Shard, a platformer meant to be played with a friend, was still incomplete when its creator passed away. Now, two of his collaborators are trying to finish it.
Roger Morash died along with his wife, Valerie, and their pets on January 23rd, due to "acute carbon monoxide poisoning." Morash had been a former Harmonix developer, and had at the time been working on a game with artist Anita Tung, called Shard.
Shard was to be a co-op puzzle platformer, and Tung had been working on it with Morash for three and a half years. "I hadn't met Roger before working on Shard," Tung told Kotaku. "He'd actually found my work online, noticed I was local, and got in touch about hiring me as a contractor to develop Shard's visual style and in game art."
She and a musician who had also been working on the game, Kasson Crooker, told Gamasutra that they'd been encouraged to complete the game after Morash's death by their local dev community. "It's really the support from various game development communities that has encouraged us to keep producing the game itself," Tung told Gamasutra. "We would never attempt to do this without the advice and support of so many incredibly knowledgeable and experienced people."
Shard's latest gameplay video, uploaded before Morash's death, shows a beautiful, vibrant world made out of triangular scraps of colour that look like pieces of tissue paper floating in the wind. The game is highlighted by Crooker's contemplative, synth heavy music. Players would use their special abilities to complete platforming challenges together, swapping them as need be:
Although completing Morash's vision without him is a challenge, at the time of his death, Tung had been working with him on a demo that would show the progression of the game from start to finish. "He made it clear from the beginning that he wanted me to bring my own ideas to the game, as opposed to following a script that he'd already laid out," she said. "The original idea was his alone, but one of the primary reasons that I'm comfortable continuing work on Shard is that the design documents and core pillars of the game are things that we worked on together very closely."
Crooker told Gamasutra that they'd also been working closely with Morash throughout the project:
[Crooker had] previously worked with Morash at Harmonix, and was brought in at around the same time as Tung, focusing on the music and sound design.
"As Roger was creating and customising the game engine and editor for Shard, that gave us a great deal of control over the exact tools we'd need to bring the audio alive," says Crooker. With that freedom, Crooker was able to exercise his interest in blurring a game's score with its sound design, as well as mixing vintage synthesizers with traditional instruments like classical guitar and strings.
In talking about the game, Tung said that what made it special was Morash's passion for collaborative gaming. "A lot of our discussions and gameplay iterations were devoted to encouraging the players to interact with each other and work together, as opposed to being able to go through the game individually," she said. "We were very excited to build something beautiful and strange that needed to be experienced with another person rather than alone."