3D artist Chris Bischoff from The Brotherhood discussed the production of STASIS – an isometric homage to the best sci-fi horrors in the entertainment industry.
STASIS is one of the most unusual and horrifying games on this year. It’s an isometric adventure game set in a sci-fi nightmare the likes of Dead Space and Alien. It’s a very dark and incredibly beautiful old school project, that was fisrt produced as a hobby but later grew into a huge indie hit. In an exclusive interview with 80.lv Chris Bischoff from The Brotherhood studio discussed the production of this unusual game.
The Brotherhood of STASIS
Nic and I have been running a 3D design company for the past decade. We specialize in architectural illustration for future building developments. I’ve been doing 3D for 20 years, and even when Nic and I were younger we developed games together. I started STASIS as an escape from work and it grew into this huge game.
I started working on the game in late 2010. I can honestly say that STASIS is a love letter to all of the films and books that I grew up with. I love B-Grade horror, and Alien was a defining moment in my childhood. We’ve always loved isometric and I wanted to see if I could tell an emotive story from a detached camera vantage point, and the rest is history!
No Money No Problems
I never started STASIS as a commercial project, I was initially planning on giving it away for free. I think this helped me think out of the box and not take finances into account. STASIS was my hobby, passion project. At the time of the Kickstarter campaign I had to make the decision of either cutting down the game considerably or working on it full time. Full time had financial implications but by then I was too far down the rabbit hole. I feel that Sanitarium did a really great job in the psychological horror department so I knew it was possible.
Creating The Visuals
I think the visual aesthetic comes from the films I love: Alien, The Thing and even Star Wars. I also drew inspiration from the architectural projects that I’ve done for a living. I varied the architecture and color grade depending on the mood of the story, as well as the area that the player was in, but other than that, the rule of cool won every time!
Everything in STASIS is 2D pre-rendered bitmaps. The character alone has 7500 frames of animation and he is 1 gig uncompressed. I tried to push 720P as far as it could go with regards to detail. I knew that it would be a focus of criticism so I tried to enhance the world with soft particles and glows – and lots of small detail animations. I’d love to have done the game in 4k or 2k but I had limited PC work power at my disposal.
My first task is to map out the larger area into a flow diagram, which I usually do on paper. In terms of room design, I always start with an idea of what needs to happen in the space – and how it needs to make sense in the game world. I then sketch out the room in plan format, after which I use 3D Max and mockup the walls quickly. I’ve built a large amount of prefab pieces that I then mix and match to make up the space. I take that into the engine, check it all works correctly and then detail, texture and light the space.
As the lighting is baked into the 2D image (because STASIS is a 2D render) I can really go crazy with the lighting design. I’m an artist by trade so I try to make as visceral experience as possible with the lighting of the environment.
Creating the Sound
I used soundsnap.com for all of the samples. I thought it best to buy the royalty free sounds so I can use them legally. I used Adobe Audition for most of the mixing and leveling. I’m hoping to use Wwise on our next game but what you hear in STASIS is plain old trial and error – tweaking until the sound mix is perfect. My advice to new devs is to LISTEN to as many films and modern day games as possible. Don’t watch them, pull up a video and concentrate on how they use sound to tell a story. I often see new developers add a few sound effects and a music track and hit build, but I feel that sound is as important to telling a story as the graphics.
Kickstarter and Sales
Kickstarter is not for the faint of heart as the community needs to be kept abreast at all times of what you are doing, and rightly so! We made a post every two months and had a closed forum with almost weekly updates. The fans supported us in the marketing department and really motivated us to carry on. When you have 5000 people behind you, you can’t go wrong.
STASIS is doing very well and is performing as expected. Adventure games have a long tail, we can sell them for up to three or four years after release, because they’re timeless, simple and easy to pick up by nature. At the moment we’re trying to get our latest build out which addresses most comments by buyers and then we’ll concentrate on Linux and mobile.
Our DLC is in early production and will be free to all Kickstarter backers.