The team behind the game and how it came to fruition.Penumbra Overture, coming from the Swedish development team Frictional Games, hope to make a big impact on the PC gaming scene at the beginning of 2007. Their creation, an adventure horror game is the first commercial project for the team and will be a 3 part episodic title. Their goal is to breathe some fresh air into the adventure game genre and create a game unlike any other on the market.
In a 4 part diary we let the team explain more about how the game was conceived and how they have gone about making their vision become reality.
To start this article I will introduce the team members that are working on Penumbra: Overture. In the core team we have Jens Nilsson doing sounds, scripting and web administration, Anton Adamse doing character and level art, Emil Meiton doing level art and myself, Thomas Grip, doing engine and game programming. We also have some outside help doing writing, music and additional programming.
Most of the core team met during a school course where we worked on the Penumbra tech demo. When the course ended the project group split up and we released Penumbra for free on the internet. To our surprise the tech demo gained a lot of attention and even made our school servers (that hosted it) go down. This convinced us to get the team back together and we started working on a full version of the game which we called Penumbra: Overture. After we had announced that we had begun working on Penumbra: Overture, Lexicon Entertainment contacted us and after some discussions we decided on using them as our publisher for the game.
Only consisting of 4 core team members, Frictional Games is a very small team compared to larger studios. This means that we have to work a lot harder to keep the quality high but have to limit our scope for certain elements since we simply do not have the man power to complete them. However there are many positive things with being a small team as well. One thing is that we are totally independent and do not rely on money supply from a financer. This gives us full creative freedom and we do not have any company telling us what we can and can not do. This financial independence is possible since we have all saved money and are using various stately subsidies. Being able to create the graphics engine and base gameplay while in school has also helped a lot.
All of the core members are from and live in Sweden which in the past years has presented a lot excellent game developers such as the creators of the Battlefield series, Riddick and Ground Control. Sadly this has not really been reflected in the different types of funding you can get from the state. While cinema has various institutes and special funding there is nothing like this for gaming so we have had to use other subsidies and saved money on our own to survive. Also, the large amount of companies in Sweden means that good game developers are hard to get hold of since they are taken into the larger studios here.
Despite the problems addressed above we have managed to form a very motivated group of people and to get a good development pipeline going. The development of Penumbra: Overture has been really good with almost everything going as planned, something that is not very common when making a game. Most of this is due to the one year school course where we made the Penumbra tech demo. This project let us test various ways to manage and plan the creation of content and we learnt a lot from the numerous mistakes that were made. All this led up to us getting a really good scheme to follow when making the game and since Penumbra: Overture has about the same basic style as the tech demo when it comes to gameplay and level design we could used most of the techniques.
After the release of the tech demo we received a lot of great feedback from players. We really never thought that we had made any special game and did not have any high hopes when releasing the tech demo for free. Most of the players also thought that the game was really scary and this was especially surprising since we never put any effort into making a scary atmosphere; it seemed like it just came along with the gameplay. We also got a lot of good feedback from major magazines such as PC Zone and PC Gamer in the UK as well as PC Gamer in the USA. The UK gaming press, especially the PC magazines, are tough on games so getting positive vibes from them was very inspiring.
This great feedback has given us high hopes that Penumbra: Overture will be really scary and immersive and has opened the door for us to be even more creative. When we did the tech demo we just focused on making the interaction gameplay work. This time we can put a lot more work into adding a good atmosphere and fun gameplay. One common complaint on the tech demo was there was not any story but that will not be a problem in Penumbra: Overture. Countless of hours have been put into making a good back-story and this time we also have a writer helping out with story and narrative.
Right now we have been developing Penumbra: Overture for 5 months and it is all coming together very nicely. We have all of the gameplay implemented and over 2/3 of all graphical content is done. The hardest part of the development process so far has been to make all things come together and to make a nice journey for the player through the game. Penumbra: Overture will not be totally linear as it lets the player do certain tasks in any order he/she wants to and this becomes a problem when trying to make a good narrative and a compelling story. The way we are solving this is to have two stories unfolded at the same time. One background story that is slowly told to the player as new hints and locations are found. On top of this we a story that is about the current happenings and is directly experienced by the player in the game. Since this story is not linear it will be experienced in different ways depending on how you play the game.
Next time we will tell you more about the actual story, the kind of puzzles presented and a little about the cast.