…AND WHEN THE DUST SETTLES…
We did it. We released a game! STASIS hit the digital shelves in late 2015. The culmination of thousands of hours, sleepless nights, copious amounts of coffee, and more than a few good old emotional breakdowns. After its release, it felt like a weight was lifted from one of my shoulders and then promptly shifted onto the other!
Patches, user support, interviews, marketing, and then more patches – in a way it felt when the game was complete the real work could start. And start it did! Nic and Kristal did masterful jobs at keeping everything afloat while I attempted some sort of emotional recovery from the 2 years of crunch time I’d just gone through.
I’ve heard people say ‘never read internet comments‘ and I ignored them. I can tell you that I obsessively googled STASIS for weeks after the launch and still find myself doing searches now. It’s hard not to.
We made STASIS for people to play and for people to enjoy. To publish it and then move onto something else instantly just seemed so…heartless. Thankfully, players loved it.
The feedback we got was excellent and I took it all in, both good and bad. I’ve read every Steam comment, thousands of forum replies, and hundreds of reviews. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube Let’s Plays and Twitch steams (even those in languages I don’t understand). I’ve consumed the feedback from STASIS like a dying man who finds an oasis, and it’s been thirst-quenching, even with the occasional mouthful of dirt.
STASIS is a game that we’re incredibly proud of. I personally grew more as an artist in the last 2 years of solid development, than I have in the previous 10 years of doing it professionally. And after all of that, what did we decide to do? Yep, we decided to do it all again.
The Brotherhood is now running as a full time development studio. We can officially call ourselves game developers with a straight face and an enormous sense of pride! We asked ourselves, “where to from here?” as we’d already completed much of the graphic content for the Cayne chapter so that was the most logical thing to tackle… but we aren’t people who take the easy route for anything. So we made the difficult decision to build Cayne from the ground up, and apply all of the lessons we’d learned from STASIS to create the best experience we can.
While STASIS provided a foundation for our future projects, Cayne will most certainly be providing the brick and mortar. We’re going to use Cayne to test out new ideas, technologies, and a new workflow that has both Nic and I working full time.
Our future games will be created around this core, and what we have coming up is going to astound, disgust, and amaze you.
WHAT ARE WE DOING DIFFERENTLY?
STASIS started off as a hobby project, and during production much time was spent trying to get things working. While I wouldn’t consider this time wasted (I discovered a lot of ways how NOT to do things), we’re going into this new chapter with a better knowledge of how our future games need to be put together.
The interface, for example, appears simple, but it took countless iterations to get the workings and feel we wanted. We can now take that R&D time and funnel it into other aspects.
While the 2D characters in STASIS were wonderful, we want our next games to use a 2.5D system with 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D characters. This allows us to have smooth transition animations and an unlimited number of directions for the character. More importantly, it eliminates a step that was needed when getting the characters into the game.
In STASIS, I needed to animate everything, render it out, set it up in a scene, tweak it, re-adjust if necessary, re-render, tweak… This process took an enormous amount of time with the results sometimes being less than satisfactory. By using 3D characters that are rigged with bones, I can animate and import them directly into the game and see what adjustments need to be made.
I can’t explain how satisfying it is to see something in-engine a few seconds after I’ve finished the animation. Less time spent with the technicalities of importing into the engine means more time spent on getting the movement and animation flawless.
Lighting was a challenge in STASIS because it required more planning for even the most basic ‘special’ lighting. A scene had to be constructed in After Effects before it got added into the engine which allowed for almost no iterative design adjustment when it was in. How it came out in render was how it looked in the game.
In Cayne, we’re using Normal Maps and other techniques to get more dynamic lighting. Shader systems allow us to tint the scenes and adjust the mood of the rooms in real time, again allowing a more fluid nature to the games creation. Seeing adjustments to the game as you play it is both satisfying and helpful from a design standpoint. ‘The freedom to experiment’ is SO important in art, and using new systems allows us flexibility, especially where we can overlap the technical expertise with the artistic vision.
I want to push the design of Cayne into new directions. Cayne will portray more of Nic and my personal game styles – in all aspects, from the story to characters and environments. We want to bring in something slightly different to STASIS universe to challenge ourselves. But Cayne is set in the same universe, so we aren’t going to stray too far from our 80s roots.
The work we’re doing will hopefully blow your minds, because the passion is palpable and the excitement we have for the future is tangible. It’s going to be a wild ride.