November 7, 2011 12:00 PM | John Polson
Chevy Ray Johnston has pulled back the curtain on his latest project, a 2D side-scroller called Hollow's Deep. Johnston shares with IndieGames the finer details not shared in his recent blog post that unveiled the game.
He says that players primarily (but not exclusively) use Ruinn, the woman depicted in the artwork after the jump. Hollow's Deep plays like a platformer, he tells IndieGames, "so imagine Limbo, Shank, Braid, those sorts of games, where the player runs across the environment. She's very agile, and the game is meant to be very immersive, so she can run, jump, grab ledges and pull herself up, dive into an evasive roll, and when danger is near, a sword at her belt she can fend off adversaries with."
"The game is very moment-to-moment," Johnston continues, "so you won't be facing off hordes of goblins or undead. In fact, when you do fight, it will be quick and brutal, and you'll spend your time defending others as well as being on the offensive. Lots of the time you'll be exploring and pushing forward, keeping your group together, and parts of the game will also be dedicated to a secondary scenario in which more about the story, the world, and the characters and their roles are revealed to you."
The art's style and themes of the game world take inspiration from Romanian folklore and history, shares Johnston. "Many of the events, situations, and people in the story are drawn from my own life and nightmares I had as a child," he writes on his blog. However, he states it's not as "emo" as it sounds.
The entire game is painted 2D, including all the animated characters, Johnston tells IndieGames. The in-game graphics presently look like this:
Johnston describes what will be the final product's visuals. "There are layers upon layers of graphics, trees, brush, and even other areas to explore as well, and it looks beautiful as they all scroll by. When the game is done, it'll look even better [than above], with more effects, subtle lighting, moving, living creatures, and particles bringing the scene to life."
The project is definitely the largest for Johnston. He shares with IndieGames that most of his friends are working on larger projects, so it rubbed off on him. "When I went to Pax 2011 in Seattle, Derek [Yu] and Andy [Hull] were showing off Spelunky, Retro Affect were working on Snapshot, Closure is nearing completion, and these games all had big, beautiful graphics and lots of depth. So I kicked myself in the butt and decided to start finally working on Hollow's Deep, a game and story I've had in my head for about 6 years now."
Johnston says he is not starting from scratch, transitioning from smaller games. "I find I have a very deep and very thorough understanding of game systems and am able to immediately and efficiently abstract ideas and gameplay elements into code. I find I can work on a very complex coding problem for hours, weaving multiple different systems together, press 'build' and the whole things just works seamlessly. Not always, naturally, but way more often than it used to for me."
However, there are some challenges that lie ahead, as he sometimes feels that coding, writing, and managing the whole project is too much at times. "Sometimes my team members end up waiting several extra days for an updated to-do list, or proper feedback on something, because I'm in the middle of coding something big and can't get my mind out of it. They've been amazingly patient with me though, and always find something to work on while I try to gather my thoughts."
He learned so far that he needs to focus on regular builds, milestones, and keeping updated information about the game and assets in one place. "Not just for their sake, but my own as well."
Speaking of Johnston's team, Josh Whelchel will helm the music, and HyperDuck SoundWorks is helping with sound direction and effects. Flashbang Studios's Ben Ruiz is handling the animation, and Sara Gross is the game's artist.
Hollow's Deep is being written in C# using XNA, making it a PC-playable title. It may also become an Xbox-playable title, with possible multi-platform ports. Johnston tells IndieGames that Deep will be in alpha and beta in 2012, and he aims for a finished product by the end of next year.
Readers can find out more about aptly named main character Ruinn, all tough, bitter, and broken, and more on Johnston's blog.