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March 26 - The Working Parts
By far the most painful area of development was Nikolai's grappling hook mechanics. As I explained in the last post, I'm a sucker for turning natural motions into gameplay, so rather than going for a classic Worms-style grappling hook I wanted a hook that you actually needed to throw over things and have it attach on the opposite edge. The concept is simple enough and fits Residue well, and people usually go ”wow” when they first see it, but smiles quickly faded as the game started to demand precision and timing. We went overboard in a number of areas leading to an endless spaghetti code that we could never quite untangle ourselves from.
That is until we brought the axe.
In the Final Cut, we have removed some of the more complicated features from Nikolai's grappling shenanigans. It's fine. He won't need them anymore. After all, Residue isn't about the challenge. It's about taking the abilities your character has and using them to find the next piece of the puzzle and find out where the story is going. And so we have adjusted all of our level design so Nikolai has a labyrinth he can navigate with a much more graspable moveset.
In the old version there are four different throw directions – standard, high, far and down. With only a few minor changes to the world layout, we have been able to bring this down to just standard and down. (Nikolai wouldn't really need the ability to drop the hook either, but it comes in real handy in the water so we kept it). The new standard throw reaches slightly farther than the old, but not quite as far as the old ”far” throw.
We have also removed the ability to manually reel in the hook. Now the rope will extend until the hook hits something or Nikolai runs out of rope, and then it will automatically reel back in. Nice and simple. Finally, his ability to swing while hanging from the rope has been greatly reduced. Thanks to these cuts, we have been able to craft a level design where Nikolai's swinging isn't going to kill you over and over, isn't going to get you stuck. It's simply going to take you where you need to go.
Hugo Bille, game director
March 11 - The Working Parts
One of the first things I would hear at every Residue playtest ever conducted was this: ”why do you need to hold down space to climb ropes?” To finally answer that, and why we are now changing it, I need to tell you a bit about myself.
Every director, regardless of their medium, has their own hang-ups. Mine is physicality. When I close my eyes, I see a 3D platform game where two feet can be controlled independently and where it really matters where you set them down – it would be simple and understandable (somehow), momentum-based and it would feel just like jumping around on the hills and mountains and forests where I grew up. I want players to move in ways that correspond more to motions I remember from my own life, and less to old-school platforming conventions. So even when I make games where story and atmosphere is king (as I most often do), I still seek that sense of bodily connection between player and player character, that physical sense of immersion.
That is what tempted me to put Emilio's dive in the game. By holding space in mid-air, Emilio rotates ever forward, throwing himself into the air in the hope of reaching something to grab onto – or land face-first on the ground. I wanted the player to embrace Emilio's careless nature, taking all these chances and ignoring the bruises that come with them. And with that, I wanted my player to hold on to the space bar for dear life, just as Emilio was holding on to whatever he was holding on to.
It would have worked in another game.
My games have often suffered from me trying to do too many things at once. And while the concept behind Emilio's controls is neat, in the context of Residue it really distracts more than it adds. For every player that gets into Emilio's mindset, there are two who are distracted from the story because they're too busy wrangling with the controls. Players who get stuck, fail crucial jumps because their feet don't work the way they're used to. I see that now. And the Steam release has given me the courage to go in and change it.
In the Final Cut, space is the jump button. There is no grab button, Emilio will dive automatically whenever he is in the air, grabbing anything he touches. Once grabbing, he will let go at the press of a jump button. It is more like classic platformers and less like Shadow of the Colossus. I find it's slightly less interesting this way, but it allows Residue to focus on its true strengths, and so the darling must die.
Hugo Bille, game director
February 25 - The Working Parts
You may already have heard that The Working Parts have been spending some time brushing Residue up for its impending Steam release. We are calling it the ”Final Cut". It's not the first time we go back to improve on Residue promising that this will be ”final” - it's not the second time either - but it will be the last. And so I thought I'd take the time to dwell on what has lead us here.
We were never able to catch anyone's attention with Residue's initial release. It was painful back when it happened, but in hindsight we are grateful – the game simply wasn't ready for a large audience. Our reviews showed us that. While most of them praised the story, world and atmosphere, every single one pointed out the same undeniable, completely pointless problems that distracted from the experience at every turn. The overcomplicated controls, the hair-tearing difficulty towards the end. A few other things. Naturally, with a Steam release on the horizon, we wanted to fix these problems.
In the months leading up to Residue's release on Steam, we often stumbled over the question of what one is really allowed to do in a ”director's cut” like this. The game is already out there, so how much can we really change without invalidating the experience of those brave souls who have already made the trek through the Aral Sea? We may live in a time of games-as-services and near-constant updates and patches, but there is still something inviolable about the sanctity of a finished piece of art. Can we really intrude upon that?
We have been so bold as to answer 'yes'. By now we have enough perspective on our game to know that a lot of the decisions we made early on were naïve and downright stupid, but we can also clearly see where the game shines. And so for once, this ”cut” isn't about adding more material – it's about cutting the stuff that didn't work. The final Residue will be radically easier, more intuitive, but we won't touch those elements that make up its heart.
As we make these changes to Residue, there will undeniably be some who played the original and liked some of our old, naïve choices better. Some of them are certainly more ”interesting”, while not nearly ”good”. But if we can just double back on a few of those, we are confident that our story will capture imaginations, that our living, breathing environments in all its overzeaolous audiovisual detail will transport you to that faraway place.
It won't be perfect, but it will be complete. Finalized.
Leading up to release this spring, I'll keep peppering this space with tidbits about the development and specifics on what we are improving on and why. Please join in the final voyage!
Hugo Bille, game director
December 5, 2013 - The Working Parts
Before posting this I had to go back to our main page to double-check that I wasn't dreaming. We are all of us extremely humbled that Residue got selected to be released on Steam this round, and truth to be told we weren't expecting this day to ever come.
Proud as we are of the Residue experience, in the months since its release we had come to accept the thought that our game would never reach the audience it deserves. We have been haunted by images of the thousands of gamers out there who would have loved what we do, but haven't heard about Residue because we didn't know the first thing about marketing. Of course this incredible honor changes everything. I want to extend a big, warm, heartfelt thank you (and hugs!) to all the voters and fans who helped make this happen, you have proven once again that there is a place out there for thoughtful, non-violent games with stories to tell. Thank you for believing in us even when we ourselves didn't.
Next we will try to figure out all the technical details required to get the game running on Steam. Watch this space and we'll let you know as soon as we have anything resembling a release plan.
Again... Holy cow, thanks guys.
Hugo Bille and The Working Parts
July 8, 2013 - The Working Parts
If you're interested in Residue but not all that keen on either Desura or the price we've set on it, you now have the chance of getting both it and 9 other Greenlight games from the new Groupees bundle!
You'll get a Desura key when you buy the bundle and once Residue's greenlit you'll of course receive a Steam key as well!