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.