Mind The Gap: Chasm Resurfaces

By Adam Smith on February 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

Ever wanted to see a Wendigo so furious that it is constantly vibrating? I suggest you head to the frozen North and pee onto any particularly bulbous snowdrift that sounds like it’s snoring. For the less adventurous types, the developers of 2D ARPG platformer Chasm have included just such an image in their latest trailer. The music and the sight of a covered wagon at the beginning of the video both suggest a Western, but the game leans toward the fantastic, with spikes and circular saws aplenty. It looks lovely though, combining Metroidvania exploration and progression with procedural generation. Sounds like a tall order. Maybe it’d be better just to micturate on a monster.

Or maybe whizzing on Wendigoes isn’t the answer. Chasm entices me. While I suspect the procedural generation will have more in common with Rogue Legacy’s stitching together of a basket of prefabricated parts than a wholesale confusion of elements, the aesthetic is delightful and the ARPG aspects should make the game stand out from the pixellated platform pack.

The early pre-Kickstarter prototype is still available for download and the game is due for release when we all Fall down later this year.

While we’re here, does anyone remember Chasm: The Rift? Wikipedia says, “One of the most notable features of the game was the ability to remove limbs from enemies.” It was certainly a notable enough feature to convince Foolish Young Adam to buy it and struggle through the increasingly abysmal level design. I may have been stuck in corridors packed with insta-death traps but there was a goblin jester with an arm off.

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56 Comments »

  1. Artea says:

    The game would look great…without the deliberately pixelated look. I don’t understand why these retro games actually dedicate money and effort to make their graphics look worse, instead of realizing that the pixelart look of old games was a technological limitation.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Less resolution = less detail = less effort to draw.

      • mauzed says:

        Not really.

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      • Koozer says:

        That only holds true when your characters are 8×16. Even then it’s tricky.

        • Baines says:

          As wishy washy as it sounds, it is and isn’t true in various ways.

          With low-res sprites, you need fewer frames of animation. That doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from more animation frames. But the same action animated with two or three frames with low-res sprites can look fine, while it looks like a slideshow when animated with the same number of frames with high-res art.

          While making lower-res sprite art isn’t “easy”, it can be received less critically than higher res art made at the same skill level. More detail means more room for inadequacies to show through, and more room for viewers to expect more. (Basically, people are more forgiving of a mediocre 24×48 sprite character than they are of a mediocre 240×480 character.)

          On the other hand, people are arguably more forgiving of “bad” or simplistic high res art than bad low-res work. (“Bad” can mean actually bad art, as well as art that is just done in a style that makes it look childlike.)

      • LordDamien says:

        Less resolution = Less space to transmit ideas = higher need to be more creative. Also this helps adding more content and less need to focus on expensive engines. Hell, I hoped quake 4 was less good looking.

        Go back to your call of duty, troll.

    • P-Dazzle says:

      Maybe it’s the old school gamer in me, but I think it looks fantastic.

      • Reapy says:

        Same, I am blown away by the look, I love it.

        I wish it would be other than a platformer though. I mean, same perspective, but would be cool to see alternative gameplay than jumping puzzles over pits and stuff like that.

    • dE says:

      Because people have different tastes. For example, I prefer a slightly pixelated look over super smoothed hand drawn graphics. This looks infinitely more appealing to me than, let’s say Dust. And similarly, the original graphics in Final Fantasy 6 are more appealing to me than their smoothed out modern equivalent in the tablet remakes.

      • BTAxis says:

        The textbook example here, I feel is the HD edition of Monkey Island, which actually let you switch between the art styles. The high-res art didn’t do it for me at all.

        • subedii says:

          Yeah I thought the HD Guybrush design looked kind of… creepy. Like his eyes had been forced WIDE open or something. That and the way he moved (the way all the characters moved) looked wrong, and if they were sliding across everything.

          Music was nice though.

          EDIT: To put it another way:

          - Monkey Island 1 looked fine
          - Monkey Island 3 looked fine
          - Monkey Island HD just looked odd and incongruous.

      • jorygriffis says:

        You guys have already mentioned the very two examples I came here to talk about. Dust sure does have a lot of frames of HD grafix, and the animations (of the main characters) are done fairly well, but the art direction is really bad (and I’m not talking about the faux-anime look, because to each his own; I’m talking about the insane, clashy, DeviantArt-in-2002 color styling.)

        The two Monkey Special Editions are a perfect example of why pixelation remains a valid and successful abstraction: the original games are beautifully drawn and lovingly animated, while the remakes are… well…at least the music and voices were good.

        • Baines says:

          Faux-anime look? So that is what someone inspired by classic Disney and Western animation is now called?

          • jorygriffis says:

            Frankly, I think the shoe fits, yes. I’m not knocking it (for this specific reason, at least.)

          • Baines says:

            But it isn’t trying to be anime, nor does it look like anime.

            The game is done in the style of Don Bluth and Disney. I guess “anime” has become such an ever-present idea that people don’t remember Don Bluth.

          • jorygriffis says:

            Last year, for research purposes, I re-watched the entire filmography of Don Bluth (except Titan A.E, out of disinterest. And I didn’t make it all the way through A Troll In Central Park, because I have limits.)

            Again, I’m trying really hard not to diss Dust too badly, but I had absolutely no idea coming into this that the game had those influences. It doesn’t show, except I guess there’s some Bluthiness in some of the moody, spooky monster and FX designs.

    • Premium User Badge drewdupe says:

      I actually love the graphical style of this game. You may envision gaming’s goal as always progressing towards photo realistic graphics but I personally don’t. If a game has a coherent art style that fits it’s gameplay, you can call me happy.

      • Artea says:

        Strawman much? I love stylized 2d graphics, it’s the deliberately low-res pixelation, born out of slavish adherence to nostalgia, I don’t like.

        • haruspexile says:

          “i love stylized 2d graphics”

          “deliberately low-res pixelation, born out of slavish adherence to nostalgia”

          is there something about pixelation that makes it an invalid form of stylization?

          there are pixel artists making amazing work today who werent even ALIVE during the pixel-art-by-necessity days.

          • subedii says:

            More to the point, when you’re on a limited budget, pixel art is a style that works with low budgets and makes things easier to animate better. Like “Tron” computer style, it’s something you see frequently in indie games because it’s an effective trade-off compared to spending resources on more defined 3D models that probably won’t look as good, or VERY expensive HD level art and animation (look up the making of the new King of Fighters art for an example of how laborious good, ‘cartoon’ quality 2D animation can be for high def games. They literally had to make 3D models of the characters for the smooth animations, and then take the silhouettes from those and colour them).

            I mean I compare the visual style of something like this to the recent Rayman, and I’ll be honest, I prefer this.

            Rayman looks sharper and its visuals more defined, but the animation quality just doesn’t match up for me. Because it looks almost like a cell-animated cartoon of old but it’s not animated like one.

            It’s clear his limbs are all animated separately and “pasted” onto the scene, almost being moved by X/Y coordinates. It just looks off to me, especially with his fixed unresponsive facial expressions. Something like this is great for more static 2D backdrops, but all in all is very expensive for the results you get. All of those characters are animated not as a whole, but in “chunks” (hands, feet, body, head), that are then given different “poses” and moved and rotated around the scene. It makes for detailed art but the result (again, subjective) doesn’t look like it’s moving as naturally. It’s the incongruousness that stems from the fact that everything is moving and turning smoothly around the screen, but what’s actually moving isn’t animated as smoothly, and it often makes the characters look as if they’re unnaturally animated. In that respect, it works for some people. For me personally, I prefer something that looks a bit more consistent.

            Some games (like aforementioned Dust) achieve a more natural look to the animation, but even there they end up having to take a lot of shortcuts with the animation, and hiding a lot of it behind tonnes of screen obscuring visual effects to hide the transitions and other parts where it doesn’t quite work.

            Yes, pixel art is a trade-off. The alternatives given a budget though would typically look far worse (this title was Kickstarted for a little less than $200,000). Personally I’m just glad that they’ve got this with smooth animation, smooth animation’s always been more visually appealing to me.

          • Shooop says:

            A lot of those amazing artists aren’t making the games though – there’s a flood of standard-issue pixel graphics that don’t stand out from each other at all, but critics are hailing them all as masterpieces for no other reason than them being pixel. When everything gets labeled special, nothing is.

          • subedii says:

            You’ve switched from talking about this game to talking about “games in general”.

            More to the point:

            critics are hailing them all as masterpieces for no other reason than them being pixel.

            … is something that I’m just going to flat out say we’ll have to disagree on. People will praise good pixel art, but it’s never going to reach the mainstream acclaim of anything like Bioshock Infinite.

            I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing here. There’s a flood of games that don’t stand out from each other visually in pixel art? Man I can’t tell the visual difference between most modern FPS’s, and I’d argue that most pixel-art games have quite a lot more to differentiate them in art style and animation. Be that as it may…

            I don’t know, it just sounds like you’re raging against a perceived injustice of people apparently loving and praising pixel art above all other styles because they’re hipster or something, and I’m just not seeing that.

        • jorygriffis says:

          I don’t think there’s anything simplistic or crude about graphics that are deliberately pixelated. This game’s art design (from this trailer, at least) looks really gorgeous–and the same art would have been exponentially more work to produce and clean up in HD.

          EDIT because original phrasing was pretty rude. Sorry.

          • subedii says:

            When people are saying that this is because you’re a “hipster” with “slavish adherence to nostalgia” then frankly I think some return on those kinds of comments is fair play.

    • Shooop says:

      Nostalgia is perhaps the most important part of the gaming hipster diet.

      • subedii says:

        Sooo, if you like pixel art you’re a hipster?

        Fair enough, I’ll just call you pretentious then. :)

        • Shooop says:

          No, but the insistence on using it because it’s the in thing to do, call it “beautiful” and “stylish” when it’s not the slightest bit different from just about any other game that ever used it and then spew garbage like, “No one should deride this game for how it looks or else they’re graphics whores!” sure does.

          There’s probably thousands of fledgling artists out there who’d love to work on a video game and would do it without asking for a lot in return. Why aren’t indie devs giving them a chance? Are they afraid of messing with the formula for instant critical acclaim?

          • subedii says:

            No, but

            Good, then don’t make posts along those lines please.

            From your posts the problem appears to be the presumption that high definition art and animation can be made that look good on a very cheap budget. The choice of pixel art is a functional alternative style, and it works. “The in thing to do” isn’t what this is about, nor is it about “instant critical acclaim” (really?).

            There are arguably other art styles that could have also worked in budget. But these appears to work well with the game style and give smooth animation.

            If you know of any of these thousands of artists out there, who will do the really intensive work and have the actual skills necessary for good quality (and timely delivery of, which takes a lot of effort in itself), hi-def smoothly animated art, but also with no experience and wanting to do so on VERY cheap terms on an unheard of indie game for unknown developers, I would honestly say: recommend them to the company. I’m not being sarcastic, literally recommend them to the company. Because from where I’m standing that’s an exceptionally tall order, but I’m not ruling out the possibility that you know better.

  2. subedii says:

    I don’t think this counts as a Teaser Trailer. Official Teaser Trailer guidelines dictate at least a 15-20 second window of opening logos for the user to stare blank-facedly at, even if that takes up the entire running time. And this was almost completely gameplay footage. It’s not acceptable I say!

  3. Shadowcat says:

    “Chasm: The Rift” was a fine game, and lots of fun to play. I’ve played it multiple times, and always enjoyed it. It had some really nice 3D character modelling and animation for a sizeable number of enemy types, which often had both ranged and close-quarter attacks. Graphics in general were very good, with shadows; particle effects (blood, sparks, dust); weather effects (rain, snow).

    The weapons were decent enough. Mostly familiar types, admittedly; but the blade-launcher was brutal, and the reflective shield was great too.

    The story and level design was just an excuse to throw monsters at you, but that certainly wasn’t unusual for the time (ditto the key-hunts). What was slightly more unusual was the variety of the different environments — each one not only completely different in appearance, but populated with a whole new set of enemies. They clearly put plenty of work into the content, and I found that variety a treat.

    At the time it came out, it got completely overshadowed by Quake and Duke 3D; but that was really a shame, as it had plenty going for it, and would have made a nice addition to many people’s collections.

    • CobraLad says:

      Same for me.
      Quake got better levels because Chasm was probably limited by its engine to have 1-story high levels, but at the same time Chasm had more content and level details, while in Quake first level was identical to last.
      Also those chaps made Metro 2033 games, so good for them.

      • icemann says:

        I just hated the the first level. Loved the rest of the game. Damn hard though at some points.

  4. The Random One says:

    “abysmal level design”

    I see what you did there (and it stares back at me).

  5. Shooop says:

    Graphics that do not exceed the 16-bit era? Check.
    Procedural generation? Check.
    RPG elements? Check.

    Yep, it’s another garden-variety indie game. Is it more hilarious or tragic that most indie games anyone bothers to write about are now as formulamatic and predictable as AAA titles?

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      It’s neither, because “indie” has never meant anything other than independently produced.

      • Shooop says:

        I’m noticing a trend that the indie games that are getting stories written about them follow a very specific formula/checklist.

        And that is disturbing. I thought the reason everyone was excited about indie games was because they broke conventions, not dogpiled on top of other ones.

        • subedii says:

          Afraid not. At least not for me.

          I was excited for indie because it allowed them to do their own thing, not just the mass market thing. Which can mean going for completely new and outlandish, but it can also mean going for the well known but not “financially viable” for a major publisher.

          Basically stuff that in either case, likely wouldn’t have been made otherwise. I can appreciate a game like Frozen Synapse (I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it), but that doesn’t mean indies can’t also create something awesome like Battle Worlds: Kronos (a very well known style, but it simply fell by the wayside because the audience isn’t there for a high budget release).

        • killias2 says:

          I’ll ask again. Other than true roguelikes, how many games can you list that have all three characteristics?

    • killias2 says:

      You heard him folks! NEEDS MOAR GRAFIX

      Also, since when are RPG elements and procedural generation bad? I seriously hate what entitled assholes the gaming community has become.

      • Shooop says:

        Be right back, putting your strawman up in the fields.

        And oh hey, the classic neckbeard’s “You’re ENTITLED” warcry to top it all off. You didn’t spill your PBR while writing this did you?

        • killias2 says:

          Jesus, do you literally have a “generic Internet argument” cookbook sitting in your lap? Strawman? Check. Neckbeard? Check. PBR was a bit out of the norm here, especially on a British website, so I’ll give you two points there.

          Still, not impressed with your trolling. Work on it and come see me again sometime.

    • killias2 says:

      I’ve thought about his more, and, besides true roguelikes, how many games really have all three of these characteristics? Off the top of my head, I can think of FTL, Rogue Legacy, and Chasm. If anything, traditional metroidvanias are far, far more common.

    • UncleLou says:

      Banished, Kerbal Space Program, DayZ, Rust, Space Engineers, Octodad, Jazzpunk, etc., etc., etc.

      Looks to me like you see what you want to see, and ignore the immense variety of talked-about indie games.

  6. GunnerMcCaffrey says:

    “combining Metroidvania exploration and progression…”

    *lifts up head*

    “…with procedural generation”

    *lets head fall back on desk*

    I wonder what would happen if everyone putting time into developing “generation procedures” (or whatever) put it instead into, I don’t know… designing well-balanced, interesting maps and populating them with fun encounters?

    But what a silly idea. People aren’t smart enough to design video games, that’s why we let computers do it for us.

    • emptee says:

      yeah, kinda getting sick of all these “random” level games. What happened to the lovingly designed levels?

      • BTAxis says:

        I suspect it’s fallout from the big roguelike popularity surge.

    • killias2 says:

      Honestly, there are about a billion traditional metroidvanias coming or recently released. Compare that with.. two(?) that have procedural generation. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

      • derbefrier says:

        I think you might be exaggerating a bit becasue when you say a billion you actually mean like 4

    • derbefrier says:

      heh i just pretty much said the same thing below and only jus saw your comment but needless to say I completely agree.

      • killias2 says:

        Recent: Valdis, Guacamelee, Dust (at least on PC), Dark Matter, Steamworld Dig
        Forthcoming: Axiom Verge, Odallus, Ghost Song, Strider, Shantae

        There are others, I’m sure. These are just off the top of my head.

        Compared to.. Two? Rogue Legacy and Chasm?

        Edit: I meant to post this in response to your post above, but I suppose it doesn’t make much difference.

        In any case, more metroidvanias:

        Recent: Inescapable, Magicians and Looters

        Forthcoming: Legend of Iya, ANNE, Paradise Lost: First Contact

        To be fair, I also found one another procedural metroidvania forthcoming: Crystal Catacombs

        There are dozens of other potential projects to mention, but I tried to pick only games that are reasonably professional or likely to be released.

  7. grrrz says:

    I prefer chasm spasm.
    http://www.rathergood.com/chasm

  8. derbefrier says:

    sometimes i think I would rather have intricately designed badass static level design rather than procedural generation. I mean its a cool technology that’s really only just getting started but as I play more and more of these types of games I am starting to realize procedural generations isnt the holy grail of replay value people make it out to be. Most of the time while technically “random” after a few hours you’ve seen everything and none of it feels random or fresh anymore. take starbound for instance “oh look another grassland planet.. been there done that..

    Now i am not sitting here arguing procedural generation is worthless it has its place in gaming but I think its time people stop wanting to put it in everything just because its the popular buzz word of the moment and really consider if it adds anything to your game. did procedural generation really make Rogue Legacy a better game? I dont think so. Will it make this a better game? time will tell but I think its time developers start asking these questions.

    • killias2 says:

      I agree with you except that.. well… “sometimes” I think either can be better. You say Rogue Legacy was not a better game for its procedural generation. I honestly wonder.. what is Rogue Legacy without procedural generation? The entire game is built around it. And I loved it for what it was.

      On the other hand, I just finished (and adored) Valdis Story. Variety is good.

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