Hello again everyone! I hope this update finds you well. Last month we were working on several large tasks, most of which we can't really show you without spoiling things (backgrounds for the final boss, level design for late-game sections, etc) so I decided to just hold off on the update until this month.
A few exciting things have been in the works though. When we analyzed the game back over the summer and made our final list of improvements, one of the things we realized we really needed to improve was the visual FX. This meant going back through everything and beefing up FX for various things like hits, deaths, breaking props, picking up items, leveling up, etc. Check out the GIF above for a preview of this work (please note it doesn't look as smooth as the real thing since it's running at half the framerate).
Right now the team is mainly focused on finishing up the core content. Dan is working on various pieces of background art for late-game rooms, Jimi is working on boss and enemy sound effects, Glauber is working on enemy death animations, Tim is optimizing engine code and tackling the remaining programming tasks, and I'm going through the main path of the game with a fine-toothed comb to find all the stuff we missed and wrap up work on the areas.
I know everyone is anxious for us to reach Beta, but we still have a little further to go. Once this core stuff is done we will focus on the secondary content tasks like beefing up the backtracking and adding more weapons, items, and secrets to find. Lastly, once all the content is completed, we'll turn our attention to the final polish tasks like balancing, text cleanup, UI polishing, and of course testing.
Well, that's it for now! We'll be in touch again this fall to let you know how things are progressing as we steadily march towards the finish line. Thanks again for your support and patience!
Hello again everyone! As summer comes to an end we're working hard to complete our first month-long sprint of Beta tasks. There's a lot of general cleanup, polish, and bug fixing to do, but we've also been tackling a number of improvements identified from our testing.
A new feature we're pretty excited about is upgradeable spells. Each spell can now be upgraded twice to improve its effectiveness. Above is an example of the Knife spell where the second and third levels add more projectiles and magical FX. When you reach the third level of a Spell you're also given the option of using a screen-filling Spell Crash that consumes half of your magic meter. We're still working on the visuals for the crashes and upgrade menus, but we'll show them off in a future update.
One thing we heard a lot in the backer builds was how punishing the platforming was. Not only were pixel perfect jumps everywhere, but most of the drops ended in spikes making things even less forgiving. We also had enemies and traps jam packed into every space - partly a side effect of our early dungeon generator not having a good sense of how to pace things with different kinds of rooms. I went back through the rooms one by one and improved the flow, pacing, and difficulty. A lot of the tall rooms now give you a much needed breather with some light platforming and resource collection after fighting through hallways of deadly enemies.
Finally, we've also reworked and improved the game's minibosses. A couple just weren't up to snuff and were completely redone (like the Keep's miniboss seen above), while others were just tweaked with some new patterns and improved timing. We also changed our approach to them a bit so they feel more like tough-as-nails enemies versus weak bosses. It may seem like a pointless distinction, but in practice it feels much more organic and varied.
We also want to give everyone a heads up that Chasm will be at PAX West 2017 as part of the Playground! The Playground is a new space to hang out and play games, and we'll be sharing the space with others like Vlambleer, Finji, and Indiebox. Our biz guy Dan Adelman will be running the booth along with Musician James Stevulak and Environment Artist Dan Fessler. So if you'll be there too please stop by Booth #6111, say hi, and play some awesome games!
We'll have more updates on our progress towards the finish line next month. Thank you once again for your support and patience while we refine Chasm into the best experience possible!
Hello again everyone! We hope you're having a great summer, and staying cool inside playing some games. This month is just a quick update to let you know what's been going on the past few weeks.
First off, we're happy to announce that aside from the Crafting, all the Kickstarter Stretch Goals and Backer Rewards have been designed and programmed. We have just a few pieces of art left to wrap up, and we'll be getting to the Crafting when we revisit the weapons and items in a few weeks. We've also done our best to make the extras part of the main experience where possible. For instance, instead of the Arena being a separate mode it's an actual place in the world you can visit when you want to compete.
One of the rewards we thought turned out especially cool is our $2500 Backer's reward. It was listed as "Design your own enemy", but the backer thought a minigame of chance would add some more variety to the experience. Working together with him, we developed the character known as Jinx. For those with a sharp eye, you may recognize Jinx from the box art we had done a while back. Unfortunately, the character was cut after some story changes rendered him unused, but when we heard the backer's idea we thought he would be the perfect match for it. Jinx will appear at several locations throughout the world, and offers players a spin of his wheel for a chance to win a range of things from gold to stat points and items. Careful though, not everything on the wheel is a reward! You also run the risk of losing your hard earned stat points and gold to Jinx.
One other thing we're very excited about is some recent improvements to the dungeon generation. As you may remember from our previous updates, we've put a lot of effort into it to make sure the game feels varied and well-paced. One of the major breakthroughs that really helped us achieve that was breaking down the areas into "sub-areas" that consisted of about 10-15 rooms with a save point at either end. This did wonders to get things under control, but on the negative side we were left with a mess of a map that had lines drawn all over connecting these sub-areas together. One of our polish tasks was to hide these seams and make the areas feel like one large, continuous location. The save rooms are also inside the area itself now as normal rooms, so it should feel more like a classic Metroidvania experience than ever before!
Lastly, while we worked on the Kickstarter rewards we were playing the game over and over, fixing things, and building our final Todo list to reach Beta. I believe we have identified the weakest and most problematic areas of the experience, as well as what needs polished or is unfinished, and we now have a solid plan to reach the finish line. I know everyone is excited to hear dates, but we're not quite there yet. There's still a few tricky tasks remaining we want to make sure we don't rush.
As usual, thank you so much for your support and patience. We'll have some more updates next month on our progress to reaching Beta!
I feel like I need to start off every update with an apology for how long the game is taking. Many of you have told me not to worry about the time and just focus on making the game as good as it can be. A few others have expressed frustration about how long things are taking. As I’ve mentioned probably a million times before, this project turned out to be way more ambitious than what I expected when I started down this path. Thanks to the teams perseverance and everyone's patience though, we've been able to overcome every obstacle before us and create something we're all very proud of.
So where are we now? The game has been fully playable for a couple months. It is a game with a beginning, middle, and end. There’s a ton of polish we’re working on now to take it from being a functional game to a great game. Maybe one analogy is that we’ve just built a skyscraper, including all of the electrical, plumbing, elevators, etc., and now we’re going through floor by floor adding the furnishings.
One must-have bit of furnishing is the Kickstarter rewards! We've been working hard on them for the past few weeks, but here’s where they stand right now:
Exclusive items for $15/30/50 backers - Done
Backer’s Tome (name in the game) for $50+ backers - Done
Backer's Tavern (Hidden room) for $1000+ backers - Done
Special gameplay feature for $2500+ backer - In Progress
Stretch goal: Achievements for all versions - Done
Stretch goal: Extended Soundtrack Album - Done
Stretch goal: Alternate Chiptune Soundtrack - In Progress
Stretch goal: Arena - In Progress
Stretch goal: Crafting - In Progress
Speaking of the Extended Soundtrack, here’s a sample for you! Our musician James Stevulak put together a number of remixes for the album including this one. If you played the early build, you might recognize the theme of the track as the Catacombs:
I’m hoping to get the other Kickstarter rewards and stretch goals done in the next few weeks so those will all be out of the way. In the meantime, we’re playing through the builds over and over and asking ourselves the hardest question in game design - what’s not there that should be there? We’ve identified several features we want to add that will kick up the experience to 11 and have added those to the to do list. That said, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of continually polishing and adding new features and pushing out the finish line so far that the game is never done. We’re very conscious of that trap and will be questioning every new feature as we pin down our plans for the final push. The finish line is in sight, and we don’t want to stray too far from the path!
It’s been a busy couple of months since the last update - and we’ve got some good news!
Happy Kickstarter Anniversary!
It’s now been 4 years since we launched our Kickstarter. By that point, I had already quit my day job and put in about 6-7 months of work to create a workable prototype and proof-of-concept of our dream game. That early build came together so easily and effortlessly that we naively assumed turning it into a full game would be just as easy! Since Kickstarter makes you put in an expected release date, we put down May 2014. Well, it turns out that we missed that date by a little bit, but we’ve stayed committed to the original vision and quality bar that we set out to hit from the beginning. I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t overstate the appreciation we have for everyone’s continued support and patience. And with that, I’m incredibly excited to announce...
We’ve Hit Alpha!
The big announcement is that we’ve officially reached Alpha! Alpha means the world, story, characters, powerups, enemies, bosses, and major set pieces are all complete. The game is playable from the beginning to the credits and has all the required features. Our plan is to send out the Alpha build to a few trusted friends in the industry (mostly other game developers) to kick the tires and make sure there aren’t any major flaws that we’ve just overlooked since we’re too close to the game at this point.
The next step is Beta. That’s the version we’ll be sending out to all of the Early Access-tier backers from Kickstarter. To reach that stage, we’re working on adding all the extras like more content, items, FX, and lots of polish. Luckily the hardest part, creating an entire replayable world, is over, and now we get to focus on the details that will keep everyone playing for a long time to come. As much as we want to get the game in everyone’s hands already, we also don't want to rush things now that we’re so close to the end. I’m hoping that in the next newsletter, I’ll be able to give you a good ETA on when we expect to hit Beta. Once we reach that milestone, we’ll gather feedback from the backers, fix what needs to be fixed, and get ready to launch. There’s light at the end of this tunnel!
Shows and Travel
Staring at the same screen all day and tweaking and retweaking rooms and enemies for months on end can feel a little isolating. Progress is never as fast as you want it to be, and there are a million little details to get right. So going to a gaming show every now and then can be a huge shot in the arm.
Last month I went to Boston for PAX East. As always, PAX was a fantastic experience. I got to talk to a lot of people who have been following Chasm for years, and others who had never heard of it.
However, the the most exciting aspect was probably that we were able to show off the opening scenes of the game for the first time ever. It really gives the game a more cinematic experience and makes it feel like a real game. The opening scene gives a lot of the context for why you’re in these mines fighting monsters and how all of that came to be
The feedback from PAX East was truly fantastic and extremely reinvigorating. When you work on the same game for so long, you tend to notice all of the flaws, and for most of the last year, I was working on all of the technical plumbing and infrastructure that was super important but not fun in and of itself. It’s super gratifying to see people loving the game and totally getting your vision for it.
A couple weeks before PAX East, we were contacted by a group of gamers from Kuwait, of all places. They invited us to the small gaming convention they hold every year and told us that even though most people don’t realize it, there are a ton of passionate gamers in the Middle East. We took them up on their offer, and Dan spent a week out there.
It was definitely different from what we expected. In some ways, it was very similar to an American or European show. People were super knowledgeable about games, and Dan had lots of conversations about the games that inspired Chasm, including Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. There were cosplay contests and a fighting game tournament - with world-class players. Even the male:female ratio was comparable to what you’d see at PAX. A lot of stereotypes about the Middle East were challenged, to say the least!
In other ways, it was very different. Unlike Western shows, this event started at 5pm and went until midnight. There is no alcohol in Kuwait, so there were no after parties like you’d see at PAX. And for the fighting tournament, they had to get special permission to play DOA, since the scantily clad female characters are not officially allowed in Kuwait. Overall though, there is much more that unites us than divides us. We’re all hoping that the common language of videogames will serve as a bridge of understanding for our and future generations.