Developer's Blog

Zombie Playground now on Steam Early Access!

Posted on August 12, 2015 by Shibusuke

Zombie Playground is now available on Steam Early Access!

Check it out here:

Zombie Playground™ is Goonies meets Attack the Block meets The Walking Dead. The mood we want to capture in Zombie Playground is the feeling that you had as a child when you were completely immersed in your imagination fighting monsters and doing things you thought were cool from your favorite movies, comics, and video games.

Stealth Studios Inc., in collaboration with Abyssal Arts LLC and Titutitech SCP, has worked long and hard to create a game that delivers on the promise of our original vision. But have no illusion, this is on Steam Early Access for a reason: it is a true Beta. We have a lot of work left to do, so expect many rough edges. That said, please know that this Beta is the culmination of every ounce of effort by every single team member, bar none. Zombie Playground™ is made with the brains, disease, and puke of all involved - that means heart! We've put everything we have into this development, and we intend to put a lot more.

Gameplay in Zombie Playground is a hybrid of third person shooter and action RPG mechanics set in a cooperative zombie survival horror arena.

Abyssal Arts managed the development of the underlying systems and rebuilt the core gameplay from the ground up along with our good friends at Titutitech!

We hope you enjoy the game!

Letting Go: Creating a Player-Driven Story

Posted on July 08, 2015 by Moira

When we set out to make City of the Shroud, we found ourselves coming up against all of the issues we expected with funding...and one advantage we hadn’t seen coming. Games, I’m sure you’re aware, are a multibillion dollar industry. The big houses, the ones with teams numbering in the hundreds and thousands, have a great deal of potential income tied up in their projects—income their parent companies have already counted on, in some cases, and income their investors have contributed in others. Like movies, games can and do flop, with a LOT of money lost in the process. And something like this…well, it’s risky. It makes investors wary.

All of this meant that we had a considerable and unexpected advantage. Because, you know, we had no investors to make wary.

Ahem. In any case, we had plenty of freedom to do whatever we wanted with the story. We knew that we wanted to make the story responsive to the players, but how? There were games we loved that had many possible conclusions, such as Way of the Samurai. In Mass Effect, there were many different ways to reach the conclusion. In Dragon Age, both the conclusion and the “after the game” portions could be different depending on how you played.

But that had been done already, and quite well. We wanted to take it farther, stretch the medium to the very limits of what was possible. What if, we asked ourselves, the players themselves had a role in shaping the course of the story? What if, instead of us watching how they reacted to predetermined events, their reactions had a ripple effect on the story? After all, as a figure of some importance in this world, wouldn’t the player’s actions have considerable weight with the NPCs? To take it further, could the players themselves, working as a team, figure out who their true enemies were?

Once we had the idea in our heads, we couldn’t let it go. How could players shape the story when we alone knew who the true villain was, and what they were angling to have happen? We knew we didn’t want a never-ending plot of twists and turns. We wanted limits, an endpoint, a final battle. We broke down what we had for quests. What if, instead of being sent to fetch, or steal, or raid, the players could choose from options of what to fetch, whom to steal from, and where to raid? What if the faction leader with whom they were allied asked for their opinions?

And with that, the players became not only one leader, a hero rising up through Iskendrun’s ranks to protect the city during a desperate time, but the entire populace of Iskendrun itself. The players were now the mob. As each segment of the story drew to a close, we could tally their suspicions, their alliances, and their defections, if necessary unbalancing the city’s carefully-held ceasefire into chaos. Did a certain faction wish to stand alone, or change alliances? Did the city guard wish to raid Omar’s den, and did Omar wish to steal desperately-needed supplies from the priests? Every choice would be counted.

And, as in a city itself, news could spread—via the player forums, our players could compare notes, create strategies, and fight back against their puppetmasters (er, kind game developers, that would be). Bits of information leaked by one faction leader could be spread, votes could be tallied to extend offers of friendship from one faction leader to another. Mass defections could ensue. Whatever we threw at them, the players could fight back, every time having the chance to unlock Iskendrun’s secrets.

As we work feverishly towards launch, we are creating Iskendrun...that is, the Iskendrun we will begin with. By the time the story arc concludes, we will have reached the showdown in a way we could never have imagined, with the player base animating the entire city of Iskendrun. The faction dynamics, begun in the history we created between the leaders, will have evolved to spring from players’ deductions on the trustworthiness of their allies, from their willingness to share information and form alliances…or withhold what might fall into the wrong hands.

To be geeky for a moment? We can’t wait to see what happens.

Why Do An Open Prototype?

Posted on June 22, 2015 by Shibusuke

The Shroud prototype is nearly ready! We’ll have something for you very soon, and in the meantime, I wanted to take some time to talk about why we’re putting our game online so early in the development process. AAA companies don't do that, and allowing players into the refinement process early has been one of the things I was most excited about when I started Abyssal Arts.

The truth is, for making a game more fun while fixing bugs and addressing issues with playability, UI, balancing, or otherwise, player feedback is the best method - and my personal philosophy is that getting feedback and input from the players as early as possible is the most important thing we can do as game creators. We, the developers, can still determine the mechanics we want to build and the content we want to present, but we, the developers and the players, can exchange ideas and opinions to make the game better than it would ever otherwise be.

Working with the players forces us to refocus our priorities and remember where the big issues are lurking. You'd think we'd remember that, but the truth is that after working on the game for a long time, we can lose sight of what’s broken and end up focusing on minutiae that don’t matter - especially if no one can figure out how to play! (Our story designer has admitted that the same thing happens with manuscripts.) Sure, maybe it really irks us that we can't get that one asset to be exactly the correct pixel height...and maybe it's a great deal less important than making sure the players know whether they're controlling the red or blue team.

Between fun and usability, putting the game out there is already a good call for us and the players - but wait! There's more! From setting up forums to making an in-game "Leave Feedback" button, creating a prototype is helping us create a community. We want the players to feel comfortable telling us what they think - and knowing that the development team sees that feedback - and on the dev team side, we want to know what our players are thinking and what they want to see in our games. It gets us talking. Nothing is more encouraging than getting emails from people saying, “I really liked playing your game!” and nothing is more helpful than following it up with, “Except when I couldn’t figure out how to use it.” Or, “Was unable to connect to other players.” (Or even, "So, I got this REALLY weird bug..." because frankly, some of those are hilarious. We'll show screenshots of the Looming Fruit Cart of Death at some point.)

Result: motivation + destination. Players get a better game, and we’re able to connect with each other in a meaningful way. Being able to take this approach to development is one of my main goals in becoming an independent developer. We’re going to embrace the challenge head-on, and I hope you’ll join us for the ride!

Shroud Prototype, Coming Soon to a PC Near You

Posted on May 28, 2015 by Shibusuke

First, thanks again to everyone who came by our booth at 2D Con. It was the first time we had ever shown Shroud off in public, and the feedback from players was great - one player racked up nearly 4 hours over the weekend!

Since then, we’ve been hard at work on an "open prototype" to release within the next few weeks. It will contain the core gameplay for everyone to download and test out, plus the ability to contact us directly with bugs and feedback from inside the prototype (we're pretty happy about that last bit)! 

Got combat feedback? Class questions? Bugs? Everything in the prototype will be work-in-progress, and while that means that fancy graphics and perfect sounds aren’t there yet, it does mean that we can rapidly adjust the game in response to your suggestions. Every piece of feedback you give will help us make the gameplay as good as possible before we expand the game, and we'll be working to update the prototype often!

All of us here at Abyssal Arts are excited to see your feedback, and looking forward to creating something truly magical. So get ready - Iskendrun is waiting for you!

Shroud at 2DCon!

Posted on May 07, 2015 by Shibusuke

Abyssal Arts is debuting our first-ever playable demo of Shroud this weekend at 2D Con in Minnesota! One of our team members, @TomWalksThrough, will be manning the booth, so be sure to say hi!

If you've dropped by to play already, thank you! Be sure to sign up for updates below so you get word as soon as the prototype is available for download.

If you haven't been by to play, go - go now! And be sure to sign up for updates below! We'll be releasing the open prototype in only a few weeks, so you'll be the first to know!

Finally, help us get the word out - tell your friends to check out the game, tweet @abyssalarts and @2dconvention, post on our Facebook page - whatever suits your fancy!

Most of all, though, we're excited to finally start getting our game into your hands and hearing your thoughts! We're looking forward to an exciting journey together with you.