For a decade, Earth has been at the mercy of a portal which has raged with impunity and transformed the planet into an ashen wasteland. The portal has ushered forth monstrous entities which have roamed the Earth, devouring its inhabitants.
Ashen Rift is a first-person action adventure game currently in development by Pyroclastic Entertainment, Inc. The gameplay is focused on the relationship between you and your only friend, a canine named Bounder, who together are on a journey to the Rift to save their world. The game will explore what life is like in a dying world.
We sat down with the creator Barry Collins, who answered a few of our questions.
XP4T: How has the Kickstarter experience influenced the direction of the game so far?
Barry: It hasn’t really changed the direction of the game, but more the visuals and our presentation method. Looking AAA but being Indie is a hard thing to pull off in the public eye, and as it turns out – somewhat of a bad thing even. If you look at Noct, Hyper Light Drifter and all the other wonderful indie offerings lately, Ashen Rift is neither pixely nor colourful… So I’d say it helped me snap out of the drab Gears of War look and really helped me to explore and find a really fun and more immediately “indie” look for Ashen Rift while still striving for high end graphics.
Regarding presentation – with things like Greenlight and Kickstarter as our current means of getting in front of people, we’re fighting against the 20 second attention span of gamers/backers, and so we’ve really condensed what we say and what we show to more amped-up moments. Rather than showing a circle menu in-game of the player saying “bounder, come here, be quiet” we just show the hero hushing bounder in a dramatic moment. Says the same thing but the cinematic method is more eye popping.
XP4T: Will Ashen Rift be solely single player? Or do you hope for multiplayer gameplay as well?
Well, Ashen Rift to me is an 8 part story. This is part one, and it represents about 10 years of story and an entire earth in varying stages of war/decay/upheaval etc, so to my mind, depending on success, there is plenty of room for Multiplayer, and I would love to do a multiplayer component set in the AR world. From holding off feeders, to being a part of a faction warring against another faction. The possibilities for some really AR specific multiplayer stuff is there, that’s for sure 🙂
XP4T: What games have influenced you as a developer, and why?
To be honest, I tend to work and not play… If I played, we wouldn’t have made it on Kickstarter when we did. But the games I do go back to either in video, or by jumping in and playing are games like HeXen, Half-Life and Quake 1. These games are to me very atmospheric…The crumbling rock sounds in HeXen, the blowing leaves, the bird sounds, it’s simple but really captured my imagination. Quake 1’s foggy, limited 256 color palette, monsters that grab their throat and collapse to their knees when you shoot them… Again, subtle stuff, but it’s what captured my imagination when I was young and made me want to make a mature version of that.
I’d say movies are a larger influence for me at this point than games, like Into The Wild, The Road, The Walking Dead, even – subtly – Sons of Anarchy (hah).
XP4T: Will there be NPCs that can join you? Will they be playable?
NPCs aside from Bounder, yes, but how they fit into the story and your journey will vary greatly depending where you are in the story. Part one is much more of a mellow story as regards being social.
XP4T: Tell us more about the Feeders.
More about the Feeders, eh… So, the energies/beings on the other side of the Rift which are spilling over to earth are mutating people… and no, not in a nuclear blistery kind of way, but in a sense that they are turning people into something new, something eldritch and otherworldly. Depending on the person and their proximity to the Rift, they can go from anything like what you see in the trailer to beings which are far, far more corrupted and distant from their original form.
We’re going to get Women, Children and many more Animals into the mix of feeder types. Right now we’re just laying the ground work for them being able to react to sights and sounds to varying degrees. You’ll learn more about them through the Hero and as the game progresses. You’ll encounter healthier and more active Feeders as well as the more starved/slow Feeders you’ve seen in the video.
XP4T: Bounder sounds like a great ally to have, and you have to rely heavily on his instincts. Can you tell us a bit about the AI behind the companion?
We’re still, as I said, developing the AI backbone for all creatures, which handles Listening, looking and reacting to physical stimuli, and we’ll be integrating smell as well.
You can interact with Bounder via a circle menu for issuing quick commands. Depending on the situation, he may or may not react well to your commands, like any dog. So having Bounder around can be a great help, but it’ll also be something you need to be careful with. Don’t just wander up to a Feeder you don’t want to be seen by without telling Bounder to Be Quiet, which will reduce his chance of flipping out at the Feeder and blowing your cover. He won’t be a pain in the butt more than any dog is, but he certainly can mess up your plans if you’re not careful. He’s mostly a blessing and partly a curse, but you love him and are better off with him than without him. Having Bounder around is part of the thing which keeps the Hero’s mind sharp enough and heart open enough to want to try and save the world while resisting the corruptive will of the Rift.
XP4T: Is Bounder based on a real-life dog?
Yes actually 🙂 My girlfriend and her father (who is a veterinarian) both volunteer with the SPCA’s “Charlie’s food bank” program in Vancouver’s Down Town East Side (DTES), which for those of you who don’t know is one of the most poverty-stricken (and all of the obvious issues that come along with that) areas in north America. Charlie’s food bank provides free food and veterinarian services to homeless and poverty-stricken people with animals.
So, every single time my Girlfriend would return from Charlie’s she would go on and on and on about her favorite dog, Bounder and how he’s doing. I was eventually struggling to find a good name for the dog in Ashen Rift, and she came home and lit up about Bounder once again, and instantly I knew that would be the name.
The real-life Bounder is actually in need of some operations and I really hope Ashen Rift can eventually help with situations like that, and many many many many more. Bounder Ended up (unlike the real Bounder) as a Pit Bull, as a direct response to the disproportionately bad reputation the Breed has. I’ve used the Ashen Rift Facebook page and some of my own money to promote dogs in Kill shelters which need to find homes, and I’ll often share the dogs in need of adoption and target market the Facebook ads to the area around the shelter.
2,800 Pitties get put down a day in America. Yet there are only 1,000 dog attacks a day in America. So right away you can see that way more than half of those dogs could not have even had the chance to be ‘bad’, or deserving of being put down. Plus, look at how small the Pitbull population relative to all other breeds is… So even if you took the hugely inaccurate and skewed statistics into account and added 50% more on to the pile, due to mass fear of the breed, then you’re still looking at the systematic slaughter of a dog breed which is hugely disproportionate to the amount of attacks that are even physically possible. These are 2,800 Pit Bull and Pit Bull-like dogs which are puppies, family dogs, strays and in some rare cases, horribly abused dogs, which deserve rescue and a good life but are instead being put down. I want Ashen Rift to be able to put a dent in those numbers by supporting rescue organizations, helping take on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), which is largely to blame for these and many other dogs’ deaths. This is why I chose a pittie for your new best friend 🙂 There are people and dogs in need of help, and I really want to help. Homelessness is a problem which hits very very very close to home for me, and I really hope we can turn Ashen Rift into the sort of thing which can help in some way.
XP4T: What game engine are you using, and why?
We’re using Unity3D, and the reason why is its flexibility. It’s very powerful, as you can see by looking at Ashen Rift, and the community of developers supporting it on the Asset store enrich it SO much.
XP4T: Who came up with the concept for the game, or was it a collaborative effort?
It was me, I was experimenting with Unity3D and decided I wanted to see what happened if I tried to make a QuakeLike game with my artistic spin. Before I knew it I had a dog following me in the game and I was hooked instantly.
XP4T: What games are you playing now?
That’s a great question… I rarely take the time to play games due to my busy schedule making them… or riding motorcycles… The most recent games I’ve played are The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Noct by my friend Chris. Really great games!
For more info on Ashen Rift, check out their Kickstarter page.