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LONE SURVIVOR: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

it gives me great pleasure to present to you the new and extended version of Lone Survivor which is now entitled:

‘The Director’s Cut’

first, allow me to let the launch trailer* speak for itself:

 *(trailer by childhood friend and collaborator Caspar Newbolt of Version Industries)

so what is The Director’s Cut, exactly?

i won’t try to describe the original game again, much has already been written and said about it, and i prefer to leave the interpretations up to the players. especially with interactive media, everyone’s perception of a story is different and, to me, equally valid.

Lone Survivor has been lucky enough to have found a following, all of whom have their own interpretation of the game. and for those fans especially, i have made The Director’s Cut. it contains some elements which didn’t quite make it to the original game because they seemed too elaborate and i needed to get the game out, it contains a lot of new ideas which i’ve had since releasing the last update a year and a half ago (and having since had time to think more about my own interpretation), and it has a sort of meta-narrative which ties it all together which emerged as i began to work on it.

on top of this, the game has been polished, fixed, tweaked and honed in hundreds of different ways. i spent weeks improving the look of the lighting, and even found and fixed bugs that the 800,000+ people who own the game had hadn’t yet reported! 

the PC + Mac release, on Steam and the game’s website, won’t be far behind. in other words, it will be out as soon as i can physically do it. it will take time as it’s not a simple port, but it is my next priority and i will have more news about this soon.

PlayStation

i originally planned to do a fairly straight port of the original game, but when Sony said they’d be interested in new content, i started to think about whether i could implement some of these ideas. and i got a bit carried away with it. i thought it would take about six weeks, but it ended up taking around nine months!

i’ve been working tirelessly alongside Curve Studios for the whole period, not just creating the new content, but making sure the ports and all their related marketing materials are up to my (i now realise) stupidly fussy standards: drawing PS3 background images and store images myself, searching 7 years of old hard drives to re-source all the audio so that we didn’t convert from the .mp3 format the original game uses to the .ogg format that the PlayStation uses, rather, from the original .wav masters – for a marginal improvement in audio quality that only musos will hear. i’ve spent many a night uploading endlessly tweaked Photoshop marketing images to the Curve servers at 3am, or rewriting the cloud-save interface to look more ‘Lone Survivor’, repeatedly redrawing the PlayStation button images until i found the most beautiful ‘6/7/8/9 pixel circle’, playing the different paths through the game time after time alongside the QA department. i have had endless email debates with the production team and Sony on how to make the trophies as cool-yet-unobtrusive as possible, i have designed the competition prizes by hand, the list goes on and on… and that’s to say nothing of the hard work Curve put in on their side!

to my knowledge, anything that could be done to make the experience better has been done, and Curve totally got that these kinds of details were important to me, and humoured me time and time again when i asked for things to be tweaked. Sony were amazing to work with (and i must send special love out to Shahid Kamal who helped make it happen in the first place), listening to my outlandish requests, and even allowing me to be one of the first ever third-party games to mess with the Trophy format, certainly the first predominantly made by one person… yes, it’s been an almighty task, but we got there in the end.

Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is out today on PSN in USA + EU

(priced $12.99 / €12.99 / £9.99)

i hope you enjoy the game

– jasper

The Changes

i knew the fans would be the most sensitive to changes in the game, so to me the challenge was to go back and improve the original game without in any way changing or spoiling the original vision. for this reason, i decided to make the majority of the new content, including the two new endings, only accessible in New Game+. so when you play the game for the first time, it should feel as before, only far more polished and nicer to look at and listen to. but when explore it for the second time, you may discover an entire extra layer to it…

it’s been really hard to keep the details to myself for so long, but the game’s secrets are no doubt being discovered right at this very moment by the fans. i greatly look forward to hearing what you think of the new content, so be sure to share your thoughts here (or via email, see address at top-right, if you’d prefer) if you do get a chance to play it.

anyway, here’s a rundown of the new features of Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut (without spoiling the specifics of its content):

general features:

  • whole new lighting engine, also supports 1 extra hardware light
  • many locations have additional lights and / or tweaked lighting
  • anamorphic lens flare for the flashlight
  • new sleeping and game over music
  • new title screen and game over screen
  • 2 additional locations
  • new gamma settings, saving of gamma and aspect settings
  • new expert mode
  • hundreds of small bug fixes, balance tweaks and improvements
  • automatic monster-facing on gun-draw
  • a few small easter eggs
  • new short sidequest
  • ending ‘collection’
  • ‘The Ritual’

specific to New Game+:

  • around 6 new locations
  • 2 completely new endings
  • 3 new songs
  • over 20 new items
  • 2 new sidequests
  • new enemy
  • new dialogue for all characters in the game
  • many other easter eggs that are better left unspoilt

specific to PlayStation:

  • trophies (including a platinum)
  • cloud-save (cross-play)
  • French & German languages (EU)
  • Cross Buy (buy on one format, get both PS Vita and PS3 versions)
  • controller support!

specific to PS Vita:

  • touchscreen controls for inventory, option screen & textboxes

specific to PS3:

  • rumbbbbbbbllllle

(new titlescreen on PC, to show it is actually in the works!)

Competitions! Competitions! Competitions!

we are also going to be giving out prizes that i designed myself, to the press to run competitions and so on. i spent a long time on them to hopefully make them really exclusive and unique:

 5 super-limited ‘First Aid Edition’ art-card prints, signed and individually numbered by myself

(now only 5 more exist and i’ll be keeping them for posterity!)

super limited edition physical prints of the game soundtrack in vintage PS2 survival horror style (i had fun making these and they look really cool in the flesh)

 

actual Sleepy Cat plushies (from my original sketch on the right) made by sukisuki.co.uk

(… yes, Sleepy Cat is real!)

for more information about the competitions and prizes, or to request a press kit / review code, please contact:

 pr@curve-studios.com

date

Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is coming out on PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita on

Tuesday, 24th September (USA / EU)

enjoy

won’t be long…

won’t be long now, my friends…

won’t be long now.

Art Pass!

As things have been winding up on The Director’s Cut, I’ve been able to do a certain amount of work on New Game+ finally!  Over the last 9 months while I’ve been working on the PlayStation ports, I’ve literally only had the time and energy to work on New Game+’s soundtrack (which has a lot of tunes now) but none for the game itself.

But I’ve managed to do some work on it, including an art pass, quite recently as things have been quieter while Curve wrap up the ports.  I converted all the art to a new, simpler 32 colour palette (to match the Amiga, the game machine which I grew up on).  This means the look is more coherent, if less ‘detailed’, and another good thing is that it makes the rest of the art a lot quicker to do.  There is a lot of art to do for this game, so that’s a good thing.

Here’s a comparison between the NEW EXTERIOR:

… and an OLD EXTERIOR:

(I was trying to get closer to the original mockup:)

Here’s a NEW INTERIOR:

… and an OLD INTERIOR:

So, although it’s a subtle change, it’s hopefully going to make things look better, while being quicker to produce!  Let me know what you think of the new look!

(Also, this is a thing I bought recently…)

There is more news on the horizon about NG+…   I can’t announce it quite yet, but something pretty wonderful is about to happen!

What I’m Doing About Trophies

After months of back and forth, and what ended up being one of the largest internal discussions at Sony on a game’s requirements for such things in the history of such things, I am now allowed to reveal What I’m doing About Trophies.

Achievements. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay. They don’t motivate me personally as a player – I prefer to play entirely within the ‘world’ of the game – but I completely respect and empathise with those who enjoy them.

For this reason, I wanted to ensure that Lone Survivor’s trophies were as unobtrusive as possible, but also a very deep additional challenge, free of grind, for those that wished to explore the game beyond the surface.

It is especially important in a game such as this where immersion is critical to the experience, that I don’t let them get in the way of that: the last thing you want is to be taken out of the adventure by a system message.

1. Trophies Will Be As Unobtrusive As Possible

For this reason, after many months of discussion, I have persuaded Sony to allow me to:

a) … not show any trophies during gameplay. They will be displayed only when the player goes to sleep, or on the completion of the game.

b) … display the following message at the start of the game (I’m very glad that Sony have recently allowed players to disable Trophy notifications via the System Settings in the latest firmwares, I also recommend disabling Friend Notifications, although I would still lobby for developers to be allowed to change this setting from in-game, on a per-game basis… hopefully Sony are listening and at least considering this in future as it isn’t currently possible.):

notrophy

c) … let all but a few trophies remain secret to ensure the first playthrough of the game is not coloured by trophy hunting.

2. Yes, there will be a Platinum Trophy.

(… but it will be hidden, deep.)

I worked hard on the Trophy designs, so that it would be a rewarding additional layer to the game, if you choose to explore it.  Particularly so that your repeat playthroughs are interesting and varied.  The idea is that the player will be rewarded for exploring the light and dark corners of the game, not for simply making progress or for repeatedly doing the same thing.  There is a huge amount to see in this game, especially in The Director’s Cut, and the Platinum Trophy takes you on the widest possible tour of that content.

Not only will Lone Survivor will have a Platinum Trophy, but this Trophy, if pursued, will be rewarding and open up new aspects of the game. It will not be an easy one, but it’ll hopefully be an interesting one!

However, I still hope that players who are new to Lone Survivor will disable trophy notifications on their first playthrough so that they experience the game as deeply as possible.

– Jasper 

EXPERIMENT 12

I contributed a chapter to EXPERIMENT 12, a collaboration with 11 other designers, started by good friend, Terry Cavanagh.  We each made a single chapter in a specific time period over several weeks, my chapter is the final experiment, #12 in fact. May not be what you expect.

I hope you enjoy the game!

Get it: http://www.geocities.ws/experimenttwelve/

(Mac + PC.)

 

[indiegames.com ‘User Guide’]

It’s nearly there…

I’ve done so much work on it, constantly for the whole of this year.  It’s bigger than I ever expected to be.

There are hundreds of tiny little changes and improvements.  It has a lot of new hidden, dark corners.  It even looks and sounds pretty different.  It is playing great on the Playstation Vita and PlayStation 3, and Curve are doing a great job on the port.

It has become a new thing.

It is for this reason that it is now called “Lone Survivor – The Director’s Cut.”  And I’m so excited and proud to share it with you guys.

wallpaper

1080p wallpaper for your pleasure

GDC, and a bit of the old ultracrunch…

(I’m sure this is a fairly common combination.)

Just a quick note to say, I’ll be in San Francisco from tomorrow, until the 4th of next month.  I’ll be at GDC, hanging about, eating tasty foods, showing NG+ around (contact me if you’d like to play, as I’m going to try and arrange a 4p session, even if it’s in the hotel lobby!  Also there to meet virtual friends ‘IRL’, some of whom for the first time, and cheer on Terry and Cactus and other friends at the IGF awards (best of luck to all nominees, of course!)

Be sure to leave me a message via email or twitter if you want to link up, due to the crunch I’ve not been able to make any plans except my flight and hotel so far.

Talking of crunch, I’ve barely slept this month while adding even more new things to Lone Survivor for the PlayStation consoles (and have even seen it running in a early state, yay!)  As well as the stuff I mentioned before, there’s now another new piece of music, more new items (taking us up to 22 new ones, for bullet-point fans), new sound effects, another new ending (there are now five instead of the original three), another large and complex location, a new enemy type, lots more new dialogue, new lighting effects, even a new portrait of You (hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler, I’m trying to keep all this stuff nice a surprising for you guys, but…):

 (See if you can find out how to unlock it!)

Also note that Lone Survivor is currently 50% off in the spring sales on Steam!  Go, tell your friends etc!  (It would be much appreciated.) 

Lone Survivor for PS3 + PSVita

Where is this, huh?
 
Hi everyone.  It’s my great pleasure to be here today to announce the details of the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita ports of Lone Survivor. I’ve been so exited to tell you guys about it for the last few weeks, but I had to hold it in until it was finalised! Anyone who knows me or follows my twitter feed will be aware that I’m a massive Sony fan and literally play 95% of the games I play on my PS3.  It’s the console that fits me the best, and it’s the controller I imagine when I’m designing my games: so this really is a dream come true!
 
Where is this, huh?
 
But for those who missed it the first time round, and what with it having been out almost a year now (my goodness!) … what is Lone Survivor?  It’s a game very personal to me that took almost seven years to get right.  I guess you could call it a blend of ‘Lynchian’ psychological horror, point’n’click adventure mechanics and a virtual pet-like ‘physical and mental survival simulation’ – the idea being that how you choose to survive is up to you. It’s the last record of a nameless, masked protagonist, holed-up in a city full of diseased monsters, starving and exhausted. When we join him on his quest, he has already begun to question whether all of what he sees is even real.
 
My hope is that you can play through the game in the style that suits you best – I wanted to try and make a role-playing game with meaningful choices. It’s an experiment in making every insignificant fact in the game having an invisible, or murkily visible effect on your outcome, however small. And also to try and get away from showing statistics so that people ‘feel’ their way around… perhaps people are more inclined to role-play when that’s the case?  There’s no longer a need to ‘min-max’ everything? And I think it sort of came together? It’s certainly an area I’m interested in exploring in my future games.
 
To my amazement, Lone Survivor has turned into something of a phenomenon over the last year. Since its release, it’s been nominated for a Golden Joystick, picked by many blogs and magazines as Horror Game Of The Year, and has received many glowing reviews. Sales have been beyond anything I could have imagined: I only wanted to be able to fund the next game, and that bas been done several times over, probably. Its story seems to provoke heated debate amongst fans and critics – I never get tired of reading people’s different interpretations, that has definitely been the highlight of sharing it with so many people. People seem to love the music, the weird mechanics, fans write to me about the ‘depth’, ‘realistic treatment of adult themes’ and ‘warm humour’ in the writing etc.
 
As a brief personal aside… my late papa, Johnny Byrne, who the game is dedicated to, was a writer. And Lone Survivor actually contains at least a brief novel’s worth of text. I found this out when I hacked it out of the game ready for translation! It’s the first large piece of writing I’ve ever released into the world, and it did take far longer than I imagined, and it didn’t click with everybody… And to get a bit deep for a second, a large theme was his own illness, and me dealing with that… But, basically, what I’m trying to say is, for people to get what I’m trying to go for, and maybe even to take something away from it… Well, I’m completely floored and humbled. I really could never have expected or hoped for this to happen. I just needed to make this game, even though I had no idea if it would connect with anyone else. More than anything, I wanted Lone Survivor to be a game that approaches issues rarely touched on in games – the effects of grief, mental health issues, the examination of drug use and abuse. And, somehow, the stars aligned and the good news is I’m able to keep making games for the foreseeable future, because I really do love it!
 
I have the utmost confidence in London studio, Curve, who are handling the conversion duties, to produce the ultimate version of the game. They are moving into publishing with such excellent titles as Thomas Was Alone, and I’m proud to be joining their stable! It is still important for very small development teams, such as myself, to have help in publishing on console platforms. And, while Sony are doing great work to reduce the amount of bureaucracy needed to make it possible, and I applaud them for this, it is still impractical for a one-man team to self-publish (go through certification, age ratings, translations etc.) As I said, this has been a life-long dream for me, to release a game on a great console with a bespoke controller, and this shows just how far things have come that a one-man team can do that with minimal help from a publisher. Whether that still makes this an indie release or not is up to you to decide (see Spelunky’s Derek Yu’s great article that deals with this subject.) To me it’s just a word that’s occasionally useful to give context, not something I give much weight – I consider myself a maker of games first and foremost! The main thing is that all the content is being made by me, with my own funding, without any external input.  Besides which, Curve are an entirely independent entity, so this is a very grey area and again shows me how easy it can be to get hung up on the word. Anyway, the important thing is that their excellent track record speaks for itself, and that their own games have a really good sense of feel (something that’s very important to me personally.) I’m positive that they’ll only improve the game with their years of console development experience, and are just the right people for the job. And of course I’m overseeing it closely at every stage to make sure it looks, sounds and plays exactly right!
 

Extra secret bonus stuff And stuff… 

One exciting aspect of this announcement for me is that I’ve secretly been devoting a lot time and resources into adding additional content into the game, initially exclusive to the PS3 / Vita. I even disappeared to another country for two weeks to work on it in complete isolation, to get back into the right vibe (making sure to eat and sleep poorly!) Of course, there will be Trophies, Cross-Buy and Cross-Play support, but I’ve also been working on (amongst one or two other surprises) more than twenty new items, new dialogue with all NPC’s, two extensive new side quests, two new locations, and a brand new ‘Yellow’ ending, featuring a new piece of music for the ending.  I’m looking into touch control for movement and inventory use.  The idea is that this version really will be enhanced in every way, smoother, nicer to control, with a lot of little extras that don’t change the game itself, just add to it (in fact, almost all of the content is only accessible in … wait for it … NEW GAME+!).
 
I hope you enjoy the game. And for those who’ve already supported it, thankyou so much. I can’t wait to share the new content with all of you in the summer!
 
I don’t have anything to announce at this point regarding bringing the additional content to PC / Mac / Linux, at least until I can focus my resources on it after the release.  But it’s something I hope to do, so I’ll keep you posted about that!
 
I’ll leave you with a link to the new trailer, which you can also find on the Sony EU blog… Just click on the image at the top!
 
Cheers,
 
Jasper
 
PS More NEW GAME+ news to follow soon, it’s had a short break while I’ve been doing this, but I’m constantly testing and tweaking it!  I took it to the Local Multiplayer Picnic in Utrecht while I was in Holland last month, and it was a fantastic day.  Thanks to JW, Rami & friends for that! Be sure to pick up their Super Crate Box on your Vita if you have one!

The Soulsian Quest

Making a “Soulsian” game is very enjoyable to me.  I was thinking about this a lot the other night at the pub with Terry Cavanagh and another rabid DARK SOULS fan, during a five hour discussion about the game.  Having spent four years fighting to get a narrative-heavy game to work well with its mechanics, and replaying the same bits of narrative again and again until they worked, it’s refreshing to do something more design-focussed.  Of course, the theme is still really important to me (perhaps one of the things I value the most), but as with Lone Survivor I’ve decided not to share any details of the story until the game is released.  The games I make tend to come from the theme, rather than the mechanics, even with NG+, but this time its focus is more a blend of the two aspects.

NG+ Meet The Ranger

So, the nice thing is every game is different when you have this many mechanics and styles of play…  It means I have to devote a lot more time to balancing and playing the game, but that’s turning out to be a lot of fun with four players anyway, and giving me a lot to take home after each event I take the game to (I’ve been starting to ‘hit the road’ with it recently, now I have four quite different characters and the stats and weapon systems fleshed out, as well as the coop and VS game modes implemented.  You can switch modes at any time during the game now via the ‘+ Altars’.)

I’ve begun to build more of the world (which I’m trying not to show too much of because *spoilers*) but I can say that there are now multi-level areas working, like Dungeon Master, one of my all-time favourite RPG’s, you can fall down pits and the enemies can even follow you down there, or be found lurking when you reach the lower level because you lunged at them and sent them flying off a ledge.)  I want to make a lot of use of the grid-based nature of the game, and have Dungeon Master-like traps, pressure pads, all those things that require you to be a little observant when moving forward.  You can throw whatever you’re carrying, in either hand, not only to land in monsters’ faces stunning them temporarily while you make your escape, risking a valuable weapon or shield, but perhaps also to set off these fiendish traps before they find you instead?

As it stands, I’m planning to have no inventory except for the armour and helmet you wear, the two things you carry in your hands, and one support item.  Designs can be subject to change of course!  But I want to try and reduce and RPG to the fewest elements I can while still being able to feel like an RPG.  That’s a key thing in what I’m going for mechanically, I think?  And with up to four players on screen the GUI has to be as simple as possible, so my intended solution is to practically show all of it on the player, one of the reasons the animation takes so long, because the player must be able to use every item, in both hands, with four facing directions, in every suit and helmet!

So the game is still a long way from being finished in terms of content, but the gameplay is definitely getting to where I hoped it would be, and people seem to be having a lot of fun with it when I play with them.  I really look forward to sharing it with you all!  Just don’t expect it this year (unfortunately.)

One two a few more thing(s)…

I’m off today for a couple of weeks to work on a secret project.  So if I’m fairly quiet on email or twitter, that’s why!  I’m basically going to be internet-less for this time while I buckle down and get it done, but suffice to say it’s something exciting that I can hopefully announce soon!

– There’s no comments available at the moment just because I couldn’t hold back the spam any more.  Planning a website overhaul soon, I promise!

– I’ve also been doing some exciting music projects too, at least two new games will feature some of my guest tunes.  Hope to get into this more after NG+, if such a time ever exists.

– I’m finally going to my first IGF / GDC this year!  I’ll be in San Francisco for the whole week and a few days either side.  Hope to catch some of you there…

– Hope you’re all having a wicked 2013!