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Studio Update #2: December 2016

Well, we did it – Tether has officially been Greenlit by the Steam community. I just want to thank everyone that voted for us. Personally, it means the world to me knowing that we have the backing of the PC community. It gives you a good feeling inside when you see nearly a year’s worth of hard work being recognized. The positive comments from the Steam community and PC press alike is such a boost, not just to myself but to the team as a whole.

As I eluded to before we’ve been working on Tether now for nearly a year. You wouldn’t believe how much the project has evolved in that time or how quickly it’s all come together. We’re currently putting the finishing touches to our demo, which we hope to have completed before Christmas, so we can all enjoy a break over the festive period.

In honesty we had hoped to have our demo done by now but we decided to update too Unreal Engine 4.14 and implement PerForce as we were running into revisioning issues. It’s something that took a little longer than anticipated to get working correctly but well worth the trouble (software revisioning is king).

So what’s next? As we head into the new year, we’ll be looking to try and secure some funding (publisher or crowd funding were undecided), and look to bring one or two more experienced heads in, to aid help us make the best experience possible.

Once again from everyone at the studio thank you for voting for Tether.

Finally be sure to check out all our social media channels (links below) and sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date.

Twitter – www.twitter.com/freespheree
Facebook – www.facebook.com/freespheree
Instagram – www.instagram.com/freesphereentertainment
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjcB9oHquK6VK4uP-4PzGuQ

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, don’t forget to spend time with your loved ones and play some video games.

Peace.

Mark Gregory – Creative Director
Twitter: @MGregory666


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Studio Update #1: July 2016

Tags :

Category : Blog

I started the Freesphere Entertainment in May of 2016 with the view of blending mechanically interesting games with deep and interesting worlds with compelling stories. After creating many prototypes over the last fourteen months we’re very close to officially revealing our first game.  

Myself and the team have released games before with other studios, but we’ve all craved the creative freedom to make our own decisions – no longer having our fate tied to someone else’s decisions. That was the reason for starting Freesphere, to give us the freedom we required to make the games we wanted to make, how we wanted to make them.

As I previously eluded too, it hasn’t been an easy process; being major fans of horror and storytelling we’ve all gravitated towards the same ideas. A horror experience, joined with a believable story surrounding interesting characters and themes. Initially we started off like a house on fire, we’d concepted a project and we’re deep into the development when another project came out of the blue and stole our thunder – same settings, similar story, similar design, same engine. It was totally uncanny. It knocked the stuffing out of us – me the most. Being indie you always crave to be different and I knew we couldn’t be. So with it being so close to Christmas, we decided to enjoy the holidays with the family and pick it up in the New Year.

A funny side note, that game was actually Allison Road – odd how things turn out isn’t it.

After a short break we began talking and brainstorming ideas, but nothing was clicking. We’d go back and forth with ideas which we liked, but then we’d do what we usually do, and pick holes in it (believability is everything to us). It was amazing how many times during this process we came back to PT and how currently the genre is filled with PT clones. This is not the route we want to go down again as there is enough competition in this space.

The infamous Allison Road

Instead, we’ll be focusing on going our own route pulling ideas in from multiple genres across video games to make our games. Games are constantly evolving and so should developers, staying with tried and trusted patterns is how we end up the stale world of AAA game development at the moment.

In the future we can expect more general posts like this about the studio and more game designed focused ones, like our previous post on how to scare players.

 

Until next time.

Mark Gregory – Creative Director
Twitter: @MGregory666

 


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Blog #1: How To Scare Players

Category : Blog

As an indie game developer with a passion for horror, I have been wanting to make a blog post talking about my personal game-design philosophy. In this post, I will define what I believe haunts and scares a player.

So, let’s start out with a definition of both the terms that are important here:

To Scare: To frighten, to strike with sudden fear, to alarm.

To Haunt: To cause repeated discomfort or anxiety.

Looking at both of those definitions, we can say that a scare is a temporary feeling when you are made aware of something unexpected. A scary feeling can also be created when you know what something has done or could do and you feel threatened because of this. Let’s take a look at some games of the past to get a good feeling of what has been scary.

One of my favourite examples is the famous dog scene in Resident Evil. When the player reached a certain area in the hallway the dog jumps out of the window in front of the camera, something that startled most players.

Why did the player get startled when this happened? Because up until this point the player has never encountered a dog. Sure the player saw them earlier in the game through a cinematic, but the player knew they would not be interacting with the dog at that moment. However, when the dog jumps through the window, the player panics. The player had thought all they had to worry about was zombie’s because the dogs were outside. No windows had been broken before, and in all likeliness, this thought had never really entered the player’s head. But when all of this happened, it broke all the rules that had been subconsciously established in the player’s head up until this point.

resi-dog

The classic of all jump-scares. The Resident Evil infamous dog scene.

If the player feels comfortable, then break what they ‘know’ about the game. This is the classic jump scare technique, as used effectively in Resident Evil.

However, if you keep breaking the rules and re-use the jump scare too often, you risk losing the tension you have created thus far. As a result, players will subconsciously learn when to expect the next scare. Earn your jump scares. It’s interesting to see that in the remastering of Resident Evil, the dog scene was removed as players knew when to expect it.

Let’s open the door into another game, a more recent one, Soma. This game thrives on building up the anxiety of the player. While this game does not have much use for jump scares, it uses tension and anxiety built up in the player over time to create something that haunts the player.

Frictional Games uses a mixtures sounds, musical queue changes, visuals and other clever techniques to build up this anxiety within the player. It’s not until later in the game that you encounter something that can harm you (the player). But until that point, the player does not know this. The player does not know
what an enemy looks like, when it’s going to show up, or what it does. They know nothing. This only amplifies the tension brought out by the sounds, visuals etc. If you give the player no knowledge of a monster in a horror game they are forced to create one by themselves. Welcome to the imagination.

soma

SOMA does a good job of creating player tension.

Your imagination is more powerful than anything any developer can do to create fear in a player. This is what makes Soma so impactful (narrative excluded for which it excels again) and what makes it so widely talked about as one of the scariest games of all time. So the longer we don’t show an enemy, the more time it gives the player to ‘create’ their own enemy from the depths of their imagination, which believe me, can often be more horrifying than any creature made by developers. The idea of this technique is that the player will begin to ‘see’ things in the darkness and build up that ever important tension themselves.

It’s easy to scare players when they don’t know what’s around the corner or behind the door. But does that leave a lasting impression on the game? Will players remember a game strictly consisting of just jump scares? Probably not. However, if we can build up fear and tension using a range of techniques (which I will explain in later blog posts) then the scare has more of a lasting impact. If we can create lasting moments of horror and tension we can let the player’s imagination take over. When the imagination takes over. The possibilities are limitless.

Mark Gregory – Creative Director & Co-Owner