Generating the idea. First demos, concepts, videos.
Hello everybody! My name is Artem Netyagin and I'm project manager of "The Uncertain" project in ComonGames studio.
Two years ago I was developing in Unity 4 and created a few projects just for fun. Some of them are now "out of sight, out of mind", but they still occupy a lot of space on my hard drive. There are lots of them: shooters, strategies, car driving simulators. I'm sure this story looks familiar to some of you! While working on these one-time projects, I improved my skills, learned new stuff, and as time passed, the projects became more and more sophisticated. Finally I got carried away with the latest one — an adventure game.
The choice of the genre was deliberate. I grew up playing incredible games from Sierra and Lucas Arts games like "Space Quest", "Day of the Tentacle", and "The Dig". More recent games in the genre from Telltale Games like "The Walking Dead" and "Wolf Among Us" inspired me so much that I decided to create something similar. So I downloaded a free Unity project "Mecanim Example Scenes" from the Asset Store. There was a ground with containers and a funny character.
Now, I'm not actually a programmer: my primary focus is developing models and visualization, but I can write in JS a little. After a few hours of dedicated work and reading manuals, I taught my character to avoid hindrance and move across the level to a spot, specified by a click — using Raycast and Navmesh. I liked the outcome so much that decided to create my own scene — a house with a few rooms and basic furniture. A robot called Kyle was my character, also provided by Unity. I realized that writing full-featured gaming code wasn't an option, so I started searching for a suitable paid asset. Adventure Creator was a perfect asset for an indie developer like me (well, we replaced it eventually, but it's another story). At the time it was just fine: I taught my robot to walk, to talk, and to interact with objects, and my cameras became quite cinematic. My little project started to look like a real game. But I still didn't have an idea or a plot, so I just kept testing and customizing the game mechanics. My main goal was Android. That's how it looked like:
The better it looked, the more enthusiastic I became, so I got into the work I like the most, which is creating a beautiful scene. I replaced some models, added texture to the interior and spent some time working on lights and effects. As the mobile platforms don't support almost any of the Unity post effects, I crossed over to developing for PC. I switched on real-time shadows for all lights as well. The game shined in new splendor and looked like this:
Then I showed it to my friends and they encouraged me to continue. I even had a chance to present it at the afterparty of the DevGAMM Minsk 2014 conference, and received many good reviews. People were curious about the robot, its story and the house.
That's when I realized that this should go further. The backstory was the simple and beloved post-apocalypse: the Earth is inhabited by robots, no humans left. Storybase: the main character lives in an abandoned house where he invents devices while familiarizing himself with human literature and culture and examines the items left by humans. Many things are inexplicable to him, but he is very curious.
By that time, a couple of friends joined the project. First art appeared, and most important — a new model of the character (we replaced it later, but still):
This moment was a crucial point for us as it was when I met Aleksei Surkov, our current producer. He suggested to evaluate public interest in our project using Steam concepts. We created a page and got completely overwhelmed by the enormous amount of positive reviews — 98% of visitors said YES to our project.
Convinced by such feedback, Aleksei offered his help in finding investors. To do that, we went to Saint Petersburg, where a developer conference WN'15 took place, and presented the game there. We prepared two builds just in case: for PC and for Android, to demonstrate that we are eager to develop for any platform. Our artist painted a beautiful art for a poster.
And the new demo was functional enough to play with our new character.
Our stand drew a lot of attention, and we received valuable advice and positive feedback. The guys from ComonGames displayed a keen interest in the game. We discussed it after the conference and came to a logical decision to work on it together from now on. 1st April 2015 is the official date when we became a part of the ComonGames team. Our main goal was to release the game for PC on Steam, and then for mobile platforms. We worked hard on the screenplay and transferred the game to Unity 5, which had just been released after a beta version and was still quite raw, yet very promising in the context of light, shaders and other things. But that stage is the topic for our next article.