See you in China

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The day has finally come to our programmer, Bruno Larentis, go live in the other side of the globe with his girlfriend (Don’t ask me how they met…). To get out of latin borders and go live in asian ones is an incredible big change in someone’s life and I appreciate a lot Bruno’s effort to go live with his beloved one. Experiences shapes us, and that ends up shaping what we create- hope your experiences there increase yourself with good value and that in the end you create even better products than now.

As for Clown’s Secret we’ll continue working remotely - nothing will change in the development of the project.

If all goes well next year we’ll make you are visit - than we will see you in China.

Goodbye friend, have a good time.

Luciano Rateke

Thinking about design

These have been hard days. After making a build we realized that things weren’t going to the desired path- the gameplay was way too directed, straight and simple- what resulted in a small field of possibilities and a kind of boring experience. We had to assume that this was not right, that Clown’s Secret deserved more- so we started pushing our head against the wall thinking over and over how we were going to change the design of the game. This post talks about this part of the project- the evolution of the gameplay design of Clown’s Secret.

The old minimalist design of Clown’s Secret

When I started thinking about the gameplay of Clown’s Secret I didn’t want it to be that kind of adventure game that the player must click everywhere on the screen multiple times and try every item on everything; I wanted to give the player the notion that he is progressing through the story and having a clear vision on why he is making the actions chosen to make- in other words I didn’t want the player to feel stuck in the game for too much time. To achieve that I thought that a simple and minimalist interface was necessary, like the one found in Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. Telltale makes few objects available to interact in the screen and the great majority of them have a “generic icon” with only one pre-determined action, a system that gives the player the feeling that he is making a decision and at the same time keeps a good flow in the story. I was influenced by this system and design many icons indicating determined system, which would be distributed on the screen where actions could be performed. We all thought this was a great design- it was simple, clear and straight; a system that would make the player don’t “waste time” on a too difficult puzzle and because of that make the crafted story be the focus of the game.

We were wrong.

All icons design for Clown’s Secret- most won’t be used anymore

What makes The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us such an incredible experience is not it’s micro choices but it’s macro choices. When the player choose something a small action appears right after the choice is done and also it changes the story in a long term, in fact the story is modded by the way the player plays. And that’s the way those games achieve meaningful play. We have nothing like that in Clown’s Secret- as the story is already written, and the player progress on the game by solving puzzles- much like a “classic” adventure game. Because of this essence of Clown’s Secret a bigger field of possibility was necessary. The moment I realised that I remembered what Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen had written on Rules of Play: “Without complexity, the space of possibility of a game is not large enough to support meaningful play”. This quote came as a blast and as a blessing- it completely changed our minds. It was time for a re-design.

Not having a clear vision in front of me I had to seat down and play some games. In less than a week I had played Curse of Monkey Island, The Whispered World and Day of the Tentacle; and also took the book Rules of Play to study some important points of game design. The result was an idea of a unified interface on all possible point of interaction, which has always three options: Action, Talk and Inventory. A system that is both very similar to others adventure games and the original intended design of Clown’s Secret- all that slightly increasing the complexity of the game, making it a much better one.

The new design at work

Design a game is definitely hard. Imagine a game and play it on our head is something, but play the real thing is another one completely different. One must have good control of feelings to accept failure, and a clear head to see changes in order to make things better. In the end the result is lovely, moving, and pays everything.

Clown’s Secret is much better now than it was before- and we are proud of that.

Luciano Rateke

The sweetness of hard work

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 Bug bug bug bug - if we had to resume these two weeks that’s what we would say. The late submissions to Indiecade finished a few days ago and we had to speed things up in order to submit. Surely some things were left behind and a lot weren’t in the final version - in fact we are not very proud of this result. After have finished this first demo we wrote a three page text pointing bugs and desired new animations and new sounds - we plan to implement all that in a final demo version in about two or three weeks - one that we are eager to see and sure will be a much better one. In addition to all that we rearranged the group and the way the game is being done- our focus now is to use the most generic script and tolls possible, doing so will speed things up and make our life much easy down the round - we just have to take some days to make this work out right.

 Despite all the problems we loved to see Hal and Halbert walking and interacting with other characters and objects. Some adjustment of the original design will have to be done, as we definitely saw that one thing is play the game on our heads and other thing is play the real game. We learned the lesson and next time we will prototype the game much sooner.

 Also we reschedule the whole project and now we are considering a release for Q1- 2015. All of that to make sure that Clown’s Secret will be an unforgettable adventure.

 We are working hard to make it one.

Luciano Rateke

 

105 plays

First City Theme

The Theme of the first City of Clown’s Secret

Composed by Everton Rodrigues

A Tale of Two Brothers

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Hal on the Sax, Halbert on the drums

 After having chosen a theme for the game and taken hundreds of notes of films, it was time to create a main character to write the story around him. I don’t know if that’s the order everyone writes a script, but that’s how I decided to make it.

 At this point the background of the story was already decided- would be the one brought from Monsieur Verdoux, that tells the story of some wealthy women who have disappeared just after their marriage. To tell such a story a detective as a main character would be great- and when I think about one always shows up in my mind the Sherlock Holmes stereotype- a clever, calm, thin and tall character - an idea that would later evolve to become Halbert. The point with such a character is: where is the fun in that? I really think Sherlock Holmes is an incredible serie of books, and they truly have some dry humor, but a good part of it is put in the stories through Sherlock’s friend, Watson.

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Guybrush Threepwood is an huge inspiration

 Since the beginning of the concept of the game, the idea was that it should be as fun as Monkey Island, and one of the reasons this serie is so funny is the not-so-usual personality of Guybrush Threepwood. I needed a character like him!

 Having that in mind I slowly gave up the idea of one main character and started to think about having two controllable characters- two distinctive exaggerated personalities in a kind of cartoony style of drawing. That would be fun!

 The first character was already chosen, would be a slightly exaggerated version of Sherlock- a clever, quiet, thoughtful, arrogante, very thin and tall character; the exactly opposite of him would be the second character- a kind of silly, impulsive, naive, very gentle, fat and short character. Those were the concepts- now to draw them.

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Sherlock Holmes and Noel Rosa were the references for Halbert

 There was a famous musician here in Brazil of the beginning of the last century called Noel Rosa- he was not only known for his incredible talent, but also for his disfigured chin- something that resulted in some of the most amazing caricatured faces ever to be draw in Brazil. I always loved it, and thought it would fit perfectly on a Sherlock-style character, just had to add a little closed eye to give the arrogant feeling. The second character would be more of a straightforward thinking- being not so smart he would have a small head, big cheeks to show on the face that he was fat and as he was gentle would be always smiling. And of course: they had to wear suites!

 The names Hal and Halbert came to my mind while I was reading the autobiography of Chaplin. There’s a moment in the book that Chaplin talks about Hal Roach (the film and television producer) and Harold Lloyd (the film comedian). Those names stayed in my head for a while, Hal I loved since the first time I read it- Harold not so much, so I changed it to Halbert. I thought those were great names for two brothers, Hal and halbert, they sounded pretty cool for my hears and also would be one more reference from cinema in general to the game.

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Hal Roach and Harold Lloyd inspired their names

 With all that I had completed the two main characters- Hal and Halbert. Now it was time to write the tale of two brothers.

Luciano Rateke

 


An early scene from Clown’s Secret

An early scene from Clown’s Secret

Let there be Sound!

As Clown’s Secret is influenced by silent films the idea of bringing sound effects and voice to the game was one of hard thinking - if it is influenced by silent movies it can’t have sound, right? Well, in fact some movies of the 30’s were still commercialized as silent films despite having sound effects, and sometimes even small dialogues with voice, on it - a great example of that is Modern Times. And the use of sound effects made some of those movies much more profound than they would be without it - in fact they united the experience of telling a story through a visual language that silent films had with sound, creating truly remarkable moments.

The study of those films gave us one obsessive though: Sound Matters!

Bring sound effects to the game was easy to accept, but bring voices was hard. A game based on silent film with full voice? That would kill the whole concept of it. While we had that on our minds we were also smashing our heads on the wall thinking on how to tell a story on an adventure game without dialogues - it seemed impossible. Different than a movie that is able to record precise movements to tell what it wants, on a game (more specific a  2D game) we are limited by possibilities of animation- and it’s reach can’t be as high as human body.

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Asterix and Cleopatra was a surprised - and welcomed - influence.

The answer came from an unexpect font: Asterix and Cleopatra. This book was published in 1965 and told the story of Asterix and his friends traveling through Egypt. While in Egypt the dialogues were displayed as modified “hieroglyphics”- and the reader actually understand them! It was a great idea- creative and incredibly funny; it was all we wanted. With that in mind we started to “draw” the dialogues instead of writing them - and that’s how dialogues became animations.

In Clown’s Secret dialogues are animations.

But still something was missing, we felt that things weren’t quite right. We were fighting against it, but the true was that we missed voices! A whole new perspective of design opened up in front of us when we thought about using voices - we could create new elements on the game that would be impossible otherwise and also put some laughable moments to higher levels of comedy. Also voices were able to give the new “modern” feeling to those movies, which is something that we so much desire. We saw that uniting the animated dialogues with some gibberish would create some impressive moments to the game - and then Hal & Halbert were given a voice.

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Felipe B. Marques and Gabriel Schulz as Hal & Halbert.

If we liked it? Well- you can “hear” it for yourself.

Enjoy!

Luciano Rateke

179 plays

Hal Speaking

169 plays

Halbert Speaking

129 plays

Main Theme played through and Old Radio