The second part of our postmortem of The Path is written mostly by Auriea and explains the design process that went into the game. From the uncertainty at the start of the project, over mixed experiences with collaborators, the inspiration of glitches and the importance of prototyping, to our ideas about 3D aesthetics and dealing with personal emotions in videogames. Illustrated with work-in-progress sketches and screenshots.
We have released 4 new screenshots of The Path. The other screenshots on the site are quite old by now and the game has changed a lot in this year of production. Once we get to beta (we are very close!) there will be a deluge of images and video. For now, we just want to give you a peek at what we’ve been up to.
ahem, some quotes from a recent text we wrote about the aesthetics of the game…
“You control the avatar, but she also has a life of her own -directed by Drama Princess, a home-brew alternative AI system. The foliage on the trees turns out to be careful arrangements of gothic ornaments. What first seemed like sound effects, is in fact a continuously changing musical soundtrack -created by Jarboe. Random signs of decay on the screen become helpful hints for navigation. The entire forest feels natural but closer inspection reveals its artificiality. This is not the real world. You have entered a fabrication, a story, a memory, a dream.”
“Painting with the aesthetic palette of realtime 3D rather than using the medium for the simulation of reality, The Path could not have been made without contemporary technology. Yet it clearly sets itself apart from any other Next Gen game. The hand of the artist shows. Sometimes messy and strange, sometimes verging on the sublime. Harvey and Samyn are not in complete control. A large part of the attraction of game technology is its potential to surprise. Rather than locking down the look of each and every scene, The Path contains systems that alter the aesthetics of the game in ways that the creators may not have expected. To some extent, the players themselves can decide what things look like. Walking down the path, for instance, changes the time of day. Depending on where you enter the forest, you will be wandering through a bright and misty environment or a dark and spooky one.”
And if all that still sounds overly mysterious, hopefully we’ll be able to pull back the veil with some video… soon, soon, soon.
Today we are revealing the final girl in The Path. Scarlet joins her sisters Robin, Rose, Ginger, Ruby and Carmen as playable characters destined for the fate of Little Red Ridinghood.
Scarlet is the oldest of six. The firstborn. In a family with an invisible mother. Quite a responsibility. One that she faces with determination and a sense of duty and pride. She is 19 years of age. She should probably be enjoying what’s left of her youth. But with five younger sisters, one more unruly than the other, somebody needs to maintain order and stability.
Not that Scarlet doesn’t wish to share the burden. Or a moment of silence. A moment of quiet understanding with a soulmate. A moment of true togetherness. Her loneliness is a secret she will take to the grave. Sooner than she may expect.
We had a great time participating in the IGF this year with The Path! Even though we didn’t get the prize, seeing so many people play the demo every day taught us a lot about what is going right with the game as well as what is going wrong (-.-)! Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth. We got so much excellent feedback, along very sore feet and hoarseness from talking so much, but we are looking forward to (hopefully) doing it all again next year!
What more to say than simply that. An interview and a few kind words appear as a 4 page feature about our game in development, The Path, in the December 2007 issue of UK games publication extraordinaire Edge Magazine. It’s a great article and it looks beautiful so you should pick it up!
Ahem, to say we’re happy about this would be an understatement(!) For now, I think I’m still in shock.
These are screenshots of the first phase of the iterative design process we use for development. Basically what we did is create the environment in which most of the game will take place, a first version of the most essential characters, and the interaction systems we had designed beforehand and some that we came up with during development. As you may know from reading this blog or playing our games, we are not very interested in typical game-style interactivity. This is why we don’t simply execute and fine-tune an existing interaction design.
The demo we have now made is more a testbed for possibilities than a prototype for a game. It is used for figuring out which interactions work and which don’t. Which elements enhance the narrative and which don’t. Etcetera. As such it is a tool for internal use more than a public demo.
We have tried to achieve a certain level of polish that may be inappropriate for a pure prototype. We did this on the one hand because aesthetics are very important in the games that we make. But also because it helps us to critically evaluate our work before we move on. We’ve had bad experiences in the past with blocked-out worlds feeling really great and then being disappointed by the fleshed-out version. When the prototype is too symbolic and contains too much placeholder assets, our minds tend to make up too much for things that aren’t there.
Taking you back to 2003. Dug up this video on the file server the other day of an effect we wanted to develop for our fairy tale adventure game “8.” The wicked fairy is masquerading as an obsidian thorn plant; growing everywhere destroying the palace. When the little girl sees the beautiful flowers she’s curious and gets closer. As she walks away the flowers turn into more thorn branches and reach out for her (never quite catching her though.)
I always loved the idea, and it was a fun effect to play around with in the prototype <[;-) I hope we can make it for real someday.