The Music Of Stasis

Here are two tracks I’ve completes for STASIS.

I’ve tried to ‘mimic’ the feel of the Sound Tracks of awesome 80’s sci-fi movies, specifically referencing ALIENS (which is my favorite movie of all time. ūüėÄ )

These tracks will be played VERY¬†faintly¬†in the background, with some of them coming more to the foreground when needed.¬†I’m¬†still doing tests with having there be ‘constantly’ music in the backgrounds, vs ambient noise, with music sporadically throughout the game.¬†I’m¬†thinking the latter is a better idea…

Let me know what you think…

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Airlock To The Scanner

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The Ghost Ship

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-Chris

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ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

I have a confesion to make. I dont really play games. Shocking for someone who is making them! The last game I actually complected was FALLOUT 3-and that was a while ago!

But recently, the blame for the lack of updates falls squarly on the shoulders of DeadSpace 2. Making a game that has its roots in the sci-fi-horror genre, I couldnt resist getting into the boots of Isaac Clarke, and going to kick some necro ass. But there are other reasons for my delve into The Sprawl. I wanted to see just HOW they did it.

When you start developing your own game, and come across major pitfalls and barriers, it only makes sense to take a look at how others have tackled the same issues you have. Now Dead Space certainly isnt an Adventure Game, and apart from the setting of ‘spaceship where something has gone wrong’, shares very little DNA with Stasis-but there is still a ton to learn from it, and translate into Stasis.

Something quite interesting is how they tackled travel. How do you make a game world ‘feel’ big, when in all honesty the actual levels are probably no bigger (if taken to a real world scale) than a school sports field. When playing DS2, you really feel as tho you are in a HUGE city sized environment. You feel tired from walking through these immense environemnts. That is something I REALLY want to get into Stasis.

Heres how I think they did it…

Windows. Having large windows, showing huge expanses of the city beyond makes you ‘feel’ like you are in one little section..makes you feel like there is so much MORE out there, and you are playing one little part in the story.

Elevators. Now Im assuming they are using the elevators in DS2 as loading areas, but it works fantastically because it doesnt take you out of the game environemnt at all. Im a BIG fan of the Dead Space designers take on a UI, with keeping everything ‘in game’, and using the elevators like this really pushes that forward. There is no break in game play. The game plays as tho its one continious level. Infact, if you didnt die (and die often!), you could play Dead Space 2 all the way through with no NOTICABLE loading times.

The elevators also serve to build anticipation, and make the links between levels believable.

Locked Rooms. There are many areas of The Sprawl that you cant access. Closed doors, which when you are close you can hear people behind, areas where the roof has caved in, with rooms beyond them that you can see…but not get to.

Now while, in an Adventure Game, these may serve to frustrate the player (is there something important in that room?), it really opens up the game world, and again gives that feeling of ‘one cog in a big machine’.

Varied Environments. This is a biggie. The environment design in DS2 is very impressive. Each room, floor, and area feels unique. From the different train stations, to the elementry school, to the exterior zero g scenes. They feel ‘organically designed’, not in terms of flesh and bone, but rather that a human designed them. Every office and home in the world is unique, because of the people that live there-and thats the sort of ‘organic’ nature that the design has.

There are a few other things that Dead Space 2 does incredibly well, and they have a ‘feeling’ that I would love to carry through in STASIS. Lets call these, MOMENTS OF AWESOME.

These are times when you trigger something, and play through a part of the game thats different to the rest of the ‘walking, shooting’ variety of the game.

They are mainy scripted events, with minimal interaction from the player, but they make you feel…COOL. The Train Crash, Suiting Up, The Space Jump (complete with Iron Man style landing)..

Now these heavily kinetic momnets are quite difficult to have in an adventure game…esspecially one where memory management and graphics are such a major issue, but having that variation in the gameplay keeps you interested, and ‘in the game’.

Now not all of these ideas will translate well into a game like STASIS, but never the less its always a good thing to stand on the shoulders of giants, and see just how they did things.

Plus I get to say playing a computer game is research. ūüėČ

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Regarding Interfaces

I was going to do a blog post on the pitfalls of building assets for an ISOMETRIC game-but through a ton of testing this weekend I¬†didn’t¬†get around to actually creating any graphics…so that post will come a little later!

Plus side, the game is now 100% working from the time you board The¬†Groomlake¬†to the time you get to the train station (17 minutes of game time on a pure critical path run through*). I suppose without knowing exactly what happens¬†in between¬†those two screens, that¬†doesn’t¬†mean much-but trust me when I say its a really cool mini-milestone.

*ie, not having to figure out the puzzles, or explore the environment

THE QUESTION…

I was reading THIS THREAD over at the AGS forums, and saw that there are quite a few developers who are really trying to change the way that adventure games play as a genre. Ill be honest, after I finished the thread I started to quetion the interface design in STASIS. Am I playing it safe? Being ‘boring’ with my interface?

THE ANSWER….

And then I went through another playthough of the game…and decided NO.

The ‘old school’ interface of graphical adventure games really is perfect for…well…adventure games. Now while some AG’s do a cross genre thing, where they try to bring in action sequences, or interface designs that stray away from the classic LOOK AT, MOVE, USE, TALK TO design, honestly I think that, for me at least, designing a new way for the player to interact with the game seems a little like reinventing the wheel. ¬†Now while I know that the advantage of being ‘indie’ is that you can take chances, and try out different things. But from the outset, I wanted to make an adventure game. When I think back to the early adventure games, I dont remember the really cool interfaces…I just remember shoving a¬†banana¬†up the¬†exhaust¬†of an¬†android, talking to Murry, the haunted demon skull, or wearing an american flag shaped like a tentacle. The interface¬†shouldn’t¬†be something that shouts out LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM! It should just ‘be’.

In STASIS, I have really tried to keep the interface in the game as simple as possible. All of your commands are on screen ALL the time. The circular cursor always has SCAN, MOVE, and INTERACT. I hope that this encourages players to scan, and interact with EVERYTHING they can see, or touch.

The INVENTORY is¬†accessible¬†with just moving your mouse over the HSD in the corner. You don’t even have to click! And thats it. Combining objects is as simple as clicking and dragging them over each other. Accessing the menu is a mouse click away, and with¬†auto saves¬†every new screen,¬†I’m¬†hoping to minimize the player ever needing to access the menu.

I am fully confident that anyone, from veterans, to new comers to the genre will be able to get RIGHT into STASIS from the minute the opening screens petrified skeletons and floaty dust particles greets them.

In keeping with an interface that I KNOW works…in keeping with an interface that is simple to use, yet allows very complex interactions, I know that I can concentrate on THE most important aspect of an adventure game. The adventure.

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If I was going to design…

I was feeling a¬†little¬†‘bogged down’ with the space ship stuff, so decided that every now and then, I am going to throw together one of these.

Inspired by the obvious (Blade Runner), I thought what it would look like if I was going to design a Sci-Fi Noir style adventure game. I love the old buildings, and neon lights that made Blade Runner so atmospheric.

I have always loved the idea of layered cities. Cities with levels that are only accessed from catwalks, elevators, any flying cars.

Just to reiterate, this isnt a screen from STASIS! This is just a ‘what if’ thing I put together quickly, as a break from space ships. ūüėČ If you guys have any other scenarios you think would look cool with the ‘iso’ treatment, either drop me an email, or leave a comment.

-Chris

EDIT: My brother suggested that I work this into STASIS’s intro sequences. Originally I was going to do the cinematic sequences as a more classic ‘movie’ type of thing-but perhaps having the cutscenes also play out in ISOMETRIC could be pretty cool….

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