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Do you remember what you were doing in 2016? Sergiu Craitoiu does!
Welcome Sergiu Craitoiu to the Hackernoon Slogging AMA! Since 2016, Sergiu and the team at Alien Pixel Studios have been working on the new game Unbound; Worlds Apart which recently launched on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
This Slogging thread by Akasha Rose, Justin Roberti, Limarc Ambalina, Sergiu Craitoiu, JeffreyHarris, Karma, Jose Hernandez, Jack Boreham and Nicolas Ng occurred in slogging's official #amas channel, and has been edited for readability.
Congratulations Sergiu and team on the new release!
Sergiu is a game developer with a computer science background who has been in the gaming industry for 10+ years now. Alien Pixel Studios (https://store.steampowered.com/developer/AlienPixel) will be launching Unbound on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Learn more about Unbound:
Hello guys, glad to be here 🙂
I see you developed in UE4 -- it's a great environment to work with visually, but it seems primarily for 3D environments. How are you using the 2-D scroller mechanic combined with 3D art without kind of limiting the art potential vs. the mechanics? Was making it a 2D scroller a limitation of making it for Steam/Nintendo download distribution?
How many hours of missions/gameplay are you launching with?
I get the impression that Steam is a mixed blessing for the industry -- 90% of the games launched on steam fail to get traction. How did you promote leading up to your launch?
What is it like for you when you finally get a finished product and release it to the world and finally get to put something in players' hands?
Hey there Justin Roberti, thanks for the questions,
Yes, the game was developed in UE4, because initially Unbound was a 3D project.
We loved the flow of the engine so we decided to keep it for 2D as well.
There is nothing 3D in Unbound except a few things here and there, what we did is we imported textures and put them on rectangle meshes on different depths to give the nice perspective and volume feel.
It Doesn't affect the mechanics at all, all gameplay elements including characters/monsters and collisions are on 0 depth, then we added the art in background and foreground.
Right now the main path has around 6-7 hours of gameplay and we have like 2 more hours of additional content for completionists.
There are lots of ways to promote a game on Steam, there is the Steam festival and conferences (Gamescom/PAX) which they usually have a Steam page event and they attract lots of people. We also had the idea to launch a Prologue which brings us a lot of wishlists. During development we shared various content with our community on social media (Discord/Twitter) and we also work with PR company before launch to get the word out.
I'm really excited to play this game! It's amazing that it's been in development since 2016. What was the original idea for the game and what journey did you want to take the player on Sergiu Craitoiu?
Thank you Akasha Rose,
We indeed started working on the game in 2016 in our spare time, that was until 2018 when we decided to quit our jobs and start working on Unbound Full Time :) So technically we are full time since 2018.
The main idea came from a 3D project called Torch where you can switch a magic torch and something happened in the environment,
however at that time we decided that's better to switch from 3D to 2D since it was easier for us.
But of course the torch idea didn't work in 3D so we had to come with something else, and I was watching some YouTube videos,
and I saw the Architects - "Gone With The Wind" video and they had a huge bubble behind them showing some stuff there, so that's
how it clicked!
Sergiu I just downloaded the demo on the Switch and my friend.....beautiful beautiful graphics, I love your art style.
The sound effects too were crisp AF. It's much higher quality and polish than I would expect from an indie developer. Perhaps the bar has risen since the last time I played an indie platformer.
I have a lot of questions to ask. Firstly, can you give us a brief overview of the story/setup of this game. And then, can you tell us how your team came up with it? What were your inspirations?
OMG we can download on Switch already???!!! I am so pumped! Can't wait to play it tonight!
Hey Limarc Ambalina,
Glad that you like the game so much. Yes, the bar is super high right now for puzzle platformers.
Everyone thinks that they are easy to develop, but that's not true at all.
There are lots of things to consider
when you work on a platformer game and you have to be very careful with details.
The bar is set high by
games like Hollow Knight, Ori, Little Nightmares and so on.
Unbound is a dark atmospheric puzzle platformer where you can summon portals to overcome vicious beasts, devious puzzles and fiendish platforming challenges.
You will need to master the unique powers of each portal to stop the collapse of reality, while exploring lush, hand-drawn worlds and unraveling a deep narrative full of mysteries.
The game idea evolved a lot since we started working on the game. We added non linear maps, abilities, bosses. We never had those ideas when we started :)
There are multiple sources of inspiration, from old Russian stories to other games like Ori/ Hollow Knight / Portal/ Diablo 2.
The portal mechanic came from the Architects video "Gone With the Wind"..they had a huge bubble behind them and then we say what can we do to make it interesting?
So we thought that if we have different portals that affect the environment in different ways will give players more possibilities for gameplay.
Also, I have to ask. This character design is inspired by Final Fantasy wizard class design right?
Hi Sergiu, thanks for joining us. How is it for you when you finally get a finished product and release it to the world and finally get to put something in players' hands?
Haha no Limarc Ambalina,
Olga our art director, tried to come with a simple shape for the character
so everyone could draw it from just a few lines.
Maybe because it's that simple it can look like other characters.
It's a weird between relief, excitement and also fear. You don't know what to expect. What will people think. Are they going to like the game?
Is the game good? Is the game bad? After working for such a long time on it, you always have these kind of questions
So my family and I are downloading it
Been playing it now for an hour and says it's great! Took a bit of time to get past this monster 👾 👹 😄
Yeah I totally agree. I really like your portaling mechanic and how intuitive it becomes after just a few tries.
The best games can teach gameplay with little to no tutorial at all and Unbound: Worlds Apart does that.
How hard was it for you to get this game on the Switch? Does Nintendo have strict requirements for their eshop?
Also, what was the most difficult part of development for you thus far?
Oppositely, what was the most gratifying moment you’ve had throughout the project?
Porting on Switch it's not an easy task but definitely worth it. The Switch hardware is almost 5 years old now,
and this the game needs to be super optimize to work on the console.
We spent like 3-4 months on the porting alone.
Nintendo is super strict but it's understandable, they want quality games on their platform. So they test the game,
check the trailer, check age ratings, descriptions and so on. And it's a long back and forth process.
Getting used with Unreal engine at the beginning was quite a challenge especially because the project is 2D.
Also things like management, finding funds for the game and building a team is a long process which sometimes can be super stressful.
I think the thing that we had a successful Kickstarter campaign was super nice.
We spent so much time and energy to create the campaign and seeing that it has great results was really awesome.
Also people who give us reviews now about the game and saying nice things about it is also gratifying
Hi Sergui, maybe it's way too early, but what's next for Alien Pixel Studios?
Oh geesh, we just launched the game, and we need to see the results. We would like to work on a DLC for the game,
because we had lots of ideas who were not implemented or put aside because we were out of time. That's in the plan at least for the moment.
We also have some ideas for other games but again depends well this one will do.
Hi Sergiu Craitoiu, what a beautiful looking game. I can't wait to give it a try. What made you want to develop this type of the game? Did you take any particular inspiration from other games? Also, will Unbound come to other platforms, say PlayStation and Xbox in the future.
Thank you very much. For Unbound, I am a fan of designer Jonathan Blow and after playing Braid and The Witness
I wanted to do something similar. The idea was to have something that affects the environment in a way.
Then other games inspired, Ori and the Blind Forest and Rayman for graphics, The Swapper for level design,
Celeste for hard platforms, Hollow Knight for atmosphere and monster design, Diablo 2 for lore and quests.
So all those combined helped us shaped Unbound :)
Hey Sergiu Craitoiu! I'm wondering if you had to scrap any ideas or mechanics during the development of this game. Learning what developers had to leave on the cutting room floor is always really fascinating
Hey Nicolas Ng of course....we had to remove ideas, adjust mechanics. I had 3 big notebooks full of things (puzzles/platforming).....only a few of them saw the light. We also had 3 additional bosses which in the end we removed in the final game. But maybe at some point, we can do a DLC and add them back:D
Not a question, but Braid was so good! I own a physical copy on the PC
Sergiu Craitoiu i've been working with a PC MMO in UE4 and we found that the dot release upgrades to the environment tended to require extra adjustment. how closely have you been working with Unreal and how have you handled platform upgrades? did they impact your timeline?
Justin Roberti yes that's true. every unreal release we had to adjust things. At some point they removed the old DOF and we need to create a custom engine where we integrated back the old DOF just to work as before. It's Crazy. Also plugins need updates as well and they can put bugs in the game. It impacts the timeline...so we don't recommend it unless they fix something very important
Sergiu Craitoiu you have such a rich defined art style -- Is everything a custom asset? were you able to use anything from purchasable assets or textures around UE? have you had to go through the process of rebuilding objects/environment in order to reduce the weight/data calls?
Justin Roberti every art asset is custom made. We only purchased VFXs that we modified to fit our style. In 2D you can't do that...every texture is put on a square with 4 vertices..can't go lower than that 😄
Thanks again Sergiu Craitoiu for joining us on the Hackernoon Slogging AMA! Any closing thoughts and how can our readers follow you and get involved in future releases?
Hello Akasha Rose thanks for having me and for the awesome questions.
Users can get the game on Steam, GoG, Epic and Switch
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