Come watch our producer Geoff!

Come watch our producer Geoff!


May 28, 2020 | IN ABOUTDEVELOPMENTINTERVIEWNEWS | BY TOTAL MAYHEM GAMES

Geoff was already featured in an interesting blog post on Agora.io last week, which we’d recommend taking a look at if you’re interested in games dev. This week you can get more insights into the We Were Here series and more as Geoff will be taking part in an Airmeet event organized by Agora.io, happening today! What can you expect exactly? We’re glad you asked!

Two industry leaders in social gaming, Geoff van den Ouden, Producer of Total Mayhem Games, and Selcuk Atli, CEO of Bunch, will share their insights on how to make games more engaging through social connection, and why you should ditch Discord and add live voice and video directly inside your game

There will also be a Q/A session and a social networking time towards the end, as well as some tips and tricks to increase a game’s user base and session times!
If that sounds good to you, check out the event here!


Developer Diaries - Episode 4: Total Mayhem

Developer Diaries

Episode 4: Total Mayhem


We are closing the year with our fourth and final episode of the We Were Here Together Developer Diaries! In this episode the team takes you on their own journey. Starting as a group of students and having the opportunity to establish their own independent studio is quite a ride!


Developer Diaries - Episode 3: Piece of the Puzzle

Developer Diaries

Episode 3: Piece of the Puzzle


The latest developer diary video about the creation of We Were Here Together is here! The series gives you an insight on the creation of the co-op puzzle adventure. In this third episode, the designers are reliving the process of coming up with and creating the puzzles of We Were Here. But what about testing? We might have some extraordinary ways to do so…

Watch the episode below:


Developer Diaries - Episode 2: Mysteries of Misty Valley

Developer Diaries

Episode 2: Mysteries of Misty Valley


Join us again for another behind the scenes look at the making of We Were Here Together! In this second of four episodes, we discuss the environments of We Were Here Together, how we brought them to life, and how we incorporated the puzzles in a natural way.

The series will cover the challenges the team faced while designing the latest entry in the co-op series and what new features were added during production to evolve the experience. Watch Episode 2: Mysteries of Misty Valley below!


First Developer Diary video is live!

Developer Diaries

Episode 1: Escape Together


Join us for a behind the scenes look at the making of We Were Here Together! In this first of four episodes, we discuss the cooperative gameplay in the game as well as the essence of cooperation itself.

The series will cover the challenges the team faced while designing the latest entry in the co-op series and what new features were added during production to evolve the experience. Watch Episode 1: Escape Together below!


Walkie-Talk - Meet Alex

Walkie-Talk

Meet Alex


Developer Interview

Previously on Walkie-Talk we looked at how we design puzzles for the We Were Here games.
However, even with the best ideas in the world a game doesn’t get far without technical developers.
Today we’re talking to one of our newest devs, Alex Leestemaker.

Walkie-Talk: Hi Alex! Let’s start with the basics. Who are you and what do you do?

Alex Leestemaker:
My name is Alex, and I’m the new programmer on the team. That means I listen to what the game designers would like in the game, I program exactly what they asked for, and then the next day it turned out that they meant something completely different and I can start from scratch.

What do you think of your work at Total Mayhem Games so far?
This is my first job in the game development industry, and I’m glad it’s at a studio that makes games I’m interested in myself. Puzzle games and co-op multiplayer have always been high up on my list of favorite mechanics in video games. Since I’m new to the industry, working in a smaller team like this also feels more familiar than getting thrown into a big sea of coworkers would probably have felt like.

I like it! I’ve been here for a little over half a year now, and it’s my first job straight out of university. It’s a big jump going from a giant university where everything is planned to hell and back to our small office in Rotterdam, but I like my coworkers here far more than the average uni student.

It’s much more cosy for sure! What are you working on right now?
I’ve been working on a lot of the alpha tests we’ve been releasing over the last few months.

Final question – what are you playing for fun right now?
Currently I’m dumping most of my free time into The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Thanks for your time!

A short but sweet interview this week. We hope you liked it! If there are particular topics you think might make for a cool Walkie-Talk, let us know in the comments.


Environments in We Were Here Together

Environments in

We Were Here Together


Including some new teaser screenshots!

We Were Here Together will bring players to an entirely new part of the Castle – while so far everything has been the classic medieval corridors, lots of dark stone, impressive staircases and balconies, mixed with heavy wood and metal, the new game offers a new take on the series’ showpiece, inside and out.

Castle Rock did not in fact emerge fully formed from the snow and ice of Antarctica – it was built by someone. Of course if you want to learn more about who and why, you’ll have to play the game! You will spend quite some time outside the castle, clambering around scaffolding, traversing snowy paths, and creeping along frozen ledges. While previous explorers found themselves effectively invited inside Castle Rock, making an entrance this time may prove more challenging.

These new environments aren’t just for sightseeing. Longer sight lines opens up more puzzle possibilities, and this makes cooperation important even when you and your partner are together and can both visit the same areas. You can’t be and see everywhere at once, so better split up and make use of those walkie-talkies! Larger environments also means more space to scour for clues, and more places which could hide secrets…

There is also a new part of the castle interior. While everything players have seen in We Were Here games so far is cold and silent, the greenhouses still have life within! With an abundance of glass windows and high ceilings, you might think that they would be less oppressive than the rest of the castle… but there’s something in the air, even here. A stifling corruption that makes you wonder – are the plants only living things in here with you?

The greenhouses are part of a monastery section of the castle, and we know what monks are famous for brewing! The systems to maintain the plants found inside the greenhouse are not simple, and you can bet that puzzles await! Returning players will find the green hues of this new location quite a change from their previous visits to Castle Rock, where stone, statues and metal were often the order of the day.
However, caution is advised. Even the plants here have been influenced by the dark aura of the castle, resulting in some monstrous things. In the screenshot below, we have more of a venus mantrap than a flytrap!

We’ll end on a more pleasant note – the expedition base camp where you start the game. This comfortable cabin provides a gentle introduction to the game, though the puzzles here aren’t anything to scoff at. It provides a base for the player characters and gives players more background about who they are and what they’re doing. You can also discern other information… given those dishes in the sink, either someone has skipped their turn at washing up, or the explorers as a whole aren’t big tidiness fanatics!

The base camp also serves as a contrast to later parts of the game. Players will pass from the warm wood tones of the base camp into the icy blues of the Antarctic exteriors. And then? Into the castle itself, and who knows what awaits you there…

We Were Here Together can be wishlisted on Steam now, and will be released on October 10th!


Walkie-Talk - The Base Camp

Walkie-Talk

The Base Camp


Behind the Scenes

Welcome to another edition of Walkie-Talk! In a previous post we showed you an image of the inside of Scott’s hut in Antarctica which we used for inspiration. What about the outside of the base camp though?

Here’s an example of what we were thinking of as a base for the exterior look. A pretty classic log cabin, with some useful odds and ends scattered around outside. However, a building like this alone would be a little dull, and we wanted to spice things up a little with some light steampunk elements.

An early version of the base camp viewed in Unity.

And what says steampunk more than pipes? Along with nice chunky windows, the satellite dish antennas, and fuel tanks, our base camp is recognizable while still having a personality of its own. Remember, this isn’t all just eye-candy – you and your partner have puzzles to solve at the base camp.

The base camp area as it looks today!

Here’s the final product! Adding colour makes a big difference, and you can see we removed some of the pipes and tanks from the base camp itself and moved them to a new section, seen in the foreground here. That’s all for now!


Walkie-Talk - Puzzling on Puzzles with Niels

Walkie-Talk

Puzzling on Puzzles with Niels


It was puzzle and computer game designer Scott Kim who said: ‘My goal as a puzzle designer is to create a meaningful experience for the player, not just ‘I solved it.’
It’s a good philosophy, especially when you’re trying to create a game like We Were Here Together, which is about atmosphere and exploration as well as solving puzzles.

Getting the balance right can be a challenge – from one point of view, the We Were Here games are all about puzzles. From another point of view they’re all about leaving your best friend to die, but let’s not get into that right now…

Where do we get our puzzles from? To find out, we talked to one of our designers, Niels de Jong.

Walkie-Talk:
Greeting Niels, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today! Let’s start with the big one: where do the puzzle ideas for the We Were Here series come from?

Niels de Jong:
We steal them from others of course. ;p
Seriously though, ideas can come from a lot of different places.

An approach we take a lot lately is to do a quick summary of everything we already know about the point in the game we want to create a puzzle for, and then we start throwing ideas at each other. In these brainstorming sessions, we can quickly discuss different options. The advantage of working with three game designers is that you rarely run out of ideas!

We’re able to take this approach because we know what most environments are going to be at this point in development. An example of an environment is the crypt at the start of We Were Here Together. So we start off with knowing it is a crypt-like space, and the general atmosphere we want players to feel. The position of the puzzle in the complete game flow is also important. You don’t want to have several high-pressure puzzles in a row, for example. These limitations are often a source of inspiration.

Can anyone suggest puzzle ideas, or is it just the designers that come up with concepts?

Everyone can suggest ideas! The thing is, it takes more than an idea to get to a functioning puzzle. So while other team members can provide the initial point of inspiration, there is still a lot of work that is mostly done by the design team.

Another thing to note is that while we call most of the things we make puzzles, they do not necessarily have to be puzzles. The game is about playing together first and foremost. So if you are doing something besides solving puzzles together and you’re having a great time, then that’s a win for us!

In my experience, the fun is in trying to figure out how not to fail completely at any given task or puzzle… on a side note, I need to find new, better coordinated friends.
Once you have an idea though, how do you work out the details of a puzzle?

Currently we have a way of pushing puzzles through several stages that are more or less the same for each puzzle. We start off with an initial brainstorm as already described. The next stage is to create a paper prototype of the puzzle. Some puzzles are difficult to paper prototype, so we sometimes skip this step and go straight to the next step: whiteboxing.

After testing the paper prototype and making changes based on feedback from testers, we start bringing the puzzle to the digital medium. This usually involves placing the puzzle elements in a 3D space, thinking about viewing angles and level layout and placing lighting.

After this whiteboxing step, we start preparing the puzzle for alpha testing. By this point, we know the puzzle is playable IF you understand it. Of course, understanding how a puzzle works is part of the challenge. In this step, we mostly focus on adding feedback elements that tell the player how a puzzle works. An example: where before you were “pressing” a cube, there is now has an actual button model and a click-sound plays when you press it.

After adding extra feedback elements, a puzzle goes into an alpha build, where all our lovely alpha testers can give feedback and we can spot any glaring issues.

Do you ever encounter problems turning a puzzle from a paper prototype into a digital form – going from the paper prototype to whiteboxing?

Yes, definitely. It makes a big difference whether you are controlling an avatar in a 3D world or looking at some pieces of paper. When fleshing out initial ideas (the brainstorming part), we try to think about how the puzzle will fit in the digital game, even when we do not immediately test the puzzle digitally.

An example: we were working on a puzzle in a cave. The paper prototype was very doable. But of course, when you’re actually standing in a cramped cave with a wall in front of your nose, you have no overview of the entire level. Having no overview means you cannot plan your moves, which in turn means solving the puzzle becomes much, much harder. We had people who ran around in circles both figuratively and literally, because there was no way to distinguish between separate paths in this cave.

I swear I wasn’t one of those people! On the subject of testing, what is the process for testing out puzzles?

We try to annoy our colleagues as much as possible by regularly asking them to test new puzzles! Because we can sit right next to them, we can improvise and get an idea of what a puzzle would be like, without having to actually make each and every element or have the game enforce every limitation. I think it’s time for me to mention the alpha tests again! Those give invaluable feedback.

Thank you for your time!

So there you have it – puzzles definitely don’t spring into existence fully formed, and it can be a tough process sometimes to make them work at all, no matter how cool the initial idea is. Join us in the next edition of Walkie-Talk to hear more from your favorite studio!


Walkie Talk - Inspiration

Walkie-Talk

Inspiration


Welcome to our first We Were Here Together dev blog! Our plan is to use these posts to talk a bit about our creative process, show off some work-in-progress assets, and generally lift the curtain a little on how we develop our games.

For this first blog, we’ll look at some of the places we take inspiration from when creating assets and designing locations for We Were Here Together. We draw inspiration from all kinds of things as we work on our games – anything from photographs to painted artwork to bits of old stories and legends can be useful! Here are a few of the images we’ve been using as we work on the base camp – a new location you’ll be able to explore together in We Were Here Together, the next game in our coop puzzle series!

The first image is from Scott’s Hut in Antarctica, which was built in 1911, last saw use in 1917, and is still standing today. It’s well preserved due to the incredible cold! Naturally the structures you’ll see in the new game will be more modern, but in terms of layout and general atmosphere Scott’s Hut is still great inspiration.

The second image is more modern. Of course the walkie-talkies will still be a central part of the game in We Were Here Together, and communication in general is vital in any expedition to unexplored places. The mess of devices and cables is also appropriate for We Were Here because figuring it out could practically be a puzzle by itself… or maybe it already is 😉

Finally, the third image is a typical art-deco building. Our visual style is a combination of 70s, art-deco, steampunk, and other elements. The walkie-talkies you can recognize as being heavily art-deco inspired, for instance.

We’ll have more dev blogs coming up in future, including some work-in-progress behind the scenes images from We Were Here Together! Watch this space…