An epic supernatural horror adventure and the spiritual successor to cult classic Scratches set in a massive, decaying mental institute. Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, Hammer Films and twisted Euro Horror from the 80s.
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Recent updates View all (9)

May 3

Smorgasbord of blood-curdling news!



Greetings from a twisted plane in the further regions of experience! Wow, that last update was quite well received. It’s safe to say it was our most popular post ever. There’s no chance we can live up to that… but we can always try!

There’s a great deal of stuff I’m going to discuss today, so expect a rather neurotic writeup. But let’s start with the major bit of news this week…

WE HAVE A GAME!
ASYLUM is now playable from beginning to end, a milestone that understandably makes up very happy (and relieved!). We’re anxious yet afraid to perform a full playthrough — consider we’ve been working on this project for 10 years and how intimidating it will feel to play it for the first time. No matter how we feel, though, that playthrough is happening soon, and I’m thrilled to report the individual portions we played are terrific and up to the standards we set for ourselves.

Keep in mind we don’t consider this beta yet, just the implementation of the whole game logic. Some portions still have mockup assets and we’re now swiftly working to replace them with the real deal. I mean, while it would be a decidedly unique experience, we won’t release the game like this:



Haha, imagine your face if we did… and our severed heads in retaliation.

OLD SCHOOL ADVENTURE GAMING
So, all puzzles are implemented! During this process, we took a bunch of days to revise the entire game design, balance things up a bit, and make sure pacing is tight. For instance, we decided to keep the first third of the game fairly linear, after which it becomes more challenging and hugely non-linear. Reason is that we want to make you feel acquainted with the environment and mechanics before leaving you to your own devices. One thing I learned from Scratches is that people don’t like wandering aimlessly, so we’ll only open up the entire asylum for you once you have a good sense of direction and what to do next.



Interestingly, the game is far more puzzle-oriented than we originally anticipated. It was only recently —after taking a step back and looking at the big picture— that we realized the puzzle density is fairly high, without ever being overwhelming. We’re positive fans will love the brain teasers we designed here — a few even feel like throwbacks to classic adventures. I spoke about this a bit last time: ASYLUM combines the design philosophy behind Infocom adventures with modern game design sensibilities. It may be the closest you’ll ever play to a graphical text adventure (without dead ends and sudden deaths, that is).

Check out the flowchart sample to give you an idea of how the game branches in later stages, and keep mind this is just one tenth of the whole chart!



WHAT NEXT?
Besides concluding the game logic, recent areas of work included the dialogue system, inventory, and interface in general. We consider all of these aspects final now, though we expect another wave of feedback from Kickstarter backers. There’s always room for more tweaks, but the “shell” of the game is pretty much done. Keep reading for interesting glimpses of what we did.



From now on, we’ll focus on implementing the last critical assets required to reach beta. Beyond that point, the greater volume of work will involve adding further non-essential details (readable stuff, easter eggs, feedback lines, etc), sound effects (many are still missing) and more music. As soon as we reach beta, we should be able to confirm that mythical release date.

All in all, things are pretty good! The game is getting done and will feature a consistent and thorough quality level. I guarantee you an engrossing experience: we took great care to ensure everything is consistent and makes sense. No matter whether you’re cross-referencing clues, understanding the layout of the asylum, or figuring out stuff, ASYLUM will reward your observation and intuition. To give you an idea of our dedication and attention to detail, we have designed entire piping and wiring systems. In fact, we spent a full morning deciding where to include a drain in this restroom:



If the game doesn’t sell well, we’re ready to become constructors! Just please, bear with us while we work on this last, very demanding phase of production 😅

INVENTORY RELOADED
This is one of the changes we implemented following invaluable feedback from backers, turning the journal into your hub to keep track of everything currently happening in the game: people you’ve met, items you're carrying, topics you should investigate, and concrete tasks you must complete.



It's more clear and friendly now to understand which item you're holding along with a sweet feedback. Thanks to your trusty journal, you can quickly see the full list of stuff you're carrying and how it looks. It's minimalistic, immersive and useful!

MENU RELOADED
If you liked the journal, wait till you hear about the menu! We strive to maintain the immersion, even when you’re perusing the game options. But this is more than just an everyday menu — one of the last tweaks we did is give you the ability to review essential documents that you find in the game. We don’t want to have you backtracking to reread a clue or recall a key plot point, so we basically turned our achievements system into a collection of documents and cutscenes that you can review anytime you want… all from within the same book!



There’s many pages like this and several stuff you can collect. Even the achievements themselves maintain the mood: is your memory good enough to recall all flashbacks while you were a patient of the Hanwell Mental Institute? Then you will unlock the Retentive achievement!

We can’t tell for sure if ASYLUM will be a great game, but its menu is gonna be AMAZING.

MATRIX RELO... NO WAIT, WISHLISTS RELOADED
The other bit of exciting news we wanted to share with you is… 30.000 WISHLISTS ON STEAM!!!



That’s a huge lot and extremely good news because it positions the game as a potential indie hit. And frankly, we never even expected to achieve this much! 30K was my very best case scenario.

ASYLUM is getting far more popular than we ever imagined, and believe us when we tell you that we want to finish it as badly as you want to play it. Of course, we couldn’t have reached this astounding goal without your staunch support 🙏

It’s a specially meaningful achievement for us because we managed all this without a publisher. Even better, we still have room to grow as we need to do more PR. Speaking of which…

CALLING ALL REPORTERS!
Curators, journalists and producers among you: we’re finally getting close to sharing a preview build of ASYLUM with you! There's a chance you're already in touch with us — we got tons of requests over the years and we’ll get back to you (provided you’re still alive).



If we never spoke, ping us at team@senscape.io or use distribute() to request a key: http://dodistribute.com/access/DgpZCR20PR

We’ll give priority to stream the game to people who have supported us from the beginning, including backers, but eventually all publications and creators, no matter how big or small they are, will receive keys. Also, we’re totally OK with creators monetizing their streams — we love supporting you too ❤️



And that’s it for today. We should have many more cool news to share with you next time. Thank you for sticking with us, and hope you have a stormy and sinister weekend!

—Agustín
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February 26

Why is ASYLUM taking so long?!



Greetings from a dimension of ineffable cosmic hideousness! It’s about time I made this post as some of you keep asking this question, not to mention lighting torches and raising pitchforks. I’ll try to resume as best as possible our vision for ASYLUM, what we’re trying to achieve with the game, and why the darned thing is taking so long.

This is a long post, so grab a cup of coffee or beer and enjoy.

THE OBVIOUS

We’re a very small indie team —essentially three people— operating on a shoestring budget. We tried going with publishers several times but either we found they didn’t share our vision, demanded too much or gave too little. There’s definitely good people out there, but we could never find the right partner for the project.

Moreover, the conditions in Argentina, where we live, aren’t always the best. We’re fortunate to have struck a balance between our personal lives and work, but often it’s not that easy. Thanks to the generosity of Kickstarter backers, we were able to finance 50% of the project, the other half being self-funded from our own pocket. It’s very, very hard to finance a large game project, especially one as atypical as ASYLUM.



So we did what we humanly could throughout all these years, responding to industry changes and juggling with the circumstances. Of course we did mistakes, too. We truly regret the game has taken this long to develop, but one thing has never changed…

THE VISION

ASYLUM was born out of sheer love of adventure games and horror, as well as the experience with my first project Scratches. It was always meant to be a more ambitious take on the ideas introduced in that game, which miraculously took only three years to develop. ASYLUM is at its heart a classic point-and-click adventure, but feels different. Its ultimate goal is to be a modern and updated take on the traditional adventure game.



I’m even tempted to say Interactive Fiction. It recently became obvious to me how much companies like Infocom have influenced ASYLUM (and Scratches). The layout of locations and emphasis on exploration is very similar to your average Infocom game — in fact, the entirety of ASYLUM could be rewritten as an IF game and still work well.

So exploration is a key aspect we kept in mind when designing the…

LOCATION

Another goal was to give players the chance to explore virtual asylum that felt like the real deal. And yes, we went overboard:



Turns out asylums are rather big places:



Yeah. They have many floors too:



AND basements, but enough of these blueprints. Keep in mind that each one of those rooms have a distinct look and feel, as well as tons of little details to discover and cherish, as we don’t want to bore you to death. The whole location has been painstakingly designed and eventually you’ll have full liberty to explore it as you want. It’s huge, intricate, filled with spooky secrets, and we estimate you’ll spend several hours just exploring the whole place.

GAMEPLAY

It’s no secret the game is a love letter to adventure games, with a twist. We iterated over the interface several times until we found the right approach and balance. At its core, ASYLUM works essentially like Scratches: it’s node-based with discrete movements.



This tried-and-true technique is ideal for adventure games as it allows us to create very detailed graphics for the game, as well as avoid repetition. While the presentation might be somewhat jarring for some players who aren't familiar with classic adventure games, we found that you quickly stop thinking about it after playing for a short bit. Case in point, Serena has been downloaded over 2.000.000 times with close to no friction when it comes to its presentation. Of course, fans of Scratches know the format can work very well.

But we aren’t just making a bigger and badder Scratches here — we went one step further by integrating actual 3D elements with these pre-rendered nodes, tweaking stuff as much as possible to make it seem as if you were playing a full 3D game, for instance adding breathe and walking effects.



(before you ask “why not go full 3D?”, we did consider it at some point and realized it was virtually impossible to do, not to mention that it didn’t “feel” right for the game)

So, imagine that we have these highly detailed rooms modeled with a 3D editor and each node is an actual cube. Fine, then we need to export 6 textures per node. Some rooms have up to 12 nodes. We connect the nodes together, add effects such as fog, dust, sounds… and this is just to move around the atmospheric locations. Interactions are a whole different story.



The nodes are flat textures (yes, really, people still don’t believe this), so any change in a scene has to be represented by another texture. When you pick something up, we must replace that portion of the scene with another texture patch. And of course we also need to define hotspots so that you can interact with stuff:



Every single thing you see in the game is a hotspot. Well, you don’t see the hotspot, but it’s there. It’s not like we can say “oh hey, when the player clicks on this painting…”, no, we need to manually define the interactive region. This is more straightforward in a 2D adventure game because there are proportionally much less scenes. But consider this: 80 scenes in a 2D adventure are already quite a lot — in pseudo-3D like ASYLUM with an average 4-5 nodes per room, those 80 scenes become 400. And this is in fact the amount of nodes we are estimating have been rendered for the game.

WRITING

Haha, see? See why we’re losing our minds with this project? But wait! You don’t know everything yet. Because I hate repetition in adventure games; I really dislike when you click on a hotspot and get the same canned response over and over again (i.e.: “The ocean looks serene and comforting.”). It especially feels artificial when you click a couple of times to check if the protagonist has something else to say and turns out the feedback is exactly the same.

So, we implemented a complex system to avoid that and wrote up to 12 different responses per hotspot.



Not just that, but a number of responses are tied to the mood of the protagonist (optimistic, somber, desperate), so some responses will be triggered after certain situations occur in the game. Imagine going back to a room and discovering that the protagonist has a completely different perspective on stuff. That previous line about the ocean turns into “Just as we came from them, one day we’ll all return to the eternal waters”. Cheerful.

The sheet where we are keeping all this is BONKERS:



CHARACTERS

It’s estimated that just the modeling, texturing and rigging of a character costs $8000 in the industry. That is excluding animations. We have 4 main NPCs here, and 5 minor roles. Considering the animations, the "pro" industry price for our complete cast would have been the entire budget of the game. Games. Are. Expensive.

As an indie team we have options, but still, our inability to afford such industry costs resulted in a huge deal of time and headaches creating these characters alone. They may not look AAA, but they more than get the job done and we are happy with the results.



In fact, we estimate that the Hanwell Mental Institute alone, where the game takes place, took us 3-4 years to create, and then another 2-3 years for the characters. There’s many other aspects of course, but location and characters by far took us the most time of development.

STORY

The final piece of the puzzle is the story. Writing down the script was the first task that was ever done for the game many aeons ago. It’s thorough, twisty, and full of surprises (and we somehow managed to keep it secret for 10 years!). Our undying confidence in it is the reason why we spent so much time and effort working on this project. It’s the ultimate requirement to fulfill that original vision, to ensure the game does justice to the story that was written in the first place.



It’s far more ambitious and engrossing than Scratches, which was praised for its story — case in point, Scratches was designed to make sure you never get to see any characters, with conversations always happening over the phone. However, this meant that great part of the plot always felt detached somehow, since there’s this rich array of characters you never see. The story in ASYLUM simply wouldn’t work that way. You need to see these people and even the past inmates through flashbacks. Come think of it, that’s yet another aspect that took us a great deal of time: ASYLUM has countless of cutscenes everywhere with characters and drama, many times more than Scratches… but I’ll stop here.

AND NOW... THE STATUS UPDATE

That was merely a general overview. There’s tons of angles behind the development that I’m not discussing here, but hopefully you’ll understand a bit better our position and why this is taking so long. Ultimately, we don’t want to make a passable game but one that surprises you and is never forgotten. Turns out making that sort of game today implies a vast amount of work.

But still, we keep making strides and enjoying a great momentum: as the game keeps growing in popularity (27.000 wishlists now!), we’re eyeing to have a complete playable build (beta) within 2-3 months. The vast majority of assets are ready and we're now focused on implementing puzzles and interactions.



As expected, this phase of implementing game logic is comparatively happening much faster than all the previous years of production. To put it into perspective, imagine that we spent 90% preparing stuff and 10% putting everything together. This happens often with adventure games that depend a lot on narrative content and not so much on prototyping, AI, randomly generated content, etc.

As for the big question of when it will be ready, we're looking to confirm a release date when we hit the aforementioned beta milestone. However, it does look like we can make it this time and ship the game later this year. For the past several months, we've managed to meet every goal that we set for ourselves. Indeed, things are looking great!



Meanwhile, I’ll stick around updating, appreciating your patience, and answering questions. Let there be no doubt that we remain fully committed to this project and making sure it’s released as soon as humanly possible. And I can tell you this: it’s thrilling to finally see the script coming to life, which is working as we hoped, equal shares of horror and mystery that hopefully you won’t ever forget!

—Agustín
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About This Game

From the creators of cult sleeper hit Scratches and the haunting Serena, comes a chilling journey into the darkest depths of your mind. ASYLUM is an ambitious and intricate horror adventure casting you into the hallucinatory setting of the Hanwell Mental Institute, a silent witness to unimaginable atrocities that transpired between its endless corridors.

With influences ranging from Lovecraft to Peter Cushing to Lucio Fulci, ASYLUM has been meticulously crafted with a strong focus on storytelling and atmosphere. Explore countless tenebrous environments, find your way throughout a towering, lifelike mental hospital, and solve a surreal mystery that will haunt you for years to come.

What you can expect

  • A mind-bending original storyline that we somehow managed to keep secret during 10 years of production.
  • An atmosphere so engrossing you will almost smell the stench of decrepitude and putrefaction around you.
  • Exciting challenges rewarding your wit and observation. No pixel hunting or boring math puzzles.
  • Memorable soundtrack inspired by vintage horror productions and quite a bit of John Carpenter.
  • No jump scares! OK, maybe just a frightening couple that will hit you when you least expect it.
  • Relentless pacing leading to a shocking and disturbing conclusion. You simply won’t believe what’s coming!

We poured our heart and soul into creating an involving and endlessly rewarding adventure. If you love the kind of slow-burning horror with an old-school sensibility that creeps upon you, ASYLUM will be an unforgettable experience.

Mature Content Description

The developers describe the content like this:

This Game may contain content not appropriate for all ages, or may not be appropriate for viewing at work: Frequent Violence or Gore, General Mature Content

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 7 or later
    • Processor: 2.4Ghz or higher
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: GeForce 9800GT or equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 9.0
    • Storage: 15 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: Consider having heart medication nearby. Just in case.
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 10
    • Processor: 3.2Ghz
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Geforce GTX 630 or equivalent
    • DirectX: Version 9.0
    Minimum:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.12 or later
    • Processor: 2.4Ghz or higher
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT or equivalent
    • Storage: 15 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.13
    • Processor: 3.2Ghz
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 M295X or equivalent
    Minimum:
    • OS: Ubuntu 10.10 or later
    • Processor: 2.4Ghz or higher
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Vulkan or OpenGL 4.3 compatible video card
    • Storage: 15 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • Processor: 3.2Ghz
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Geforce GTX 630 or equivalent

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