Funded! This project was successfully funded on February 28, 2013.

Update #35

And Now... Back to Our Regular Program of Shock And Mayhem

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Hello you creepy cravers of all things horror! Are you enjoying your Friday? Good, because I’m about to ruin it with ghastly sights and sounds from the oppressive interiors of the Hanwell Mental Institute. We have much to show you today as we’ve been progressing steadily on the development of Asylum. But let’s go bit by bit, as I like to say when I’m dismembering inmates…

Getting To Know Each Other

You may have noticed that we sent the surveys last week, which were long overdue. The main reason is that we’re wrapping up a juicy alpha of Asylum (as in dripping with unspeakable liquids) and we want to include as many details as possible from you backers. I can’t confirm if we will be able to include all the names in this build, or the book covers even, but at least we’ll try to include diplomas, labels in classroom and workshop, and the drawings in the art room.

Speaking of book covers, yes, we have automatically entitled VIP backers ($100 and above) to give us a book title. These will appear in the library of the Institute and we’re still giving away another 100 book titles to the remaining tiers. So the grand total is close to 300 books — as if it wasn’t obvious by now, we’re officially insane, but we’re totally doing this. The titles can be funny, serious, fictional or real. Books will appear as ‘Title’ by ‘Author’ where author is the name you gave us in the survey. If you’d rather give us an non-fictional book as a sort of tribute, then we can use the name of the real author of said book, although we prefer your own personal and witty titles (what we received so far is amazing, and “reading” through this library will be a joy!). The shelves will look just like the ones in Serena:

Keep in mind that you’ll be able to change all these details before the game is completed. We’re building our own backers database where we’re considering the grand total you pledged (including payments via PayPal), and when the time comes we’ll ask about the add-ons you required.

Hanwell Wasn’t Built in a Day

(or hundreds for that matter)

So… What’s been going on lately? Lots of polishing and fine-tuning, especially when it comes to the visuals of the game. After we finished putting together the Hanwell building, we explored every nook and cranny of its dark interiors to make sure that all graphics are consistent. Because this project has been taking years to develop, some of the environments that we first produced understandably don’t hold up well when compared to the latest ones. So, Pablo has been reworking several key scenes so that the illusion of traversing through Hanwell is never broken. A good example is the courtyard:

The difference should be evident, especially when looking at the horizon which should now give a better sense of space and location. Plus, the night sky feels decidedly more real.

Another thing that’s been taking a lot of work are the corridors. With Hanwell we wanted to hit a balance between an asylum full of twisty little passages that don’t look alike (see what I did there?) and aren’t a chore to explore, so it was crucial that the corridors look different enough and include visual pointers wherever necessary, such as the maps:

This is one of the reasons why we haven’t shared the alpha yet, as we’re hoping to receive feedback about the look and feel of the asylum, brightness levels, and navigation without any hand-holding whatsoever by us. And we’re almost there!

It… It MOVES!

While Pablo works with the bricks and mortar of the building, Juan takes care of the people. I told you once how the cinematics (or cutscenes) were some of the biggest pending tasks for the game, and we’ve been doing loads of them. Unfortunately we can’t show them as they would mean major spoilers, but we have extracted a tiny segment from one of them. We’re proud of this sequence which is a flashback that the protagonist experiences, hence the hazy and dreamy look of the cinematic:

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Combined with the music, sound effects, and screaming, it’s going to be very intense, as many other sequences in Asylum. We feel that the quality of these rivals even some AAA titles. Ah, how I wish I could show you more…

Music, Maestro!

Speaking of music, lots of progress in this aspect as well that will be also featured in the alpha. My brother has been composing many tracks that range from melancholic to utterly depressive and I couldn’t be happier with the result, which I feel has managed to recapture that elusive Scratches vibe. I’m sharing one of the earlier tracks here in its actual form — this one would play shortly after you enter Hanwell:

Now, we’re striving to achieve a movie-like feel with the music and guaranteeing there’s variety for all the environments. This is tricky considering the size of the building, but I think we’re slowly getting there. We’ll be using two methods to bring more dynamism to the soundtrack, which I’ll describe in greater detail in an upcoming update. In short, the idea is to cut a track into pieces and trigger the individual bits given the right circumstance — for example, the shift in the middle of this one track would trigger after you enter a particularly important room. Another method will be to use different layers of music that play or stop as you walk around the asylum and access darker areas.

I keep saying how we’re going to test the alpha with all these shiny and wondrous features, but as soon as it’s ready we’ll also prepare a lengthy gameplay video for all our backers. We have walked a long road with this monster of a game, but every day pushes us closer to the finishing line. We can’t wait to hear your reactions to the alpha and the brand new content that we’re about to show!

Let’s Synchronize With This

It’s been a while since I plugged a Kickstarter project in my updates. I think the Kickstarter craze has been slow lately, or perhaps I wasn’t paying much attention, but this intriguing game more than deserves the mention. I’ve been following their work for some time now as even the title evokes haunting thoughts. When I saw the first screenshot, I told to myself “yup, this is for me”. But when I saw their Kickstarter campaign, my throat was sore after lots of screaming in excitement. Seriously, please go have a look and let’s make this Sci-Fi adventure happen!

Link: Dead Synchronicity on Kickstarter

Well, that’s it for today. I may have been a bit quiet lately but there’s loads of cool things going on at Senscape. I hope to be sharing exclusive news with our backers soon because, believe me when I tell you, this is going to be one truly an exciting year!

—Agustín


Update #34

Serenade For Adventure Games

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Hello humans, humanoids, and not-so-human beings! I'm your deranged host, as usual. This is an odd timing for an update which I prefer to send on Fridays, so that you have enough time during the weekend to read it. In this case, I wanted to send the update on Thursday, to let you know as soon as possible about the launch of Serena. I couldn't. I tried to sit down and write it yesterday, and still couldn't. Over the past two days my life has been sucked into a vortex of notifications, chats, and non-stop forum discussions. There's dozens of red dots on my phone begging for my attention — hell, even Foursquare is trying to tell me something. Yes, I could have sent a few random words but you deserve more, and I didn't want to babble incoherences (not more than usual, anyway). Let me take you through this curious project Serena, tell you what it means for Asylum, and why it's causing some huge waves on the Internet, far more than our wildest expectations. And be sure to read my special announcement for your backers down below!

A Disturbing Gift For Fans Of Adventure Games

To be clear, Serena was a standalone project with no relation to Asylum. It was put together in under two months, and the reason of such celerity was the incredibly smooth collaboration between dozens of fans and developers of adventure games. It's based on a very old idea of mine that originally was meant to showcase Dagon, but it became much more than that. The whole story is long and has been told in great detail on this article by Kotaku, so it doesn't make sense to repeat it here. Just let me tell you how happy I am about how this project came to be, and that adventure fans are the best. Like, the absolute damn best in the whole game industry.

Essentially a collaborative effort, Serena is meant to be a no-nonsense gift to the adventure game community. It's FREE as in FREE HORROR — no registration, no micropayments, no ads, and certainly no evil curses concealed (at least not last time I checked). Huge props must be given to the entire team:

We couldn't have finished this game without the invaluable work of Jan Kavan, famed creator of J.U.L.I.A. and awesome friend. He essentially programmed Serena all by himself, edited and post-processed well over 500 lines of dialogue in two nights, and created some amazing music for the game. He also gave me a big bottle of Becherovka in last Gamescom, and that's why I love him (in addition to enjoying his surreal sense of humor).

Props to our lead artist Pablo Forsolloza who created the haunting cabin with its dreamy and hazy atmosphere. Serena is a short game, but you could swear that you spend a lifetime stumbling into memories of broken dreams and echoes of a failed relationship inside that cabin. If you liked the graphics, then Pablo has close to one hundred rooms in store for you in Asylum sporting a similar mood and style. Also a shout-out to Juan Caratino, another daring member of the Senscape team, who did some additional work in the graphics, particularly some of the darkest secrets in the game.

The writing team did one hell of a job too. Many are saying that Serena is the most emotional game they've ever played, and that really gives goosebumps to all of us. Simo Sakari Aaltonen deserves the major credit here: this talented fellow and staunch supporter of adventure games wrote letters, an actual poem of equal beauty and despair, and hundreds of comments. The mood of the game owes much to Simo and his sensibility. Then Frederik Olsen and Troels Pleimert offered some lines of dark introspection and raw energy like few games have seen. You might recognize them as notorious fans of Space Quest and SpaceVenture, so check out the Space Quest Historian podcast and Vohaul Strikes Back for another sample of their work. I also did a good chunk of the writing, trying to depict a haunted and damaged man in a very similar style to Asylum.

Speaking of Space Quest, I can't but praise the work of legendary ex-Sierra designer and all-around nice guy Josh Mandel who gave the performance of his lifetime in Serena. That is, until we put him through the most gut-wrenching imaginable situations in Asylum. Poor Josh, he has no idea what's coming... Serena also features a cameo by adventure game darling and Guy from Andromeda Scott Murphy (hi, Scott!). Rumors that I'm secretly in love with Scott are slightly exaggerated. And while we're discussing the acting, massive congratulations (and a big thank you!) to Sarah Wilson (aka Pushing Up Roses) who played Serena. She's a very popular video producer who my favorite Let's Play of Scratches, and this was her first smashing performance. We hope you enjoy her work as much as we did, and please consider supporting her in Patreon.

(panting, panting)

More congratulating is in order to the composers of the highly memorable soundtrack: Brandon Blume who did the opening piece for Serena and previously worked on Himalaya Studios' Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine, Jan Kavan again with his mood piece reminiscent of Dario Argento's Suspiria, as well as the classical and very chilling requiem, and my brother Pablo Cordes for his brooding and tragic tune which is actually a reject from Asylum. Frederik Olsen also created a disturbing mood piece for the game. We're considering releasing the soundtrack separately with liner notes.

Much love to the admirable Jenny "Estirdalin" Pattison from Infamous Quests who created the ever-changing Serena's picture and the Skin Quest magazine which is totally becoming a reality. Jenny's talent is anything but wee, and you can check out a sample of her work on her Facebook page. Mike Morrison from the Prominence team and Lukas Medek who works with Jan contributed with additional artwork for Serena.

Finally, many thanks to Ben Chandler (yes, THAT Ben Chandler) and Laney Berry (yes, THAT Laney Berry) for the seriously disturbing paintings featured in the cabin. The amount of talent in this game is making me feel all dizzy. Another shout-out to over 30 fans, including some of you backers of Asylum, who provided us with book titles and helped testing the game. And one big, heartfelt hug to the real Serena, who essentially made this game happen.

By the slimy appendages of Yog-Sothoth, already over 1000 words and I haven't even told you about the surprise news! Just let me finish by saying that it has been a huge pleasure to work on Serena with so many friends — it's possibly the first project of its kind and seems to be getting industry-wide recognition. The reception has been mind-blowing to say the least, and I couldn't be happier to see such a subtle story, essentially an intimate look into a broken relationship, having such a huge impact on Steam.

A message from the real Serena to all adventure peeps.
A message from the real Serena to all adventure peeps.

Read On

Before you raise your tentacle and accuse me of not working on Asylum, let me say that the vast majority of my time devoted to the project was to iron out some kinks in Dagon and greatly improving the "seamless narrator" technique that we'll be using. Engine-wise, all of the work is extremely useful for Asylum — there were many bugs (we still have some) and a few features needed to be implemented. The release of Serena was quite smooth with no major problems considering that tens of thousands of folks have been playing the game. We do have some issues on MacBooks with retina displays and Windows XP which will be fixed shortly. Linux is working amazingly well too: I spent a week alone studying Steamworks, how to integrate our games with the platform, and especially how to properly distribute Linux builds. All of this has also been immensely useful for Asylum, so I will be uploading an alpha and distributing keys to VIP backers shortly. I don't expect to release Linux builds through any other platform but Steam — honestly, their solution is hands down the best and has saved me a lot of headaches.

I will give you an in-depth look into the seamless narrator technique later. Basically, one of my biggest qualms with adventures is the constant repetition of feedback which spoils the immersion, and at the same time is a missed opportunity for stronger narrative. In Serena, every item has its own storyline and the comments of the protagonist are a faithful reflection of the current mood in the game. Similarly, the "unrequested thoughts" are used to fill in the gaps and provide hints to players. I've been wanting to use this approach since Scratches (it was very rudimentary back then) and it will be a big feature in Asylum. All this time I've been trying to explain how the game will do this and that, but now with Serena I feel like I can say "Asylum will do precisely that".

Quite a bit more of work can be reused, including the approach to language files devised by Jan, but this is already the longest update and I STILL haven't told you the news...

One of the most cool things about Serena is how many fans and friends gave us book titles. My request was simple: it can be a funny, serious, even personal book title that has a meaning to you only, and the results have been terrific. The bookcase in Serena is a joy to read, and it's amazing how one book title can say so much about each personality. Be sure to check out all the shelves and see if you can recognize some celebrities and friends — there's much wit and introspection in that dusty bookcase.

So, I know I'm going to regret this, but here goes: we have a huge library in Asylum and we already worked out the system, so all Permanent Visitors and above ($150+) have earned their spot with a personal book title. Additionally, we will give away another 100 spots for the rest of backers (we'll see how soon). So yeah, that's at least 200 book titles in Asylum as a way to say 'thank you' for your patience and bearing with us while we complete the game. I can't wait to read your fictional books and immortalize them in the shadowy corners of the massive Hanwell library.

Until next time, and be sure to tell us your thoughts about Serena!

-Agustín


Update #33

So Long 2013, and Thanks for All the Tentacles...

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Hello there, my dearest loonies! This is going to be an unusually short update because, let's face it, we all want to party right now and the least thing you need is a long-winded letter that you will either a) neglect altogether or b) completely forget after the fourth or fifth cocktail.

But, I would like to say a couple of things here, and no, I'm not going to be all sentimental and cloy — I think we're way past that. I do want to let you know, however, that we all at Senscape are extremely grateful for your support and having made 2013 one heck of a memorable year in our lives. This Kickstarter has been a milestone for our company and, while we couldn't give you Asylum this year, rest assured that thanks to you its development is continuing as smoothly as possible. No matter how awesome 2013 was, we're positive that 2014 is going to be even more groundbreaking, with a horror game that you won't ever forget and some surprises that we're planning for you.

In case you missed it, we recorded a short piece for the traditional Adventure Gamer's holiday greetings. The whole video includes many familiar faces and celebrities: Ken and Roberta Williams, Tim Schafer, Josh Mandel, Scott Murphy, Bob Bates, and so many others. I'm not sure what we're doing there, but hey, we were invited. Check out our appearance at the 7:24 mark to see how your support has greatly improved our professional situation. Be warned, though: it's rather bizarre.

Whoop

Speaking of surprises, a bunch of depressing but oddly appealing screenshots have been making the rounds on the social networks. What is this thing? What is going on? Is this Asylum? Is it something else? Am I going bald? But I'm not here today to answer those questions. Actually, I can definitely tell you that it's not Asylum. We even have a hashtag: #NotAsylum.

Here's the thing: you will find out what this is very soon, and I can guarantee that you're going to love it. Most importantly, it hasn't impacted much on our Asylum schedule as it's more of a collaborative effort. Stay tuned... very tuned.

Well, that's it for now. I hope you have a great time today, and thanks again for being the most awesome backers in all the Kickstartersphere. I will be drinking in your names tonight — that's right, all 3169... one by one.

See you next year!

-Agustín


Update #32

I Update, Therefore I Am (ik ûpdäit wik majestic møøse)

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As I told you last time, development of Asylum has been ramping up since we finalized the production of Hanwell. When I say production, I'm referring to the actual programming of the building, turning it into a playable game world. Since then, we've been polishing some graphics here and there, taking care the look and feel (especially the annoying lighting) is consistent across every room, and fixing bugs. We are this close to declare that Asylum is in true alpha stage, meaning the game is fully playable to some extent. Our next step is to test this new version with daring folks, including our VIP Visitors, Inmates and Doctors. They will tell us how it feels to explore Hanwell, how easy it is to find their way, and most importantly if the whole thing is stable (so far it really seems like it). To achieve this we need to include a few more details, such as regular maps adorning the many corridors and improving some passages (for instance, walking up and down some stairways is still a bit of a hassle). As soon as we receive this feedback, we will move on to the final task of adding profiles, diplomas, and names of backers throughout Hanwell.

You're probably wondering if we're being a tad obsessive when dedicating so much attention to the building itself, and you may be right. Thing is, the element of exploration in Asylum is so important, and the immersion factor must be so impeccable, that we're striving to make it feel like an "experience" rather than a game. For example, something we have improved a lot is the transition between rooms. It was a bit awkward till now how the protagonist remained still while opening doors, which also revealed a few glitches in the previous builds of the game. We found a solution that greatly improves the overall pacing and movement ("rhythm" as I like to call it), which is to perform a couple of extra steps each time you open a door. The result feels smooth and natural:

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Remember folks, this isn't "real" 3D! In fact, many are still curious about Dagon since that update when I discussed it, so I have been preparing a lengthy introduction to the engine for you...

A Lengthy Introduction To The Engine

One crucial aspect of developing any engine is to ensure that it can be easily repurposed for many different projects, so its programming language and feature set must be as "generic" as possible. Because Dagon and Asylum are sister projects, it can be sometimes difficult to determine how much goes in the engine and how much is the game's responsibility. For instance, it's tempting to include quick and dirty patches in the engine (often known as hardcoding) to make programming the current game easier, but that will only bring problems for future games, those that don't benefit or may even conflict with the "X" feature that you hardcoded.

Such a dilemma has been present since the SCream and Scratches days. Back then I made some bad choices code-wise, but thankfully learned from such mistakes and tackled Dagon with a better approach. To understand how things work now, we need to make an important distinction as there are three layers of programming: the engine code, the engine programming language (or API), and the game code.

Roughly speaking, Dagon would be the nuts and bolts while the API is the set of instructions that define how users will program the engine. Then there's the actual game code, or the magic that makes Asylum happen. In short, you always want to make sure that the engine code knows nothing about the game code, and vice-versa, while the API is the nexus between them.

It has a been a huge concern of mine to ensure that the API is as generic as possible and especially makes sense to other programmers. More so, to design a language that at the same time feels simple and powerful, flexible enough to accommodate different styles of adventures, and is easily scalable for future purposes. For instance, Dagon is currently supporting first person adventures only, but as soon as we're done with Asylum I have immediate plans to add third person support.

So how it feels to program with Dagon? The core idea couldn't get any simpler: you create Nodes and arrange them in Rooms. Nodes are the discrete positions where the player can walk and Rooms are the containers that hold them, often applying certain properties to sets of nodes such as shared visual effects and background music. In the future third person implementation, Nodes would become Scenes (since in this style of adventures a scene usually depicts a single room), and Rooms would become Locations, that is, large areas holding similar scenes.

The nodes themselves are, quite literally, 3D cubes.

We're often asked how we're able to render such quality graphics on these cubes without any distortion and so much freedom to look around in every possible direction, and frankly we still don't know. It's like some kind of voodoo magic or Apple computers: It Just Works™. Basically, what we do is project some very large pre-rendered textures on all six faces of the cube:

Click for a larger version
Click for a larger version

But the really powerful object here is the Spot.

I designed this as a sort of abstract region in a node that can become anything: a sound, an image, a video, etc. This is achieved by "attaching" media to it. So a spot could be a single point to which you attach a sound effect such as a distant scream of agony, and Dagon will automatically relocate the sound around you as you rotate the camera. Now transform that spot into a square region, then attach a video, and Dagon will project that video on the corresponding face of the cube, all while playing the previously attached sound effect of the scream. But what if we want to interact with that spot? Simple, we attach a custom piece of code where we give Dagon a set of instructions, and suddenly we have... a hotspot! See what I did there?

So Asylum is essentially that: a collection of Nodes with many, many Spots in them, all neatly organized in Rooms. Once you understand how the Spot object is supposed to work, which is like a container for your resources or media, and also may support interactions, it can be straightforward to create a complex adventure game. It did take me a few years (yes, years) to iron out the system and ensure those internal greasy gears work as intended. Curiously, the time spent researching and experimenting may match the actual time spent producing the engine. However, when I see projects like the upcoming Adamantus, a considerably different game than Asylum but built upon the same foundation, I feel like the time invested on Dagon has paved the way for exciting future possibilities. Both Dagon and Asylum are only the first steps of a much longer walk... or the first flowers in a vast garden... rather, the first drips of a bloodbath... heck, the beginning of something beautiful.

Adamantus by RealmsForge
Adamantus by RealmsForge

To see what I mean, here's a bit of Asylum code:

 Repeat for 1000+ spots in 100 rooms.

Wow, look at the hour! It's time for my soup of eyeballs. If there's enough interest, I will continue discussing Dagon next time. Stay tuned for the results of our alpha test as well, and there's definitely a new gameplay video coming up soon.

Have a horrifying weekend!

-Agustín

P.S.: I would like to wish a most happy birthday to Serena Nelson, a staunch supporter of this project, as well as many, many other Kickstarters... rather, an undisputed hero of the entire adventure game community... heck, DIVINE SAVIOR OF PLANET EARTH. We owe her much and are so glad to know her. May your day be filled with many slimy tentacles, dear Serena.

P.P.S.: Riggo is not a lie.


Update #31

Conferencing About Cinematic Milestones On a Sunny Friday

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Hello dear backers! We hope you're all having a terrific Friday. Down here it's a sunny, delightfully warm day, with clear blue skies and a wonderful sense of tranquility — we hate it and can't wait for the next thunderstorm.

I must excuse myself for the delay between the previous update and this one. It's been a decidedly hectic past few weeks and there's much to tell you, but first let's review the current status of Asylum.

It's Alive!

We recently hit our biggest milestone yet, one that proves beyond doubt how crazy we are: the Hanwell Institute is already 100% fully explorable, from bottom to top, including all sorts of environmental effects. Finally, walking around Hanwell is a seamless, visually consistent experience and, speaking strictly from an interface standpoint, quite comfortable. We also managed to include every single door animation, which alone amounts to roughly 160 videos (yes, you read that right), ensuring the transition between rooms is smooth and precise. We have doors of all sizes and colors for the sake of diversity, and fortunately (or perhaps not) for you not many of them are locked. So the ratio of available doors / locked doors is quite low for an adventure game of this size, especially when compared to Scratches.

 I can't begin to explain the feeling of exploring at will this immense building — it's twisty with hundreds of shadowy corners, but the layout follows a clear logic and it's easy to learn all the shortcuts. You can always access each floor from two different points and it's easy to figure out your current location in the asylum, especially since every room and corridor has its own distinct look and feel. I've been worried for some time about this aspect of the game, wondering if it would be too boring or cumbersome to move around Hanwell, but I'm happy to say that it has worked out. More so, we will be gradually enabling sections of the asylum for you as the game progresses, so you'll have plenty time to familiarize yourself with the environment before the juicy parts of the game take flight.

Speaking of juicy parts, I'm still working on Dagon, implementing features that we need in addition to putting the actual game script together. The guys, though, have already begun producing the cinematics, so we should have compelling new content to show you soon (without spoiling the story, that is). Since some of these cinematics involve complex stagings, it's very practical for us to live act them first. Here's one of our latest productions:

Although the actual cinematic is supposed to be a bit more dramatic than that... It happens to be one of the most tense moments in the game which may spark controversy (but I'm not saying more!).

Anyway, we still have work to do, but it's great to see this project beginning to look like a game. In fact, to test the layout of Hanwell and how it feels to navigate the building, I have already outlined the main flow, that is, the overall path players should follow when the game is complete. To achieve this, I created a sort of "tourist guide" that tells you which room or section you must find and visit next. And you know what? It's actually fun! I mean, we can already claim that this is a game. Like right now! Well, sort of... I mean... just let us enjoy this transitory feeling of accomplishment, OK?

Seriously, by the time you reach the dusty and crumbling rooms of the third floor, you feel like you are in the deepest bowels of this strange, gigantic creature. And if anything unexpected happens, well... let's just say it would take you a long, long time to reach the front door and run as fast as you can.

Conferencing Like There's No Tomorrow

In addition to putting this beast together, we had quite an unusual month in Argentina, with two important conferences and many illustrious visitors. I had the immense joy to talk about adventure games with Tim Schafer, which made me even more excited about Broken Age (I had no idea that was possible in the first place!), personally ask Zach Gage for a sequel to Bit Pilot, and test the genius games of Raph Koster, author of the acclaimed book Theory of Fun. It was inspiring to hear him talk so eloquently about the history of art and narrative in games. It was also a huge pleasure to meet Ron Carmel (World of Goo), Robin Hunicke (Journey), Nathan Vella (Sword & Sworcery), Lee Petty (art director at Double Fine), and Chris Taylor (Total Annihilation). All these fine folks gave excellent talks in the span of two busy but amazing weeks.

I was invited to give a talk as well. For the first time. Ever. The prospect was terrifying, to say the least...

Face The Horror
Face The Horror

My first talk was a quick overview of the development of Scratches, what the game did right and wrong, and how we're now applying the lessons learned to Asylum. The talk also included a revisiting of some strong influences in my approach to game design, from King's Quest to Dark Seed, and I even had the opportunity to scoff at Myst in front of a giant auditorium!

The second talk was about Kickstarter (or crowdfunding in general) and best practices to communicate ideas and deal with those pesky backers. It was a more technical and sleep-inducing talk, but I guess it fared better than the first one, which had a Pythonesque ending — sort of like "I... umm... have nothing more to say. Thanks, bye". In fact, you (yes, YOU!) took front stage at the end as I concluded that, contrary to popular belief, Kickstarter is not about raising money but working with a community.

Last, but not least, we showed live footage of Asylum in a showcase of Argentinian games, and judging by the screams of terror the audience was suitably impressed. Of course, by now you've already seen all the stuff we showed, but there's fresh new content for you just around the corner...

More Kickstartering

Lots going on these days on Kickstarter and I'd love to give a shout out to many projects I've personally backed, but I'd rather keep this section focused.

Playing With Fear — First we have this intriguing documentary on the world of horror games. With excellent production values, the project features a huge lineup of developers doing horror games, and we have been invited to participate. If the documentary is successfully funded, we will be interviewed about Scratches and Asylum!

The Slaughter — Any campaign name dropping David Lynch and Scott Walker deserves my support, but this fascinating retro adventure about a series of strange murders in Victorian London wouldn't even require those references. I really want to see this game funded, so please at least help spread the word!

STASIS — I have been a huge fan of the isometric perspective ever since I played Zaxxon . For years I dreamed about an isometric remake of Wasteland until Fallout came by. Heck, I even loved Heimdall. Suffice to say, I would also very much like to see STASIS, a brilliant Sci-Fi isometric adventure, brought to life.

Bolt Riley — Last, but not least, Oded Sharon is a passionate supporter of the adventure genre but he's having a hard time with his campaign for what may be the first game ever based on Reggae. Let's help him out, shall we?

Whew, that will be all for today. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at Dagon and how you may create your own adventures with this engine, and a brand new gameplay video soon!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend,

-Agustín


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    GUEST - You love us and we love you. For your kind effort, you will be granted a KICKSTARTER BACKER BADGE in our SENSCAPE forums. We will also feature your name on the ONLINE REGISTER OF GUESTS on the upcoming www.Hanwell.org website. Also, our undying gratitude: we will sing songs in your name and light candles on your behalf every night. We might even perform sacrifices!

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  • Pledge $15 or more
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    1998 backers Limited (2 left of 2000)

    LIMITED VISITOR - Hurry! This is your chance to get inside Hanwell at the lowest price. You get a DIGITAL DOWNLOADABLE COPY OF ASYLUM for PC, MAC, and LINUX. This special price is available for early backers only. Of course, you will be featured on the ONLINE REGISTER OF VISITORS and also get the backer badge. And maybe more sacrifices.

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  • Pledge $20 or more
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    159 backers

    VISITOR - Oops, missed the previous offer? Worry not! For a few more bucks you can still get inside Hanwell and be terrified for the rest of your life. That's right: a DIGITAL DOWNLOADABLE COPY OF ASYLUM for PC, MAC, and LINUX. Plus the backer badge and online presence as a visitor.

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  • Pledge $30 or more
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    424 backers

    WELL-INFORMED VISITOR - You know your stuff. You want to visit Hanwell with all the leaflets and brochures. Alright then, you get the previous reward tier plus the DIGITAL RECORD BOOK including all sorts of gory details about the asylum, such as character profiles, backstory, and more. Also, the DIGITAL DOWNLOADABLE SOUNDTRACK, so you can listen to moody music as you walk down the somber and dusty corridors...

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    94 backers

    WAITING VISITOR - You're a visitor and you're well-informed, but what if you have to spend time in the Waiting Room? We've got you covered: you get the previous reward tier plus a full-color PRINTED RECORD BOOK in glossy glory, so you can sit and skim through its pages in the old-fashioned way. Also, a download of A TOUR OF HANWELL documentary with many extras: interviews with the team, making of, and more.

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  • Pledge $75 or more
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    180 backers

    SPECIAL VISITOR - Ohhh myyy, are we fancy. You want to navigate the decrepit and unhealthy halls of Hanwell in style. Fine, then it's the previous reward tier plus the BOXED VERSION OF ASYLUM. Yes, the one we're talking about on the project page, which includes the printed Record Book.

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  • Pledge $100 or more
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    107 backers

    VIP VISITOR - Not content with being special, now you want to be an important, big bad visitor of the Hanwell Institute. Fine then, right this way: you get the previous reward tier plus a glorious DIGIPAK VERSION OF THE SOUNDTRACK, because you also love touching things, and we upgrade your badge to a VIP FORUM BADGE. We'll also THANK YOU IN THE ENDING CREDITS of the game. Finally, you get EARLY ACCESS TO ALPHAS AND BETAS as they're released. Yeah, we take the VIP thing very seriously...

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  • Pledge $150 or more
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    66 backers

    PERMANENT VISITOR - You really love the Hanwell Institute. In fact, you love it so much that you're going to stay inside... forever! This is the first tier that allows you to become immortalized in Asylum: you get the previous reward tier plus your NAME ON THE IN-GAME REGISTER OF VISITORS. This document will be sitting very close to the entrance of Hanwell! But wait, there's more! We'll throw in a cool ASYLUM T-SHIRT to prove to your friends that you've been inside Hanwell.

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  • Pledge $250 or more
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    24 backers Limited (276 left of 300)

    INMATE - You don't just love Hanwell... you belong to Hanwell. No, really, you do because you're nuts! You've become an inmate, so you get the previous reward tier except you're featured on the ONLINE REGISTER OF INMATES. Also, you get your NAME ON THE IN-GAME REGISTER OF PAST INMATES. This will be a register in the Archives Room and readable by all players! Finally, your box will be upgraded to a SIGNED BOXED VERSION OF ASYLUM that you can feature on your shelf with style. It will be signed by Agustín himself (or at least someone who believes he's Agustín). We also give you ONE EXTRA DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the game so that you can gift the horror to someone you hate.

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  • Pledge $350 or more
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    10 backers All gone!

    EDUCATED INMATE - You're an inmate, yes. But you're a fancy know-it-all that pays attention in classes. So, you get the previous reward tier except there's a LABEL WITH YOUR NAME IN THE IN-GAME CLASSROOM. Yup, there will be a table with your name on it. Remember to bring the apple! From this tier onwards all the inmates become current residents of the Institute. Therefore, you get your NAME ON THE PRINTED RECORD BOOK as well. Also, all boxes will be upgraded to include a SIGNED AND PERSONALIZED MESSAGE. Agustín will write stuff like "Dear Eriq, I will haunt you in your nightmares. Forever and ever". Or "Joseph, I would love to eat your guts marinated with roach paste". Charming.

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  • Pledge $375 or more
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    4 backers Limited (6 left of 10)

    CREATIVE INMATE - You're not that knowledgeable, but you're creative. You like making things. And labelling them. So, you get the previous reward tier except there's a LABEL WITH YOUR NAME IN THE IN-GAME WORKSHOP. This means there will be a lovingly crafted item, you know, like most handcrafted things you can see in schools or modern art museums, with your name attached to it. Awesome.

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  • Pledge $400 or more
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    10 backers All gone!

    ARTIST INMATE - You're so creative that you can create art. Yes, art! Well, at least by the standards of the Hanwell Institute... You get the previous reward tier except there will be a DRAWING WITH YOUR NAME AND/OR SIGNATURE IN THE IN-GAME ART ROOM. And if you want to give us your very own drawing we will gladly feature it, as long as the whole team agrees. This goes without saying but the drawing shouldn't offend any religion, race, gender, favorite superhero, etc. It should be PG as well. Other than that, anything goes!

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  • Pledge $500 or more
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    10 backers Limited (30 left of 40)

    DOCTOR - You didn't want to be an inmate anyway. You wanted to be... a lumberjack! Sorry, doctor. Thus, you get the previous reward tier except you're featured in the ONLINE REGISTER OF DOCTORS. Also, there will be an IN-GAME DIPLOMA WITH YOUR NAME hanging somewhere in the asylum and very visible to all players. Of course, you're also featured in both the digital and printed Record Book as a staff member of the institute. Finally, we will upgrade your backer badge to a GOLD FORUM BADGE, because we really appreciate your contribution, and you earn a SPECIAL THANKS IN THE ENDING CREDITS.

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  • Pledge $750 or more
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    1 backer Limited (49 left of 50)

    SPECIAL INMATE - Your mom always said you were special and we're not going to argue about that fact. But everybody else should know it, so at this pledge level we're giving you the Educated Inmate reward tier except there will be an IN-GAME PROFILE WITH YOUR NAME AND CUSTOM BIOGRAPHY IN THE ARCHIVES ROOM. This is a full-sized profile that will be readable by players. You can even work out the details of the fictional biography with us, including real-life facts! Who knows, maybe you're so crazy you even get to visit a real asylum! You'll also be featured in the SPECIAL THANKS IN THE ENDING CREDITS and earn the GOLD FORUM BADGE.

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  • Pledge $1,000 or more
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    0 backers Limited (25 left of 25)

    NOTORIOUS INMATE - You're an inmate and you're locked in a terrifying asylum, but that doesn't mean you can't be famous. You inspire respect (and occasionally fear) in your peers. Everybody knows they shouldn't mess with you... But, this also means that you're more closely watched by the staff. Therefore, you get all the rewards of the Special Inmate tier except there's an IN-GAME PROFILE WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPH AND CUSTOM BIOGRAPHY. These are going to be scattered around the asylum and will be even more visible to every player (for example, in Infirmaries, Meeting Room, Offices, etc). Your picture will be professionally retouched to make you look like a madman or madwoman. That's right, yet another step further into the Hall of the Insane Fame.

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  • Pledge $1,500 or more
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    1 backer Limited (14 left of 15)

    DEAD INMATE - Are you crazy? Do you like being dead? Then this is the reward for you! You get all the stuff from the Special Inmate tier except there will be a PLAQUE WITH YOUR NAME IN THE IN-GAME MORGUE. Yes, there will be a refrigerator with your name on it that is very visible to every player. Also, we'll include a RELATED BIOGRAPHY WITH PHOTOGRAPH AND GRUESOME CAUSE OF DEATH right there in the morgue. In fact, you can tell us what you fear most in life and we'll make that the cause of your demise. Loads of fun for all!

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  • Pledge $2,000 or more
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    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    RENOWNED DOCTOR - So you're a doctor. But you never cared about other people's lives, you're only in it for the fame and glory. We understand. Therefore, we're giving you all the rewards of the Doctor tier except there will be a PROMINENT PORTRAIT WITH YOUR NAME IN THE IN-GAME GALLERY. A plaque will clearly state that you're a respected member of the asylum staff. You send us your picture and our talented artist will paint you as a very serious and pompous doctor. Certainly, your facial features will be fully recognizable because we know you're a show-off. Also, the portrait will be MADE A POSTER AND SIGNED BY THE TEAM, then of course mailed to you. Now take up thy stethoscope and walk!

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  • Pledge $2,500 or more
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    0 backers Limited (9 left of 9)

    HIGH RISK MALE INMATE - Same as above but for MALE INMATES ONLY. This goes to show how serious we are about the architecture of the Hanwell Institute.

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  • Pledge $2,500 or more
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    0 backers Limited (9 left of 9)

    HIGH RISK FEMALE INMATE - Now we're talking! You're crazy and you're mean. You're equally feared by other inmates and staff of the asylum. You have committed crimes, even. In a nutshell: you're adorable. With this pledge, your IN-GAME PROFILE IS FEATURED IN A CELL OF THE EXCLUSIVE "TUNNEL OF THE DAMNED". This is a very limited corridor with a dozen cells, and one of them is yours and only yours. For eternity. Not only will there be an in-game register stating this fact in an office before the Tunnel, but the profile with real photo adapted to look like a nutcase and custom biography will be featured right next to this cell. Needless to say, this profile will be MADE A POSTER AND SIGNED BY THE TEAM, then mailed to you. Of course, you also get the remaining rewards of the Notorious Inmate tier. Please note that to comply with the layout of the Institute, this pledge is for FEMALE INMATES ONLY.

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  • Pledge $5,000 or more
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    0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)

    HIGH RISK FEMALE PRODUCER - You really care. And you really love us. Otherwise, why would you give five thousand bucks to complete strangers, right? Rest assured that your money is in good hands, and for your amazingly considerate pledge you get the same rewards as the High Risk Female Pledge, except you are FEATURED AS AN IN-GAME CHARACTER IN A CELL. We will painstakingly model an inmate that looks just like you, wonderfully integrated with the breathtaking graphics in Asylum, and the players will see your virtual self whenever they explore the dreaded "Tunnel of the Damned". For an example of how you will appear in the game, try our Interactive Teaser and look inside the last cell. We can also USE YOUR OWN VOICE for this character. You know, just send us a few screams, cries, groans, and stuff like that if desired. Of course, this tier includes the profile with photo and custom biography too, also printed and signed. Really: it's a virtual, animated rendition of yourself. Locked in an insane asylum. And thousands of players will see you. Must we say more? Yes, we must: your name will be FEATURED AS A PRODUCER DURING THE INTRO OF THE GAME. In other words, we really, really appreciate your pledge.

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  • Pledge $5,000 or more
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    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    HIGH RISK MALE PRODUCER - Same as above but for MALE INMATES ONLY.

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  • Pledge $10,000 or more
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    1 backer All gone!

    UNIQUE INMATE - This is the Mother of All Reward Tiers. You're just like the High Risk Producer except you are part of the story. Indeed: you BECOME AN IN-GAME CHARACTER THAT IS PART OF THE PLOT. Your virtual self will be menacing and will appear twice during the course of the game. Obviously, you will be quite the nuisance to thousands and thousands of players (we can privately reveal your role in the game if you're interested in pledging for this tier). As before, your character will be painstakingly modeled after your real picture. Unfortunately, the plot demands a male character for this role. However, an adventurous woman may still apply to experience what their male alter ego would look like. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, we will work out the facial features of this unique character directly with you. And because you're über-cool, WE WILL PAY FOR YOUR TRIP TO ARGENTINA where you will EAT A GENUINE, LEAN AND MEAN ARGENTINIAN BBQ WITH THE SENSCAPE TEAM. WE'RE SO EXCITED THAT WE CAN'T STOP USING CAPS. Uhm... sorry about that. Anyway, Agustín himself will cook that BBQ for you (if you're a vegan, maybe pasta). Seriously, many would pay with their lives for such a privilege, but we're only asking you for ten thousand bucks. We can be reasonable like that. Please note that the trip will be arranged for February 2014 and we will pay for your accommodation for two days.

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (30 days)