Sluggish Morss: Pattern Circus is a claymation 2d adventure game for PC, Mac and Linux set in a dark and cryptic future.
The game takes an innovative approach to narrative creating a fractured and interweaving non-linear story. Another Time Expression, a temporal interference phenomenon, has been predicted leaving those that govern anxious. You will discover its effects on the lives of eight playable characters; a hunter, a dreamer, an artist, a child; a racer, a fighter, a scientist and a detective. Explore an intricate, tactile world full of feverish, intertwining stories told with humour, irreverence and melancholy.
The exploration is complemented with a wealth of context-specific mini games and side quests; from top-down combat to puzzles and other miscellany.
The game is hand-crafted from clay, card and other gubbins and then photographed and put through a process using the Spritelamp tool. This allows for real-time lighting that creates an otherwise unachievable depth to these tactile animations. This lighting system makes the night scenes feel more alive and the darkness richer.
I want the visual element of the game to be fleshy, tactile, a bit goofy and at the same time a bit uncanny and grotesque.
As with all my projects, music is a key component. With this work I am leaning more into band compositions with the loose aim of creating something between disco and prog-rock. I am working with some incredible musicians (detailed below) who I feel bring something to the soundtrack that I could not attain otherwise. It will be incredibly eclectic, ranging from noise rock to clean electronica and everything in between.
Gorebridge (the dreamer)
Gorebridge lives a placid, bucolic life in the little village of Fioletowy Ogród. His passion for dreaming leaves him with some difficult choices.
Klin (the hunter)
Klin travels the system hunting specimens for their collection. But to what ends?
Mątwa (the artist)
Mątwa is working on her greatest work, her masterpiece, yet she has a growing realisation that she may have to make a sacrifice for her art. An artist in contest with infinity.
Do Licha (the racer)
A vapour racer hungry for the competition.
Mawo (the child)
Some children can't find the words to explain their frustrations. People regard Mawo as the difficult child.
Womotatch (the fighter)
A fighter fading with age. Her body bears the marks of her craft.
Toosh (the scientist)
Toosh is the first to discover the phenomenon of the time expression. There is a selfishness to their discovery though.
Bez Kompromizov (the detective)
The secret, the key, the last piece of the puzzle that will illuminate the whole pattern circus. It lies on the tip of Bez's tongue.
I am an artist and game developer. My work has been shown around the world and my games have received critical acclaim. I aim for my work to be generous and to appeal to the player's critical faculties.
I'm working with really talented people on this project and have some incredible contributions from people who I deem to be some of the best artists working in their respective fields.
Helping me with sound design is the incredible audio artist Helena Celle. I was blown away by her If I Can't Handle Me At My Best, Then You Don't Deserve You At Your Worst album earlier this year. Her ear for crunchy, analogue sounds combined with peerless expressive production values are endlessly inspiring and compliment the work profoundly.
Long time collaborator, friend and creative genius Beth Sbresni will once again be contributing to this work (she sang in crux scenes in both Beeswing and Dujanah) lending her musical prowess and her writing expertise to certain scenes in the game.
Since my last game I have written a great deal of music with a band of musicians here in Edinburgh; Charlotte Strawbridge, an incredible vocalist with an empowering strength in her voice, Michael Gillon, a rock/blues drummer who can punctuate phrases unlike any other, Mark Henderson, a fluid and technical bassist, all collectively going by the name Anchorite. I will be weaving the music we have written into the game along with contributions from the individual members.
Liz and I were in the same year at art college and of my peers she was among the most talented. Before disseminating a piece, a part of my mind would always go to, "What would Liz think?"
She has gone on to do jaw dropping things, just look at this grab from her Wikipedia: Liz Lawrence is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist, known for her solo work and for being half of electro-pop duo Cash+David. She has toured with Bombay Bicycle Club, and supported Black, Scouting for Girls, and Ani DiFranco, amongst others.
Toby is a fantastically talented artist and game maker with an instantly recognisable style. His animations are always incredibly full of life and often find the line between goofy and grotesque, a perfect match for this game.
I am drawing from a great many inspirations with this game which seem to come together with a beautiful congruence.
The graphics have a host of influences from Rachel Maclean tinged colours and quirkiness to Francis Bacon inflected characters, with fleshy twisting and tumbling. A few graphical tricks are pulled from video games such as the claymation lighting from indie game The Swapper, some ideas pinched from the underwater levels of the old SNES game Donkey Kong Country. The creature design in the Oddworld games is incredible and is definitely an inspiration. Finally, the handful of 2d, top-down RPGs on the 5th and 6th generation consoles are certainly an influence, games like Alundra and Elemental Gimmick Gear.
Other key influences for the visuals come from David Cronenberg's bio-mechanical nightmarish special effects, early Tool music videos and the zany mysticism of Alejandro Jodorowsky.
For me the story is really what sets this game apart and perhaps what I am most excited about. It is a narrative that could only be told through the medium of videogame. In some respects it echoes a game from 1994 called Live A Live in which seven stories play out and then come together although I think this game takes the idea a lot further.
The narrative is deeply influenced by Myriorama cards which can be dealt in different order to tell different stories. This suggests that chronological sequence is different from emotional sequence.
Of course there's a lot of sci-fi influences here; the beautiful narrative arc of The Arrival, the psychohistory of Asimov's Foundation trilogy, the wacky characters of William Gibson's Sprawl books, the mad, creative fever of Jodorowsky's Incal graphic novels to mention but a few.
Sound & Music
The biggest influences aurally for Sluggish Morss: Pattern Circus are the trippy experiments of White Noise, the playful cross timings and cerebral compositions of 80s era King Crimson and Steve Reich's minimalism. I'm not entirely sure what connects these rather disparate musicians but they come together in my head. Other influences include Tool, Tom Waits, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin
Gameplay largely involves exploring and talking with the variety of characters, as can be found in the multitude of top-down RPGs from Zelda to Final Fantasy. However, I've opted out of having a set battle system in favour of having a diverse range of mini-games to keep the audience engaged. In this respect it is more influenced by things like Warioware and the Golden Saucer in Final Fantasy VII mixed with something like Yume Nikki. A developer who I find endlessly inspiring is freeware developer Jake Clover.
This will be the third project I bring to Kickstarter to get funding. I find it to be the best funding model for my work. With Kickstarter I can make the work I want without making concessions in terms of messaging that one might have to make with a publisher. With Kickstarter I don't have to deal with the politics of government or arts funding organisations where I may need to pander to this audience or that requirement.
I understand that my work is in some ways quite experimental and so with Kickstarter I can go directly to those who matter most to the digital arts; those who crave innovation, the lovers of the avant-garde, the fans of the alternative. On top of that Kickstarter gives me a direct means of communication with backers of the project and, to a niche indie developer, this is invaluable for both feedback and encouragement.
Risks and challenges
The two biggest risks with videogame Kickstarters are that the project is late or that it never comes to fruition. I hope the fact that I have successfully delivered two similar projects (funded through Kickstarter) is a testament to my skills as a project manager who follows his idea through to completion. I will make regular updates (past projects I sent updates around about every two months) and if they are not regular enough send me a message and I will answer any questions.
The big challenge with this game is the narrative, in particular considering how it will work with the countless possible permutations.I have been working on this project for well over a year now and all the stories are mapped out and all the systems are in place; the lighting, text, save, movement system etc. In a way, the challenges this project raises are what make it so exciting for me.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)