It was yet another busy week and weekend, we’ve been super busy trying to get everything lined up for PAX East and release. There’s been so much to prepare – tshirts, posters, equipment, booth deco, press schedules, packing – not to mention everything that’s involved with getting the game ready for release! Richard and I were up late Saturday night readying the review copy list for press – it’s crazy to think that we’ll be sending FRACT out in the world this week. Kind of terrifying, actually. Trying to think about it too much.
It’ll be our first PAX – we’re really looking forward to it, it’ll be exciting to get FRACT in front of people’s eyes, it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve done it in that kind of setting. Probably the last time we did a booth-like thing in this scale was IGF 2011, when we demoed the original FRACT prototype as part of the Student Showcase.
What a crazy experience that was. I mean, Richard had made the whole game on his own, in complete isolation – while not quite a basement-dwelling shut-in, he wasn’t that far from it either. I think the first time he had even really gone out into the indie space/community was shortly before that GDC, when he went to his first Mount Royal Game Society and demoed FRACT, which at that point had been chosen as an IGF finalist. Aside from the people he met during his program in Game Design at U de M, it was probably one of the first times meeting people making indie games. IGF/GDC was of course this on an even grander scale. It was pretty surreal, as he got a chance to meet a lot of people he had always admired: game designers that had made beloved games, games journalists/podcasters that he had long followed, and just a remarkable amount of talented, passionate people. It pretty much blew his mind.
I, on the other hand, was completely new to this world. Sure, I had grown up playing games where possible (consoles weren’t allowed in my household) – simple games on our old Mac (back when it was Apple in the 80s), board games like chess and Axis and Allies with my older brother and dad, “educational” computer games like SimCity and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego that were permitted, RPGs and other games on my brother and I’s shared GameBoy. But I had never thought of myself as a “gamer” – and to be honest, I still don’t. Not because I don’t enjoy games or play games – just never thought to define myself that way. Even now, after spending three years making FRACT, I find it hard to think of myself as a game dev – I think of myself more as someone who likes to make stuff, games included.
Anyways – at GDC, I was definitely a fish out of water – but it was still a lot of fun. Strangely, it probably helped that I was a bit oblivious to what as going on and who I was talking to, otherwise I would have felt a lot more nervous about it all. And since then, it’s been an interesting experience, coming in as an outsider. While I’ve never encountered outright hostility or anything like that, I didn’t really feel like I belonged, either. I mean, I think a big part of that was me, and how I perceived things, as a relative “non-gamer” coming into an industry full of people that are really really passionate about games, almost to the point of a strange kind of competitiveness. I feel like there’s a sense of “oh yeah, well I know more about games that YOU do” attitude that I’ve seen, even towards Richard, who’s always loved games. Admittedly, I also think we’re more sensitive to that because we are new to this world, and we feel like we have a lot more to prove. And for me especially – I started out more as a “girlfriend/wife” and then moved to “producer” and then more than that. It’s been a real process for me to come to own my part in making FRACT, to explain that yeah, I’m not just managing the project, I have been making and designing the game, too.
I think a lot of this stuff has been on my mind since there’s been greater awareness and discussion about issues of inclusivity in the games industry, especially the indie sphere. Looking at it, it’s hard to say whether I’ve ever felt excluded because I’m female, because I think I already came in feeling like an outsider. So it’s not that I was ever treated differently, as so much felt different of my own accord. I can imagine that for ladies that have been in the industry longer, who have a legitimate and rightful place with an equal passion and knowledge for games, it must be frustrating to not be taken seriously because they’re female, or to be the subject of sexist or discriminatory attitudes. I’ve been finding it’s hard from my perspective to assess these issues because I haven’t been exposed to this as much (largely because our day-to-day work is removed from the industry). But I’m glad people are starting to talk about it, at the least.
And I think (hope?) there’s increasing realization that there are a lot of “non-gamers” like me, who do in fact play games (although maybe not as fervently so) – who represent a significant audience for games. Not only that, but as tools become more accessible, there’s more opportunity for people – “outsiders” like me" – who may not traditionally be gamers, but want to use games as a medium for their expression. I hope that the gaming community will welcome these new voices and faces. Games are a medium with incredible potential for depth, expression, and diversity, and new ideas and perspectives will only enrich them.
Again, sorry for the long post. I guess it’s been a pretty reflective time for us lately, since we’re almost done. What do you think though? Do you think outsiders have a place in games, perhaps even a necessary one? Or do you think one does have to “earn” their place? Anyone had similar experiences? All thoughts are welcome!
And if you need even more FRACT visual simulation, check out our new(ish) FRACT Tumblr for lots of juicy screenshots, seizure-inducing wobbly gifs, miscellaneous pics, concept art, etc etc.
Here’s the first area trailer, since we didn’t officially put it up here:
I realize that in the midst of trying to get the game done, we’ve been less-than-diligent in posting updates as they happen. Sure, we put things out on Twitter/Facebook/etc, but to be honest we haven’t given quite enough love to this dev blog. It’s been a tough balance. We’ve been so anxious to pummel away at our production tasks to get the game out as soon as possible – while trying to juggle staying on top of our lives, getting enough sleep, making sure we don’t live in a complete state of disorder, and taking care of Zoe at the same time – that we haven’t spent as much time on other things that are just as important: talking more about the game, sharing our process, meeting and networking with other devs and artists, travelling to more conferences/shows, participating in events, game jams.
I don’t know if we could have done it differently – surely, with 20/20 hindsight there are many things I would like to have done differently if I had the chance. But while we were doing it? I don’t know that we could have. In a lot of ways, we did the best we could at the time. It’s been such a crazy experience, and I feel like throughout a large part of it, we were just surviving, just trying to get to that next step. Admittedly, now that we’re close to the end I think we’re in a much better space, mentally – but to be honest, it’s been a tough journey. Having said that, there is so much that we’ve learned along the way (positive spin!), much by trial-and-error, and consequently there is a lot I know we will do differently in the future – for our sanity, productivity and happiness.
Now that the game is almost done, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting (as you can tell) on the past three years, how far we’ve come, what we have gone through to get here, and looking ahead to what’s next. The imminent release of the game comes as a massive relief, in many ways – we’ve been burning the candle at both ends for far too long, and are long overdue for a break. It’s also simultaneously terrifying, because this is what we’ve been working towards the past three years of our lives. Will we do ok? Will the game be well-received, understood, enjoyed? Will people get what we’ve tried to do? Will that translate to sales and financial success? Will we be able break even and recoup our savings we’ve put into making the game? What will this mean for our future? So many questions, and so many unknowns. I try to remind myself that there’s no point in dwelling on the things we have no control over, but it’s hard sometimes. What I do know is that I am proud of what we’ve made, and what we’ve tried to do. We’ve come a long way – as individuals, as developers, and as a team, and I’m happy with with what we’ve achieved, no matter the outcome.
All is to say, in an exceedingly long-winded way (my apologies, apparently I have some things to get off my chest) – now that we’re in a better place to do so, I’d like to try and spend more time on this blog talking about the path we’ve taken to get here, the thinking behind the game, the process involved in making FRACT, etc etc. So here’s to that.
Check out the newest video in our area trailer series, which looks at the thee main areas in the FRACT world. The first teaser let you see the deep, dark depths of the bass caves. In this new teaser, explore the airy, washy sounds of the pad dams. The last teaser will take a peek at the high notes of the lead temples.
A few eagle-eyed fans have noticed there might be something going on in these trailers other than being a straight up tease – what do you think?
We’re honoured and excited to announce that FRACT OSC will be showing alongside a veritable grip of epic indie games at this year’s Indie Mega Booth at PAX east in Boston!
We’ll have stations set up to try the game, various types of swag including posters, pins and maybe some papercrafts!
Hope to see you there!
Our awesome pal Mogi Grumbles now has Escape From New York recut to his epic re-score I Heard You Were Dead . We love this album, and think it’s a great update to an iconic cult classic. Turn it up and enjoy the ride:
Buy I Hear You Were Dead:
Since we’re gearing up for release, one thing I’ve been working on is new trailers & teasers (coming soon, promise) – but I needed to capture certain shots that I was going for. After a quick brainstorm with Quynh, I quickly cobbled together this sort of in game dolly that helps me do just that.
Using our in-game UI tools, I can drag it anywhere in the world, and set up my shots accordingly. The dolly will travel from one point to another along a number of paths that can be used on there own, or together.
In this first shot, I’m placing the dolly origin point.
In this shot I have access to it’s controls – allowing me to rotate the travel-to points, and activate various paths.
Here’s a video of it in action:
I’m totally going to leave this in the game for release too, buried under our debug tools. Should anyone find it, I’m sure they’ll have a lot of fun just floating around the world!
New Month, new glowy stuff – have a good weekend!
Our testers have been amazing. Not only have they provided valuable feedback, criticism, and raw objective data, but they’ve found a few awesome exploits. The one below effectively allows players to circumvent a large part of a puzzle:
And to commemorate this lovely discovery, we’ve made a mark on the world, in the testers honor of course:
Going over some feedback from the most recent round of testers today. Good fun, thank you lovely testers!