You may have noticed we removed the purchase option on the store page. That's because over the past several months development had slowed down substantially. Unfortunately, family circumstances has taken a lot of our free time away. This is an ongoing concern and so consistent development on Grappledrome is virtually impossible for the time being. We'll continue posting updates as we get time to work on the game.
Another factor in all this is the rapid reshaping of the indie development scene. To be honest, it's bewildering trying to figure out the best way to approach a game release. Thanks for hanging in there with us. We have not abandoned Grappledrome but we are on a hiatus of sorts!
For the past several weeks we've made good progress on a playable level based on some of the concept work shared in previous updates. We're putting this together to develop all of the basic components we'll need for the rest of the game. Some basic NPCs, power-ups, simple cinematic sequences, etc. Setting all of this up can be surprisingly time-consuming as we're integrating all of this into existing character classes that weren't necessarily set-up with these elements in mind.
Here's a quick preview of what we're working on. The screenshot is from the Editor. Most of this level is untextured and the lighting is extremely basic at this time.
By going through this process with a small, manageable level it will allow us to go a lot faster with the larger maps which are in various stages of concept work. Ideally, we'll have all of this mapped out so when we build larger levels we can drop entities in and iterate quickly on our gameplay ideas and layouts.
This level will be ready to ship soon. It should give you a taste of our plans for singleplayer. A little bit of exploration, some small enemies to kill, a power-up to retrieve, and a nice medium-sized NPC to have an extended fight with. The main thing left to do is design this particular fight. Our desire with larger enemies in Grappledrome is to have some element of problem-solving to the fight. Ideally, the player is using his/her weapon and grapple beam to find clever solutions to tough enemies. If our enemies are simply bullet sponges we're doing something wrong.
We hate making predictions on when we can ship something. Especially now when we've got day jobs that demand quite a lot of our time. Having said that, we do expect to ship this level in a matter of weeks. Early August is a definite possibility.
We've been continuing our work on environments and enemies. The map that's getting the most work is nicknamed the "Grappleroom" for now. It's a space in the campaign that will be relatively safe from which the player can access the main maps that comprise the game.
Think of it like a training room where you can shoot some enemies, practice grappling, and just get comfortable with some of the main mechanics of the game before tackling a map.
There is a main chamber with floating platforms and plenty of surfaces you can swing around on. Branching off from the main chamber are pathways to other maps.
What you see here is concept art but we are about halfway through modeling/texturing this particular environment. When we have it lit and looking at least semi-decent in the engine we'll get some renders up for you.
In addition to the environments, we continue modeling and concepting new enemies. This is a smaller enemy that we've recently completed. The textures aren't totally complete yet but you can get an idea of how he looks in the engine from this screenshot:
Animations are up next for this NPC and another that we also have rigged. More are on the way.
In addition to this, we're doing some further development on concept work for our actual playable levels. We've did some rough sketches last year and have some basic ideas to work with but now we're going to translate that into actual spaces that are properly laid out for gameplay.
The work continues. We finally felt comfortable writing out a full description of the game. The overall length and scope of the singleplayer had been a bit vague as we weren't sure how big of a project we wanted this to be. We feel like the story works well and should be a satisfying experience. The total length is tough to estimate at this point but it should be in the neighborhood of 4-5 hours. So on the short side but we hope it will have some replay value.
Environment art continue to be the main area of focus. In addition the regular stream of concept art we've begun laying out actual levels. We're still trying to solve a number of problems with scale. The grappling mechanic allows the player to cover incredibly huge distances and so designing spaces that are fun to move around in as well as visually interesting is definitely a tough challenge.
We're also working on concept art, modeling, rigging and animating NPCs. We've shown some artwork before. It's been fun to bring some enemies off the page and into the game.
Here's one of these concept pieces we've shown before:
This NPC will be a fairly large enemy, highly mobile, and difficult to take down. We've got him modeled and rigged and are currently working on animations and AI.
Hello all, sorry for such a long delay between posts. The holidays were quite busy and we just didn't get a spare minute to put a nice update together.
The past few months of concept work has focused on NPCs. The art we've done so far for environments feels pretty good and we have enough of a handle on it now that we feel comfortable modeling finished environments (which we're working on for the beginning of the game). Now we need to populate those spaces with the Overlord's varied minions.
Conceptually, we are going for an enemy design that looks strange and surreal. Because the story of Grappledrome will take place as the Overlord is slowly going insane we want the enemy design to reflect that. The enemies you encounter will have a certain form and design to them but there should always be something strange and slightly off about them. The Grappledrome in its more perfect days was a finely tuned torture chamber for human minds...but now things are starting to come apart ever so slightly. The Overlord isn't quite what it used to be and you can see that in the NPCs that populate the space.
In our artwork so far this idea manifests itself in strange body plans that arrange familiar features in strange ways.
The two pieces included in this post show this with the asymmetry in the legs and eye placement especially. Though other shapes in the body plan work toward this end too I suppose.
We're excited about this direction and we want to push it even further. The world of Grappledrome will have as many NPC varieties as we can manage. It's definitely a point of emphasis. We don't think it will be a satisfying campaign if you only fight 4 or 5 enemy types. We want way more than that. It will take some time but will hopefully be worth it in the end.
As we've mentioned before we are developing this game on the side. Some of you might be interested in our other work. I'm currently working on a documentary series called "The Lost Tapes" for the Smithsonian Channel. I will do a mini-update when an episode I worked on is airing. You can check out some of Brian's handiwork on The Amazing Race airing right now on CBS. He has also done some UI design for Way Forward games.
Thanks for your continued interest in Grappledrome. You can expect the regular monthly update now that the holidays are over.
As for an actual ship-able milestone...I'm hoping we can have a slice of the beginning of the singleplayer game ready to play in the not-too-distant future. I know that's frustratingly vague but I don't want to give a time estimate that I will inevitably blow right past.
We continue to focus on the opening of the singleplayer campaign. In our last update your saw some concept art of the eye stalks which are a part of an inspection tunnel the player will find him/herself in at the start of the game. Like any piece of entertainment it's critically important to capture the audience right at the start so we're spending a lot of time thinking through the game's opening moments.
Last update you saw an inspection tunnel and some ideas for the eye stalks you'd see along the path. We've done more along these lines and begun modeling the interior. In addition, we also some objects that you'll see at the beginning that we're calling "Hypercubes". These are very large structures that will give the impression of human souls marching to their doom in the Grappledrome...the eventual fate of the player!
These are meant to imply, in a surreal sort of way, a prison-like atmosphere. You'll never actually go inside one of these structures...at last not in a normal way. We want the spaces in the singleplayer game to have a distinctly surreal feeling and that includes how chambers connect with one another. In short, we want to "break the rules" a bit so the spaces in the campaign don't feel too much like the real world. If we do it right there will be a dream-like quality to it all (or nightmare I suppose since humanity is being tortured for all eternity in the Grappledrome).
As for other work, we are working on some new weapons which should be ready in a reasonable amount of time. They were sidetracked for quite a while but we've gotten back to them now. We will likely make the new weapons a part of a bigger update to the Steam build so you can check them out. We'll do some updates to the Multiplayer as a part of that build as well.
As for non-visual work...a lot of time has been put into NPC AI. Some of the underlying support for NPCs was done quite a while ago but we've built on that now and done some experiments to see what kinds of enemies seem right for the campaign. We experimented quite a lot with procedural animation which was pretty fun but ultimately won't be practical for all NPCs. You'll almost certainly see elements of procedural animation filter into the game as there were some fun ideas that came out of the experiments.
Greetings! We’ve spent the last several months in a long and steady process of reorganizing how we handle development for 800 North projects. For several years we worked pretty much exclusively on whatever game project we wanted to. This includes Dino D-Day and Grappledrome as well as some other projects.
Following the Early Access release of Grappledome – which didn’t exactly set the world on fire – we decided to return to our former careers and pursue game development on the side. If you’ve followed us for a while you may know that we previously worked in television production before embarking on Dino D-Day. The primary reason for this change is the new Steam store front. When Dino D-Day was launched the risk of financial failure on Steam was low. You could make a game, get front page, main capsule exposure for a week or two and feel confident that you’d at least make most of your money back. With the ongoing flood of games onto the Steam platform the risk equation is dramatically worse for developers. It’s quite difficult to get meaningful exposure on the platform without an existing title that is hugely successful (or a large, expensive marketing effort). Dino D-Day is a successful title for us but it was never a mega-hit.
In short, it’s too risky for us to hang our careers on game development alone. The times they are a-changing.
Let me take a minute to answer a few questions you may have:
Will you finish Grappledrome?
Yes, once we get this preamble out of the way we’ll lay out the plan for Grappledrome.
Sounds like Grappledrome didn’t work out. Can you even fund development?
Yes. Early Access release was never meant to be a funding mechanism for us. Money is nice of course and we hoped for a better response to the game but it's not a deal breaker.
You said you'd release the game in 4-6 months. What gives?
The plan has changed. More explanation at the bottom but pushing forward with a multiplayer-only title of this type from a small studio would almost cerainly end in failure. The Steam marketplace has changed dramatically, especially for developers of our size.
Why not make more Dino D-Day?
Good point. If the only thing we cared about was having a successful game development studio it would make sense to keep pumping out Dino D-Day content. For us though, we’re doing this primarily to work on projects we find fun and creatively challenging. While we love Dino D-Day, and always will, we put nearly 10 years of our lives into it and we’re looking for new challenges.
The Road Ahead for Grappledrome
We could have pushed forward with a multiplayer release for Grappledrome. As we thought about it though we felt that it was almost a certainty that it would simply disappear into Steam and be washed down the river. Competition for multiplayer players was always tough for small developers and it’s only gotten more difficult. With that in mind, we decided to pursue what has always been goal of ours: a singleplayer campaign.
We feel that adding a singleplayer campaign to the game will add a lot of value. It will also allow us to release Grappledrome on more platforms and ease our dependence on Steam as our sole source of revenue. We think players will be much more inclined to take a risk on a small game that has a great singleplayer campaign than a multiplayer-only title from a relatively unknown development studio.
We’ve got a lot of great ideas for a campaign and storytelling in general remains our primary creative passion. We’re excited by the storytelling possibilities Grappledrome brings to the table and we think we can put something together that will be really great.
Our work on the singleplayer side will feed into the multiplayer as well. So new maps, new weapons, etc. will be added to multiplayer as they are completed. Visual design ideas that we flesh out in singleplayer can, and likely will, influence maps in multiplayer.
Here is some visual development that our concept and environment artist Brandon Richard has been working on:
We're playing with a lot of ideas for the spaces you'll see in singleplayer. There are more experiments we'll show as development progresses. We want to kick the visual design of Grappledrome up a notch…move away from the Tron aesthetic and find something a little more distinct.
We’ve also done some work on NPCs. Look for video to pop up in the next few weeks with some explanation of what we’re playing with on that end.
Now that regular work is being done we will have more updates. Look for concept art, environment art when we have it, videos of prototypes and experiments, etc. Even if it’s not much we’ll try and get something out to you on a regular basis. When aspects of singleplayer are playable we will ship them so you can check them out. We will keep full singleplayer levels under wraps until they're nearing completion so you can experience the story. The first major development goal for Grappledrome singleplayer is a vertical slice of the first 30 minutes or so of the game. We’re focusing heavily on the beginning of the game as a means of refining the visual aesthetic and working out some of the systems we’ll need for the rest of the game. We won’t do much aside from writing on the rest of the campaign until we’re happy with the introduction.
That about covers it. Thanks for your interest in our games. More to come!