Episode 5 - First Playable Milestone

Greetings Psychobackers!

Welcome to another project update for the excellent game Psychonauts 2, work on which you’ll be glad to know is still going strong. Very strong in fact, as we just completed an important milestone that we call our “first playable” and we’d like you to see it.

Cast your minds back and you'll remember some of the pretty things we've shown before, such as the Whispering Rock remake that our friends at Molasses Flood built. These were just art tests though - they looked nice but weren’t designed to be part of the full game; they were simple spaces that didn’t incorporate any of the tricky platforming and open exploration we want to be central to Psychonauts 2.

The “First Playable” is an area of the game that we’ve built to test our new pipelines and workflows across all departments -- art, animation, tech, design, cinematics, etc. We’ve tested all of this a lot during pre-production, but this is our first big attempt to create a fully arted up, fully playable chunk of gameplay with all the systems, art, gameplay, and tech working in the same place. You may see other teams refer to something like this as a “Vertical Slice” , though we don’t use this terminology because it tends to imply a level of polish and completeness that isn’t really required at this stage of production.

The Quarry - Concept Art by Emily Johnstone

This doesn’t mean that we now have a final area made to shippable quality, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It does however represent a fully playable area that has all the things a level of the game should have: elements like player movement, combat, quests, experience, UI all working together with scratch dialogue and audio, some rough visual effects, textures, lighting, even a cut-scene. This means we can iterating on these systems so they can be as good as possible for the final game.

Check out the latest update video to learn more, and get your first glimpse of an area of Psychonauts 2 that will, in some form at least, make it into the final game. You might recognise the area in question, as it’s based on one of our first pieces of concept art from Peter Chan (below) - the Quarry surrounding the Psychonauts base.

The Quarry - Concept Art by Peter Chan

Also in this update video: Peter McConnell begins to tackle the score, Rusty’s remarkably great Sasha scratch dialogue, flaming Censors, and GOATS!

How a goat gets made

Now you’ve watched the update video, you’ll have realised just how cute the aforementioned Goat is, and you have in all likelihood sworn to make it your bestest friend as soon as possible. All the characters and critters in the game go on a similar journey in order to be made, let’s take a look at the inception of your new goat buddy.

Our friend the goat started out as the sketches above by Scott C, which the team offered feedback on and Scott then worked to refine and expand into the second sketch. Once that was done Zahra reforged the goat into a three dimensional model.

Scott offered some arty feedback in the form of some red doodle notes, which Zahra then implemented back into the model.

Next up Zahra put together a texture moodboard, and set about giving the goat a coat of paint (goat 1. below). Another round of feedback from the team comes with a quick paintover from Bagel with some final suggestions (goat 2. below), after which a new texture was created.

Now the goat needs to be given life, sweet life, and so in steps Ray! In order to animate something like a goat, you need to know more about goats than you probably already do. Luckily Ray lives near to a goat farm and so popped over to visit, take some videos and apply what he learned there to his work. (You can see some of that in the update video.) A final round of feedback, and the goat is ready to go into the game!

Every asset big or small goes on a similar journey, with different people adding touches and offering feedback and advice as they go along. Some assets take a relatively quick path, such as a rock or tree or other piece of scenery, whilst others take weeks and weeks and weeks to perfect - such as a main character model. Not every asset comes with a trip to the goat farm, but there are often serendipitous little twists and turns to this process that can serve as inspiration and influence the final result, hopefully for the better!

Backer Rewards

We’re getting pretty close to being able to share more details on all of these, what they’ll look like and when you can expect to get them. We’re not quite there yet though, but we’ve been working with our partners at iam8bit and Fangamer to design and source everything, and make sure this crop of rewards will be the best it can possibly be!

What we do know is that we’re probably looking at sending these out in 3 batches. One batch of stuff that doesn’t take too long to make (shirts for example), another batch of stuff for the more complex or custom things (like action figures) and a final batch for stuff that requires the game to be complete.

Be on the lookout for surveys from fangamer in your mail - we’re going to start collecting information like shirt sizes, and mailing addresses really soon!

Psychonauts Vault Viewer

Apple recently updated iOS to a new version that renders some older games and apps unplayable. Quite a few of our things were affected, but we are working to save most of them! Sadly one of the things that will no longer work is the Psychonauts Vault Viewer - a free app we made a while ago that contained all the little Vault Viewer reels from within Psychonauts, along with some commentary from Tim and Scott C.

Instead of letting this content be lost for all time we've turned it into a video edition, watch it below!

Other stuff:Devs Play - Star Fox

We recently published a special edition of our web series Devs Play to celebrate SNES classic launch day - In this episode we play Star Fox with its Lead Programmer Dylan Cuthbert.