Episode 2 - Putting the Fun of the Mental into the Fundamentals
We’re back with a chunky update for you to dig your collective teeth into and taste the sweet, sweet progress we’ve been making on the game. It’s an update we’ve been stewing on for a while as we waited for the final ingredients to come through to FIG from the mysterious kitchen of the SEC. We hope you find it delicious and not overcooked! After all, the extra time made it possible for us to come up with all of these delicious food metaphors.
Oh, and it gave us time to work on the game too! Lots of updates on our progress below, so keep reading the… uh… menu? Recipe? Okay, enough with the food stuff. Let’s tuck in; Bon Appetit!
Fig Investment Update
As you may have heard already, the fine folks at Fig just got their final approval from the SEC! This means Fig’s now able to come back and collect on the investment many of you so graciously reserved back during our campaign. This is the first time ever that fans have been able to benefit financially from the sale of our food! I mean, game! And we’re so happy that’s something we get to share in with our wonderful fans! Because we love watching you eat! Okay, we’re DEFINITELY done with the food metaphors now.
Fig has tried to make it as easy to participate as possible. If you would like to invest simply go to https://www.fig.co/campaigns/psychonauts-2/invest and follow the instructions to finalize your investment. If you've already registered to invest before now, then you can skip straight to https://www.fig.co/campaigns/psychonauts-2/invest/investment to complete the process!
If you aren’t an investor but wish you were, or know someone who missed out then today is your lucky day. The opportunity to invest is still open for a little while longer, so be sure to let your friends know they can still join in on the fun! Every dollar raised through Fig can help to make Psychonauts 2 the best game it can be! And we’re working hard to assure that it’s going to be a great game.... Let’s take a look at the progress so far!
Psychonauts 2 update
Psychonauts 2 is currently in a stage of development we aptly call Pre-Production. What it means is that a small team is busy getting everything to a basic level of readiness, so that when the full team comes on board they have everything they need to get going. The most obvious thing that needs to be created first is a basic design, a general outline of the entire game from start to finish - the story we’ll be enjoying, the locations we’ll be headed to, and all of the gameplay systems, powers, abilities, and enemies that may be in the game.
This is what a lot of Tim and Zak’s energy has been spent on over the last few months, and we now have a full outline of the game’s story mapped out at a high level, though there are many exciting details to be figured out as we start building individual pieces. The last piece of this puzzle is going to be the mental worlds themselves. The team has been brainstorming dozens and dozens of these to ensure that only the finest, most surreal, and most surprising mental landscapes are on offer for Psychonauts 2. We’ll be locking these down as we move forward, and while we’ll surely share bits and pieces from them, we’ll likely be somewhat secretive about them so not to spoil anyone.
Alongside the design, we also need to build out the core gameplay, and for that we need a more complete team and some time spent on prototyping! As we mentioned last time, while we wait for more team members to free themselves from other projects we’ve been working with our friends at The Molasses Flood to build out fundamental gameplay, get a handle on how our world might look on current generation hardware, and prototype new gameplay systems.
It’s been a fantastic few months working with them and with their help we now have a lot of the core gameplay fundamentals up and running. Raz is running, jumping, tightrope walking, and rolling around out his thought bubble with ease and we also have many of his powers from the first game working, like Telekinesis and PSI Blast -- though we plan to substantially rework them for this new adventure. We’ve also been able to prototype some new powers too, some promising, others a bit bonkers, or just plain bizarre. You can see some of those in the video update, and we’ll share more as we get closer to deciding what will actually end up in the game.
If you’d like to see a more detailed, technical explanation about how some of this is brought to life, the talented Gwen Frey from The Molasses Flood has put together this short tutorial video on how she tackled the Levitation Ball for Psychonauts 2.
Enter the Metrics
Building out these fundamentals first is a key part of a healthy pre-production, especially for a sequel, and having these moves in place lets us understand our “metrics” for building out the world.
The metrics of a game inform the world builders how to build out their level geometry to work properly with the core gameplay. How high can Raz jump? How far? What’s the highest ledge he can grab? What makes a hard jump versus and easy jump? How much space do you need around a ladder?
These details make a huge difference between a game world that works properly and one that feels … slightly off. While these may be tweaked throughout the project, we need to make sure they’re close to final by the time we go into full production. If any substantial changes are made it could impact the workload significantly -- let’s say we wanted to change how far Raz can jump, it would mean rebuilding all the levels to have bigger or smaller jumps, and that would be a ton of work!
Taking a trip down texture memory lane
While prototyping core gameplay and determining your metrics, it’s important to keep the art basic and work in a simple “grey box”, “playground” or “block mesh” type environment. You need to iterate quickly and working with detailed art can slow this down. Despite that, we also wanted to push forward on learning what Psychonauts might look like on current gen hardware, but we didn’t feel that our new Psychonauts 2 environments were ready to build yet.
This is how we ended up asking The Molasses Flood to create an Unreal Engine 4 reworking of the kids cabin area from Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp….
It’s important to note that the summer camp will NOT actually be a playable location in Psychonauts 2 (so please don’t get too excited!). It has however proven to be an excellent testing ground for figuring out how the game might look in a modern game engine, and what newer technology might mean for the world of Psychonauts.
For instance, we now have much more resolution and texture memory to play with than we did back in the original Xbox days, and so can display information directly on a message board in the world, rather than requiring a dialogue box of text to appear, or needing a line of speech to explain things. This seems like a small thing, but things like this can have a big impact on the environmental storytelling, as can the ability to build much denser worlds, with far more decoration. Being able to play around with these things to find the perfect balance is essential, especially for an exploration based game.
So yes, Whispering Rock exists in glorious, unbridled, picturesque high definition graphics, and Raz can run and bounce around it just like old times. while these shots are not indicative of the final game, (we’re still working out the details of the overall art direction) the “remastering” of these old locations not only helped us with development, it also spread a wave of excitement and nostalgia through the studio. We think seeing them might be exciting for you too, and should give you a little taste of things to come - check out the video update at the top to see it in action!
At this point in the project we’ve tied up our early work with The Molasses Flood and the torch has been passed to our ever-growing internal team. Original Psychonauts world builder Geoff Soulis has joined the team as Lead World Builder after finishing up on Headlander, and has started pre-production on what will eventually become our first real level for Psychonauts 2.
Other veteran members of the team have recently come on board too, including Anna, Bagel, and Kee, and we also have some fresh meat for the circus in the forms of Zach, Tucker, Emily, Devin and Jeremy. Along with folks like Scott C, Peter Chan, and Erik Wolpaw the team is getting pretty big. That means full production is just around the corner… exciting!
We’ll check in with some of those guys in the next update, for the meantime though let’s find out who in Truman Zanotto’s beard this Geoff person is anyway, and what exactly “world building” really means, courtesy of this 2 Player Productions Action Video Profile™
The Return of the Food Metaphors
Well, it’s time to push back from the table, pick our teeth, and digest what we’ve taken in. We’ve come to the end of our information banquet, and we hope you’re full--perhaps a little over full, to the point where you’re a little worried about throwing up so you just sit still and focus on your breathing until the feeling passes. And then maybe you fall asleep at the table and begin to snore as a team of servants silently swarm around you, changing you into your pyjamas and carrying you off to bed. At least, that’s how most nights end at MY house.
Thank you for reading this update and watching all the videos. I hope you like what you saw of the game so far! Thank you for being so patient as we waited for the final details of our unaccredited investment to go through. We’re trying to do something really new here, and although it can be a lot of work sometimes, we hope you enjoy breaking new ground along with us.
Please remember to tell your friends that it’s still possible to invest in Fig Game Shares for Psychonauts 2 for a little while longer. There is a set number of game shares available to purchase, and when they’re gone they’re gone! So come and get your peace of mind now! :)
One more thing!
We'll leave you with one final parting gift until our next update, a perfectly sized digestif. A wafer-thin mint.
2 Player Productions have been filming us throughout the production of Psychonauts 2, before it even began even! From their endless mountains of footage they've put together this little documentary episode which goes back to the days just before we launched this campaign. Remember those days? Before the world had the prospects of a Psychonauts sequel? Dark times. But then we brought light once more into the world with our announcement at the Game Awards, and all was made good once more. Watch how everything unfolded behind the scenes...