Mark of the Old Ones
A richly imagined, metroidvania, 'upside down', physics-platformer. Inspired by HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Kraal fhtagn.
Explore Namaset, a city from the dawn of humanity. A city of beauty and unspeakable horror. A city built for the Old One Kraal. Unearth bizarre technologies and creatures not of this world. Delve deep into Namaset's twisted history, and make its future.
Mark of the Old Ones Chapter 1: The Overseer
Mark of the Old Ones tells the harrowing story of Thomas Lyle. While soaring above the Brooks Mountain Range on the North Slope of Alaska, disaster strikes. His plane is grounded. His pilot killed. His legs mangled.
Dauntless, Thomas drags himself from the wrecked carapace of his single-engine surveyor's plane. Drawing on his experience from World War I, he ties off the stump of his bleeding right leg. Knowing the cold of Alaska will kill as sure as any wound, he seeks shelter in the foreboding mouth of a nearby cave.
Drawn forward by evidence of habitation, Thomas crawls farther into the cave. Skylight fades behind him. The grainy texture of loose dirt is suddenly replaced by a smooth and cool surface. The hair on his neck and arms stands on end as he advances across the exotic surface. Startled, he turns toward a slithering sound, then whips back as he hears it again behind him.
The first searing pain shoots through his spine as he feels himself paralyzed. A puncture at the base of his skull follows, and his pain dissipates in a cool wave. With fading vision, Thomas watches chitinous tentacles surround him as he welcomes unconsciousness.
While Thomas is the star of Mark of the Old Ones, two characters support his narrative. The first you've heard in our video: Kaya.
Kaya descends from cultists who fled Namaset as it starved to death. Raised by her father to revere Kraal even from exile, Kaya dreams of once again rebuilding her people. Her visions of Thomas serve as the framing device for the game's events.
Dr. Charles Wentworth offers the distinct 19th century viewpoint of a true Lovecraftian hero. He speaks to Thomas (and the player) through the numerous journal fragments he left during his 1850's exploration of Namaset, then in decline. Where Kaya sees grandeur and divinity, Dr. Wentworth sees only a barbarous sect with baffling customs.
Just for flavor, here is one of Wentworth's journal entries from early in the game:
This is the log of Dr. Charles Wentworth, late of Boston,
I hope that this account finds you in a comfortable reading room at Miskatonic Library, where I will file it upon my return from Russian America. While I give little credence to the native superstitions regarding this mountain, and I fully expect to safely emerge with reports of the tribe dwelling within, I will leave behind carbon copies of my journal entries in case I am met with accident or misfortune. I pray that you are not piecing together my words from those scattered facsimiles.
This is the kind of game that we want to play and we hope that you will love it too. It focuses on a few core game mechanics for you to master; use them as you conquer a challenging world of 2d physics puzzles and harrowing boss fights. You are going to experience a deep, multi-layered story that stays true to HP Lovecraft and that encourages you to explore, discover, and unwind the lore and dark secrets of Namaset.
Our intention is to make Mark of the Old Ones horrifying without being horrific. For example, in good Lovecraft fashion, we don't show you a guy getting his face ripped off by ancient demons, but, in the next room over, you really think that you can hear...
Mark of the Old Ones will have multiple pathways through the game. We hope that you will want to explore all of the paths to collect upgrades for your abilities, and to unearth the full story of Namaset. Spoiler alert: when you enter Namaset, it is very much a sleeping city. As you progress through the game you awaken the city, and the terrors that dwell within. The way we are designing the levels is going to give you a different playing experience as you do your Metroidvania backtracking: as you awaken Namaset, the environment will attack, puzzle, and challenge you in new ways.
At its core, MotOO is about a unique and coherent movement mechanism. Thomas’ tentacles provide a totally unique way to experience an environment, evoking novel feelings of strength, momentum, and power. Basic movement has a relaxing rhythm that quickly feels natural, but gracefully navigating a dynamic environment challenges preconceptions of character movement. Thomas doesn’t swing like Spider-Man; Thomas moves like the eldritch abomination he has become.
Behind the scenes, these arms are using real time multi-threaded dynamic IK, solving at 720 ticks/second. Thanks to MotOO’s physics-first design, the tentacles are “real” in a way we typically don’t see in games. The tentacles can interact fully with the world: grasping, manipulating, and throwing objects. While alien in form, players easily interact with the world as motion planning and inverse kinematics algorithms map intuitive control inputs into coordinated movement.
The boost gives you a sharp vertical thrust. You will have a limited number of boosts that you can use before you must refill your reservoir. You can upgrade the size of your reservoir.
Chronition slows time and zooms the camera out so you can see more of what is around you. It's excellent for scouting out the obstacles ahead. You've got a freakish parasite dug into your spine, but, at least it comes with a few perks! You will be able to upgrade the amount of time you can use chronition before you have to let it recharge.
You are wrapped in a protective shell and you get more massive. Getting heavier lets you smash into things with more force and affect physics obstacles. For example, as you are landing on a trampoline you hold the increase mass button, when it's fully compressed you let go and get maximum bounce. We can also use it in physics puzzles, i.e. something is being held in place by a magnet, you aren't strong enough to pull it free, the extra mass gives you the additional force that you need. This ability will also protect you from certain environmental hazards. At the moment, we are not quite sure what aspects of this will be up-gradable.
There are currently 8 core-team members doing pre-production on MotOO. If we reach our funding goal, the team will ramp up in size as we enter production. We expect the full team size to be 11 individuals (adding: 1 environment artist, 1 character artist, and 1 QA tester).
Here is the team so far:
Jordan Brock @justtactics
President / Producer. Jordan wears many hats. But, basically his job is to make sure that the office is always stocked with coffee.
Aubrey R. Jones @aubrey_r_jones
Director / Programmer. Between all of the IK algorithms, differential equations, and vorton fluid simulations, no one knows what this guy is doing. Aubrey is smart.
Justin Juner @jmjuner
Level Designer. Justin was our QA lead on Just Tactics, but he is a mad scientist, so now he is our level designer.
Character Artist. Oleg loves anime, bad movies that "look awesome," being awful at League of Legends, and blasting dubstep out of his car at 120 decibels.
Programmer. Christian is a habitual 'game jammer.' He is also a fire extinguisher and fire safety expert...
Music and Sound Design. Dave is willing to smash, drop into a food processor, or drive over anything with his car if it will create a cool sound effect.
2D Artist. Carol put "guild leader" on her resume. You're hired.
Henry Alex Martin @Imjustsomeguy55
Environment Artist. Alex is a burrito connoisseur. And he's a master of karate and friendship. But, really, his work gives us the goosebumps:
In addition to the core team, there will be people doing bits of work here and there; which includes our cast of characters. We have cast one role so far:
Stephanie Yuhas Conant @stephanieyuhas
as Kaya, a leader of the ancient cult of Kraal. Stephanie is one of the stars of the Cinevore Studios series "Nerd vs. Geek." Stephanie has appeared in "Limit Break," "OverAnalyzers," "Living in 8-Bits," "The Game Chasers" and "Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie." And she appreciates good onigiri.
Get Gosu - Aubrey and Jordan worked on 'Get Gosu' together. Get Gosu was an online tournament hosting platform. It facilitated the running of fully automated CS 1.6, CSS, and TF2 tournaments. Get Gosu required an extensive amount of modding to the Valve games that were offered. Ultimately, the platform was abandoned for the simple fact that the high level of competition attracted an inordinate number of cheaters, and no amount of anti-cheat measures can stop cheating where code is being executed on an un-trusted platform (the end-user's PC).
Just Tactics - Most of the core team doing pre-production on MotOO has worked together before. Jordan, Aubrey, Oleg, Christian, Dave and Justin all worked on Just Tactics together. We leveraged the networking and matchmaking knowledge that we picked up from Get Gosu to deliver an online multiplayer turn-based strategy game that features a unique teleporter-based movement mechanic. Given that Just Tactics was built on a shoe string budget, it turned out quite well. The game is exactly what we set out to build, however, it doesn't have a single player mode. The game is pretty complicated/strategically-hardcore and the lack of single player makes it daunting to learn how to play. In retrospect, not developing single player was a pretty big mistake, but we learned, oh we learned.
'AAA Quality' - Although we have not worked on "AAA" titles, we do appreciate the level of quality that is required of MotOO in order for it to be a successful game. Through Just Tactics, we have demonstrated our team's ability to develop 3D games. Aubrey's previous experience at LightningGaming, where he wrote code for slot machines and electronic poker tables, demonstrates his ability to deliver code that passes extremely rigorous quality assurance testing. Additionally, Justin's three years at Intertek as a QA lead means we will not release anything that is not amazing. Knock on wood.
Stretch Goals, Budget, and Episodic Content:
Initial Goal -- $225,000 Chapter 1: The Overseer
Stretch goal -- $550,000 Chapter 2: The Blacksmith
Stretch goal -- $875,000 Chapter 3: The High Priest
Stretch goal -- $1,200,000 Chapter 4: Kraal
Stretch goal -- Stretch goals beyond $1,200,000 will be for localization in many languages and PlayStation 4 support. We have already pitched MotOO to Sony and they said: "it's on like Donkey Kong." Well, they didn't actually say that, DK is a Nintendo property, but I'm sure that's what they were thinking. They said yes.
No doubt, some people will be asking "why is there episodic content? That sounds dumb." Here is the answer:
We could have not mentioned the episodic content at all, we could have just said: "our goal is $225,000 and we are going to give you a great game with a couple hours of game play." But, we really don't like it when we see Kickstarter campaigns that are not up front about their stretch goals, then when they post them, they sometimes seem unplanned. We see stretch goals that we know are going to blow the project way out of scope and make it impossible to deliver (i.e, "for $5,000 more, we will add online multiplayer and online co-op"...uh, sure). We are just being up front. We've been doing pre-production on MotOO for awhile now, and we have a much larger vision, and much more story to tell than we can possibly pack into a few hours of game play. We want to make all of the Chapters, and we've got it all planned out. Say you make the minimum $10 pledge and we only hit our initial target, you are still going to get a game well worth your $10. If we reach some stretch goals, you are going to get a ton more content, and for $10 it will be quite a steal! We just want you to know we have this planned, we are not going to be scrambling to invent stretch goals in the middle of this campaign.
So why did we choose to do episodic at all? Why not make the target $1,200,000 and never mention Chapters at all?
Honestly, it's a bit of apprehension on our part. We are a relatively unknown indie studio. Raising that much money sounds daunting. If we can raise $225,000 and people see how awesome Chapter 1 turns out, we can fund Chapter 2 via the revenue it generates, and or private investment, and or another Kickstarter campaign. Breaking it up just seems more doable. Crawl before you run. Another mild benefit of episodic content is that instead of waiting a full 2.5 years for the game, you only have to wait 1 year for Chapter 1, and then you will get more content every 6 months after that.
Why do you need all of this money?
A lot of indie developers work regular 9-5 jobs and, fueled by passion, make their games on nights and weekends. We are not working on MotOO on just nights and weekends. MotOO is our full time 9-5 job, and, fueled by passion, we also work on MotOO nights and weekends. Because we are putting ALL of our time and energy into MotOO, you are going to get an awesome game. And that's why we need the money, to pay ourselves, so we can eat and live. We also have to pay for rent, insurance, middleware licenses, tools, and of course, coffee. There are 8 of us on the team now, there will be 11 of us when we are in full production. Subtract Amazon's and Kickstarter's cuts, subtract the aforementioned costs, and there is not much left to split between the 11 of us. Luckily, we already have some funding from private investors, but we still need this $225,000 to give us a full year to build Chapter 1 of MotOO. We are lean and mean, I don't think anyone will accuse us of having "a bloated AAA budget."
We could get day jobs, ask for less money, and work on MotOO remotely on nights and weekends. The result will be that the game will take much longer to make, and it will not be nearly as good as it could have been. So, what it really boils down to, is that we are asking you to give us the opportunity to fully dedicate ourselves to this game, and really make it the best game possible.
Summary: Lean and mean + ALL of our time and effort = MotOO is going to rock.
Try the Demo
Please feel free to try out the core game mechanics demo for yourself.
You can grab it at: http://markoftheoldones.com/
1. You need a dual analogue controller to play.
2. What you are looking at is not art. It's basically just debug lines.
3. This is a pre-production build, it's likely that it will not run on every computer. We have not done thorough QA testing. In a year, when the game is done and we have gone through QA, it will work.
5. Let's please not do troubleshooting in the comments section. Please send an email to email@example.com or tweet to @htssoft.
Risks and challenges
We have a solid team. We have been together for awhile and work well together. We don't work remotely, we are all here in the office, so we have good communication. We all totally believe in the project, the art, story, and game play, and we all love Lovecraft. The hardest technical bits are already done, mainly the IK system (which we will continue to polish), so we've already done the heavy lifting.
Despite all that, there are risks. We are a small team. If something unexpectedly happens to any one of us, our progress will be hampered while we find a new team member and bring them up to speed on the project.
As with any company, a big concern is having the capital to sustain business operations. Our solution to that is this Kickstarter campaign. We are taking to Kickstarter for funding because we would prefer to stay "indie." We are also taking to Kickstarter because we want to build and engage with MotOO's community from as early on in the development process as possible. That is why we feel comfortable coming to you with a wire-frame demo, and not a full "vertical slice" of what the final 3D game will look like. We wanted to share our game play mechanics and ideas for the game with you as soon as possible. Doing this is also mitigating a risk, the risk that we spend a lot of time and money developing MotOO "in secret" and, when we finally show it to you guys, we discover that no one likes it. We are going to execute our vision for the game, we cannot listen to every piece of feedback that we get, we have to maintain "artistic integrity" (otherwise we might as well have a publisher). So, a challenge is balancing listening to and integrating your feedback, while still executing our vision.
- (30 days)