Indie Interview with John Anderson of Studio Daisho about their sci-fi, action adventure game The Center.
“Developing an indie game can be an isolating pursuit. Ste and I really didn’t want to go down that path whilst making our first game, The Flawless: Art’s Tale, so we have been very happy to connect with other indiedev teams across the world.”
Welcome to BKD blog! Can you introduce yourself and company?
First off thank you for interviewing me today and inquiring more about The Center. My name is John Anderson, Chief Technology Officer here at Studio Daisho LLC and onThe Center game. Studio Daisho is a music composition & audio production company based out of Richmond, VA USA. We specialize in creating original scores & sound design across various multimedia platforms including film, television, and video games.
The Center looks really cool, could you introduce your game to our readers?
We appreciate the kind words. The Center, a 3D “shifting” isometric sci-fi, action-adventure game created with the powerful Unreal Engine is set in a time where the universe has expanded exponentially. To where galaxies full of life raging war on each other and endless chaos is ensuing. The story that president Jason Rosa penned takes place where the first beings that seeded life throughout are sickened by their creations and send kamikaze martyrs to key planets. Their mission, to detonate these planets which in return weakens the Universes’ integrity ultimately creating what is referred to as a “Heat Death”.
You begin your mission with one objective and head to “Ciraric”, a lone and ravaged planet at the center of the universe. This planet holds an interesting secret which will shape the main character ANU and the player.
What have been your inspirations for The Center and in what ways have they inspired you?
The Center has a powerful message at it’s core. For an example ANU the main character’s sole purpose is to destroy a planet including himself. Through events of The Center and on “Ciraric”, ANU starts to understand this mortality and in return starts to grow a conscience. ANU questions this purpose and ultimately his own existence. This concept and the ideology that Jason put into the story inspired me personally, shaping my understanding of who I am, where I come from, and who I want to become.
I’ve read you want to create a “totally immersive experience” could you elaborate on how you will do this?
From beautiful, thought provoking landscapes to lush, fruitful subterranean caverns. From detailed and thought out character designs to enormous boss battles. From simple ambient sound effects to overly thematic scores and to custom unique designed voice overs. Our team has put countless hours into developing and creating a memorable and uniquely immersive experience.
We didn’t want bothersome HUDS (heads up displays), or any type of overlays to the screen that would take your eyes away from gameplay, or break immersion like most 3D isometric titles. The only exception to this is the controller overlays in the demo to help players learn the controls. From sound effects, to environmental puzzles and everything in between we designed specifically for player awareness. A lot of time was put into research, planning, and game testing these cues. The challenges were to give enough feedback to the player without making he or she feel we’ve undermined their intelligence.
Playing two characters simultaneously will make for some interesting gameplay, could you give us more details about how this will work?
Im glad you’ve asked! So ANU & HEX share a very symbiosis relationship. ANU is very unemotional, to the point and calculated while HEX is very a eccentric, outgoing and quirky. The player has control over ANU, and HEX will assist the player in many ways. From being a second arm to an arsenal of energy based effects, HEX gives the player a new way around puzzles, enemies and also provides comical relief! The player can command HEX to their advantage. This relationship will be tested and is shown throughout the game in many ways. We give players this not only for the tools that both character are capable of, but more so to challenge the player to learn, adapt and grow while the game progresses. We wanted players to learn the functionality of each character’s unique design and abilities. We feel that these abilities give each player different and unique playing experiences.
Starting with ANUs’ EMU (extravehicular mobility suit) wasn’t designed for combat, however the capability of the unit gives players a new way around enemies as well as environmental puzzles. One feature of ANUs’ suit is the ability to collapse into a ball, charge up and roll. Another is a lunge roll. These can be used in several ways, to navigate around the environment, barreling through enemies as well as solving the puzzles we have designed.
HEXs’ core can be replaced with recovered technology which we are coining “HEX blueprints”. These blueprints give HEX different energy types which cause different energy effects. Since the crash however, when HEX changes cores he loses all previous core functionality. For an example you will obtain the first HEX blueprint, “Cryosphere” in the demo which is recovered from the damaged cryogenic chamber ANU was in. “Cryosphere” is the ability to slow to delay objects over a short time duration. This effect is chained when HEX hits multiple targets, but in the order they were hit.
The Center is going to make significant use of sounds and music, could you tell us more about that?
Being Studio Daisho was founded on music composition and sound design we wanted to really make a rememberable experience in terms of audio, however we didn’t want to break immersion or take away from the player experience. During the boss battles Studio Daisho really shines. We’ve created an original concept & code that allows each player the ability to conduct the boss battle scores.
Without giving too much away what we have done in terms of scoring the boss battles is to have huge ensembles that are broken down into stems. Each stem along with cues are then layered uniquely in terms of how the player reacts, interacts and choses to advance during the battle. Now we aren’t talking about scripted sequences of layering music stems, we are talking about bpm (beats per minute) adjusting in realtime, to players feedback. This not only allows the player to arrange the score, but allows each boss battle to be played, on adjusting tempos according to the players actions. Again this isn’t a scripted event, this happens all in real time.
Originally you were a three man team but now you’ve expanded to 15 members; how has that transition been?
There any many people in the indie scene that have said, “it can’t be done”, or “you aren’t AAA”. We’ve taking this with a grain of salt not to mention use these discouraging words as a reminder to always push ourselves in terms of where the limitations are. We’ve assembled juggernauts that not only believe in Jason’s vision, but also have carry over in many fields of development. Some of which came from other studios. We also have some special guests lined up like John Giang from I.L.M (industrial light & magic) that want to be apart of the team and in realizing The Center. The transition was a long one. We went through many people and honestly it came down to one thing, motivation. We weren’t looking to make the perfect game, but we wanted individuals that were motivated by creating an original and unique player experience that were willing to go outside their own capabilities to achieve that goal.
What have been the biggest challenges so far and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges to me from a technical standpoint has been bringing our ideas, and concepts to life. We had to find individuals that not only could do what we were asking for, but more so have the drive to go outside their own knowledge and were willing to try something that was new and original. Getting them to go outside the bounds of say programming, or what they were capable of and pushing them to find ways around their limitations. To create original code for our ideas and functionality we wanted into the game to begin with. Another big challenge was managing the team since everyone isn’t in our neck of the woods. We have a few members in florida, and mid-west even west coast. We have set 2 big development meetings a week, where we meet on Skype and have video/talk chats to see where everyone is and have assignments for the next meeting. Communication has played a big part in management. We strive to make sure everyone has what they need, when they needed it and to make sure all ideas and concepts are being created accordingly.
Do you have any advice for first time indie developers?
As you being your journey, know that the belief has to come from within and realizing the goal is the most important step you must take. From the wise words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles beings with one step.”. This is especially important for game development because you find people that only know one way of doing things, or look to other games that have been created as a boundary. This is the limitation they place on themselves without even realizing it. Once you understand where you’re limiting yourself, then you can truly make any sort of progress or grow with development. Of course you have to nitch your game, but don’t be afraid to go outside of “what is” to make “what isn’t”. There’s a very thin line between what you perceive to be obtainable and where you typically set goals, especially for me. I clear my mind of outside influences so then and only then can I set my goals accordingly.
Lastly I want to thank you again Tony for your time and for interviewing me about The Center. It’s been a pleasure to be on Bare Knuckle Development Blog.
“Good luck on your Kickstarter guys!! To keep up to date on Studio Daisho LLC you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook or check out their website where you can download a playable demo!! If you like the look of The Center then you could also support them on Kickstarter. If you’d like to know more about our game then you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook andGoogle+ or visit our website.”.
Hey guys! One thing I’ve learned from working with the people at Studio Daisho is that indie development can be somewhat frustrating. We’re attempting to enter a market that is saturated with low-quality indie projects and dominated by AAA studio releases, so it can be exceptionally difficult to stand out from the crowd and garner the attention your project deserves. It’s far too easy to begin feeling like you and your team are on a tiny raft being battered by the angry sea, especially in the darker days when things don’t seem to be going your way. In times like those, I’ve found myself reaching back into the annals of video game nostalgia for guidance and wisdom, and a particular phrase kept occurring to me: it’s dangerous to go alone. In other words, indie developers have to help one another out.
Recently, Tony Leavy of Bare Knuckle Development, another indie studio working on its first game, interviewed Studio Daisho’s CTO John Anderson about The Center and posted the interview to their website. While I was unfortunately not present for the interview, I’ve since come to learn a little about Tony and Ste, the duo that is working to bring to lifeThe Flawless: Art’s Tale, which is described on their website as “a thinking man’s side-scrolling RPG adventure game, with epic turn-based battles, an endearing cast of characters, an unforgettable coming of age story, and a surrealist art style.” As a thinking man with a fondness for cats, the concept intrigued me, and I discovered a WEALTH of information just waiting to be discovered on their website. Not only do they post updates to a development blog similar to ours, but they also regularly post interviews with other independent developers and talk extensively about indie games that are trying to get attention on Greenlight. It’s actually pretty amazing the lengths to which they are going to help out their fellow developers, and you can tell from their comments that they share our deep love and appreciation for gaming as an art form.
If you’re interested in indie gaming (and if you’re here, I’m assuming you are!) I highly recommend you take a look at the work they’ve been doing.
Thank you & see you soon!