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!