Stairs resurfaces for Kickstarter campaign

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GreyLight Entertainment are back and with it their psychological horror title – Stairs. In truth they never really went away, but with over a year passed since they garnered a lot of widespread interest, I sought out the team to learn more about what they have been up to as well as to get details of their Kickstarter campaign which begins today.

What has the team been up to?
We spent the first half of 2014 on just finishing college and getting our bachelors in our respective fields. Towards the end of our last term we started talking about Stairs again and entered the Game Concept Challenge with Stairs as our entry. We won 40 000 SEK ($4800~). In order to get that money we have to finish the game within twelve months however, so once we’d finished with writing our thesis we started having a look at our scope. Stairs, as we’d imagined it, was too big a game for a studio like ours to finish in a year. After a lot of discussion we decided to cut the game in half. We took the things we felt most strongly about and kept them in the game, while we discarded the other ideas, for now atleast. We then spent a few months just planning the game before we started working on it full time.

We also decided to participate in the swedish chips creator Estrella’s competition for computer games called: Guldchipset. We managed to rank in the top three most popular games and got invited to showcase our game at Dreamhack Winter. We graciously accepted the invitation and showed off our new demo there. This also showed us that we had some game breaking issues, which we’ll talk about below.

Have there been any design changes?
Since the previous demo? Yes.
While we’re keeping somewhat in line with the previous demo, we’ve added some more functions. First off we added an actual photo camera that can take pictures, which would’ve been used in puzzle solving. We’ve also added a video camera and a tape recorder. We’re planning on using these to show the player different events at the end of each level they play.

At the Dreamhack exhibition we were using a photo camera, which took photographs and stored them for later viewing. This was an integral part of the puzzle solving in Stairs. However, because of limitations in our game engine, UDK, we realised that we couldn’t keep this in the final game. The reason we couldn’t keep it is because UDK is unable to import any assets during runtime. So despite being able to take photographs and export them, there was no way for us to get them back into the game.

The reason we hadn’t noticed was because of how we’d worked with the camera during development. We’d been saving all the pictures in our RAM, and once you turn off the game, or tab out of it, UDK wipes that memory. If you try to view your taken pictures after this has happened, all you see is a green screen. Thing is, we never really played our test levels by loading up old games. We just started new ones all the time, and completely missed this flaw.

So at this point we had to rethink how we wanted the camera to work. We tweaked the puzzles that involved memorising things by photographing them, and added a new mechanic instead. Allowing your camera to show you hidden information/objects. We were overall far more happy with this idea for the camera, compared to the old, so in the end, the only thing we lost was time.

Why Kickstarter/why not publisher?
The answer to this is pretty simple, however slightly embarrassing. As I mentioned previously, we were planning on being done by March. Because of that we thought that any contact with a publisher would be meaningless, as we were told interactions with publishers take up towards six-eight months before they produce anything. When we finally re-examined our schedule and fixed the issues with it, we saw that we couldn’t really last financially until our new release date. This is where the kickstarter comes in. We’ve been looking for part time jobs for the past 8~ months, and have been unable to find anything. This is because we live in a small town, and just like in the rest of the world, the economy isn’t going so great. So there aren’t a lot of jobs to be had.
We really want to finish Stairs, and hopefully get enough capital out of it to make another game, but we still have to pay bills until we get to that point.

Right now, our choices are either, succeed with the Kickstarter, or find full-time jobs. Both are most likely going to be pretty hard, but we’ve decided to do what we can with this Kickstarter, and see if there’s anyone who’s interested in seeing a horror game with our particular brand of messed up.

If we succeed with the Kickstarter, we’re going to just finish the game full time. We’re currently deep in development. We’ve finished roughly 1/4th of the game, and the rest shouldn’t take long at this point.

If our Kickstarter fails it’s going to be a bit rougher on us. We’ll look for work full-time and try to finish Stairs by working weekends and the like, which will slow down the production substantially. That is, if we find work at all, which isn’t certain, since we’re not in a great place for it, geographically speaking.

In either case, unless the Russians invade, we’re going to finish this game. One way or the other.

Support GreyLight and Stairs on Kickstarter.
GreyLight website
GreyLight on Twitter

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