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Chasm is a 2D Fantasy ARPG Platformer featuring procedurally generated Metroid-like dungeons and authentic pixel art.
Chasm is a 2D Platform Adventure featuring procedurally generated Metroid-like dungeons and authentic pixel art.
Chasm is a 2D Platform Adventure featuring procedurally generated Metroid-like dungeons and authentic pixel art.
6,938 backers pledged $191,897 to help bring this project to life.

Character Reveal, Company Name Change, New Promo Art, PAX East 2016, GDC Recap

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Hello again everyone! We have quite a few updates for you this month. We were hoping to do a full-on production update for April, but we're still hard at work completing a few final tasks before reaching our next major milestone. It seemed only fitting then to hold off just a few more weeks for our upcoming Kickstarter anniversary.

Your first encounter with Professor Basden.
Your first encounter with Professor Basden.

In the meantime, here's a first look at a new NPC! If you played the closed Alpha last year you may remember reading notes left by an archaeologist named Basden that was studying ancient cave paintings deep in the Mines below Karthas. In the Alpha he met an untimely death long before you ever arrived, but we realized he could play a much more important role in the game and gave him a second chance at life. Meet the new Basden, professor of ancient history!

Discord Games Is Now Bit Kid

 

We'd like to officially announce that we have changed our company name from "Discord Games, Inc." to "Bit Kid, Inc." Discord has been great to us ever since our formative XBLIG years, but we're ready to move onto something a little more meaningful to us before we launch Chasm. The name is meant to describe all of us that spent countless hours in front of our old CRT TVs as kids completely absorbed in 8, 16 and even 32-bit games. Those are some of our fondest memories (and the reason we're here now), and we felt like the company should be representing that. Please remember to update your bookmarks to bitkidgames.com!

New Promo Art

While the box art Gilang Andrian did a couple years ago has served us very well, it's been difficult to use in different marketing situations due to its portrait layout. We decided to get a new piece done for those situations, and there was only one artist we could think of for the job: Gilang! He was very excited to work on a new piece for Chasm, and we think it turned out amazing. This piece is more focused on the Gardens and Keep, and he included a bunch of the dangerous enemies awaiting you. Also be sure to check out the high-res version!

PAX East 2016

We'll be showing off Chasm this year again at PAX East from April 22-24! We decided to skip the convention in 2015, but now we're ready to get back to Boston. We'll be right next to Axiom Verge and Mages of Mystralia at Booth #5217. We hope to see you there!

GDC 2016 Recap

Chasm at the MIX event at Patreon Headquarters
Chasm at the MIX event at Patreon Headquarters

The two Dan's of the team (biz guru Dan Adelman and background artist Dan Fessler) were kind enough to demo the game at several events for us at GDC this year. They showed off the game at two MIX events (one at the Patreon headquarters!) and also on the Kinda Funny livestream. Here's the Kinda Funny interview with Dan Adelman:

Development Process and Tools

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Revised HUD elements.
Revised HUD elements.

After our last big production update several backers asked us about our development process and what kind of tools we use to facilitate it, so I thought this month we could give you a little peak behind the scenes. I've also included some unrelated screenshots showing off the latest User Interface revisions we've been working on to keep things exciting!

There are two major schools of thought when it comes to software development: Waterfall and Agile. In the classic Waterfall method, you write out your design document detailing the entire game from beginning to end, break it up for the team to work on, and get to work making just that. At the end you take a look back at what you have, and hope everything worked out how you thought it would! The more modern Agile methodology breaks things down into components or pieces, and you go piece by piece with a rough idea what you want to accomplish, while continually testing and improving it. When you start to implement a component in Agile, there's flexibility for experimentation and seeing if it is fun and gels with your game's design. If it doesn't, you can figure out what's necessary to make it right and then move on when you're happy. We decided to embrace the creative nature of game development early on and adopted the Agile methodology for Chasm. 

Cleaned up Pause menu with new background texture and palette.
Cleaned up Pause menu with new background texture and palette.

 As with most things in life, there are downsides to both methodologies. Waterfall can lead to making a lot content that just isn't fun, while Agile can cause you to get bogged down in details perfecting things and not just moving on. Early on in Chasm's development we spent a lot of time in the first area trying to figure out the best gameplay mechanics, area structures, combat, dungeon generation methods, etc. Sometimes ideas just come slowly, and you end up spinning your wheels for a bit trying to figure things out. Pressure builds in those times, and it can become depressing not seeing constant visible progress. Thankfully, we stuck to our gameplay first philosophy, and seeing how things turned out I have no doubt now we made the right decision.

Unified panel design used everywhere including message prompts.
Unified panel design used everywhere including message prompts.

When it comes down to it, making games is an art and not a science. There's no one methodology or process that will work for every team or game. One thing is for certain though: communication is key, especially for projects that are remote and over long periods of time. Since our team is so small, there is only one person handling each major area of expertise (design, programming, music/sfx, animations, and backgrounds) and no middle-management is necessary. If needed I can easily keep up with everyone on a daily basis. If we began trying to add more people to the project, things would begin to breakdown as communication channels exponentially increase (Brooks' Law), and managing would become even more time consuming. But perhaps five is the perfect team size after all?

Improved shop screen.
Improved shop screen.

Even with me acting as the hub and keeping in constant contact with team members, they're still not necessarily in contact with each other on a regular basis. It's easy to feel isolated and lose motivation on a long project like this, so we've found it important to keep everyone in regular contact. Towards the end of the first year of the project we started a weekly Scrum call where each person can talk about what they did the previous week, what they're doing the coming week, and if anything is blocking them from getting work done. We use a simple shared checklist (Workflowy) that we can all follow to see what's on our plates, and don't really worry about sprints, velocity, burn-down and all the extra annoyances that come with the Scrum methodology.

Last but not least is the software we use to tie everything together. We've tried many different project management platforms, file sharing apps, etc. but this is what we've found to work best for us: 

  • SVN: for managing project code betweeen team members 
  • Skype: for group voice calls, chatting, quick file sharing, etc. 
  • Workflowy: for task lists, goals and notes 
  • Dropbox: for sharing assets like art and music 
  • Google Docs: for sharing documents like design docs, spreadsheets, etc. 
Cleaned up Item Detail view in the shops.
Cleaned up Item Detail view in the shops.

 We're also commonly asked what software or tools we use for each of our individual jobs: 

 James & Tim (Development) 

  • Visual Studio 2012 
  • Apparatus (our custom editor)
  • Photoshop
  • Sound Forge
  • Fraps 

 Glauber Kotaki (Animations)

  • Photoshop
  • GIF Movie Gear
  • Wacom Tablet 

 Dan Fessler (Background Art)

  • Photoshop
  • GraphicsGale
  • Wacom Tablet 

 James Stevulak (Music/SFX) 

  • Cakewalk Sonar
  • Sound Forge
  • Midi Keyboard and drum pads
  • Real Instruments (guitar, hand drums, etc) 
  • Condenser Mic
  • Focusrite Saffire Audio Interface

Wrap Up

 I hope this has been of some use or interest to you! If you have any questions please let us know in the comments. Next month we'll be doing another big production update, so stay tuned!

PSX Recap, Outpost Armory and New Enemy Revealed, Backer's Tome

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Happy 2016!

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. 

PlayStation Experience 

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.

Before the show floor opened
Before the show floor opened
The crowd lining up outside
The crowd lining up outside
Dan Fessler explaining the game to some new fans
Dan Fessler explaining the game to some new fans

 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.

Outpost Armory

First look at the Armory and the Master at Arms
First look at the Armory and the Master at Arms

(Original GIF

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!

New Enemy Reveal

Say hello to the Executioner!
Say hello to the Executioner!

(Original GIF)

 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!

Backer's Tome 

Work-in-progress look at the Backer's Tome
Work-in-progress look at the Backer's Tome

(Original GIF)

 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!

Opening Scene Revealed, PSX 2015, Discord Plays Axiom Verge

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In-game screenshot of the opening scene.
In-game screenshot of the opening scene.

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!

Original scene composition.
Original scene composition.

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!

Chasm at IndieCade, New Display Modes

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Chasm at IndieCade!

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!