Throwback Thursday: Dire Consequences

Now this is something that brings back memories!

In fact this game is the roots and foundation of Derp Studios!  I owe many thanks and respect to those who worked on the project and for their contribution in getting Derp Studios FIRST (and by all means not the last) title to the iOS App Store.

The story of Dire Consequences is a tragic tale, where a random team of 10 of the best game jam participants were to form the 4th team and take part in Make Something Unreal Live 2012.  Baring in mind that none of the 4 teams had ever made a game before in their lives, we all recieved the challenge of not only developing a title in 8 months, but to utilise the Fighting Fantasy franchise of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.  That we could handle, however what really through the curve ball was that we had to develop a game within the first person genre, for iOS devices.  That’s right, a first person title, based on Fighting Fantasy, for iOS.

Making something for PC would of been fine, in fact a lot easier due to less restrictions, however the real challenge was mobile.  As UDK users know, mobile and PC development within UDK was very different in the way you made your materials and you were also targetting your title at iPhone 3GS and iPad 2’s as a minimum hardware submission.

Our team wasn’t alone though.  The other 3 teams (also comprised of Train2Game students, all fresh out of the box in regards to developing professionally) were in the exact same boat, only their studio had been given different genre’s.

I’m assuming you’d like to know the teams right?  These teams gave ours a run for our money, I can tell you that now.

  1. Digital Mage
  2. Indigo Jam
  3. Commando Kiwi
  4. Derp Studios

So there you have it, 40 students, fresh out of the box were to take part in Make Something Unreal Live 2012, the first 3 teams were the winning teams of the Train2Game and Epic Games game jam of September 2011, which gave the other team the advantage of working in a team as they already knew and worked with each other for a couple of days.  Not that it made much difference, but in regards to their teams gelling, they had an advantage (because when you’re in a room for 48 hours flat with a team of 10 in a contest you kind of need to team up to make the magic happen).

Us “Derpsters” as we were called later on through the MSUL preparation events were comprised of random individuals who were essentially “the best of the rest”.

So what happened in these 8 months?  Well that’s a story and a half my friend.

First things first the teams needed a captain, in which I bravely stepped upto the plate.  I took that step into the unknown, fully aware that if my team screws up, or we miss a deadline then it’s all on my head.  I was responsible for myself and 9 others.

Dire Consequences

Soon after that we were given the game books from the Fighting Fantasy series which we would base our game off.  We were given “The Citadel of Chaos”, game book 2.  Soon after that we got onto brain storming game designs and ideas.  In fact originally we wanted to make Dire Consequences an RPG, however being the noobs we once were (and still are to be honest, only a little less nooby) our industry mentor Pete said that we were biting off more than we could chew.  We had already though of having a wave game mode.  Sort of like Gears of War 2’s Hoard mode and Pete strongly urged us into making our planned “Chaos Mode” which was effectively, “Hoard with Swords”.

The teams had to have 3 physical meet ups at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, which was quite a journey for some of us.  We had to present our prototypes (ours was rough as hell, I actually don;t think we even had one at the first meeting).  Our nominated team speakers would go up and present the games and recieve feedback.  At the time we thought we had to scratch build everything, which was the reason our development was taking so long.  We soon noticed that all the other team had been using 80% UDK assets.  We really freaked at that moment and instead of using UDK assets, we continued to scratch build (not sure whether it was pride, stupidity, stubbornness….maybe a mixture).  By scratch building our own assets we could take ownership of the all the content being 100% Derp Studios.  We didn’t have to pay royalty for UDK assets, however Derp Studios really gave it there all in the assets.  There were many glitches on the way in regards to lighting, path-finding, materials and much more.  We even had team members drop out and be replaced for many numbers of reason.  It was a stressful time.  Trying to meet deadlines as a virtual team, who had never made a game before, only ever really studying the theory of it.

Originally our team thought kismet was amazing, don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome system and me and the level designer went to town on it.  However it had many limitations and was no where near as powerful as Blueprint is today in UE4 which is Kismet +9000 (class based AND level based).  We even had a designer learn code in a matter of weeks to pull this game off, we called him the “Devigner”, a mixture of developer and designer.

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Many things went right during the development of Dire Consequences, however just as many things, if not more went went wrong with it in many areas.  Not only were things stressful and going pear shaped a lot, the 5 days of developing 9 to 5 live in the Birmingham NEC with people walking around and observing us meant that people would be seeing our botched iterations.  However we took it on the chin and worked hard.  I think in that week at the Gadget Show Live, where MSUL 2012 was held, Derp Studios got more done in 5 days than they did in 3 months.  Which was awesome as the game was really looking good and actually functioning well.

The most stressful times of the MSUL days were having to build our game ready for the presentation.  To be honest we should of left our working copy on, because there was so many moments when we needed “5 more minutes” or we went on the show floor and there were cringe worthy bugs that game industry veteran such as Peter Molyneux, Jon Hare, and Cliff Bleszinski witnessed.  They did provide great feedback and it was nerve racking to watch the teams presenter and narrative designer Dimitri present the game, mostly with level designer Sam dressed in his Derp Frog onesie playing the live demo build.  They both pulled off their presentation, in fact Dimitri is one of the greatest presenter I’ve ever known.  That guy can sell ANYTHING!  He really sold it, maximum respect to the guy.

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I remember the time I literally broke down into tears beace it was 5 minutes before a presentation and the build showed one of our features completely broken on device in comparison with the unreal editor.

After 5 days worth of presentations and solid development, it was time for the judging panel to begin…well…errrr…judging I suppose.

Unfortunately our team didn’t win the competition, which was gutting, however truth be told, I believe we were the only team to get their title shipped onto the app store.  I think Dire Consequences only stayed on the store for a few weeks before we were asked to take it down due to licensing expiration or what not.

I thoroughly enjoyed MSUL, despite all the blood, sweat, tears, stress and everything else, the positives far outweighed the negative and would love to have another opportunity to take part in something like it.

Two years down the road, I remain as the only original Derp Studios team member.  Everyone else were either scouted, went solo or resumed their studies.  Since the departure of the original Derpsters, we’ve had many come and go, many happy times and a few low but we’ve stuck through it all and here the studio stands, loud and proud and earning not very much! haha!

MyDerps
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A big thanks you to the following people in the cover photo of this album (left to right):

Back Row: Chris Ledger (Lead Designer), Stuart Moore (Lead Developer), Neil Gorman (Lead Technical Artist), Dimitri Michael (Narrative Designer), Connor Adams (Concept Artist), Matty Wyett-Simmonds (Concept and Modeller)
Middle Row:  Nigel Clark (Devigner), Sam Hawkins (Level Designer), Daniele Morisco (UI Developer)
Front Row:  Amanda Blatch (Modeller)

And for those not in the photo a big thank you to:

Jake Lock – Sound Engineer
Will Golledge – Sound Engineer
Levi Moscovici – Sound Engineer
Max Lacome-Shaw – Narrator
Pete ‘Leet’ Hickman – (Industry Mentor)

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