We thought it was time for a little update on what’s been going on in the dark corner of Somethin’ Else where Team Papa resides (writes Tom, producer of Papa Sangre 2).
Our focus over the last three months has been on three (inter-related) things:
—creating, testing, and tweaking the all-new Papa Engine
—rebuilding Papa Sangre and The Nightjar from the ground up using the new engine
—setting the direction for the follow-up to Papa Sangre
The Papa Engine is the guts of Papa Sangre: the technology that takes mono sounds and allows us to place them anywhere in a 3D field in real-time, using binaural processing—and it’s totally unique. It’s based on some pretty low-level (read: hideously complex) code, meaning we’ve had to draw on some serious brainpower in our team and beyond: different specialisms to complete different parts of the engine. It’s taken almost a year to produce the engine in it’s ‘finished’ form. The Engine is extraordinarily demanding on mobile processors; over-working any part of the technology stack produced horrendous noise. The majority of this time was taken up just getting the engine to ‘work’.
Once we’d nailed this, development turned to testing and improving the API, so that we can release it for other developers to use. Now we (or you!) can make binaural games in a snap — create objects, use the API to give them behaviour, and let them loose! If you are interested in using the Papa Engine head here.
Before we launched the engine, we ate our own dog-food and used it for …
PAPA SANGRE & THE NIGHTJAR REBUILDS
The code for the original versions of Papa and Nightjar had its roots in an experimental “Can we really do this?” process. That’s not great for reusability or long-term compatibility with platforms—like iOS— that change over the years. As Apple released new versions of iOS, we had to go back inside the code to fix things that the updates had broken, particularly in the audio engine. Unfortunately by the time that Apple reached iOS 6, this was becoming increasingly difficult, as it was requiring more and more hackery to keep it working.
Nightjar? Nightmare, more like.
With limited resource and no wish to present games that didn’t reflect what we were capable of, we took the decision to take Papa Sangre off the App Store so we could rebuild both Papa and Nightjar from the ground up around the new engine.
This involved pulling all the assets and level design out of the original games and re-implementing them on the new platform. This task in itself was actually pretty straightforward—but it was followed by a LOT of testing and tweaking (“Do the footsteps sound the same in the new game as the old? Is the scale the same?”). It also highlighted, as expected, a number of bugs in the Papa Engine which we were able to fix.
We’ve now completed this phase, have a stable engine, and faithful replicas of the original Papa Sangre and The Nightjar to show for it. Both out very soon.
PAPA SANGRE 2
This has been taking up most of my brain power lately. Producing the follow-up to a game as successful, loved and strategically important as Papa Sangre is a huge responsibility. Papa 1 was the result of a number of people collaborating, and we’ve tried to approach its follow-up in the same way, with many of the people who helped make the original a success, as well as some new faces. We’ve had a number of creative sessions during which we’ve thought big about what we want to achieve and then gradually honed in on what form Papa 2 should take.
While collaboration is an important part of the development process it’s also critical decisions get made and the game stays within an achievable scope so it can actually be made. That is one of the main parts of my role as producer: to listen to and contribute to all the different discussions, and then make calls that steer the game in the right direction based on all the different factors that need to be taken into account.
We’ve had to make big decisions about the user interface (just wait ’til you try out ‘Gyro Mode’), the length of the game (longer than The Nightjar, shorter than Papa Sangre), the structure (still a bit TBC) and the narrative (ditto).
We’re now at the point where we’ve decided on the shape of the game, and demoed a few (very exciting, if I say so myself) new levels, and are poised to go into full production in the next week. This will involve designing the levels (Tassos Stevens again features heavily here), coding the levels, producing the sound (which is being provided by audio artists Ben and Max Ringham), writing the script (Neil Bennun, who wrote the script for The Nightjar, is responsible for this), casting actors, recording and editing the audio, graphic design, testing, fixing, tweaking, retesting, then testing again, etc, etc…
Watch this space for more updates on Papa 2 as we go through the development process. We’ll post some audio from the game as soon as we’re happy with it, and release some video from one of our recent playtesting sessions soon.
Wish us luck!