09 February 2017 - Jacek
Interkosmos - a breathtaking re-entry experience for VR
Ovid Works is going to space! Or should I say; we’re returning from space. In our very own space capsule, named Zvezda (“Star” in Russian).
Interkosmos took shape when Carlos, our resident space-nerd / Kerbal expert, suggested that we make a space game. At first, we were like “yeah, right” - making a proper space game seemed like a truly gargantuan task. But together we were able to infuse our joint passion for space into a game that’s both within our reach and fun to play. A space game set in the tiniest of space ships!
This is what we came up with: instead of flying across the Universe shooting space pirates and the likes (nothing wrong with that!) - you’re in Earth’s orbit, in a capsule heavily inspired by actual space technology, having to learn how to “astronaut” your way back home.
Roscosmos and NASA are in radio contact, and ready to help, but ultimately it’s up to you to keep a calm head and figure out how to fly this thing. Or, what’s probably more likely: panic, and discover first-hand why astronauts should go through years and years of training.
The idea seemed perfect for VR, so that’s the route we decided to go with.
We’ve been working on Interkosmos for a few months now. So far everything has gone smoothly and we’re really happy with how it’s turning out. We hope it’ll be a joy to play - and that the story will make you laugh out loud. It’s stressful in a fun way, and most importantly it has us reconnecting with our childhood astronaut selves.
I hope you stay with us and enjoy Interkosmos when it’s out later this year. Soon we’ll have some cool stuff to share with you! Following us on twitter (@ovidworks) is a good way to keep in touch, or sign up for our newsletter for a notice when Interkosmos lands on Steam.
PS: the screenshot above is from an early development build and shows a work in progress
16 December 2016 - ZaQ
A few days ago we were awarded NCBiR’s GameINN grant to continue our research into dual-layer narrative design (thanks NCBiR! :). At the end we’ll freely share the results of our research with the gamedev community. We call our system LiSE (Living Small Ethos).
But what is dual layer narration?
The answer is centered around two core ideas: adapting a linear story into a medium that grants the player autonomy, and experiencing this story from a micro-perspective.
While being small offers great possibilities for gameplay (look at a messy table and imagine “platforming” through it as a small bug) - it also allows you to follow a story happening around and above you. Many interesting and compelling experiences emerge in the interactions between our two worlds.
It’s true that you can’t directly interact with the characters taking part in the “big” world, but you can influence their fates. We call this dual-layer narrative design, as two narrations are present at once - the “outside” narrative arch and the “inside” of your world.
In order to orchestrate a believable continuous scene, and tie everything together in a way that seamlessly guides the player’s attention, we’re creating a framework governing the complexities of the whole experience (which includes animations, dialogs, events, and gameplay).
Ultimately, we believe that dual-layer narration will help us make a very unique and compelling game; Metamorphosis. And hopefully, our framework will allow others to create other great games in the future, reducing production time.
In Metamorphosis, you play as Gregor Samsa, transformed mysteriously into a bug, and you follow your friend Joseph K. through a strange and elaborate story arch where your actions guide a grand adventure. A bit like playing within a “cutscene”, where you can change the outcome, and where the outcomes change your reality.
We’re super excited about Metamorphosis, and how the dramaturgical, technical and esthetic implications of LiSE combine to seamlessly give you, the player, a very cool, emotional, and unique experience.
We, at Ovid Works, are dedicated to creating experiences which combine fun gameplay with deep immersive storytelling. The dual-layer narration concept in LiSE is the first step towards this direction.
*Picture above borrowed from: ‘Interactive Narrative: An Intelligent Systems Approach’ by Mark O. Riedl and Vadim Bulitko
18 November 2016 - Greg
I’m the lead programmer at Ovid Works, coming here from Flying Wild Hog (another great Polish developer) to work on Metamorphosis, but here’s the big secret: I don’t have a degree in CS, and programming is something I learned on my own.
When I started out programming back in high school the sky was the limit, and so we set out to make a game we thought would rival Fallout. We weren’t experienced, but we weren’t going to let that stop us! Soon I found myself drowning in C++ and OpenGL, writing texture importers and font renderers. All I wanted was to create games and tell stories, but as it turned out, making games meant creating engines.
I remember flipping through ‘Game Programming Gems’ looking for insights and reading an article about Total Annihilation; the first RTS to feature 3d units and terrain. When you selected your units and ordered them around a spectacle unfolded. They started to huff and puff black smoke, parts started moving and rotating. And then they marched. In real time. All that looked mesmerizing. But as it turned out, it was an illusion - a stalling tactic of showing us pretty pictures while the paths were calculating.
This revelation was one of the most useful lessons I’ve learned in gamedev: We’re in the business of creating beautiful lies. There’s no shame in shortcuts, or workarounds, or illusions, as long as the final experience is fun. Fake it till you make it! You don’t always have to solve hard programming problems to make games.
Today, the sky is no longer the limit - thanks to the amazing new tools at our disposal. When Epic introduced Kismet (a graphical interface for programming) in Unreal 3 level designers could script whole boss-fights with little help from programmers. They probably even didn’t have to do much optimization for the spaghetti structures. It’s not that making games is now easy. As any interdisciplinary creative pursuit it takes lots of hard work and knowledge. But as @DanSchuller wrote in this article: “Expert problems are not your problems”.
And when Unreal 4 introduced Blueprints (Kismet on steroids) the last obstacles fell. One level designer I was working with was able to make and release a full platformer for iOS on his own. Others were able to prototype whole mechanics for a time manipulating FPS in no time. Unreal 4 is a tool that enables non-programmers to put things in motion. To focus on imagining things rather than implementing them.
You probably won’t be able to make the next Total War or Assassin’s Creed with Blueprints only. But if you did I wouldn’t be that shocked. It’s a powerful, very robust and responsive tool. It’s well documented and has a huge community. Lot of solutions are one google away. Here at Ovid Works it took us one week to reconstruct in Unreal 4 a demo that was made in Unity. All in Blueprints with underlying C++. After another week our features doubled. Of course it took us the next few months to polish our demo to what we wanted it to be.
Being able to easily and quickly test ideas helps us tremendously. Some ideas stay, many are scratched. Some of our game’s main features originated during small talk. Yet we don’t consider this trial and fail process as lost time, even with our tight indie budget. We were able to show working examples of new mechanics, or just iterations of them, in mere hours.
Recently it took us just a little over a week to create a prototype for a new VR side-project from scratch. Blueprints are very accessible and they also compile quickly. That, mixed with visual debugging, helped iron out solutions quickly.
At some point I will probably have to rewrite some Blueprints in C++. For optimizations purposes or, you know, for it to be more “proper”. But if time constraints won’t allow it you probably will not notice anyway. In the end we will make a game and tell you a great story.
So to anyone considering a future in gamedev, or to artists who want to translate their visions, films, music, digital art, or ideas into games - Go for it! Creating games is something that’s within your reach.
And if you need help, drop us an email or tweet at us (@ovidworks), because that’s another great thing about indie gamedev; it’s one of the most helpful and welcoming artistic communities out there.
23 September 2016 - Carlos
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawing. Some of my earliest works include abstract art on my parents’ walls (in a reduced, monochromatic palette, from what I’m told), and from there I gradually worked my way through notebooks, school desks, walls and trains, painting on canvases at the academy, onto digital art. I’ve been working on video games for some nine years, on titles like Hard Reset, FWH’s Shadow Warrior reboot (only on the first game), and Star Horizon.
You’re perhaps already familiar with our concepts on the main page. Here’s some of the early art I did on Metamorphosis, portraits of the first characters the player encounters in the game.
Kafka’s literature is usually depicted in illustrations and other artwork as a world comprised only of washed out-sepias, ochres, oppressive pitch-black shadows, a gloomy world reflecting the anxiety and despair of characters thrust into incomprehensible circumstances. We’re not doing that. This imagery will exist in some parts of our game, but we’re trying to create a varied and visually interesting world instead of sticking to visual clichés.
One of our project’s axioms is the use of extensive reference images for objects, fashion, and interiors from 1920’s Prague. The focus on historical accuracy for our game objects is critical for a variety of reasons, but mainly because our game world is perceived from the perspective of a small bug. This perspective changes everything when it comes to designing and experiencing everyday objects.
Objects that would be props in another game are environments or even mini-levels in ours, so we need to build them with an unprecedented level of care and detail.
A lot of really, really cool things were designed and made in that time and region. New art and architecture movements were in full swing. Alfons Mucha’s art nouveau illustrations and paintings are undoubtedly the most famous, but there were many other brilliant painters and designers working in different aesthetic trends, notably Czech Cubism (well, technically, Cubo-Expressionism). Josef Capek and Frantisek Kupka, to name a few, were absolutely revolutionary in their creations.
These movements and aesthetic clashes were also apparent in everyday life, and everyday objects. Art aside, electricity and telephones were new and not entirely widespread, not standardized in any way, and the period pieces look absolutely otherworldly, especially in the presence of old interiors and decoration.
1920s Prague was a time where old, imperial 19th century aesthetics and ideas clashed with the 20th century’s patriotic movements, intellectual currents, literature, art and inventions.
I don’t want to overpromise things, suffice to say we’re working very hard in order to integrate these concepts into the game’s world, creating an innovative and rich visual experience.
I hope to be able to show you in-game stuff very soon.
Hi all, and welcome to our blog!
We've been working on Metamorphosis, our first person adventure/mystery game, for a few months now - and after lots of designing, discussing, writing, and a fair bit of development; here we are, finally working on our game full time out of a small office in Warsaw.
It's a story driven game (based on Kafka) where you'll play from a tiny bug’s perspective. Yup, you’re a bug. You play as Gregor Samsa, and you have to solve the mystery of your transformation from a simple salesman into this seemingly helpless vermin. To top that, your only anchor and friend Joseph K. is being arrested, and there is nothing you can do to help him! Or is there?
The idea behind Metamorphosis started a long time ago, as me and Zaq (our creative director) were talking about our two favorite things - video games and literature. This idea was compelling enough to last, and draw the attention and talents of amazing programmers, animators, and artists - and the right people to believe in us and want to back our vision.
Since our game is based on Kafka, we wanted to focus on the absurdity of every situation - both from a visual and a storytelling perspective, and we also wanted to emphasize the humor. When Carlos (our art director) came up with an amazing, hand-painted art-style, Grzesiek (our animator) started creating the slightly exaggerated, and very funny animations, and Grzesiek (our lead programmer) made our core mechanics feel fun, we knew we had something special on our hands.
There are so many reasons why we’re excited about Metamorphosis - How the perspective ties into the story and gameplay; The rich interplay between Joseph and Gregor; The environmental puzzles we’ve thought up; The beautiful hand drawn art; And telling a story that means a lot to us, and that we hope will mean a lot to you too. In the coming weeks and months we’ll tell you more about all of it.
I’m not myself a game developer, at least not in the traditional sense. But I’m a gamer, through and through, and have been all my life. In the future, I hope to talk more about transitioning into game development (for me personally, it was from project management in software development), and the business and funding sides of creating games - hopefully other game developers can learn from our experiences (we see ourselves as part of a great community).
I hope that you'll come back here often (or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for notifications) to stay up to date, and to hear from the rest of our team. We’ll share with you our successes, visions, and plans. But we’ll also share obstacles as they come along (hopefully not too much!) and let you know how we dealt with them; or that we fought and lost, as I’m afraid sometimes might be the case.
But I can also promise you, that we’ll do everything in our power to create a game that both you and us will love to play! And it would be awesome, if you were there with us along the way :)
Comments and questions are welcome on our post to reddit!
25 August 2016 - Jacek
26 March 2017 - Zaq
You’re about to be trapped inside a metal can in space - a mechanical marvel of Soviet engineering - heading straight towards earth’s atmosphere.
In order to survive, you better listen to the commands dispatched from Ground Control - stay sharp, and keep your wits about you.
Interkosmos is unique in that it taps into early space programs, placing you in a capsule based on technology from the late 60s / early 70s. Which means it’s not perfect. Nor is it particularly automated.
And so it is up to you, Cosmonaut, to find a balance between managing your life support, battery power, and fuel consumption, as well as your trajectory - and land alive on earth.
It is not an easy trip. Timing will be crucial. Precision is imperative. And a lot of things can go wrong. But one way or another, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Stay with us here or follow @ovidworks on twitter for high definition gameplay videos coming soon.
©2016 - Ovid Works. All rights reserved.