//PRE-ALPHA PHASE 2 ANNOUNCEMENT
Its been an exciting couple of months at Dream Harvest with the big Korean Games Festival build / Milestone which we were working towards and successfully hit at the end of August, 10 days in Korea at the beginning of September for BIC Festival and the GTR Conference and then finally the office warming party at the end of September where we finally, for the first time ever, managed to get the whole team together (minus Scott....who decided to go on holiday for the week).
But that's not why you're here. I guess you want to hear about the Pre-Alpha Phase 2?
Well, check out the below video for details:
HEAD OF STUDIO
After a hard month in August trying to get the game build ready for BIC Festival in Korea, we were awarded a flood of people playing the game at our stand and the GTR G.Round stand at the conference and an overwhelming feeling that NeuroSlicers has the potential to do incredibly well in the Korean market, even if the language barrier, while there, meant that the majority of feedback came down to "ooooo, like StarCraft, but better!"
The fact that we had players returning for multiple playthroughs of our demo content made me very proud of what the team had accomplished to get to this point. This was thoroughly cemented when we found out we'd also been Nominated for Best Multiplayer Game at the event, though, unfortunately, we didn't walk away with the prize, it went to a well-deserving Korean team and their couch co-op game. There's always next year.
After BIC we were honoured to be invited to the annual GTR conference, held by our Korean partners, Danny and Rick and the rest of the GTR team. The evening before the event we had the chance to discuss and pitch NeuroSlicers to a number of GTR's partner publishers and investors at a VIP dinner which turned into a bit of an adventure.
Milcho and I made our way to the venue by taxi......a mission unto its own as Taxi drivers in Korea don't seem to understand addresses, even when shown to them in Korean. After being dropped off on the other side of Busan, by a lighthouse, we realised the taxi driver had taken us to the completely wrong place and so Milcho and I set out on foot up a hill (in 34 degrees heat + 100% humidity) to try and find the venue.
When we finally got to the venue I felt like I was melting; we were greeted by Mary, GTR's Community Manager only for her to tell us we were up next for the Pitching session. We quickly made our way down to the presentation area.
As we watched the end of Mark's (from Rogue Snail, developers of Relic Hunters) talk, I heard my name called by Rick (GTR's COO) to go around the side of the building in preparation for my talk - I took a step backwards and swiftly fell into a pond of water.....I don't think anyone but Milcho noticed.....at least I hope no one noticed, and at least it was only one leg that went in. Funnily enough, after my presentation, someone else fell completely into the water.
In addition to the VIP dinner, I was invited to talk at the GTR conference about our journey as a studio, from a small two-man team to where we are now. It was really nice that afterwards quite a few of the studios came up to me to say they'd gone through the same thing.
On our return to the UK, we were happy to bring on board Alice as a Junior Artist and Marketing Illustrator, who I believe will be key to helping ramp up our outbound marketing efforts while also bringing some much-needed balance to the team. In addition, we welcomed Tarl to the team as our Community Manager. Tarl has been supporting us from the sidelines for the last couple of years and I'm happy to now be in a position to bring him on board properly.
Finally, the month of September ended with a really good workshop in the office run by Oscar Clark and Ella Romanos where we discussed and planned our solutions to hurdles we might encounter as we plan our post-launch content for NeuroSlicers.
The day then ended with our Office warming party. It was all a great excuse to get the whole Dream Harvest team together, with Loic flying in from Brazil, Sven coming over from Switzerland and Francisc flying in from Romania. We really got a sense of creativity and passion having the team together and I can't wait until everyone makes the move to Brighton over the coming months.
It was also great to see both Sky and Jafdy, two of our Mod/Sentry team come down for the evening of festivities, my one regret is we didn't take any photos during the night. I guess that means we're going to have to hold another party at some point.
Anyway, until next time
The Dream Harvest team (minus Scott) + Jafdy and Sky, two of our community moderator team at the office warming party
HEAD OF ART
This first narrative-driven solo campaign mission has been the opportunity to develop the game beyound our comfort zone, with a new art pipeline to build vaster environments.
Another goal was integrating more cinematography and immersion to the NeuroSlicer experience, with a cinematic, giving the player context as to who he's incarnating in this world.
The initial plan was to hire a technical environment artist during the summer, but I ended up finding simpler and cheaper solutions to develop this level environment, and still accommodate enough of my time for developing a technical process, and a visual style, for the short introduction cinematic.
I had enough time to push the envelope on it, so instead of static illustrations, I went for 3d camera shots, thus having more value as marketing assets in gif or video format, for our next trailer for example.
HEAD OF NARRATIVE
As was the case for everyone on the team, the BIC build represented a huge challenge, but just as much of an opportunity, for the narrative of the game.
Our target was to communicate as much about the lore, and rationale/motivation for engaging with the opening mission, in an incredibly short amount of in-game time, due to the build being specifically aimed at conventions, primarily of non-native English speaking countries too.
The upside is that it forced us to get creative – and ultimately, very effective – at distilling what Neuroslicers is. We distilled the information players needed to know to appreciate the setting and narrative into a tiny slice, that has had beneficial knock-on effects throughout the narrative in terms of how things will be presented.
It was also the first test and execution of our dialogue writing, voice recording, and localisation pipeline. In a much shorter than usual timeframe, we executed this with a great voice actor, whom we will almost certainly use in the full game, and localised effectively.
A perennial priority for the narrative team is to make lore and characters as elegantly simple to understand as possible while allowing them depth for more players to explore. What we have with BIC is a fantastic first proof of that philosophy, a lot of useful feedback and learnings, and a lot of momentum to go forth and apply it all to the rest of the content development.
HEAD OF DESIGN
In the last month we accomplished two things:
- Build and demo the game in BIC
- Meet the whole team in person
The rest of the team already talked about what a big milestone the BIC build was, but I want to add that we added full localisation support. That means building all the systems and populating them with the narrative and UI text. We also got to test our localisation flow by sending it to a localisation company and doing adjustments.
Apart from that, gathering the whole team in person was great because we got to realign our vision between departments and was a great boost to morale.
With that in mind, we're working towards our next big milestone - our Pre-Alpha phase 2 launch in the beginning of next year.
HEAD OF CODE
As mentioned by the others our big goal was to get the first solo campaign mission for BIC.
The new requirements for this type of map required us to change how the board is handled so we can change the shape of the board during gameplay. While most of this was handled by Milcho, I had to make some updates of our Border generation system which will give us more options for the borders in the future.
To speed up the environment building process Loic and I worked together to specify & implement the shaders that were needed to speed up the process of building the level environment.
Also we started using Unity's new VFX graph for some VFX that were used in the BIC build. This were VFX used in the environment and for gameplay.
Additionally some old VFX were redone with VFX graph to fix issues and to be more in line with current the visual style.
HEAD OF COMMUNITY
I am Tarl, the new Community Manager for Dream Harvest. It's my job to arrange what the team show to the public and generate interest in the project in the public eye. A lot of this is focused around interaction on Social Media and a few other tools that we can use to interact with the community such as Discord.
I joined Dream Harvest three weeks ago and my main workload during that time has been sorting out ways for us to generate content and awareness about the studio and the people in it in an organic and authentic manner. I have also been working on liaising with members of our current community to work on getting posts out in other countries where English isn't the dominant language so we can penetrate those audiences better in the future.
I am looking forward to being able to see the fruits of this work in the next few months and I'm especially excited about our upcoming video series we're going to be sharing in the upcoming weeks called Meet The Dreamers which takes a deep dive into the people making NeuroSlicers and how they came to be a part of the Dream Harvest team.
Here are some stills from the first 3 that will cover Loic, our Art Director, Milcho, our design director and Sven our CTO.
The past month has been a wild time to say the least. The BIC festival marked a milestone for NeuroSlicers that had the full team (the Dream Team?) charging towards a fully playable version of the game. This included the first appearance of our glorious Single Player Experience, i.e. what I’ve had my head buried in since I came on board.
Given that we would be presenting to an audience unfamiliar with our game (and in most cases; language), the design of the featured level was an exercise in communication. A necessary exercise that should be part of every design process, honestly speaking. It asks simple questions with surprisingly tricky answers like “how do we get the player to do X without making them feel like an idiot?” or “how do we communicate Y without breaking immersion?”
Not only was BIC an opportunity to gauge how well we answered those questions, but it was also an important moment for me as part of the Dream Harvest Team. We came out with something we could be proud of. Something I could point at and say “that’s my work. I had a hand in that.” If that’s how far we’ve come in a mere three months, where will we be in another three? Six? A year?
I can’t wait.
A lot has happened in the past few months and the game is feeling much stronger and more well defined than at any point to date. For my own areas of music and narrative design, there have been some major developments. There is a fair bit to cover in both areas, so have a read of Danny Wadeson's segment for a catchup on all things narrative.
The BIC build showed off our first campaign level, which takes place in a mysterious part of our world called The Construct. We wanted this place to feel like an abandoned palace that has been left to decay over many decades — it has to inspire in the player a desire to explore; uncover a mystery.
After a couple of iterations, I landed upon something that conveyed a sense of awe, mystery and space within the opening moments of the level. But as soon as we integrated this into the game we realized that we needed to strip the music back and focus on its synthetic elements (analog synthesizers and digital sounds, rather than orchestral instruments). By doing this, the music became more integral to the game's visual aesthetic, rather than being placed on top of it.
Also, during the development of this new piece, we wanted to ensure that the music was reactive to the player's experience in the level.
- Mapping the music to key story beats (such as in-game VO)
- Mapping the music to key level geography
- Mapping the music to key gameplay mechanics
After much trial and error, we found a way to make this work. And our music for The Construct is reactive to all these points, to better immerse the player in the world by mirroring their decisions and the story they uncover.
Now, for one final piece of good news: I have moved to Brighton! My waistline is not thanking me for the influx of pastry and other delicious foods, however, it is great to be in such a positive and encouraging city and to be able to stroll into the office with Milcho in the morning to work alongside the team and bounce ideas around in person.
May we reap the Harvest!
UX & UI DESIGNER
On the UI/UX and visual direction side of things, we have decided to focus on system design and re-design of current features or new features, and follow up with the creation of interactable wireframes when all systems are fleshed out. While integrating most of the new systems the UX and UI will be designed and developed in parallel.
Meanwhile, we have focused also on a refresh of the entire visual direction of the game including the UI, the in-game units and the marketing and promotional assets that we will develop. The new visual direction focuses on high immersion and it is developed with narrative in mind. All of the features of the UI, marketing and promotional assets will focus to bring the narrative context of the player character.
We are trying to combine a style of digital sci-fi modernism with elements of anarchic digital noise and glitch that needs to inspire a glimpse of punk-rock. Several tests were made and tweaked in order to explore and find the right direction.
Last but not least we have reworked the menu flow and the first time user experience in design and we are preparing to tweak, negotiate and integrate the changes into the game.
An interactive prototype has been made that showcases the basic layout of the menu so far, and it will flesh out into covering all other screens in the game, including a new direction of the in-game HUD that will support the narrative more and showcase new features that we have planned.
Finally, we are also working through some ideas for the branding of NeuroSlicers, trying to find the right blend between the elements that make up the cyberpunk aesthetic while also modernizing the style and matching it to our vision. Here are some early sketched examples of the direction we're looking to take.
JUNIOR ARTIST / ILLUSTRATOR
Time to tell you a little about myself as the newest addition to the Dream Harvest team as a Junior Artist. My name is Alice Dudgeon. I'm 21 and I'm originally from the deep countryside within Ireland - not the first place you'd think of when you hear the words video game.
Due to Ireland not being at the forefront of the games industry, as well as not having many resources to explore this, I decided to move to the UK to study and despite it being a big change in my life I haven't regretted it in the slightest.
My background is in Games Art where I studied it for three years at the University of Northampton, having graduated in June of this year. Being pretty fresh to the games industry, I recognise how fortunate I am to be picked up by a studio, especially in a competitive industry, and I'm proud of myself for achieving this so close to graduating.
To go into specifics my forte is art, primarily 2D digital as well as 3D work such as creating assets for games. During my time at university I had the opportunity in my final year to decide which route I wanted to specialise in, whether it be UI, environments, VFX or characters. Due to my love of narratives and storytelling I swayed towards the latter of the bunch quite easily.
As a female in the industry, I'm used to being surrounded by others of the opposite sex. Fortunately for me, I've rarely had to deal with negative cases and in the most part have been surrounded by positive people who help me evolve and flourish as an artist. Such of these people have been the Dream Harvest team who have been nothing but welcoming to me. I'm excited to see where this road leads as I join their ranks, and help create a terrific game.