Archive for August, 2011

Diary Of A Madman #4

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Whew, this has been one crazy week! So many things to discuss… It’s either complete months of silence or one week of grinding news (and there’s still more to come). Of course, the most noteworthy event was the first gameplay video from Asylum. This was raw, unadulterated in-game footage with the exception of a few crossfades. If I have to be honest, I was very nervous about this video; I had a hard time capturing the footage, squeezing an annoying 50fps out of my CPU (and yes, those 10 frames short of the golden 60 make a huge difference). On top of that, the entire footage amounted to 8 gigs so it wasn’t precisely lightweight. Converting those to a more reasonable size was another world of pain.

But my real qualm was the actual video. After watching it a few dozen times, I realized it was lacking. There are tons of things that could have been improved but fans were threatening our lives for some new material, so I said to myself what the heck and pulled the plug. One hour later I was literally floored by the positive reactions: retweets, likes, pluses, mails, forum posts… 99% of people have been equally delighted and scared by this video. Since several hundred folks can’t be lying together at the same time, I guess it was fine after all. And we have many features that didn’t make it and will enhance the atmosphere even more… For example, falling dust. I couldn’t get this to work on Windows in time and it’s a shame because this small addition is very effective. It gives the game a considerably stronger 3D feel. Also, those of you who loved the animated skies in Scratches are in for a treat as we’re working on some groovy and scarifying nighttime scenes.

Speaking of 3D, many people was expectedly disappointed to learn that Asylum is node-based (even though I have repeatedly stated this was the case). Yes, I know that fully 3D is nice and modern but there are several reasons why this wasn’t going to work in Asylum. In truth, there’s only one major reason: it doesn’t need to be in 3D. This isn’t a FPS where the environments are secondary to the gameplay. Those games don’t require players to explore every nook and cranny of a location, or carefully look for hints, for example, on a desk. Therefore, they can get away with repetitive scenes, reused props, and stuff. Players don’t spend so much time on these scenes; they either kill or run and move on.

Things are extremely different in a game like Asylum. Each single room matters and even the bathrooms are brimming with details. Of course we repeat some things, if not we wouldn’t ever finish the game, but the level of detail required is several notches above full 3D games. This is why the exploration part in Asylum will be so lifelike and intriguing. Going realtime 3D is simply out of our league because of budget and time constraints, but even if we had the resources, Asylum doesn’t need it.

Let me also state that the walking in the video was intentionally slow and that you can move much faster in the actual game. There’s also plenty of freedom in choosing your direction; everything is highly non-linear. Finally, as someone stated in our YouTube channel, the discrete movement makes the game feel even scarier. And I definitely agree.

One tiny little thing that also worried me from the video is the breathing effect that can be heard on the background. Not the one when the protagonist is startled but a constant breathing. Apparently this wasn’t very noticeable as nobody mentioned it. We’re still ironing out this detail; one of our goals is to make the central character always very present, and the effect fits. Add to this many thoughtful comments and you have a very fleshed out and intriguing character. That said, the breathing shouldn’t be annoying and I feared the gameplay video would give the wrong impression. This wasn’t the case fortunately, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts.

This is already a lengthy post so I’ll save for the next update comments about the animations (did you catch the ocean through the window in the hallway?) and visuals. In the meantime, because you have been such a great audience, I leave you these renderings of the Asylum in all its raw glory. Yes — you get to explore it. Every nook and cranny of the place.