Chasm is a game for those still lost in the world of cartridges and 16-bit dungeon crawlers.
Discord Games plays to your sense of gaming nostalgia. They specialize in putting a modern spin on 2D games and Chasm looks like a worthy attempt at that. The studio needs funding to finish the project though and they turned to Kickstarter for help. Chasm has $88,355 in funding and needs $150,000 by May 11.
Developer James Petruzzi understands what a lot of old school gamers are looking for because he is one of them. “I started playing NES when I was four or five, and then got a Super Nintendo when I was eight,” Petruzzi said, “There’s a lot of nostalgia there for me.”
Petruzzi described Chasm as “Metroidvania” which is a combination of two popular 16-bit games Metroid and Castlevania. The gameplay and atmosphere of this game are Castlevania with the medieval weapon and the story. Players take control of a lone soldier fighting through mines that are infested by undead evil. The level design and camera is similar to Metroid with the side scrolling action and platforming.
“Most of our biggest fans right now are people that are really into Metroidvania style games like the portable Castlevania games, Metroid, and some others. Konami has really cut down on their 2D games, the Castlevania series in particular, so we’re trying to fill that gap there,” Petruzzi said. “Considering the PC market is wide-open for these types of games, there’s not much competition currently. It’s made it really easy so far to market the game.
Discord games is definitely going for a retro feel, but they don’t want Chasm to feel old either. Petruzzi said that they have added many visual effects like pixel physics, particles and unlimited background layers to enhance the experience.
“There have been a lot of advances in game design in the last 20 years, so we’re analyzing what can be improved while still keeping it authentic,” Petruzzi said.
There are also gameplay elements in Chasm that are inspired by modern games. The variety of weapons, shields and spell books go beyond any 16-bit title. The game also includes the ability to auto-equip gear, more complex moves and interaction with the environment.
Petruzzi said that there are a number of different style of melee weapons to use, that can be paired with defensive and magic items. Bosses and other enemies will be susceptible to different damage types in the game, which gives players options on how they will tackle certain enemies.
“We want to give players a lot of options to find the combinations that suit them best. It’s always tough in a game like this where you don’t have to find any particular weapon on a playthrough, but we’re definitely going to incorporate different damage types,” he said. “For instance, an eyeball enemy will be more susceptible to slice damage than a rock monster. So some bosses may be way more susceptible to lightning damage for instance, of course these things you will have to figure out on your own.”
One of the hallmarks of old school games is how challenging they are and Chasm tries to strike a balance with hard core gamers and others who simply want to experience the game. There is a normal mode, where gamers can keep multiple save files and a Hardcore mode complete with permadeath. On Hardcore mode, players will get one save file that is erased the moment you die.
Chasm rewards players for exploration. Much of the story will be revealed through journals and notes scattered throughout the levels. There is also plenty of loot and even hidden characters to find. To keep the experience fresh, all the levels will randomly generated.
Petruzzi said that the levels are hand designed then procedural generation decides how the map is assembled from these hand-crafted rooms. The rooms are then filled with random enemies and treasures.
“We’re trying to design it so you can have a great experience the first time through, but your second and third might be very different,” Petruzzi said. “You’re not always guaranteed to see some rooms.
The Kickstarter funds will go toward paying the five professionals working at Discord and accounts for the $30,000 in Kickstarter fees and rewards offered to donors. “Even if you just split it evenly between us without accounting all the other expenses besides salary, we’ll be working at near minimum wage,” Petruzzi said. “Games are very expensive to make, and if we were an established studio paying normal rates, it would probably be closer to $250,000.”
Donating to the Kickstarter includes rewards of, a DRM free copy of the game, special weapons, an artbook and even the chance to become apart of the game as a non playable character. Petruzzi said that the free copy will be for PC because that is the only platform they can guarantee it will come out on.
Discord is also exploring several different platforms for releasing Chasm. The game is entered in Steam Greenlight, which is a service that allows users to vote on which titles deserve to come out on Steam. Petruzzi would not rule out a console release, but the team is mainly focused on developing the game on PC.
He said, “ If the game is successful, we’ll have the means to port it to anything under the sun with a d-pad. We’d rather just focus on making an awesome game first.”