Thursday, 7 February 2013

Eden Industries talk to Indie Game News at length about their new game and "The Garden of Indie"


High Concept
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Our new game is an RPG that places you in the shoes of the Vice President of the World! He’s a classic bureaucrat: charming, charismatic, but practically useless. After recently winning the vice presidency, he returns to his rural home town for some vacation. But he soon inadvertently discovers that there is some very strange stuff happening around town. Feeling a sense of responsibility as an elected official you decide to do something about it! But being the bureaucrat you are, you don't actually want to get your hands dirty. Thus you go about using your charisma to recruit normal townsfolk to help you investigate and fight your battles for you. Instead of the traditional warrior, mage, etc. from fantasy RPGs, you’re able to recruit and fight with the town Baker, Barista, School Teacher, Homeless Guy, and plenty of other seemingly ordinary characters brought to life in unique and charming ways!

While each character has fun and unique possibilities in combat, every single character also has their regular day job that they'll return to if you stop using them in your active party. One of the more exciting features of the game is that each character will get better at their day job the more you use them in combat. Some characters run shops (Baker, Barista, Pharmacist) which will have new items for you to buy, including unique items that could either be used as equipment for characters or other special purposes. Some characters offer conveniences to you (remote purchasing of items, vehicles you can control), some provide new functionality for you (leave characters in school to level them up while you're away, zoom the game in and out to find secrets, time-skip the game for power leveling), some provide information (enemy dossiers, achievement clues), some provide new possibilities in and around town (upgrade buildings, upgrade dungeons to access new areas), etc.

The list goes on and on! A unique thing for every character. So not only is there a compelling reason to use every character, both in and out of battle, but the whole world feels like it’s growing and advancing along with you. It's a powerful grassroots movement that utilizes every character to lend their strength to your journey.

The game is also designed with the mantra, "Broader, not longer." It'll have a ton of content, but most of it will be optional (such as the majority of the available characters). This way, people who just want to hit the highlights can play 10 hours or so start to finish without worrying about slogging through an epic RPG that consumes their life. And those who want an epic RPG experience will be able to customize a ton of details about their characters and explore a vast amount of additional content in the world. In line with this goal we also hope to make the game as streamlined as possible for casual players while retaining a ton of depth and customization for experienced veterans.

Gameplay Details
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As a result of the wide-open gameplay of recruiting anyone in the world, the game takes on a Pokemon-like feel of bringing everyone onto your team and utilizing them both in and out of battle. But if you’ve played any game where a core concept involves recruiting a large number of characters (Pokemon, Suikoden, etc.), you may be wondering how this game improves upon that formula. One of the biggest things we wanted to accomplish with this game was to encourage switching your characters around! In other games in which you're able to get a wide cast of potential party members, it quickly becomes cumbersome and frustrating to try new characters. We’ve tried to make that a breeze in our game and encourage players to try every combination they can imagine! Here are a few of the issues we’ve improved upon:
·         The Problem: No intrinsic reason to experiment, other than to try a new character.
·         Our Solution: Each character has a unique day job that will improve as you use them. Thus there is a strong and beneficial reason to try all characters, since each one will provide fun and helpful out-of-battle benefits for you. Even when you stop using a character in combat, their contribution will continue to be felt.
·         The Problem: Switching requires you to spend time equipping the new characters, setting their items, skills, etc.
·         Our Solution: In our game, as soon as you switch to a character, they are absolutely ready to use right out of the box. While they do acquire new equipment and skills down the road, these do not represent incrementally better options (like in most RPGs, thus forcing you to constantly upgrade) but rather new choices and strategic options. Therefore a casual player can just switch to whomever they want at anytime and not worry about the details. An experienced player, however, is still free to customize their characters to fit their specific strategies and goals.

The game also draws upon the modern theme and humorous stylings of Earthbound to create a fun and zany world with a ton of unique and funny characters, enemies, and environments to explore. We’re keeping the story a bit of a mystery at the moment, but what we can say is that someone or something is doing weird experiments on people, animals, and the environment to make bizarre hybrids and re-creations of things. You'll encounter enemies like the Honey Bear (a honey-filled bear in the shape of a bottle of honey), the Killer Koffee (a deranged, sentient coffee plant with coffee foam pouring out of its mouth), the Toupee Eagle (a parody on the Bald Eagle iconography of the US, with this one having a glorious, flowing golden mane of blonde hair), and one of our personal favourites, the Rastafarian Samurai, which is the most laid-back, voodoo-wielding, imperialistic swordsman you'll ever meet.

The combat draws inspiration from JRPG designs like Dragon Quest, but is unique and focuses around the interesting and bizarre combat potential of the seemingly run-of-the-mill townsfolk. You can bring up to 3 characters into battle with you, but in line with our mantra of streamlining you’re able to restart a battle at any time in order to swap around your active party members. We want players to be limited only by their imagination of what they can bring into combat, not by artificial design constraints. Each character also plays very differently in battle in ways that exceed just their unique abilities and equipment possibilities. We’re striving to make every character have a completely unique feel and represent a personalized strategic possibility to players.

Here are some other fun gameplay details and features:
·         No random encounters!
o   Because seriously, 1992 called and we let it have its feature back. And while we were at it we took it one step further than just having monsters on the maps. Since you’re the vice-president, your followers have to do what you say of course! You can command them at any time to rush head-long into enemies to initiate combat! Use this to get the upper hand on your enemies, but beware the enemies doing the same to you.
·         Controllable vehicles
o   Hop in your mom’s beat up station wagon or a cherry corvette to tear up the streets. Best of all? Fight your enemies as the vehicle. Spew exhaust in their face or slam your car doors into them for a fun twist on the normal combat experience!
·         Online Arena
o   Take your favourite team online to test your skill against your friends and rivals. It’s the JRPG showdown you’ve been waiting for ever since you found out Final Fantasy 6 had “multiplayer”


Visual Details
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The game is in 2D with a 3/4 perspective view. It has a light-hearted, cartoony art style that’s reminiscent of the pixel art RPGs of our youth but upgraded to high-definition excellence. We think the hand-painted environments and characters combine the best of retro styling and modern aesthetics, which is what Eden Industries is all about!

And even though it’s a 2D RPG, we’re not skimping on the visual details! In addition to hand-painted, high-definition art, check out these other awesome features:
·         Bloom lighting.
o   While usually reserved for atmospheric 3D games and eye-blistering tech demos, we’ve brought the tech backwards a generation into all its 2D glory!
·         Real-time shadows and day/night cycle.
o   Another feature usually reserved for sandbox epics like GTA and Red Dead Redemption finds its home in our game! Characters and objects cast dynamic shadows that change with the time of day. You can literally have the vice-president force his followers to stand in his shadow!
·         Return of Waveform’s distortion effect.
o   One of Waveform’s most memorable features finds a place in our RPG. As if the game wasn’t zany enough, prepare for an out-of-this-world trip as water and other environments distort and oscillate in real-time.
·         Particle systems
o   Walk through dissipating fog, huddle near roaring fires, and smash enemies with dynamic effects! This isn’t your grandpappie’s RPG with a 2 frame looping fire sprite. Dynamic particle effects reign supreme and add life and vibrancy to the already colourful 2D landscape.
·         Real-time lighting engine
o   Another feature returning from Waveform is dynamically lit objects and environments. So whether you’re exploring a pitch-black basement with only the light of your smart phone to guide you or jamming to the happening tunes in the haunted disco, you’re in for a real treat featuring 2D sprite lighting unlike anything you’ve seen before.

And we’re barely into full production! Just imagine how many more fantastic aesthetic effects you can look forward to in the final game.

Audio
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Scott McFadyen, who composed the critically acclaimed soundtrack to Waveform, is reprising his role as composer. Expect even more amazing music this time around!

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Well that’s pretty much the necessary info on the RPG. Sorry if it went into too much detail! Figured that was better than too little. Anyway, moving on, here’s some new developments with Waveform:

Mobile ports
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most requested things for Waveform is support for mobile platforms. Well I can confirm that ports to both iOS and Android are in progress. Get ready to play Waveform on your favourite touchscreen devices later this year!

Music mode
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Work has also begun on what is likely the next-most requested feature to add to Waveform: a mode that will allow players to import music to automatically generate a level based on the characteristics of the song. You’ll be able to ride the wave along with your music to experience Waveform and your music in a brand new way.

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And finally, here’s the info behind the new “Garden of Indie” initiative:

Garden of Indie
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At Eden Industries, we make games a bit differently than most. Waveform was made by a group of part-timers around the world giving up their evenings and weekends to make a great game. We poured our passion into the game, building everything from scratch. Even though we were veterans of the mainstream industry, our first indie game was a huge challenge to overcome, both the development and the actual release. We’re fortunate to have it a bit easier the 2nd time around, but we know there are a lot of other aspiring indies out there that aren’t quite so lucky. And just like we make games a bit differently at Eden Industries, we came up with a potential solution to this problem that’s a bit different as well.

Eden Industries was built upon the backs of a distributed network of part-time contributors. We want to expand that network now to include not necessarily just individuals, but also entire indie teams. We want others to be able to plug into the network of Eden Industries and find what they need to make great games. This is the heart of the Garden of Indie project – providing an environment where aspiring indies can grow and thrive. Rather than internalize our efforts and hire more people to work on our own games, we want to externalize our efforts (at least partially, we’ll still be making our own games of course!) to empower other indie developers to make the games that they are passionate about. Passion, innovation, and fun are hallmark traits at Eden Industries, and we want to be in the business of helping others with those same traits make awesome games.

So what exactly will the Garden of Indie project provide for indie developers? It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a tailored, strategic partnership designed to bolster other indies wherever the things they need and the things we can provide intersect. The types of things we’d like to offer are the kinds of things that other indies have mentioned needing to me over the years, or even things that we were hungering for while working on Waveform but had trouble securing. Things like a game engine tailored to the kind of game you want to make, not an off-the-shelf solution that you have to cram your game idea into. Maybe you need help nailing down an art style in order to inform asset production and help ignite creativity. Perhaps you need some help exploring the depth of the fun in your game and could use some help building out levels.

An important key-word in this initiative is that it’s a “strategic” partnership program. This follows from our belief that a one-size-fits-all solution is not what’s needed. We acknowledge that there may very well be times that what we at Eden Industries can offer another indie team is not what they need. In which case we’ll be open with them that partnering with us is not the best strategic move for them. In another case, it may be that we can offer exactly what another team needs but due to the circumstances involved we don’t have the resources at the time to make it happen. The glaringly obvious truth is we’re just a bunch of people that love making games and want to help where we can; we’re not superheroes. We even acknowledge that there are probably a relatively low percentage of partnerships that make sense. We’re honest about our limitations, and know where and when we can partner with someone to have a positive impact. But we do believe that in those situations where an indie team approaches us and lacks the very thing we can provide that the results will be powerful and enjoyable for everyone involved!

I also want to be clear on what Garden of Indie isn’t. It’s not a publishing program. We don’t want to be in that business. We’re not paying people to make games for us like the traditional publisher-developer model. Similarly, it’s not a financial fund where we give you money to make the game you want to make. Programs like the IndieFund are doing a great job of that already and we don’t feel like that’s the business for us either. Finally, we’re not game engine licensors. We like making games, not game engines. We’ll leave that business to Unity and others who like specializing in that.

But we do want to be in the business of empowering indies to make awesome games, and we absolutely want to work with exceptional people with fantastic ideas and help them to easily overcome the kinds of difficulties and roadblocks that we had to endure throughout the development and release of Waveform.

Examples
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Right now the Garden of Indie is still in its beta stages, so we’re cautiously testing the waters to see how we can make it work. But here are two examples that are happening right now that may help illustrate what we’re trying to accomplish.

We’ve partnered with a number of students from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (a local post-secondary institution in Vancouver, where we’re based) to work with them in a practicum setting and allow them to apply their passion to practical game development. We’ve been able to find areas within Eden Industries that line up with the types of development they’re interested in most and unleash them into those areas to learn, create, and participate in making awesome games. A lot of us at Eden Industries got our start in the games industry through similar opportunities while we were at school, and we’re thrilled to be able to foster these up-and-coming developers by freeing them to explore their passion and interests while also honing their skills.

While that example shows how we hope to foster individual indie developers, the next example is at the other end of the spectrum. The lead level designer on Waveform, Robin Vincent, has been too busy these days to contribute to our RPG. But he’s still hard at work fostering game designs in his own time. It doesn’t make sense for Robin, or for us, to get Robin to work on our RPG. But we still love him and want to work with him! The Garden of Indie was designed to bridge the gap in these types of situations where both parties really want to work together but where it doesn’t make sense in the traditional model. Robin has put together a small team of his own to develop a new strategy game but needs some help on the technical side to make it happen. Since Robin already has experience with the Eden Industries’ game engine, he was able to design his game around our technology while pushing it in new directions in order to make a unique experience. The result is that we’re proud to be able to provide Robin and his team with a custom-built game engine built off of Eden Industries’ technology to allow Robin the technology and tools to bring his game to life. And since Robin specializes in game design, but not necessarily game releases, we’re thrilled to be able to assist with the supplementary efforts that are involved in taking a game beyond completion and out into the world.

Conclusion
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As you can probably tell from the above examples, there is no clear definition of what the Garden of Indie initiative is. At its heart it’s about helping indies, whether as individuals or teams, grow and develop the games that they’re passionate about. What that means in each case is probably going to be unique to the situation. But we’re thrilled to be able to start providing this kind of partnership and support in order to keep indie development growing and thriving.


Citizens of Earth Character Art






Citizens of Earth Character Screenshots






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