Last month Dan announced that we hit a major milestone. Rough cut 1 is complete! What that means is that Chasm is fully playable from beginning to end. That might not seem like much, but it’s a huge milestone for us and one definitely worth celebrating!
Chasm is a bit of a weird game. On the one hand, there’s a storyline to it – a storyline we’ve kept pretty quiet about. On the other, because of the procedurally generated world maps, each player’s playthrough can be quite different from anyone else’s. The entire team has spent the last month playing from beginning to end and identifying what needs to be fixed. The good news is that, aside from quirks here and there, the game is performing as expected. No one is getting to a point where they’re blocked from moving forward, and everyone is able to get to the end. In addition, we've began analyzing the mechanics, enemies, area layouts, dungeon generation, music, and much more to figure out what is working and what still needs to be improved.
We've also begun the hard task of tuning of the game, which consists of setting enemy stat data (like Level, XP, HP, attack ratings, etc), dungeon lengths and difficulty, player leveling rate, amount of gold and items received, amount of enemy spawns, and much more. In order to facilitate this difficult and time consuming work, Tim has been developing a metrics component for the game that records player data and uploads it to our server for analysis. Using custom data views, we can easily spot trouble areas and then correct them. For example, the graph above shows some play data from the first couple areas of the game. You can see that the Level line flattens out around the 1 hour mark, so we know at that part of the game the enemy data needs fixed. It won't be a quick process to get things perfectly tuned, but we're already making great progress towards it.
We've also been working on a lot of the secondary systems, as well as advanced scripting tools. We'll have some more updates next month on some changes for the play systems, but today we'd like to show you one of the newer features we've added that allows NPCs to navigate difficult terrain. The example above shows one of our tests rooms with a path we drew out for Basden to reach the top block. The path functionality makes it possible for us to create scripted sequences that require NPCs to do more complex tasks than just run in a straight line.
We’ve also got the fun task ahead of us of putting in lots of secrets throughout the game. Above you can see a prototype we created for what we call secret nooks. These secret areas are hand placed into the rooms by us, and when a new game is started it's randomized which ones are used and which are blocked off. The curious player may find extra treasure chests, elixirs or even unlockables like extra profile icons in these secret areas.
On a broader level, right now pretty much every room is required to get to the end, but my favorite aspect of Metroidvania’s is the reward for exploring and finding the hidden stuff. The team is sick of me talking about the example of the Holy Glasses in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. If you explore and find the gold ring and the silver ring (neither of which are required, but require even more items to obtain), you can get the Holy Glasses. When you fight the “final” boss (Richter) while wearing the Holy Glasses, it turns out that he’s just being possessed. Discovering that secret reveals an entirely new mode to the game. Now that the core of the game is done, albeit in need of some more testing and balancing, we’re all talking about ideas of what kind of special things we can add to encourage that additional level of exploration. After all, the whole point of Chasm is for the biggest fans to be able to play an entirely new world every time they start up a new game, so we want to make sure there’s lots of good reasons to explore!
Trade Show Season
Basically March through September is trade show season. Starting with GDC in March, followed by PAX East, the season continues with shows like E3, PAX Prime, and dozens more. Fortunately, Dan’s been jetting around the country attending many of these shows on the team’s behalf, so we’re able to maintain a presence without taking too much time away from development. At E3, Devolver and the Indie Megabooth folks were kind enough to include us in the Indie Megatrailer:
We were able to block off some time and invite press to come by and check out the demo. Dan also did a video stream, but due to technical difficulties, it’s not entirely clear whether anyone saw it! Dan assures us he was brilliant.
In a couple months we’ll be at PAX in Seattle again. Because PAX is all about the fans, I think it’s important that not only Dan, but Tim and I also go out there. We’ll have more details next month about where exactly to find us, but if you’re a backer (or even if you’re reading this and you’re not a backer) we’d love if you stopped by and said hi. Your support is what’s keeping all of us going!