Chasm – an interview with Discord Games

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As huge fans of indie games, we at TwinStick Gaming have been very excited to see the love that indie games developers have been receiving already this console generation. One game that really caught our eye, when Sony recently announced a slew of awesome indie titles that would be coming to PS4, was Chasm – from Discord Games.
Ahead of their appearance at e3, we’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with James Petruzzi, the founder of Discord Games and producer of their latest project, Chasm. He allowed us to take up a little of his busy schedule to ask him some questions about Chasm and the process of building an audience whilst bringing an indie title to next generation consoles.

For people who may not yet know, what is Chasm?

Chasm is a procedurally-generated RPG platformer coming to PC and PS4 this fall. Players take up the role of Daltyn, a young soldier sent to investigate the disappearance of a mining crew in a remote mountain town. You’ll have to explore the world, battle enemies and massive bosses, solve puzzles, and improve your character if you hope to make it to the end and solve the mystery.”

We’re always interested in the combination of influences on upcoming games, you’ve clearly been inspired by 16-bit era classics, are there any games that stand out as the main influences or inspirations for Chasm from that era?

Yea, I’d say the 8 and 16-bit versions of Zelda, Castlevania, Metroid, and Mega Man are all major influences. Castlevania and Metroid are obvious influences because of the Metroidvania style world, but I’ve looked a lot to Zelda for inspiration in atmosphere and game systems and Mega Man for platforming challenges and such.”

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The art style is 16-bit, the delivery is next-gen.

What modern games are your team into? Have any aspects of those games found their way into Chasm?

We’ve also taken a lot of inspiration from modern games as well like Dark Souls, Tomb Raider, and Spelunky. We thought Dark Souls and Tomb Raider did a great job with their single currency that’s used for leveling up and/or buying/modifying equipment, so we’ve made a similar system for Chasm that works really well.

“they really liked what they saw. The next thing I knew, a PS4 devkit was on my door step!”

Chasm is a procedurally generated adventure, what made you choose to go with procedural rather than manual design? What were the benefits to procedural generation? Was anything sacrificed when making the decision?

The whole game was really designed around the concept of the procedural generation. I was playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night a couple years ago for the umpteenth time, and thought “wouldn’t it be cool if that candle didn’t always drop a heart?” From there I started to think about how you could assemble pre-made rooms into new configurations for entire dungeons, and the idea of Chasm was born. It’s definitely been a very tough process to find what feels hand-made, but actually isn’t! I initially took inspiration from Diablo on how to layout the world, so it was just a linear floor by floor design.

“We’re not marketing experts by any means – we just know what we love.”

Since then, we’ve tried our hardest to find how to format it more like a Metroidvania and retain the feeling of a classic adventure, while still utilizing the procedural generation to maximum benefit. I’m confident we finally found the perfect formula for Chasm, so I’m very excited to see how people like it.”

 

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How do you go about getting a modern audience interested in a retro-stylised game?

That’s a really tough question! We’re not marketing experts by any means – we just know what we love. Luckily, there’s people out there the same age as us that are immediately interested in Chasm when they see it. I think the visual style of the game has worked more to convey what it is than we ever could have.

A lot of us at Twinstick Gaming are primarily console gamers, so we were very excited to see Chasm coming to consoles. Can you talk about the decision to bring Chasm to PS4?

I ran into some of the Sony guys at Indiecade East this past February, and they really liked what they saw. The next thing I knew, a PS4 devkit was on my door step! Sony made a MonoGame port happen, and within just a couple weeks we had Chasm running on PS4 at 60 FPS. For a small studio like us, getting MonoGame on a device is absolutely incredible. It allows us to use the exact same code base, and we don’t have to contract out some expensive third party team to rewrite the entire game in C++. We think Sony are doing an extraordinary job not only seeking out awesome games, but also helping ensure the developers have the tools to make them happen.

 “Chasm will work perfectly with its designed length and replayability.”

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Discord’s previous games, Take Arms and 48 Chambers, were released for Xbox Live Arcade – will we see Chasm on Xbox One?

We really have no clue! Microsoft has still not announced any XNA or MonoGame support for Xbox One, and along with their parity release agreement it’s just not sounding likely at all right now.

Given more time and a budget of millions, how would Chasm change? Would Chasm change?

No, I don’t think so. It’d just give us more time to experiment and polish. We could theoretically make the game longer, but I think Chasm will work perfectly with its designed length and replayability. While we love working it, we all want to get it out there and move on to the next thing.”

We know Chasm takes inspiration from some awesome titles like Castlevania, Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Diablo – tell us one thing that sets Chasm apart from these titles?

Chasm is really our love letter to all the amazing games we grew up with. You’re sure to see a lot of familiar ideas, but presented in some new ways. For instance, we liked the Estus Flask idea of Dark Souls, but thought it would work better in Chasm if you found Bottles ala Zelda and had to either craft potions with recipes at campfires or visit the old crone on the surface to fill them.

“Microsoft has still not announced any XNA or MonoGame support for Xbox One, and along with their parity release agreement it’s just not sounding likely at all right now.”

Finally, how is development looking? Can you pin a release date on Chasm at this point (beyond Fall 2014)?

Development is going great! All the design work is done, we’re just chugging through our content list and putting in the man hours to get it done. Fall is still looking likely, but we don’t have an exact date to confirm just yet.


Chasm will feature at e3, 2014 and is scheduled for release Autumn / Fall this year on PC and PS4. A huge thank you to James Petruzzi and Discord Games for taking the time to talk to us. We can’t wait to play it!

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