I try to put out an update at the beginning of every month, but we’ve been so busy, I just didn’t have time to write up everything we were doing! My apologies for sending this out so late.
At the beginning of summer we announced that Chasm was finally playable from beginning to end in a build we called the "Rough Cut". During development, all the pieces of the game were more or less created in isolation from each other: story, areas, challenges, enemies, bosses, etc. The Rough Cut was the first attempt at connecting everything together into one continuous experience. It was indeed rough - completely unbalanced, lots of placeholders, missing content, crashes, etc. but for the first time it almost felt like a real game!
In the months since, we've been fully focused on turning the Rough Cut into a cohesive and fun experience. Having the game together as a whole has really given us a new perspective to say the least. Everything from game mechanics to story, music, and level design has been analyzed and refined as we've started to figure out what works and what doesn't, as well as how it all fits together best.
We're now down to just a few major items to finish until the game's core content will be considered complete - a milestone we're internally calling "Pre-Beta". The remaining tasks for Pre-Beta include things like programming the NPCs, sidequests, and scripted scenes (primarily the ending) and also getting the rest of the placeholder art finished. Once the Pre-Beta milestone is achieved, we will be in the final stretch to "Beta", a near finished product ready for all the $25+ backers to play.
So what lies between Pre-Beta and Beta? Our first priority will be to give the Pre-Beta to some close friends and colleagues outside the team to play for the very first time. This will not only serve as a good sanity check, but also help ensure we didn't miss anything fundamental. We can then begin adding all of the cool bells and whistles, secrets, extra content, and surprises that are going to make Chasm go from being just another pretty good game to one that we hope people will be obsessing over for months or even years.
We definitely don't want to rush ourselves at the very end, so we don't have any firm dates set just yet. That said, we feel confident that Pre-Beta will be reached by the end of the year, and Beta won't be too long after that. Thanks to everyone's patience and support, Chasm has developed into an experience way beyond what we ever anticipated. We still have a little further to go, but the end is nearly in sight!
As noted above, there's been many changes going on lately for our internal builds. A lot is boring technical stuff like updating to the latest FNA library, or very spoilery, but here's just a few of the things we've been working on:
Replaced Campfires with Watcher Statues – This may seem like a purely cosmetic change, but it was changed for a couple reasons. The first is that sleeping just slows things down. We're on an adventure, we don't have time to take a nap! More importantly, we decided it would be more consistent with the lore of the world to be able to be healed by a Watcher Statue. Kind of like the mythology in shows like Game of Thrones, we want the mythology of Chasm to feel like they play a role in the game’s world. There are a bunch of things like this, where we created some assets in isolation, but now that we have a full game, we can see how they can all fit together and feel like a cohesive world.
New Weapon Prototypes - In the Alpha build we included Fists, Knives, Swords, Great Weapons (large ones that you swing overhead), and Whips as melee weapon types. We've been tweaking some weapons like the Knife with improved animations and hit areas, but we've also been working on prototypes for a couple completely new weapon types like Rods and Spears. Both were a challenge to implement for various reasons. For instance, the Rod should feel heavier and swing much slower than a Sword, but must still feel responsive to the player. There's a lot of push and pull with frame count and playback speed, but I think we found a happy medium. We're not sure which weapons will make it in the final build yet, but I thought you'd enjoy a peek behind the scenes!
Boss Revisions - We've had some time now to analyze the boss prototypes and figure out what was working and what could be improved before finishing them up. Designing a good boss battle is truly an artform in itself! To be fun it must be challenging and fast paced, but also fair. We've even taken some tips from the masters themselves, like Symphony of the Night creator Iga who said in a GDC talk that the developer should be able to beat the boss without taking a single hit. In addition to behavior improvements, some bosses like the Catacombs boss above have also gotten visual overhauls and improved animations.
PAX WEST 2016
In early September, Jimi, Dan, and I headed to Seattle for PAX West – formerly known as PAX Prime. Once again, we were in the Indie Megabooth where we were fortunate enough to get an allocation of 10x15 feet. (The typical booth size is a 10x10.) That extra 5’ made a surprising amount of difference!
We were able to fit in 5 stations in our space this time. It was actually kind of surprising. In prior shows, we often only had 2 stations. They were both usually taken, but during quiet periods, there might be no one playing for as long as 5-10 minutes. I was a bit worried that if we had 5 stations, it could look strange if we had a bunch of open ones. It turns out my concerns were totally baseless! With 5 stations, people knew that if they were interested in playing, they could just wait and at least one of the stations would be opening up soon, so we got a much bigger crowd, and far fewer quiet periods. In fact, I don’t think we had any stations open for more than a minute or two!
These shows are such a shot in the arm. After slaving away on the game for months and months, it’s so reinvigorating to watch people play the game with big smiles on their faces and know that you’re heading in the right direction!