Once again, we were fortunate enough to be invited to E3 in Los Angeles to show off Chasm on the PS4! We had a great time last year, and thanks to our new biz/marketing guy Dan Adelman this one was even bigger and better. Our schedule was jam packed every day with interviews, events, and livestreams to attend.
All in all, it was a great experience for us. Since we all work remotely it was actually the first time many of us had hung out together in real life. We had a great time catching up, the press really seemed to enjoy the new build (we even won a couple of awards including an Editor's Choice award from Metroidvania-aficionado Jeremy Parish!), and we got to meet a lot of fans and backers as well. Here are a few pictures from the trip:
After a brief respite, we're back at work again and more inspired than ever. Everyone is fully focused on content creation now, so things are starting to come together quickly. Stay tuned for a first look at some brand new content next month!
This month marks the two year anniversary since Chasm was successfully Kickstarted, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to recap the ups and downs of the past two years, while also catching you up on what's been happening more recently. So settle in, and let's jump back in time to just after the Kickstarter ended.
After the insanity of the Kickstarter campaign in May 2013, we got a couple of weeks rest and put together the schedule for the year. That summer was spent entirely in pre-production working on the story, deciding on the major areas and bosses, getting our new level editor working, and prototyping powerups and special abilities. We also wanted to get the physical rewards out of the way, so we had them printed and shipped out to backers in July. That same month, pixel artist Dan Fessler joined the team taking over lead background art duties from Tony Redmer since he was about to go off to college and wouldn't have as much time to dedicate to the project.
By September 2013 we felt like we had the basic story and design figured out, so we started working on an improved version of the Mines for the final game. Little did we know, we were about to run into the biggest challenge of Chasm's development: how exactly do you make a great procedurally-generated Metroidvania? We were unhappy with the floor-based linear structure of the original prototype, so we set out to improve it with more backtracking and a maze-like feel inspired by Super Metroid.
After a couple of months of work, the new maze-style dungeons were working as planned and we prepped a new demo that we took to MAGFest in January 2014. It received good feedback from the attendees, but it wasn't clear to us just how many problems it had until we watched Northernlion play it later that month. We began dissecting his video bit by bit, analyzing every second of footage to figure out why it wasn't meeting our expectations. We realized there were some major problems with the pacing, the maze-like dungeons having no direction, and the gimped difficulty that helped avoid the inconvenient death system.
Unfortunately, there were no easy answers to most of these issues.
Meanwhile, we knew we had to get a final logo and promo art done to start building some brand recognition. We went through hundreds of portfolios before we ran into Gilang Andrian's. Once we saw his style, we knew he was the perfect artist to tackle the box art. Our fan art contest winner Terry Mack also created a new vector-based logo for both print and web.
In February 2014 we attended Indiecade East in New York City, and demoed the game at the Show & Tell on the second day. It was a struggle to the last minute to prep a new demo that worked for the short time-slot, but we pulled it off and had a great time. At the end of the month, we had to accept that the game wouldn't be out on time, and made the hard decision to announce the delay to "Fall 2014". We were terrified of backlash from the fans, but everyone was incredibly supportive and urged us to keep pushing onward.
In March 2014 we participated in the Indie Megabooth at PAX East, and it was a crazy experience! It was our first real convention with a 10x10' booth all to ourselves and thousands of people stopping by to play the game. We did a bunch of interviews, met a lot of fans and Kickstarter backers, and learned more about promoting and conventions.
Tension was starting to mount as we approached the one year mark with a game we weren't truly happy with, but after settling back in after PAX East in April 2014 things finally started to click. We began to understand why the pacing was off, why the exploration felt overwhelming and unrewarding, and why it wasn't as fun or challenging as it should be. We came up with a completely new approach to area dungeons that we called Sub-areas. We felt confident it would fix the major problems that were identified in the MAGFest demo so we got to work on prototyping it.
While in the midst of that, the Indiecade trip a couple months earlier suddenly paid off when Sony contacted us and said they wanted Chasm on PS4. We were invited to demo the game at Sony's E3 booth that June, with the stipulation that the game had to be running on actual PS4 hardware. We gladly accepted the challenge, and while working on the new dungeon generator we also began tackling the PS4 port.
Luckily, things came together quickly, and we got the E3 demo submitted just in time. It was a great trip out to LA in June 2014 and was really nice to get away from development for a week, get some perspective on things, and meet some awesome people like Tom Happ from Axiom Verge.
Since we were already past our projected release date and pleased with the results of the new dungeon generator, we decided to just try to get the Alpha out as soon as possible. For the remainder of the summer we worked our hardest on getting the game into a playable state, which culminated with the first Alpha release in September 2014. To our relief, the testers really seemed to like it! Many commented on how awesome the world and dungeon generation felt, but it still had a multitude of other issues like extreme difficulty, platforming & combat imbalance, the incompatible Dark Souls-inspired systems, and low reward frequency.
From October 2014 through February 2015 we continued to work with the community to refine the Alpha to a point where everyone felt it was fun. We introduced completely new systems like the elemental weapon gems and Chirpy, changed some like the Altars and enemy behaviors, and removed others like the Dark Souls-inspired Essence system. Once we felt like the Alpha was good enough, we had a difficult decision to make: do we keep trying to piecemeal things out to Alpha backers, or take a step back and focus on the game as a whole? We felt the latter was the better approach, and decided to pull the plug on the Alpha.
One unexpected benefit of the Alpha release was that it managed to catch the attention of former Nintendo-exec turned Indie-Marketing-&-Biz-guy Dan Adelman. In December 2014 he joined the team to help out with business and marketing, freeing us to focus more on the game.
In February 2015 we attended Indiecade East once again. It was really weird going back a year later with the luxury of a Sony kiosk set up for us right in the main area for all 3 days, when we had to do it true indie-style the year before and haul a laptop and monitor up on a train for an hour-long Show & Tell!
With the Alpha complete, the next phase of our plan kicked off in March 2015. The goal was to get the skeleton assembled for the remainder of the game with every major character, plot point, and setpiece put in the game. This process included doing final revisions to the script and characters, adding a new intro area, finishing drafts of every area's graphics and music, sketching the remainder of the setpieces for the artists, and designing the area layouts and major puzzles for the second half of the game. We just wrapped up that process this past week, and it's left us in a great place where you can finally run through the entire game, from the brand new beginning to the end credits, albeit in a rough form.
Now that the skeleton is done, our goal is to finish the core content of the game over the next few months before we begin polishing. We still have a lot of enemies, minibosses, rooms, items, sidequests, and various challenges to design and program. We want the game to be jam packed full of content, so we're not sure exactly how long that process will take.
(Draft of Outpost theme)
As everyone knows, we've been wrong twice already with projected release dates, so we're just saying "when it's done" until we have something more accurate to share with you. Thanks to everyone's patience we've been able to take the time needed to fully explore ideas and make Chasm the best game it can be, but we hope you can hang in there just a little longer so we can finish it in the same manner.
Hopefully this recap gave you a little better idea of the long journey we've been on since the Kickstarter ended two years ago. While we've completed a ton of new stuff in the past few months, we hope you can understand that we're not ready to start revealing it just yet. Stay tuned for this summer as we start releasing the first looks at new artwork, music, enemies, and more. Thank you again from all of us for your continued support and the amazing opportunity you've given us!
We've been incredibly busy this past month working away on the game, but we're happy to report that things are progressing smoothly! With the Alpha completed and all the design problems out of the way, we've been able to dedicate 100% of our energy on content. We were planning on doing a big production update this month for everyone, but there are so many things wrapping up in the next few weeks that we thought it would make more sense to just hold off until next month.
In the meantime, here's a look at a few cool things we've been working on:
Achievements are now working on all platforms, both Steam and DRM-free! The framework has been set up and the unlocks work, so we're basically just down to creating the list itself. We're looking forward to brainstorming some fun and challenging feats for you to perform! (original GIF if you can't see image)
Secret areas have been prototyped! We went back and forth on how to do them for a while, but we ended up with something inspired by one of our favorite series about an Italian plumber. Walls, floors, and ceilings can be fake, and you can move behind them to discover hidden treasure and passage-ways! (original GIF if you can't see image)
We've been thinking about fancier transitions for a while now, so we tried out something reminiscent of some of our favorite 16-bit games. What do you think? (original GIF if you can't see image)
If you haven't had a chance to check out anything about Chasm recently and don't have a lot of time, definitely check out Super Pawsitive's brief 5 minute review of the Alpha. He does a great job quickly encapsulating how the game plays, and showing off a lot of the stuff you can do in the early version!
Gamespot highlighted a few games from this year's GDC MIX event on their on their livestream, and Chasm was among them! In this clip, Chasm biz man Dan Adelman talks about the game while Axiom Verge creator Tom Happ plays the demo!
We've gotten a lot of feedback about the final Alpha update from the community over the past couple weeks, and we're very happy to report that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive! It's a huge relief to know that we've finally gotten the game to a place where everyone feels that it's not only fun and exciting, but also very close to what we originally promised. We really appreciate everyone's patience and help during this long and difficult process.
We've released a few patches in the past couple weeks with various bugs fixes and improvements, and just yesterday we just pushed out 0.53. We've fixed every reported bug and things are very stable now, so we've decided to call it the final Alpha patch. It's hard for us to walk away from the Alpha, but we know it's time for us to move on and finish up the rest of the game. Here are the past few change-logs since the 0.5 release:
0.53 Change-list (Final)
Fixed possible crash when backing up from 3rd option on Crone or Blacksmith shop menu and pressing Confirm
Fixed Critical Hits not working for Cut damage weapons
Fixed foreground decorations covering button label in Catacomb lock room
Fixed Candles appearing in front of Shrines
Fixed game showing as Normal if you start Hardcore game and quit before first Campfire
Changed music to fade low on pause
Added deer back in (!)
Tweaked Wraith sound effects and positioning
Tweaked Keep prison and Catacomb tutorial sections
Fixed crash when creating a new save where outdated save file is
Fixed not being able to sell a non-equipped item if you have the same kind equipped
Fixed Skeleton's boomerang disappearing after returning sometimes
Fixed Maggot flash if you hit him when you first enter
Changed Boss doors to not open until you pick up their crystal
Changed magic weapons to not die when hitting lanterns
Fixed bug where endcap rooms were treated as branches in dungeons
Fixed bug in dungeon generator that would sometimes leave unblocked doorways to nothing
Fixed crash when backing out of Potion menus and then selecting one
Fixed Elemental FX on knife and two-hand
Swapped green and purple gold bag colors
Limited Altars to items from their respective area
Removed tier 3 items from Scavenger
Reduced mana potion price to 50 gold
Fixed Boomerang being included in random treasure chests
Fixed Wraith materializing with hands in ceiling and set minimum distance when teleporting
Indiecade East 2015
We're returning to Indiecade East this weekend for the second year in a row! Last year we hauled our equipment up for a one hour slot in the Show and Tell (and met the Sony reps that would eventually hook us up with PS4 devkits), and this year James Petruzzi (Director) and Tim Dodd (Programmer) will be there Saturday and Sunday representing the Chasm kiosk featured in Sony's PS4 section. What a difference a year can make! If you're in the NYC area please stop by the Museum of the Moving Image and check out the new Chasm demo. If you're a member of the press and would like to meet up for an interview, please schedule some time to meet with us.
PC Gamer Feature
Chasm was picked as one of PC Gamer's four under-the-radar games to watch for in 2015! They requested some new 1080P footage for the piece, so we recorded a couple minutes of gameplay from the latest Alpha for them. It's a big honor to be featured by a publication we've been reading since we were kids!
As of this week, the entire team has transitioned back into new content creation. We've got a couple tilesets to finish up, a few more songs to record, a couple more bosses to design, and a whole bunch more enemies, platforming challenges, and puzzles to program and animate. We'll be working as hard as we can to finish up the core content this spring to put us in position for the final lap this summer. We're super excited for everyone to see beyond the Catacombs, so stay tuned for the next production update in March!
Hello again everyone! We're excited to announce that Chasm Alpha 0.5 is finally coming on January 28th for our Early Access backers. This last Alpha update was a long time coming, and we want to apologize for the wait. We decided to make some final changes to the gameplay after analyzing the feedback our amazing Early Access backers gave us, and it took a bit longer than expected to get it out the door.
It was a hard decision to go back to the drawing board on some different facets of the game instead of moving on, but we feel that what we have now is finally up to our expectations and much closer to our initial vision. It was also important for us to get things right so we can move on to the final content push without worrying about systems changing. We think the Alpha access phase was a huge success, and we can't thank everyone enough for participating and giving their honest feedback!
While there's hundreds of small changes, the biggest differences between 0.4 to 0.5 are:
Changed Essence back to classic XP and Gold currency systems.
Changed Level Ups to happen automatically with health refill & random stat increases for auto-balancing.
Changed dying in Normal mode to require loading last save file.
Changed save system to PSX-style slot system with animated profile icons (more unlockables!).
Changed NPCs so all except Crone are captured when you first arrive in town and must be rescued.
Changed Innkeeper to collect Treasure, will reward you with Elixirs for so many pieces of treasure turned in.
Changed Spells to scale with player's power and stay useful as you progress. Gotta collect them all!
Changed Scavenger to always be in Save Rooms after rescuing him.
Changed Altars to only have one item, priced at extreme discount for blind buy.
Added 5 types of elemental Gems (Ruby/Fire, Sapphire/Ice, Topaz/Lightning, Emerald/Poison, Diamond/Holy) with various quality levels (Chipped, Flawed, etc) that can be added to weapons and armor to customize gear (ie. Fire Chain Whip or Holy Brass Knuckles).
Added more portals to areas and removed inter-Area portal travel.
Added canary NPC that will carry you back to town from Save Rooms, and vice versa.
Added breakable Hanging Lights that provide player with Mana for magic weapons and Gold drops.
Added progressive enemy respawning in previously cleared rooms.
Added Shrines back into the game with several types (temporary stat buffs, restore health/mana, Gem, etc.)
Added Undead Crusader enemy and Wraith miniboss to Catacombs.
Added new hint to Catacombs puzzle and fixed symbols causing unintended confusion.
Added new Magic Molotov spell.
Added new game intro.
Added base support for Marcel's Fan Translation tool.
Removed plant ingredients. Finding Recipes unlocks new potions in Crone's shop.
Improved game text with single sans-serif font family for visual consistency.
Improved dialogue and note text with custom formatting, keyword highlighting and new graphics.
Improved area layouts and pacing.
Improved parallax depth effect.
Improved dungeon generation with stronger core paths and less long branches to dead ends.
Improved combat with new enemy strafe behaviors and more combat areas.
Improved Pause menu design and function.
We're going to throw a little celebration for the Alpha release on January 27th at 9:30 PM EST on our Twitch channel. We'll have the team there to answer your questions, and also be giving out prizes so be sure to stop by and say hi!
We'll have a production update here in a couple weeks looping everyone in on where things are in the broader scheme of things, so stay tuned. As always, thanks so much for your support and patience!