Ascent: A First-Person Psychological Thriller (Canceled)
2 Hours, 1 Chance. An adventure game that captures the spirit of thriller films by challenging you to escape captivity in real-time.
There is nothing quite like watching a thriller. You wait until the sun goes down and surround your body in darkness. Your gaze becomes transfixed on the silver screen for two hours as you analyze every detail, sitting on the edge of your seat as the dark narrative envelopes you. Then, once it all comes to a close, it lingers on your mind for the rest of the night. It’s an incredible experience and, like stated before, there is nothing quite like it... But we are here to change that!
We would like to present Ascent, an original IP created by Keith Shingle. With a love for the thriller genre and movies as a whole, Keith’s desire was to bring that genre into the world of gaming in a proper fashion, maintaining the experience of watching a thriller and taking advantage of the unique qualities of the video game medium.
Now it’s time to make our twisted fantasy a reality and we need your help! Backing this project will allow us to craft an unforgettable, thrilling single-player adventure that's narrative-driven and doesn’t shy away from trying taking risks. However, we don’t want you throwing your money around blindly nor supporting a sparsely detailed skeleton of a concept; so, we have filled Ascent’s Kickstarter to the brim with all of the information you may want to know about the game, 2Man Game Studio, and what we stand for.
If after viewing everything you like what you see, or you’re just a die hard horror fan excited by the idea of a playable thriller, feel free to help fund the project and share this Kickstarter with others! The more support we receive, the more likely we’ll get to make this game for all of you! Now please, enjoy a look at what we have in store with Ascent!
For the best viewing experience, we do recommend watching the trailer above before reading any further.
Brie Snyder, a young college graduate, is kidnapped upon landing in New York while on vacation. When she awakens, she finds herself locked in an abandoned office building four stories underground. With two hours remaining before her captors return, she uses her one chance to escape. However, as she ascends through the building, Brie discovers that she isn’t alone; trapped in the facility alongside her are four other victims. With every fleeting second becoming more important than the last, Brie must decide whether to spend that time helping the people around her or saving herself.
Since the game is meant to be a thrilling mystery that unravels as you explore and make decisions, we can’t reveal too much about the narrative; we want you to be genuinely shocked as you learn about each character and their existence. We can share a few more details, though. The building in which the game takes place has its own story; certain events led to that facility imprisoning the captors’ victims and you can uncover the truth of what happened. There are also a total of eight main characters, each of whom has a backstory that can be discovered through dialogue and environmental storytelling. Along with this, these eight individuals share another common characteristic: each of their fates is determined by your actions.
Ascent is a single-player, first-person Adventure game with elements from the Survival Horror, Stealth, and RPG genres. You are put in the shoes of Brie Snyder as she attempts to escape the building she’s confined within and ascend towards freedom. But, there is a twist: the entire game plays out in real-time. Just like Brie, you only have two hours to find your way out and survive. And with a series of unknown perils before you, escaping captivity won't be so easy.
Every aspect of Ascent is intentionally designed to be taxing on the player, truly placing you in the mindset of a survivor. Usable resources are scarce, security cameras lurk in the shadows, and angering the wrong character can lead to someone’s death. You also won’t have the convenience of relying upon handheld maps that reveal the maze-like layout of the building; instead, you must memorize where you’ve been and take chances regarding where you go next, hoping that it doesn’t lead down a wrong path that wastes your time. And time is of the essence because with only one save file allowed at once, you must live with every action and error that you make. There is no going back.
A full breakdown of the mechanics and gameplay elements present within the game:
- Semi-Open World – Explore and navigate your way through the varied, detailed floors of the building that imprisons Brie. There is only one exit that leads to freedom, but how you get there is up to you.
- Time Limit – The entire game is played in real-time and you must decide what you’re going to accomplish within the allotted time. Every second matters.
- Surveillance Cameras – Cameras lurk in the hallways, beams of light illuminating their view. If you’re spotted, they’ll alert Brie’s captors of her escape, causing them to return more quickly and cutting your remaining time in half.
- Use the Environment – The environment is filled with interactive objects that can be crucial for your survival. Doors can be opened to provide cover from cameras, air ducts allow access to new areas, power breakers can restore light to certain regions, and more.
- Dialogue System and Trust – Each of the prisoners you come across have a vast dialogue tree to explore. As you converse, you’ll have the chance to determine how Brie interacts with them. Depending on how long you talk to each individual and your dialogue choices, your level of Trust with them will fluctuate and change the likelihood of riskier responses having a positive outcome.
- No Morality System – There is no Morality System in Ascent to bias your actions nor are there clear black and white choices. Instead, you will be faced with moral gray areas and making honest decisions based on your own personal feelings and beliefs.
- Collect Information – Uncover information about the prisoners and their captors through dialogue and hidden collectible items that will alter the course of your game.
- Multiple Endings – Your actions and the information you collect determine the fate of every individual in the story. There are numerous possible endings for each character and the outcome of one person will have consequences that affect another.
- Scavenging and Usable Items – When interacting with certain objects in the environment, there is a chance for useful items to spawn inside. Searching for these items is essential since they can be used to mark where you’ve been, illuminate pitch black areas of the building, and open quicker routes to freedom.
- Character Progression – As Brie grows more accustomed to her situation and progresses, she will have the ability to improve as a survivor and become more proficient. Using the Skill Tree, you can shape Brie to fit your personal playstyle and goals, allowing you to upgrade her running speed, inventory capacity, Trust with each character, scavenging odds, and other attributes.
- One Save File – As stated before, every aspect of Ascent is designed to truly immerse you in the role of a survivor. This includes the lack of additional saves, meaning you can’t return to a previous save from before you made a wrong decision; after all, being able to undo a fault would weaken the experience. Every action, mistake, and consequence will be saved and cannot be undone. Once you complete the game, the save file will be ready to use again.
Freedom – From the beginning, creating Ascent was always a risk. It’s an experimental game that combines genres into something new, has a movie length runtime, doesn’t utilize combat in its gameplay, and contains a narrative that touches upon difficult subject matter, such as human trafficking and suicide. This is a tricky project that could frighten publishers and requires the right amount of time and care to ensure it is pulled off correctly. By using Kickstarter, we are granted the freedom necessary to take our time and create Ascent the way it was meant to be without any compromises to our original vision.
Funding – As a new independent studio, we lack the professional equipment utilized by other well-established developers. To make the announcement trailer/proof of concept video above, we had to use the technology at our disposal. All of the footage was developed and recorded on an aging 2012 MacBook Pro with an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. For those familiar with computers, you know that isn’t a powerful setup by any means. Though we are incredibly proud of how the trailer came out and how far we pushed that computer, it is clear that making the full game on that hardware just isn’t possible.
That is where Kickstarter comes in! With your support, we can acquire the budget to fund development of Ascent. We will have the ability to purchase the equipment 2Man Game Studio requires and the software licenses that are necessary throughout the game’s development cycle. Along with all of this, the funding 2Man Game Studio receives through Kickstarter will allow us to bring on additional help when it’s needed. We’ll be free to reach outside of the studio and properly pay artists, sound designers, and more to ensure we develop an all-around quality game.
Community – Going to the theater and seeing a movie on its opening day is a special experience. It’s not because you no longer have to worry about spoilers or get to brag about being one of the first people in the world to see that film; rather, it’s due to the people you get to experience it with in that auditorium. Everyone there comes from different walks of life, yet they’re all present to celebrate something they have in common: a story, idea, or characters that they truly love. In that theater, conversations, friendships, and even relationships can all be sparked just by having a shared passion.
With this project, it is our goal to create a similar environment for all of you, our audience. We want Ascent to be the common interest that brings people together from all over the world. Theorize about what might lie ahead in the story, reach out to fellow fans, create your own works of art, and make this community your own. Luckily, the benefit of using Kickstarter is that the community is formed early on in development, meaning you can all be involved in the making of Ascent!
Over the development cycle, we plan to constantly reach out to the community with live streams and online posts; you’ll get to meet the development team, see behind the scenes as the game is being created, and have the chance to shape the final product with your feedback. Perhaps if we are extremely lucky, 2Man Game Studio will even have the chance to represent Ascent at gaming conventions and meet some of you in person!
When crafting the budget for Ascent, it became a balancing act between how much we would need to develop this project comfortably and what we would realistically be capable of raising as a new studio that’s also a first time Kickstarter Creator. After much thought, we came to a base goal of $15,000; it rides the fine line of being a reasonably achievable goal while covering all of the costs to develop the game as we planned it, with a little leeway room for unexpected expenses. Obviously, the more money we earn, development will become more comfortable and less restrictive, but this base goal will be just enough to get us by.
So where exactly does this $15,000 go? Well, that’s a fantastic question that we will gladly answer!
- Development Hardware: 35% – Alienware Aurora R6 Desktop that’s powerful enough to develop Ascent at max settings along with a dual monitor setup. All of the hardware that’s purchased will be used to develop future 2Man Game Studio projects as well.
- Development Software: 25% – Three years of software licenses for Unity Pro, Maya LT, and Substance B2M.
- Business Hardware: 9% – Desktop, monitor, and camera that will be used to manage the company, handle marketing, and test builds of the game to ensure it’s well optimized for weaker, but still decent computers.
- Business Software: 4% – Hosting 2Man Game Studio’s website that will serve as a professional hub for us to announce when we’re in need of assistance and hiring for contractors, post updates, and receive emails from our audience and professionals within the industry that are interested in our work.
- Reward Fulfillment: 10% – Producing and shipping all of your Backer Rewards!
- Kickstarter Fees: 10% – Standard Kickstarter fees for launching a successful project and processing transactions.
- Living Expenses: 7% – The remaining money will help with living expenses and paying those who assist with the development of Ascent. This portion of the budget can be spent flexibly, allowing us a bit of breathing room.
Your Name in Ascent’s Credits under “Kickstarter Backers” – We appreciate any and all support, so even pledging just $1 will earn your spot in the game’s credits. It’s our way to say “Thank You” and forever commemorate all of you that believed in us.
Digital Download Key – When Ascent is released, you will receive a digital copy of the game on your platform of choice. (PC/Steam, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One)
Your Picture inside Ascent – You’ll have the opportunity to send us a picture of you, your family, a loved one, or anyone you have permission from to use their photo. We will then place the photograph somewhere in the game, for example on the cover of a magazine or within a picture frame sitting upon a work desk. Not only is this a great reward for those who want to literally be a part of the game they funded, it actually helps us as well. A believable fictional world requires detail, so your pictures will be an element that helps create a more lively and relatable environment.
Design a Character and Piece of Environmental Storytelling – The building you’ll be exploring as Brie may be abandoned, but it has many stories to tell; with this reward, you will work with 2Man Game Studio to bring one of those tales to life. You’ll receive secret information and backstory about the world of Ascent, work with creator Keith Shingle via video calls to develop a character connected to the building’s past, and find a way to tell that narrative within the environment.
Your Name in Ascent’s Credits under “Community Developers” – For your work on Ascent designing a character and a section of the environment, you will receive recognition as a Community Developer in the game’s credits.
Limited Edition Ascent Dev Team T-Shirt – With this reward, you’ll receive your very own Ascent Development Team T-Shirt! These shirts are Limited Edition and will feature the same designs worn by the Dev Team at gaming events/conventions and when promoting Ascent in general. There are two designs to choose from and both feature the same design on the back. Sizes available are S – 3XL in Unisex and Female cuts.
Become a Tester for Ascent – Help 2Man Game Studio create a groundbreaking experience by becoming a crucial component of the game development cycle. You’ll have the chance to work closely with the team, testing both Alpha and Beta versions of the game far before the public has their hands on the final release. Your feedback and gameplay will be used to improve the game in numerous ways, from improving progression and dialogue systems to repairing hard to find bugs.
Your Names in Ascent’s Credits under “Backer BFFs” – This is genuinely a reward we created just for fun; after all, sometimes when you’re working on such a serious game, you need a random bit of levity! So, if you pledge enough to reach our highest reward tier, you’ll receive this reward as a little bonus with your name and your best friend’s name together near the top of the credits under “Backer BFFs.” Celebrate that friendship!
(All submitted materials, such as character designs, narrative ideas, and pictures, will be subject to review. This is just to ensure everything is appropriate, fits the context of the game, and doesn’t contain copyright material.)
Keith Shingle - Creative Half of 2Man Game Studio | @keithshingle
Over the course of Ascent’s development, I hope you’ll all come to know me very well, so I wanted to get the ball rolling by sharing a little backstory and information about myself. I’m just an over-the-top, energetic, lighthearted person with a massive PlayStation Trophy count and way too many theater ticket stubs. I’ve loved video games and movies my entire life and it was clear several years ago that I wanted to be on the creative side of the entertainment industry as well, crafting experiences for others to enjoy.
Upon completing high school, I didn’t waste any time pursuing my passion. I immediately became a student at Full Sail University, where I then earned my Bachelor of Science in Game Design, graduating as Valedictorian of my class. Luck was on my side after graduation and once again I quickly moved forward in my career, co-founding 2Man Game Studio just a few days after earning my degree; founded on the principles of developing innovative, emotionally driven, quality experiences no matter the cost, I couldn’t have been happier with the studio we created and the possibilities it presented to me.
Now, I’m here sharing 2Man Game Studio’s first project with all of you and if you’re seeing this, I’d like to personally thank you for checking out Ascent! Working on this game is my full-time job and how I make my living, so I appreciate each and every one of you who took their time to support my work. Needless to say, Ascent is an absolute passion project for me; thrillers have always held a special place in my heart and now I have the chance to tell my own twisted tale in a creative way. I hope that we are able to continue development of this game and provide you an experience you’ll never forget.
Andreo Palacol – Business Half of 2Man Game Studio
Technology has been a way of life for me. I’ve been engaged in tech-related businesses for several years now. These ventures were not as successful as I wanted them to be and were considered “business lessons.” Just when I thought I was done with it and would just be focusing my efforts on a traditional retail business, along came the birth of 2Man Game Studio. My introduction with Keith gave me a new hope of being able to make my dream come true of a tech business that has a great potential of yielding great products.
Our passion for creating products that you will surely love will not turn into a success without your help. We are very excited to bring Ascent to you. We are confident that this game will allow you to experience something you've never had in any Horror or Adventure game. We are looking forward to working with you in putting Ascent into the market.
As we stated in our reasons for using Kickstarter, creating a community around Ascent and 2Man Game Studio is important to us. We are excited to see what our audience creates and believe it is crucial to state that we support you. In recent history, we’ve seen fair use be disregarded by some individuals and corporations as they attack content creators that are well within their rights. This can lead to creators struggling with their work being taken down, a loss of income, and months of legal conflict. For creators of any size, these problems can range from being a nuisance to permanently crippling.
At 2Man Game Studio, we believe actions like these are unjust and set a terrible precedent for the industry. That is why rather than work against online creators, we want to encourage them! Be it a painting, "Let’s Play," review, or any other work that pertains to our company or products, as long as our Intellectual Property is utilized fairly, you will have our support. We want you to share your gameplay experiences with others, give us honest feedback on our games, and blow the community away with your passion and talent.
Finally, we understand the dangers automated algorithms and individuals falsely claiming ownership of material can present. We’ve all heard the countless stories of creators having their content wrongfully removed by algorithms. Unfortunately, now it’s also possible for lying individuals to take down a creator’s work without proof of ownership of the Intellectual Property being utilized; we didn’t even realize this was a possibility until recently when Jim Sterling thankfully shined a light on how easily something like this can be abused. 2Man Game Studio doesn’t condone this type of behavior and if you’re affected by a situation similar to these examples, we encourage you to contact us immediately. We will do everything in our power to restore your work and assist in the situation.
Risks and challenges
Creating Something Experimental – It’s always a major risk when you try to break the rules of a genre and create an experience that’s never been done before. With Ascent, we are doing just that by taking the Adventure/“Walking Simulator” genre and injecting it with a dose of urgency, conflict, and player agency. This drastically goes against recent Adventure game trends, which allow the player to experience a slowly unfolding, predetermined tale through environmental and traditional storytelling methods without any form of conflict.
Our goal is to keep the strengths of the genre, focusing on a deep narrative that’s told utilizing an open environment and dialogue, and change areas that we believe can be done differently, adding elements to create an exciting gameplay experience that compliments the story. On paper, this sounds pretty simple, but in reality, it will be a challenge to ensure everything properly meshes together. Luckily, with the use of Kickstarter, we can mitigate this risk by taking our time and iterating on the execution of these ideas until they are perfect.
Graphical Quality – This has been a personal concern of mine, so I, Keith Shingle, wanted to write this particular challenge in the first person. As I received my education in Game Design, I was trained in designing and programming, but never 3D Modelling. This is a skill I taught myself and 99% of everything you see in the trailer was modeled and textured by me. Though I’m personally proud of this accomplishment, my concern is that visually it won’t be good enough. However, I will continue to grow more proficient in this area over the course of development and, while I know Ascent won’t rival the graphical quality of modern AAA games, I hope it’ll be a visually consistent experience that stands strong amongst other independent titles.
First Commercial Release – This will be 2Man Game Studio’s first commercially released product and it’s quite a daunting task. There is much to learn, plenty that needs to be done, and we want to please all of you. Plus, with this being our first release, we may face a challenge with getting Ascent onto the PlayStation Store. We’re going to try our very best and, if we mess up, all we ask for is patience and understanding. It may take time, but we will overcome any obstacle and deliver on our promises. Also, 2Man Game Studio gladly welcomes any form of help; if you have experience with launching a game, connections that’ll assist with getting onto major storefronts, or skills that you think could benefit the development of Ascent, we are all ears!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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