So I’ve already established who the team is and how excited we were to work on Argonus. The vision of the game and Sarah’s design wasn’t the issue. Neither was the vision that Adam had for art, Rich for music or Thayne for code. The first hurdle we faced was what we were going to design the game for.
For an indie title, Shadowgate had done fine on Steam. It was published by ReverbXP and they did a nice job of getting it out there. I decided that I would publish Argonus but we needed to decide what platform we were going to focus on. I have a friend who was doing quite well with adventure games on tablets and I was leaning toward them right when we started the project. That also happened to be when Shadowgate was released on iOS. So for a little while we were building the game so that it worked well on tablets. This primarily came in two forms: art and movement.
We were already committed to making the game in 3D so Adam began creating the environments and models and optimizing them to work on tablets. I was a bit worried about movement on the tablets so I designed an elaborate ‘rail’ system that the player would move on. Basically moving from key locations on the map (nodes) via a predetermined rail system.
Well, both of these things went by the wayside rather quickly. Shadowgate was selling just okay on iOS and that kind of put a damper on things. I mean, unless you have a AAA title, sell the game for $1 or have in game transactions, it’s a hard space to compete in. So, we did a bit of a 180 (not quite) and Adam juiced up the polys on the models and we nixed this rails idea and went full first-person character movement. Oh, and we would concentrate completely on PC.
The next hiccup came in the animation phase of the project. This is where Lou, Joel and Hieu came in. Rigging and animating our initial characters. I asked them to animate the characters as if they were stop motion animation. I was trying to get that great Harryhausen vibe. So they did just that, animating it completely and then dropping frames as they went to give it a bit of a jerky look to them. Then I showed it to people and these were their responses… 1) What’s wrong with your PC? Can’t it keep up with the frame rate? 2) Maybe you should get some different animators. 3) Is that intentional? So, we scrapped the idea of emulating stop motion pretty soon after that. It was a great test but ultimately didn’t work out. We decided instead to go with more of a dream-like quality to the animations.
That was pretty much the last of the early pivots. We were now heading into the project with full steam. As Sarah and I worked on the design, we also developed the technical and gameplay requirements for Thayne. Adam was able to start to build the areas in the game and Rich would begin to figure out the tone of the music. After a few months, I would be writing dialogue for voice over. After all, this was an interactive Greek epic poem. It needed a narrator and a good dose of Greek tragedy. That’s where Betsy Brantley would come in. And I’ll talk more about Betsy in the next post 🙂