Developer Double Fine's "Amnesia Fortnight" program is an interesting process, which stops work on existing projects and lets anybody in the company pitch a game, with the most liked ones being prototyped with the possibility of become Double Fine's next retail release.
Past Amnesia Fortnights have seen the birth and growth of many success stories, such as the quirky adventure role-playing game Costume Quest. It's a bold and wonderful concept in an industry beset by big budget brands and precious little new ideas, giving the time and resources to what are essentially passion projects.
One of the most intriguing things to come out of this year's Amnesia Fortnight is last year's pitch, Brazen. After spending some time with the protoype, I contacted project lead Brad Muir. Below are some of my own thoughts on Brazen along with some insight from Muir himself.
Brazen is Amnesia Fortnight's hidden gem
Muir describes Brazen as a "cooperative multiplayer online action game where players battle giant creatures in a world inspired by classic Hollywood fantasy films." So, imagine a world where you and a group of friends head out into the wilderness to hunt down the kind of giant semi-mythical creatures that used to grace the sliver screen.
We're talking claymation beasties of absurd size, co-op combat, and a touch of that Double Fine humor, animated in the style of Ray Harryhausen's classic stop-motion technique Dynamation (used in classic films Clash of the Titans and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) — both of which Muir credits as early examples of media that fired his imagination.
Heavily emphasising the group aspect of the gameplay with creatures just being too big and too much for one person alone, thus necessitating solid teamwork to defeat, Muir cites seemingly disparate games as influences. "Other than Monster Hunter, I would really point to Dark Souls as being an influence … . Rediscovering the exhilarating feel of beating a really tough boss battle was amazing … . I'm also influenced by faster-paced brawlers as well. I love God of War's accessibility and Bayonetta's precision."
He also mentions that the hub for Brazen in between battles would be a giant ship where you can mingle with other players, brag about the beasties you've managed to kill, and dusplay defeated creatures' heads as trophies.
Muir also wants to make the loot aspect of the game intersting to keep things challenging. "Take the Gorgoth from our demo, for example. His tail could be weak to slashing damage, so if all of the players take slashing weapons and focus on his tail, you can sever it. But by doing so, the Gorgoth grows three tails in its place and gets a couple of brand new attacks, making the fight much harder to complete … . If you kill the Gorgoth after severing its tail, you'll carve out some sweet, special parts to craft some powerful loot!"
Imagine a world where you can party up on a giant floating advert for extreme taxidermy, surrounded by the stuffed heads of absurdly large monsters and — after buying a few upgrades — head into the wilderness and see what horrible beasties you and your friends can find.
Muir envisions "the game being a huge, expandable array of islands with a massive amount of creatures and gear" that "would have a great persistent feel where players are forming guilds to destroy the high-end creatures, and we're always increasing the level cap, shepherding players through the new content." Muir points to both League of Legends and Team Fortress 2 as examples of continuous development that he'd like to emulate for Brazen.
In the current protoype, three available classes are available: a "Beerzerker," which is sort of a drunken Monk whose power depends on how drunk you can get without overdoing it; the "Stalwart," a large, heavily armored man whose only weapon is a giant shield used to block and attack with slow powerful swings; and a "Waracle," an archer with a wonderful twist — as the class description says, "The Waracle is a master of all weapons, but prefers to fire them out of a bow."
Thats right. Swords, axes, and maces can be shot from your bow in a sort of light/medium/heavy attack mechanic. During my time with the class, this resulted in me giving a giant two-headed turtle an impromtu beard made of maces … followed by me giggling like a child.
These rough classes — coupled with some simple stamina-meter-based dashing and dodging mechanics, chuggable health potions, and big attack patterns to spot and exploit — make it easy to enjoy the protoype and see its potential.
Double Fine opens up Amnesia Fortnight to the public
This year's Amnesia Fortnight sees Double Fine opening their previously internal process to the outside world — with a small "pay what you want" fee system that you can split between Double Fine, Humble Bundle, and charity Child's Play — acting as a gateway for people who are genuinely interested in the process.
Week one sees gamers voting on their favorite concepts from a pool of 23 ideas fresh from the minds at Double Fine, with the top four being taken to the prototype stage. Weeks two and three see this process livestreamed for your viewing pleasure (starting today at 10 a.m. PST), hopefully offering up unqiue insight into the game development process albeit at an accelerated pace.
At the end of the three weeks, contributers will be able to download the finished prototypes, either directly or through Steam. Three protoypes of former Ammnesia Fortnight games are available to contributers now: Costume Quest, Happy song, and — for those who donate more than the average (currently $7.13 as of this writing) — Brazen.
Having a developer open its doors in this way is unprecedented, and it's going to be extremely interesting to see the process as concepts, such as Brazen, are turned into prototypes and hopefully fully fledged titles based on the desires of voting onlookers.
While Brazen itself was an unfufilled concept from last year's Ammnesia Fortnight, we can have hope for the game yet. As Muir said, "The best thing that people can do to help is to buy into our current Amnesia Fortnight bundle, download the prototype, play it with their friends, and discuss it on the Internet!"