Source is an ambitious game where you play as a bioluminescent firefly in a rich 3D environment.
It’s one of more than a hundred indie games coming to the PlayStation 4. But the remarkable thing about Source is that it is being built by a two-person team, husband and wife Brian McRae and Anna Gambal-McRae. Two veterans of the triple-A console game industry, they formed their indie game studio Fenix Fire in 2010. Trained as artists, they’ve been making ends meet with work-for-hire games as well as their own indie titles. I got a preview of the pretty game at an event at Sony’s U.S. game headquarters in San Mateo, Calif.
Most indie titles use a retro 2D art style out of necessity because 3D games are hard to do without a lot of training. But McRae said that he has been making 3D games for most of his career and that it is a lot easier for him to make them. McRae hopes that distinction will help the game stand out. Corona, Calif.-based Fenix Fire has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 to finish the development of Source. So far, it has raised $15,130 and has 10 days to go.
“We don’t have a hundred people behind the scenes,” he said. “We have art that comes together quickly. We can make a room full of boxes that are uniformly texture-mapped. It’s not that difficult to put together, but we refine it with lighting and colors.”
McRae wrote a lot of mini graphics programs, dubbed shaders, that deliver translucent effects, where you can see through objects. He and Gambal-McRae are building the game with the Unity 3D game engine, and they’re pushing effects like depth of field, where one object in the foreground is in focus and objects in the background are fuzzy.
“We have had to write a lot of shaders to get this to look right, but I’ve been writing shaders since the original Xbox,” said McRae, who was once the lead environment artist on Blizzard’s never-shipped StarCraft: Ghost game. “This isn’t our first rodeo. We do some smart reuse, spending two days creating a rock and then making use of it in a lot of different places.”
They previously made the games Roboto, Gates of Osiris, and Smash Derby.
Source came from an inspiration that McRae had while doing yard work. He saw a hummingbird move from flower to flower, and he thought it would be a cool game mechanic. He then envisioned the art style and started to work on it.
In the game, Source is the name of the villain, an ominous evil that is “ripping the world of light apart.” You play the last firefly, which can exchange energy with the plants in the environment, and your goal is to put a stop to the Source. You have to figure out puzzles, explore strange and beautiful lands, and fight powerful creatures.
It is a Metroid-like action-adventure game for the PS4, PC, and Xbox One. McRae hopes it will ship in the middle of 2015.