Sunday, March 18, 2018

Announcing Strangeland

A man awakes in an otherworldly carnival and watches a gold-haired woman hurl herself down a bottomless well for his sake. He seeks empty answers from mocking ravens, an eyeless scribe, a living furnace, a mismade mermaid, and many more who dwell within the park. All the while, something awful screeches from the top of a towering roller-coaster, and he knows that until he destroys this Dark Thing, the woman will keep jumping, falling, and dying, over and over again ....
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A Greek, an Australian, and an American log into a forum. “Hey,” says the Australian. “I’ve got an idea for a free adventure game we can make in six months!” “Six months! I can write the story in three weeks,” says the American. “If I’m coding this, it’ll be done by Christmas,” the Greek promises. And, whaddya know? It is done by Christmas… three years later.

Some jokes are funnier if you already know the punchline. So five years later, the American says, “Hey! I’ve got an idea for an adventure game we can make in six days!” “Six days!” the Australian answers. “I can do a dozen rooms in three days!” And the Greek promises, “Don’t worry, it’ll be a snap ....”

Anyway, the joke always seems to be on us.
About a year ago, for some now-forgotten game jam, Vic, James, and I decided to get the band together again, to make a quilt-like game from the scraps of other projects, ongoing and abandoned: some Norse mythology from Fallen Gods; some visuals from Trenchmouth; some code from Cloudlands; some themes and imagery from all around. (The working title was The Wretched Refuse.) The thread to stitch these together would be various still-raw personal tragedies. “Surely, there is no risk whatsoever of bloating if we took our favorite castaways from other projects and bound them with our unresolved intimate feelings, right?” thought no sane developer ever.
But there was a method to our madness, namely: (1) the hope that when the never-ending road to Fallen Gods was done, we could make another substantial adventure game in the spirit of Primordia; (2) the belief that making another smaller adventure game would keep our skills sharp and get our long-starved players appetized; and (3) the assumption that, since we managed to make Salt over a three-day span, surely we could make this new game—this Strangeland—in a week or two or, at most, three.

First Room Layout
Anyway, that was in May 2017.

Now, in March 2018, Strangeland is nearly done, and we can unveil Vic’s lurid, feverish visions brought to life again by James’s code. There is still plenty of work left (testing, casting, polishing, more testing, bickering, etc.), but we are well past the clunk-a-clunk-a-clunk uphill part of the roller-coaster and onto the omigod-im-going-to-die downhill part.
As we bring the project to completion, we’ll be exploring publishing and distribution options, but our hope is to find a way to share it with as many people as possible. Strangeland is a smaller game than Primordia, but as with our last offering, we hope that it will hold some of the pain and dreams and fun that went into making it. Most importantly, we hope you enjoy the ride!


There was no convenient place to mention Strangelands audio design, which is a surreal saga unto itself. Suffice it to say, Vic has had the opportunity (and burden) to indulge his gift for music, foley, and circuit-bending. The result is a soundscape as haunting and surprising as his artwork, and a perfect complement to Strangelands visuals.