Hey everyone, Dani here again (I really need to come up with another way to start these), I just wanted to drop in and let you all know how things are progressing (abridged version - things are going great!).
This last week was been pretty crazy as we get everything set up to move forward with the limited resources we have. Thanks so much to everyone who jumped over to our PayPal (and amazon) campaign to make this next phase a little easier! It is definitely helping us out and we will be keeping it up as we forge ahead (so, plenty of time to hop over and take a look for those that missed it).
We’ve also been extremely lucky with some amazing offers of help on the project (including an animator from Dreamworks!)! So, we are taking advantage of the opportunity and over this last week we added on a couple more people to the team to get this out faster and better than we could have before.
Anyhow, for the next couple days we are continuing to get everything settled and sort out a few production details / who does what (I got dibs on the art! :D). Then we jump into full production and keep pushing ahead! In addition to all this we’ve also come up with a couple new ideas that should be pretty exciting (like I said, it has been a crazy week!). I’ll be covering them once we have everything nailed down a bit more (so stay tuned :)
Also, once the dust clears expect loads of new artwork / creatures / concepts. And, as always, feel free to chime in with suggestions or thoughts as we go along (feedback is always welcome).
Thanks again so so much for all the support, this next few months is going to be bananas (in a good way). :)
Hey everyone! We are headed into the final week of the campaign! Thanks so much for the support so far. A week is a pretty long time; with an extra push we can still definitely make the goal. I encourage everyone to message their favorite websites, news sources, forums, or even just telling a friend or two to spread awareness about the project.
Now to answer a couple more specific questions.
Our philosophy is we want people playing the game, not reading the game. You could say words are all talk, action speaks volumes. To this end, we want to give players different options in how they approach situations. We also want the different types of actions to have their own challenges and rewards (or consequences).
So, let’s take an example of a big brutish creature that you might run across. When you try to get near, it attacks you.
1) So first instinct would be to simply attack back and try to dominate it. We know players are probably thinking that, so we make that option harder (sometimes, really hard). Chances are if you are playing the game for the action and combat you probably will appreciate more of a fight (this organically lets the game match your play style). It could be through the creatures difficulty itself, or we could throw a curve ball at you and make the creatures death trigger a story-driven battle down the road in another part of the game.
2) Instead of attacking, you could jump into the bridge and look around (the bridge allows you to observe things that might not be obvious normally). Here you might be able to communicate with the “true self” of the creature, or gain insight into what it is feeling / thinking. This isn’t a branching dialogue, but more a way to try and feel out what the deal is with the creature. Of course, doing this doesn’t always just give you what you are expecting and can trigger its own challenges or pose a puzzle you need to get past. Either way, these are typically non-combat and involve more problem solving / exploration.
3) Leave it alone. Yup, this is an option (and one just as viable as the rest). We want to surprise and reward players for doing things a little counter-intuitively (at least by the standards of most games). Avoiding conflict and allowing things to live when you don’t have a reason to kill them might pay off down the road. If the creature is blocking your path, just run past him. Examples of ways we would treat this is the creature appearing in a helpful way later on, or it could trigger some event.
Basically, we are approaching things less as “just a game” and more as a world you are experiencing. “Game logic” isn’t the logic we go by. When you run across a creature, your instinct should be to wonder what is going to happen. ..who this creature is. ..what kinds of twists and turns it will send you down. It shouldn’t be a calculated “dead creature = more exp and gold”, but instead a cautious experience in discovery.
Of course, there are still a good amount of “kill it kill it” type of game play. Always being on your toes and unknowingly at the mercy of the game design would make you feel a tad paranoid (some is ok, but too much can just get to be a bit bananas). So, the world will still have its lifeless automatons you can run around bashing to your hearts content.
But, also, there will typically be a lot around you to discover (if you choose to pull on these dangling strings of unknown adventure). That is why when I say a lot of the game is “optional”, it is because we aren’t forcing these things on you. If you see a trail leading into a cave away from where you are headed, yea you can just keep going and skip it; but, well, as a gamer I know if the game is fun and keeping me interested I’ll probably explore that cave (if the game is boring and a chore and I know I’ll only find exp, gold, and maybe a slightly unusual item for a ton of work, I’ll skip it).
Hopefully this clears up a little bit more of how we are approaching things and gives a little insight into how we want this to be an interactive experience.
Thanks again for all the support! One week left, we can do it!! :)
Hey everyone, Dani here again (again). First off, thanks so so much for all the support on Bloom! We have come a long way and still have 11 days left, so please keep spreading the word and we can definitely reach the goal!! :)
Also a special thanks to Penny Arcade (and Sophie Prell) for their recent article covering a bit of the game as well as shining a light on a social issue which is often overlooked. Coming from such a leader in the gaming community, it really means a lot to us at Studio Fawn (and me personally).
Anyhow, back to Bloom and today’s update!!
We touched pretty briefly on this on the main page, but basically our goal is to use the music to reinforce the narrative of the game on a subtle (though substantial) level.
In order to accomplish this our composer, Jose Mora-Jimenez, works closely with me while we move step by step through the story in the game. We then break down the feelings and narrative at that point and Jose interprets this into music using different instruments to represent the various actors in the game.
Ok, we really need an example! Let’s look at the “Bloom Main Theme” for this and I’ll let Jose explain it himself.
"After some considerations I decided to use a viola for the mother’s "voice", it has a warm, expressive tone that I think works great, it will also mix great with the clarinet which is the main’s character instrument.
In the track, after the harp intro (that for me represents the forest and nature), I introduce the viola (the mother) and then the clarinet (the main character) , for me it is like mother and child in a dialogue. The clarinet responds to the melody played by the viola. The viola continues playing and the melody is then taken over by the whole string section. After the melody has reached a climax the music goes quiet and delicate again and mother and child “talk” for the last time. For me it’s like the character is leaving his mother behind and starting his journey…but he’s not left alone, the mother and Ilana are watching over him and continue playing softly till the end…”
Of course, in addition to this continued narrative, we also have some other interesting acoustical treats. One of these is how we treat the music (even the same tracks) as the world around you shifts. For example, the bridge is filled with life but also rather mysterious and seemingly empty (especially when you first enter). In order to help really communicate this, we can’t just rely on sight alone. So, we shift the music itself to really help tell what is going on. Take a listen to the track below to get an example of this shifting.
As you can see, we really put a lot of thought and effort into this to make sure Bloom gives a complete experience while playing. The music is definitely beautiful on its own, but we go much deeper than that and try to take it a step beyond the norm. Of course, now that you know a bit of the context, you will be able to listen to future tracks and your mind will be left to imagine the narrative we are telling (matching it against the game you are experiencing). Like with everything else in Bloom, if you take the time to appreciate it beyond the surface you will find plenty to think about and enjoy.
So, hopefully this gives everyone a better idea of the music and what we are trying to achieve. Bloom definitely isn’t about taking the easiest or fastest rout . ..but hopefully in the end it will all be worth it as we offer up an experience that you can really enjoy.
Anyhow, thanks again so much for all of the support! With your help we can definitely make it! :)
Hey everyone, Dani here again. For this update I’m going to take you back a bit and give everyone an idea of where Bloom came from artistically and how much it has evolved to what you see today (and is still evolving).
Bloom officially began years ago as two separate graphic novel attempts exploring different ideas and styles. The first was a very short color version (of only 5 pages), and the 2nd was a black and white version that went on to be over 30 pages.
Unofficially, Bloom actually began years before that with various personal projects I had done and I drew elements from them into the Bloom world). An example of this is the golem creature that I had created while working on a cartoon intended for Nickelodeon, and then as Bloom advanced I re-created him to fit into a darker world.
At the point of the graphic novels, the majority of the concept work was actually done while making each page. While this wasn’t very effective in terms of design, it set the ground work from which I was able to build from (and many of the ideas you can still see today in one form or another).
After the graphic novels, I found myself with a great body of writing and story-lines along with the solid beginnings of a world. So, in my free time, I continued to refine the ideas and push things further.
Actually, that is a big part of Bloom, the way it changes. Unlike other projects, this one is being lead from the artistic side and the focus on experience and story. Since I am the one doing all of the concept design, writing, and modeling; the game evolves alongside me.
Even in the last week we took another step forward and explored some more styles. We intend to continue this type of exploration and growth as we move forward and in the end should have something truly unique for players to experience. Bloom has never tried to be just “another game”; it is our dedication to really push ourselves beyond the norm to make this something special.
Anyhow, thanks for all the support everyone! Sorry for the slow update, just been working on trying to get more eyes onto the project and doing more work on the game. As they say, “so much to do, so little time”. :)
Merry Friday everyone! It has been a really crazy / busy week, but some interesting things are happening which we are pretty excited about (including some interviews this last week!). You guys have really been great with the support and spreading the word, and thanks so much for all the messages too.
But again, this isn’t about blindly copying the past (as so many seem to do). Our philosophy is to pick apart the WHY, and then try to push it forward and bring it into our world even better. Is the secret to “The Legend of Zelda” the sword and board? Or is it the simplicity and mechanic of needing to time close combat attacks?
Simplicity and Depth -
Another key aspect is our focus on simplicity in our design, while also offering greater depth to game play. Contrary to popular believe, simple design doesn’t need to mean shallow game play. An example of this is seen in your very first two abilities in Bloom.
The first ability we created was a short range and light damage pushing attack (the one you see in the video). After we created this we found ourselves faced with a tricky situation that the character lacked a good offensive option. Making this short ranged attack higher damage would have meant players could just use it all the time and ignore all the other abilities in the game . ..but creating a completely separate ability and throwing it into the 2ndary abilities would start to bog down the design and make things a bit messy.
So, we thought a bit and the pretty obvious answer was to simply added the ability to charge your attack to transition it into a longer range and more damaging (along with higher draining) attack. Having this on the same button as your main attack streamlines the design but offers more depth in how you fight. Eventually, you even get a 3rd version of this main attack! Again, with a completely different strategic advantage (at the cost of more energy and time to charge to that level).
This is what we mean by simplicity and is something you might recognize from games like Mega Man (or many games since then). The difference here is instead of blindly upping the damage for a charged attack (as most do), the function here completely changes to offer the player different options in how they fight without encumbering the design or flow of the game.
Pattern recognition and discovering enemy weakness is another big issue which greatly reduces replayability in games. While an enemy that charges at you and is seemingly unstoppable is really fun to fight for the first time.. .when you discover all you need to do is sidestep it into a wall, suddenly from then on combat is a chore and you become disengaged. This is true for any enemy in the game, if you can uncover their pattern or learn their weakness and they suddenly aren’t a challenge, it is bad design.
We plan to go the other way with this. We treat enemies more even handed and make their tactics a constant challenge (even if you know exactly what they are going to do). Knowing that an enemy shoots three arrows in a fan pattern doesn’t make it any easier to dodge; the challenge is in tracking multiple enemies while predicting their attacks.
Merry Sunday! Hope everyone is having a great weekend so far. To add to the fun, time for another update! Also, thanks so much for all the support so far and keep up the great work spreading the word!
First off, a little news -
We were nominated for the indie dev grant from Bundle in A Box!! http://blog.bundle-in-a-box.com/?p=443 I’ll let everyone know when that happens.
Besides that, we have also been showing up in a few indie news sources! Gamezebo was even kind enough to cover us for their kickstarter picks.http://www.gamezebo.com/news/2013/03/14/kickstarter-picks-bloom-memories
So, things are definitely moving in a great direction.
Anyhow, onto the update!
Now that we have covered the “Linked Hearts” and “The Bridge” (update 1 and 3) we have created a great framework to start to chat about the combat. This is a pretty big subject though, so I’ll need to cover more of this in future updates.
Game Feel –
The first step when considering the combat was to consider how the game felt. Should it be non-stop action fighting armies of enemies? Or slower and meticulous? In the end we wanted something in the middle to challenge players but also provide that sometimes hectic action of being overwhelmed by enemies.
Game Flow –
The next step is considering the flow of combat. How long should an encounter last? Again, here we took a medium approach and chose something about in the middle of the extremes (an extreme example of this is to think of the difference between a game of “rock paper scissors” and “chess”). Fast enough to let you move on with the game but slow enough to really let you strategize and consider what you are doing.
The Player! –
Now we finally get to the player. This is a huge piece which really controls much of the game. With Bloom, we want the player to be out-matched and more defensive in nature (lending to the narrative and creating a feeling of overcoming challenges at every turn).
The first distinction in the player is the relatively low amount of life (at least compared to many other games of our generation). This means dodging, deflecting, and other strategies to avoid damage are highly important. You don’t play a one-man army able to deflect bullets off your abs, but you are equipped with some pretty interesting abilities to help you out. A characters life is more a resource for ingenuity and game-play than a sponge for damage.
This goes hand in hand with a characters life and is basically a consideration of how a player recovers. Do you recover life after each fight so each encounter is met at the same player strength base? Or as you play, are you slowly worn down from mistakes? If you have ever played a first generation and current generation first person shooter, you will understand the idea of limitation.
With Bloom, we actually have taken a mixed approach to this. The life / energy bar goes up and down regularly through game play, but you are limited at a higher level by the Linked Heart mechanic. This means you can be worn down through the game and defeated but each fight you typically begin with the same of life / energy.
On an individual encounter level, your attacks drain from your life bar and create an organic limitation in how much you can do how fast. This creates a situation where the balance of power in a battle rapidly swings to extremes as you use larger attacks to defeat enemies, but are then forced to play defensively while recovering and dodging the others.
This is really the big one in terms of how combat works. As I said before you are largely overpowered in the world and typically rely on a range of defensive abilities to protect you. Of course you also have offensive abilities, but these are highly draining to your life and leave you exposed. Effectively this creates game-play which requires careful consideration before running into battle blasting your largest attacks.
~I’ll cover more on this in a future update!
Enemies and Encounters -
Basically, this comes down to three factors; “Enemy Count”, “Enemy Complexity”, and“Enemy Power”.
Enemy count is pretty self-explanatory, this is just how many enemies you face at a time.
Enemy complexity is how smart and resourceful the enemy is. Do they dodge? Do they heal themselves? These things mean the enemy lives longer and offers more of a challenge. We plan to have enemies tactics put players on the defensive. For example: the archer enemy is able to shoot directly at the player, but also able to shoot a bursting arrow behind the player (effectively allowing it to attack from multiple directions).
Enemy power, on the other hand, is how much “life” does an enemy have. I make this its own category to make an important distinction.. .
Sadly, instead of designing challenging enemies, many game developers will simply raise the enemies’ power to try and control the game flow. We choose to focus more on the complexity, meaning combat is more about exchanges of offensive and defensive strategies.
Of course, there are a few more aspects to enemies and encounters (such as their damage, but this is more a function of character limitations).
Hopefully this gives a little better understanding of the combat and we will definitely be covering more in future updates. “How the game plays” and the combat are extremely important features in Bloom! At the end of the day if it doesn’t capture the “fun” of the action-adventure genre. .. then we just haven’t done our job right.
Hey everyone, Dani here again. Thanks so much for helping to spread the word and the pledges! We still need to get more exposure though, so, keep up the great work! :)
Anyhow, this time I want to cover “The Bridge” to get us ready to cover a more in-depth look at combat next update.
What is “The Bridge” –
The Bridge is a non-physical plane existing over the normal world. This is inspired by many familiar legends and philosophies around the world and is expressed as a place where “energy” exists (including souls). It is basically the common denominator of life and is found in everything in Bloom.
- Game Mechanics –
Early on in the game you are taught how to observe and eventually move inside of the bridge, making it a key ability to master in order to survive. Though, it is important to keep in mind that while in the bridge your body stays in the physical world and is the point you return to upon exiting (or being forced back). Going into and out of the bridge is exhausting though, so you will need a short rest between trips.
The first big difference inside the bridge is that time in the “normal world” freezes. While this won’t allow you to dodge attacks, it will allow you many other advantages.
The second difference you will notice are the energy feeding creatures you will find waiting for you inside the bridge upon entering. These will come after you and if they touch you will send you back to your body. Eventually you learn “bridge-only” abilities, giving you ways to defend yourself (among other things) and slowly gaining more and more mastery over this plane.
~~Effectively this acts as an organic timer to how long you are able to stay or how far you are able to move. When first being able to enter the bridge, you likely won’t be able to make trips for very long.
This is where the bridge really starts to shine. Basically, the first attack you use inside of the bridge carries over into the “normal” world at the point your energy self uses it. This creates obvious tactical advantages, such as if you find yourself being attacked from both directions at the same time, you are able to instantly hop into the bridge and carry-over a second deflection behind you.
This also heavily plays into the puzzle system, allowing you to execute more complex chaining of deflections.
During the game, you are eventually able to learn to see veins of energy under the ground. Sometimes these sources of energy pool in certain places, leaking their power into the air. This creates hot-spots which you can stand over, tapping into their power and healing you slowly.
This offers an important choice during fights. You can either try to take advantage of these points and rely on heavier cost long range attacks, or you can ignore them and try to close in for a different play style. We will get more into combat in another update though, so stay tuned.
This last key feature of the bridge is a non-combat one and offers many unique opportunities to those with a more thoughtful approach.
When you first enter the bridge you are inexperienced and can only see faint representations of things energy / souls. As you grow you will begin to see the true natures of things around you as they take on a more clear representation (sometimes in stark contrast to what you see in the normal world). Eventually, you will even be able to interact with these representations and gain special insights into an enemy or creature. Not everything is as it seems on the surface.
Overall, the bridge is a living full world to explore. You can use it as much or as little as you wish during the game and largely depends on your play style.
Let us know what you think, and thanks again for the support! :)
Hey everyone, Dani here again. Thank you so much for the support so far! We are definitely moving in the right direction and really appreciate all the help in spreading the word. There is still a long way to go to reach our goal, but we have a good amount of time left; we can do it! :)
A couple days ago we were covered by “The Advocate” (click me), and as you might have guessed, that raised a bit of commotion from people about why personal information about me was relevant. Why does it matter who makes games? As long as they are made?
I figured this was a great subject and a good chance to show just how it impacts Bloom (and really, what we are trying to achieve making games at all).
It’s no secret that the games industry, by and large, lacks diversity. In this case, that is gender diversity. This is actually a huge shame as it limits the stories and points of views different types of people bring to the collective table of gaming.
Considering that Bloom is dealing so heavily with an extremely delicate issue rooted in fundamental biological gender differences (birth and maternal love), it is simply advantageous to have someone a bit more “tuned in” to the issue of gender at the helm.
Now, before I go on, I just want to be clear that being aware and sensitive to these issues doesn’t mean we will be bonking people over the head about it. Instead, all of what I’m about to point out translates to extremely simple shifts in the storyline or treatment of characters. Being respectful of differences in games isn’t difficult; it simply requires a little awareness.
So, let’s focus back on what this means for Bloom.
Representation of Female Characters -
Obviously the mother in Bloom is one of the central female characters, and it would be easy to have her role be nothing more than a vapid caregiver devoid of character.
Upon hearing this, here is what one person assumed –
“The most prominent female character doesn’t actually do anything but give love and support. Mothers are consistently reduced to this throughout movies.”
Shockingly, the mother character throughout the story in Bloom is actually a developed PERSON. She sets out on her own agendas throughout the game and does far more than simply support the main character. That we have come to expect less from games in handling a subject like this is exactly my point in the sensitivities different types of people bring to projects.
But, let’s take a prime example of “the normal way” and “the Bloom way” of handling a driving story point. ~slight spoiler alert ~
While I was writing the story, I needed a drive for the main character (in the hero’s journey, this is the “call to adventure” early in the game).
“The normal way” of handling this would have been to simply kidnap the mother character (a trope we see so often in games). If you analyze what message this sends, it isn’t very good for women.
“The Bloom way” is to give the mother a reason to travel back to the “bad guys”. This is her choice and something she “must do” of her own will.
As you can see, either one of these get you to the same situation of driving the main character to follow the mother to the enemy. Though, this small change completely reshapes the personalities of the character and the role they play in the game.
Pregnancy in Gaming –
Often time in games (and movies) pregnancy is treated with a rather inconsiderate way. Here is a great video on the issue that covers the subject pretty well (check out the rest of her videos if you have the time, some great insights to our industry).
In Bloom, while the game begins with the birth of the main character, we take great care to make sure the issue is handled with the respect it deserves.
The art –
This is the easiest one to talk about (since not much needs to be said). The differences in the way I create concept art and models is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, notice how the female characters aren’t half naked with giant breasts? Yea, this is a pretty easy one to be aware of. ..I’m kind of surprised this is even “different” to treat them with that level of respect.
To see more artwork for Bloom, check out www.studiofawn.com
Summing Up -
Basically, because I’m the one in charge of the story, and the art, and the overall direction of the game; everything is tinted by my own experiences and sensitivities. It means I can make a more thoughtful game (I’m a thoughtful person :), something that represents the characters respectfully and pushes the game further in its storytelling. The characters aren’t reduced to empty cliches and are instead given full personalities and drives making them seem even more alive and relatable.
This is a game that deals with some very delicate subjects. It is my experiences in life which equip me to be aware of these issues and treat them as they deserve to be handled. Everyone has their own voice they bring to a project, this is mine.
Hey everyone, first off let me thank you for all the support so far! We still have a long way to go, so please keep spreading the word about our campaign; we really appreciate all the help we can get.
Anyhow, for our first update I want to cover a bit more about how we are really stressing the story telling in Bloom… and how exactly we are doing that.
Let’s face it, this is a game. ..not a movie and not a book. That means the way the story is told is going to be different. Relying on movie like cinematic or long dialogues of text to tell the story is simply lazy and defeats the purpose of making a game at all.
Instead, we are able to build the story telling into the actual game play itself. From the attacks you do, to how your health bar works, to even what you pick up or find during the game.
So, let’s look at an example. The “Linked Hearts” system that I touched on in the main page.
Now, this seemingly simple system (functionally a power-up counter and life counter) could have easily been done as other games handle it (very basic and cold game mechanics). But, that would have been missing a huge opportunity to continue the story and building the relationship between the player and the mother character.
You play as a broken robot, a character that is overwhelmed and outclassed. You don’t even function completely right and from the moment you were created you have only taken from the person who loves you. So, you try to be strong, you try to survive as best you can, and you dig deep to overcome the challenges the world has . .. even going as far as to break the pieces of your heart to overcome your limits.. .a power up. Of course, if you push yourself too far you will die, no matter how bad you want to survive .. . and in this world sometimes you fail.
That is where your mother comes in. Your mother created you, she loves you, and she would give anything to save you (even her own life). She is there to catch you when you fall, and you know that. She too digs deep into herself and breaks the pieces of her heart, but when she does it is to save you. Every time you die, you hear / see her in pain and you know she is suffering because you simply aren’t strong enough. .. a life counter.
You can see, this very basic game mechanic is taken so much further with just a little context and thought. As you play the game, you won’t want to die ..not because of some death penalty or loss of stats or gold, but because of the emotional connection you will build throughout the game (of course, there are other reasons not to die also).
This is just one tiny game mechanic, but I hope it illustrates how we are approaching the design of this game to really create a world and story for the player to experience.
Anyhow, more updates to come! Let us know what you think and keep spreading the word! :)