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Steredenn, the pixel-art bulletstorm
Published 2 years ago
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A juicy modern shmup
Hello!
We're Damien & Matthieu from Pixelnest Studio, a small studio based in Rennes, France.
Steredenn is our first released game. Here's the recipe:
  • An original name using a word from an extinct language, the Breton (Steredenn means "a star")
  • A gameplay mixing an horizontal space shooter with roguelite elements (permadeath, procedural levels, random everywhere)
  • Nice animated pixelart graphics from Plus
  • Blasting explosions sounds from Etienne Marque
  • Awesome metal music from Zander Noriega
  • Lots and lots and lots of weapons (from a traditionnal laser beam to a giant driller)
  • Served with a lot of juicy effects, this results in a fun and nervous game with a lot of replayability
And you may get this:
Steredenn - trailer
 
The game has been released on Steam on October 1st (2015), Xbox One on April 1st (2016) and we've just announced the PlayStation 4 release for June 28th (2016)! 
We wanted to share with you the story of the creation of this game. Let's dive in.
 
A "small, short, mobile" project. That's what we thought
It took us about 18 months of developement to complete the PC version, and about two months of additional work for each port.
Now, here's the funny thing: Steredenn was planned as a 3 months mobile project. Not even close, right? We started with a working prototype from a previous project, and we decided to add some nice graphics, a bit of content and test the water of the mobile market. But it quickly appears that this was not a small project at all. The amount of handcrafted content to produce (enemy waves, boss patterns, weapons feel, etc.) was big for just the two of us.
Also, we are perfectionists and we wanted the game feeling to be the best possible before releasing anything. We had a very good idea of the feeling we wanted to achieve (controls, adrenaline, particles, effects, screenshakes... juicy) but it took us more than 6 months of iteration to find it.
 
The Early Access
After one year of work, we took the Steam Early Access path. We knew the game was already enjoyable despite lacking content and being unbalanced. This is the best decision we made and it probably saved the game from failure. The players' feedbacks were a goldmine for us. We even changed our mind on some early game design decisions: that's how we introduced upgrades after a boss death. We kept the EA short (6 months) and we were confident with the game we released.
Still, we had to remove a lot of features originally planned, like a solo campaign mode, an alien invasion, multiple ships with stats... we decided to focus on a smaller game with a well-balanced main-loop mechanic that we were able to release rather than end with an unfinished/unpolished/half-finished project.
We're very happy with this decision and with the game we finally released.
 
Some stats about Steredenn
  • About 60k lines of code (not including console specific code, about 5k lines per additional platform)
  • 6000+ sprites, all packed using the Sprite Packer so it is reduced to only a few big textures
  • Animations are made of many individual sprites (files). We have a custom ScriptableObject that aggregates those sprites and that can be read in a component
  • We're using the standard 2D features
  • We also use a few plugins: InControl, Colorful FX & FMOD
  • We have used about 8 versions of Unity3D, from 4.3 to 5.3.4f1. Migration hasn't always been easy, especially considering the console plugins (they are locked to a specific Unity and SDK version)
  • It's the only commercial game released in Breton
Console ports
The most challenging part of the developement was the console versions of the game, for two reasons:
  1. We underestimated the amount of work for each plateform. Integrating the leaderboards/achievements services is generally not too hard. But the services configuration, the Technical Requirement Checklist (TRC), the assets for the store, etc., are very time consuming, especially for a small team of two. 
  2. We faced some blocking issues, like the FMOD plugin not working on console or the need for our bullet engine to be run at 60 FPS. Third-party librairies are not always easy to use outside of a desktop or mobile environnement.
Finally, from a human point of view, it was also very exhausting to keep working on a critically acclaimed and released game and being rejected because of minor issues during the certification ("You use the word Button in Spanish instead of Touch? Too bad, try again in two weeks"). But, well, nothing is impossible and we did it! :)
That's the story behind Steredenn. Now we're still working on the game, there's always more work to be done (more ports, support, additional content). We're also thinking about starting a new game... stay tuned!
PS
Pixelnest Studio
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