So we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of Weave to the Write, and lately for some reason I can’t get out of my head the second blog that I wrote for the Frederick News Post entitled “Angry Birds, 1 Billion Downloads and Nintendo?”.
I know it’s been nearly a year, but I’ll catch you up on the main premise behind it: with all of the success that Apple has had with iOS and launching a gaming revolution (and profits in the billions...with a “B”), why hasn’t Nintendo jumped on board, like many other developers, and established an App (or Apps) that provide their legacy titles on mobile devices? I still don’t see why this hasn’t happened.
But what has happened is that thousands of developers around the world have formed their own, independent companies that are now (and have been over the past few years) developing titles that pay homage to the NES games of yesterday. The latest one that has definitely caught my attention is currently on Kickstarter: Chasm from Discord Games in Baltimore, Maryland. Oh, and they’ve already got a free demo that you can play on either Windows, Mac or Linux.
It’s become a tradition here at Weave to the Write that when I see a great game that I want to know more about, I hunt down the development company and fire off some questions in their direction hoping for some information that will not only continue to fuel my fire to want to buy the game, but to also give you a little spark that will hopefully point you in the same direction (or not...depending on your tastes).
From the interview room at Weave to the Write Incorporated (which doesn’t currently exist and I’m not Incorporated), I questioned Mr. James Petruzzi, founder of Discord Games, about Chasm.
[W2W] Where did you get the idea for Chasm and why did you want to make this game?
[JP]The idea came to me when I was thinking about how cool it would be if Symphony of the Night wasn’t exactly the same every time you replay it. The first time you play the game, it’s awesome. You feel lost all the time, and have to explore and find every little secret. Unfortunately, after the first playthrough you know exactly where everything is, and a lot of that feeling is just gone. I wanted to make something similar, that would stay fresh for a long time to come. So really, Chasm was my answer to that problem.
[W2W] What other published games (no matter the size) have you worked on, and can you give some examples of how you have applied what you’ve learned to Chasm?
[JP]We also made 48 Chambers and Take Arms, both Xbox Live Indie Games titles. 48 Chambers didn’t see much success, but Take Arms has sold very steadily over the past 18 months. We learned a ton of invaluable lessons from both games, way more than I could ever put in words. Understanding scope and complexity of game designs is something you have to grow into, it isn’t something you can just ignore. To that effect, I think we’re finally ready for a big project like Chasm.
[W2W] Why Kickstarter.com?
[JP]It just makes the most sense for us. We spoke with some publishers that were interested, but our creative control and IP rights were challenged for deals. We’d rather stay true to our creative vision, and give our fans exactly what we want to make. By going with Kickstarter, the fans themselves fund the project, and leave us to make the game we all want to play.
[W2W] Why 16-bit?
[JP] It makes more sense for us as a small team to focus on smaller resolutions for less work. Also, I grew up with those style games so I have a real soft spot in my heart for them. I think pixel art, when done right, can just look incredible. It’s really an artform in its own where you’re challenged to represent complex visual designs with very few pixels.
[W2W] How did you decide on the soundtrack?
[JP] Our sound guy Jimi has done all the music for our previous games, so it was a given to stick with him for Chasm. We’re trying a lot of ideas here in the beginning to see what sticks, but we’re influenced by chiptune music, modern electronic, and even spaghetti westerns. Since the game takes place in a mining town, we’ve been focused on bringing a little western vibe to it. As the games identity grows, we’ll do our best to make sure we foster it and make it as unique as possible.
[W2W] Who does your writing for the game?
[JP] Jimi and I are working on the backstory, plot, and narrative flow. This is our first time tackling something this big so it’s pretty scary, but we think we have a great concept for the story that people will love.
[W2W] How did you approach designing each stage / floor?
[JP] We’re still fleshing out the later areas of the game, but the main mining town nestled in the mountains with its mine was a natural fit to the beginning of the story. After you venture through the mines, you will find the catacombs that lead into an ancient and mysterious temple buried deep underground. From there, you will explore the temple and just to figure out just what its purpose is.
[W2W] How did you come to choose the mountainous region of Karthas for the game?
[JP] The mining town of Karthas seemed like a good fit for the setting. It’s set almost 100 miles from the nearest settlement, almost completely cut off from the outside world. Once the mysterious quake occurs, the residents become trapped in the town and can’t leave for help. Tyrion (the main character) becomes trapped there after he passes through, and is the town’s only hope of returning to normalcy.
[W2W] The pixel art for the game is really spot on. Why did you choose to go with that type of artwork?
[JP] We’re trying to make a real retro throwback game, and pixel art is the best way to represent those games. By sticking with a low resolution (320x180), we’re able to capture the exact look of those old games on SNES.
[W2W] When you developed the game, what game engine(s) did you use and why? Also what other software packages did you use to develop the game; i.e., soundtrack / sound editing, art / graphical development, etc.?
[JP] The game engine and development tools are completely custom, and developed on top the XNA Framework. We use Visual Studio for coding, SVN for code repository, and then audio/visual tools like Photoshop, Logic, etc. to produce the assets.
[W2W] Will the game include day-to-night progression?
[JP] We’ve actually been thinking about it, but it’s too early to say. Hopefully!
[W2W] Will you ever have the opportunity to have a companion in the game; i.e., a wolf, a dog, a hawk, etc.?
[JP] Yea, we’ll definitely have a couple familiars to help you out. They will follow you, attack enemies, and level up just like you do to become stronger. They will probably be flying ones since platforming in these kinds of games is tough. We have a special Blue Canary familiar in the Kickstarter as a thank you to backers.
[W2W] Will you only be able to buy better weapons and equipment or will you be able to upgrade the current equipment that you have?
[JP] You’ll definitely be able to enchant weapons with Scrolls of Enchantment, but whether there’s a full upgrade system, we’re still undecided.
[W2W] Will there be multiple endings or is the game linear?
[JP] There may be multiple endings, that’s something we haven’t decided yet.
[W2W] Do you have anything to add that you feel readers will want to know about your game?
[JP] We can use everyone’s help right now with both the Kickstarter campaign (which ends on Sunday, May 12, 2013), and our Greenlight page to get on Steam. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.
I think that pretty much sums it up. Please support Discord Games and Chasm through their Kickstarter campaign and on Steam’s Greenlight. This game is looking to be an instant classic when it it finally released later this year.
Please let me know your thoughts about Kickstarter, the rebirth of pixelated games in this generation of gaming and any other thoughts that you have from playing the free demo of Chasm which you can find here in the comments section below. And as always, thank you for all of your support. Weave to the Write wouldn’t be what it is without all of the great support that I’ve received to date!!