The Horror Must Go On
It’s been a month since I announced the decision to port Asylum, and thus our engine Dagon, to Unity and things have been progressing smoothly since then. Quite well, in fact, so much that I come bearing delightful gifts and announcements. But first, a few important clarifications…
The decision to switch to Unity is not as drastic as it sounds. Asylum remains a node-based game and all the content we have created up until now (graphics, music, videos, characters, etc) will be used as-is in Unity. The key difference, you could say, resides in how we’re presenting these assets to players. The perfect example are the characters — we’ve discussed before how difficult it was to animate them in Dagon without realtime 3D support as they would look wooden and devoid of life. But, as you will see today, we can incorporate them in Unity without sacrificing a bit of quality, and even without polish they’re already a far cry from our previous efforts.
Many keep urging us to turn Asylum into full 3D — that is, implement the locations in free roaming mode, but alas, we lack the time and resources to do all that. And, as I always say, moving to full 3D would mean sacrificing loads of detail and quality, and it would be out of the question to run this game in older computers. It’s much different when you have only one character in full 3D which isn’t as demanding or as time consuming as re-implementing the entire asylum. That said, Unity allows us to use quite a few more tricks to enhance the “illusion” of real 3D (including the weather effects we’ve already shown), so it’s safe to say that Asylum is on its way to become one of the most visually striking first-person adventures ever.
But let’s keep talking about the characters themselves and the main cast in the game. We never talk much about the story in Asylum and, well, that’s not going to change today. However, we wouldn’t be spoiling much if we introduced the main characters to you and the actors behind them. WHY they are in the Hanwell Mental Institute is something that you’ll have to discover by yourself…
Our protagonist is the one and only Josh Mandel, who delivered the heartfelt performance in Serena that many of you enjoyed. He’s returning in Asylum as the ex-patient of the institute who seeks answers about the terrifying visions haunting him. He first meets Julia Bates who will be voiced by Sarah Wilson, aka PushingUpRoses. You may recall her as the voice behind the fictional Serena or her immensely funny videos. Well, we think she’s going to be the perfect Julia, a sweet and charming lady that acts as a beacon of hope among the decaying horridness of the asylum. Hi Sarah, it’s great to have you here!
Next is the intriguing Lenny Huntings. I think you’re going to love this curious dweller of Hanwell who holds many answers to the mystery. The man behind him is Dominic Brewer, whom I’ve known for many years. He’s none other than Robert Blake, the crazed bank clerk in Scratches. This was an optional conversation you can have near the end of the game which also conceals the biggest easter egg, but Dominic is now returning in a full-blown role and I can assure you that the paranoid Lenny is going to become a truly memorable character in adventure games.
What about Bruno Martins, our security guard? Of course, creepy asylums need security… well, some sense of security, so Bruno will be around to attend your needs. Sorta. Aaand the actor is… drums roll… my dear friend and beloved Andromedan Scott Murphy! He will make a wonderfully grumpy yet soft-hearted Bruno, possibly the closest we have to comedic relief in Asylum. Relatively speaking, of course, as the “comedic relief” here is akin to Billy the Puppet in Saw. This is also a historical occasion as both Josh and Scott will be acting together for the first time ever! Just imagine the awesome possibilities for easter eggs we have here. Fans of Space Quest rejoice! It’s worth noting that all the actors from Serena are returning in Asylum — that’s how happy we were with their respective performances.
Last, but by no means least, is the mysterious Dr. Ambrose H. Miller. You may have exchanged letters with him at www.Hanwell.org as he’s the current director of the asylum. Realizing who is Miller and what he’s doing in the institute is crucial to understanding the story, but keep in mind that the actual game takes place in the past — back then the director was the enigmatic Walter Hanwell. The actor behind Miller is the multitalented Noel Bruton, who you may know as the developer of Rhiannon, a remarkable horror adventure in the same spirit of Scratches and Dark Fall. Noel is bringing a sinister vibe to Miller, so expect some disturbing conversations with him.
That was a brief glimpse at the main cast of Asylum. Hopefully fans of adventures will be thrilled with all the wonderful people involved in the game! Certainly, there’s more characters to introduce and more surprises among the cast, including returning actors from Scratches. What you saw in these short videos is actual in-game content — that’s right, all these characters are already being rendered in realtime by Unity. They look even better on your monitor as we lose much detail in these captures. Some of these characters, such as Lenny, appear in different locations and postures throughout the game, so you can see how impractical it was to make them all pre-rendered. Unity gives us an incredible amount of flexibility and we couldn’t be happier with the results.
More fresh meat
I should be wrapping up, so a quick recap of things that happened last month: we showed a bit of Asylum and Serena in a game event to an ecstatic audience. Everybody agrees that the atmosphere of Asylum is breathtaking and utterly immersive. Also, we happen to have two new members in the team: Maia Cordero, who is programming the character animations and ensuring they respond naturally during conversations, and Francisco Tufró, who is taking care of the new hotspots code. Adventure game developers, stay tuned: you’re going to love what we’re doing here.
Speaking of love, our lovely Ani has been working on the feedback manager and implementing often requested features such as smooth scrolling text and better readability. Additionally, she’s finalizing the code of our new animated and interactive notepad — so much done in just one month! We’re attacking the programming, now the most demanding aspect of development, from every front.
In general, the migration to Unity is going faster than we expected. I will go into full technical mode in an upcoming update, especially for the developers among you, but in short: Dagon will exist in two forms, a full .NET port that integrates seamlessly with Unity, and the standalone C+ engine that we already have. Yes, we’re going to maintain both versions and ensure that any game scripts you create are interchangeable between “Dagonity” and “Dagon+”. I know the obvious joke, we promise one game and deliver two engines, but I can assure you that the decision is paying off with solid progress.
The horror… the horror…
In other news, I have pre-ordered a Cordes Jr. and could use a walkthrough. Please help!
Finally, a shout-out to the team behind Kaptain Brawe 2 who could use a hand with their Kickstarter campaign. With luminaries such as Steve Ince and Bill Tiller involved, this charming adventure game needs to happen!
That’s all for today, dear backers. As always, thank you for your support and patience. We’re working real hard to bring you a memorably horrifying experience, and we’re definitely getting there! Expect many more news soon!