2017 was quite an exciting year for us at Breaking Walls! Looking back at how we started the year, it's crazy to see all the progress that has taken place over the last twelve months. As we kick off 2018, we figured we'd share with you our highlight reel for the year that just went by. Hang on, you're in for quite the ride!
We announced the cast of animals that will feature in our game, AWAY: The Survival Series. Starting with the Sugar Glider, we aimed to get a little bit of everything in our cast, from land to the sea to the sky. Of course, let us know in the comments if there are any other animals you'd like to see in AWAY!
AWAY was Greenlit on Steam! Thanks to our community's awesome support, it took only a couple weeks for us to get the mythical "Green Light" on our project.
February was also the month where we unveiled our first vulture companion prototype in virtual reality. It's the first time our team had ever coded something like that, so we were pretty happy that it actually worked well enough to use in this video!
Since early last year, we've had the pleasure to partner with Mike Raznick to create AWAY's very own orchestral soundtrack. For those of you who don't know him, Mike has worked on countless major soundtracks, ranging from games like Resident Evil, Call of Duty, and Destiny to movies such as Mad Max, Transformers, and Planet Earth II.
He brings his experience as a multi-award winning composer and audio director to the AWAY series, and last April we finally got to hear the first live recording from his talented group of musicians in Budapest, Hungary!
In case you want to learn more about how video game soundtracks are designed, Mike also wrote a fascinating Medium post that delves into the intricacies of composing the soundtrack for AWAY. You can find it here.
We can't wait to share the rest of AWAY's music with you guys, but in the mean time, this teaser will have to do ;)
We kicked off the month of June with AWAY's brand new Facebook page! If you want to stay in the loop with our game's progress, that's the place to go. (And if you want to support us, a simple like can go a long way!)
June was also the month where we announced the main character for the first episode of AWAY, the Sugar Glider! Since we're building an animal-themed adventure game, we wanted to pick a protagonist that could either fly, climb, or run on land... and then we realized there's an animal that can do all three! Whether it's escaping predators on land, climbing trees, or gliding through the air, this nimble little marsupial can do it all.
It's also quite interesting to see how much progress we've made on our Sugar Glider since then. What started off as a pretty rough model has now turned into a much more fleshed-out character (literally). Even now, we're still not quite done tweaking it, but perhaps that says more about our perfectionist habits...
In July, we partnered with the Phi Centre to test our brand new VR Playable Teaser in public for the first time at Startupfest Montréal 2017. We had an absolute blast all week, and hundreds of festival-goers got the chance to try out our game, some of whom were trying VR for the first time! The response was overwhelmingly positive, and it launched us into the second half of the year with a ton of optimism.
This month was a huge one for prototypes: We went for the one-two punch, sharing both our very first Sugar Glider prototype and our long-awaited Playable Teaser in VR in the span of a week!
On the one hand, our Sugar Glider prototype was extremely rudimentary. We released an open arena with a few trees, hills, and blocks (and a secret room!) so that we could gather our community's feedback on our gameplay mechanics. As many of you probably know by now, developing video games is a long, arduous process that involves tons and tons of tweaking.
Out of the 3,000 players who tried out the prototype, we got an impressive 300 responses to our feedback form, and we used these responses to improve the movement, camera, and controls of our Sugar Glider. We actually have another one of these prototypes coming up soon, so keep an eye out for more info at the end of the week!
On the other hand, our VR Playable Teaser was the fruit of months of labour. Featuring the Bearded Vulture, it gave players a sneak preview of what the AWAY series would feel like. Expansive environments, beautiful visuals, an epic soundtrack, and documentary-esque narration made for an intensely immersive experience, and confirmed to us that we're building something special.
If you have an HTC Vive, you can download the teaser and try it out yourself here. And if you don't, well, this trailer will have to do for now!
Lots of events were on the menu for the month of September as we attended both DreamHack Montréal and ACCRO Montréal in the space of two weeks!
DreamHack was the largest event our studio had ever attended, and having been hand-selected as one of the standout indie studios in Quebec, we were given a spot in the Loto-Québec Indie Zone for the weekend. We got to reach out to and get feedback from hundreds of gamers and had a blast the whole time. We also got to try out a bunch of the other games on show at DreamHack, and boy are there some cool projects being worked on right now! (Looking at you, Darwin Project & Prison Boss VR...)
A couple weeks later, we once again partnered with the Phi Centre to bring our VR Playable Teaser to ACCRO Montréal. This time though, we decided to try a funky new VR set-up... Since you play as a vulture in our Teaser, we brought a harness and a bunch of rope so that players could play suspended in the air and truly get the authentic flying experience.
It's definitely the coolest set-up we've tried for AWAY so far. Maybe next time we can play the Teaser in a wind tunnel to go for full immersion... (Don't tell OSHA)
Kicking off the month with some new Sugar Glider ragdolls is always a fun way to get things underway, and that's exactly what we did in October. Here are two clips we captured of our Sugar Gliders ragdolling around, but just know that there are plenty more where these came from...
You can actually find these gifs on our Twitter page for AWAY, which we created right around the time these were posted. It's the place to go for daily AWAY screenshots and videos, and we try to reply to every comment, so don't be shy!
Near the end of October, we were also invited to showcase AWAY at the inaugural Canadian Gaming Expo (CGX Montréal)! The event featured some of the most promising indie devs in Canada and was a great opportunity for us to discover all the cool projects that our fellow gamers are building in Montréal and beyond. Plus, for the occasion, our Head of Technology Sébastien Nadeau gave an interview with GameDev Cafe. If you ever had any questions about our studio's back-story, it's all in there.
Once again, we got to test our VR Playable Teaser with virtual reality aficionados and brand new gamers alike, and the reception was fantastic. Can't wait for next year's event!
Remember those early sugar glider models from June? Well, by November, we'd managed to dress up our protagonist a little bit and as you can see, this is when it started to shape up into something half decent...
Later this month, we also welcomed young high-schooler Carl-Étienne for a two-day internship at our studio. He helped us test the various builds of our game and find bugs that were quite well hidden. You might laugh, but all of us here at Breaking Walls are all so invested in this game that getting in-depth feedback from someone who's trying AWAY for the first time is actually quite insightful. If you're reading this Carl-Étienne, thanks again for your help!
Finally, this brings us to December, by far our busiest month of 2017. With the Montreal International Games Summit (MIGS) on the horizon, we had to work extra hard to make sure everything was ready in time...
From promotional material to booth preparations, the first week of December was a pretty busy one! That said, it was definitely worth it... I mean, just look at how happy Paul looks in his home-made ball pit 😂
The most exciting part of MIGS 2017, though, was that it was the first time we ever showcased our brand new Sugar Glider demo in public! From our VR Playable Teaser to this new Sugar Glider demo, we had our hands full with event-goers the entire time, and while we were pretty exhausted by the end of the week, it was definitely worth it.
Based on all the feedback we gathered for our new demo, we were able to implement a bunch of tweaks to improve gameplay and flow, but before heading out for the holidays, we wanted to try making something more laid back.
That's why on the last day before Christmas break, we decided to create a new mini-game for our BW Labs Game Jam Series. Our team ended up spending an afternoon building a Xmas-themed wave shooter in VR, a short mini-game where you're armed with two machine guns as a horde of frenzied animals comes charging straight at you. The goal? To survive as long as you can.
We had a blast making this, and if you own an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, you can try it out at home by downloading it here! We'd love to hear what you think.
And of course, before heading out for the holidays, we couldn't leave without getting a taste of some scrumptious Breaking Walls cookies, made in-house by our Chief Cookie Officer Liliana!
2018 and beyond
So, what's next for us here at Breaking Walls? Well, we have a bunch of exciting announcements coming up in the next few weeks. In fact, with AWAY set to be released this spring, our Steam page has finally gone live! If you're interested in the game, don't be shy with the Steam Wishlist button... Every click warms our little indie dev hearts ❤️
Keep an eye out for more AWAY-related content coming soon. We've got some big news in store for you guys, so if you haven't already, make sure to follow us online or better yet, join our mailing list!
Until next time, here's to a happy and healthy 2018!
The Breaking Walls team