiar mechanics at work here. Slightly less comforting is the disembodied head of Treguard appearing to give hints to our team. Hugo Myatt is reprising the role he made famous here, but it feels incredibly clunky.

Because the objects are magic, the dungeoneer just has to indicate which items he wants (although as the rules state, he can only take two) and they’ll be magically be added to the inventory. Two things: 1) so they haven’t programmed a grabbing action yet then? 2) Treguard never used the word “inventory” back in the day and no-one uses it now. It jars. This is in my opinion a rather unneccessary throwback to 80s text adventure games, when everyone and his wife knows that the biggest influence on Tim Child on the original show was the fabulously arcady Atic Atac.

The spyglasses have gone to be replaced by “Seeing Stones”. That’s reasonable.

It’s that Lord Fear and Lissard conniving again. Pleasingly Mark Knight has returned to ‘be’ Lord Fear again, but Lissard sounds more like David Learner (who was Pickle) than the original guy who did it, whose name escapes us right this moment.

Pleasingly the writing in these conversations has a similar sort of quality to before (with one or two lines or jokes more likely to be appreciated by the slightly older and more middle-class viewing contingent). They discuss one of the upcoming traps and the changing of the password “to the day you would normally associate with fish.” So far, so old. However the conversation feels slightly disjointed, as if it were two automatons talking to each other.

After this bit, dungeoneer and advisor have a discussion about which two items to take. Well, I say discussion, I actually mean the dungeoneer suggests two items, the advisor suggests a different two and the dungeoneer goes along with that without argument. Let us not forget one of the points of a pilot is to show off prospective situations which might look good on television. If the clue room was meant to spark discussion, well it failed miserably.

The dungeoneer sidestepping. For comedy value.

This room’s not too interesting so we’ll be quick. There are two exits over the far end, one of which is blocked by an ogre. Treguard says it probably won’t kill you as long as you don’t try to sneak past it.

Vishar magically assumes that they need the password to get by. They go up to the ogre, say “Friday” at it, “That is a good word!” and it lets them past.

It’s the first exciting really dangerous trap room! The team got a glimpse of it spying on Fear and Lissard. They have to make their way through the corridor only treading on correct letters, which were revealed to be Lissard’s name but not the first three letters and reversed (that’s DRAS, wordgame fans!)

Here’s the danger element, there are large axes swinging at regular intervals across the room. Not only must they time the jumps across, but they must step on the right letters or else… we’re not quite sure what would happen really. The axes are positioned to swing across the gaps. Perhaps the floor tile will explode or something.

Because it’s the pilot, Arthur spells out the danger inherent to him in a very unnatural way.

Now, floor puzzles (as they were known back in the day) were often quite simple trap filled rooms normally with one fairly easy route through it if you had received the relevant bit of information. However, the game was in communicating the correct path to the dungeoneer, normally under some sort of time limit. In the early levels, these are normally fairly relaxed affairs. Later on, it’s really tense stuff as the advisors shout very loudly to get the dungeoneer to do something as quick as neccessary, otherwise they’d die and the whole adventure was for naught. This was borne out of the fact that the dungeoneer couldn’t see anything.

But now he can. Because it’s a pilot, the dungeoneer offers up “I think the first letter is ‘A'”, which is cunning considering that ‘A’ isn’t one of the avaliable steps. Luckily, the advisor is on hand to point him in the right direction, and to get him to time his jumps.

And who’d have thought it? He’s made it across without dying. We’re wondering what on earth they’re going to do for a death sequence, especially one as gruesome as being cut up by axes. He doesn’t die in the next room either. SPOILER! Oh.

And they don’t seem to have made a “going up a stair” animation yet, so he has to jump up to the little ledge.

This is the final room in this particular episode. This is quite a nice shot.

We don’t know why there is a set of half finished stairs hanging off one of the sides. Perhaps this is some kind of underground quarry or something.

And at the end of it is a door with what looks like a rock next to it. Or could it be something else?

It’s a fairly thin and exacting ledge. Ten years ago this would have been a fairly tense communication test, seeing as the dungeoneer wouldn’t be able to see a path.

In the Knightmare of 2004? “Be very careful.” TENSION.

The gargoyle comes out of the wall quite nicely though.

The overhead shot again, now with added gargoyle.

Disembodied Treguard explains that as the manic depressive stone gargoyle complains, the temperature of the room is dropping and is draining life force (we’re not privy as to how life force is represented, but needless to say we’d have forgiven a few of the pilot’s faults if it was an ace graphical remix of the original and best one with the knight’s skin peeling off until he dies).

This elf has already fallen foul of the monster and is trapped in the ice. So that’s what that rock thing was.

Thankfully, they’ve got a spell called “Pick Me Up” from somewhere. The dungeoneer spellcasts (not the advisor, as what happened before). The gargoyle starts feeling happy again, he slips back into the wall.

The room warms up melting the ice around the elf. The elf is a bit haughty and refuses to give the dungeoneer her real name (her “summoning name”) and lets them use a nickname for her.

The comedy organ is back, but this time there’s an elf coming along for the ride as some sort of reward. WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?

We’ll possibly never know, as here’s the orc to come and close the show again.

As I said it’s only 13 minutes long. Apparently the original plan was to have two episodes of the show on a day with some sort of phone poll in between. What a horribly un-Knightmarish thing. I suppose it would also mean the show would have to be live.

I do hope they remember to put an actual game in there though. Currently there is nothing there. No danger. No thrills, no spills. They’ve kept the elements of the original but forgotten the purposes of why they were there and haven’t adapted them to the new gameplay.

We said right at the beginning that “Advisors are good because talking and interaction is good.” Here they’ve made the advisor completely extraneous to the game. There doesn’t seem to be anything where they provide anything the dungeoneer couldn’t do on his own.

The computer graphics aren’t even that great really. These are just stills. Why not download the pilot for yourself and see how jerky it can be? It ain’t Reboot, that’s for sure.

Do you know what we’d have liked? These days virtual studio technology is really advanced. You can move cameras and everything. We can’t help but feel that remaking the original but with the brand-new super excellent technology would have been a far more profitable road to go down. As it is, we’re finding it hard not to be really disappointed, really.

This article was originally written in 2004. The following comments were left in the original comment box:

lottie (
i too am disappointed. how awful. i can only hope that it’s a complex fake made by someone with too much time on their hands.

Brig Bother:
Did I mention that the slice-me-dice-me room is just a prettier causeway but with axes and no time pressure?

[Goes and checks]

No! Apparently not.

I don’t think it’s *completely* bad but I am rather disappointed about the lack of any real meat. I would agree that some of the angles are lovely, and I’d probably argue a bit more but I’m tired.

Having only seen a handful of episode I can’t comment on what happened before that much… but:

1) I thought that it would be nice to have more advisors (or whatever the girl is called)… I always liked the bickering.

2) The fact that the dungeoneer can see? I’m also of the thought that they shouldn’t be able.

3) Even if it’s a pilot, that music was HORRIBLY out of place. MIDI is something that is so, like, 1998. (excuse the valley girl)

I hope for your guys’ sake it does get made but in the right way!

When I watched it, I quite liked it really. The new look dwarf tunnels were out of place with the music, but according to Tim Child, originally they were going to have interactions take place in them, and have them interactive with decissions as to waht direction to go in, but they didn’t have time to implement that, and when they realised they weren’t going to be able to get that done they didn’t have time to remove them properly.

I think most of the unnatural aura and stagy-ness of the whole thing comes about because the thing’s scripted to show what sorts of things will be possable, since the bumbling nature of playing it through properly wouldn’t do what they wanted to do – that is, show off the technology behind the pilot as effectively as possable. Also apparantly they’re still trying to decide if one or two advisors work better, but the two different perspectives does offer some gameplay effects, since their are both advantages and disadvantages to the first person and the third person perspective.

I’ve also stated on the Knightmare forums that the music at the beginning of Despair’s causeway is just perfect. Also, although the ‘dungeoneer can see’ aspect loses some gameplay oportunity, it also gains some. And the aspect can be easially brought back, such as a room which is pitch-black but thanks to the magic of the viewing portal the advisor can see what’s going on.

As for midi being outdated – nope, sorry. While mp3 offers some advantages over midi (namely voices and the sound of the thing isn’t computer dependent), the midi format still has a place, and always will do. This is because the midi format is not so much a format as the recording of the musical notes, and instruments to play them, and then synthesises the thing. Like any synthesiser, it needs to be manipulated (some of the sounds you can get with midi would be almost impossable to do with any physical instrument) to it’s advantages. And as I say, with it being synthesised by the computer playing the thing, results may vary from computer to computer, although the best you’re going to get is probably a Yamaha chip (they do exist o_O;)

For a reference as to who I am, on ukgameshows group I’m haunter_uk2.

Joel Masterson:
What a charmless, uninventive, missed opportunity. CGI could have been a good option to reinvent Knightmare, but not like this. I hope they go back to the drawing board.

Brig Bother:
I’d be much happier with the road they’ve gone down if they had tailored the game to fit the new situation. As it is, they really haven’t and there’s no real show there.

Marc Tracey:
If they want to re-invent (or bring back or whatever) a “Knightmare-esque” show, I don’t see an awful lot wrong with leaving it the way it was. It worked, didn’t it?

I wasn’t a great Knightmare fan to begin with

*runs from flaming torches*

But even I could see that this lacked the moments needed. Especially the puzzle room, BRING BACK THE CARDS!

Also it would be impossible to recreate the saw corridor with this system, that’s a very bad thing.

Ali Everett:
I didn’t like it. period.
Apart from the inventive new floor puzzle (i.e. the axe room), i don’t think there was anything i could have said i liked (let alone thought was good).

i prefer the live-action over the VR. It gives a thrill of mortality and tension, not to mention difficulty (which, lets face it, is needed in later parts of the quest).

Try again from a different angle, i’d say

Elaine Minter:
Can’t understand why people are so negative. I think it should be brought back it was a great piece of escapism.

well i thought it was okay but they should off made it a little longer and maybe added in the intro to it

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