Tom vs The Armies of Hell (Canceled)
A humorous indie action/adventure game spanning a demon infested office, top secret weapons lab, and Hell itself.
Playable Demo Released!!!!!!!
Note: This is super early code; very unoptimized. The final game will run better, have better guns, and a total UI overhaul. Anyway, enjoy, and tell your friends!
Early gamepad support added (enable in settings menu)
Mousewheel weapon scrolling added
Linux test version available
System Requirements: PC or Mac with Shader Model 3.0 or higher GPU. Beyond that, I don't really know. There are are plenty of graphics options in the settings menu, so try it out and let me know how it runs.
Tom vs the Armies of Hell (or AoH for short), is an isometric action/adventure game with a strong focus on story and humor. You play as Tom, a reluctant hero/software engineer with a newly acquired demon arm (and the powers that go along with it). The intended platforms are, for now, PC and Mac (though Linux and consoles are a future possibility). Also, the awesome music you hear in the intro cinematic and the trailers was composed by Danny Baranowsky, who is a bad ass, and has agreed to do the music for the game, because one of the things I know literally nothing about is how to compose music.
Some of the art is still placeholder, and will be replaced with something more interesting. The most obvious things are the items that drop will be something other than colored orbs, and that the guns will actually look unique and interesting. In fact, the only two guns that are functionally “complete” (aside from the actual gun art) are the Arc Cannon (lightning gun) and the Plasma Rifle (the thing that shoots green stuff). The others will be upgraded/updated and more interesting, over the top guns will be added. The generic guns (shotgun, assault rifle, smg, pistol) are there as placeholders right now to test out functions of the powers/weapon system, but will end up being something cooler in the final game.
If I had to describe the gameplay in as few words as possible, I would say think Ratchet and Clank meets Bastion. There may be some light puzzle solving, but mainly you will be fighting things and advancing the story.
Gameplay in AoH is fast-paced and skill based. That means that your ability to manipulate your character and, well, shoot things, is more important than any kind of “stats” on your weapons or character. There will be some light RPG elements, but I hesitate to call it an RPG because there aren’t classes and traditional leveling, so to me, that makes it not an RPG. I know, I know, it’s isometric. Doesn’t that inherently imply that it’s an Action RPG? The modern games media would lead me to believe that is indeed the case, but I am resisting such designations.
The game will support both mouse and keyboard as well as a gamepad. The primary development platform is mouse and keyboard, since it’s how I personally like to play, but don’t worry, gamepad support will not be half-assed and tacked on. I have several plans to make sure that gamepad mode is every bit as fun and intuitive as mouse and keyboard.
As far as ways you can attack, there will be guns, melee, demon powers, and gadgets. Some will deal damage, some will have some other utility effect… you know… like in video games. Oh, and you can periodically turn into a giant demon and wreck everything in sight. That’s important too.
The story will be told primarily through the level opening narratives (like above), as well as in-game cutscenes, both interactive and non-interactive. Don’t worry, though, almost every cut scene will be skipable, as long as skipping it wouldn’t break the game state. I love exposition, but the 3rd time I’ve watched an unskippable cutscene I generally want to claw my eyes out.
In the videos you’ve seen (if you haven’t seen them… what kind of person reads words before they watch videos?), there are three distinct enemy types, a mid-boss who is a scaled, slightly altered version of the normal ghouls, and the boss. The plan is to have a lot more enemy types in the main game. There will be variations on all the standard types (ie: red ghouls who have a fire attack, blue ones who have an ice attack…) as well as many other unique enemies that don’t appear in the videos. Some of them have already been concepted, some are just ideas on paper, but suffice to say that there will be many more and they will be distinct from one another. Not all of them will be mindless monsters either, which the early demons qualify as.
The game doesn’t actually all take place in an office, despite what the first level and intro video might lead you to believe. As much as Hell is invading the office, the office has actually invaded Hell, and Tom will spend a good deal of time in Hell itself, not just running around cubicles.
The Hell dimension in the AoH world has its own government and economy, and there are higher order demons who do more than growl and attack. The first level actually takes place in The Void, which is the space between Hell and Earth. Only lower order demons tend to leak into the void, but once Tom arrives in Hell proper, there will be much more to contend with.
While a good amount of the game takes place in Hell, the office and weapons lab beneath it remain important parts of the game. Several levels will be different sections of the office/lab that have been scattered around Hell after passing through The Void.
While traveling through the hellscape, Tom will run into a variety of different non-demonic entities as well. Everything from the Titans who have claimed a section of Hell as their own and don’t care for their demon neighbors, to survivors from the office who have formed rag-tag refugee groups in an effort to survive in their new home, or in some cases gone a bit nutty and set up their own fiefdoms in the ruins of the office complex.
One of the areas I want to pay particular attention to is boss fights. I want the boss fights to really feel different than normal fights. To that end, bosses will generally be very large (you can see the first boss in the gameplay teaser), and will have multiple states. What I do not want is a boss fight that is just a scaled up version of a normal enemy with a sack of hit points.
Power ups are going to be a major part of the game as well, because I like them, and we don’t see enough of them. Things like damage multipliers, shields, speed boosts, all kinds of temporary effects. There will also be a super-charger powerup for your guns, which will temporarily give you unlimited ammo and dramatically change the function of your weapon. So, for a laser blaster, it would transform into a laser gattling gun, whereas a rocket launcher would go from firing one normal rocket to firing 5 drunken rockets that arc all over the screen sending ragdolls flying. Things like that.
You mentioned RPG elements?
The RPG elements I mentioned will come in through the weapons system. As you unlock/find new weapons, you will also be able to upgrade your existing weapons. These upgrades will be structured as short trees, much like a talent tree in other games. Fully upgrading a weapon in different trees will result in a weapon that actually functions, somehow differently than the other (at least that’s the intent). An example would be a rocket launcher. By default you could either upgrade it towards single rockets with massive damage, or a cluster of small rockets, a rocket shotgun, as it were. They would both start as the same gun, but the final product would actually work and feel quite different (and serve a slightly different purpose).
There will also be similar options to upgrading your character and/or demon powers. There will be the same standard upgrades you find in most games, health, damage resistance, speed, as well as upgrades related to specific powers/functions.
Will there be loot?
Maybe? This is a tricky one. On the one hand, loot isn’t particularly hard to add, and I love it. I already have a functional item system in the game. On the other hand, implementing loot in a way that is not shitty and tacked on is much more subjectively challenging. The more you make a game about loot, the less it is about skill, and so the balance of those two things becomes kind of tricky, and the more you focus on balance, the less you focus on fun. If the game is focused on, for lack of a better term, “twitch skill”, then loot becomes functionally meaningless. If, on the other hand, you make loot important enough that the player actually cares, now the game is less about skill and more about making sure you’re decked out in the best gear. So, I am leaning toward some loot, but it certainly won’t be a paper-doll simulator like Diablo 2 (I say Diablo 2 because I chose to live in a world where Diablo 3, like the second two Matrix movies, does not exist).
The game’s final length is always going to be a slightly moving target, and is somewhat subjective anyway, considering everyone plays games at a different pace. The story is written and divided, as one does, into 3 acts of approximately the same size. The goal is to produce a game with a main story-line that takes around 5-7 hours to complete. In addition, the plan is to have at least a New Game Plus style mode, to provide some replay value, but there are other plans for increased replay value as well which I’ll detail in the stretch goals area.
Who is making this?
I am. No, really, it’s just me. I’m weird like that. On the upside, I have years of experience in both games and film VFX, so I know what I’m doing. I was the Technical Art Lead on Champions Online and Star Trek Online, worked briefly on the new Tombraider game, and then shifted to film VFX at Industrial Light and Magic, where I worked on Transformers 3, Battleship, Cloud Atlas (briefly), The Lone Ranger, and Pacific Rim.
While almost the entire game is being made by myself, I did outsource some of the office props to an awesome company called Axion Studios, and that’s part of what this Kickstarter is about, getting enough money to continue hiring out portions of the art where appropriate to contractors who are better than I am at specific things (and faster) so that the quality of the game continues to increase, and so that my work week starts to decline from 100 hours to a more manageable 70 or so.
How Far Are You?
Well, as you can see in the videos, I’m pretty far from a systems standpoint. That means, all the core functionality is all working pretty solidly, and most of the big technical decisions have been made, and hurdles have been… er… hurdled. There is a modular powers system in place that allows me to very easily add new powers and weapons, and the enemy system is very simple to work with now. The code/systems for the game are probably over 80% done, which leaves the content (levels, final art…), which is a much, much lower percent completed.
My best estimate is that the game will take approximately a year to complete, and I’m planning on having that turn in to 18 months, because that just tends to be how these kind of projects evolve. You rarely surprise yourself by finishing early.
This is an easy one. I can’t afford to self-fund the entire game myself, and I knew that from the beginning. I’ve taken it as far as I can with a combination of my own money and money borrowed from family. When I first started this project I knew it wasn’t possible to make while also working my full-time job, so I got as far as I could, proved the idea to myself, and then took the leap. That was about a year ago. The progress has been great, but there is a lot more to do, and to do it I’m going to need someone’s help. I’m coming to Kickstarter first because I’d rather be beholden to gamers than to a traditional publisher.
Where will the Money Go?
A few places. A good chunk of it will go to feeding my family (myself, my significant other, and our dog) and keeping a roof over our heads. I have already invested a lot of money and time into the project, but if I’m going to be able to finish it, I will need some other source of funding. In addition, I need to be able to pay contractors so that the game can be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and at the quality level I’m targeting. There are also, I’m sure, other fixed development costs that I will run into down the line that I’m not predicting (software upgrades, hardware failures, legal/business fees, convention fees…) and I’ll need to be able to cover them.
Here’s the fun/scary section. You’ll notice I don’t have specific target amounts tied to anything, like many Kickstarters do. I don’t, because I can’t imagine how anyone at such an early stage in development can commit to specific features like that. The reality is, you can’t, not even when you have a 50 person team, let alone when you’re working on your own. However, I want to give you an idea of some of the features I want to add, and will add if I am able to, either before or after release, depending on how much money I’m able to raise through this campaign.
Unlockable Player Characters
This is a big one. I really want to do this, for obvious reasons. The design is structured to support it, and the idea would be that the guns are the same, but where Tom has demon based powers (and can turn into a demon), each other characters powers and abilities would be based around another theme. If you’ve watched the intro cinematic, you can probably guess who the first unlockable character would be. This would also, in my mind, add a lot more replay value.
Some Amount of Level Randomness
I do not plan on doing Diablo-style random levels because, honestly, doing them well is extremely difficult and the game scope is large enough as is. That said, I would love to inject some level of randomness into the game so that subsequent play-throughs remain interesting. I have a few ideas of how to do this, but whether I am able to get to this is going to be dependent largely on if I have enough time to spend on it, and if it ultimately seems to add any real value beyond a bullet point for marketing purposes.
Act Ending Cinematics
I would love to do a cinematic, similar in style to the intro cartoon, for the end of each of the three Acts. That was, however, a TON of work for me to do by myself, so if I’m going to do that, I will almost certainly need to contract with an outside animation studio to do the actual final animation. This makes it very doable time-wise, but very expensive. More than any other stretch goal, this one is definitely tied to how well the Kickstarter does. No matter what I’ll have some kind of exposition, similar to the level intro, which is more of a motion comic, but fully animated cinematics to end each act would, I think, add a lot.
This one is kind of tricky too. It’s easy to say that voice-over is always better than no voice-over, but anyone who has heard amateur voice-over knows that isn’t really true. Also, when you’re writing, especially humor, you write differently if it’s going to be read by the viewer, or performed by a voice actor. At a minimum I’ll do something like in the newer Zelda games, where lines aren’t necessarily spoken, but are accompanied by some kind of emoted generic voice-over sound that fits the dialog. However, if the Kickstarter does well enough, and I have enough room in the budget to hire real voice actors to do full voice-over, I may just adjust the writing style and make voice over the target medium, and just have the text as captions.
This is another big one. It’s a little more complicated because AoH is, first and foremost, a single player game, but local coop is a blast, so I’d love to include it. There really isn’t much more to say than that. Everyone knows what it is, and that it’s cool, but adding it in a way that doesn’t detract from the single player experience can be tricky, so it’s a stretch goal.
Why No Online Coop?
Because net code is sheer agony. The early prototype of the game actually had network coop, but maintaining that code was a nightmare, and far too big a task for one person who is also doing everything else involved with development. If you want to know why netcode sucks to write, there are some articles about TF2’s network code out there. Most of it isn’t really that bad, as long as the game isn’t competitive and doesn’t need to be server authoritative (then you get into prediction code to hide latency, which is painful), but either way, it adds a certain percentage modifier to how long everything else takes, and it just isn’t realistic for this game, sadly.
Another big giant maybe. I would love to support consoles, and Unity theoretically works on them, but there are hurdles. One, the game’s visual design is not really in the wheel-house of the PS3 and 360. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t look good, it just means there would need to be a lot of optimization. PS4 and Xbox One would, I’m sure, solve that, but too little information exists about developing for them for me to commit to anything. Two, everything I’ve ever heard about developing for consoles sounds like a miserable, thankless, agonizing journey of corporate bureaucratic bullshit. I’m even uneasy about the lack of transparency involved in Steam/Steam Greenlight, so Sony and Microsoft really… concern me. That said, maybe I’m paranoid and it would be easy/beneficial to all involved. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m certainly not going to promise it.
Note: Physical rewards will ship earlier than the December 2014 date, which is the estimated date for the game's launch. I don't have an exact date, but as soon as the drive ends, I'll begin processing the physical rewards.
The Game - $15
You get a digital copy of the game when it’s completed. If everything goes according to plan, it will be via Steam. If not… it will be via some other method. The mystery is part of the fun!
The Game Double Limited Edition - $20
For the first 1000 people who want it, for $5 more you get two copies of the game! That means you can give one to your morally dysfunctional software pirate friend to cleanse him of his karmic transgressions. Or you could give it to an honest friend I guess, because the other guy probably already has it, because… you know… internet. I mean, let’s be honest, its digital, so by “copies” we really mean that you get to give the game to a friend and not feel shitty about doing it.
The Game Double Regular Edition - $25
The same as above, except you waited too long. Way to go. You just lost out on $5. Warren Buffet you are not. But, hey, a deals a deal, and every little bit helps… me.
Ravings (and drawings) of a Madman Digital Edition - $35
You get two copies of the game, and a cool development journal/art book I’ll put together at the end of development in PDF format. No, I swear, it will actually be cool. You’ll not only get to see the final game art that you will have already seen, but also half-finished sketches and lesser quality art that was done and deemed too crappy to include in the game! Joking aside, I’ll be including a timeline of several characters (how they started as several sketches, all the way up through more finished concept sketches and the final models), as well as some background info on the story and how it evolves over the course of the game.
Super Awesome Poster Edition - $60
The first physical reward tier. You are a distinguishing class of backer. In addition to the previous digital rewards (two copies of the game, digital development journal/art book), you also get a bad-ass poster as pictured below. The poster is 18inx24in and printed on… well… poster paper. Not a lot more to say about that one.
Dragon Slayer T-Shirt Edition - $70
You get all the digital rewards previously mentioned, as well as the t-shirt worn by Tom’s coworker in the intro cinematic. Technically it’s slightly different, as more thought went into the design of the real shirt, but the idea is the same. How do dragons relate to a game about demons, you ask? They don’t! But the guy in the intro cinematic didn’t know the office was going to be invaded by demons. We can’t always plan our wardrobe for all possible contingencies. The shirt itself is a Hanes Tagless T-Shirt, and sizes S-2XL will be available.
I Want it All Edition - $100
You get all the digital rewards previously mentioned, as well as both the t-shirt and the poster!
Hopper Figurine Edition - $200
You get a full color, 3D printed figurine of the Hopper, the monster that mauls Tom in the cinematic trailer. This figurine is printed sandstone, so it's a bit fragile, definitely not an action figure. You will also get all previous digital and physical rewards. This figurine is approximately 3 inches tall, and is printed a bit further down.
Demon Form Figurine Edition - $600
In addition to the Hopper figurine, you also get a 3D printed, full color figurine of Tom in his Demon Form. These prints are sandstone, and relatively fragile, so think display piece, not action figure. The Demon is roughly 4.5 inches tall, the Hopper is roughly 3 inches tall, and both are pictured below. You'll also get all the previous digital and physical rewards. Note: the Demon figurine will vary slightly, as the initial model had some issues (slightly off balance, fragile wing tips). The final model will have slightly larger feet, and slightly altered tips to wings.
Be in the Game Edition! - $1500
Be an NPC in the game! I'll base one of the NPCs in the game on a picture you send me (including a custom 2D portrait), and if you want, give him/her your first name. Your character will be standing somewhere in the game and will have at least one line of dialog. In addition, you'll get all the previous digital and physical rewards.
Executive Edition - $10,000
The executive edition. You get all the other stuff (including being an NPC if you want, no pressure though, I know executives don't like to get their hands dirty). In addition, you will be listed as an Executive Producer in the game's credits. You'll also have the knowledge that you went well above and beyond in helping get this game made, which obviously comes with my eternal thanks (though the market rate on my thanks, eternal or otherwise, isn't that impressive). Also, no international shipping surcharge! Because, at a certain point, that just becomes silly.
Risks and challenges
This is pretty simple. There are really only two major risks. One is if I've grossly underestimated what it will take to finish the game, much like every other game developer in the history of the industry, and two, without me the game obviously doesn't happen, so if I get hit by a meteor, that’s bad. While I can’t really do much about the latter (outside of avoiding risky past times like alligator wrestling, wearing red on a Star Trek set, or doing live action Frogger reenactments), I can do something about the former.
There are two ways to mitigate the reality of missing projections. One is to plan on missing them. If you think a game will take you 12 months to make, you better plan on it taking you 18. If it really only takes you 12, then you can add a few extra features and a lot more polish, and everybody wins. The second way to mitigate this is to be realistic about where you are at any given point of development, and keep your design and goals agile enough to respond to a shifting timeline. The design I have down on paper is flexible enough to be scoped up or down as development evolves. Beyond that, anyone who tells you they can 100% guarantee a timeline for a creative project is either lying to you, to themselves, or most likely to both.
In spite of all that, the one thing I can say for certain (baring errant meteor strikes) is that if the project gets funded, the game will get made. I can't promise the exact timeline, but I'll do my best to stay on track.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)