St Albans man releases new interactive computer game

A screengrab from Black Lazar.

A screengrab from Black Lazar. - Credit: Pleon Words

A St Albans man has realised his dream, making and publishing a highly acclaimed interactive Android game.

Michael Nisbet, 42, who lives in Jersey Farm, works for a national pharmaceutical organisation by day. But he spent the last five years spending his free time creating Black Lazar.

Michael Nisbet created the game.

Michael Nisbet created the game in five years. - Credit: Michael Nisbet

It features many talents including more than 120 hand-drawn works of art, a mystery story of 250,000 words across 15 chapters and over an hour of original music.

He had the idea about seven years ago, but only started work two years later. His original vision was more basic for a smaller project that it became.

It took so long, because it has branching storylines, with differing events and outcomes dependent on what the player does as they go along.

This involved a tricky writing process, coming up with alternative narratives and is what helps make the game unique and enticing.

For example, choices the player makes early on impact on the game throughout, such as navigating through a forest with a companion – which can be one of four characters, so that was time-consuming and complex to write.

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Michael said: “I worked hard on it all - not that it was technically work, as I enjoyed it, which was key. I’ve always liked writing sci-fi and horror but what I actually enjoyed was creating worlds; places inhabited with interesting characters and situations.

“In making the app, I was combining multiple media to create a story you could influence. I ended up with artwork for every single ‘page’ and adaptive music throughout, as well as sound effects.

“I worked on it over weekends and evenings, pretty much all of my free time, consistently building it into my routine around work and studying for an actuary qualification. I never felt like it was work as I enjoyed the whole process and if I banged my head against the wall over the writing, I could switch to the music or the art and vice versa.”

He drew 150 images with charcoal sketches, improving them with digital software, used his phone to do sound effects – even crushing an onion to create the sound of a head being crushed. It’s not for children – strictly adults only.

A screengrab from Black Lazar.

A screengrab from Black Lazar. - Credit: Pleon Words

The pandemic made no difference to his routine and he spent his regained commute time on his day job anyway, so he can’t even thank C-19 for helping him complete his goal.

Michael is passionate about what kept him busy for the past five years. He said: “The central idea behind the story is the rivalry between a detective working for Interpol and a crime lord – the Black Lazar – with global influence who has, until recently, operated entirely unbeknownst to the world’s intelligence and police agencies.

“When a mutual tragedy (experienced in a ‘flashback’) affects the two men, things accelerate to a confrontation that will change their (and the player’s) understanding of everything that has occurred to that point.

“And there’s a twist at the end, naturally. Everyone likes a good twist.”

Black Lazar is self-published under the name of Pleon Words. It has received multiple five-star reviews by players, who described it as “fantastic, interesting and intriguing”.

Currently the game is only available on Android but Michael is half way through making a version which is compatible with Apple devices and PCs.

It’s available to download free on Google Play here