The Dare to be Digital 2015 team talks to Develop about working on their entry title From The Verge to the Void

Dare Blogs: Sunbear’s space western-themed platformer

What’s your game?
From Verge to the Void is a space western themed first person platformer.

Playing as scavenger on the edge of space, you hail from a group of mining planets surrounded by the Void. Condemned by the church and feared by all; who would dare enter this uncharted territory? A lone distress signal from the Void begs this question.

The player dismantles the ship using their time neutralising torpedo, then explores the wreckage by shooting and flinging themselves around in zero gravity. As they explore this ship they discover where it was going, and who lived on it, what went wrong on their journey; what could make it worth risking it all?

Each level presents the player with a new ship to explore. Within these ships the player will collect beings known as faeries, the mysterious creatures that power this world, which also act as the player’s score. The player can also collect audio logs left by the inhabitants of the ship. These logs tell the story behind each wreck and gradually reveal the mysteries of the void.

The ultimate goal each level is to find the ship’s ‘black box’, which will reveal the fate of the ship and provide the coordinates to the next wreck to be plundered, even further out into the unknown.

How far will your curiosity drive you?

What has the Dare experience been like?
The Dare experience has been invaluable. We all have the best intentions, but realistically it is very difficult to assemble a team and attempt a project of this scale, especially within this time frame, without something like Dare.

The deadline of ProtoPlay, and the chance at an audience and even a BAFTA really motivated everyone to pour their heart and soul into the project. Without this structure it is very hard to coordinate and motivate a team consistently, especially considering how life can get in the way with work and other such obligations.

Dare has allowed us to assemble a great team who otherwise may never have had this amazing opportunity to work together on a project that we are so passionate about. Many of our members come from backgrounds other than game development, such as stage design and model making, which has brought a unique perspective to many areas of this project.

This has helped shape the game into something we couldn’t have anticipated when we set out, but are extremely pleased with and excited to show at ProtoPlay.

It has been amazing to see our game take shape. We went into the competition with an idea and a simple prototype. Over the last few weeks it has been great to work with such talented designers in developing concepts and seeing them come full circle. Seeing our vision take shape has been extremely rewarding throughout this whole process.

Our mentor, the wonderful Brian Lawson of Reagent Games, has been a fantastic source of input and provided us with invaluable feedback over the last few weeks, as well as a needed voice of reason and perspective. Industry experience pointing you in the right directions has really helped to keep the project on track.

What have you learned from Dare?
Over the past several months we have all learned a great deal about our respective areas of development, as well as collective improvements like such as learning to communicate and work better as a team.

We have all pushed ourselves to our creative and technical limits, and in doing so we have had to face some tough challenges and problems. Our modellers were pushed to their limit with the sheer scale of this project, and our programmers have poured many hours into optimisation just so we can run this extremely ambitious game.

Coordination and scheduling can be difficult with so many unknown factors. Due to the scale and timeframe of this project, we as a group have all had to tackle a lot of things we had never done before. Even with rigorous prior planning this makes it difficult to estimate production schedules, but in doing this you learn so much about the processes of practical game production, and about where your priorities lie.

This, coupled with the need to work remotely at times, has resulted in difficulties when making tweaks and changes. This has taught us to prioritise our time based on the end user. Will spending another few hours debating about a detail lead to a better product, or would that time have been better spent implementing what you have? It can be a subtle but important difference.

Marketing takes time! As things ramp up the closer we get to ProtoPlay, the workload for the game gets more intense as more and more assets are finished and ready to be implemented, we also have to divide our time between making posters, leaflets and trailers for our game. Things that don’t inherently benefit the game but are crucial in forming people’s opinions about it.

So how much time do you sacrifice? How long do you wait to make that next trailer, that next screenshot? The longer you wait, the more of the finished product you can get in there, but the less time is actually spent on it can degrade the quality of that material in the first place.

It’s all a balancing act and shows where your priorities lie. I guess for us it’s all about the finished product, when we get to ProtoPlay, we want people to enjoy the game and ask for more.

Are you looking forward to ProtoPlay?
We can’t wait! There is still a lot to do between now and then so it’s mixture of nervousness and excitement. We can’t wait to meet all the other teams and play their games. So many teams this year have such interesting projects that I’m sure we would be eagerly anticipating them even if we weren’t part of the competition ourselves.

We are also looking forward to testing our game on the unsuspecting public. We have all worked exceptionally hard to get to this point and it will be great to see people’s reactions, good or bad. It will be a valuable learning experience. We also look forward to meeting industry insiders. We are very insulated in Ireland, the development community here is small in comparison to the UK and it will be great to be able to meet people with such vast experience of the industry.

What are your ambitions after Dare?
We plan to continue developing this game as our first commercial project. We want to create something that people want to play; something a little bit different and challenging to ourselves as developers and designers.

ProtoPlay is the first time the game will be shown to the general public and we plan to use the conference as a source of feedback to improve and iterate upon the game. We plan on launching our Steam Greenlight campaign alongside ProtoPlay as a means of gaining traction for the project. This is only the beginning.

Follow Team Sunbear on Twitter @TeamSunbear and Facebook to learn more about their game.

Dare ProtoPlay and Indie Fest is on 13th-16th August in Dundee’s Caird Hall and City Square, with all 16 Dare student games on show, indie games, talks, workshops and more.

Team members:

  • Caolan Radford – Team Leader, Designer, IADT Dun Laoghaire
  • Glen Noctor – Lead Artist, Animator, IADT Dun Laoghaire
  • Chris McHugh – Lead Programmer, IADT Dun Laoghaire
  • Mateusz Wojtas – 3D Art, IADT Dun Laoghaire
  • Charlie Behan – 3D Art, Dundalk Institute of Technology
  • Karen Doherty – Sound Designer, Pulse College Dublin
  • Yasmin Archer – 2D Art and Concept Artist, IADT Dun Laoghaire
  • Keith O’Malley – UI and Music, IADT Dun Laoghaire

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