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Audio Interview with Chris Bischoff of STASIS


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http://thelobbi.com/articles/2014-10-18-indie-speak-3-with-stasis-chris-bischoff

 

 

Jeremy: Hello, Chris! Welcome to Indie Speak! I’m thrilled to sit down and talk with you today about Stasis, an inspirational Kickstarter success story that, I think, really shows off the power of modern Indie development done right. I’m completely blown away by the quality of your work and the fact that you’ve created Stasis entirely by yourself. Tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on that ultimately led to the creation of your game development studio, The Brotherhood.

Chris: Well, my brother and I started a 3D company together, called Burn Visual Illustration, and that’s been running for around ten or eleven years or so. Stasis came about as something to do in my spare time to make me not go crazy from work. At Burn we do architectural illustration, concepts for buildings used by architects, interior designers, and product designers. Essentially (the goal with) Stasis was to try and take my knowledge of environmental work, architecture, and just turn it into something where I combine the things that I find interesting. Sort of like Alien, Event Horizon, and it’s just an amalgamation of all those sorts of ideas. It’s the first sort of big game that I’ve actually tried to put out, but Nic and I have been making games together (as brothers) for—well as long as we haven’t tried to kill each other.


Jeremy: I completely understand that. I know our readers are dying to learn more about the game, and I promise we’ll get to that in a minute! But when the design and development of the game is so personal, there’s definitely a strong element of personal branding that must rub off on the game—and I’d love to pick your brain about the horror genre itself. On your site you mention one of my personal favorites from yesteryear, Crusader: No Remorse, as an inspiration, you also mentioned Event Horizon, and I can detect elements from games like Dead Space, but let me get your take on it. What are your favorite elements (borrowed or otherwise) that you’ve brought together in Stasis?

Chris: Well one of the major inspirations for Stasis is, obviously, Alien. But it’s not the parts that most people would think of, you know. It’s not Sigourney Weaver going through the corridors—it’s something more (like) the part where they walk in and you just see the space jockey. That feeling of the new Alien environments that you’re actually in. With Stasis we really sort of capture those moments, like with the Event Horizon, their just sort of walking through the ship and the lightning strikes, and you see all the blood plastered against the window. Those specific moments, in specific horror forms, are (what) really stood out in my mind. When I first started Stasis I just made a list of all the cool things that I really wanted to incorporate into it. Really just playing with shadow and light, and games like Dead Space did a fantastic job of bringing you into those environments. I think a lot of games, as soon as they finished developing their engine, they opened up those huge environments and they just got bigger. I think that Dead Space brought those environments back down to corridors and claustrophobic settings with lights flickering in the corner. That’s really what I’m trying to get through (to people) in Stasis, taking those parts of movies that I really love and it’s like the Alfred Hitch**** thing, where it’s not what you know that scares you, it’s what you don’t know. I try to plug that into the interactive adventure game format and see what I can actually do with it.


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Jeremy: That’s brilliant, and I know it’s something that a lot of authors, like Stephen King, talk about a lot. The confinement of a small space can be just as frightening as being stuck in a completely open world where you don’t know where you are. They are elements of horror that are often left undiscovered because those games try to do too much. That’s one of the things that I like about Stasis, that it’s very personal. The interaction with the ship is very intimate, and the environment that you have to explore feels very claustrophobic. It visually communicates that element of horror.


Chris: Yeah. I think that also has a lot to do with the isometric viewpoint, in that isometric makes you sort of feel like you’re just a small part of a big world. I think it makes you feel insignificant in this environment, which I think really adds to that feeling of helplessness that’s so important in horror games and survival horror games. The world doesn’t exist for you, you’re just a part of it that’s been thrown into this space, and you just sort of have to figure it out for yourself.

Jeremy: Definitely. I’ve also heard Michael Crichton describe it as the indifference of nature toward human suffering.


Chris: Yeah. The world’s a horrible place and nobody cares.

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Jeremy: It’s my understanding that development of Stasis started back in 2010, but how did you decide that it was time to make this game?

Chris: You know, the game just sort of naturally developed. It’s not like I sat down and said hey, I’m going to make a computer game. It’s going to take four years and it’s going to be an adventure game, or that sort of thing. No, it was just playing around with things and I found it fun. It was really just this organic learning experience of figuring out what it’s like to actually develop a game, writing the story, and (discovering) what I could actually do visually with this. The initial design document for Stasis was actually extremely loose. I went online and I think I found a copy of Chris Taylor’s design documents (for some game), and I just changed all the headings and wrote this very sort of rough idea. It started as just a three room escape-the-room sort of adventure game to get a bit of a break from what I was doing at work. I just carried on working and working on it until it just organically grew into what it is today. In that way, I think it’s also a very personal thing for me as an artistic, cause I can actually see just how far I’ve come since I first started. There wasn’t this sort of set thing where I (planned out) a year’s worth of development. It was just this slow process of working through the story and the ideas that I had until it somehow coalesced into something that I’m just very, very proud of. I’m very surprised that other people have actually caught on to and reacted to.


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Jeremy: Yeah, I get that. Obviously, you’ve had success in the market, but when did you cross that line where you said; I want to sell this. This is good. We can go to Kickstarter. We can make this work.


Chris: I’m still not convinced that the game will sell. In my mind I’m like, was the Kickstarter just a fluke? Did this really happen? I think that, in a way, that’s good because I’m not super confident about it and thinking this is the greatest thing ever. It’s keeping me as grounded as possible. But about six months before we launched the Kickstarter, when Stasis had been in development for about six years, I sat down with my brother. I hadn’t shown anyone the game yet. Maybe there were one or two YouTube videos, a couple screenshots on some forum, but no one had actually played the game yet. I sat down with my brother and showed him what I’d been doing for the last three years. He knew about it, but he didn’t know the extent to which I’d gone into it, and we made the decision together that, if it was going to be finished, I needed to work on it full time. Because working at my current pace it would have taken three or more years. So we said, let’s do it. The thing with the Kickstarter is that even if it wasn’t successful, I would have still carried on with the development and it wouldn’t have meant the end of Stasis. The Kickstarter just made things a lot easier and has given us access to a lot more resources that we didn’t have access to before.

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Jeremy: It’s interesting that you mention that, because I’ve talked to a lot of (Kickstarter) developers and some of them were not successful in their first Kickstarter attempt. But they got so much exposure from it that it was still a win for them. They were able to turn it around and come back later. Obviously, I’m happy that your Kickstarter was successful, and we can see that it’s almost there—just a few months more to go and we’re really looking forward to it.

Chris: Yeah, thank you, thank you! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s very dim, but I can see it—for the first time in a long time.


Jeremy: I’ve spoken with a lot of teams over the years and it’s very common for there to be friction between team mates—especially brothers. I know there’s actually a degree of separation here and that Nic handles the business side of things, while you focus on the game’s development, but who makes the final decision when it comes to any one aspect of the game? What happens when you disagree?

Chris: Well, the game essentially comes down to me. If there’s something that we’re doing in terms of the story and stuff, I make the final decision. There’s obviously friction, but it’s a creative process. Me and Nic are both creative people, and there’s been things where we sort of disagreed, but Nic and I have been working together in a professional environment with architects and property developers, really high end clients, we’ve been working together for the better part of a decade. We really communicate with each other, and we’ve learned not to be precious with our art. I think that comes from being a commercial artist, working with other architects and helping others to make their vision a reality. That working relationship has taught us that at the end of the day—the art is what matters. If one of us comes up with a better idea, something that’s going to make the end projects better, I would be foolish to not listen to him. We do have disagreements, but they are very few and far between. Ultimately, one of us will usually convince the other person that their way is right or easier or better, and sometimes the game has taken entirely new directions because of this. (Game) development is a very organic experience and if you stick to the original concept too closely you won’t be taking advantage of the creative environment, with other creative people, and it can actually stagnate a project.


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Jeremy: Definitely, I’ve experienced that myself. It’s great that you have such a good working relationship, that you have that grounding you need to be successful, and to overcome those challenges.


Chris: Another interesting thing is that Nic and I are interested in the same things as well as other things. We will have completely different (perspectives) on something, I mean, we can watch a movie and have two completely different views on what actually happening and we have these intense philosophical debates. We talk about religion and politics, and everything across the board with each other. So while Stasis is a story that I wrote years ago and is very much a thing that I’ve been working on, Nic’s influence in the game can certainly be felt from my point of view. I mean I can go through (the game) and can see things that have changed just because of us talking to each other and bouncing ideas off each other,

Jeremy: Definitely. Chris, you’ve got a great range of skillsets and experience, but how challenging has it been for you to make this game? Was the challenge and ultimate control (of the production) one of the major draws for you?


Chris: Well, you know, being an artist I’m a bit of a control freak. I like knowing exactly what’s going on (with everything). My initial idea with Stasis was to actually team up with a programmer, someone to work on a spare-time hobby project with. So I started doing all these graphical mock ups before looking into engines to go with, and they are actually on my YouTube channel. I literally rendered stuff out in 3D studio and took it into After Effects and added some mouse and camera movement to see what I could actually do, and that was the actual benchmark that I tried to (strive for).

I realized that no one was going to be as committed to Stasis as the project creator, and Stasis is a game that I find really cool. Because it started out as a project to (channel) my creativity in another direction, and it felt almost unfair of me to get other people involved in a project that I wasn’t entirely confident I could pull off by myself. So I just tried to do everything myself, taught myself how to put it all together. I thought about bringing a composer on board early on, but (I decided to buy) a MIDI keyboard and FL Studio, and just started composing my own music. I downloaded some sound libraries and did my own SFX. It was just about organically growing the toolset to do what I wanted to do, instead of saying, well, I can’t play the piano, but let me just see what I could do trying it out myself.


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Jeremy: Yeah, and again—there’s that degree of personal branding, that each of those individual elements, that when they come together you can still tell that it’s still you. You can fell some of that.


Chris: It’s interesting, because I was actually talking to another developer about that over the weekend. He asked if I would ever go to different engine or get somebody else involved, and I told him that the thing with my process, right now, is that I can visualize something in my head and get 95% of my (original concept) into the game. While I’m not discounting working with other people in the future, I find it very difficult to get that same sort of direct translation.

Jeremy: I was looking through some of your Kickstarter updates and I saw that some of the music will be composed by Mark Morgan, and that there was also a writer by the name of Christopher Dare who helped with some of the editing and so forth. Are there any other people who have worked in some small part on the game?


Chris: Yes, actually. We got an additional two writers after that. One by the name of Mark Odell, and another who I believe is Kyle Dunningham, but I think I’m getting that name wrong. I just went on Reddit game-dev and posted an ad asking for some people with a bit of writing and they just contacted us. I found that working with these guys, some of them amateur hobbyists, was really quite fun. Kyle I think is actually seventeen and he’s an excellent writer, and he’s now decided to go into a game development (career) just from working with us for a few months and getting the writing done. It’s been an absolutely fantastic process.

Sometimes I do have some difficulty getting my idea out there, and I’m an okay writer, but I figured getting actual writers on board and give them time to actually massage what we already there was the best way to go. We also have another composer, Daniel Sadowski, and he’s working on some additional tracks to help flesh out certain areas.


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Jeremy: Very cool. According to your site and Kickstarter updates you’re on target for a 1.0 release in late 2014 or early 2015, and I imagine that right now you’re at that point where adding new things to the game tapers off dramatically, and you’ve probably had to cut some material, scenes, or features. How has that affected the development experience for you? Or am I completely off target?


Chris: No, very much so (on target). In terms of how I was working before I would actually work on one area and polish it up before moving on to the next area. About six months ago I decided that I was going to get every art asset 100% done and get it in the engine. Then I got all the writing 100% done, brought the writers in. So instead of the game crawling forwards and working on everything piecemeal, it’s been assembled into these chunks that I just put together. Like puzzle pieces. Now, it’s a matter of assembling everything, and it’s really quite rewarding to work on things, like art assets, en masse. It lets me see the whole progress of the project and (in some cases) going back and editing some of the earlier work. It’s very rewarding seeing it all come together.

Jeremy: Very cool. Thanks so much for those insights! Now, let’s talk about the game. Itlooks amazing. It’s got great atmosphere and looks like a way higher-budget production than what you’ve raised from Kickstarter. Obviously, your background (as a 3D artist) is what made this possible, and the visual stimulation is a big part of what makes the horror genre fun—and it’s a major strength ofyour product. However, Stasis is an adventure game, and it seems—based on a first impression of the opening chapter—that there is a lack of ticking clocks and action sequences that are typically hallmarks of the horror genre. Can you shed some light on your design decisions here?


Chris: Stasis is very much an adventure game first and foremost. I decided that when you make something like an action-adventure game, or adventure-horror game, that you try to blend two genres together. I decided very early on that I was going to do one thing and do it properly and that was to make a full-on adventure game.

I decided that the horror aspect was going to come from the environment and the story rather than the game mechanics. So you get something like Amnesia, which obviously has these incredible horror-focused game mechanics, and I just decided to focus on an old-school adventure game. Kind of the System Shock 2 where you find computer logs and diaries, piecing the story together, and the horror and terror comes from the environment, the descriptions of what’s going on rather than jump scares, or something that’s scratching on the door.


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Jeremy: How does the first chapter compare to the scope of the full game? Are all the features present in the demo, or is there something yet to be revealed?


Chris: The nice thing about adventure games is that your mechanics are very simple and set in stone. So the first part of the demo most definitely shows all the game mechanics. There are some things like dynamic lighting, so you’ve got torches that turn on and off, areas with multiple states and security areas that show actual scans (of body parts), and rooms that change different colors. But the rest of the game is very much an adventure game and it will be what you saw in the demo, just more of it, and at a higher polish.

I think it can very tempting to go and say, well now we’ve got $100,000, and now we’re going to have these massive interactive areas and shooting elements to it. I mean, I did look at doing some of those things, but at the end of the day Stasis is an adventure game first and foremost. That’s really what I wanted to focus on. Instead of making a kind of good adventure game and a sort of good horror game, I wanted to make an adventure game that was awesome—just in a horror setting. It’s a slightly different way of looking at a horror game, where most people would make their horror mechanics first and then add everything to it.


Jeremy: Right. I know it’s something that was definitely addressed in the early game development of Dead Space. They actually did something really interesting with it, which is that after they finished the story, rather than focus on visuals they developed the sound and music. They created the atmospheric noise and played it against their 2D mock ups of the environment, and when that was scary they knew they had something good. But I think it’s actually great to hear that you know exactly what you want and stick to that core idea without trying to develop Stasis into something that deviated too much from that original vision.

Chris: There’s also the fact that, even before we started our Kickstarter, that there was this PC fan base of gamers who wanted adventure games. That’s where I sort of posted on all the forums, like RPG codex, and that’s where we had our core audience. It’s a niche game inside a niche genre, and the last thing I want to do is make a sub-par adventure game. I would rather remove some of the horror elements and make an awesome adventure game, and keep that core audience. Because that’s who I’m making the game for—me, and I’m an adventure game player. I want to make something that I would enjoy myself as an adventure gamer.


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Jeremy: Yeah, and that’s something that’s really important especially for an Indie developer. You’re making games that don’t have those big budgets, and you can’t cover up things that go wrong. You’ve got to put it out there, show what it does, and honestly—words kind of fail me, because there’s an important element of personal expression. You can’t please everybody, and it’s important to be true to yourself. It really comes through in Stasis, and it’s very clear to me in the demo. Compared to other games (in the genre) it still holds up, it looks great, it plays great, it sounds great. I don’t think that there’s anything—at least in the demo—that I can really criticize. It’s working as it should and doesn’t try to do anything it’s not meant to. Great job!


Chris: The doors though. Everyone criticizes the doors! I promise you the doors have been sorted out since then!

The game has very much stayed the same, even from the very first prototype, in terms of its mechanics and the early ideas I was trying to get across.


Jeremy: Okay, so let’s talk a bit about the setting and story, and I’ll try my best not to ask questions I suspect will illicit spoilers. Does the entire game take place on board the Groomlake?

Chris: Yes. Again, going back to Event Horizon sort of feel for it, I wanted the Groomlake to sort of be the second main character of the game. It’s not just this place that you’re in, it’s actually got character. It’s got story to it and we actually spent a lot of time on the incidental stories that happened inside the world John isn’t quite experiencing, but he can still find out about it. Essentially, all the dead bodies have a story to it. They have a name, a social relationship to other people around them, this makes it so that the environment is a second character—as important a character as the player. So the game takes place entirely in this small, claustrophobic environment.


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Jeremy: Yeah, I definitely feel like the interactivity of a game is a big part what makes that work. Because if you take the story of Stasis and you put it in a novel format, I think that it becomes stale very quickly. But in a game format it feels like the ship lives and breathes, because it responds to things that the player does—it feels alive. Even though it’s not even an inanimate object, it’s a 3D interpretation of an inanimate object.


Chris: Yes, and I’ve really tried to push that in the puzzle design. You do something, and that affects something somewhere else. It might even affect something else later on. Even the toilets can flush in the game, in my mind I got this idea that there’s this entire plumbing system that exists inside the ship, you can interact with things, and turn the lights on and off. You can change the environment a little bit, and that’s something that we also really tried to do as the game has gone on, which will affect how the game plays in those areas and make the environment as reactive as possible. All of this is limited by the confines of 2D pre-rendered, but I’d love to be able to do what I see in 3D games. I’m sort of bound by the limitations of the art style that I’ve chosen, but working within those limitations to make the world as reactive as possible.

Jeremy: How big is this ship exactly?


Chris: I don’t have the specs on my right now, but I think it’s about the size of four aircraft carriers put end-to-end. So, it’s a big ship, a very, very big ship. I do have the specs worked out somewhere, how much the ship weighs, how buoyant it would have to be to float inside Neptune’s atmosphere. That is all sorted out. It’s a big ship.

Jeremy: It sounds like you’ve really got into the technical details, how does that compare to the actual playable environment?


Chris: In terms of the final game, maybe about 20-30% is actually playable compared to the full size and scope of the ship. I was actually speaking to my brother, a few days ago, and said I would love to do another story in the Stasis universe, in the Groomlake, basically happening in the exact same time as John, but in a different part of the ship. The stuff you do in the first game would affect the second game, and I love that sort of thing. I’ve got all the Deadspace extended universe comics, and I’ve got a big map of the Ishimura, and I love that extended universe feel of knowing what is behind that door, and how that room leads into this next area and how that connects to everything else. It has to all make sense.

I’m a Stark Trek fan, so I kind of like timing the turbo-lifts from one area to another and knowing when they got something off by about thirty-five seconds. I mean it’s okay, but I really get into those sort of minute technical details and there’s no difference there in Stasis. In fact, the (Groomlake) actually came about before the story. I had the sort of world that I liked, and then I designed the ship. Then everything else sort of came from the ship. It existed before John existed as a character, and so the idea was that this is the environment and the story came from that.


I’ve got entire areas of the ship that I’ve designed, which are almost referenced in the story but never actually explored or spoken about. It’s the kind of thing that I really get excited about, the extended universe of science fiction.

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Jeremy: Yeah, definitely. It’s something that I have a lot of experience with, and especially today with all the franchising that’s going on across novels, films, TV, games also, I think it’s an important aspect of development because it’s often overlooked, because people say that if it doesn’t make it into the final game—do we really need to develop it? Do we really want to devote time to figure it out? And I think the answer is always yes. Eventually someone will figure out the question and if you have taken care of it, if you’ve done your homework, then they will be rewarded for their quest to find that information, to read the story bibles and so forth. And so I think it’s great that you’re really being thorough with it, that even though you’re taking on this entire project by yourself—you’ve not losing sight of the little things.

Chris: Well, it’s those sort of little things that actually got me excited about it in the first place. I really want to carry on with that sort of thing. You mentioned a design bible, and I’m looking at my bookshelf right now and I see seven notebooks full of things. Things about the ship, the universe, areas of the ship, how does your inventory work. In the game, you’re inventory is a quantum storage device, and I’ve got this entire section about how the storage device works, how it breaks things down, why it was developed as a military tool for combat field use. It’s stuff that no one will ever find out about, but I love that sort of thing.


I’ve got a 1-to-1 Deadspace plasma-cutter replica over here, and it’s just like my pride and joy. I’ve just got bookshelves of art books, sculptures, and figurines—I mean those are things that really get me excited about extended universe things, and science fiction in general.

Jeremy: That’s great. You know, I feel like we’re having this bro-five moment. Star Trek nerds, Lord of the Rings nerds, whatever you want to call us—the little things matter.


Chris: Yes, yes. Star Trek is just awesome. I’m actually re-watching Star Trek Voyager now, and I really think that the Doctor is one of the best written dramatic characters on TV. Honestly, he’s my absolute favorite. I just love that kind of thing.

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Jeremy: What can you tell us about the Cayne Corporation? Do they represent the antagonistic force in the game’s story, or is there a specific character yet to be introduced?

Chris: Without getting too much into spoiler territory, there are other characters in the game and they do have a relationship there to the Cayne Corporation. In the world of Stasis, the Cayne actually aren’t evil, they’re just absolute pure capitalists. You know, they don’t do things just to be evil, they’re not like—I’m going to kill hundred people just to see what happens. I’m going to kill a hundred people, because in doing that we’re going to figure out how to cure this disease and save ten thousand people. So, they are an evil corporation in some ways, but in other ways they’re just a corporation. I don’t think that anyone is evil in their own story, so Cayne as a person, as a corporation, I feel that they believe they’re actually doing the right thing.


Even though, when you actually look at the results of what they’re doing, they’re not doing the right thing. I like going into that grey area of whether or not the ends justify the means. I think that Cayne was very much inspired by World War II, and by that I mean that (after the war) the American government and the British government had a lot of access to research that was done by the Japanese and by the Germans. These were from the death camps and such, and they were these horrific experiments that they did on people, and the question came up of whether the Allies were justified in using their research. You know most of our research on hypothermia and burning comes from their research, those camps.

There’s sort of a question of morality in that, if you use that research, are you justifying what was done to get that research? And if you don’t use that research, are you saying that what was done to those people was done for nothing? Cayne is a corporation that came out of those philosophical questions, and that’s how I set up the corporation. They are very much a big brother overseer of the world that they’re in. They very much want to be seen as the good-guys. That’s why they created the Groomlake and put it outside of prying eyes, but the people on Earth I feel have an idea of what’s going on, but it’s easier to turn a blind eye to the consequence of what’s happening. There’s something that happens in the game, in John’s backstory, that he benefited from a specific sub-set of research done by Cayne. The thing is, now that it’s suddenly inconvenient for him he’s against it, and what does that mean morally for him?


All of those sort of questions came up as a I wrote the story, and it got turned into these constructs of the Cayne Corporation, John, and what happens to him in the ship.

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Jeremy: Definitely. It’s really interesting the way you put that, because a lot of people don’t know that the NASA program is actually based on German rocketry research. Hans Von Brunner developed the ICBM and the technology that was used in the first space shuttle, and it’s that same kind of question. It’s one of the things I find so interesting about the cyberpunk genre, as it applies to horror, is that it often asks these questions in a modern setting.

Your story is taking place in the future, and a dystopian future at that, but the question that it’s asking about research, about scientific experimentation, are things like—are we being cruel to animals in our current pursuit of medical technology today? How does that apply to how we progress and evolve as a species, community, or nation? What does it say about us if we place all these abstract limitations on ourselves? At the same time, if we lose sight of our humanity in the pursuit of technology, then what does that mean for us? These are all modern questions that we don’t really have answers to, and it’s great for the story because this is the heart of science fiction.


Chris: Yes, and science fiction has always been about exploring those questions in, well perhaps not a fun way, but let’s say a more relatable way. An example is to say you’re against animal experimentation, but I guarantee that at one point or another in your life, you’ve taken a painkiller. How can you take a headache tablet or anything else that could only have been discovered because of animal experimentation? Nobody likes to think about that.

Something that happened in South Africa actually, was that they created these hunting camps where people could go in and actually hunt these lions, and these (other) animals that considered endangered. In my mind this is obviously horrific, but what’s the difference between that and killing a cow? You can’t go and say you’re against animal cruelty and eat a hamburger. There’s a part of you that has to say, well maybe there’s a bit of hypocrisy going on here. Those are things that I’m trying to get across in Stasis, and things that I love about science fiction. Like how in Logan’s Run people are forced into (early) retirement, which is essentially talking about social security, and it brings up those questions and ideas that isn’t forcing it down your throat, but it lets you step back and think—well, what were they trying to say or get across?


Jeremy: Exactly. I couldn’t have put it better myself! About saved games: a lot of adventure games suffer from a linear story and a lack of replayability, and thus save games are very purpose-driven and there is no need for an ironman or hardcore mode. Does Stasis have a linear story? Does it have replay value?

Chris: Stasis is very, very linear. It was made to be a linear story-telling game, and the adventure game mechanics just best suited what I was trying to do. It’s very much a game that encourages exploration, and I think it’s difficult to do that when you have the penalties of dying. So you can’t die in Stasis, but I’ve quite a robust auto save system in Stasis so that if you do die, it won’t set you back a huge chunk of game time. So the idea is to really try to push what would happen if I licked my finger and put it in the plug. Like, in the older adventure games, a bit part of the fun of some of those games was to find out how many different ways to kill Roger Wilco.


In terms of the story, and being able to look at things in the beginning and now that you know the story, going back and looking at certain things and seeing them differently, things that you didn’t notice before. It’s like if you watch The Sixth Sense a second time—spoiler alert everybody—Bruce Willis is dead, and if you watch it the second time (knowing that), the experience is completely different. So for me, experiencing the story (of Stasis) again, you will see how things that are referenced or didn’t make sense in the story (in the beginning), but it will make sense if you play it again when you know what’s really going on.

It’s definitely a game that encourages exploration, moving through the environment, and trying out different things. While there’s not a lot of emergent gameplay from it, it’s pretty much just—this is the story. I want people to just sit back and enjoy the story, and if people enjoy the gameplay and everything else, then that’s just a bonus in my point of view.


Jeremy: And that’s perfectly fine. For me, I’m just asking the question out of a desire to better understand the game. It goes back to what we’ve reiterated many times, that original vision. It’s important to stick with it, and the little things matter. The Sixth Sense is a great example. I had the same experience watching it the second time, and you see all these clues that are literally right in front of your face, but you never notice them.

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Chris: I’ve tried to really push that in the game, and you know it’s so difficult to talk about a story-based game without actually talking about the story. I think it’s something I’ve become quite good at over the years, but I really want to give examples of things I’ve done. But unfortunately I have to wait until it’s released. So after it’s done we’ll do another one of these and we’ll have a great big spoiler! We can talk about the story and what we’ve tried to do.

But that sort of thing, playing the game and picking up all these different story paths and understanding what was actually going on, not what you think was going on.


Jeremy: I can’t wait! I really look forward to that. So, how many hours of gameplay will Stasis have in the final game?

Chris: I’m aiming for something between 8-12 hours. It’s difficult to measure it because some people will go and explore a lot of the ship and others will just zoom right through it. In terms of the scope of the game, though, based off how long it’s taken people to play through the demo, and kind of roughly knowing how long things should take, it’ll be about 8-12 hours. It’s not going to be a 90-hour Skyrim sort of kind of game, but it is kind of a meaty adventure game.


Jeremy: That’s good, and it’s sort of similar to the Telltale approach. They have the 5 episode format, with each one taking about an hour and a half to complete. A little bit longer than a TV show, a little bit less than a film.

Chris: Yeah, and I think games can sometimes overstay their welcome, you know? If I can get the story told in 8 hours, I prefer to get through it in 8 hours rather than pad the story to a 20 hour game that’s really only got 8 hours of story in it. I’ve read some of the criticism for Alien Isolation, which I actually haven’t picked up yet but I really want to play it, is that the game kind of stays for a few hours too long. After a while you just want it to finish instead of wanting more, and (when it doesn’t) it just overstays its welcome. I feel most modern-day movies suffer from this, and you can cut about 30% out of any movie and make it better. Just fine-tuning it, and that’s really what I’m hoping to get with Stasis—just a really fun, core, story-based (gaming) experience.


Jeremy: Awesome. Since you’re fairly close to release, and we talked a little bit about this already, do you have any DLC modules planned? What about a sequel? If there is a sequel, will you also fund it through Kickstarter?

Chris: Well, the sequel is actually written (already). There’s the occasional clue in the first game to things that will only be revealed in the sequel, and whenever it’s actually finished you’ll be able to go back and play the first game and be like, ah, so that’s what that actually means!


In terms of funding (the sequel) through Kickstarter, hopefully not. I’m hoping that the game will be successful enough that we won’t need to go to crowdfunding and that we will just be able to make more games. But if that’s not the case, I wouldn’t write Kickstarter off. It’s a fantastic program, it gives you an awesome support base to work off of, and it lets you know if there is support for what you’re actually trying to do. So, hopefully not, but not something I would discount. Was there another question there?

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Jeremy: Ah, yes, about DLC modules, anything like that.

Chris: Actually, that is something that was part of the Kickstarter, an extra chapter for the game. So, what we’ve done is actually written a separate short story that exists in the game universe. Once we’re finished we’ll go back and polish this up and most likely we’ll provide it for free as a downloadable chapter. So there is a ‘DLC’ module in the works, but right now it’s just about finishing the game and after that we’ll see what sorts of extended universe things we can do.


That extra chapter, which we’re just calling ‘Cayne’ right now, will be available after the game has actually been released.

Jeremy: Sounds great! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about Stasis,and I look forward to reviewing the final product! Anything you’d like to add in closing?


Chris: Just, buy Stasis when it comes out because I want to make good games! Thank you very much for talking, and I know that I probably rambled on about some things as well, but when you get me started talking about this stuff I can’t stop.

Jeremy: That’s alright, I completely understand. I’m the same way!

 

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Thank you, i've been trying to remember what this game was called for awhile, and was always mixing it up with Soma for some reason.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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The problem with reading stuff early in the morning is that word muddle together. I read the title as "Adult interview with Chris Bischoff of Stasis".

I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

village_idiot.gif

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One of few games I'm actually looking Forward to :)

 

(and backed their Kickstarter too back when first made aware of it)

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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