Episode 4 - We're in Full Production!
Hello Backers of the excellent game Psychonauts 2!
We’re back and up to our old tricks of inviting ourselves over to dinner at your place so we can spill the Psychonauts beans all over your table, before disappearing once more into the night. Whilst messy and hard to clean up, our beans are coated in mystery, and those who choose to eat them will learn much about what we’ve been up to. Eat the spilled beans friends, scoop up a handful and cram them into your mouth and all shall be revealed!
We’re happy to report that progress on the game is going very well! We’re very excited to tell you that we have exited pre-production and entered the full production phase of development. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, since we talked about this happening soon in the last update, but it’s a major transition for both the team and the project to go through. Allow us to explain…
As we’ve covered in previous updates, In pre-production you want to answer all of your major creative questions — What’s the shape of the game? What tech are you using? What are the major features? What is your story? What on earth are you even making? It’s when you figure out all the big ‘tentpole’ features that serve as the foundations for the game, and also a time to build out enough stuff to give you an idea of how long it will take to build all the rest of the stuff. Being in Production means we’ve worked those things out - we now have a whole story framework, we know who all our characters are, and we have a high level overview of all the brains too!
A lot of the core gameplay is made in pre production, and in early production we are still building some systems, but as we get further into production the focus switches more and more to building the content and polishing gameplay.
So for example we’ve built out all of Raz’s core moves -- his runs, his jumps, his tightrope walking, and all the other ways he interacts with the environment.. We need those in order to build out levels. We’ve also created many of his powers, but we haven’t yet fully explored all of them , or how they are used in combat. Because these have less of an impact on how levels are laid out, these will be worked on alongside the levels themselves, with a bit of retrofitting and revision along the way as we learn more about how they impact level design.
Other aspects of the game that require levels to be further along -- like cinematics -- will be fully made in production.
Pre production is also when we design and test all of our ‘pipelines’. These are the overall processes for how we get something into the game — from the germ of an idea that someone might pitch at a meeting, all the way through to having a final, approved asset, and all the technology or people that need to be involved along the way.
Now these are in place, and have been tested at least once, we have started to build the actual game. We’re getting closer now to our first playable milestone, which some studios call a vertical slice. A vertical slice is the idea that you create a slice of gameplay that touches every layer of the game, and serves as a tiny playable example of what the final game will be like. it’s like making just one small slice of delicious Victoria Spongecake to serve as an example of what the whole cake will taste like.
Our first milestone is to create a playable level with art that is showable (but probably not quite shippable) quality. A lot of the work we’ve done before has included art tests that we’ve shown to you, all of which has be thrown away. But now we’re making content that will be in the final game, something that has exploration, and combat, and puzzles, and platforming — all the things that you will want to be there when you finally play!
For this we’ve picked our Hub area, the Quarry that surrounds the Psychonauts HQ - we’ll show you more of that in a forthcoming update. Excitingly we’ve also started on a couple of our brain levels too!
We first build these areas out in what we aptly call ‘whiteboxing’. A very plain version of the level is made up from plain, boring looking white boxes (confusingly, our whiteboxes are grey). This allows us to quickly test and iterate on layout and level design. , before moving on to actual art, which is much harder (and more expensive) to change later. Only after we’ve gotten the level up to a high quality bar in whitebox, are the plain boxes replaced with real 3d Models from the art team, along with textures and lighting, and all the other details that make the game look amazing.
Raz’s new look
For Psychonauts 2 Raz will be sporting a new look, designed by original Psychonauts artist Scott C. It’s not the new look you might be expecting though!
As you know all too well, Raz came from a family of circus performers, but he did not dress like them. He dreamt of becoming a Psychonaut, and idolized his heroes Sasha Nein and Mia Bordello, so much so that he cobbled together his own Psychonaut outfit, inspired by Sasha’s look.
At the end of the first Psychonauts (warning: mild, end of first game spoilers ahead) Raz becomes a full member of the Psychonauts, and along with that, gets a nice new uniform, the black turtleneck we see in the final cinematic.
In Rhombus of Ruin he’s back in his old clothes again. But for those who paid attention, his nice new uniform can be found neatly folded up in one of the overhead bins on the Psychonauts jet where he stored it, not wanting it to become creased or damaged whilst he’s on the rescue mission.
Raz will start Psychonauts 2 in his old outfit again, but a top secret story point will mean he will end up without them, and Sasha Nein will lend him some of his old clothes. They are of course too big for lil Raz, but he’s not going to turn down the chance to wear the clothes of his idol! He rolls up the sleeves as best he can, and rocks the outfit as though it was his own.
We are hiring!
The Psychonauts 2 team is now up to nearly 30 people making levels, gameplay, cinematics, and more!! We’re still hiring across multiple departments though and will eventually grow up to about 45 people. (This means we are very much hiring for new people - Please apply, and tell your friends to apply too!)
Fig have added the ability for us to accept Slacker Backers, and so we have! Anyone who missed out on the campaign is now able to pledge support to us again, with nearly all of the same rewards available to them too. Tell your friends this too please!
Rhombus of Ruin Physical release - out now!
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is getting a physical release, and it's out today at Gamestop! Amazon also have it up for pre-order, and will start shipping on Monday. We've also bundled it with a voucher code for the original Psychonauts.
This is our first physical game release that's made it into stores in quite some time, how exciting!
And that's the end of another update! We're heading to E3 next week, and will be popping up on various streams to talk about our Double Fine Presents games, and maybe a little bit about Psychonauts too, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
Tim will also be chatting with Jack Black on Tuesday evening at 6pm PST as part of E3's new Coliseum show, tune in!
See you next time folks!