19 July 2012

[myGameDev] Apartmental: Announcement!

There have been whispers on the wind, murmurings from the rumour-mill, about a top-secret project known only as "Apartmental". The internets are abuzz with theories - some believe it's a state of mind achievable only through intense zazen meditation, a new level of satori that causes the body to erupt into blissful convulsions. Others think it's a viral meme the government is projecting into our collective unconscious by encoding it in the awkward mishaps of TV news anchors. Yet others think it's the first ultraterrestial consciousness we have made contact with, or a new alphabet grown in the American Midwest, or the name of a child in Sri Lanka who controls the movements of Saturn...

Apartmental is all of these things. By which I mean Apartmental is none of these things.

Apartmental is a game I'm developing. Up until now, I've been pretty close-mouthed about it - I've mentioned it to a handful of people at university, but not many other folks. Mostly it was down to fear - a fear that I'd look like just another student developer with a lot of ideas and pipe dreams of a fantastic project that ultimately ends up going nowhere; however, largely due to Brian Baglow's inspiring rant, "Developers: Stop Being Sh*t", I feel comfortable with letting everyone else in on it because I believe I'm at the stage where I've proven my commitment to the project. And so, without further ado, I'd like to tell you guys all about the gorgeous bambino that is Apartmental!

What Is Apartmental?

Apartmental is a 3D puzzle/adventure game where the player controls a character fighting for their sanity - bizarre, hellish entities have hidden themselves in the character's apartment, and the player must find them, then exorcise them, by fetching strange objects from the Disquiet Hallways, a series of shadow labyrinths behind the apartment's walls However, more of the strange entities are lurking in the Disquiet Hallways, and if any of them catch sight of the protagonist, they give chase, causing the protagonist's mental state to deteriorate: if the player character's sanity runs out completely, they succumb to madness, and it's game over. The player has to balance their puzzle-solving ability alongside their stealth skills in order to eliminate all the entities from their apartment and finally reclaim control of their psyche.

How Is Apartmental Being Developed?

Apartmental is a solo project. This was a conscious choice, since a lot of the game is self-expressive - a way for me to exorcise my own demons, in a sense - and I believe that expressive games require a lot of author control. As well as that, I'd like to showcase my own skills in various aspects of game development, including game design, programming, level design, art, audio, production and marketing. Granted, with only one person taking on every role in development, the game may suffer in some of these areas, but I believe that the strength of my focus for Apartmental will help me keep up a high standard.

Apartmental is being developed for PC, and uses the Unity 3D game engine with scripting in Javascript, with 3D art assets created using Autodesk 3DS Max, and Daz Studio 4.

What Stage Of Development Is Apartmental At?

Work on Apartmental is well underway: I completed a large chunk of the initial design back in August 2011, but work and academic commitments meant I had to put the development of the game on the back-burner, at least until April 2012, when my second year at university was completed, and I threw myself back into development. I've been on campus every week working on the game in some form or another, and the beginnings of a release schedule are appearing. At the moment, I'm working on creating a lot of the art assets for the game, and by mid-August I hope to be coding in the core functionality of the game.

In the meantime though, I have some pretty groovy concept art for you guys to check out!


Here we've got four of the "Infestation Entities" that the player encounters in Apartmental: "Lazy Malaise", "Otherworld Window", "Passedtime" and "Withered Warmth". There's a story behind every Infestation Entity which I'll go into in a later post - every entity has its own personality, its own themes and motives,  and each is associated with a Tool that will aid the player in eliminating every alien presence in the apartment - these Tools include the Composure Portrait, a smashed mirror that shows the character's current level of sanity, the Mood Ring, which detects entities that are hiding in the room, and lots, lots more - and some of them are downright weird.

The gameplay of Apartmental is split between the Apartment itself, and the Disquiet Hallways. In the Apartment, the player must uncover the hidden Infestation Entities that are haunting the apartment, which can involve anything from rearranging objects in the room to knocking on the walls in specific patterns. The player will then have to venture into the Disquiet Hallways to find a specific Tool that the Entity is associated with - to find it, they will have to avoid the Infestation Entities that freely roam around in the dark. This usually involves sneaking around corners, hiding behind walls or all-out running from one end of a corridor to the other - because if an Infestation Entity spots the player, they immediately begin to chase them, and the protagonist's sanity begins to crumble. If the protagonist's sanity reaches zero, the game is over.

That's just the core gameplay, though: I've been heavily influenced by things like "The Last Big Secret" from Team ICO's Shadow of the Colossus, and there'll be a lot of little hidden extras as well. ;D

What's Next For Apartmental?

I'm aiming to have a playable demo of Apartmental ready by September 2012. If you'd like a copy of the demo to playtest, send me an email or a message on Twitter and let me know - this goes doubly if you'd like to provide feedback for the game as well! 

Thanks very much for your interest in Apartmental - I'll be uploading some more sneak peeks and discussing other details about the game over the next few weeks, so make sure'n check back for more! In the meantime, please spread the word about Apartmental! :D

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