“Ultimately we landed at Intel,” reveals Green. “Intel needed a team to create a project that would show off a new graphics card they were developing.” The graphics card was part of the the ill-fated “Larabee” project, which Intel essentially canned in 2009 after its performance proved disappointing. “After a couple of years at Intel, it was clear Offset wasn’t going to make it out. I can’t say too much about why, but we were in full development mode and Intel decided to shelve the hardware and therefore our project.”
This is a continuation of an article posted last week. Be sure to read it first!
Green confides that he interviewed other positions during the initial stages of the sale to Intel. “I … got offered positions at Weta and Sony Santa Monica, but made the choice to stay with the team and the project,” says Green. He believes the chip giant was the studio’s “best chance” of getting Project Offset done.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Despite the disappointing end to a once-ambitious game, Intel is still getting its money’s worth. “If you look at the latest Game Developer Magazine or most Intel ads you’ll find screenshots of some unknown game,” says Green. “Sometimes with a dragon and elf or just some environment — most of the time this is Project Offset.”
The end of Project Offset also brought about the closure of Offset Software. The original founders, Sam, Trevor and Travis, went on to start up Fractiv and develop Gun Smith and Lane Splitter for iOS. A few others moved to Los Angeles and began work on what would eventually become the mech FPS Hawken. As for Green, he got the wheels turning on his own indie studio, Lonely Few.
“We almost ended up setting up in Australia,” says Green. “I wasn’t sure if my green card application would come through and so there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to stay in the States any longer.” This situation however never eventuated, and so he set up shop in LA.
[imgclear] Hawken‘s development team includes a contingent from the defunct Offset Software.
Green continues to entertain the idea of coming back to Oz. He still listens to Triple J and Nova on internet radio and admits he misses the lifestyle. But Green’s story of relocating to the US has now become the only hope many out-of-work local developers have of getting back into the industry. Regardless, Green remains upbeat on Australia’s growing indie scene, citing Firemint and Halfbrick as notable examples.
Now, in 2012, he’s keen to see his studio’s first title, Brainsss, hit the App Store. Built on Unity, Green handled the programming duties while former Offset Software colleague Yeong-Hao Han took charge of art and design.
“Yeong-Hao and I have a unique set of individual talents but also appreciate each other’s skill at what they do. This means we’ve got a pretty clean division of work between us and we really trust each other to do it right,” says Green. “My advice for anyone out there planning to go indie find your opposite, if you’re technical get an artist if your an artist get a technical guy.”
So, what is Brainsss? Green says he was inspired by the “Persuadatron” from the original Syndicate, an isometric action-strategy game that was recently rebooted by EA and Starbreeze as an FPS.
“The device allowed you to ‘persuade’ civilians into teaming up with you to fight the enemy syndicates,” explains Green. “They also had a form of levelling in this gameplay mechanic whereby you needed to get a certain number of civilians before you could persuade a police/soldier.” With enough people in tow, the player could bring agents from opposing corporations under their control.
“I used to glitch out the game and see if I could complete it without attacking anyone in the level. I’d hide behind corners, waiting for syndicates to run into my Persuadatron field. Eventually, you could get to the point where you’re running around with a hundred or so armed civilians acting as very incompetent, meat shields,” explains Green.
This “glitch” forms the core mechanic behind Brainsss.
As the player, you start with a small group of zombies you can use to “collect” humans and transform them into more zombies. Humans therefore become the game’s primary resource and the more zombies you control, the more powerful your group becomes.
“Not all humans are created equal,” Green points out. “Some humans will flee for their lives while others will stand and fight. Some humans even have weapons and abilities that make the task a little trickier.” For example, police will shoot at you and medics can convert your zombies back to humans. It sounds simple, but if you check out the video to the right, it’s easy to see how it plays out.
Brainsss also represents Green’s attempt to develop a more “core” game for mobile platforms. “These devices are pretty powerful and it’s sad to see them primarily used for such simple casual games like throwing paper into a basket. We also realised that some players really aren’t interested
in a game of StarCraft on their iPad.”
With these observations in mind, Green attempted the perhaps slightly insane task of putting together a game with the depth of an RTS, but the benefits of a more casual title, such as Cut the Rope. Controlling the game is kept intuitive, but savvier players will be able to make use of more complex techniques to wrangle their zombie army.
Getting the art style of Brainsss just right was also an important detail for Green, an artist / animator by trade. The game was originally to go heavy on the gore (“think Happy Tree Friends“), but the developer was wary of “R18+ hell” and kept the blood levels to a satisfactory minimum. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of releasing a “blood pack” in the future.
“We also have other game types like tower defence, survival, escape, etcetera. These varied game types, plus a planned release of 20 levels at launch and four free levels each week we feel will give the players a large amount of game time and replay value,” says Green.
Brainsss is the result of two years of development time, but behind that is over ten years of experience working on commercial games from Green. Hopefully, this will be enough to see the Australian, whose done everything from modelling trees for horse-riding games to creating cinematics for Jade Empire, succeed on the App Store.
Brainsss is due out next month for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and will retail for $2.99.