I know we’re a month late in saying that, but this is our first update of the year! As you know, we’ve tried to maintain a schedule of keeping all of our backers up to speed every month, but after everyone came back from the holidays, well rested and energized to finish the march to the finish line, we got straight back to work on the game. By the time we were able to come up for air and give you an update, we realized we were already pretty close to the February update! So here it is, two updates in one.
It used to be that the conference circuit started up in March at GDC (Game Developers Conference) and continued more or less non-stop until the final show in September at PAX Prime in Seattle. Sony took advantage of the vacuum in the schedule to put together the big finale of the year: PlayStation Experience. We weren’t able to make the 2014 show in Las Vegas, so we were really excited to participate in the 2015 event in San Francisco. Our two Dans – Fessler and Adelman (environment art and biz dev/marketing, respectively) – set up and ran the booth for the two-day event.
Dan and Dan were pretty much inundated with attendees the entire show. Many of you stopped by to let us know you were Kickstarter backers, so thanks for supporting us! And in addition, we got lots of new people trying the game for the first time. Thanks to Sony for including us in the event!
Because we wanted to focus on finishing the game, we used the same demo that we’d been using since E3 in June. We will be attending PAX East (Boston in April), so we expect to unveil a new demo there showing the Gardens area.
We've been hard at work wrapping up the new intro area, and we're just about there! The tileset has been completed and Glauber and Dan are putting the finishing touches on the art while Jimi records some new sound effects. Say hello to the Master at Arms who forges the weapons and armor for the Guildean Outpost's soldiers, on top of training them and giving advice. Listen closely, you might learn something important from her!
We've also been chipping away at the huge list of enemies and bosses we have planned for the game, and I'm happy to report that we're nearing completion on them! Here's a first look at one of the enemies from the Keep - the Executioner. His spinning ax chain has quite the reach, so keep your distance from his flying guillotine and watch your timing!
In addition to all the core content of the game, we've also been knocking out some of the additional features we promised for backers of the game. For $50+ tier backers, you have now been immortalized in the ancient Backer's Tome. With it, you will be able to easily find and display your name to all your friends and family, reminding them that you helped make Chasm possible!
We'll have more content to reveal next month, so stay tuned!
Over the summer we announced that we were adding a new intro area to start off Daltyn's adventure, and now we're excited to reveal the opening scene! Daltyn likes to sneak up to the watchtower at night to stargaze and dream of adventure beyond the Outpost walls, but on this fateful morning his good friend Jareth awakens him with orders to report to the Commander at once. I hope he's not in trouble for sneaking out of his bunk again!
This fall has been a very productive time for Chasm. For the past few months we've focused all our energy on finishing up many of the core components of the game like the enemies, mapping, tilesets, and more. We're not quite there yet, but hopefully around the end of the year we'll be very close. From there we still have a lot revising, extra content, cleanup and polishing to do, but we're inching ever closer to the finish line. We'd like to thank you for your patience again as we continue to toil away perfecting Chasm. We know it's been a much longer wait than originally intended, but we're confident that it will be worth all the extra effort. Stay tuned for another detailed production recap in the coming months!
Playstation Experience 2015
If you're in the San Franscisco Bay Area make sure to stop by and see us at Playstation Experience this weekend (Dec. 5-6). Dan Adelman (Biz Guru) and Dan Fessler (Environment Artist) will be manning the booth, greeting fans, and talking to the press all weekend, so make sure to stop by Booth #2060 and say hi!
Discord Plays Axiom Verge
Our bi-weekly developer streams have continued to air every other Thursday, and our next is on December 3rd at 7PM EST! We've been trying some different formats for the show, including doing developer interviews with other indie devs. Our first interview features Tom Happ, the solo creator of Axiom Verge. Check out the two hour interview as we play his amazing game and ask questions about both designing and developing Axiom Verge!
Thanks to the generous support of Sony, Chasm was playable at IndieCade just a week or so ago. In case you’re not familiar, IndieCade is to games festivals as Sundance is to film festivals. There are a bunch of experimental games pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a game, such as installation pieces that could never be installed in someone’s home (or at least not without a ton of work), as well as “Big” games where there is no screen at all, and more along the lines of playground games but with rules made up by game designers.
In that context, Sony put together their booth with their most highly anticipated games, and we were proud to be among them. Unfortunately, Chasm kind of stops getting made whenever we all pick up and head off to a festival (fun though they are) so Dan Adelman, our marketing and business guy, went down to Culver City, CA to represent us and the game.
The show was a great success. Despite sub-optimal environmental conditions (over 80 degrees in a tent that just trapped all of the moisture and heat so it felt like a sauna – and often smelled like one too) attendees kept coming. The controller was never put down for more than about 10 seconds before someone else picked it up.
The primary goal was to get the game in front of lots of players who may not have heard of it before, but a secondary goal was to talk about it with press, so they could tell the world about it. There were lots of journalists in attendance, and only a handful of the articles are already out. If you’re curious what the environment looked like, here’s an interview that was shot on location.
Our next big show is going to be at PlayStation Experience in San Francisco over the December 5-6 weekend. If you’re from the Bay Area, please check it out!
New Display Modes
As fellow lovers of retro games, we're also familiar with the multitude of ways to display them. It can become a very heated debate on what the "right" way to display retro games is, so we will withhold our personal opinions on the subject! We know not everyone is a fan of razor-sharp pixels though, so we've tried to bring the most popular options to the table so you can choose how you'd like to play.
With modern emulators there are basically three ways to display a game: the raw pixel output, filtered with some sort of smoothing algorithm (bicubic, Eagle, Hqx, etc.), or with a TV effect that emulates a CRT (cathode ray tube) and its iconic scanlines. We wanted to give everyone some options depending on their personal preferences, so we've got 4 modes to share with you today:
Pixel: The default mode, raw pixel output for the fans of blocky, sharp pixels that everyone has seen.
Smooth: We also wanted to include a good smoothing algorithm, and after some research we found the newer xBR algorithm to be hands down the best option at this time. We combined it with a subtle 2nd pass blur filter for an incredibly smooth image.
We also have two different options for CRT fans, thanks to an amazing shader created for us by Timothy Lottes of FXAA fame:
PVM (Pro Video Monitor): A softer image, closest to a high-end tube TV running at 240P with nice visible scanlines.
Arcade: Similar to PVM, but also includes a visible aperture grille for a more arcade feel.
All the modes besides pixel will of course have their own downsides with either losing information (smoothing can destroy tiny details like the flag on the mailbox) or brightness (adding scanlines removes a good portion of the brightness). We've done some work to offset these effects, and will continue to tweak things to get them looking as good as possible.
Lastly, here are the full 1080P screenshots of both of the scenes used in the comparisons above. Please keep in mind, especially with CRT effects, that they won't look right unless you are viewing them at their full size. For this reason, we recommend if you will be streaming or recording gameplay footage to only use Pixel or Smooth settings!
This past month has been a busy one for the Chasm team! In addition to chipping away at all of the features and content we still need to build to finish the game, we took a 4-day detour to Seattle, Washington for PAX Prime. Also, the soundtrack for the game is complete, and we want to share some of it with you.
We're very excited to announce that the soundtrack has been completed! It was quite the challenge to find the right sound for the world of Chasm, but our talented musician James Stevulak did an amazing job capturing it. He experimented with many different styles, tempos, and instrumentations all in search of the perfect atmosphere and pace for Daltyn's exploration of the world.
We looked to Castlevania and Metroid for direction early on, and we learned that Chasm's sprawling areas were much more suited to Metroid's dark and atmospheric tracks than Castlevania's jazzy, high-tempo fare. We also wanted to keep the instrumentation grounded with things that could exist in Chasm's world such as horns, acoustic guitar, strings, hand drums, flutes, bells, and chants. In some cases we did use more modern sounds like synthesizers and electric guitar, but only when we felt it fit right with the track.
In celebration of this milestone, we put together a video previewing 9 of the soundtrack's 20 tracks. Hopefully it gives you a feel for the world of Chasm, and the sights and sounds you will experience there. We hope you enjoy, and will join us in applauding James for his stunning effort!
For those of you who aren’t aware, PAX Prime is one of the largest gaming events of the year with over 70,000 people attending. We were in the Indie Megabooth area, alongside some of our favorite and most highly anticipated indie games.
The show was absolutely insane. It was open for 8 hours each day, and we had 2 stations, which were both busy the entire time. Assuming an average of 5 minutes per person, about 800 people were able to get hands-on time with the demo. And that’s not even including all the people who just watched other people play. Included among these 800 people were a few members of gaming royalty, like Cliff Bleszinski of Unreal Tournament and Gears of War fame. He was clearly blown away by the game!
But the best thing was how many of our Kickstarter backers came by to express their enthusiasm for the game and show their support for what we’re doing. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and isolated while completely heads down and focused on making a game, so those words of encouragement from our earliest supporters means the world to us.
The response from the press was absolutely fantastic. Geek And Sundry, Hardcore Gamer, PSNation and many more wrote glowing reviews of what they saw. But probably one of our favorite articles from PAX was this one by Lizzy Finnegan from The Escapist, who had this to say:
"The booth for Chasm was packed every time I passed it - which was a lot - and this was with good reason. I feel like I've spent 28 years waiting for this game, and its imminent release makes my life just a bit brighter. I saw many rockstar indie titles at PAX, but for me personally, none hold a candle to Chasm."
It’s tough for a small team with a very limited marketing budget to get the word out, but the gospel of Chasm is spreading!
Additional Twitch Streams
A lot of times with indie games, knowing who is behind the game is often almost as important as the game itself. We were thinking of how we could get to know our fans better and how our fans could get to know us. As you may know, we’ve been live streaming the development of Chasm for a while, but not everyone is interested in watching someone code. We’re going to continue live streaming our development process so that people can get a peek behind the scenes to see how a game like Chasm goes from an idea to reality, but we’ve decided also to share our passion for some of our favorite games.
Going forward we’re going to do a live stream every other Thursday either of Chasm or some other game that has inspired us in some way. Our first stream will be on October 8 at 7PM EST and will be a bunch of us playing through the Chasm demo we showed at PAX. Later on, we’ll stream some of our favorite classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as well as some modern favorites like Axiom Verge and discuss how those games inspired us, what design decisions in those games we liked (or didn’t!), and ultimately how they shaped what we decided to create with Chasm. If there’s a game you’re interested in having us discuss, you should let us know! You can follow us on Twitch here.
Hello again Chasm backers! Production has marched forward steadily this summer, and we're happy to report that we're making great progress. It's been a while since we've done a proper production update, so we thought we'd try to break things down into categories as neatly as we can, and give you an idea of where each is. Please don't take the percentages too seriously though, they're only meant as a rough approximation!
GAME ENGINE - 100%
The game engine has been done for a while now, and we have production-quality code running on all our launch platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, and PS4) at a silky smooth 60 FPS. We're still refactoring and cleaning things up, but all the major systems are in place and functional!
STORY - 100%
The basic story for the game has been done for over a year, but we have had to modify it a bit as we've progressed and fill in some details. Back in the spring we decided it was time to do a major revision in order to ensure all of the details we've added fit in nicely. We added a new intro, outro and epilogue, as well as improved the flow and trickle of new information. Your objectives are now clearer, and the stakes feel higher than ever before!
TOOLS - 100%
Our editor Apparatus was finished last year and has been working amazingly. We're able to create a lot of high quality content quickly and see what works and what doesn't. It also has custom support for the world layouts and dungeon creation, scripting, and animations so it's pretty much our secret sauce!
GAME DESIGN - 100%
As attested by the Alpha's success, the core game design is working well! There were a lot of tough things to figure out when thinking about how a procedurally assembled Metroidvania would work best: how the areas are constructed, how the portal system works, how to pace correctly with save points, and how to quickly travel back to town. Everything fits well and feels great now, but it took a LOT of experimentation to get here!
GAMEPLAY MECHANICS - 100%
The core moveset of the player was one of the very first things we tried to get right, but we have taken the opportunity to fine tune things and get it feeling perfect. We have a whole slew of awesome moves and equipment for the player to gain, spells that tie into puzzles as well as combat, tough platforming to perform, traps to avoid, and a ton of items to find. We'll be trying to add as much extra content as we can when we get to the end, but all the core mechanics are in the game now.
TILESETS - 90%
The visual building blocks of the world are the tilesets. The tileset for each area includes the terrain you walk on, walls and ceiling, as well as the wall behind the player and parallax backgrounds. Dan is finishing up the last tileset (Outpost) while doing revisions to the others, so we're expecting these to be completed in the next few weeks!
SOUNDTRACK - 90%
A lot of effort went into finding the right atmosphere to accompany the visuals of the game and set the tone, but we finally found what we were looking for! The soundtrack tops out at 20 tracks, including 8 main area themes, plus intro, outro, credits, and many special tracks. A couple dozen rough cuts and concepts were left on the cutting room floor, so expect to hear those in the Extended Soundtrack. Jimi is working on final touches for the last area's music now, so it should be wrapped up soon!
USER INTERFACE - 80%
We just finished up our UI framework earlier this year. We did a full pass on the game consolidating all the menu and UI functions, improved NPC menus and dialogue, journal and note interfaces, and more. We still have a little more work ahead with final styling and making sure everything is consistent before calling it done.
BOSSES - 75%
There will be 6 main bosses in the game, and as of now 5 are playable with the final boss ready to be prototyped. Some areas also have minibosses to battle, and 3 out of 5 of these have been completed.
ENEMIES - 70%
We've completed the core enemies for just over 2/3 of the game as of now. The fifth area has rough prototypes while the last is in concept only, so a large amount of the content work lies here.
BACKGROUND ART - 65%
These are mainly extra background wall variations to keep things interesting, as well as what we call "set piece" rooms - rooms with large, unique (and time consuming!) backgrounds that aren't reused anywhere else. Some examples would be the Campfire room, the cave paintings and frescos, and the boss rooms. Once the tilesets are completed Dan will be focusing all his energy on these.
ROOMS - 60%
All of the areas have been planned out in detail (you can even run through the entire game at this point), but we have just over half the rooms required in the game. As well as the special core rooms, we also need to create a lot of extra rooms that will enhance the procedural nature of the game. Along with enemies this will be one of our main focuses this Fall.
SCRIPTING - 30%
We've tried our best not to put scripted sequences in Chasm to keep the player always feeling in control, but there are certain instances where that has to happen, such as the intro of the game or special events. These scenes have all been written and storyboarded, but we still have to script most of them in the game.
SFX - 25%
We still have a lot of sound effect work to do, but once the Soundtrack is completed Jimi will be focusing his full attention on it. Unfortunately, sound always seems to get put off to the end, but it's almost necessary in a way so you can see what all your game needs. Consistency is big thing here, so having the perspective on how the game looks and feels should speed things up considerably.
ETC - 20%
There's a lot of necessary extras that don't particularly fall into any category that will take some effort to complete. Things like extra side quests, game modes, NPCs, minigames, secrets and more are all planned and detailed out, but are waiting their turn to be worked on.
As we've learned during development of this game, one of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of game development is really just finding what works best for your game. With all the difficult design decisions out of the way and the unknowns down to a minimum, we're finally able to focus 100% of our efforts on churning out awesome content to jam pack the game with.
We know everyone is anxious for a release date to be announced, but we're not quite there yet. We do have a much clearer picture of what's ahead though, and we've started talking with Sony and Steam about the best time to launch from their perspective.
It's been a long journey, but we want to thank you all again for sticking with us and believing in our vision. Chasm is turning out more amazing than we had any right to expect, and we have you, our incredible backers, to thank for helping make that happen!
P.S. One more thing before I go – three members of our team, Tim Dodd, Dan Fessler, and Dan Adelman, will be showing off Chasm in the Indie Megaboothat PAX PRIME this weekend! If you’re at PAX, be sure to swing by and say hi! We’ll give you a full update on how PAX went after everyone fully recovers.