TO AZIMUTH [RE]ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Hi all! Zach from [bracket]games here

First up, I just want to apologize for the lack of communication regarding To Azimuth over the past year. It's been a busy one; after our unfortunately failed Kickstarter campaign, it took some time to figure out how to get To Azimuth back on track. As part of this process, I spent several months working with Digerati on the development of the extended edition of Three Fourths Home and the subsequent ports to Xbox One, PS4, and Vita. And now I'm thrilled to finally announce we're working with Digerati to bring To Azimuth to PC and consoles early next year!

To celebrate the announcement, we've released a new trailer (which you can see up there at the top of the post), and starting this month I'll be spinning the developer blog back up, where I'll be sharing details on the game's progress, screenshots, videos, and more on at least a monthly basis. We're also starting a mailing list, which you can subscribe to below, to keep you up to date on these blogs as well as future announcements. If you'd rather go through Twitter or Facebook, we've got you covered there, too.

Thank you all for your continued interest after that long, long drought of information. I cannot wait to share more over the coming months!

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Weekly Post: December 13, 2014

      Sorry about missing last week's post. It's been a crazy couple of weeks trying to get the Kickstarter for To Azimuth some momentum. At this point, whether we've been able to is up in the air; as of this writing, we're 42 percent funded with only 4 days left in the campaign. We can still make it, but it's going to be a down-to-the-wire success if we do. We still have hope, however! If you want to be a part of getting To Azimuth made, head on over to the Kickstarter and help us out!

     We have a new gameplay video, information on a new character, a group of new screenshots, some context for the setting of To Azimuth, and new music to share this week. It's going to be a long post, and if you've been keeping up on our Kickstarter updates, you're already caught up. If not, kick up your feet and spend some time with the latest news from our game.


New Gameplay Footage


Concept Demo Breakdown

      As a bit of setup, this section of gameplay takes place on a NASA campus. Nate is investigating the area after having spoken to an Engineer who works there named Noah Clarke. According to Noah, Eli had been visiting him his office fairly frequently for the past few weeks. Suspicious of what they might have been discussing, Nate has broken into the campus after-hours.

     First up is a clip that answers a question that we've received a few times: will Nate and Susannah be able to run?

Yes. The answer is yes.

      In the original prototype footage, we used what was essentially a camera zoom to investigate objects more closely. We'll be implementing that particular method as it works, but in larger areas such as this, that much movement would likely serve to make players motion-sick. So we'll also be utilizing a sort of “split-screen” camera to allow closer inspection of objects, especially those that need to be read.

     In this particular instance, searching the visitor's list reveals the office that Eli had been visiting, presumably Noah's office. Investigating this particular document is not the only way for the player to figure out where Eli had been going, however; there are other clues that would eventually point the player in the same direction. 

     Instead of having a static in-game map, we'll instead be moving the camera around to give the player a larger view of the area around them. Here, the camera pulls back to give a view of this entire section of the building. We're also developing several ways for the environment itself to highlight the direction of the next goal.

     In this example, we've used lighting to highlight paths that take the player to their destination. We want to avoid simply marking a specific waypoint. Instead, we're focusing on ways to guide the player toward a destination so we can avoid causing a situation where the player has no idea where they're supposed to be going, while also avoiding an overly straightforward “Point A to Point B to Point C” style of gameplay.

     This clip shows an example of the type of “out-of-conversation” decisions that the player will be making in To Azimuth. At the point of decision, consequences may not be entirely clear. Here, perhaps kicking in the door will make it obvious that someone has broken into the office, which could lead to complications with Noah (the office's tenant). The consequences we'll be integrating are ones that we want to handle mainly in the game's narrative, as opposed to any kind of gameplay-oriented punishment (think stealth missions) or a “Game Over” screen.

     This is another example of the split-screen technique we're using. Here, the player can search for the office listed for “Clarke, N.” Once again, though, this isn't the only way the player can deduce this information.

      This bit has a morsel of story content – Noah obviously knows what Azimuth could refer to. 

Nate using the elevator, because we think it turned out pretty cool.

     This is from the end of the gameplay demo. What it means is... well, we can't really say yet! It certainly is strange, though.


Noah Clarke

 

      Noah is an engineer working for NASA at their field center located an hour out of Musgrove. He was born in Musgrove to a poor family, growing up in a prejudice-steeped time in the area's history. Upon completing high school, he went to college out-of-state, assuming that he would never go back to Alabama. When we was offered a fairly prestigious position with NASA, however, he ended up moving back, a relative stone's throw away from his hometown.

      In the weeks prior to the events of To Azimuth, he struck up a friendship with Eli Windham, with whom he had attended high school. Susannah and Nate believe that he may have some insight into Eli's disappearance, drawing him into the search for the missing Windham sibling.


Screenshots



Musgrove, Alabama

     In To Azimuth, Musgrove is a small town in Northeast Alabama, nestled in the Southern tip of the Appalachian mountains. It is based on a real place, one that I have a lot of personal connections to, called Sand Mountain. The majority of my extended family lives within a 30-mile radius in Northern Alabama (a few outliers congregated in Atlanta), with the group on my Mother's side living on Sand Mountain.

      I spent most of my Summers in Alabama, up in the humid mountains. It's an area that's in my blood, but also one that I haven't seen in years. The region has a very strong history of awful racism and prejudice, a history that still bleeds up from the dirt. It's always difficult to parse the wonderful memories I have of the place with the things that I've heard people say, with the things that happened but were not spoken of.

      I haven't visited the area in the last five years for many reasons, that terrible history prominent among them. Also contributing to that decision is that I'm openly queer, and whenever I have been back, it's like slipping back into an old skin, or an old costume. I'm fearful when I'm there. I don't know if I should still feel that way. Maybe things have changed since I've been back. At the same time, I know places like that are hesitant to change.

     Time seems to slow down in those mountains.

     I've drawn from those memories, from that history, and from my own anxieties, to sculpt Musgrove and its inhabitants. That said, I'm not interested in drawing any of the folks I write in broad strokes – people are multifaceted, flawed, and usually, in the end, have some modicum of goodness to them. Inexcusably awful in some respects, but a person with no redeeming qualities is, in my opinion, uninteresting to watch, let alone interact with in a virtual space.


     Sand Mountain's history is important for To Azimuth beyond just being the inspiration for the backdrop. Its history also played a part in the inspiration for the game's alien abduction storyline. Back in the early 1990's (over a decade after the events of To Azimuth, but I set the game in the era I did for a myriad of reasons), there were reports of strange cattle mutilations on Sand Mountain. I won't get into the specifics of what that entails, but for anyone interested, you can check out this “article,” apparently preserved from the early days of the internet. For anyone who didn't spend an inordinate amount of their childhood reading about UFO and extraterrestrial theories and accounts, cattle mutilation is often attributed to the work of aliens. Reports of cattle mutilation often coincide with UFO spottings and reports of abduction.

     About five years ago, there were new reports of the same kind of cattle mutilations on Sand Mountain. Whether it was the work of copycats, or maybe even the same people from nearly twenty years prior, or maybe even the work of bona fide extraterrestrials (if you want to believe, I suppose), the fact remains that these strange events are unexplained and provide some material ripe for speculation. Vaguely put, To Azimuth might just speculate.


     NASA has quite a history with the region, as well. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama has been instrumental to the United States' space exploration and research endeavors since the 1960's. Huntsville is located a short drive from Sand Mountain, and its analogue in To Azimuth plays an important role in the narrative.


New Music





Weekly Post: November 29, 2014

      We're nearly halfway through our Kickstarter funding period. At about twenty percent funding, we're looking at a real uphill climb to reaching our funding goal, but with all of your help, we think it can still be done! Share To Azimuth on Twitter or Facebook if you can, and just help us spread the word! Word of mouth can take us a long way, and we're relying on all of you to help us get there. We really believe in To Azimuth. We know that we can reach our goal. 


    Due to the holiday here in the States, it's been a fairly slow week on the development front. Since we don't have much to show you that's new, we thought we would share some of To Azimuth in its earliest state to illustrate one of our first design decisions.

    The dynamic environments were one of the first design ideas that we really latched on to. Aside from making the game visually interesting, we found that it also afforded us opportunities to dig into some of the more surreal aspects of the narrative (which we haven't really gotten into yet, as that ventures into spoiler territory). Since settling on the environmental movement as a constant aspect of the game's interiors, we had to start thinking about both camera placement and object placement in our environments a lot more carefully. Instead of modeling a single wall that runs the length of a house, for example, we have to figure out how many pieces we need to separate the wall into, its position in relation to the camera and the other walls it touches, when and how each wall moves, etc.

    The fixed camera angles also meant that, from the basic design work of an environment to actual modeling and integration into Unity, we had to start designing environments that would be navigable from a single direction. This is hardly an obstacle unique to our game; any game has to take into account its camera when designing environments. The extra wrinkle we ran into was that all of these objects also have to move in and out of frame as the camera requires it, *and* throughout this sometimes chaotic-feeling movement, the player character has to remain the camera's main focus. It probably sounds more complicated than it really is, but it proves a challenge, especially in areas that require a lot of "stuff," specifically houses, with all of their accumulation of a person's daily routine/life.


    We have one new screenshot for you this week, though it's an area you've seen before if you've seen the trailer: Eli's living room.

(The TV has been moved out of frame to allow the player to see the coffee table more clearly.)


    For the next week, we'll be crunching to try to get an area up and running for another gameplay video. The area we're working on is Nate-centric and more puzzle-dense than Susannah's house, so the plan is to show some of the environmental puzzle gameplay in time for the last week of the Kickstarter. This is a *ton* of work, however, so while we hope to have something substantial to show off to kick off the last week of funding, it may not be as feature-complete as we are planning. Nevertheless, we'll have something to show then!


    Hope everyone has a great weekend!


    [Side note: Three Fourths Home, our most recently released game, was Greenlit on Steam this week! We'll be working on the Steam release for that over the next few weeks in addition to all of our work on To Azimuth. We have a few ideas to flesh out the game a little more for its big day on Steam, but it shouldn't take away from our focus on To Azimuth too much or for very long. Thanks if you voted for it!]

Weekly Post: November 22, 2014

    Hi there! This is our first weekly dev log. We plan to continue these up until (and perhaps after) the launch of To Azimuth, so take a seat and settle in for a bit, because that's not going to be for quite some time.

     We'll be keeping everyone up to date on the goings-on in the development of To Azimuth with these posts, as well as pointing you to any articles or interviews about the game should they pop up anywhere because we figure, "Hey, if you're reading this blog, you're interested in the game and want to read up on it, right?" 

Right? 

Anywho.

     First up this week is Kickstarter news: as of this writing, To Azimuth is 15% funded! There's still a lot of ground to cover, but we still have 25 days to go before the deadline, so we have plenty (?) of time to make our goal. We need all the help we can get, though, so if you're reading this (and you want to, of course), share the game with your friends! Here's a quick little link to the Kickstarter page to help you (and/or us) out: http://kck.st/14zrK5k

     Also: Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that has already pledged. You are amazing, and I can't express how grateful and thrilled I am that you're excited about To Azimuth, because we are, too!


     Next up, we have a little bit of development news, and while it isn't particularly exciting, we have some screenshots to share! The week (what part of it hasn't been spent frantically trying to figure out how to spread the word about the game, and then feeling bad because there's so many goddamn awesome games out there that we should be paying attention to, but I digress) has been spent working on a couple of environments from the game. We had basic versions of these areas finished before (essentially the geometry and rough palettes), but are going through and setting up the lighting, baking lightmaps, fine-tuning palettes and modeling the more detail-oriented parts of the environments. 

     That said, these areas are still very much works-in-progress; we're not completely happy with them yet. We'll be continuing to add in detail and fine-tune everything until we are either content with their state or we swallow our doubts and resent the little imperfections forever. You know, game development.

So, those screenshots:



     Finally, there were a few write-ups around the web about To Azimuth:

 

     If you come across an article (or if you wrote one and I missed it), shoot me an e-mail and I'll be more than happy to share it!


That's it for this week's post. We'll have more news and whatnot next Saturday! Thanks for reading!

-Zach



 

To Azimuth Announced with Kickstarter, Steam Greenlight Campaigns

Zach here! Me and the others at [bracket]games are incredibly excited to announce our new game, To Azimuth. So, what is To Azimuth? First, watch this trailer (or don't, and skip ahead, no one is stopping you):


Okay, so that's cool, but what the Hell is To Azimuth?

Quickly put, it's an alien abduction mystery adventure game set in Alabama in 1978. For the longer version, check out our Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight campaign pages, or the home page on this website (they all contain the same information, really). 

There are a whole bunch of screenshots over on the aptly named screenshot page, as well.

We've also posted footage of the prototype, which I'll include below because it's easy for me and make things simpler for you:

If any of this sounds like a game you can get behind, please consider heading over to our Kickstarter page to back us and vote for To Azimuth on Steam Greenlight!

Cheers,

Zach Sanford