We’re now a week away from EGX Rezzed, where we’ll be showing Syndrome to the press and public.
We’ve already shown Syndrome to the public in Portugal, but this is the first time in a major gaming event.

All the artwork was handled in a timely manner, so this is probably the first time that we’re not still ordering stuff a couple of days from the event :)
We have a huge poster for our stand, branded jackets for the team, a couple thousand flyers and a lot of meetings set up with the press.

So if you want to meet us and / or try out the game, come and find us in the North Dock in EGX Rezzed.

See you in one week!

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We were invited to be present at SINFO 2016, one of the biggest tech conferences in Portugal.
SINFO takes place in the Campus of Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon.
Thursday was the game development day, so we brought Syndrome to the Campus, to see if we could induce a few scares there.

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There were indeed a lot of scares there, which means the game is having the desired effect.
Also great player feedback and of course, some pesky bugs that only show up when the game is displayed in public.

Oscar Clark from Unity gave a lecture during the afternoon, so almost nobody came to try the game at the time.

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Or maybe it was because of the sunlight: the event was taking place inside a huge tent, and our stand was facing the sun, so for a couple of hours Syndrome looked like this:

blackHint: playing a survival horror game in a super bright place is not a good idea

The sun eventually moved and the place got a bit darker. The darkness brought the players out!

IMG_3876There were other game developers at SINFO of course. As always, it was a great mood and atmosphere between everyone present.

IMG_3901We had a great time, and got the chance to show Syndrome to the public one more time. It’s good to have player feedback, but it’s really interesting and super important watching folks play the game.
Thanks SINFO for the invite!

 

We’re going to describe a bit of our workflow, on how we get a character in the game.
Pretty much all the meshes in the game started as a very high poly mesh.
Just to give you an idea, this character has 49 million polys.

You can see the mesh in wireframe below:

Marine_Highwire_02 Marine_Highwire_01

Why do we do it this way?
Because with this amount of polygons we can get an amazing amount of detail, which we then bake into normal maps.

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The next step is lowering the polycount of the mesh into something that can be used in realtime.

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Once the mesh has a lower polycount, we create uvmaps on the lower polygon asset to project the high poly count mesh onto it, and generate normal maps, occlusion maps and cavity maps.
By doing this, all combined with real time lighting, allows us to have the same detail in a lower mesh as we would in a high polycount mesh.

This is where the classic type of character / asset ends and the modern type of asset begins (remember Doom 3).

Now when we create this super high poly mesh with all these little details, and then generate textures from it, we end up needing 3 textures so that we can make all these details visible: a normal map, an occlusion texture and a cavity texture.
You’re probably thinking that we will combine these textures into a single diffuse texture, but that’s not how physical based shading works.

The new next-gen physical based shaders work in a different way; basically you apply all these textures into the Unity 5 based shader.
Using Substance Painter and Quixel 3d, we then paint complex final textures and export them directly to the engine. The tool generates 4 textures which must then be applied to the final shader.

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So in the end this character is using normal texture, occlusion texture, diffuse or color texture and a special texture which combines two textures – metalness.
We try to achieve the best realism as possible, with materials reacting like real life and accurate lighting.
You can see this character below in an ingame screenshot:

Marine1

 

 

 

Our first round of testing is taking place right now, and it’s been a success so far.
We gathered a small (but good) group of testers and collected important feedback from their playthroughs.
There were several bugs reports, but that didn’t come as a surprise, as we’re not in the “bug hunting” phase yet.
What’s important to us right now is to have the understanding of what the player feels about the game and the story.
And so far the feedback has been very good, with great suggestions from the testers.
We can’t wait to have the reports and completed surveys from everyone.

So everything is coming along fine and according to plan.
We’re now looking into character voice overs as some of the VOs currently ingame are still placeholders and some dialogs need some tweaks.
A new gameplay trailer is coming soon, so everything needs to look perfect, including voice acting :)

What do you think about the sleeping quarters? Cozy, right?

We’re starting our closed testing run for Syndrome soon.
As such, we’ve been dividing our efforts in adding new content and polishing the game experience (mostly in the initial sections).
Although there are still placeholder items and some dialogs are still missing, we feel that the game is in a good state to be played and tested.

(if you’re one of the testers – expect an email from us in the next days :) )

We cannot stress how important it is to gather feedback from players during the development process. We have our own vision of what the game should be of course, but ultimately we’re making this game for the players, and it’s them who can help us shape this project into a great experience.

Aside from preparing the test build, we’ve been adding sounds to the game.
For those of you that don’t know, Syndrome takes place inside a spaceship, the Valkenburg. Since this is a horror game, sound has to be awesome or else the level of immersion that we want just won’t be there.

The guys at Bigmoon Entertainment are helping us out with the sound, and doing a great job at it.
It’s really interesting to implement sounds in this type of game.
For example, if the player is walking through a dark corridor and sees some lights blinking in the distance, he’ll wonder what’s up there. But if the right tune comes up at the right time, the player will be completely focused in what’s going to happen.

Although we are playing some tunes in specific places, we are avoiding “regular music”. We don’t feel that it works here. What we are using is soundscapes with small discreet tunes.
At the moment we have 3 sound layers: one with ambient sound, which is basically the sound of void in a ship, another with ambient stingers that play at random timed intervals, and layer 3, well… this one we can’t specify :)
Besides these layers we also have triggers connected to the environment or to the player’s actions. These triggers can blend a specific tune with layer 2, so that it all feels very smooth.

Well, text-only posts are boring, so check out some new screenshots below:

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A lot of folks have been wondering if there is any combat in Syndrome. The answer is yes, there is.
The player’s choices aren’t limited to running or hiding. It might not always be the best option, but there’s always the option of fighting back.

There are melee and long range weapons. Melee won’t work in many situations (hard to fight back against a group of enemies, or against fast creatures), but as long as there is ammo available, the player can always shoot.
Ammo is very scarce and a precious thing to find. The player needs to scavenge the ship, search dead bodies, look inside closets and drawers, etc.
If you need an incentive to explore the ship, this is it :)!

So in this video, we’re showing an encounter with a creature that has a cloaking device.
This is still very much work in progress: there are some sounds missing, props scattered around, etc. Some others are still place holders.

So back to the creature – luckily we are the devs, and we have no problems with ammo :) We’re shooting like crazy until he falls down.

We are still wondering if cloaked enemies should emit sounds (grunts) while cloaked or not. Should they be completely silent? What do you think?

In a few months, we’ll be releasing Syndrome.

We’ve been working hard and passionately to make it everything that we want it to be: a true survival horror game with some action, but not too much that it can be considered a shooter.

Most of the levels are ingame and functional, but still without the level of detail that we want them to have. The game takes place inside a spaceship where a lot of people live. We want the environment to transmit that idea, and we can’t have that with rooms full of boxes and barrels.

You can see below some of the rooms that we’re currently working on (living areas, labs, observatories, corridors, etc).

During the last week we also made a call for testers. It was a success, thanks to reddit!

We’ve gathered a good number of testers, which should receive the game during next month.
We don’t want folks to beta test the game for us. What we want is to gather opinions about the pacing, story, difficulty, etc. General information that can be very useful for us to polish the game to perfection :)

Without further ado, check out the latest screenshots below:

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During the past weekend, we were in the second edition of Comic Con Portugal.
Last year was great, but this year was even better. Over 50k people were in the expo, in the biggest convention of its kind in the country.
We were there with 24 other dev studios, representing the Portuguese game dev scene.

After 3 full days we could barely feel our feet anymore, but we had a great time with the other devs. There were great games exhibited there: some born from game jams that later evolved into full projects, others already well known and some others testing new technologies. Amazing stuff!

But the best part was showing Syndrome to the public.
We got amazing feedback from watching folks play, and useful suggestions from both the public and fellow devs.
The reception was really good, but we’re now going to use all the feedback that we got, to make it even better next time – probably at EGX Rezzed :)

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We started a greenlight campaign for Syndrome on September 30th. It was approved on October 8th.
We’re very happy with the overall experience: approval was fast, and a lot of folks got to know about the game.
So what exactly did we do?

1. Trailer
The best way to show the game is through video. Screenshots are good, but video is obviously the best media. We wanted to make a cool trailer that showed what the game was about, but without being too long so it didn’t become boring.
After recording a lot of footage and rendering dozens of versions, we were happy with the trailer. It showed the environment of the game and the overall feeling that we want to convey – survival horror with some action, without turning the game into a first person shooter.

2. Concentrated PR
We used a PR agency (Evolve) to send the trailer, screenshots and game description to the press a couple of days earlier, so that the news would come out on the Greenlight launch day.
Our partner Bigmoon Entertainment (which is working on the console version) used another PR agency (Plan of Attack) to announce the game on the same day, on another region.
This brought a lot of attention to our Greenlight page. After 24 hours, we were ~45% to the top 100.

3. Social Media
It’s obvious, but still worth noting. Social media is a powerful tool. We got a lot of traffic from Facebook and Twitter.
If your game / company already has a community, the exposure will be golden.

4. Steam Groups
There are thousands of Steam collections (game lists) focused on different game genres.
We searched for collections (Horror, Sci-fi, Survival, Greenlight) that could be interested in Syndrome, and sent them a small description and link to our Greenlight page.
Many of them were interested and added Syndrome to their collections, bringing more visitors to our page.

Did all this work?

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As you can see above, Syndrome did very well. We were getting more ‘Yes’ votes than the #5 and #10 items.

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The ‘Yes’ / ‘No’ percentage was very good.
The average of the top 50 is currently (as I write this) at 32% ‘Yes’ / 68% ‘No’

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And here you can see the votes during the week. Notice the higher numbers on the first two days (PR announcements and Greenlight launch) and a slow decline in the following days. On October 3rd we started contacting Steam collections, which brought more visitors to our page.
We were approved on October 8th, so the graphic drops there as there were no more votes.

Summing up, it all comes down to having a good presentation for your game (if possible, an awesome trailer), and letting people know that it exists.
But don’t be a spammer, people hate spammers :)

We’ve recently announced our latest project, a survival horror game called Sleepers.

Sleepers is one of these games that has a very strong focus on the narrative. We don’t want to create a game where the player is simply running away from a beast or killing zombies wielding a Beretta in each hand.

What we want is the player to feel emotionally attached to the story, while trying to find out what happened, and later doing what needs to be done. The story itself is horrifying, and perhaps more scarier than all the abominations that the player will find in the game.

That’s what we’re trying to achieve here: not just visual horror, but also psychological horror.

As you may or may not know, the game takes place aboard a spaceship in a futuristic setting.

Why did we choose this setting?

First of all, we are all sci-fi nerds in the team. Just look at our latest titles ?

But mostly because the idea of being trapped in a ship, just by itself, is horrifying. Of course the same can be said about a base in the arctic, or a house in a haunted forest, but the notion of being locked in a place where there’s nothing but the void around you, is terrifying.

Add all the insanity that’s going to happen to the player during the game, and we’ve got a true nightmare setting.

The ship is really big. It’s supposed to be in space for months during its travels, so it has all the necessary infrastructures for the crew to hold on so long far from home: sleeping quarters, mess halls, gym, cinema, lounges, medical bays, prison, pool, conference rooms among others, plus all the mechanical and electronic systems of the ship. These are all spread among 8 levels that the player will need to explore.

The ship has open (and more vulnerable) areas, but it also has tight spaces that can be useful to move quietly between certain sections.
You can see an example of each below:

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