Pixel Perfect: The Visual Style of The Last Goddess

The art style of The Last Goddess uses a retro-inspired pixel art feel. Why was this look chosen for the game?

Seiko and Colin walking to a cafe in The Last Goddess.

Seiko and Colin walking to a cafe in The Last Goddess.

Here's what the Kickstarter page has to say about graphics for The Last Goddess:

There's something about this art style, reminiscent of early computer and console games, that I find really appealing. The graphics are detailed enough to make out what's being represented—a tree is obviously a tree, a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee—but there are still gaps, and that's where our imaginations start to fill in the missing pieces. It's a bit like the brain's response to reading a good novel: kind of magical, and I wanted some of that magic in this game.

In choosing a look for The Last Goddess, I was heavily influenced by the graphical style of early computer adventure games from the late 1980s. The art isn't completely abstract (unlike some games, that used symbols or letters to represent characters and objects), but it still isn't too detailed. Of course, this was due to technical limitations of the time. Limited disk storage, small color palettes, and limited video memory constrained what could be done. Below are some examples from these games.

King's Quest II (1985) from Sierra On-Line.

King's Quest II (1985) from Sierra On-Line.

Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter (1986) from Sierra On-Line.

Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter (1986) from Sierra On-Line.

One thing you'll notice in the screenshots above is that there are a limited number of colors in use—sixteen, in fact, was the limit. One method to "cheat" this limited number of colors was developed by Mark Ferrari (working at Lucasfilm Games) and was called dithering. Below are some examples of dithering as used in computer games of that era.

Loom (1990) from Lucasfilm Games.

Loom (1990) from Lucasfilm Games.

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) from Lucasfilm Games.

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) from Lucasfilm Games.

Of course, for The Last Goddess, we aren't limiting ourselves to only sixteen colors or 360K of disk storage. We're taking advantage of modern graphical hardware—mixing the best of old and new to make magic.

Driving through Central Florida in The Last Goddess.

Driving through Central Florida in The Last Goddess.

The Last Goddess is now on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight. We appreciate your support in helping us finish this game.

Our Budget Explained

One question I've received often since launching the Kickstarter is “Why is your funding goal so high?” and now I'd like to spend a little time answering this. Although the goal seems high at first, if you break it down into each expense that must be covered during the game's development, it really isn't that much money for a game that several people will be working on over the course of nearly 18 months.

Here's the budget breakdown chart from The Last Goddess Kickstarter page:

Let's tackle the bottom section—Campaign Fees & Expenses—first. The Kickstarter fees and Payment Processing fees are fixed, percentage-based fees. The Taxes expense is what I estimate I'll need to pay as government taxes (in the United States). The Backer Rewards expense includes the costs associated with producing (and shipping) the rewards for backers. (For example, if a backer is supposed to get a printed poster, then I have to pay for the poster to be printed and mailed to that person.) All of the expenses in the Campaign category account for 38 percent of the total funding goal.

The top section of the chart—Development—includes the costs associated with actually making the game. Programming includes all technical work to make the game run. Point-and-click adventure games typically (and The Last Goddess is no exception) require a lot of scripting for each room, puzzle, and character that the player interacts with. Art expenses include all the costs for producing background, character, user interface, and object artwork. This also includes any animation frames that may be required. Game Design expenses account for tasks such as final puzzle design, game structure refinement, as well as dialogue writing and editing. In adventure games there's typically a lot of dialogue that needs to be written, and a portion of this expense accounts for that work.

Music & Sound expenses are fairly straightforward. What you hear in the game is paid for out of this budget category. Some music, like the song you hear in the Kickstarter video, are licensed (by paying fees). New music will be created for much of the game's soundtrack. Sound effects and environmental sounds will need to be added to the game. Quality Assurance & Testing expenses account for making sure that technical issues with the game (freezes, crashes, unsolvable puzzles, etc.) are caught prior to release. Together, Development expenses account for 62 percent of the total funding goal. So, the budget for developing the game is actually $93,000—not the full $150,000 funding goal amount.

Pre-production for The Last Goddess began nearly two years ago on a part-time basis. If we reach the Kickstarter goal, development for the game will continue full-time until the final release in March 2018. I've tried to keep costs as low as possible by carefully controlling the scope of the game, and by keeping the development team small. I believe our funding goal for the Kickstarter is reasonable and realistic for the game's scope and development timeframe. If you have any questions or concerns, please email me, and I'll try my best to address to them.

Thank you,
Dean Sullivan
Twitter: @parallaxdreams 

Kickstarter Primer

The Last Goddess has launched on Kickstarter, and the campaign runs until Oct. 29th. The game is a squad-based point-and-click adventure mystery set in near-future Florida.

For those of you who may not already be familiar with Kickstarter, this platform empowers artists and makers to pitch their project or product ideas to the Internet and ask for the seed money they need to develop and produce their projects. This is called crowdfunding, and it has been revolutionary, especially for independent artists and makers. Before Kickstarter existed, the only way to fund game development was to pitch to game publishers. If publishers weren't interested, or if the genre wasn't currently popular, the game couldn't get the funding and wouldn't be made. Now, thanks to Kickstarter, several point-and-click adventure games have received community support. These range from projects by industry veterans like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert, to those from newer studios like Imagos Softworks

People who support an artist’s project are called backers. Most campaigns allow backers to choose from a number of reward levels, including the product itself, plus extras like the soundtrack, t-shirts, posters, and even putting your own stamp on the game. Check out our reward levels here.  

Here’s the thing though, Kickstarter is an all or nothing crowdfunding platform. That means if we don’t reach our $150,000 goal, we receive nothing. Backers who have pledged to support The Last Goddess will only be charged if the project fully funds. We have a total of 30 days from our launch date to raise the entire amount. That’s a big challenge for an independent game maker, especially for a new, relatively unknown studio. We don’t yet have an established audience, and we’re doing everything we can to get the word out.

It’s a big goal to be sure, but we believe we can do it!  Other independent game makers have come before us and proved that point-and-click adventure fans show up on Kickstarter to support new games being made. We’ve worked hard to design a game that we think fans will love, and can’t wait for the opportunity to further develop it and see it through to completion. Won’t you join us on Kickstarter and back The Last Goddess today?  

Meet the Cast

The Last Goddess is a new squad-based, point and click adventure mystery video game based in near future Florida. The game features an unlikely team of four characters:

  • Tamara is a doctoral candidate in Mythology and Folklore at Tampa Bay University. Her dissertation committee chair is missing, and that's a big problem  
  • Carmen is an investigator from the US Department of Education who has been sent in to investigate the professor’s disappearance.
  • Seiko is a senior graphic designer who along with Colin, an overly confident yet hapless intern, get caught up in the search.  

These characters must work together to find the missing professor and solve the mystery of The Last Goddess.

We asked Dean Sullivan, the Project Lead for the game, some questions.

What was your inspiration for the story and these characters?
In addition to playing a lot of point-and-click adventure games, I have also played many Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs). My JRPG influences include Chrono Trigger, the Final Fantasy series, and Persona 4. The common element in all these games is that a party forms once several different characters begin working together to solve a mystery or face a threat. I think these teams work best when each character has a distinct personality, and that’s what I’ve tried to achieve with each of the games that I’ve worked on. For Adventures in Research, we worked to make sure that each student character was unique in some way. I think that’s important in adventure games as well: you can’t have one-note characters.  So in The Last Goddess, there are four characters who all bring something unique to the table. For example, Seiko is mid-career and wondering what’s next, while Colin is fresh out of school, overconfident, and lacking experience. Tamara has spent years working towards earning her doctorate and navigating the bureaucracy of a university. Carmen has had to become very resourceful, as shifting government priorities have led to severe budget cuts for her department.

For the story, I wanted something that was reminiscent of the type of plot structure you might find in an 80s movie like the original Ghostbusters.  Ordinary people get caught up in something fantastical, but the world and characters are still grounded in a reality that we can all recognize.  

What do you like about the team dynamic vs. a single protagonist? 
For the player, I think it can make the game feel more dynamic and less isolating.  There are certainly many classic point-and-click adventure games with a lone protagonist, just as there are many successful films where the main character has an interior monologue throughout. Ensemble cast films have a very different feel, and I wanted to try to bring that element to adventure games.

I think modern life sometime lends itself to a feeling of isolation. As adults we work many hours each day and then there isn’t a lot of time left to spend with friends. I hope this game helps my audience enjoy the feeling of getting into an interesting adventure with their friends.

 

 

Meet the Game Designer: Dean Sullivan

September 29, 2016 is the launch date for the Kickstarter Campaign to fund the development of The Last Goddess. The Last Goddess is a squad-based point-and-click adventure mystery game set in near-future Florida. Dean Sullivan, the game designer, shares some background about his experience in making video games and what led him to starting this new project.

Have you made any other games before? What were they?
Yes, I have made other games before. The Last Goddess is my third game, and prior to this I worked on Adventures in Research (for which I served as Project Lead and programmer). Adventures in Research is a choose-your-own-adventure style game, intended to teach undergraduates about information literacy. It has been used for several semesters in a 2 credit-hour course at the University of West Georgia.

My first game, Ozzie and the Quantum Playwright, was submitted for my undergraduate honors thesis project in 2001, and released online for free in 2002. It was a point-and-click adventure set at a university. It was a very ambitious project for its schedule and budget, but despite this, has some fans (there are videos and reviews online for it). There were many lessons learned during development of this game. 

                                   Title screen for The Last Goddess

                                   Title screen for The Last Goddess

What inspired you to make The Last Goddess?
About a year after I finished Adventures in Research, I was ready to make another game. Inspired by a recent river tubing trip, I wanted to make a game about a group of professional river tube racers. I worked on this game for a few months, but it just wasn’t fun to play, and I felt that it failed to capture what I found appealing about river tubing. I decided that my strengths lie in creating narrative-driven games, so I started to think of a story that would provide a strong foundation for a point-and-click adventure game. The story of The Last Goddess was something that I had written bits and pieces of over the years, not really sure where it would lead. Once I started adapting it into a video game, it all really started to come together.

One thing that I want to accomplish with The Last Goddess is not have just one protagonist (or character that the player controls). I want a team of characters that will form over the early parts of the story, and then provide a kind of ensemble cast feeling. Even at the current stage of development, I am confident that The Last Goddess brings new things to the point-and-click adventure game genre.

Don’t forget to join us on Kickstarter on September 29, 2016!  Help us spread the word by signing up for our Thunderclap campaign http://thndr.me/VlZgf1
When you sign up, Thunderclap will post one scheduled message on the 29th to your social media networks letting people know that the Kickstarter has launched.  Thank you for your interest and support in the game!