Transcenders: Episode 1 - "A Beginning" will be a story driven action puzzle game for the PC/Mac. It’s hard to accurately describe a game that’ll switch between 2D and 3D seamlessly, first person to third person perspective, from testing your reflexes to testing your memory. A puzzle game that’s not about IF you complete the puzzle, but more about HOW you complete the puzzle, an action game where you don’t necessarily need quick reactions as much as quick thinking…a story driven game where the story is not told to you, but one you experience and figure out.
The game will be the first of five episodes. Each episode would be a different 10-20 minute glimpse into the Transcenders universe, with the 5th episode being a ‘full experience’ that lasts 1-2 hours and is a combination of the different episodes but also fills in the gaps in-between that tie them all together.
I knew this would be a hard concept to explain in a way that does not make me sound like I’m being completely unrealistic or create unrealistic expectations, so I made a proof of concept that I hope gives a better idea of what I intend…at least in terms of pacing, theme, and some basic gameplay. You can download it free here: Transcenders: Episode 0
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The Proof of Concept
The proof of concept took about eighteen months to build from scratch. The first twelve months were spent learning HOW and the last six were spent building the actual proof of concept. The goal was to accomplish some of the harder tasks like setting the right pace for a short experience or switching between different moods in a short time without it feeling disjointed. I wanted to go from outer space to underwater to a metal interior area to a windy desert area all in the matter of a few minutes and transition smoothly between them while also going from a 2D side-scroller to first person view to a 3rd person isometric view with gameplay and controls to match. I did most things wrong, but learned quite a bit about how to do it right next time.
I spent most of my time on those tasks and didn’t spend much time on any of the puzzle elements or the art or the story. I hoped that if I could show that I’m able to accomplish some of the more ambitious tasks then it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that if given more time, I could do things like design puzzles, refine the gameplay and develop the art style. I’m a game artist by trade, I’ve wanted to make videogames since playing my first, and I love puzzles of all types. So I hope you would trust me when I say that if my project gets funded, those areas would be where I’d focus and able to do my best work. The proof of concept was to prove I could do all the other stuff.
It took 6 months to make the actual proof of concept once I had the knowledge and some of the objects ready and from that I gained even more knowledge and now have even more objects ready. If I can survive for another year, I can rebuilt everything better in less time and use the rest of the time to work on the other aspects of the game. The main areas I plan on improving from what you see in the proof of concept is the art/story, the puzzles, and the gameplay.
Story and Art
I want to tell the story is of a man who has sacrificed everything searching for a mythic location, and when he finally finds it, its desolate but for one area with a tree. Knowing he has risked everything to gain nothing, and that can never return to his former life, he begins to weep. That’s where the first episode of Transcenders will begin and you’ll get to experience the next few minutes of his existence as he take a surreal trip through the Transcenders universe.
For the first few episodes, I’m going to focus on telling the story visually, not only through what you experience visually but also through clues and symbols hidden in the environment. Most of the art in the proof of concept comes from me repurposing old artwork or something that comes packaged with UDK. If funded, I’d take time to really sit down and refine my art style and build the environments to really match the story I want to tell.
I want each puzzle to make sense for the situation you’re in. If a puzzle takes place in the sky, maybe it’ll have birds, if it’s underwater, maybe it involves things that dwell there. The puzzles won’t appear as here’s puzzle 1, here’s puzzle 2…like a normal puzzle game, the experience itself is the puzzle. The puzzles will be less ‘Click on these things in a certain order’ and more ‘You’re locked in a room, can you escape? Should you escape? Escape to where? So the puzzle will be more about figuring out answers to these questions to see which discovered solution you want to choose.
I want puzzles/situations to have multiple solutions, where some solutions are not be very obvious. I want to use multiple solutions to change the story by having HOW you solve the puzzle having an impact on what clues you might see that pertain to the story, eventually giving you a different view of the events of the game based on what solutions you used to solve the puzzles. Instead of trying to make a game that you can play for a long time, I wanted to make a game that was a short but sweet ride that you wouldn’t mind taking over again to see all the ways it could work out.
The gameplay will change to match the puzzle. Part of the fun will be discovering all the different types of gameplay. In the future, the gameplay will continue to evolve over each episode with the sections where you run around in third person as the character on the surface playing a bigger role as time goes on. If I could get enough support to hire a programmer, it would pay off greatly in the evolution of the gameplay. Until then, I can only promise what I know I can do…which would be some interesting puzzles and a surreal 10-20 min trip through the Transcenders universe.