Loving Adventure Games
I love games. I love them all, board games, party games, drinking games and of course video games, but nothing gets me addicted like a point and click adventure game.
I am a fan of a good story and no matter if it's an RPG game or a platformer, if there is no story I get bored, and that is why I enjoy adventure games so much. Everything revolves around a good story in a point and click adventure game and its mechanics and design need to be done always with the goal of enhancing that experience to the player. I still remember the first time I played a point and click adventure game. It was Ron Gilbert's (bow with respect) Secret of Monkey Island.
I remember being initially disappointed with the game as I played the first initial scenes with my brother. I was used to other genres at the time (this was 1990) but as I progressed, stubborn to not let my allowance go to waste I began to experience something quite magical. Soon I got under the skin of this wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood and excitedly made my way to uncover the "Secret of Monkey Island" (TM!).
Unfortunately the genre became dead for quite some time whilst people became more interested in fast paced games, but with the power of platforms like Kickstarter we have started seeing the resurrection of the genre, with some recent gems like Timbleweed Park.
An idea was born
Fast forwarding to 2013, after playing thousands of adventure games in my life I started entertaining this crazy idea: "What if I made an indie point and click adventure game?" When I studied Computer Science game development was complicated. Game engines were inaccessible, you had to code raw programming languages, no nice frameworks around then. And distribute a game? Good luck with that. But now we have tools like Unity and Unreal Engine, easily available to anyone, open distribution channels like Steam, Appstore and Google Play and the power of internet at our fingertips, allowing people to connect to each other. It's the era of indie games.
So I started playing with this idea in my head about an indie point and click adventure set in a future time where humankind has successfully destroyed itself only to slowly get back on it's feet but forgetting not just the science but also the mystical. A story of a boy embarking on an epic quest.
I knew I couldn't do this alone but I also knew there was no shortage of people with "great ideas" that die soon after to become nothing at all. Being a software engineer and solutions architect by trade, I brought to life many large scale digital projects and I know it all starts with a good understanding of what we are trying to do, so I started working on a Game Design Document.
Took me around 3 years to get that document finished. It was just a hobby, something in my spare time between my family, my music and my work but I finally had a comprehensive guide with the entire story outline, the characters the puzzles and a linear walkthrough of the game. It was during this time that I brought my brother on board who is as passionate about the genre as I am and grew up with me playing adventure games. He is also a software developer so the extra pair of hands would come in handy when got to the implementation of this idea.
Experimenting with Game Engines
It was also during these 3 years that I started looking into how to bring this to life. My first experiment was done with a 2D engine called Visionaire Studio where I collated a bunch of Google images and One Piece characters to get a proof of concept. It's SO funny looking at it now:
The issue with 2D was that it was very hard for us to get anything done without an artist and although we knew we would need help on that eventually we wanted to get some sort of prototype. So we started looking into 3D tools and finally made the decision on Unity. It was well supported, fairly mainstream and I had a choice of multiple programming languages one of which C# which I was quite familiar with.
In the same way I did a prototype for Visionaire, I created one for Unity. Since Unity had a nice terrain building tool I managed to get a part of the Island exactly with the layout I wanted. By this time I was fairly enamoured with the flat color low poly style and I had never seen anything like that in a point and click adventure game so that became my reference for visual style. Also on the plus side I thought it would make things easier when getting artists as we wouldn't have to worry about textures or high poly assets.
This is how the initial prototype looked it (again, laugh):
Although it looks like shit I know, it got us pretty excited. I mean, it started looking like a game! I remember many games from my childhood that didn't look nearly as good as this but were heaps of fun, right? So we kept on playing with it, experimenting new concepts and playing with how to implement adventure mechanics into Unity. My brother João was a big help here as he could get this process going whilst I was focusing on finishing the game design document.
Finally we landed on a definite proof of concept with some placeholder art. Still looked like crap but we had finally got to cover basic mechanics and were now ready to actually building the game. Here is a sample from a cutscene of that basic proof of concept:
Building a team
It was pretty much at this stage that our game design document finished (2016) and so we started looking for people to help us on this journey. We had a proof of concept that showed we could build the mechanics. We had a Game Design. We needed art and music.
I started posting on forums, recruiting for artists that were interested in this. It wasn't about money, or fame and glory. We wanted to make an indie point and click adventure game! The first to get in touch was Joshua, a young aspiring 3D artist living in the UK. He started helping us with some level design, working in Blender doing some buildings, basic props, etc, enough for us to start building some actual game.
Then came Kevin, a music student from Puerto Rico with some pretty cool 3D skills. He became responsible for modelling our chars using sculpting techniques. And finally we met Richard an extremely talented music producer, composer and musician from the UK that helped us with music and sound design.
We finally started building some game! Soon we had stuff like this:
We made some progress but very slowly and the bottleneck was clearly in the art department. Me, João and Richard eventually became sort of the "core" team and although we managed to get stuff done fairly quickly the art was moving on slowly and a year had passed.
Eventually Joshua and Kevin moved on but in any case they were a very important part of this project and we wouldn't have been where we are at if it wasn't for their help.
The Seven Tides Team - Where we are at
After some good searching we came across Mark and Perry.
Mark is a very talented (and ridiculously fast) 3D modeller from Wales and Perry is a Concept artist from China.
Since they joined things took on a new level. We decided to go back and redo everything in the way we always envisioned things to be. In this sort of tropical setting, with a man made, imperfect style but still using the flat colour low poly approach. With Perry on board we got the luxury of having concepts to bring the environment to life and that made a world of difference (love those bamboo lamps bud).
In a couple of months Mark pumped through more than what we had taken a year to do! His work was just amazing and really faithful to the tone we had envisioned.
We are now looking for a character modeller to join our team to pick up where Kevin left off so if you thinking you have what it takes have a look at our position description here.
We also learned much along the way, teaching us what a proper development workflow looks like.
Here are some screens of the rework of the old stuff we had, but feel free to check our gallery for more:
Follow us on our journey
Now that we have things moving in a proper pace we want to invite everyone to follow us along on our journey. There are no secrets.
We want to share it all with you guys, from concepts to rough mockups and initial scenes. This is a once in a lifetime experience and we want to share it with everyone that is interested.
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Stay tuned for more!