About this project
** Last 24 hours! **
Check out my updates here and here for a word on stretch goals and a taste of what we're able to do with the extra funds! Long story short: The game is going to be completely visually transformed, thanks to your generosity. Thank you!
"I scuttle nervously into the darkness. I've been commissioned to write an article on current affairs in the Chimeric Empire. I suppose if some horrific event befalls me, I can use it as fodder for my next poem. Provided I survive..."
A House of Many Doors is a 2D exploration RPG coming to PC in July next year. I want to make the kind of game I love to play: a game with narrative depth, compelling characters, and branching, nonlinear storylines.
In A House of Many Doors you are an explorer, poet and spy, traversing and mapping the House – a vast parasite dimension that steals from other worlds.
You explore the House in a clanking train with mechanical legs. You will discover bizarre civilizations, assemble a dysfunctional crew and level up your poetry, while clinging to life and sanity.
I've already spent nine months developing A House of Many Doors, so I have a good idea of how much longer I need to complete it. The bulk of the programming is done, and the blueprints have been drawn. Now I just need time to build a House on that foundation.
Not convinced? Why not try out the early pre-alpha demo?
My influences include Sunless Sea, FTL, Planescape: Torment, the works of China Mieville and H.P. Lovecraft, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and that feeling you get when you're very alone in a big dark house.
In A House of Many Doors, your main quest is to find an answer to one of three questions. What is the House's purpose? Who built it? And how can you escape?
But that's just the main quest, and it's only the beginning. Your irons will be in many fires.
I want you to feel like a particular type of 19th-century polymath - a Richard Francis Burton or a Gertrude Bell. An absurd figure with absurd talents who propels themselves confidently into absurdly terrifying situations.
In the game you are both a journalist and a poet, and each of those careers comes with its own challenges to face throughout the game. The poems you write are procedurally-generated, and over time you will build up a proud canon of stirring titles: "The Troglodyte Vomiting of the Mirrors," "An Elegy on the Reluctant Hell of Grief," "Ode to the Strangling Toad." Your poems and travelogues are your route to fame and fortune.
And of course anyone who travels to distant civilizations is going to be in high demand in the game of whispers. Play the espionage game well enough, and you might change the course of history.
As you explore the House, you will journey through a labyrinth of procedurally-generated architecture.
It's not all procedural generation, though - your Navigator will guide you towards rooms in which you'll discover carefully-designed areas of interactive narrative.
These rooms are packed with quests, stories and lore - by "lore" I mean the House's intricate history, ancient secrets and complex politics, much of which will lurk below the surface and only be revealed in hints and half-truths. In these cavernous rooms you might find cities or ruins or ten-mile-high abomination gods made of inexpertly conjoined crows.
The adventures you'll have there are accompanied by the wonderful artwork of Catherine Unger.
In these rooms you tackle side-quests, gather resources, and plot intrigues before launching yourself once more into the dark.
A House of Many Doors focuses heavily on its characters. You recruit a rag-tag bunch of dysfunctional souls to accompany you on your expedition, and each of them has a secret or not-so-secret agenda. You must talk to them, build their morale, and uncover their secrets, if you hope to keep them both loyal and alive.
There will be dozens of characters to choose from, each with tons of dialogue and a well-defined arc - which can be abruptly cut short.
Death comes easy in the House, and the attachments you have formed with your crew will be at risk every time you fight. A character's storyline won't necessarily end if they're killed in combat, but it will certainly change to reflect their death. And you may well have lost a friend.
Combat is a real-time-with-pause system which relies on careful management of both your crew's placement in the train and the distance between you and the enemy.
It is generally a last resort - even after upgrading your kinetopede with powerful weapons and a thick hull, you should never expect to escape a battle unscathed.
The other vehicles you encounter within the House will be as bizarre and varied as the civilizations themselves - biomechanical flesh-wagons, gigantic beetles, the hollowed corpses of gods. That's just the start.
So what will I use your money for? What made me choose the £4000 target?
The £4000 will go towards a fantastic, atmospheric soundtrack - which is hugely important in a game that involves a lot of exploration - and to fund art by Catherine Unger, who has agreed to draw all the game's illustrations.
The rest of the funding for her art will come from my savings - unless this Kickstarter exceeds its target, in which case extra funds will go towards extra artwork!
You might wonder, given the above budget, how I’m going to be able to work on this game full-time for the next year. I’m very pleased to announce that Failbetter Games, the indie studio behind Fallen London and Sunless Sea, have agreed to partially fund the creation of my game! Their funding will be enough to pay for all the writing and coding - a.k.a my living costs for 10 months - meaning your money will only be going towards extremely cool art and lovely music!
Here’s a pie chart:
(This is why I need an artist.)
I'm seeding the House with dozens and dozens of hand-designed rooms - gems of narrative carefully scattered through a procedurally-generated world. The game is currently able to generate over 1 million rooms, each of them unique, but the hand-designed rooms risk getting lost if the number available is not limited. So, on release, there will be approximately 40,000 rooms to explore. This limit not only leads to a balanced experience, but also means I have the ability to add more rooms with ease. Unless the game fails this Kickstarter, or is a total commercial failure, I plan to continue to add new rooms and settings to the House as new ideas come to me.
The game you play on release will be a complete game. But new content will constantly be added. New places to discover. New characters. Established content will be deepened. More and more branches will be added to existing storylines.
For £5 now, you could have access to a game that will continue growing for years to come. And of course, I'll maintain my dev log all the while!
Risks and challenges
Functionally, the game's code is nearly complete, bar some polishing. The only thing missing now is breadth: almost all of the systems are in place. Of course, for an exploration-focused RPG, breadth is extremely important!
I've done enough work on the game, however, to know how long it will take to add the content I've planned. And my July deadline for release is based on a pessimistic estimate - bar some kind of personal disaster, I'm not worried about missing it.
Here are the main risks or problems I can foresee:
1) Feature Creep. If the game is commercially successful, I want to continue to update the game with free content, 'expanding' the House after release. But I mustn't do this during the development process! ‘Feature creep' is a notorious problem in game development, and if I fall prey to it I might slip behind schedule. The fact that I'm aware of this risk will help to mitigate it - I just need to ensure that I stick to my plans, which are already ambitious enough.
2) Data Loss. Losing data to corruption, burglary, or some other minor disaster has the potential to set the project back a great deal. To mitigate this risk, I’m making regular back-ups online, as well as regular back-ups to a laptop and 4 different external USB devices.
3) Compatibility. I've been testing the game on various different machines, from gaming rigs to laptops, and I've already found several problems only appearing on one machine that I've had to iron out. Towards the end of the development cycle, this could end up eating a lot more of my time than anticipated. To mitigate this risk, I've allotted a very generous period of time for facing this challenge in my schedule.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The game is PC only and will release on Windows and Mac. Unfortunately, Linux is a bit more complicated, and by all accounts it's difficult to port Game Maker: Studio code to Linux. I'll certainly look into the possibility, but I'm a one-man band with limited time and I highly doubt the game will be available on Linux at launch. It might never release on Linux at all - sorry about that. So if you're a Linux person who doesn't fancy emulating Windows, it's probably best to wait before wafting any money in my direction.
After meeting me at Develop they decided they liked the look of the game, which shares their focus on storytelling. They invited me to be an incubee in their office, developing my game in the corner once a week with near-infinite access to fruit and coffee. (And also some incredibly valuable advice.)
We meshed very well and they agreed to provide funding for my game, in conjunction with the funds raised by this very Kickstarter wot you are looking at. Just to avoid establishing a false impression, it's important to note that this isn't something Failbetter are going to provide to all their indie incubees!
Failbetter not officially publishing A House of Many Doors, but they will be receiving a revenue share after the game is released. They are not receiving any of the money raised by this Kickstarter and they don't have an equity share in Pixel Trickery Ltd.
They explain it in a blog post here:
Yes! In addition to the Steam version (cough vote for the Greenlight cough), I hope to release the game on Humble Store, GOG, and itch.io.
AHoMD is a top-down, vehicle-based exploration RPG with interactive text. It would be silly to deny that Sunless Sea was one of the things that inspired me to make it! (I've been clear about that from the start - see my dev log here: http://www.pixeltrickerygames.com/2015/06/23/devlog-tuesday-part-1-5-credit-where-credits-due/)
I think the UI is one of the things that most leaps out to people and makes them think of Sunless Sea a little too strongly. So please bear in mind that this game is pre-alpha! The current UI is clearly far from ideal and I will be making a lot of changes to it before release.
With that in mind, though, I do think AHoMD plays very differently to Sunless Sea. It's not a roguelike, for example! It has real-time-with-pause combat where crew placement and damage to vehicle components are very important. It is also extremely focused on procedural generation - almost all of the House consists of procedurally-generated architecture, and half of the crew are also procedurally-generated. The player character is a poet, and writing proc-gen poetry is one of the core loops of the game.
It also has, of course, a completely different setting and narrative, which I hope is worthy of note when comparing two games where that is so important.
Finally, it's worth bearing in mind that Failbetter Games have agreed to give me a firm nudge if they ever feel my game is too similar to Sunless Sea for their liking. But they still believe in the game and are supporting it.
For my part, I'm going to make sure that nudge isn't necessary - I've devoted the last nine months to this game's development and even longer to designing the setting, and I very much think AHoMD is Its Own Thing! Demonstrating that will be one of the main things I focus on as development continues.
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