Nearly Ripped off to death by a publisher ? Get better by yourself and wait for justice (Maybe)

Let me tell you the story of a publisher ignoring a signed deal, how a German court of Justice decided it was apparently ok to do so, and nearly caused our undoing.

Transcripted_keyart

I’ve reached a point where I don’t understand how it’s possible to commit to a publishing deal for small studios. How could it be reasonable when what’s happening to us, well… CAN just happen. Honestly there’s not even something really specific to the gaming industry in this, so I’m wondering how international trade can even work.

If you’re not familiar with our situation, I’ll start with a brief summary: Alkemi is small indie studio founded in 2009. In 2012, on the 11th of september (definitely not a good omen), our first game Transcripted was released on Steam. Never heard of it ? Well, I guess I’ll have to thank the PR department of our publisher. But I have so much more to ‘thank’ them for… We weren’t too happy about the absence of visible work on the game release but it was nothing compared to the fact of losing our game entirely. Continue reading

Dev version of Drifting Lands coming soon to Steam

Good news: we have the opportunity to deploy our game on Steam pretty much whenever we want! That’s awesome because it will handle automatically all the pain of keeping you folks updated with the latest version of the game. We won’t hesitate to update the game much more regularly with minor improvements or bug corrections. On the downside, Steam integration is simple but it takes some time. We may have to delay our first major update by a week or so to do things properly. That would lead to a new build for the end of the month approximately.

SteamSupportAnnouncement_big

Does it mean the game is going to be pay-to-play or going into early access paying mode ? No. Definitely not right now. We will continue with our current plan : improve the current demo into a full fledged competitive and free shooter. Start to ask a bit of your money when we feel like it deserves it with at least a bit of the RPG / evolution part.

Thanks for your support!

[french]
Bonne nouvelle : nous avons l’opportunité de déployer notre jeu sur Steam à peu près quand on veut ! C’est vraiment une bonne chose, parce que cela nous permettra d’éviter la douleur de tous vous maintenir à une version à jour du jeu. Nous n’hésiterons également plus à mettre à jour le projet très régulièrement pour la moindre amélioration ou correction de bug. Le mauvais côté, c’est que même si l’intégration Steam ça n’est pas la mort, cela prend un peu temps. Nous allons probablement retarder la prochaine version de la démo d’une semaine environ ce qui nous mènera quelque part à la fin du mois.

Est ce que cela signifie que le jeu va devenir payant ou early access payant ? Non, pas du tout. Nous allons suivre notre plan et faire évoluer la démo en un jeu à part entière de shooter compétitif et gratuit. Nous vous demanderons un peu de vos deniers quand nous estimerons que le jeu en vaut la peine avec au moins une partie de l’aspect RPG / évolution.

Merci pour votre soutien !

Drifting Lands road map

It’s time we made an official annoucement about what’s going on and where we are heading. So here’s the plan ! (french version at the end)

Drifting Lands is a massive project for a team of four devs and a music composer but we decided to go for it because it is modular by design. We know we can scale the project according to the community we will be able to interest in our endeavour and the funds we will manage to raise by various means. We also know we can slice the global project in two parts and use the first part as a demo / experimentation ground / free game of its own.

DL_demo_home

We will very very soon release a first public playable demo of Drifting Lands. This demo will feature first a very limited content. A first taste of the actual gameplay if you want. But it will hopefuly evolve rapidly with new content and stay public AND free. With time it could even be considered as a game of its own but it will not be the Drifting Lands we have in mind. What are the common points and the differences between the demo (for lack of a better name right now)  and the real thing : Continue reading

A Game of Tricks IV – Stylized normal mapping

Ok. First thing, I’m sorry this isn’t the second part of the particles tutorial. I think I have vastly underestimated how complex it would be to extract a clear explanation of our FX system which is very very cool in a twisted and intricate way. Making the rest of the explanation worthwhile will require that I isolate some code from a more complex set. I’ll probably have to split it in two more parts to swallow the effort.

But today, I’ll write about normal maps… and rocks. I have already explained how we had used normal mapped sprites for Transcripted. If you don’t know what normal maps are, you can take a look at this previous post to learn the basics. Drifting Lands is a much more 3D game than Transcripted was. All ships and a lot of background elements are “real 3D” but with a pretty stylized modelling and fancy shaders hopefully making the whole thing look more like an illustration. The overall look of the game is influenced by a lot of games (Journey, Diablo3, Darksiders…) and a lot of animation movies (Disney and Ghibli productions mainly). The art direction is more focused on shapes, silhouettes and harmony of colors, than on detailed hi-res textures or realistic physically-based materials.

01_DriftingLands_Capture

Drifting Lands takes place over, around and inside a broken planet. There will be plenty of flying bits of rocks involved in all environments of the game. The background rocks represent a large part of the visual identity of the game so we have worked quite some time to find the good balance between polycount and shader complexity to create nice looking blocks. Right now, we will focus on how these rocks catch the light.

Continue reading

A Game of Tricks III – Particles fun (part1)

One of the first tool we developed for Drifting Lands was a brand new FX / particle system. The artistic direction of the game is headed toward a very graphic and stylized rendering and we do love traditional animation ! Here’s a sample of particle FXs in the current alpha version. Each of these effects requires from 3 to 20 or 30 particles max.

For Transcripted, we had used our Flash-like MovieClip system but it had a major flaw I didn’t want in the way this time : to have ‘long’ and smoothly animated FX we had to create a big array of bitmap frames and store them in atlases or spritesheets. Though we had total control over the animation, it was requiring a large amount of RAM and VRAM to store the image sequence if the FX was a bit too large.

a spritesheet for one of Transcripted FX

See this modest organic explosion effect above ? We’ll it’s kind of the only one used throughout all of Transcripted because it’s already taking way too much texture space for what it’s worth ;)

Continue reading

New alpha gameplay video for Drifting Lands

And here’s a new video to show more of the actual gameplay of Drifting Lands ! An example of a run with a frontal AoE attack, a dash, a healing skill and a reflecting shield. Also featuring : a first draft of an in-game UI and a taste of what the music could sound like.

You can now start to see how Drifting Lands relates more to an hack & slash rather than a pure shmup with the intense use of timed skills. If you spend all your energy (=mana) on attacks, you might not have enough to dash through a wall of bullets or heal your burning ship !

First alpha footage for Drifting Lands

Here it is : the first video of Drifting Lands at an early alpha stage. This video is not representative of the final gameplay (and certainly not of any sound design) but it’s here to show, where we’re trying to go with the visual style in this project.

Feel free to say what you think of the look of the game so far ! And stay tuned for more content in the coming weeks.

Shoot & Loot

ShootLoot is the internal nickname we have used for Drifting Lands during this last year. Our work folders are actually still named like that ;)

Drifting Lands Early concept

Why ShootLoot ? Well… if I often describe Transcripted as the illegitimate offspring of Zuma and Geometry wars, Drifting Lands parents’ will definitely be Diablo and R-Type or Path of Exile and Sine Mora, or… Ok you got it : there will be shooting and there will be looting. A massive load of them. At the same time.

Above, you can see the first concept image on which we put together the visual identity of Drifting Lands. In a week or so, you should be able to discover how it translates in the actual game, so… stay tuned !