01 April 2015

Don't Be Scared To Kill Your Darlings

It's been a while since I posted an article, because lot has happened the past few months. In this article I would like to highlight a few moments and explain why we made some radical choices during our game development within my indie studio KeokeN Interactive.

1,5 Years Of Educating Ourselves
KeokeN Interactive has been around as an official game company since September 2013. It's been more than 1,5 years and we did not had an official game release yet. This doesn't mean we have been slacking around. It has been quite an experience in terms of 'finding our core' and find out how to run a game company.

Starting up a game company is not something you do over the weekend.  You will make many mistakes, but are actually necessary to find out what you preferences are. Why do we make games? What do we love about games? and how do we like our games to be?

Figuring this out can take a while, hell it took us at least 1-2 years to find our core 'drive'. Usually you start out with great ideas for games. In our case we tried to create a horror game called 'Horrinth'. We even managed to get a financial contribution by Gamefonds in The Netherlands. Something we appreciate dearly, because this made it possible for us to find out what we do best. Besides Horrinth we also developed a prototype for a game called "The Ocean" a game about a journey at sea.

The first problem with the studio is that we don't like the easy route. We are very ambitious and try to pursue this ambition of intense 3D game worlds with high atmosphere, beautiful graphics and a bombastically composed soundtrack. We do this because this is the way we like to play our games. For example, we do not really like make mobile games, mainly because we don't play them ourselves (even after trying some).

Second problem is the game engine we used. Games we like to create have to come close to several high-end productions made by large companies (the AAA). We have been trying to push Unity 4 to a certain max, but it always felt we were missing something.

Because we couldn't reach our quality standard, our focus was shifted heavily on reaching a better graphical result, however we never met these expectations, and hurt the game in many areas, for example; game design, solid mechanics and great atmosphere. On each aspect we would get a 4 or 5 out of 10. That is why the contribution agency also told us we should make a clear choice what to do with the horror game. Should we go for a commercial game and take 2 more years to finish this? Or should we redesign the game back to a smaller indie title?

Radical Decisions
Oktober 2014 we've sat around the table and unitedly decided we should take a break from "Horrinth" our horror game. The Ocean project was already paused a
t the time. We've also decided we should leave the "Unity3D engine" behind us and school ourselves in a more renowned engine for large 3D games such as Unreal Engine 4. Mainly because this engine feels like its helping you with a lot of things if you have such ambitions. Suddenly our graphics standard wasn't a problem anymore, technical inabilities were not present anymore, we just felt more in 'key' with this engine.


November 2014 we decided to do a completely new project mainly to explore the boundaries of Unreal Engine 4 and to test a better version of the Scrum Project framework. We let the office pitch several game ideas and voted on the best one.

A game concept called "MoonMan" was born. Our goal was to keep to scope as minimal as possible, since we've already fell into a trap of creating something too big. Several weeks and brainstorms later the game was re-named to "Deliver Us The Moon".

Development began crazy, we've never been this fast in creating several assets and prototypes for a game than ever before. December was on our doorstep and development went on great. Our skills in Unreal Engine 4 increased greatly and we started to actually believe we made the right choice by switching engines and switching projects.

Development and acquiring new UE4 skills went on in January,on to February and caught more speed in March. Now it's nearly April and we think its time to start showcasing what we've been silently working on for 4,5 months already.

What Is Deliver Us The Moon About?

At KeokeN Interactive we love to produce memorable experiences. With this project we want players to experience how it’s like to be on the moon, surrounded by emptiness and loneliness. On the moon the player is given an important responsibility concerning the future of mankind.

However, we do not want the player to stay alone during his mission. So he will come across a robot called ASE. A helpful companion who eventually becomes a friend. Together with ASE the player will travel on the moon to complete his mission. Throughout this journey the player will have to use all resources he can find to overcome all difficulties.


We Just Made A Simple Choice
Our game prototypes Horrinth and The Ocean were not reaching our expectations and we've simply decided to put them on hold for now. Also Unity didn't meet our requirements and we've simply found an engine more suitable for our type of games and ambitions.

I can already hear some people say "You couldn't even finish a game" or "Why didn't you finish Horrinth in the first place?". These would be true and false at the same time. Its true we didn't finish commercial game as a studio, but we were not able to stand and support behind a product that is not meeting our level of quality and ambition.

We therefore simply decided not to 'debut' with a lower quality title. We want to be proud on our product and feel happy working on this every day in the week. Blow ourselves away with how the game looks, feels and sounds. We think we've finally found it in Deliver Us The Moon and we produce this title until release. We believe we can finally debut with this title as independent game studio.

But don't worry about Horrinth and The Ocean, they will be continued on the sidelines and rebuild within the Unreal Engine 4.

/Koen


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