Project Gert: Recon – Press Release

Topics:

Replayability: Will has himself beaten the game on “Insane” difficulty, on his PC or XBOX, but considers this a 1% gamer choice. Legit and Arcade mode are easier, but not easy. There is a reason they are only unlockable after you have beaten the game. For those interested in lore or story, there are a few audio files you can find. For those interested in accomplishments, there is a full accomplishment list. The game features two “paths,” skipping moonbreakers or finishing them. There are accomplishments for skipping moonbreakers, but higher scores are unlocked for finishing them. Will imagines fans of the game will try a mix of both on different play throughs. So the game is a labor of love, which only lasts an hour. Half an hour or less if you are already an expert!

This is more or less an “I Made a Game with Zombies Init” model, giving the highest quality experience possible, within the shortest time you think would be acceptable at the price point, and let them milk additional value out of the game if they choose.

This even works for the trial mode: a player can repeatedly try the game (only in campaign mode), but can see how far they can grind out a trial. Some on the internet have gotten near the end of level 2, but Will insists a trial can be pushed into level 3 quite easily by an expert. For a 5 level game, that is pretty generous. Also, trial mode saves your stats, so you don’t have to worry about rushing a purchase.

Gameplay: The platforming is admittedly not in depth, but the puzzle is probably nearing absolute perfection for the studio. The story is closely tied into the gameplay, so there are hints that the platforming is supposed to be barren, and the studio may be capable of much more elaborate concepts. Whether or not you believe them, is up to you, but considering they got zero so far, what’s the harm in paying for what they’ve done? 

The metrovania element of the platforming is probably the best part, as the levels mix up your requirements well. It requires a lot of fast twitch reactions, especially at more difficult levels. Being able to jump over a projectile is a major skill, as is timing a possible double jump. Memorizing maps and enemy locations is also valuable, though you will be thrown off if you are skipping moonbreakers, because the enemies are more numerable that way. The default difficulty never poses extreme challenges though, as dead enemies stay dead at that level.

The puzzles are a master class in game design. The first 3 are the basic concept. From there, each themed level, Cassandra, John, Steve and Ferris, all have their own simple abilities layered in. This showcases attributes of the Moonbreaker engine you could explore in massive depth in the past game, Project Gert: Moonbreaker, while keeping it simple for first timers. It’s really a best of both worlds, as the complexity is hugely simplified, while still showing you the quirks of what makes puzzle games like Moonbreaker GREAT. Gameplay is not likely to see any major updates. Possible improvements are framerate, physics or how the cursor in the puzzle works, but Will insists this is not a priority.

Story: This really speaks for itself. It is all based on the novel. Each of the 5 levels has dialog with a given character, though Ferris shows up twice, and in the tutorial. The storyboards do more to put you in the world, but the acting is what really brings it out. Will admits he would like to spend more time in the recording studio, but also understands that audiences expect gameplay as well. The writing and acting is of a very high caliber, but there’s definitely room for improvement with the recordings. If there is success, re-mastering these recordings with Dan Oster and Lindsey Payne is high on the list. 

Audio: The audio is often very good, but hiring professional sound editors for some of the effects is an option Will would like to explore, but hasn’t put much thought into it yet.

Graphics: It goes without saying that Will has out-done himself with this number, hiring multiple studios, and deviant artists, and even friends, to do heavy lifting in the art department. He has of course also contributed his own work at times. We do not believe he wants to upgrade art in an update, but he does hint that there could be minor changes.

Music: There are a great many music tracks from the original Moonbreaker, done by John Bura. These are fantastic, and may see a remastering in the future just for sake of progress. There are additional royalty free music acquired music sections that may or may not stay in the game following an update, as they do tend to get recycled a lot in the community.

Sound Effects: Will licensed and paid for sound through SoundSnap, as well as some free sources which are credited. He may at some point rework the audio levels, or go with a sound editor to flesh these out.

Leaderboards: This could happen in a future update, but is very low on the priority list.

Garage Games: Will has a special place in his heart for Garage Games. It was the original place that taught him how to make games, and he often goes there to write about his progress in making games. Their original teachings about TorqueX were the experience of a lifetime, as he visited them twice in 2007 to learn their TorqueX engine while they had a teaching program. You may or may not be surprised to find out that he was both times one of the only ones in the classroom. Usually 1 or 2 other people at most were present. He owes a lot to these “Gods of Teaching Torque” to hear him describe it. The TorqueX Engine is built on XNA and only works with XNA. That’s also one of the reasons Will has thought so much about making games. It may seem odd that Will is only now publishing his second game, since he has known of TorqueX for so long. For that he would say: “I was waiting for the right idea.”

The Physics: Project Gert: Recon features 3 different physics engines to make everything work. How this is done is always applying the right engine for the job. Will admits things don’t always go according to plan, but the problems are likely to be smoothed out when performance enhancements come around. It’s an expensive process, so don’t expect anything soon. But suffice to say, the huge dynamically different challenges are rewarding in themselves.

Influences: The first physics game, “Moonbreaker,” was heavily inspired by “Peggle.” Also he was inspired positively by such games as Fable II, with its mini-games such as “Pub Games: Fortunes Tower.” The design philosophies and feel of the game are also inspired by studios like “Bungie(now 343)” or “Lionhead.”

Honorable mentions are, “Karate Kid for NES,” “Halo, 1, 2, 3,” “Fable II,” “Peggle,” “Limbo,” “Castlevania.”

 

XBLIG Mentions:  “Asteroids Do Concern Me,” “Avatar Golf,” “I Made a Game With Zombies Init,” “Toy Stunt Bike,” “Techno Kitten Adventure”

These games and many more often enter conversations talking about XBLIGs. It is preferable to run comparisons to other games, characters and movies by Will prior to publishing at this stage of release.

Developer Background:

Will O’Reagan has been making games under the “Project Gert” name since January of 2010. He was forced to move out of his comfort zone while in a classroom environment, and had to make a game on Android, when he normally had dreams of and had been practicing on XNA. He had yet to ever release a game onto any marketplace for distribution, but against all odds, Project Gert for Android was born. It had many faults, and the developer admitted it probably wasn’t well presented. The few that got through the faults, learned to appreciate it for what it was, a 2 star game and a dream. Though he’s not much of an artist, he knew some friends and was able to spend a lot of his own money to build out the game with semi-professional to even actual professional art. Though Project Gert for Android never became much, it did put smiles on a few faces and is probably still downloadable.

Fast forward a year, and Will had gained a few friends in Mark Castillo and Eric Davis, in Camarillo, CA. He was experimenting with taking Project Gert in a networked game direction, and Mark wrote stories and worked on art in his spare time, to help live the dream. Eric came in for level design and additional networking support. Though the networking part never came to fruition, the dream was kept alive by many hours of Mark and Will going over designs and Will spending money out of his own pocket to again furnish the game with professional art, music and dialog. With promises that it would all become great in the end, the game was finally pushed onto the marketplace when development had finally become too much of a burden to move forward. The marketplace was not kind, as a PR guy who will remain nameless rallied 40 people to 1star the game, while even more 1star networks worked against moonbreaker to push it out of visibility, when it was winning over critics and fans. It was a quirky game, with some odd humor, but it was beloved in some circles. Sadly, it didn’t have the staying power to stay in the public eye under the 2.5 star scrutinies it received. To this day, it has climbed back to 3 stars, but has not recovered from those fateful blows and being under the shadow of more traditional puzzle games.

Summer 2011 The Novel: After the Moonbreaker’s failure, Will took to writing the novel. It would be over a year until he would revisit the Platformer and Puzzler he had abandoned when Moonbreaker reached its limit. He found the solace of writing much better and more rewarding in the short term, as he could concentrate on developing the story further, which was important in the absence of Mark Castillo, who was originally intended to take that flag.

 Summer 2012 Recon and DBP: After a full year off, will had his sights set on Microsoft’s Dream Build Play competition, but the deadline was fast approaching. He had plenty of Project Gert assets which had never seen the light of day, and wanted to put them into use. However, he had no team and ads on craigslist were turning up completely empty. He was closing doors on all thoughts about an entry, when he heard Master Blud on Twitter mention some odd words, he will never forget: “Karate Kid for NES was my favorite game” These words rung true in Will’s head, as he was a fan of Karate Kid in his youth(born in 79), and was a huge Nintendo kid, having an NES and SNES and playing nearly every game. It was not long before will found the youtube video, and had memories of playing this game with friends. The circular patterns specifically caught his eye, as he could remember that exact moment when he realized, he could predict where the fly would be next! From there, the mini game became much more beatable. Will does not remember if he ever beat the game, but does remember trying many times over to complete it (He often rented games, as they were out of his budget to buy, and attempted to beat them before rental periods ended).

Will decided at that point that the next Project Gert game would have a similar philosophy for design. It would have quick, intense, but beatable combat, and puzzles in quick succession. Just like the Karate Kid had combined platforming and puzzling, he would too, for this game. Next he spent time studying the youtube video and a light went on in his head. Karate Kid started off with a tournament, and wouldn’t it be nice to pay homage to that? He didn’t have to think about it long to come to the conclusion that that would be the tutorial, and the design was done. He knew he would have enough for a good 8 minute trial, and a good hour long game. It was the perfect design, and his DBP entry was ready to be started on. All he needed was a story.

When it came to writing story, Will had almost no issues. He had thought many times in the past about how the story was supposed to translate to gameplay, and had even written a novel with this in mind. In many ways, the novel itself is a 2D platformer and a puzzler, Will would say. He simply needed to consider the facets of the novel he would like to present, and bend the ideas into a design model that would fit this Karate Kid-esque game. The story was written based on a little bit of math, and the novel content itself, of course. 5 Levels, 3 puzzles each themed after Cassandra, John, Steve and Ferris. It would be lengthy to parse out what all that means, but suffice to say, the game would be rich, quick, short and sweet.

He wrote the story over a week, while piecing together the engine from what remained of his game engine. (It still worked after a full year off!)

At this point, he began putting together the scraps, and calling up his friends Dan Oster and Lindsey Payne, to make sure they would be on board with this sudden strategy. They agreed, and the deal was done. Over 2 months, will put together 90% of what you see in Project Gert: Recon, and submitted it to Dream Build Play. Special thanks to Ian Miller, who will met on craigslist. Ian helped Will test and find bugs during crunch time of the game. This development was of the backbreaking sort, 16 hour days did happen, and it was only its brevity that kept Will sane.

After DBP:

Sometime in August of 2012, Will found out his results for his game. He had lost the competition. The game had been on ice, and Will’s backup plan was of course to finish the game on his own terms. Waiting another year for the next DBP wouldn’t be advantageous with a book waiting in the wings. It was simply too much content for one person to hold on to for too long, on his own. He decided that he would do what he could, when he could, and when December rolled around, to release the book and game. Many hours were spent, and he got easily ten people in front of the game either online at the Microsoft forums, or in his dad’s living room, over those five or so months. He devoted a lot of time to working with Philipe Bejzar to create the cinematic sequences he dreamt of, though he admits he wishes he could have done more, but couldn’t. He spent a lot of time refining the assets from the original Moonbreaker, and optimizing the game engine. Though the engine still requires optimizing, he is happy to state that many developers in the forums saw a huge improvement over those months. Further fixes were however beginning to darken his view on the project, so release of the product was becoming more vital.

Games often are released with bugs, or glitches, and the frame rate issues are just something we all have to deal with right now, with this franchise.

Will believes that the most important thing is that his story and characters are exactly as he imagined them.