Bill wrote a piece for Gamasutra about The Deep End's booth at PAX East 2018.
VR, a new game, and a different approach to booth design!
Perception is a narrative thriller that puts you in the shoes of a blind woman determined to solve the mysteries of the house from her nightmares!
Bill wrote a piece for Gamasutra about The Deep End's booth at PAX East 2018.
VR, a new game, and a different approach to booth design!
A few months back, Bill wrote a piece on the value of video games. IGN was kind enough to publish it. Hoping to start some conversations about where the industry is heading.
Hope you're having a happy fall. It's our favorite time of year, between pretty much all of our family birthdays but more importantly (no, not pumpkin spice AMANDA)...
It's the official Gardner holiday, so it's only fitting that the awaited remaster and Switch version drop ON HALLOWEEN!
We've got some spookiness for YOU!
Keep your eyes out for the update incoming on that day, and check out Perception on the Switch! All current consoles and the Switch version will be on sale for $14.99 USD.
We can't WAIT to hear what you think about the Story/Scary modes, the new streamlined story (especially ch. 2), and the updated warning system!
Please keep in touch and let us know your thoughts! And please spread the word!
Hey everyone! We are SO excited to discuss the details about what's coming in the next patch...
We've been doing a lot of listening. No, not to the house, but to YOU. Backers, streamers, you name it. We've seen a ton of fantastic compliments about the game (thank you), but we have also seen some great feedback on ways we can make the game even better.
And we want to do just that!
So, in the next patch, here's what you can expect.
You'll be able to select from three modes when you start a game! As with Chatty Cassie and Silent Night mode (both also came from great feedback early on in our Kickstarter campaign) we are giving gamers new ways to experience Perception.
We feel this will accommodate all types of play-styles and make for a more satisfying experience. This, along with the fixes from the first patch, will arrive as the first console patch and these specific changes will be the second patch on PC. Keep your eyes open for this patch to come out in the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy!
As always, any and all feedback is welcome, so feel free to email us directly at any point!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We are completely overwhelmed, overjoyed and humbled at the reception our game has received. This has been the most exciting, exhilarating month and we have you to thank.
We are so proud to be able to make this game thanks to you. Words cannot express the level of gratitude and sheer joy this has brought us, and we can't wait to make this game and put it in your hands!
Moving forward, we will keep you all posted regarding what's going on with Perception. We can't wait to show you more footage, screen shots, excerpts and more.
We will also be keeping the fundraising going on here on our website, thedeependgames.com so that we may still achieve those stretch goals. It should be up and running shortly. :)
Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Because of each of you, we have all made Perception reality!
-Bill, Amanda, and the Deep End Games team
Interview with David Sursely of FXVille
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been an artist in the industry since 2007. Starting out as an Environment and Technical Artist with Zombie Studios, I am now a VFX Artist with FXVille in Seattle, WA. In my off time I play a lot of video games while also trying to make some of my own. I enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends and walking my dog, Indiana.
How did you get into the FX field?
The FX artist at the studio I was with at the time left to pursue other options. I had taken the time to learn pretty much everything I could about the Unreal engine, so I was the only one that knew how to make any FX. This shifted my job title from Environment Artist to Technical Artist at that studio, and then I was offered a position with FXVille. The promise of getting to work with leading veterans in the field of real-time VFX was too much to pass up. So I changed positions again and have been learning from them ever since.
Tell us about some of the projects you worked on.
I worked as an Environment and Technical Artist at Zombie Studios. While there I worked on:
· Blacklight Retribution - A free-to-play FPS released for PC and PS4. I did a lot of environment art and lighting work, as well as some FX and design work.
· Daylight - A first person horror game released for PC and PS4. This as one of the first ever titles released that used Unreal 4. Zombie Studios had a very good relationship with Epic, so we had our hands on the engine pretty early. For this title, I worked on design, scripting, and FX.
While working with FXVille, I have worked on State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition developed by Undead Labs. This game was originally released for the XBOX 360 in 2013. For the re-release they wanted to improve the visuals to better use the power of the XBOX One. So I was tasked with remaking most of the FX in the game as well as creating new FX to fill areas and events that their previous limitations would not allow.
What games inspire you?
I'm not sure how to answer this. Different games inspire me for different reasons. The list would be too long. But for just visual FX overall I would have to go with Infamous: Second Son. What they did with particle work in that game was masterful.
How would you describe your approach when you start a project?
I try to get a clear idea of what needs to be represented by the effects I am being asked to make. Gameplay and design need to come first. FX should support and augment the design of the game and send a message to the player about what is happening. I attempt to gather as much information about the design of the game as I can, and then come up with a few clear concepts or aspects that support that design.
How did you come up with the effects for Perception?
The idea of representing sound visually was an interesting problem. There were some aspects presented in the design doc for Perception that I gravitated towards. The first was the idea of Schlieren Photography, a method of capturing the flow of fluids and the results of shock waves in the air. The other was that the sounds needed to be stopped by objects and walls in the environment. This lead me to using lights to represent the sound in the world. The ability to set the brightness, radius, and use the shadows cast from the lights filled all the rolls I needed. I then used everything I could in the Unreal Engine toolbox to make those lights look how I wanted. I used light functions, particle effects, and post process effects to mold them into the look you see in the game.
Tell us a bit about FXVille.
FXVille is home to some of the best VFX Artists in the industry with a huge library of shipped titles. We strive to help a game reach its full potential by becoming an integral part of any team we work with. We don't just create FX and hope for the best. We become co-developers and see a project through from pre-production to ship date. Working with the talented people at FXVille makes me a better artist everyday, and having the chance to work on different projects gives me the experience needed to be the best game developer I can be. Being a part of FXVille gives me the chance to work on titles like Perception, something I wouldn't be able to do working at almost any other studio in the industry.
Greetings, Backers! Can you believe it? We are down to ONE WEEK left in the campaign! If you were planning on upping your bid, now's the time, before anyone snaps up the exclusive tier you were eyeing. Now's also the time to mobilize - tweet, share, tell a friend, shout it from the rooftops - Perception must be made! Let's not just fund this, but let's hit some of those stretch goals. We can do it!
And to add to the excitement of this week, we have a really fantastic announcement.
The Deep End Games is pleased to announce that their new game Perception will include a bonus level written by Joshua Fialkov.
Joshua Hale Fialkov is the creator (or co-creator, depending) of graphic novels, including ELK'S RUN, THE BUNKER, THE LIFE AFTER, PUNKS, TUMOR, and ECHOES.
He also served as a writer on the Emmy Award Nominated animated film Afro Samurai: Resurrection, and as Executive Producer of the cult hit LG15: The Resistance web series.
He has written comics for companies including Marvel, DC, Legendary, Wildstorm, Oni Press, IDW, Dark Horse, Image, Tor Books, Seven Seas Entertainment, Del Rey, Random House, Dabel Brothers Productions, and St. Martin’s Press. He has done video game work for THQ, Midway Entertainment, The Workshop, and Gore Verbinski’s Blind Wink Productions. He also wrote a Sci-Fi Channel movie starring Isabella Rossellini and Judd Nelson. Unfortunately, at no point in the film does Judd Nelson punch the sky and freeze frame.
Creative Director Bill Gardner says, “I was lucky enough to have met and worked with Josh in film school, and once I discovered his work on my local comic book store’s shelf, I dreamed of collaborating with him on a game. With Perception, this is fulfilling a fifteen-year reunion in a perfect creative match.”
Joshua's level will be included in Perception if the $215,000 stretch goal is met.
Next, you should DEFINITELY check out the Perception page if you have't lately. We have a teaser-gif for the next video we release, and if you look in the Campaign section, you'll see the changes we've made to the tiers and the new additions. This section is the most accurate and up-to-date when it comes to rewards, because the side-bar rewards can't be edited.
We'd also like to shout-out a few of our favorite Kickstarter projects.
We are so stoked about We Happy Few, and we just know you will be, too! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/112359230/we-happy-few-welcome-to-wellington-wells-you-saucy
Also, have you seen Song of Horror? Creeptastic and haunting. Check it out! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1139999460/song-of-horror
We also love Pixel Starships! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/savysoda/pixel-starships-8bit-starship-management-strategy
Lastly, we think Neptune Flux looks amazing! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zoxidegames/neptune-flux
Hello, Perception backers! We've got an exciting announcement for you. We've had a lot of requests for physical copies of the game, so, without further ado we're proud to unveil...
$35 - Physical copy of Digital Dabbler
Physical Digital Dabbler
The Physical copy of Digital Dabbler PC in jewel case comes with all the content of our Digital Dabbler Reward on disc: the PC game, wallpaper, a digital concept art pack and the amazing score by Jim Bonney all on the full color printed disc.
$60 - Physical Collector's Edition
Physical Collector's Edition
The Physical Collector's Edition PC in DVD sized Digipak and sleeve packaging, comes with a hardcover mini art book and a full color, high quality paper stock, as well as the PC game, a digital concept art pack, stickers, wallpaper and the amazing score by Jim Bonney, all on the full color printed disc.
Any pledge over $250 digital download on the console of your choice and the physical PC version.
We've also added some new tiers for those of you who wanted to collaborate more with us.
$325 - Fright Club (limited 5)
The first rule of Fright Club is you don't talk about Fright Club. Members get the exclusive privilege of being able to collaborate on a design for a short, frightening sequence in the game. Will be credited as Horror Consultants. Includes all prior non-exclusive tiers.
$500 - Interior Designer (limited 5)
Select from a number of rooms in Echo Bluff and collaborate with The Deep End to tell the story of the space. Select the furniture, decor, stylistic and narrative touches. Great opportunity for budding designers or creative types to put their mark on a game. Will be credited as Interior Designers. Includes all prior non-exclusive tiers.
Hey backers, we have a really exciting update today!
First off, we're just about 2/3 of the way there, now that we're at the half-way point in the campaign. We just need one last push to blast through our initial goal and start smashing those stretch goals.
And we think this will help.
We've made a MAJOR modification to the Presence reward tier. In addition to the statue and prior rewards that come with it, we will now incorporate a handful of lines read IN YOUR VOICE into the Presence's voice! You'll be added to its collection of tortured souls for all eternity. Get this exclusive tier while you can.
And speaking of the Presence statue, we're doing a giveaway! One lucky person who shares our Facebook post containing the video "The Mystery of Echo Bluff" and the caption “Check out this urban legend” will be entered to win our limited edition statue of The Presence. Details below.*
*No purchase necessary. Must be shared by 1 pm EST Saturday, 6/13. We will use random.orgto select the winner from the list of shares and retweets and will post the winner Saturday after 1 pm EST. Limited to US and Canada, includes statue and shipping but no customs or insurance.
Lastly, we have a haunting new video to add to the lore of Echo Bluff. Check it out!
Some other cool Kickstarters to check out: Through the Woods has 4 days left and has hit 77% so check it out! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1854868411/through-the-woods?ref=category_ending_soon
Also, Umbra has 4 days to go and the game looks amazing! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1062682568/umbra?ref=category_ending_soon
Interview with Perception’s Concept Team: Concept Artist Robb Waters and Modeler Jed Wahl
So, tell me about the first character or concept you collaborated on?
Robb: This would have been early Bioshock splicer stuff...Jed and I shared a little office room. On the door to the office I added vinyl gold letters that read "Waters and Wahl Art services" as a joke. I think the first character was more of a monstrous take on the ceiling crawler.
Jed: Yeah, early versions of Bioshock's splicers were more like experimental mutants in an undersea research facility, before the setting evolved into dystopian Rapture. Robb and I went through a small suite of Splicers that were designed with specific attacks in mind, like melee, marksman, grenadier, and ceiling crawlers. The original ceiling crawler was a disfigured, grey-skinned woman in a back brace-like apparatus and the large hooks that remained in the final game. When the Splicers evolved into tragic former citizens of Rapture, we focused more on representing different layers of social classes in the models, any of which could exhibit the programmed attack behaviors.
How do you two work together? What is your process?
Robb: Our process is just a lot of back and forth. Sometimes I draw up something but some areas or aspects to the character are unresolved until I see Jed’s model. Once I have the model to look at in the round then able to figure out what direction I want to take it.
Jed: Robb's orthographic designs for his characters are very informative and meticulous, so I always have a pretty clear blueprint to start from when I jump into a model. Still there are always going to be areas in a 3d model that a 2d representation might not fully account for, so often I'll take a model to a certain point and then provide him with renders to draw on top of so he can work through how textured a specific surface should be or how certain elements should attach together. It's an iterative process that often continues after we get the character into the game engine, at which point we may tweak subtle details and proportions to make something feel right through the player's point of view.
What is your favorite character or concept you collaborated on?
Robb: This would probably be the little sister as it was one of the first characters that came along that really started to inform the direction of Bioshock.
Jed: She really was the key to the overall tone of Bioshock. The "Gatherer" started out as a mutant slug, back when the Big Daddies were intended to be shepherds minding a flock. That proved too resource intensive, so it was decided that they needed to be larger, singular creatures; multiple concepts were made until it was decided that we needed to visually sell some sort of emotional bond between the Gatherer and its Protector, and so it became the Little Sister that we know. I still miss the short-lived version that looked like an evil Oompa Loompa in a hazmat suit though :P
What was your approach to The Presence?
Robb: I really just had to envision what would scare me most. A shrouded hunched over figure as seemingly simple as it is still one of the scariest things I can imagine bumping into. Not knowing exactly who or what something is always more unnerving to me. I worked up some
initial sketches for Jed and once got to check out his model I went back to the concept and made some tweaks that solidified the design, making it that much creepier.
Jed: Yeah there was a certain amount of virtual tailoring going on as we attempted to get the cut and fit of the fabrics just right. At the start I actually experimented with using a cloth simulation program, draping and stitching patterns over an underlying form that I'd modeled. But with a character so defined by cloth materials, it was actually easier to just sculpt it in Zbrush rather than wrestling with simulation parameters. As mentioned above, Robb and I then exchanged renders with drawovers and notes back and forth to refine the design. After the initial forms were worked out, I put a quick UV layer over the model and applied a tiling alpha texture generated from photos of an actual afghan that Robb had lying around to generate the fabric noise on the surface of the character. :)
An Interview with Perception’s Audio Director, Jim Bonney
Tell us how you got started in audio?
It depends how far back you want to go...
I actually started when I was a little kid, running around the house with a portable cassette recorder, making unsuspecting members of my family participate in "radio dramas" that I would cook up on the fly. I would improvise narration to try to make however they reacted make sense to my ongoing storyline. They were pretty obnoxious endeavors, but I loved the results. Later I got a dual cassette boom box, and I figured out that if I plugged my guitar into the input jack, and played guitar while I played one cassette and recorded on the other, I could layer up multiple guitar parts. It was super crude, bad-sounding multitrack recording, but I made quite a few recordings like that.
In college, I studied Audio Recording Technology, and was also always looking for extra gigs to make money... live sound mixing for a band, or recording someone's album after-hours in the school's studio... I was also doing a lot of live sound and sound design for theatre. When I graduated from college, I got a job with an independent record company as a digital editor and assistant engineer/producer at recording sessions. I did that for 3 years. It was a great gig, but I wanted to do something more creative, and that's when I started writing and producing my own music.
What projects have you worked on?
Video games-wise, I've worked on Slugfest, Blitz: The League, Ballers, Mortal Kombat Armageddon, John Woo Presents: Stranglehold, and BioShock Infinite.
What games inspire you?
Audio-wise, generally I love it when the soundscape is really pared down to the most basic elements - then it has the opportunity to create a really clear sonic signature for a game: Limbo, Journey, Hohokum...
What is your approach when you first start working on a game?
I really, really, really try to understand and absorb the creative and technical direction - I want my work to compliment the rest of the design. That's an ongoing process. I am constantly trying to keep in touch with the creative pulse of the rest of the project. Then on my own, I look for opportunities to amplify what I am experiencing - how can I make that game mechanic more intuitive to the player? How can I make that art feature seem more massive or appear more amazing? How can I make the movement in that animation really *pop*? How can I make this entire experience more immersive?
What role does sound play in Perception?
Sound is huge in Perception, because the only way the player can see the world is by making sounds that set off Cassie's echolocation. The player has the ability to use Cassie's cane to tap the ground, but any sound helps define the visual feedback of the space: water dripping from a faucet, wind seeping from an open window, even Cassie's footsteps. But making sounds is also what drives your greatest threat, The Presence, closer to you. So you really have to try to manage the sounds you choose to make in the world.
Since Cassie is blind, sound is also the only sense that Cassie has that can be directly communicated to the player. So in a lot of ways, I feel responsible to accurately represent Cassie's world for the player... what she is focused on, how intently she might detect sounds... there's a sense of hyper-realism I am trying to get across. At the same time, I want to make this experience a scary, immersive ride for the player, so I have to approach the sound from a storytelling perspective as well. So the soundscape involves a balancing act for me as the sound designer, as well as for the player.
In a lot of ways, this is the game I have always wanted to make!
What is your personal aesthetic? What's the stank you put on a project?
So audio can be broken down into three disciplines: sound design, voiceover, and music. I am extremely lucky to be able to "move the faders" on all of those disciplines on this project. When I am designing sound effects, I am really trying to convey a sense of hyper-realism - that sense that Cassie really hears the details in a sound. So I want everything to be as detailed and "tactile"-sounding as possible, and focus the mix so the player gets a sense of Cassie's focus on sound.
Voiceover-wise, this is a human-scale story about "real" human beings - no one in this story is supposed to be larger-than-life. So I have been working with Bill and Amanda to cast the characters very carefully. I would like you to have a sense of who their character is as soon as they open their mouths. In some instances, that means embracing common characterizations to some extent; but at the same time, Amanda's writing is so natural, that when a character says a line, it just sounds natural, like people actually talk, not like the line was written down. So we're trying to match the roles with the voice talent that can give their performance naturally, without a sense that they're *ACTING*. I think Angela Morris' portrayal of Cassie is a good example of that. When we are recording Cassie's lines, Angela is playing a role but she instinctively knows who Cassie is and how she would speak - my only job is making sure Angela understands the context of the line within the game, or within the story. Angela and Amanda both make "natural" sound easy, but it's a very rare and extremely difficult thing to do.
Musically, I am trying to represent Cassie - her loneliness and her fear in these strange and unsettling surroundings. So I want the music to give you that feeling. I have pared down an orchestra to a few instruments. So far, I'm only using one flute, one clarinet, a contrabassoon, and one 'cello... I reserve the right to change my mind, but at this point, I have no intention of using any more. There is also some whistling at the end of the trailer, performed by my amazingly-talented and good friend, Jeff Seamster. The rest of the "ensemble" is being filled out with my own crazy acoustic and electric guitar concoctions. I love experimenting with making and mutating guitars into weird noise, and this project is perfect for those results. There's also some makeshift percussion instruments (like hitting an industrial-sized fan), but no real drums or anything.
Really, everything comes down to representing Cassie's experience aurally for the player... I just have to try to keep these different disciplines from conflicting with one another!
How do you compose a score?
I always start with limitations - what I am going to rule out. For example, on Perception, I decided immediately that I would not use a standard orchestra. So I spend some time doing that. Then once I know what I will absolutely NOT do, I try to think as expansively as possible... what CAN I do within those confines? I will often do a lot of research into different possibilities, and in the case of Perception, I decided I wanted to go for a Bernard Herrmann-esque approach - an unusual ensemble, a strong recurring theme, etc. but come at it with a much more modern/contemporary approach. Lastly, I try to hear the music as clearly as I possibly can in my imagination before I start writing any little black dots or producing any tracks. I try to aurally visualize what I want the end results to sound like, and lock that sound in my memory, before I start to work. And then I just muddle through... because quite honestly, everything sounds pretty crappy until it starts sounding good.
What was your approach to scoring Perception?
For this game, I watch and play through and I see where music could help propel the experience. And then I try to imagine how I can do as little as possible with that music - how late can I come in, how early can I get out, how can I limit what I do musically as much as possible... not because I am lazy, but because in this game - especially in this game - less is soooo much more. And simple is much more difficult than excess.
What sort of sounds remind you of Echo Bluff?
The echoes... oh man, I didn't mean to say that! But seriously... you know that sound when you walk into an empty house or apartment, and there's no furniture or curtains or rugs to soak up the reverberation? Or late at night in a big city, you may have had the experience of walking through a valley of tall buildings and you can hear every step you take bouncing off those urban canyon walls... those are very lonely, abandoned sounds. Also, things sounding like one thing and actually being something else entirely.
We at the Deep End have some really exciting news for you. Perception's going great, but we only have two and a half more weeks to get funded and start hitting those stretch goals, so we are shaking things up and making this an even more rewarding game to back. Check out these amazing changes.
1) The Myth Hunter tier will now be lowered to $400 instead of $450. This book is so gorgeous, we just want to get it in the hands of more people, and now we can. It's UNLIMITED, so now everyone on this tier and above can have it in their home. The picture below is a work in progress so it will still go through some iterations, but damn we are excited to share it with you. Look at this thing - spectacular! Great collector's piece, great investment.
2) We have lowered the Sounds in the Night tier to...wait for it...$300, down from $600. There are only three of these in the world, and each one is unique. They have sounds recorded on three separate, haunted nights at Echo Bluff. Think Paranormal Activity here. This is a really stellar reward and we can't wait to get it to you for less.
3) Here's the biggie, folks...it's the ULTIMATE CONTRIBUTOR tier. There is only one of these bad boys, and there's a reason. You get every single non-exclusive AND exclusive tier in the whole game! You'll be getting a text, voicemail, diary entry, letter/recording, bust of your likeness, the works! And the icing on the cake - you'll be credited as an "Executive Producer" on the game. This is an amazing opportunity and the best possible tier for an ultimate fan. We can't WAIT to work with you!
Thank you all so much for getting us this far! We know that with your help, we can push Perception over the goal and start hitting the stretch goals. Please do all you can to spread the word and share the love for Perception. We are so excited to bring this game to you, we just need a nudge.
And, coming soon, we have lots more exciting announcements on their way (can't tell you what but WOW) so stay tuned. :)
The Deep End Games is pleased to announce that their new game Perception will support key features to make the game accessible to those with low vision. This includes options for large subtitles, high contrast, reticle selection, and text to speech.
“During our concepting stage, we did a lot of research to learn more about vision impairment, blindness and how people can still be empowered despite those challenges. We found that to be very inspiring to us as game developers but also as human beings,” says Amanda Gardner, Lead Writer and Producer. “In an ideal world we’d love to make the game blind accessible as well, but that would be a number of significant design changes beyond the scope of our funding goal. We will, however, commit resources to exploring our options to determine if there is a right solution. We always felt that if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly. We haven’t given up yet.”
In addition, if the Kickstarter hits $250,000 in funding, after the game is released, The Deep End Games will commit to donating up to $25,000 of the game’s proceeds at retail to “World Access for the Blind,” a Non-Profit organization that teaches blind people to ”discover a new way of ‘seeing through sound’”.
Upon reaching $250,000 in funding for Perception, The Deep End Games will commit to donating $1 for every copy sold within the first year of the PC release, up to $25,000. The final amount will be determined and notarized one year after the PC game releases on Steam or when the game exceeds 25,000 units in sales, whichever comes first.
The Deep End Games’ Creative Director Bill Gardner says: “We are amazed by the media attention that the game has received so far and we hope that this buzz helps raise awareness for those with accessibility needs. We wanted to contribute to one organization in particular that has been truly inspiring. When we discovered Daniel Kish and World Access for the Blind, we were incredibly energized. For us, it made Cassie and the world of Perception more real. As such, we felt that it made sense to pay it forward and help create awareness for this amazing cause.”
About “World Access for the Blind”
“We have helped nearly 10,000 students in nearly 40 countries. We are a dedicated team who lead by example, as most of us are blind! Our unique, scientific method teaches blind people to see in new ways by activating the brain to gain images of the world through sound and touch - like lighting a match in the dark. We are known for our No Limits attitude, as we do not settle for the minimum requirements of functioning, but instead challenge ourselves and our students to reach beyond their limits. Our students understand that they can direct their own lives rich with quality, promise, and as much excitement and intrigue as they could wish for. By our approach, blind people can grow from being passive recipients, often marginalized and restricted, to active contributors free to achieve a quality of life of their own choosing. Through your generous support, we help more blind children and adults globally to improve their quality of life, to challenge poverty and social isolation, and to find freedom to realize their dreams.”
Meet Perception’s Level Artists: Desiree Fernandes and Hung Nguyen
How did you approach the art in Perception?
Desiree: The interesting thing about making the art for Perception was that we had to approach it differently than we would approach a game with a more traditional art style. Because Cassie is blind and can't see colour or light, we were able to simplify our art process and eliminate those aspects, making the process from start to finish a little faster. At the same time, we also have to pay extra attention to textural detail, because that is what she can see. We take the extra time we save not having to make colour for our objects and put that towards making the objects in the game have convincing and detailed texture.
Hung: We wanted to sell the house as its own entity, to establish it as a real thing and not just level art, so we spent a good deal of time gathering reference for local architecture, period styles and decorative themes.
We've been working off of a realistic floor-plan that we continually iterate on: everything from the passages and rooms to the wall meshes themselves so that they will feel more like real spaces.
Since game-play and the player's experience are at the fore front of our minds, I expect it could change again down the line.
What sort of assets did you create in the game?
Desiree: My job was mostly to create furniture and other objects for the game. Basically anything that isn't nailed down is what I've been working on. It's sort of like being an interior designer in a way, making sure that everything that goes into the house matches everything else and that it all flows well.
Hung: I built up modular assets for most of the structural pieces of the house and fences--walls, windows, floors, stairs as well as the front door and level construction.
I then set about building the house from all of our combined assets and working to establish the footprint of the landscape around the estate as well as the finer details of the interior.
What has been your favorite part of the process so far?
Desiree: I think my favourite part of working on Perception so far was seeing our internal drafts for the Kickstarter video. It's easy to not see the larger picture when you're in the trenches of working on individual pieces of the game, but there's something amazing about seeing everything coming together and looking like a real game. Every time I look at the Kickstarter video, I'm just so proud that I had a hand in that and that it's finally becoming real.
Hung: I've enjoyed witnessing Perception come alive, bit by bit, as features come on line or are refined. My first favorite moment was seeing the house finally take shape and being able to navigate using the fabulous FX work.
Early prototypes and iterations gave us an idea but it was something else to be able to 'play' it with certain features in and get a sense of what it would one day be.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
Desiree: I'm not sure I've really developed a personal aesthetic quite yet, as I'm still pretty new to the industry. I would definitely say that I lean towards a grungy and old realistic style, and also towards a cute handpainted style. So I think I've got a dual personal aesthetic so far. It would be fun to combine those two into something someday, like a creepy and cute handpainted piece. Maybe after we finish development on Perception once it's been successfully funded (hint hint).
Hung: I tend to gravitate towards sci-fi-military because that's what I like to watch but as far as art inspiration, anything goes.
After working on Bioshock Infinite I do have a fondness for different styles from the classic Beaux-Arts to Art Deco and Streamline-Moderne.
What games inspire you?
Desiree: I've always been enthralled by the idea of freedom in games. Open world games are what I always seem to turn to when I have time to play. From Ocarina of Time to Skyrim, these kinds of games have always inspired me and driven my passion of making games. At the same time, I also really love encapsulated experiences like Gone Home and The Cat Lady, where the real emphasis is on telling a story. Freedom of choice in games is almost always a great thing, but there is also something wonderful about being taken by the hand and told a beautiful story, with you helping along the way.
Hung: I don't think it'd be surprising to say Bioshock: Infinite has inspired me a lot since I learned so much from everyone while working at Irrational with the tremendous talent there and to be fair, we all continually honed our craft bringing it to light.
There are so many games that take your breath away and I'm all over the map about what games I play. Sometimes I'll be down for an online shooter where nothing but the kills count, map after map. Other times I'll enjoy being led through a well written experience, getting to know the life of the character a team toiled for years to bring to life; but if it strikes me that day I'll happily ignore the main story-line and play my own way in a sandbox game.
Currently I'm into more personal experiences, games like Life is Strange or Ghost Mode on Dishonored, where your decisions determine events or what your role is in this world. Since we as players have all the power I like to feel that what we do has some effect in shaping the experience if not conveying consequences for our actions.
What are you most excited about with Perception?
Desiree: The most exciting about Perception is the gameplay that will come out of echolocation and how that will affect how we create a horror game. The challenge of making a compelling horror game with the right difficulty balance, and with Cassie's blindness also being taken into account is something I'm really excited about tackling with the rest of the team. I'm also just really excited about furniture right now. I have a growing folder of reference images for everything a house could ever need, and then some.
Hung: At this stage in the project we have so many avenues we could explore and I am excited about things we can't tell you about yet--things that have and yet have not occurred yet in the game ;)
Seriously though I am looking forward to us establishing the different eras to give them a distinct feel from one another within our framework.
That and being chased around in the dark while this is all going on. As my colleague Desiree noted, it will be a challenge to create a compelling game with just enough terror to keep you entertained and on your toes but it is a challenge we are looking forward to.
Meet Perception’s Design Team: Kirk Bezio and Ben Johnson
How did you approach the design in Perception?
Kirk: I usually tend to grind away at an idea until it grudgingly reveals its shape to me, one tiny epiphany at a time. With Perception, however, I had a pretty good concept of what the game could be right from the start. A lot of interesting ideas tumbled out very quickly, though you never really know what will work until you try it. The most important part of the design process, especially for a game like this, is prototyping and playtesting. To that end, I try to iterate in-engine as much as possible, as early as possible.
Reduced to its fundamental gameplay elements, Perception boils down to "You are blind and being hunted." What immediately struck me was how sound is both a comforting ally to you and, at the same time, your betrayer. This kind of dissonance is the engine that drives interesting decision making. You depend on sound to find your way around, to interact with the world, to make progress. There is no reason not to use it constantly... excessively even. Yet somewhere out there in the void is the Presence, listening for any hint of you. Now suddenly sound is a resource that must be carefully managed. It is an obstacle that must be circumvented. It is a puzzle to be torn apart and understood. It is a weapon that can be brought to bear against the senses of your enemy. The design is transformed by this tension between the fear of discovery and the need to move forward.
Ben: When it comes to horror, I like to start from the idea of "an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances." Cassie is an ordinary woman, walking around in a house that she hasn't been to, but has seen repeatedly in her dreams. How much should you trust what's on your screen? Is that door real? Is the pattern in the carpet something you remember from your dreams, or are you just imagining it? Are your senses being tampered with by the supernatural presence? That's a pretty robust palette to work with.
What games inspire you, from a design standpoint?
Kirk: Plants Vs. Zombies is one of the most important design handbooks on my shelf. Its lessons are innumerable and deftly executed. Similarly, I greatly admire how each tool and system in Batman: Arkham Asylum was crafted to provide the player with a symphony of indispensable verbs.
Board games are also a great source of inspiration, particularly for creating transparent and accessible mechanics. A Few Acres of Snow is one of my recent favorites.
The most compelling experiences to me though are those that allow players to apply their natural problem-solving instincts and express themselves within an engaging and deeply immersive world. Thief I & II, Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus have all had a profound impact on my design sensibilities. These games are not afraid to hand over the reigns and let the player drive, trusting that the world-building, emergent game systems and rich environmental storytelling will transport the player solidly into another reality in which they can lose themselves.
Ben: I'm lucky to be part of New York's amazing game design community. Having worked with Babycastles for the last 5 years, it's hard not to be influenced by people like Bennett Foddy (QWOP), Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), or Anna Anthropy (Dys4ia). Attention to gamefeel, and resisting the urge to add to a design when you can remove something are attitudes I try to practice in my own work. For Perception in particular, some reference points are Dead Space, Silent Hill 2, Gone Home, and the perception-twisting twine game The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo.
What has been your favorite part of the process so far?
Kirk: Working with a small team on a focused project with a clear vision has been fantastic.
Ben: Cassie's such an interesting character to design for. She's not just a stand-in for the player, she's a specific person. When I'm working on a system or a mechanic, I try to think about how it can express Cassie's personality. How does the way Cassie explores a room differ from Isaac Clarke in Dead Space, or Katie Greenbriar in Gone Home? It's a challenge to elevate a mechanic from something utilitarian to something expressive without needlessly complicating it, but striking that balance is one of the most fun parts of the job.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic or style of design?
Kirk: I suppose I design the same way I play, by thoughtfully probing the boundaries of the world in which I find myself, in search of something new or meaningful to learn or digest.
Ben: I wish I had a straight answer for this. I'm informed a lot by theater, both in terms of performance, and lets-put-on-a-show work ethic. I'm more punk than classic, and more entertainer than artist. I believe the audience can handle it if you've laid the groundwork to earn it, and sometimes even if you haven't.
What are you most excited about with Perception?
Kirk: Figuring out how to assemble a completely new idea is one of the most thrilling aspects of game development. Perception is an opportunity to sail off the edge of the map and slay some design dragons.
Ben: I've been working mostly in 2D for the last few years, so some of my excitement is just about getting a chance to think in three dimensions again. And I don't know if you've looked at this team, but there is so much talent here. It's a great feeling to dig into such a cool premise and know that when you realize the right way to build something isn't the easy way, that these people will have your back when you follow your instincts.
Follow Ben @GameDesignerBen on Twitter!
Bringing Cassie to Life: An Interview with Angela Morris
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?
I'm from a small town in Southern Illinois (think Kentucky south and you're close), where I grew up in the country with lots of animals.
How did you get into acting?
I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who value the arts and are incredibly supportive of the path that I've chosen. I was exposed to great performance art, mostly ballets and musicals, from a very early age. When I was four, my mom enrolled me in tap and ballet. From there, it seems like the rest was a natural progression. I started taking voice lessons, then I was cast in my first musical, then I was doing at least two shows a summer, oftentimes in towns over forty miles away, then I was keeping it up through the school year, and I never really stopped.
I'm drawn to this profession because I get to tell and be a part of amazing stories. I love experiencing different lives, different ways of viewing the world. And, I'm a huge fan of the collaboration that goes into creating a piece, be it for theatre or voiceover. Working with creative people is a definite highlight of the process.
What are some of your hobbies?
I am a voracious reader, I've always got two or three books started. I'm a film and TV geek and spend what many would consider an unseemly amount of time watching movies.
How did you approach the role of Cassie?
I started with the breakdown, which contained the basic essence of the character and the genre. The sides for the Cassie audition specified her independence and her sass and that the character existed within a horror game. It takes a very special type of person to maintain wit and sarcasm in a fight for survival.
Then, I went to the text. I read it repeatedly, getting more of the character with each pass through. Word choice & punctuation informed my read immensely. Though I only had a few of the lines, they gave me an immediate sense of who Cassie was as a person. For example, despite this being horror, she was described as nervous only once within the sides. Who is that person? A badass, that's who.
Once I knew who Cassie was, I recorded my interpretation of her. It's easy to fall into the trap of second guessing acting choices. "Am I doing this right? Is this what the casting director wants?" Basically, "you do you" has become my mantra. Sometimes my read is right for the project, but oftentimes it isn't. However, it definitely won't work if I'm trapped in my head trying to figure out how I can be the perfect choice. Thus, after an audition, I try to let it go. However, I really, really wanted this one.
Once I was cast and received the script, I read over it top to bottom in order to refine my interpretation of the character. During this read, I learned that Cassie was blind and my initial impression, see "badass" above, was fortified. No wonder she was independent. She'd had to be. I also learned that she wasn't "just" a sarcastic woman, her words were bricks that she used to build walls around herself. And then, all that was left was to play, to put my stamp on her while doing my best to do justice to the amazing character that Amanda and Bill had created. And, of course, to listen to and implement the direction Jim Bonney gave me.
What sort of roles inspire you?
I'm always passionate about roles that take me outside of my own immediate experience. And, I'm especially drawn to complicated characters. Those who are strong AND vulnerable. The weak who are also brave.
Cassie is that kind of role for me. I would never, NEVER take the journey she takes in the game, especially not alone and without the benefit of sight. Her self-sufficiency is inspiring. However, I empathize with her drive, the need to know, the need to figure out why this place is calling her. We all have a grail, but Cassie is actually able to take the leap and seek it out.
What are your favorite roles?
This one's really hard, but: Getrude in Round 5 of The Hamlet Project: Chicago; Charli in "Trash," a short film currently in post-production; Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz; and Cassie, of course.
Who are your favorite voice actresses and why?
Jennifer Hale. If you get a chance, watch her animation reel. You can't tell it's the same person from character to character. Her control and versatility are absolutely astounding.
Tara Strong. She's voiced some of my favorite characters: Raven from Teen Titans; Harley Quinn; and so many others.
E.G. Daily. Tommy Pickles, need I say more? And Babe the pig. I still tear up just hearing a couple of words.
What challenges did you face when voicing Cassie?
One of the biggest challenges with Cassie was not letting my fear of her situation creep in too much. Cassie is braver than I am, and upon occasion that fear would color my read. This is a woman quipping in the face of danger, not cowering. But, Jim Bonney would give great direction that clicked for me and off we would go, a defiant Cassie once more.
Is this your first time voice acting for a video game?
Perception is my first video game. I may have screamed a teeny tiny bit when I found out I had booked Cassie and Poppet.
Would be nice to hear how the medium is different for you. Or not. And how you experience it.
With theatre and film the world is there, though it may be bare bones, to interact with, to inform choices and help shape a performance. There's still a lot of imagination that goes into it, but for me, voiceover requires even more. For example, costumes provide a lot of information about a character. I'm not going to speak like I'm wearing sneakers when I'm shoved into a corset for a period piece.
With Perception, all I had was the script, no costumes, no partners to play with. It's up to me to do my best to construct everything in my head. Thankfully, Perception is very, very well written and it gave me everything I needed to imagine myself as Cassie, making my way through this ever morphing haunted house. And, if I ever got off track, I had a great director to steer me back.
Also, a nice perk with voiceover is being able to show up in a hoodie and not worry about whether my hair is being uncooperative.
All that being said, I approach any kind of acting as a world to be built and lived within for the duration of the project. Different tools are used depending upon the medium, but, for me, everything can be distilled to imagination and empathy for the characters and their journeys.
Do you play games? Which ones?
I love RPGs and action-adventures. The first game that I really got into was Baldur's Gate on PC. I was way too young to get some, probably most, of the themes, but I was hooked on the exploration and the quests. Also, fun fact, Jennifer Hale voices Liia Jannath. And, of course, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64. I wore out the cartridge, but I still totally brought it and my N64 with me when I moved to Chicago.
My tastes haven't really evolved much from when I started gaming. I'm a big fan of the Elder Scrolls, and I almost exclusively play as a thief character. Basically, if you give me a bow and arrow and locks to pick I'm good to go. Other games/series that I enjoy are: Fable; Assassins Creed; Arkham City; and Prince of Persia.
After I found out who made up The Deep End Games team, I picked up BioShock Infinite so right now I'm playing that. I will not, however, be playing Dead Space. I would never sleep again.
What's next for you? What are you working on?
Currently, I'm working on an independent feature called Less Than 30 that I wrote and in which I play the lead. We just filmed the last shot of the film and will now be heading into post-production. Up next for me is a voice project with VTECH Toys that I'm really excited about. And, of course, auditioning.
For a bonus interview, check out this video of Angela!
We have received many questions about localization and have gotten some price estimates on the cost of implementing subtitles.
We are excited to announce a new stretch goal! If we hit just $162,000, we will have subtitles for Perception in Russian, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese (Brazil). For now, we have included the languages that are requested the most, but please do keep sending us your requests. If there is enough demand, we’ll look at this again!
We are thrilled to share Perception with the world, and with your help, we can!
Update: New Presence Statue Pricing, a word about GOG, and what inspires Bill Gardner
Hey everyone, great news. The exclusive, limited edition figure by Robb Waters has dropped in price to just $1200, down from $1500. We are lowering it as far as we can simply because we can’t stand Robb’s amazing work to go by unnoticed, and we want this gorgeous piece in Perception fans’ hands. Each one is numbered and signed and there are only 25 total, so this is a perfect piece for serious game collectors. Pledge now and get a piece of Echo Bluff’s lore for your home.
Additionally, we updated our frequently asked questions regarding GOG. Here’s what we had to say: We looked into this and have reached out to GOG, unfortunately at this stage they cannot guarantee that the game will be released on GOG.com (they want to play it first), but it is certainly our intention to pursue this. They did tell us that IF the game will be released on GOG.com, all backers will have an option to choose to receive a code for their client instead of a Steam code. Please note that because we ARE approved Steam developers but not GOG, the game might release slightly later on GOG than it will on Steam. IF we do get greenlit by GOG of course.
Lastly, Bill sat down and penned an article on what inspires him. Scroll on to see what really goes on in his brain.
I’m often asked, what inspires you? Well, the answer depends on how much time you have because I could go on all day. On the whole, I appreciate craft. I love the little details that clearly show when someone has poured their heart and soul to something. That goes well beyond media.
Recently, to celebrate our ten year anniversary, Amanda and I went to Newport, RI, to tour the mansions. Yes, this was also a work-related field trip. I’m romantic like that. Anyhoo, I thought yeah, I like big things and mansions are big, so I’m sure this will be awesome. Wow. I was so not prepared for the amount of awe. From one spectacular room to the next, I stood mouth agape at the sheer splendor of marble, stone, wood, glass and fabric molded into phenomenal works of art. I know little about architecture beyond what I’ve studied as a game designer, but I was floored. And this, in turn, left a strong impression and undoubtedly worked its way into some of the feeling behind Echo Bluff.
When I used to be a landscape designer, I took to marveling at the way other landscapers could create expressive plant beds. It’s an area that I had not previously thought much about until I literally go my own hands dirty. One of the fellow contractors we often worked with was a guy called Tony – we used to call him Triceps Tony because he was a mason and could probably crush a walnut with his elbow-pit. Yeah, that’s not my inspiration. The work he would create would blow your mind. He would take a chaotic pile of several hundred stones and bit-by-bit assemble the most gorgeous, flawless walls you could possibly fathom. Years later, I feel like I can still remember particular stone configurations as if they were stained glass.
My point is that I really appreciate it when passion is tangible. It’s that sort of thing that really makes me want to be a better designer. To take something simple and mundane and make it into an experience – one that sticks with you and you can distinctly recall the fine details.
So what inspired Perception specifically? I’m already at the risk of overstaying my welcome and Amanda is starting to give me the stinkeye from across our home office, so how do you folks like lists?
Super Metroid – To this day I don’t think I’ve been more engrossed in a game. From the opening credits to the final escape from an exploding planet, this game dug so deeply into soul that I still hear the music playing in my head when I walk around the house late at night. I have always tried to capture the atmosphere this game breathed in all my work. I hope Echo Bluff gives you the same feeling.
Silent Hill 2 – If you’ve played through you understand why the ending left such an impact on me. The kind of narrative wrap up that makes you think about your time with the game in a completely different way. To this day, I still love talking to other Silent Hill tourists about what Pyramid Head symbolizes. I strive to bring that level of meaning to Perception.
The Shining – If you happen to catch me on one of my notorious zone-out-sessions, there’s a not insignificant chance that I’m walking through the halls of The Overlook Hotel. That probably makes me sound way more like a psycho than I actually am. Still, every nook and cranny of the world of The Shining creates a sense of mystery that begs the question “what happened here?” That same question is what drives a lot of your experience at Echo Bluff.
Memento – This film challenged what I knew about storytelling. Sure, I’d seen countless films with unreliable narrators, but the look on Guy Pierce’s face when he discovers what might be the truth completely blew. My. Mind.
Thanks, and have a great weekend!
Due to the fantastic first day of this campaign, we have decided to announce a new stretch goal and show off a pic of the Presence sculpture. Thank you so much for your support, and we hope that you’re as excited about these two elements as we are.
$375,000—PS4 version of Perception
And here is a picture of our $1500 tier, The Presence statue by Robb Waters
The Presence by Robb Waters
Robb Waters, artist extraordinaire, and creator of countless collectables from Sander Cohen, to Songbird and many Vigor bottles, has outdone himself again. The Presence is one of his creepiest creations to date, and it can be yours!
Update 2 - You've asked for a soundtrack and art, you got a soundtrack and art! For a $30 pledge (and all above pledges), you will receive these gems.
The incomparable Jim Bonney will be composing the score to Perception for your listening pleasure. This will be a digital download.
We've got some really cool concept art rolling in for Perception, so why not share them with you? You'll receive a digital art bundle of some of our favorite Perception concept art.