Friday, 24 May 2013

The Swapper Releases Next Week!

It's that weird time again when all those months of work transmorph into an actual playable video game - and some of you would be surprised how often that is not the case. After years on 'currently on hold' AAAs at the likes of Hydravision and Sega Hardlight I can't express how good it is to have my name on not one but two fantastic indie releases in the space of nine months.

The Swapper is coming to Steam Thursday, 30th May 2013. It is currently confirmed for Windows and Steam only, but we hope to offer a Mac build, as well as sell via other digital storefronts, on or shortly after release.

So, this is the point where I usually tell you a bit about the game, and what I did on it, but that's all discussed in the narrative design blog I put up at the Facepalm Games blog the other day. Instead I shall tell you what The Swapper feels like to me, just to see if it holds your attention.

First it feels very familiar. Working on The Swapper reminds me of working on Penumbra: both games are puzzlers made by young, four-man teams (at least, I was young when I made Penumbra); and my role on them has been more extensive than, say, on Driver or FTL where I was providing text without the overarching narrative design responsibilities. I'm also reminded of the guessing games we were playing with Penumbra's metacritic score and sales - the former of which was still very much in its infancy at the time. When you're on a AAA or a sequel you have a good idea of what to expect from the critical reaction. You have a basis for comparison. With The Swapper we just don't know, and that's a lot of fun. It's nice that 6 years after Penumbra Valve is actually letting indie games onto its platform as well; that should make a big difference.

All the same, I have no real idea of what to expect - for once the release and review embargo feels like a major event. Our break-even point (the sales we need to pay back indie-fund's investment and begin making profits ourselves) is not massive. In fact I'd be taken aback if we didn't hit it in the first week - but who the hell knows? We're so close to the game now that it's hard to tell. Should we have layered up the story in this way? Should we have made things simpler? Should we have gone with that actor? Things have changed a lot over the course of development, and I no longer have a gut feeling about which way things will go. The unique art style is invisible to me now (and I was never very visually-minded in the first place); the experience of the player as they work through the narrative is hard to synthesise, and we've not had a lot of QA in that area; every word we've heard from critics and journos has been positive, but then previews always are. Next Friday is going to be exciting.

I keep reminding myself that the puzzles, at least, are inventive and satisfying. They are the strongest part of this game, and that's the way it should be. I only hope my writing doesn't let them down. We'll find out soon enough.


  1. Is The Swapper on your radar? Tell me if it is because we're dying to know!

  2. Really love the Penumbra series. Recently, I feel very few games have successfully meshed plot and gameplay; so, from a narrative standpoint, I’m really looking forward to The Swapper. Also: consciousness. That’s some subject to try and tackle. There’s really something scary about it.

    Regardless of how the game turns out, I found your previous work, including the work of this blog, inspirational. Someday I'd like to find my way into this line of work.

  3. Not bad! The choice of names was a little jarring. Couldn't listen to them without picturing David's hair and Dan's beard.

  4. It looks very atmospheric, even considering the current glut of puzzle platformer. The name though...

  5. My gaming budget (250 dollars) has been exhausted for this year, so if I buy it it will be on sale or a bundle, but what I saw on WTF is (totalbiscuit) looked beatiful. I bet he brought you plenty of sales through his video. I hope you guys will be as open about sales as Frictional with Amnesia, it is always interesting to see.

  6. Well, finally I managed to sit down and play it. Actually this happened last Friday night. I almost finished it in one sitting, which is of course testament to how nice the puzzle difficulty curve and of course the story complemented the bits in between puzzles, driving me to continue instead of going to sleep! So full marks to Tom and the rest of the team - this is something that rarely happens to me these days (of course, the game not going on and on and on and the puzzles not getting in the ridiculously hard territory helped!).

    That said, I feel I should complain a bit: Sadly I lost track of the story one point onwards :(. Of course this was partly because I was getting a bit tired while playing, but I would have bounced back if it was possible to replay the spoken dialogue as well as the logs. Sadly I couldn't find any option to allow for this, and as my mind doesn't keep track of names very easily I went ahead half-understanding what was happening (well, I did get most of it in the end, but after pondering for a fair bit). I would eventually replay the game, but forcing me to play it again, repeating all the puzzles, in order to understand the story better? A bit poor I think. Also, having to replay the game from the start to see the alternate ending is a bit of a poor choice also (had to resort to youtube for this).

    Nitpicks aside, I really enjoyed the game! I also hope that time allows you to do a more extensive write-up than the one on facepalm games blog :).