Christian Molina talked about the history of Ghost Creative Studio, described the world and gameplay of Beacon of Neyda, and explained how the parallax effect was created.
My name is Christian Molina and I am the founder of Ghost Creative Studio. I live in the city of Paraná in Argentina and since I was approximately 16 years old, I have been interested in video game development. I started making some mods for games like Counter-Strike and Battlefield 2 without having any experience in programming, learning some basics and how to use tools to create mods online or on forums.
When I started college, I chose a career in graphic design. Thanks to the mods, I already knew certain graphic editing tools and 3D modeling, so it seemed to me that it could be a good career.
Before founding GCS, I worked as a texturizer and 3D modeler for a local development studio that ended up closing. Then, as a web designer for a couple of years. So even though I had some contact with the game development industry, I had no real experience in game development as a project.
Ghost Creative Studio
Ghost Creative Studio was born in 2018 as a business that initially only had one person, but during my years at university, I had my graphic and web design business (called "Ghost"... I know, very original name), there were 4 people, but in 2015 I started to participate in game jams and I started to learn tools to develop my own games and I slowly changed my interests to video game development. Over the next two years, I developed my first mobile games and learned about the local game development industry. I started hosting events and talks with the support of experienced developers and regional studios. Taking the decision in 2018 to change my business, letting go of my old team and starting over from scratch with GCS, I and a fixed team of 5 people legalized that study as a company in 2020.
From the beginning of GCS until the beginning of this year, our business model was to provide development services to other studios or companies, mainly making mobile and web games aimed at kids (for example, for Cartoon Network). Also, we have a portfolio of our own simple mobile games that we make during the "breaks" between projects. So we were one of the many support studios for other larger studios and their projects.
During the pandemic, motivated by having won some prizes, we tried to join the wave of hypercasuals working for different publishers, but without any success. We had to make a change, and that was relatively easy as we were a small team, so at the end of last year, we made the decision to focus on our own IPs.
Beacon of Neyda
Beacon of Neyda was born as an idea motivated by our game designer and our artist. We decided to take a month to plan our project. Something that we could do with a small team but that would be easy to scale and that would show the skills of our studio. We have a great artist who presented us with some conceptual sketches of robots and a character that he had done in his spare time in pixel art with a very unique style, which we decided to take advantage of. When we saw it, we knew it was going to be a 2D game, now we just had to decide what kind of game. After taking into account several factors, we came to the conclusion that a game with gameplay inspired by the Kingdom saga games was our best option. After that, it was a matter of taking the rest of the month and a little more, taking the first steps towards a GDD, deciding on the context, defining the art style and the goals of the game, etc.
Our inspiration comes from many places, so everyone understands we present the game world as Mad Max mixed with Terminator where Skynet couldn't win. But we also get inspiration from Fallout, Alien, Trigun, and obviously Kingdom among others.
Apart from what I mentioned before, I think the decision to do something different comes from the previous experience we had, where we already tried once to go after what everyone was doing and it didn't work for us. It may be that the game market is all about open-world shooters with light RPG mechanics these days, but that means that there are unserved market spaces that can be niches with a lot of potential. Besides, one does not stand out these days for doing the same thing that everyone else does, one stands out for doing something different. And unfortunately, even if you have the best open-world shooter, if you don't have the name and the budget to stand out, it's very difficult for your game to do well. We are aware of what we can do as a studio and we are going to make the best game we can within our capabilities, which means a side-scrolling strategy game with beautiful art and gameplay that will entertain everyone.
Beacon of Neyda takes place in a world far away where a robot revolution failed but left the world in a dying state, and it is up to the player to save the last humans by repairing the space communication beacon in the devastated city of Neyda. And I think that's all I can say. As I said our inspiration comes from many places reaching a post-apocalyptic style with a rare mix between modern futurism like the old modern technology in Alien but a little more contemporary if that makes sense, and this is going to be a world where you have to explore to find answers and be very careful because it's a dangerous place.
Regarding the development, we are carrying out the production in Unity, for the pixel art, we use Aseprite and FireAlpaca (a free tool) along with an internal tool of the studio created by our own artist to automate shadows and lighting. For the audio, we are using FMOD, so they are quite standard tools.
In the words of our artist, he got that style by "just experimenting", again, the inspiration is there, but the style we owe to him.
The basics of BoN's gameplay are similar to those of the Kingdom games. After a certain amount of time, you have waves of enemies attacking you and trying to get to the center or the main power core. But this is where we start to differentiate ourselves: you have a variety of resources, scrap metal is the general resource, but then you have energy cores that fulfill different functions. You can build practically anywhere you want as long as you have the necessary resources. For example, you need scrap metal and a red core to build a defense tower, but in turn, that tower needs electricity to work, which is achieved by extending it with an electric tower that uses scrap metal and a blue core. In this way, a symbiosis is created between the different buildings and the resources that we use.
The objectives in each level to overcome them may vary, you don’t necessarily have to attack and destroy the enemy as the ultimate goal, you have to rebuild on some occasions, defend yourself as much as you can, or escort important elements, we have a variety of gameplay bases to maintain interest in the game. We also have more individual exploration for the player to do. For example, underground, where the player goes into the depths to find upgrades, you can meet individual objectives and discover secrets of this world that we are creating. Obviously, the game on the surface will continue to function, so it's up to the player to take the risk of exploring. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.
The Parallax Effect
I'm really surprised at how much attention that little parallax test drew. In Unity, we use Cinemachine for the cameras along with a script that allows us to generate the space for the parallax. At that time we were testing the camera transitions or movements of the camera for certain important moments within the game and we simply tested what would happen if a static camera without the parallax script was looking at the scenery while the other camera moved. And what you see in the video happened, an inversion of the parallax values that are recognized by the static camera and that simply shows how everything moves "around", something that we found interesting and that we felt that could be useful at some point and we share as a curiosity.
We are making a change in our business model from providing services to creating our own IPs, which is a very big change. So we have to go out and find a potential partner for financing purposes and a publisher for this new game – something we weren't used to. But luckily, we are currently talking with potential partners and we are open to any new contacts that want to have us as partners.
The focus of the game is going to be premium (paid), no surprises there, and we would like to have the opportunity to extend it with both paid and free DLC content. We are aiming not only at PCs but also at consoles.
We don't have our own community now, or at least not something very big, we are with our first followers and have to start making ourselves known and making the community from scratch.
Being a small studio focused on development, it is very difficult to manage a community, we feel that we are slowly learning about it, but it is still difficult for us and our first followers on Discord and other social networks. I think they realize that but support us all the same, and when we ask for their participation, they never disappoint us.
There is another side project we have (a low-poly tower defense game where you build towers on a train and have to move the train to defend yourself from waves of enemies). The name Tracks n' Turrets was proposed and chosen by members of our community and Twitter followers, and we are very happy with the result.
Our future plans are simple: expand our small studio, get the remaining funding to finish the development of BoN, and find a partner to help us launch it. If we can achieve it before the end of the year, we will be very happy. Since at least we still have a year of development ahead of us, we prefer to create a quality game and not rush it, that's why one of our goals is to work on the ports to consoles ourselves. After that, we want to simply continue creating your own IPs that are interesting to play for our players.
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