A few months back, I stepped down as editor of TheSixthAxis. I had been writing for TSA for five years by this point and had been editor for almost two. TSA was a big part of my life before I even got accepted into University in 2010, and remained that way throughout. I balanced my studies with working on the site, and I really wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Last year, I graduated from my Computer Games Development course and started (with a friend from Uni, Graeme) developing a game of my own, under the name of Mystic Penguin Games. Since then, we’ve been working on a project, towards today, the day we’d announce our game. And now here I am, making the transition from writer to developer proper though a post on TSA – it feels like quite a natural fit.
You can watch the debut trailer for the game below, but here’s the essentials: the title of the game is Membrain and it’s set in a mysterious virtual world (of the same name) filled with vibrantly coloured rooms. It takes the form of a first person puzzle platformer where you’re able to edit the levels as you play – adding static blocks, jump pads, and more – to reach your goal or solve the puzzles.
The story sees a mysterious and childlike robotic character named AANI (Another Artificial Networking Interface) assisting PROTO with solving the puzzles of the Membrain and discovering the deep secrets of this world. You’ll switch between these two characters’ viewpoints for editing the levels and for first person movement respectively.
The level editing is achieved in real-time, with changes to the world staying in place as you progress through each level. Throughout the game, you’ll be introduced to world-altering pads – Jump, Blink, Launch, and more – as well as other mechanics which can be placed in the level to either help the characters progress, move cubes around, or solve some tricky puzzles.
You have the freedom to place these mechanics anywhere they want in each level, with many puzzles having multiple solutions, though there will be a limited amount of resources to spend, with each mechanic having a resource cost to place down. Therefore, it is up to you to find a solution without expending all of your resources.
It’s pretty much a year to the day that this idea came about; we had prototyped several things, with our original concept having a more Tron-inspired aesthetic and a block firing/destroying gun. It wasn’t until a couple of months of doing that when we realised an actual editor might be the way forward for Membrain. And then, at least, we’d get away from all the potential Portal comparisons.
As you can see from the screenshots and trailer, the game’s quite a colourful one. These colours were actually a relatively recent addition – I’ll go into that more another time – but I think they’ve managed to take what we had hoped to do with the game to the next level. They’re used to exemplify the mechanics you’ll be using in each level, with complementary schemes and highlight colours aimed at subtly helping you to solve the puzzle at hand.
Membrain is definitely a thinker. We’re aiming for around fifty levels in the final game, most of which are focused on the puzzle aspect more than they are on platforming. So, while a jump pad might be useful for getting yourself up to a ledge in one level, you could instead find yourself placing one down in order to propel a cube into a switch in another.
We’re using Unreal Engine 4 to develop the game, which has been a great tool for giving us freedom in the development process, while also allowing us to give the game that extra visual flair. A lot of developers see Unity as the standard, but in my time at University, using both Unity and the Unreal Development Kit, Graeme and I definitely preferred our time with the latter, so it was a natural choice.
If you’ve been around here long enough, then you might recognise some of the other names that’ll appear in the game’s credits. While Graeme and I are working on Membrain day-to-day, Tuffcub is lending us his musical talents for the soundtrack, and Peter has helped out with 2D visual elements, including mechanic icons and our logos. Naturally, this all means that there’ll be no critical analysis of the game on TSA to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Explaining every facet of the gameplay while also trying to discuss a year’s worth of work in a single post is quite a surprisingly hard task, so I may turn this into a sort of developer diary series – it’ll give me somewhere to put all my thoughts, and keep all of you updated on the development process so you can see how the game evolves over the next few months.
I’ve seen you all discuss plenty of video games in the comments section before, and I can’t wait to be on the receiving end and hear your feedback about Membrain. If you have any questions, then I’ll be sure to respond, but you can also follow us on Twitter @MysticPenguin_ for more about the game as we near release.
We’re aiming for Membrain to be released on PC at the beginning of next year, with more platforms hopefully in the not too distant future. For now, though, the PC version is our only focus, and you can support our Steam Greenlight campaign by voting for Membrain to appear on Steam.