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Status of Development
Posted: June 6th, 2014 - 3:44PM

TLDR: The kickstarter for Ethereal has been delayed. Here is the story...


Kickstarter and Publishers
I was contacting a few indie publishers (not that the phrase makes much sense) about possibly getting Ethereal published. A few of them responded with interest. One really wanted to publish the game, but their cut of profits was insanely high. Then, another publisher starting talking with me. I can't name any names until everything is official which won't be for a while, but this publisher is amazing. Their cut of profits would be low and the work they do would be awesome. Unfortunately they don't fund the games they publish because they want the developer to retain complete control over the development. However, the publisher could easily make me successful on kickstarter with their name and marketing help. That is what I was so excited about the last couple months.

So, I sent the publisher a demo and they loved it. They said it was flawless and they're really excited about it. Unfortunately, they also said its not enough yet. They normally only publish games when they're atleast half-way into development. They loved the demo but with no track record for me to show, they have no way of knowing if I can keep that level of quality when the demo is really small at the moment.

They said that they want to publish the game, but they can't make any commitments yet. This means that I won't have them backing the kickstarter. I don't personally feel confident enough with what we have that a kickstarter would succeed on its own. I think the game would do well in sales and people would really enjoy it, but kickstarter projects are much better off if they have a big name behind them or they bring something really unique to the table.

Continued Development and Funding
What this means for the development of Ethereal: We will continue development as normal. The soundtrack is nearly complete, but I don't want to spoil all of it. The artist is now out of school and working full time on the game. I am continuing to work full time on the game as well. For the next 3-4 months we will be working to get atleast 3 worlds mostly done, plus the world hub (purgatory) and finish the cabin area. We'll also be working on concept art and design for the rest of the worlds. By the end of the 3-4 months we should have plenty to show. The publisher will have enough to decide whether they want to publish the game officially or not.

Best case scenario: Publisher officially publishes the game, we launch kickstarter to massive success and get plenty of funding to finish development. Do not worry yourselves though... even if the publisher says they still can't make a commitment or they don't want to publish it at all for some reason, at that point we'd have so much to show off that I can make a better trailer and better kickstarter page. I am sure that at that point even without the publisher's help, we will succeed. So, no official date or anything, but sometime in the next 4 months we should be having a kickstarter.

Can I help you in any way?
Unfortunately, what all of this means is that for the next 3-4 months we are going without the kickstarter funding I thought we'd have by now. I personally don't need a lot of money to survive at the moment, but my artist is working full time for free at the moment. Soon, he will need money to survive and I might not have it to pay him. Funding so far has been small amounts invested by family and friends. If you really, really want to help us out with a donation, shoot me an email at tomfinch@despawn.net. We'll figure something out and maybe even give you a reward for it like you would get in a kickstarter.

Sorry, if all of that bums any of your guys out. Now, to cheer you up, here is everything I'm showing off this Screenshot Saturday!



This is just something the artist put together for fun. I may be using it for the loading screens maybe overlayed on top of the normal loading screen. It doubles as a wallpaper!



This is concept art for the cemetery memory. It also doubles as a wallpaper! I love it!



Wallpaper #5! This depicts the player attempting to escape the pull of a Hell Void.



This is concept art for the doors that will lead to each memory in Purgatory. They will be dark and evil looking at first, but once you've found all the mementos from that level and reached the end of it, the door will be white and calm.


Also, I just created an imgur account for Ethereal where you can easily check out all of the game's revealed artwork in one convenient location... and organized!

To see all of the game's revealed art up to date go to: http://tomfinch.imgur.com/




Kickstarter Preview Page
Posted: May 26th, 2014 - 1:15PM
Lot of stressful stuff going around right now. Lot of things I'm unsure about and not much to show for a big update, unfortunately. The artist is dealing with finals at the moment, but has done a lot of small stuff for the game not worth showing off much (though they look great). I will share the kickstarter preview link however:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/999423988/1808247635?token=6c8c5ea3

It's nowhere near done. The descriptions are first or second drafts, not at all final. It's missing a lot of art and there will definitely be a trailer at the top later. Also the last reward's price isn't decided yet.

Also, in case you're not aware... the kickstarter will not be launching on June 3rd as previously stated. It's been delayed. I'll update when I know when it will be.



Purgatory Wallpaper
Posted: May 2nd, 2014 - 10:31AM
Hey guys, I'm out of town this weekend, so here's what I had planned to show off for this screenshot saturday...



That is the concept art for the overworld of the game. It is a cloud-filled, heaven-like room called Purgatory where the doors to each memory are. The eyes of the statue open up more and more the further you progress in the game.

I also came out with a new build for testers today, so here are the patch notes:

Version 0.1.0.0: Patch Notes


01. The game now saves after entering a room.
02. The 'Apply' option is now placed next to each option that needs to be applied.
03. The 'Apply' option now only appears if the option it is next to has been changed.
04. The mouse now selects options more accurately in menus.
05. Switching between key and mouse selection in menus is now much, much smoother.
06. Added in the new mouse cursor sprite and animated it.
07. The Seething Spirit is now completely animated, with: Idle, Attack and Death.
08. When a Seething Spirit dies and ascends to heaven, a heavenly light effect is displayed.
09. The suicide button can now also be used to skip death animations to skip directly to loading.
10. When the player's position is saved, the direction he's facing is now saved as well.
11. Implemented sliders to the menu system. Currently in use for the master volume option.
12. You can no longer see how many secrets are hidden in a world in the pause menu (or anywhere).
13. Implemented sprites and animation for doors that lead between rooms in a world.
14. Implemented an auto-tiling system for tiles.
15. Added the cabin fire onto the cabin in the woods room.
16. Turned 'interpolate between pixels' off to fix blurring issues and improve visual quality.
17. Implemented a Cheats system to the settings menu.
18. The pause music is now off by default and the option to change it has become a cheat code, moved out of the audio menu.
19. Added a "Credits" option to the main menu. Currently only shows the game title.
20. Added the fire and dead body to the cabin area. The cabin area is now officialy complete.
21. Added debug ability to hold right click to make the camera stay in its current position.
22. Added a fire sound effect to the cabin room that gets quieter as you get farther away.
23. Added a new resolution option of 544x306 that makes the game look retro.
24. Added a Scanlines option to the Video Settings menu.
25. Corrected the Window Size option to be "Resolution" and removed the now incorrect help text.
26. Restructured and optimized much of the game's code.
27. The game now displays a death notice when the player dies.
28. Fixed an issue with hover text becoming misaligned after dying or moving to a new room.
29. Fixed vertical alignment of help text in menus.
30. Fixed an issue where resolution could not be changed in fullscreen.
31. Fixed an issue where fullscreen would be blurry if changed from windowed to fullscreen without restarting afterwards.
32. Known Issue: Doors are not always fully together when first entering a room close to one.
33. Known Issue: The end of Pain's beam does not always display on top of the player as it should.



Brookstone Theme
Posted: April 30th, 2014 - 2:40PM
New song for you guys: Brookstone Cemetery
This is my favorite one so far! It's the theme used in the first memory/world of the game, Brookstone Cemetery.

Unfortunately, I will be camping over the weekend so there won't be any big Screenshot Saturday updates like I usually do.
Next Saturday though, I'll have a big update with a lot of new stuff to show off!



Wallpapers
Posted: April 25th, 2014 - 1:48PM
Since the fire and body are done, the cabin area is 100% complete now! I may add falling leaves in the background eventually, but it's not important. So, I made a wallpaper to celebrate!


Wallpaper #1 - 1920x1080
Wallpaper #1 - 1600x900
Wallpaper #1 - 1366x768

I was also designing and coding the "Credits" part of the game. I thought it looked neat so I made a wallpaper from it as well!

Wallpaper #2 - 1920x1080
Wallpaper #2 - 1600x900
Wallpaper #2 - 1366x768

If you guys have requests for certain resolutions or even different wallpapers, let me know!

On the news front, two things:
1. Thanks to Wii U supporting HTML5 and Game Maker exporting to HTML 5, we should be able to get Ethereal on Wii U fairly easily! This means our planned platforms are now: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, PSVITA, and Wii U! Not sure if we'll be able to get on 3DS yet. Maybe in the future.
2. Our kickstarter will launch on June 3rd!



Dead Man
Posted: April 22nd, 2014 - 8:24PM


That's the main character of my game dead on the floor. Of course, the game is based on my own father's life and death so that's basically my own father's dead body in pixel art. Never thought I'd ever ask an artist to draw that!

In other news, right now I'm working on a teaser trailer. It should be done in around a week. Then we'll hopefully have a huge announcement around the same time. Another month after that we'll be doing our kickstarter.



Sick Week
Posted: April 19th, 2014 - 2:00PM
Sorry for the lack of updates. Our whole team has been terribly sick for the whole week. We don't have much new to show, so here are a few things I haven't shown yet.

Dad's Pocket Watch Memento


  Small Preview of World 1 Concept Art


Demonic Spikes Concept Art


  Mouse Cursor



Screenshot Saturday
Posted: April 11th, 2014 - 4:05PM
Some things I'm posting for screenshot saturday later:


  This is a concept for how spikes, platforms and grates will look.



  And this is a concept for how gravestones and other scenery in the cemetery will look.



This one is really simple and I usually wouldn't bother showing something this small by itself, but I love this. The artist did such a great job on them. They're just birds flying away from the cabin fire in the woods.



Finished Door Animation
Posted: April 10th, 2014 - 2:30PM
Here for your viewing pleasure is the finished version of the door animation! The door will start as debris floating in the air. If the player has a key though, then when he reaches the door it will assemble itself.


Also, here's a preview of our gravedigger, colorless at the moment, player Sprite to the right for size comparison:



Three New Animations
Posted: April 4th, 2014 - 6:40PM
A few new animations to show you guys!

Seething Spirit Idle:


Seething Spirit 'Death':


Player Respawn Animation:



Progress
Posted: April 3rd, 2014 - 3:02PM
I just wanted to update you guys on what's going on. For a while I've been working on a short demo to test out my level designing skills and to give to certain people. The good news is that according to testers, the level design is great! Other notes are that people loved the difficulty level (challenging but not frustrating) and said it felt really polished for such an early build.

I've decided that I want the game to keep a consistent tone, so I'm removing a couple of the sillier sides of the game. The game will have cheat codes and one will add the pause music back in. I also plan on having cheat codes to unlock Easy Mode and Hard Mode. Easy Mode will make the player move faster and fall slower so its easier to get past precision and timing based puzzles. It will not lower the difficulty of figuring out how to solve puzzles though. Hard Mode will add hell voids at specific spots throughout the worlds to make puzzles harder.

We have big stuff planned for the next three months. In about a month we'll be making a big announcement. One month after that we'll be launching a kickstarter campaign. We might be holding back a lot of stuff we'd usually show for the next two months so that we have a ton to reveal throughout the kickstarter. This is of course my first kickstarter so if anyone has any big awesome tips, let me know! I still haven't decided if I'm planning stretch goals. I don't want to tack on features that are unnecessary.

Last note, we don't need any more testers for now. We always need translators though! So if you want to translate for Ethereal, email me at tomfinch@despawn.net.

You guys can also follow me on twitter at: @despawngames



Seething Spirit Attack
Posted: April 2nd, 2014 - 5:19PM
The artist revised the Seething Spirit's style. I think it looks a lot better now. Here is what he looks like attacking the player:




Parallax Animated!
Posted: March 29th, 2014 - 1:45PM
I have something insanely exciting happening right now for Ethereal but I'd rather not talk about it before things are official. I'll make an announcement as soon as I can but keep your ears open! Meanwhile, here's a gif of the game's first area in movement! You can see the parallax background in action. The only thing missing is that the cabin needs to be on fire.




Pain Hellhound Animation
Posted: March 28th, 2014 - 9:30PM


His normal animation has no eye on it, but once he can see the player his eye opens and darts to look in that direction. If you can't tell, this is Pain, the hellhound I showed off in Gameplay GIF #1.



Gameplay GIF #3
Posted: March 21st, 2014 - 8:14PM


I realized I've never actually shown the game's main mechanic, Flipping. So this gameplay gif shows off Flipping. It also shows off two other things: 1. My hover text. It'll mostly be used for story purposes and during tutorials, but you can see it fading in and out under the platform in the demo. 2. The smooth camera. The camera follows behind the player slower than the player actually falls. I did this on purpose to give the feeling of weight to the character. Not real weight obviously since he's a ghost, but it gives the player a better feeling of falling than if the camera followed him perfectly.



Restraint Gameplay Preview
Posted: March 16th, 2014 - 2:11PM
Another new gameplay gif for you guys!


What's happening here?:
1. This is another gif of hellhounds, but this time it's the hellhound Restraint! This guy will stalk you when you're not looking, but play shy when you are looking. If they get to close, they'll grab you and drag you back to hell.
2. Obviously, it's still completely programmer art except the voids and main character.
3. The things the player is bouncing on are the Squeamish Spirits. When you touch them, they panic and throw their 'arms' in the air, sending you flying away.



WIP Cabin Preview
Posted: March 14th, 2014 - 1:02PM
Here is a WORK IN PROGRESS of the cabin that the player lies dead in at the beginning of the game:


The finished version will have the player's dead body in the middle and the cabin will be on fire.



Drumroll Please...
Posted: March 12th, 2014 - 4:07PM
Drumroll please... our first official gameplay gif:


What is happening here:
1. Nearly all of that is programmer art except the player and the 'void'.
2. The black and red glitch is a "Hell Void". If the player touches one, he is sucked in and 'dies'.
3. The thing sitting on the void is a 'hellhound' named "Pain". He sits in one spot and tracks you if you're close and nothing is blocking his view. If you use an ability within his view, he grabs you with his vision and pulls you into the void.
4. The red flash and screen shake happen because the player tried to use an ability within the hellhound's view.
5. The art for Pain is actually just the concept art for him with a green arrow drawn on to show where he is looking.
6. The closer a player is to a void, the more it shakes violently, eager to send him back to hell. There will also be plenty of voids around levels without hellhounds on them, so the player will have to avoid those sometimes.
7. Lastly, in the final game, there will be an animation for the player where he is looking terrified and trying to pull himself away, sorta like being dragged away by someone. This animation will be used for being grabbed by hellhounds and being sucked into voids.



Playing 'Death' Animation
Posted: March 5th, 2014 - 2:21PM
This is the animation for when the player "dies":



Latest Patch Notes
Posted: March 4th, 2014 - 5:31PM
Not much news at the moment. The artist is working on hard on a big piece so not much new art to show you. I've been working on hard the game's programming and design. Here's our latest patch notes though:

Version 0.0.5.5: Patch Notes

01. Changed the way the camera follows the player. Its now much smoother and gives the feeling of weight to the character when falling.
02. Changed how the player's sprite were oriented so the animations didn't jitter when changing.
03. Made animations have much smoother transitions.
04. Added the 'Scared' and 'Vanish' Animations to the game. Both are used when you 'die'.
05. Added false doors.
06. Changed the sandbox level to be the building block for the prototype demo.
07. Added arrows to the left and right of options in the settings menus that you can click on to change the selected setting.
08. Changed the alignment of option text to be centered between the left and right selection arrows.
09. Adjusted the height of the player's bounce when landing on a Squeamish Spirit's head.
10. Fixed an issue with loading and saving.
11. Fixed a few issues involved in using larger rooms.
12. Fixed all issues with movement and collision. There should no longer ever be any crashing due to player collision.
13. Fixed misalignment of audio options text.
14. Fixed an issue with the keybinding options menu.
15. Removed Window Centering (most likely temporarily).

Version 0.0.6.0: Patch Notes

01. Added an option to delete save files by holding 'Shift' and clicking on the slot.
02. Changed how help text is displayed for better readability and nicer design.
03. Adjusted the player sprites further for even smoother animation.
04. Added text that floats in various parts of levels. Will be used for both story and tutorial sections.
05. The game will now delete save files used in older test builds, so the player doesn't spawn into walls. (Test Build Feature Only!)
06. Pause Menu and Title Screen help text is now dyanmically shown based on cursor movement and button presses.
07. Added a quick-check for walls, so if the player is walking into a wall it will not run unnecessary while loops every single step.
08. Objects not within view will now deactivate until back in view. This will drastically improve FPS.
09. The "Quit" option in the pause menu now returns the player to the main menu rather than closing the game outright.
10. Changed the positioning of the parts to all menus to give more room between lines.
11. Change any on/off option toggle to checkboxes and added click functionality to them.
12. Added a gate to the beginning of the play area for testing.
13. Fixed an issue where if the player went out of bounds he'd respawn, then play the death animation.
14. Fixed an issue where if the player died while bouncing, he would keep bouncing.
15. Fixed issues with old Seething Spirit and Key Object code so they can be used in this build.
16. Fixed a few issues with wall designs causing sticking.
17. Fixed an issue where the framerate would drop dramatically when walking rightward into a wall.
18. Fixed the flipping animation to look less jarring.
19. Fixed an issue with 'Resume' not working in the Pause Menu.
20. Fixed an issue where checkpoints weren't saving the player's position.
21. Drastically optimized code.



Proud of This One
Posted: February 28th, 2014 - 2:48PM
I'm very proud of this:



Let's Talk About Story
Posted: February 24th, 2014 - 1:18PM
Let's talk about the story! I don't go too much into detail in the main section for Ethereal, so I'll go more into detail now.

So at the beginning of the game, the player character (who is nameless as he doesn't need a name) is lying dead on the floor of a cabin engulfed in flames. His ghost floats above him. At this point the player gains control. Making their way to the right, the player finds a large room made up of clouds called Purgatory. In this room are 8 Gates of Memory. Each one leads to a different traumatic memory from the character's past. Each memory you gain a new ability that corresponds to the story somewhat. For instance, in the first world it'll say, "I felt like my whole world had been turned upside down." Thus, you gain the ability to reverse gravity for yourself alone.

It is extremely important to me that the story is subtle. I don't want enormous amounts of text explaining the story to the player. Instead, I want the story to be told mainly through the gameplay, world themes, etc. I think this will spark a lot more discussion between players as well. The beginning of each level will have one small room in which the background is a painting depicting the traumatic memory. In this same room is where you first get your new ability and test it out to solve a very simple puzzle.

Each world will contain 5 Mementos. These are objects that are always noticeable to the player, but hard to obtain. They're always behind a puzzle. The mementos will each be an object that reminds the character about something positive around the time the memory took place. If the player gets all 5 objects, at the end of the world, you will see a positive ending room where the player is realizing that things weren't all that bad and he needs to let go (said more subtly of course).

I feel that each world's memory should be a compelling enough story by itself to warrant it's existence. If one level was about death and another was about spilling milk it wouldn't make any sense. So, I'm taking this on from the viewpoint of the character. What in his life would make him sad or angry enough to have trouble letting it go. I don't want to reveal all of them, but stuff like: His parents tragic death when he was 5, being picked on at school all the time as a kid, his wife being told she couldn't have any kids.

This is also why I chose 8 worlds rather than 9+. I personally feel that after 8 memories the individual stories would start to become much less compelling or interesting. Also, because more than 7 abilities would be overkill. Side note: I have considered the possibility of adding a Level Editor and creating an online world like how Super Meat Boy did.

The eighth world will be a conclusion to the character's life story, basically and explain certain things through the mementos you find. I'll be leaving some things up to interpretation. After the last world, the player moves on to the final room of the game which contains no puzzles. It will simply tell the end of the story... what happens to the character's spirit? The answer will entirely depend on how well the player did throughout the game. There will be four endings: three bad, one good. Which you get depends on how many mementos you collected through all of the levels. If you collected all mementos in every level, you'll get the good ending. You can always go back to worlds you've already finished and get mementos you missed.

Also, I plan on having secret trophy type objects throughout the world that are much harder to obtain than mementos. Once you collect all of them and all mementos you'll have gotten 100% completion of the game.

Thanks for reading guys!




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