Friday, 28 December 2018

The Goat Crone is out now!

Tales From The Outer Zone - Episode II: The Goat Crone

-An occult yule tale of family love and dark rituals.



Once more, the game was made for MAGS. This time with the theme of ..."Christmas" :-O
Play the game to see how I solved that problem..

The game is released and free to download here!


Wednesday, 28 November 2018

RADIOPHONE BROADCAST #4


!!! DESIGNING A GROTESQUE EXPERIENCE !!!


A lot has happened since my last post on this blog. The game has changed its working title to Mind Scanners, it has been re-designed, put into a new setting and the artstyle is completely different!
See the new version here.


BUT this radiophone broadcast will not be about that - this blog post will describe the development of the first version way back in April 2018. This post will tell the story of making this game:



House of Lunacy. Our first attempt of making a psychotherapy simulator.

After making two iterations of the game which did not work, we looked at our budget and saw that we only had one month left. So we needed to make a quick design decision and focus on what worked.

The setting went back to the turn of the century private asylum. 
The player was now able to commit up to three patients, and these would influence each other. Catty would lie about the other patients, Hendrick would eat the other patient's food and Damon would make death threats.



Our biggest design problem was how to design the choice of playing evil/good. We decided to have two different ways of treating the patients: an evil quick and dirty treatment and a slow, complicated and good treatment.

The three patients in the prototype needed a treatment for lying, over-consumption and a foul mouth. All symptoms concerned the mouth. The evil treatment was a grotesque surgical removal of their tongue. We talked a lot about the level of violence/gore of the game, and decided to go take the gore to the max and see what it did for the game.

Evil treatment


The good treatment (shown below) was more abstract - a sci-fi machine that removed the patient's symptom with light. In this treatment, the Radiophone dictated what buttons the player should push (like the game Spaceteam).

Good treatment

We wanted the player to work hard for being good, so the good treatment required a higher skillset and more resources. Too many games gives the player a choice of being good or evil, by a simple yes/no choice - but in reality, this is just choosing two different story paths. We want the good and evil to emerge from the player. By making the good path more difficult, the player must make a sacrifice to play good, and earn his/her status as "the hero".

For the artstyle I went for a high-res handrawn and skewed 2D style. The colors where dark and monotone, except the bright orange. Idea taken from Gideon Kiefer - our first reference.

Art style with orange as the only vivid color

Gideon Kiefer

As we needed to put some pressure on the player, we added action points and some management gameplay. Instead of going for a tycoon game (which would be a whole game in itself) we designed small "tasks" which required resources. To "Study", the player spent 1 action point in exchange for 1 XP. To "experiment" the player spent 1 action point, some money and risked the life of a patient to receive 10 XP. The level of XP would then unlock new treatments, story etc.

Management tasks

We even managed to add the feature of restraints. If the patiens got stressed, their symptoms would go up a notch, and become more difficult to handle. The player could avoid this by either putting a straight jacket on the patient, throwing the patient in a padded cell or drugging the patient. Drugging the patient would even make them drug addicts..

Restraints feature


Story encounters has always been an important mechanic in these kind of games. We wanted to let the player explore the house and have story encounters.

Exploring the house - story encounters.


When development time ran out, we had a playable prototype. All in all, the concept was great and the game actually worked. But there was this feeling that it still wasn't there..

The game was unnecessarily complicated and it felt too dark and depressing. And once again.. the main gameplay was a bit neglected. The examination of the patient was boiled down to a big chunk of text and the treatment was.. interesting, surely, but not fun to play. Damn it.

I can't say this enough times. A psychotherapy simulator is such a complicated thing to design!
The final game probably seems like it was designed in a week, but the road to that design has been.. crazy. There, I said it.

Fortunately we learned a lot while working on this prototype and the result made it much easier to test our game design theories and work out our next step. But when was the next step? 
The prototype was done and we had no more money, so Jesper had to jump to his other job to work full-time. 

I decided spent a month more on the game, preparing it for publishers, investors and applying for a new round of cultural funding. The next Radiophone Broadcast will be about that month (may 2018): business, social media and pitching for publishers.

Thank you and see you next time!
-Malte



Monday, 3 September 2018

NEW GAME RELEASE!!


TALES OF THE OUTER ZONE: CYBORG SEPPUKU



I made this point-and-click adventure game in only three weeks 
using AGS (Adventure Game Studio). 
It was a blast :D

It's a short cyberpunk adventure about marriage and selfdestruction.



Monday, 30 April 2018

RADIOPHONE BROADCAST #3



!!! ALL ABOARD !!!


Jesper and I moved into an office in Copenhagen together with three lovely game studios: Lohika (Machineers), PortaPlay (Tales From The Void) and Triband (Keyboard Sports and What the Golf?).

Finally we had a real office to work at. Though not the finest offices in the world, the place was perfect for us :)

Jesper busy at work.
And a lot of reference on the walls!

I'm not at work, but that's my office table.
And a Triband beer..



That's me (Malte) and my daughter Franka :)


In the first couple of months we tried out two different prototypes before making our current (3rd prototype). In the first prototype we focused on the house and how you could drag and drop patients into different rooms. The concept included a cross-section of the house which would probably look really good once fleshed out. Here is the placeholder:

Map of house (main menu).

Each room had a separate screen. In these screens you could perform different tasks. You paid rent and set the level of security in "The Lobby", gave out tasks to the nurse in "The Kitchen" and treated the patients in various "Treatment Rooms". We wanted the player to experience the atmosphere of the house by moving in and out of the rooms. This sounds nice as a concept. But it turned out it was way too complicated and took away from the core experience: treating and managing the patients.

Nurse duties.


We did include a treatment and an examination in the first prototype. The treatment worked ok, but not great. In order to start the treatment, a machine had to be set correctly according to the patient. When the machine was ready a patient-zapping minigame began.

Treatment


The examination was basically designed as an interactive interview. The player was to point-and-click through the room of the patient (all rooms were tailored to fit each patient), making the patient talk about his/her stuff. Hereby the player would gather information, enter the information in a strange device called "The Lunatron", resulting in the diagnose. Again this sounds quite nice on paper, but it was, once again.. too complicated! ...and boring.

Examination.


So we took a hard look at the game and ended up scrapping the whole thing and started from scratch.
Well not completely from scratch. We still had some functions that went on to the next prototype.
Including an "Start new day screen" in an office and an "End of day screen" which would include a dinner scene with the patients.

Office (begin new day)

Dinner scene (end day)

In our second prototype we focused on the characters. We still made use of the drag-drop system, but this time, the camera stayed outside the rooms, instead of entering the rooms.

We worked out a system where you had to drag and drop each character to a slot which activated a function. And we figured this would be a fitting system to put into a boat. So we went out to sea! Instead of a house, the asylum was now a ship which went from port to port gathering new patients.

2nd Prototype: Ship Map (main menu)




During this time, I also did some art tests to figure out the artstyle of the game. Here are some of the styles:
Big flat shapes.
Low res pixel art
Bright, clean and soft shaded with mild colors

Earth colored. Dark, horror and organic.


Skewed shapes. Patterns. One strong color.
This went into the 3rd prototype.

The job of the engineer was to move the ship forward, but if a machine broke down, the engineer would have to repair it - and the ship would lay still for a day. The nurse was making food, but if a patient room needed cleaning, you would do the food yourself. And so on. An interesting puzzle...


2nd Prototype.
Each character has a function.


But AGAIN.. we forgot the main deal: treating the patients.
Sure you could examinate and treat the patients, but the focus was on the ship-puzzle all the time and the patients became a secondary thing. Not good.
So again we threw that prototype in the trash and started anew.

The third prototype is our current one (as of April 2018). It is much closer to the original vision, but we are still not quite there. There is a stronger, more minimalistic design in there somewhere.. we just have to dig in and find it!

3rd prototype

The next Radiophone Broadcast will be about developing the third version of the prototype.




Thursday, 19 April 2018

EARLY PREVIEW TRAILER

! THE FIRST TRAILER IS OUT !

This is an early preview, so a lot will happen to the game throughout the rest of development.
All you see is work in progress.

Hope you like our direction so far..


Monday, 2 April 2018

TRYING OUT A NEW LOOK FOR THE GAME


I wanted the game to have stronger colors and put emphasis on the retro futuristic, mysterious and surreal aspects of the game. I intended to make it much brighter, but while working it got darker and darker. Guess it just fits the pulp style I was going for..



Tuesday, 27 March 2018

RADIOPHONE BROADCAST #2:



! DANISH GAME FUND IS FUNDING MYSTERIOUS ASYLUM !


My initial idea for House of Lunacy came at a visit to Museum Dr. Guislain in Gent, Belgium. The museum is placed at an old psychiatric hospital, and is dedicated to show the history of psychiatry along with an art gallery with works inspired by and made by, people with mental illnesses. The many strange devices, machines and methods used in the old days of psychiatry were an immediate inspiration.


Imagining the interaction with these bizarre instruments felt like a game to me. And not just interaction with machines. Interaction with people as well.


Diagnosing and treating patients are such manipulative actions. When we play with game characters, we are essentially playing with dolls. The pulling of strings, and discoveries made by doing so, triggers a natural stimuli - the curiosity of the human being. Exploring and manipulating the mind of another person and the responsibility that goes along with it makes the challenge naturally attractive.



So I began writing down the concept, trying to focus on manipulation of the patients. As I am an artist, my mind naturally drifted into story, atmosphere, specific scenes and how the whole thing should end and so on. Artsy stuff. I forgot about the most important part: the game.

I quickly restrained myself and started focusing on the essentials, which is a challenge when you have not designed a management game before. Though three things were clear: 1. The game would be closer to Paper’s Please than Theme Hospital. I wanted to focus on the patients, and not on the asylum. 2: The game was about ethical choices, and not about actual psychiatry. 3: The treatments had to be highly interactive, outrageous and out of this world.

An actual treatment - The Cat Piano

My game developer skills are very broad, but when it comes to programming I am a newbie, so I needed a coding partner. The person that came to mind was game designer Jesper Brun Halfter, a guy I met while studying game design at the university. He liked the idea and joined the project! Hurrah!


Early prototype for DFI
After a couple of meetings and a lot of beer, a small prototype was pitch-ready for the Danish game fund at DFI (Danish Film Institute). Thankfully, they loved the concept and gave us enough support to develop the idea, which led to these last four months. (We are currently seeking funding for the next step of development).

Next up, I will talk about moving into office and designing our first prototypes.

For diversity and the mind!
-        - Malte Burup