CAYNE TRAILER & OUR NEXT POST-APOC ADVENTURE GAME

www.playcayne.com

Since the release of STASIS and our subsequent migration into full time game development, Nic and I have created CAYNE. What started off as a stretch goal chapter has become an entire standalone game that can sit proudly in the STASIS universe. Hadley’s story came about around my emotions of releasing STASIS, and seeing how much a family can change with the birth of a child. She may be a fictional character but she carries the weight of a family and our collective experiences.

CAYNE TRAILER:

Please watch it on Youtube;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f99QQf4l_w

CAYNE is in final phase production. Yes, nearly there! We’re tweaking animations and sounds, and working through to check its flow. Already, we’ve decide to add in additional animations and content where we feel it will most benefit the story and game. It can be both a fun and frustrating experience, but being this close to the finish line gives us a daily rush of adrenaline that counteracts the tediousness of replaying the same game area over and over again! Backers will get to play CAYNE before everybody else (don’t worry!), so stay tuned for more details.

CAYNE is coming soon…

OUR NEXT GAME

BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION 

www.desolationgame.com 

Several years ago we had an idea for an adventure story set in a post-apocalyptic world. During our brain storming sessions, we kept circling back to a particular story. It was pushed to the sidelines while the STASIS story blossomed. But now that we want to do something different outside the STASIS universe, and still create an experience that fits into our niche of point-and-click, isomeric adventure games.

BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION will push our game design and graphic production further, and it’s a process that we want you to be a part of yet again.

Please watch a video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IkbdiJCrwo&feature=youtu.be

We will have more information on the crowd-funding of BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION but until then, please visit the site, watch and share the video and enjoy these early screenshots.

SIGN UP FOR NEWS AT: www.desolationgame.com3934a9fdb3f9cce5304a20221854c213_original 875389196513f2b117866ff249909c7c_original c98fd8d8c1b24048c8af9e3a9aa3c864_original

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www.playcayne.com

CAYNE: A STASIS STORY

“Hadley wakes in a facility. She is 9 months pregnant. They want her baby…”

When the dust settled after STASIS, Nic and I knew that the journey wasn’t quite over. After spending 5 years with our dear John and the search for his family aboard the Groomlake, we weren’t ready to leave the grimy world of Cayne Corporation behind.

So when it came to CAYNE (the additional chapter we’d promised to the Kickstarter Backers) we wanted to do something different. John’s story was a small sliver of what the world of STASIS had to offer, and how exciting and rewarding it is to be able to explore a little further… to slice open that seedy underbelly and see what’s inside!


A TALE OF 3 STORIES

The story we’d originally planned for CAYNE was to follow an engineer on the Groomlake, who was fighting to keep the ship afloat. While doing so, uncovering the hard truth of what Project SEED was all about. She’d be hunted by Dr. Malan (you remember him), while on a mission to save herself and a friend, and end up with a rather familiar crowbar through the skull.

Another idea was to follow Yuri, as he was sent from pillar to post through the ship to secure an unidentified ‘package’.

Story 3? An expectant woman who goes in for a routine surgery, and wakes up pregnant to term and disorientated.

That last story struck a chord with me. I’ve been in hospital before, and the ‘missing time’ aspect of it all has terrified me. Off you are into theatre, count back from 10, and then wake up a few hours later in a different room… You’re at the mercy of a surgeon and the nurses. Deeply disturbing. Isn’t that what horror is made of?! So those very fears felt like the perfect vessel for a story in the world of STASIS, right? From that seed, CAYNE was born.

CAYNE is a self-contained story. There are threads from STASIS, tethering the two together, while still letting exist apart from one another.

 

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IT IS FREE!

The decision to make CAYNE free to the public was one that we went back and forth on, but we’d love to introduce a taste of STASIS to new audiences. And how better to showcase our new engine framework (built in Unity 5) and what we can do with it?

So look forward to the high quality games that THE BROTHERHOOD plans to produce in the future. Alongside the release of CAYNE, we plan on crowd funding an entirely new adventure game.

WHERE IS CAYNE NOW?

We’re trying to push ourselves to provide the most polished, AAA experience that we can. CAYNE is in the final stages of development, and are aiming for a Q4 2016 release, with approximate game play of 1.5 hours.

 

  • In-game art assets for CAYNE are complete, with only a few key character animations outstanding.
  • The writing of all diary entries are done. Both original STASIS writers are back to inflict more punishment, with some incredibly talented (and twisted) new writers onboard too.
  • The game’s screenplay? Done! Our amazing voice actors are getting ready to provide life to these new characters.
  • CAYNE’s cinematic sequences are deep in production.
  • Look forward to a musical score composed by Ivo Sadiski, and featuring Will McCabe, Daniel Sadowiski and our very own Nic Bischoff.

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MORE UPDATES SOON!

Until then, check out:

WWW.PLAYCAYNE.COM

 

 

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CAYNE – A STASIS STORY

 

Nic and I have moved our office to Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Wow! This is a beautiful city, right at the tip of Africa. But amazing ocean views aside, we are now in full game production mode.
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CAYNE will not be traditional DLC – you won’t need STASIS to play it. It’s also a self-contained story that ties back to STASIS without ruining the story.

The game itself is starting to draw together with the main framework of the engine already complete. We’re now moving onto the sound design for the completed areas and pushing this aspect further than we did with STASIS. Footsteps have distinct sounds depending on surfaces, sound is now directional and can be played based on distances.

The already completed musical score will be added too! The musical score is incredible, with three different composers providing a unique texture and soundscape.

We have been polishing the game – oh, how obsessed with are will polishing our work! –  with all the small effects that we’d have loved to do in STASIS, but just didn’t have the time or the technology to implement them. For example, a subtle light that our protagonist emits that let’s you find her easily on the screen, and beautiful 2D shader effects to bring liquids to life and particles get caught in shafts of light.

The art asset list is slowly getting shorter. While the overall CAYNE environment is smaller than STASIS, we’re trying to push the visuals into new and varied directions with a focus on both body horror and psychological terror. Ha!

A final draft of the dialogue is almost complete and we’ll be searching for our voice actors to go on this journey with us. Ryan Cooper (the voice of John) is back on the team – and we can’t wait to start working with him again!

The writing of the diary entries is complete with the writers providing some of the most disturbing entries and narratives I’ve ever read.

Multi-platform support is also being implemented from the ground up, and we now have CAYNE playing properly on both Mac and Windows. And, the bonus is, we’re also working on the long awaited Linux port of STASIS! The IOS version of STASIS is also in the works. It is a complete engine re-write by a mobile expert specifically for Apple devices.

We’re planning on crowd funding our next game and think that CAYNE will be a perfect example of what we intend on producing.

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The video documentary reward for backers is also in planning – although I really do need to get a haircut before we start shooting the final video footage.

I will leave you with an HD screenshot from CAYNE:

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NO LOGO: 

LOGO: 

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3D INTEGRATION INTO 2D SCENES

When deciding on the switch from a pure 2D game to combination of 2D and 3D elements, I wanted to maintain the pre-rendered 2D feel of STASIS. Even though I love 3D games, and their endless potential, there is a certain magic around 2D.

Game such as Commandos and Icewind Dale hold up beautifully to this day, largely in part to the use of the 2D backgrounds.

So I’m acutely aware of creating 3D objects that will integrate perfectly into a 2D pre-rendered scene. One way of doing this is by setting up 3D lighting in your scene to accurately represent the same lighting in render. While this is doable, it comes at the expense of time and memory which, let’s face it, are finite resources for a developer. So how to get around this?

Baking!

I’d consider this idea a tried and trusted method. Bake the shadows and lighting into the texture instead of relying on real time shadows and reflections from the scene.

I construct the scene as I would fully detailed pre-rendered background. After which, Nic and I decide with objects should be 3D to best suit the scene and story. We’re mixing 2D sprite maps with 3D animated objects so the best solution is often only visible once the scene has been completed.

Once making that assessment, I create lower poly versions of the chosen 3D objects, while trying to keep as much of the object’s original shape and detail. And because there aren’t many 3D elements in each scene, the low poly models are still rather detailed.

After the low poly models are placed, various renders are done with and without the each object to create the correct shadows and reflections on the background plate.

From there I bake the shadows and textures into the low poly model while it sits in the scene. This was the lighting and shadows on the object are exactly as they would be if it was a 2D pre-rendered sprite.

The result: 3D objects that are perfectly integrated into the 2D scenes.

There are drawbacks to this; if the lighting conditions change drastically the 3D object’s textures have to be re-baked to maintain their integration, but as long as we’re aware of these limitations we design around them.

When the low poly models are used in conjunction with normal maps and lighting, we can create some beautiful looking scenes that still maintain the feel of completely pre-rendered scenes with without many of the memory limitations that those create.

BAKED 3d MODEL LOW POLY BED ingame_bed

 

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…AND WHEN THE DUST SETTLES…

We did it. We released a game! STASIS hit the digital shelves in late 2015. The culmination of thousands of hours, sleepless nights, copious amounts of coffee, and more than a few good old emotional breakdowns. After its release, it felt like a weight was lifted from one of my shoulders and then promptly shifted onto the other!

Patches, user support, interviews, marketing, and then more patches – in a way it felt when the game was complete the real work could start. And start it did! Nic and Kristal did masterful jobs at keeping everything afloat while I attempted some sort of emotional recovery from the 2 years of crunch time I’d just gone through.

I’ve heard people say ‘never read internet comments‘ and I ignored them. I can tell you that I obsessively googled STASIS for weeks after the launch and still find myself doing searches now. It’s hard not to.

We made STASIS for people to play and for people to enjoy. To publish it and then move onto something else instantly just seemed so…heartless. Thankfully, players loved it.

The feedback we got was excellent and I took it all in, both good and bad. I’ve read every Steam comment, thousands of forum replies, and hundreds of reviews. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube Let’s Plays and Twitch steams (even those in languages I don’t understand). I’ve consumed the feedback from STASIS like a dying man who finds an oasis, and it’s been thirst-quenching, even with the occasional mouthful of dirt.

STASIS is a game that we’re incredibly proud of. I personally grew more as an artist in the last 2 years of solid development, than I have in the previous 10 years of doing it professionally. And after all of that, what did we decide to do? Yep, we decided to do it all again.

The Brotherhood is now running as a full time development studio. We can officially call ourselves game developers with a straight face and an enormous sense of pride! We asked ourselves, “where to from here?” as we’d already completed much of the graphic content for the Cayne chapter so that was the most logical thing to tackle… but we aren’t people who take the easy route for anything. So we made the difficult decision to build Cayne from the ground up, and apply all of the lessons we’d learned from STASIS to create the best experience we can.

While STASIS provided a foundation for our future projects, Cayne will most certainly be providing the brick and mortar. We’re going to use Cayne to test out new ideas, technologies, and a new workflow that has both Nic and I working full time.

Our future games will be created around this core, and what we have coming up is going to astound, disgust, and amaze you.

 

WHAT ARE WE DOING DIFFERENTLY?

STASIS started off as a hobby project, and during production much time was spent trying to get things working. While I wouldn’t consider this time wasted (I discovered a lot of ways how NOT to do things), we’re going into this new chapter with a better knowledge of how our future games need to be put together.

The interface, for example, appears simple, but it took countless iterations to get the workings and feel we wanted. We can now take that R&D time and funnel it into other aspects.

While the 2D characters in STASIS were wonderful, we want our next games to use a 2.5D system with 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D characters. This allows us to have smooth transition animations and an unlimited number of directions for the character. More importantly, it eliminates a step that was needed when getting the characters into the game.

In STASIS, I needed to animate everything, render it out, set it up in a scene, tweak it, re-adjust if necessary, re-render, tweak… This process took an enormous amount of time with the results sometimes being less than satisfactory.  By using 3D characters that are rigged with bones, I can animate and import them directly into the game and see what adjustments need to be made.

I can’t explain how satisfying it is to see something in-engine a few seconds after I’ve finished the animation. Less time spent with the technicalities of importing into the engine means more time spent on getting the movement and animation flawless.

Lighting was a challenge in STASIS because it required more planning for even the most basic ‘special’ lighting. A scene had to be constructed in After Effects before it got added into the engine which allowed for almost no iterative design adjustment when it was in. How it came out in render was how it looked in the game.

In Cayne, we’re using Normal Maps and other techniques to get more dynamic lighting. Shader systems allow us to tint the scenes and adjust the mood of the rooms in real time, again allowing a more fluid nature to the games creation. Seeing adjustments to the game as you play it is both satisfying and helpful from a design standpoint. ‘The freedom to experiment’ is SO important in art, and using new systems allows us flexibility, especially where we can overlap the technical expertise with the artistic vision.

I want to push the design of Cayne into new directions. Cayne will portray more of Nic and my personal game styles – in all aspects, from the story to characters and environments. We want to bring in something slightly different to STASIS universe to challenge ourselves. But Cayne is set in the same universe, so we aren’t going to stray too far from our 80s roots.

The work we’re doing will hopefully blow your minds, because the passion is palpable and the excitement we have for the future is tangible. It’s going to be a wild ride.

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New Look!

I know that I have been promising a big new update, and let it never be said that I don’t deliver on my promises!

My brother has been hard at work over the past few weeks crafting this incredible new site. Take a look around the site, and please let me know what you think! I’ve also updated all the game info, as well as putting up several new screenshots! 

And, one of the biggest updates is (of course), on the 28’th of October, both Greenlight AND Kickstarter campaigns will go live! The next few weeks will be very exciting, with new screens, videos, and game information!

I also want to take this moment to thank EVERYONE for the support that STASIS has been given. I read EVERY comment, and browse through a lot of forums to read what you guys are saying about this little child of mine. I couldn’t have come this far if it wasn’t for the incredible support that you guys and gals have shown me. As a small thank you, I want to give away this awesome Wallpaper, showing you the main ‘release art’ of STASIS.

 

Desktop Wallpaper
Left Click to Download.

 

Stay frosty!

-Chris

 

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VISIONAIRE – The engine powering STASIS.

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Visionaire, the engine that is powering STASIS, is a truly wondrous tool!

The engine is extremely artist friendly, with the ability to slide easily into a production line. All images are read from external files, so updating graphics is as easy as copying files in Windows Explorer. Simply replace the old frames in the directory, and they are automatically updated in the game.

 

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As a single developer, this small feature is an incredible time saver, allowing me to very quickly make changes to the game. Often, I will have Photoshop open on one monitor, and Visionaire open on the other – instantly updating backgrounds, or animations.

While PNG is generally the recommended format, Visionaire allows use of multiple file formats in the engine. Applies not only to images, but to Audio (ogg, wav, mp3) , as well as Video (mkv, wmv, avi, etc).

 

Visionaire is also set up in such a way that you can easily customise all aspects of your game. While it is exclusively an ‘Adventure Game’ engine, there are still many different ways that you can set up the mechanics.

Adding in extra actions (such as the classic Push, Pull, Look, Lick (??) ) is very easy, allowing for interactions to be as complex, or simple, as you need. Its this ease of use that really allows for experimentation. If you need a specific action for a puzzle, you can add it in. If its not working, you can easily remove it without having a cascading effect of breaking the game.

 

Vis 1

Adding in objects is done through a very simple WYSIWYG interface, that belies the complex interlinking actions you can create. When creating STASIS, there haven’t been many instances where I have had to resort to code to get a complex interaction in place. But if more complex puzzles or interactions are required, you have full access to a LUA scripting system inside the engine.

But the best part of using Visionaire is that the creators have the advantage of working on an engine that is currently in use by professional developers, and it shows. The features that get updated are things that you WILL USE in production. Recently, the focus for the dev builds has been on core stability, and compression, with the end goal to be able to export to Android and IOS tablets and devices. With the same technology that VLC uses, you have access to a plethora of different formats and ways to display your game.

High resolution, parallax scrolling, a tight memory management system, and an upcoming feature list longer than my arm makes Visioniare the EASY choice for any upcoming Adventure Game developers! And the best part, you can try it out RIGHT NOW for FREE.

The free version of Visionaire is completely functional, with the exception of building your game as an EXE. But honestly, at 35,00 EUR its a steal!

http://www.visionaire-studio.net/shop/article/visionaire-studio-3-adventure-game-engine.html

 

Happy adventuring!

-Chris

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STASIS General Update

I know I’ve been rather quiet on the blog, and with regards to my emails (sorry if I haven’t replied to you if you’ve emailed me-it is coming!).

I’ve been slaving away at getting a fully playable portion of the game done for testing and display purposes. Who will actually GET to test the game, or WHERE it will be displayed are entirely different things!

REZZED.

I was invited to REZZED, and set a deadline for a playable demo of the game-but due to VISA and financial limitations, I’ve had to skip this year-but I will definitely try for next year-if not to display anything, just to experience it. But I decided to stick with the deadline of a fully playable, very large chunk of the game to be complete by that date.

EXPERIENCES.

I’ve also been going through the game, and adding what I’ve come to internally call ‘experiences’. I know…very buzz-wordy. These are small snippets of action elements in the game that are in to break up the slower periods of pure puzzle-solving-exploration-goodness.

Now these aren’t things that require quick reflexes, and sort of ‘run and gun’ elements, and you can literally pass them just by clicking on the correct areas, but I’ve found that they really add a ton to the pacing of the game. To have these small bursts of energy really makes the slower, tenser parts of the game feel much…well, tenser.

They also look pretty bad-ass in action, and while they take a LONG time to set up, for a relatively ‘small’ (in game time) reward, they really do push the game up a level in awesome. I think that these are the parts that you will really remember when thinking about the game after you finish.

CINEMATICS.

I’ve been working hard on the cinematics of the game as well, and using them to join sections of the game in some pretty cool end exciting ways. Its mostly for the ‘travelling’ sections of the game, where I want to add in something different to make you feel like you are really moving large distances. I’ve realised that a 30 second cinematic is as effective in conveying time and distance, as 3 minutes of gameplay dedicated to the same thing.

MATTE PAINTING.

This weekend, Im going to be doing some Mattes of The Groomlake for the cinematics, inspired by those amazing shots of The Event Horizon as it sinks into Neptune’s gaseous atmosphere. Ill record myself doing them, and if they come out like I’m hoping, Ill put the videos up on YouTube!

Have  great weekend guys!

-Chris

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Kickstarter revisited…

A while ago I posted my thoughts on this blog about Kickstarter as a funding model for Stasis – you can read it here


I’ve spoken before about how art in a vacuum is a bad thing, and honestly, through Stasis I’ve realised that pretty much anything in a vacuum is bad! Except for the International Space Station…that’s just awesome.

I posted a while back on my views on Kickstarter, and through my conversations that stemmed from that post, I have realised just how wrong I was. I want to offer a personal thanks to the people that disagreed with me – I know that sometimes its easier to just nod  and smile when someone posts something on line – but I have really enjoyed the emails, and even the conversations here, about what I said.

I still feel strongly that crowd sourcing in general can be easily abused by some game studios who are promising the world with a few concept pictures.

BUT I have made a mistake!



I think Stasis is a bit different because It’s a live and kicking game – not a promise of things to come. It’s well on it’s way to being completed, and now I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to add the extra level of polish needed to get Stasis to AAA level. There are elements that require more funds than I currently have access too (like professional voiceover artists, commissioned sound track  etc.) That is not to say that I couldn’t build up the reserves to pay for this myself but I think I can get it done quicker and faster with crowd sourced funds.

After two and a half years of Stasis occupying my every thought and ALL of my free time, I’m almost there and crowd funding may enable me to work on this game full time and get it done in a couple of months While delving into the intimidating crowd funded world, I believe that I would stay true to myself and my initial vision for for Stasis.

Any thoughts on my thoughts?

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Advice: Play your game

This isn’t going to be a major post, but just a small piece of advice to all developers out there. I know it seems simple and obvious, but take time out of development to just play your game.

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Set up what you think would be the ideal environment to play the game. If its a PC Game, turn off the lights, put in some headphones, and play it. If you see a bug, don’t mark it down, or make a note of it. Just play through. Enjoy your game-enjoy your work.

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Its a very surreal experience to have your game be at a point where you can see what others will get out of it…feel what other people will feel when they first load it up. Of course, its never going to be a pure experience, because all you can see are the flaws-but try to get it as close as possible.

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Creating games is such a huge amalgamation of talent and skill-its an art form that involves the technical and the artistic coming together in a way that no other product does. And if you are involved in it, its something to be proud of .

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Be proud of it.

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-Chris

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Screenshots : Engineering Deck

Hey my loyal cryogenically frozen fans!

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but rest assured I have been toiling away below decks. I recently finished a large chapter in the game, so wanted to show off an area (or 2).  The still screenshots don’t do these scenes justice…the shadows move as the lights swing, particles float through the air, and the sounds of the empty bowels of the ship echo through the engineering decks.

Its pretty darned cool!

-Chris

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STASIS and Kickstarter

This post has been a long time coming, but I figured it was finally time to throw it into the wild…

One of the questions I get asked most often (ok, second most-the first being ‘When is Stasis going to finished), is:

WHY ISN’T STASIS ON KICKSTARTER?

I think that Kickstarter is a wonderful platform, and I avidly follow quite a few of the projects that have gone up. Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, Torment, and Broken Age are my staples, along with a few smaller ones.

But even these projects seem to be running into issues-and these are projects with multitudes of experience behind them.

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ISSUE 1

One of the big issues, and one that I think is one of the most important ones, its keeping the community updated on your progress. A big selling point in these projects, and any project on Kickstarter, is that you get to see the project emerging-see how the sausage is made. Now while thats a really cool idea for the gamer who loves these things, its a very difficult thing for the developer.

I personally feel that I announced STASIS way too early. The truth is that I never thought it would be a large project, so didnt see the harm in showing it off in its early states. If I look back at this blog, a TON of time has gone into the blog posts, talking about various aspects of the game, whats happening in the background, why I do what I do. Now this has been beinifial in some way, I think that I can be hurtful in others.

For a game that relies on STORY as one of its major selling points, to have 2 years of stuff talking about the game, without mentioning the story, is VERY difficult. But see-because I view this blog as my personal thing, Im not bound to talk about the game. There are quite a few posts here about…well..other things. Articles I like, other games, and other random ideas. These other projects have to have a media communication plan that’s SPECIFICALLY TAILORED TO THE PROJECT, WITHOUT GIVING AWAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION. And they have to update OFTEN, because this is part of what the backers pay for. This adds in an extra layer of complexity to an already complex situation, and one that I wouldnt want to find myself in.

If you go dark, and have a media blackout, your backers will (rightfully) complain. If you update too often, you are going to start to dilute the games content in the minds of the players. Now with the RPG’s mentioned, this is a little easier, because the idea with an RPG is to create enough tools and rules in the game to let the player craft the story-but in a much more linear game (like STASIS, or Broken Age), its almost impossible. Im surprised that Double Fine actually managed to go for almost a year before even announcing the name of the game, and a screenshot. And people were starting to notice it, and getting agitated with them for being so scant on aspects of the game. Which brings me to issue 2….

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ISSUE 2

People are mean, and artists are sensitive! Ask ANY artist if they enjoy showing people unfinished work, and they will say NO. Unless they are sadists.

Reading the comments and discussions of things like the first WASTELAND 2 screen, or the Torment locations, or the PE level prototype makes me shiver. Complaints about there not being dust on the footsteps, too much blur in the back grounds, ladders not being properly scaled….these are things that can be a bit of a crushing experience for artists, specifically when they KNOW that its not something that’s complete.

Ive been quite lucky, in that the reactions to the screenshots and videos of STASIS has been pretty good-but that’s because everything I release, I release on MY schedule. I release them because they are complete. I’ve done my internal QA, external QA, double and triple checked everything, and when things aren’t correct, thrown them out and started over. There are actually about 3 game play videos that I haven’t released, because I just didn’t like 1 or 2 things with them. Thats the power of NO EXTERNAL PRESSURE.

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ISSUE 3

Lets say STASIS goes on Kickstarter, and I raise $100 000,00. That means, that, before I even release the game, I’m $100 000.00 in debt. I have to give away $100 000.00 of product ON THE DAY I LAUNCH. Now, I know that people have the ‘but without the money you wouldn’t have a product’, and that’s a very fair, and true argument. But the problem with an Adventure Game, is that the market IS small.

The RPG projects have a much wider appeal, and I have NO doubt that they will double, triple, or even make 10 fold what they have put into it. But a smaller Adventure Game like STASIS? I have high hopes for the sales, and concrete plans for what the money I make from STASIS will go into-but I would hate to, at the end of a grueling few years of work, come out with giving away all of the product that I would have ever sold, and starting from square 1. I know thats its a worst case scenario-but the truth is that its a possibility-and on that I need to be very mindful of.

Thats why I don’t think that Stretch Goals are a very good idea. I understand WHY they are there, but I think that the feature bloat they cause, and spending money that you don’t have, isn’t the best way of getting out an ALREADY incredibly complex product.

Looking at Broken Age, the initial budget for that was $400 000,00, with the final funding coming in at almost 8 times that. It would have been better for them to stick with the original goal, and had enough money from that game alone to create another 8 games! Or 4 larger games. or 1 big game and a sequel! Instead, the entire budget, again of money they technically dont have, has been put into ONE SINGLE PRODUCT.

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ISSUE 4.

I’m not employed. If I got a large influx of cash, I couldn’t really quite my job and work on STASIS full time, because I own the company. Its a company that my brother an I built from the ground up over a decade. I have many other lives that are dependent on me to be here every day. Because of the worries of ISSUE 3, I couldn’t go at this full time. Not yet at least.

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ISSUE 5,

STASIS IS MY KICKSTARTER. I have a goal in mind for how many sales STASIS has to make for me to go into full time Game Development. Make no mistake, that is the end goal. I want STASIS to be the beginning of that journey. I want to create an awesome game, that people will love-and use that foundation to do the same again and again and again. I don’t want people to buy into the promise of future things-because those are fleeting at best, and gut wrenching when they fail.

-Chris

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STASIS: Infinite

I sometimes take a break from vivisections, rotting corpses, and the cold hard floors of The Groomlake to indulge either my artistic, or game designer side. Here are a few examples of previous side projects I’ve done. My general rule is to not allow them more than 3 days, with the exception of 1KL, which was a 2 week process (but involved actually making a fully playable tech demo…so it was time well spent!).

PREVIOUS EXAMPLES:

1000 YEARS LATER.

WASTELAND 2 CONCEPTS.

3 DAY CINEMATIC.

BLADE RUNNER HOMAGE.

These side projects are honestly some of my favorite things to do, and things that I think many people really appreciate. It, in a strange way, actually focuses me MORE on STASIS by letting me step back for a few nights and just let my imagination run wild.

Of course, with BIOSHOCK being a massive influence on STASIS, I could not ignore the awesome world that Irrational Games has created with BIOSHOCK: Infinite.

Although I have not played the game (seriously, I’m HORRIBLE at finishing games. I haven’t even gotten to the planet yet in Dead Space 3), I delved into the story by watching Lets Plays, and reading up on all of the theories that went into it. Although, the thing that interested me most was the city of Collumbia! And naturally, it needed some ‘Isometricing’, because all games would look better in 2D Isometric.

So, I present to you: STASIS – INFINITE!

Click to make bigger.

A very special Well Done to Ken Levine, and Irrational. One day I want to grow up to be just like you. 😉

-Chris

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Killer Bits Interview

I did an interview with Killer Bits the other day, and it has gone live on the intertubes.  This was my first ‘spoken’ interview, and I have to say that it was quite a surreal experience. It brought back memories of watching Cybernet as a young’n, and hearing developers and reviewers talk about games.
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In the video you can see some cool behind the scenes footage, and some exclusive game play stuff that shows some awesome new areas. I’m particularly proud of the tram section, because…well, it took forever to get it to look right in 25 frames of animation, and it just looks bad ass.
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Subscribe to The Killer Bits channel, because they have some really cool stuff there right now, and some awesome stuff coming up. Plus the one reviewer as an epic beard, and as a man that cant grow a beard, I feel that all epic beards deserve respect.

LINK:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUUNCsQ5RfE

If you have any questions regarding stuff mentioned in the interview, please don’t hesitate to comment below!

-Chris

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Organically growing stories

I love stories. I love complex interwoven plots, with interesting characters, each with their own motives, their own reasons for doing things. But really, it takes a very skilled writer to inhabit the mind of many different characters, and interweave their goals and individual ambitions together into a rich tapestry. So, naturally I tried to think of an easier way of doing exactly that!

I was browsing around the net, and found a whole lot of RPG forums where people are each playing characters in a story. Now, obviously, you have a ‘game master’ like a traditional PnP RPG, but the thing that really interested me was how each person playing imbued their character with their own personality.

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What I’m suggesting for anyone who is looking at writing an RPG is to have a round table play through with your friends. Write a few character cards, but be vague. Let the people come up with the stories. And then just play. Dont worry about stats, dice rolls, or even where the story ends up. Record this session, and use it as a base for a story. Record how the personalities of each character plays off the other. Encourage making things up on the spot. Have a character betray another. Let romances develop, hatred and jealousy…all the good things that make up good stories!

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Im sure after a few meetings like this, you could have an organically grown story, full of well rounded characters who actually have relationships. Imagine having your parties NPC’s all having their own interwoven personalities and journeys.

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Now granted, this is just a theory. I haven’t actually done this before, but I cant imagine why it wouldnt work! One thing you could look at is setting up a forum over at ” http://freeforums.org/ ” , and use that as a platform for your story with each character posts the next ‘event’ in the story.

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Do you guys have any other ideas on how to organically ‘grow’ stories? If so, or if you have done exactly what I’ve mentioned here, please let me know how it turned out! Its definitely something I would look to if I was creating a multi-party story (be it RPG, or Adventure Game).

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On a bit of a side note, STASIS was briefly mentioned in the Killer Bits YouTube show:

There will be a full follow up interview in the coming weeks (with additional, unseen footage, and some behind the scenes stuff), so either subscribe to their channel, or keep your eyes here for details!

-Chris

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Preventing Backtracking

BACKTRACKING

Back in the early days of Adventure Games, backtracking was almost seen as a design feature.

Trekking through the forest, back through previously visited areas to get to a previously visited destination to do something you couldn’t do before because you didn’t have a specific item-well that was par for the course.

The main reason for backtracking is that it artificially lengthens the game, because time being spent going through already created areas is ‘free’. You have already created those assets, so you are extending the time the player spends in the world for no input on the side of the designer.

CHEAP DESIGN TRICKS

Now in the so called ‘golden age’ of AG’s, where things like ‘Walking Deads (where if you are missing one item, you cannot complete the game-but there is no way to obtain the item once you have passed an area), and highly obtuse ‘ I need to buy the hint book for this’ puzzles were common place, backtracking was a design choice. But no more. Personally, I think that its a cheap trick, and something that has no place in a modern adventure game. People no longer have the luxury of spending 3 months on an Adventure Game, nor do can we, as game designers, expect them to. Now I’m not saying that we need to pander to the lower common denominator, and start making McAdventure Games for the every-man, but we must keep in mind that our audience has changed. We OWE it to our customers to create the BEST EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE, and to make sure that their precious time ISN’T WASTED.

GOING BACK TO THE AAA’s

One thing that I have spoken about before is using big AAA titles as a reference for how to do things. For all of the flack that those large titles get within the indie community, we can learn a LOT from them, in terms of making a slick, polished product that has appeal.

While playing through Dead Space 1 a while back, I noticed how little back tracking I was doing. So I started to really study how they got rid of it. Now, you do have certain ‘home bases’ in Dead Space that you revisit, and that form as almost spokes of a wheel to your other destinations. Dead Space works by showing you a problem, and then sending you on your way to solve it (very much like an Adventure Game). But I don’t ever remember long times of walking through areas where that you have already cleared out. The wonder of a new area was kept, because you never went back there. It exists as a memory, which is much more visceral over time than reality.

HOW THEY DO IT

Their approach to the problem is actually remarkable simple. Doors. In Dead Space, one thing that always shows up in any level are the doors. They are similar in design, with the exception of the holographic icon showing a door being locked or open. When you enter into an area, the door closes behind you. Somewhere in that area will be another door, that has a red lock icon on it, making it impassable. Once you have completed your objective in the room, the door that you entered into becomes locked, and the other door becomes unlocked. There is no internal logic as to why (sure sometimes, they will have an NPC say something like “I managed to get the office door open”, but when you are playing through the game, generally you just don’t notice it. The doors look the same, except for the hologram. Once it changed, you automatically see that as your exit, ignoring the door that was your entrance.

It is an extremely simple and effective way of keeping your game moving forward. Now I’m not saying that you should have NO back tracking. Sometimes it can be a very effective design tool-but only when its used as a design tool, and not as a way of adding length and time to your game.

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