The story of survival on a deadly island is somewhat tired since there have been hundreds of movies, TV series and books exploiting the same narrative. This isn’t the case with Dead in Bermuda by CCCP, and far from trivial.
The dream of every gamer with a passion for adventures and problem solving finally came true as anyone willing to accept the challenge can now be in charge of a team of 8 survivors who have survived a plane crash on a mysterious island and must outlast at all costs. Each character has his or her own unique traits which must be carefully managed to keep them alive, lead them through all the difficulties and not let the team fall apart all at the same time. Sounds fun? Add beautiful design, grotesque music and smart dialogues and Dead in Bermuda will captivate you:
Following the great success of Dead In Bermuda which has been released this August, Outsoft spoke to Matthieu Richez, Game Designer and Director of CCCP on his approach to beautiful design and secrets on overcoming hardships that he and his team faced while developing the game.
“I opened my company 10 years ago, doing some educational games, flash games, etc... Mostly as a programmer, but it's my first project where I'm the game designer, with total freedom. I guess my technical background led my choices somewhat”, says Matthieu. “Our artist is more an indie spirit, so we thought it was cool to make an hardcore management game - games that often are ugly, not polished - with an artist who doesn't play this kind of game. It gave a bit of fresh air, it worked very well”, he continues.
With a fierce rivalry in a game market they had to make a competitor research on new games with a survival theme during development, but neither This War Of Mine nor other games were close enough to theirs, so they decided to deliver on their unique vision for the game no matter what.
“Our coder had good experience with Unity, so it was very helpful. He likes strategy games too, so we talked a lot about the game design choices during the development, it was good to challenge my ideas”.
We asked Matthieu where he got his creativity from and he told us that one of his main artistic inspiration sources were the works of David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks. “We wanted a strange atmosphere, and I loved the music our composer did, really twinpeaks-iesque”.
They were also inspired by different games they had played: the Ludum Dare version of Gods Will Be Watching, Zombie survival games, especially State Of Decay. The narrative was influenced by Dune 1, mostly for very personal elements between characters mixed together with a strategy game. CCCP wanted to have something light-hearted, where players would tell their own story playing the game, and they succeeded in that.
“We love watching reactions from youtubers while playing the game, they really did add to the narrative by injecting their own thoughts about what was happening. I'm pretty happy to see that the characters, the endings, etc... conveys some emotions to some players, that's really great.”
Work Hard, Play Hard
Although the development team consisted of just three: designer, artist and a coder, it took them only 12 months to complete the entire game. The problems they were facing while developing the game were having too many systems to design: a skill system, a quest system, a dialog system, resources, crafting, exploration, usable items and special events. It was very risky to have them all in one game for a small team like CCCP. Little did they know whether the game would be enjoyable and since it's a mix of several genres, they didn't have any comparison in mind for the entire development process.
When they started working Matthieu and his team had being awarded with a regional grant and they also had some money left from a prior contract work, yet budget was tight, which in fact suited them well forcing to be agile as they couldn’t afford themselves to protract the development. Although later they got money from a publisher, they still kept making regular checkups on the budget, and changing their plans accordingly. They also had to cut down on some of the design choices to save costs and time. The one thing that Matthieu regrets about is not hiring a full-time assistant who would help keeping consistency between the data design files and the tweaks they made during beta testing. However, they still managed to prepare a design doc and mockup for each part of the game. Although it wasn’t a painless process they very soon had all the basic elements of the game done, so the last 50% of the artist time they were producing content.
Dead in Bermuda was created on Unity and Matthieu suggest it is the best engine that fulfills their need although he suggests that for HUD (head-up display) it may be a bit clunky. Some of the components they had to take from game development libraries like some of the asset store plugins and a save system. They took a dialog plugin tool which in the end they barely used.
Surpassing the “Average”
We were curious to hear Matthieu’s opinion on what makes a game great: “I guess a good game should be fun with coder art and minimal content. Everything you build on top of that should be good. Another thing I noticed, is when you playtest your own game and you have fun with it, it's a good point.” Matthieu is reluctant to the free to play approach for their games considering Premium as the only way to provide solid and superior experiences. He also thinks that tracking players progression is a key to understanding their psychology and thus learning what works the best for them.
Matthieu sounds very ambitious when talking about future plans, having two other games in progress right now and he assures us of them being different from Dead In Bermuda. “But I really really want to start thinking about Dead In Bermuda 2. Or Dead In Siberia”, he adds.
CCCP is an indie game development studio based in France. CCCP considers itself to be a serious game developer, publishing video games on major platforms (PC, tablet, mobile, web) using Flash and Unity3D since 2005 in a variety of genres and visual styles.
Outsoft is a software development service provider serving a variety of industry verticals, but with a passion for cross-platform mobile game development. The company is based in Tennessee, United States and operates a research and development center in Kyiv, Ukraine.