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.


 

 

Authors

Dario Scarpa

Dario, founder and director of Binary Charm, is an experienced XR/game programmer and a narrative games enthusiast. Nightingale is Binary Charm’s first independent project, and he put the game together, handling all the programming and UI/UX design. His goal for the project was building an interface to present the Nightingale short story (and any rewindable branching story) in the best way he could conceive.

Cristiano Caliendo

Cristiano, part of the Daring Touch collective, has been working on adventure games since the early 2000s. Some appreciated titles featuring his contributions are Detective Gallo, The Hand of Glory and the Shadows on the Vatican series. He’s also founder of Calavera CafĂ©, a very active Italian community focused on adventure games. He wrote the Nightingale short story using Inkle’s Ink, and took care of the audio design of the game, communicating with the musicians and synchronizing the soundtrack.

Supporting Artists

Pierluigi Vessichelli

Pierluigi is an amazing 2D/3D artist with many games and B2B projects under his belt. For Nightingale, he did the cover art and teaser image. Additionally, he selected the color palette of the UI and designed some icons.

Carlos Leal

Carlos is a guitarist, songwriter and instrumental music composer who also excels at improvisation. For Nightingale, he took care of part of the score (including the main theme) and prepared the UI sound effects.

Simone Cicconi

Simone is half rock-star and half videogame sound designer. He’s been working for both independent games and AAA studios. He composed the soundtrack of Shadows on the Vatican Act I & II, so it was great having him back for a few tracks of the Nightingale score.


Production History

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 screenshot of the first functioning prototype.
 

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: Nightingale is out.


Technical Features

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.