Thank you all so, so much for playing and supporting our game! It is because of you that we continue to push Kraven Manor to higher places.
Kraven Manor won big at the GDC 2014 Intel University Games Showcase! We won both the Best Gameplay and Best Visual Quality awards, competing against 11 other teams from Carnegie Mellon University, DigiPen, Drexel, RIT, UCF FIEA, UC Santa Cruz, USC, and the University of Utah. The other games were very fun and we wish those teams the best.
Thank you all so, so much for playing and supporting our game! It is because of you that we continue to push Kraven Manor to higher places.
We are going to Steam Greenlight!!!! Demon Wagon Studios is happy to announce that you are now able to vote for an updated Kraven Manor on Steam Greenlight! It has been a long process, but the team is finally ready to show off the new content we created last summer.
Check back soon or follow us on Facebook, as we have a short, free demo of the updated game, giving you a sneak peek at the new features.
Thank you guys so much for your continued support! We <3 you!!
Kraven Manor: Storytime
The story of Kraven Manor was born from a lot of sources. As previous blog posts mention, the original idea came from the board game Betrayal at House on the Hill. Our early scope called for multiple "haunts" that involved statues, ghosts, and other assorted creepers.
Old concept art for a few of our baddies and Dr. Hans (right). Dr. Hans was a recurring idea we kept coming back to, a guy who would help guide the player, explain things, and give you purpose instead of dropping you in the middle of a haunted house for no reason. Due to scoping reasons, poor Dr. Hans got cut. Fortunately, it turned out players were perfectly willing to accept being dropped into a haunted house for no reason.
After our Alpha, we discussed at length the story behind Kraven Manor. We previously had character scripts, cutscenes, and a lengthy backstory we wanted to communicate. These went through numerous iterations and a lot of time was spent discussing the plot to help inform our design. In retrospect, the order needed to go the other way around: gameplay had to come first and a story would be used to enhance the gameplay. For example, when we scoped down the game to one central enemy, the mansion's backstory had to find a narrower focus as well. As we got a feel for the gameplay, the type and quantity of narrative we would be able to tell became more clear.
It would be impossible to relate a story of great depth within our scope without making it a plodding, text-filled mess. As Ben noted in the last blog, this was narrowed down into the examine mechanic.
The Final Story: What went into the examines
If you have read the examine text in the game, you still may be a bit uncertain as to the backstory of Kraven Manor. Let me rephrase: you should be a bit uncertain as to the backstory of Kraven Manor. The examines were designed as a glimpse of elements of a greater story; one larger and more winding than the game would ever completely explain. About half of the text was told from Kraven's point of view, in the form of his notes. When getting down to the work of creating examines, we had a lot of good stuff to work with from earlier iterations, but we had to keep it brief, keep it scary, and keep it relevant.
Keep it brief: Each examine should only be a couple of sentences long at most. Horror in a Twitter-sized post, if you will. Anything longer would be skipped by most players and cause too great a break from gameplay.
Keep it scary: We condensed down a lot of our old iterations of the story into rough plot points that we agreed were pretty cool. For my part, these themes came from all over, including the history of serial killer H.H. Holmes, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Lovecraft, and occult-related texts that can be found in Kraven Manor's library.
Keep it relevant: For each of the mechanics of the game, and for several gameplay points our playtesters were confused about, I would write an examine to "explain" it. For example,
The vagueness of this was a bit of a trick. I wrote this to help explain why and how the statue could teleport. Much of the horror comes from the player filling in the gaps with their imagination, which is much scarier than if I had spelled out the point explicitly.
I hope that players think they understand the plot when the game is over: but only about halfway. Hopefully your imagination stepped through the missing details that you didn't read, or that we didn't even include.
Below is a brief summary of the backstory of Kraven Manor as included in the game's examines. I will go only a bit above and beyond what you could have learned when you played the game, so as not to eliminate the mysteries altogether.
Our story so far...
William Kraven was born to Jacqueline and Lord George Kraven of Doubtful Pass, West Virginia in 1857. That same year, George Kraven constructed a metalworks in the mining community and over the years was known to harshly discipline his employees. William grew up in a less than loving home environment with a father he called violent and ruthless and a mother who he described as a ceaseless liar.
In 1870, when William was a young teenager, a mysterious and terrible event occurred resulting in the deaths of William's parents. In the metalworks, William's mother was found dismembered and his father found with his head submerged in a vat of molten bronze. Due to George's known violent nature, the police concluded that George had killed his wife and through either grief or accident had then killed himself. It is known that William witnessed their bodies in the metalworks, but it is untold whether he had any role in their deaths. William described the scene as an epiphany, finding a beauty in death that he never forgot.
William stayed in Doubtful Pass, inheriting the successful metalworks and living in Kraven Manor. Little is told about his further upbringing, but as an adult in the community he was long rumored to have been involved in the occult and to have held rituals in the Manor. Over the years, the disappearance of runaways, the homeless, and the indigent were occasionally connected to Kraven Manor, but no real investigation or proof ever emerged.
In fact, William had become a student of human physiology and animism, obsessed with the concept of Limbo. Contrary to other mythologies, Kraven's Limbo was a man-made receptacle, a literal physical object in which a human spirit could be contained. William Kraven considered himself a more benevolent man than his father, so when he found a need for human subjects to continue his research, he would abduct those whose lives he felt were already wasted.
His experiments included occult rituals, ultimately finding the Ritual Maleficarum, which made a person's soul manifest itself physically upon death. Kraven constructed a number of receptacles in which to house the souls of his abductees. The spirits of his first nineteen victims were able to be housed in Limbo for increasing amounts of time through ever more stable receptacles. Large glass orbs were able to house spirits for seconds at a time, and bronze statues, for years. Kraven's method for creating these bronze statues was grisly. By dismembering a victim and bronzing the pieces of their bodies, their souls would remain trapped within, when done as part of the Ritual Maleficarum.
Kraven's ultimate hope was a method through which human consciousness remained intact on death- their thoughts, memories, and intellect, seeking some form of life everlasting. However, all evidence suggested that the spirits he had sent to Limbo were thoughtless, chaotic entities with little resemblance to their former selves. In addition, it would be a challenge for him to potentially administer a process such as his own dismemberment and bronzing.
His plan was to make a receptacle out of Kraven Manor itself: a home in which his spirit could reside comfortably after death, perhaps eternally. With growing awareness of the nature of Limbo, he began his plans to modify Kraven Manor. With a mad combination of mysticism and architecture, the Manor would need to be utterly under his control for the Ritual Maleficarum to work. He created scale models of all the rooms within Kraven Manor as a guide for his hired contractors. From these, William Kraven was to construct the pieces of his personal Limbo.
The results of his experiment are unknown.
What's up right now?
The team behind Kraven Manor are all about to graduate in less than a month. We're defending our theses, finishing up our portfolios, applying for jobs (seriously, e-mail me), and working on a few final projects.
The producers in our class are also finishing up producing three new Capstone games (big final project games like Kraven Manor) , which we'd love for you to try out.
The first one is my new team's capstone game, Hymn of the Sands, a dungeon crawl with light RPG and puzzle elements. At 40 minutes, it's a quick, exciting time like Kraven but instead of horror we're playing with the isometric action genre. We are focusing on the fast, fun stuff like varied abilities, minibosses, and upgrades, and adding a bit of a twist: a realm-shifting mechanic that changes the level layout and your abilities when you move between the realms of the living and the dead. Our motto on Kraven was "Keep it Scary". In Hymn, it's "More Realm Shifting".
Download Hymn of the Sands Beta
Answer the Hymn Beta Questionnaire
Kraven Game Designer Ben Roye's team’s game is Armourgeddon, a fast-paced robot shooting rumble with a lot of explosions, and guns, and more robots to shoot after you shoot those other robots.
Download Armourgeddon Beta
Answer Armourgeddon Beta Questionnaire
Trevor Hilz’ team is making Midgard Saga, a cartoony Norse turn-based strategy game in the vein of X-Com with lots of abilities, customization, and a multi-level campaign.
What is a postmortem?
Hi, my name is Ben Roye and I am the Game Designer for Kraven Manor. A postmortem is an article written to expose very transparently all of the good and bad things that happen during development of a particular game--in this case, Kraven Manor. It also takes a look at what the team learned and how that knowledge could be applied forward to future games made by the team, or to game development in general.
In the beginning...
Some of the core ideas for Kraven Manor were based on a board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill. Benjamin Klingler already talked about this in a previous post; however, in order to give context to what I'm about to go into, I will recap. Betrayal is a very modular game. Players draw "room tiles" and place them wherever they want and wherever they fit. This allows players to essentially create the mansion's floor plan in front of them--it gives players a grand sense that they are the architects of their own game. It's a powerful emotion. We wanted to incorporate that emotion into Kraven Manor early on in the design process. Betrayal also had "haunts"--cooperative objectives that, if satisfied, would win the game for the players. Kraven Manor also had haunts early on, as Cliff Bell mentioned in the previous blog. The statue haunt, now the entire Kraven Manor experience, was meant to be one of many haunts that would occur semi-randomly for the player. This would have given the game some replayability and potentially a longer sales tail since the game could be played through more than once.
Games start with cool ideas. Great games have cool ideas and great execution throughout...
We knew even before we started developing the game that we had some pretty neat design principles set up. Kraven Manor would essentially be a player walking from room to room, with new content popping up semi-randomly in front of them. When the game started, the game's tech picked 1 of 3 random haunts for the player to complete during their playthrough. The structured random experience was intended to take the player through a game not unlike Blizzard North's Diablo. There were certain story bits and larger mechanics that the player would experience in an order of the level design team's choosing; the order of the rest of the content--the minor details--would be left up to the game's technology to decide. Specifically, we said that there had to be distinctions in the type of rooms that the tech would call for:
The Proof of Concept Technology was a success internally. In fact, the team had accomplished their semi-random experience design goal. The art team created highly functional modular assets. This allowed the level design team to quickly create an astounding amount of content for our first milestone. In two and a half weeks, we had created a concept demo that took around 20 minutes to walk through. However, there wasn't much in the way of content, other than walking around and refilling your flashlight's batteries.
Proof of Concept Gameplay: A lesson learned
We had been successful in our first milestone. That really pumped up the team and maybe created this false sense of security in our minds. Our goal for the following milestone, Proof of Concept Gameplay, was to expand on the game's mechanics to actually give the player something to do during their leisurely stroll through the manor of Lord Kraven. We started actually crafting the content for our first haunt during this sprint as well--the statue haunt. However, we didn't take any time to polish up the massive amount of content that we had created during Proof of Concept Technology, and that led to bad juju down the road.
The following is a list of features that got designed, some of which got implemented into the game, and all of which were cut later:
The game was simply too damn big and too ambitious for a student project. Our POCG therefore was a failure. We were moving in a direction that, at the time, we believed was the right direction. But at the end of the day, we couldn’t prove that we could wrap our heads around making that game fun. We needed to redesign and we needed to do it quickly.
Vertical Slice Sprint - Could we save the game?
As you may have already guessed, we decided to scope down the game incredibly until only the bare essentials were left. Our scoping down meant cutting a bunch of mechanics, pretty much all the ones listed above. We also decided that the design for structured randomness wasn’t working for our game. The reason wasn’t because it wasn’t fun; in fact, I still believe it could be ludicrously entertaining if executed well. The reason was that we had to create a massive amount of content to see any benefit from using that system.
We came to the conclusion that if we stuck to creating only a handful of rooms, we could spend much more time polishing them. It meant we could do something else as well: we could go ahead and make the game linear. For a horror experience, more so than maybe most other genres, having a linear experience allows level designers to set up their scares. Even if you don’t have jump scares, as a designer, a linear experience allows you set up ambiance and mood better, better control the rise and ebb of music and sound effects, better control transition between post-process effects and more. So we knew we had a win there.
The choice to cut Voice Acting: Cutting voice acting was a hard choice for many of us on the team. Ultimately, the reason we did it was because we had all experienced bad voice acting in games. (In fact, one of our inspirations, Resident Evil, contained terrible voice acting.) It is easy to get voice acting into a game very quickly, and extremely hard to make it feel not cheesy, canned, campy, or worse, just plain bad. We knew that putting in voice acting could in fact make our game suck, so we just decided to do without it. That meant, that for Vertical Slice, we cut the narrative of the game altogether. For a brief moment, that lifted a burden off of our game and gave us some clarity.
From the beginning of the Vertical Slice sprint, we created a mantra that stuck with us for the rest of our development: “Keep it scary.” Because at the end of the day, if making our game scary was the only thing we accomplished, we could call our game a success in our own eyes.
Now that we had a new vision, we needed the gameplay for the scoped down game to be a "kernel of fun". We knew that the technology behind being able to move rooms in real space was cool, and it was fun when the player moved rooms intentionally, like Betrayal and the room shifting puzzles we had concepted out. "Room shifting" was our kernel of fun.
At this point, we knew exactly how many rooms we were going to create: the Library, the Wine Cellar, the Bedroom, the Entryway, and the Kill Room. That informed us about how we could retool our core mechanic of room shifting into something that still had the same core ideas but would be manageable for our student project. We came up with the Room Table. (See the side story below.)
The Room Table: At its core, the room table allows the player to be the architect of their own game. They can place rooms how they see fit, moving the rooms we created in real space, and travel there to admire their handiwork. The room table is essentially 5 mechanics rolled into one: (1) Find a room model, bring it back to the room table to build an increasingly elaborate manor. (2) Connect a room model to the entryway and travel to that room. (3) Rotate a room from one door connection to another doorway and travel to that new doorway. (4) Connect a room to a previously connected room, and travel through the first room into the second room. (5) Connect a room to bridge the gap between the entryway and a distant and immovable "room island" in order to travel to that immovable room.
The kernel of fun has been planted. Now add water...
After taking the time to carefully scope our game and focus on what was fun, we knew we were on the right track. Again, our game felt a little barebones in the form of minute-to-minute gameplay. We had delivered on the ambiance, the scope of the game, and the kernel of fun, but we were still missing something. The player needed something to do besides look for new room models to connect to the room table.
At the same time, I had began looking at games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil for answers on how they conveyed information to the player and how they delivered their story beats. I began to wonder if we could add a mechanic that would accomplish reintroducing our story into the game and giving the player something to do while they were exploring the manor. Then I found it. I brought in my Gamecube one afternoon and played Resident Evil for the team. The game has a mechanic where when you walk into the room, an object shines alerting you to its presence. When you press a button next to the object, the game gives you a blurb of text telling you about the object and often giving you bits of story or clues on how to solve a puzzle. I asked if the team thought it would be a good idea to have this mechanic and they agreed. Thus was born the Examine mechanic (the magnifying glass). Looking back, I really think the Examine mechanic is neat because it allowed the team to inject personality into the game and sell the atmosphere even more.
After we figured out our gameplan, there were only a few small trifles left, such as localizing the game into more than just English, and making sure everything was shiny and felt awesome.
What did I learn as the Game Designer?
I know we all learned a lot from the development of Kraven Manor. While I can't speak specifics about what other people learned, I can talk about what I learned. Obviously, our game turned out very different from what we envisioned it would be in the Proof of Concept Technology sprint. I think some of the things that we did very well were to keep asking questions to never let ourselves become stagnant. Questions like:
This isn't new stuff. I'm mostly repeating what great game designers have been saying for years. However, I will say this: humble yourself. I am so much more humble now than when I started at the Guildhall. If you think you have a knack for design, and if you've practiced it, you just might. But everyone needs to practice humility in game development. I've learned that if you want people to respect your ideas, you need to work hard to prove that they are as fun as you say. I learned to be much more open to critique. I learned that your best ideas need to be torn down, flipped over, and improved upon 10-50 times before they will get to the level that they need to be to become viable in a commercial product.
I'm usually a Producer on projects, that's why my logo says so! Check out my other work at www.BenRoye.com.
Hello! My name is Cliff Bell and I was a Level Designer for Kraven Manor. Before I talk about my contributions and give some advice to any aspiring level designers out there, I wanted to give a quick bio on myself.
My path to being a game developer started with a Nintendo Entertainment System, given to me by my aunt as a present. This simple console entertained me for hours on end and sparked my love of video games. It would eventually be replaced by more modern consoles and games as I grew older, though I never forgot it (it’s still bundled up in a closet somewhere). I embraced video games, just as I did reading and writing, as windows to a digital world where I could do anything and be anyone.
Looking back, I realize now that I was always destined to be a gamer. My family and I would gather together to watch Star Trek and other sci-fi shows. My mother, an elementary school teacher, introduced me to reading at an early age, though it took forever for me to catch on. I eventually found the Animorphs series (another gift from my aunt; what child could resist a book filled with words like “eviscerate” and “guillotine”?), and haven’t been able to put a book down since. In middle school, I was reading an even mix of fiction by R.A. Salvatore, and much older classics like The Odyssey.
To calm down my hyperactive younger self, my father would often let me sit beside him and watch as he played games on his computer, such as Xcom: Apocalypse and Baldur’s Gate. As I grew older, I would watch him play the game, then try to beat it myself. Worms Armageddon, Dungeon Keeper, and Ground Control were some of the first games I truly understood and defeated on my own.
My overactive imagination was focused on the realms of sci-fi and fantasy, and I eventually channeled it into creative writing. During high school I was very active in the Boy Scouts of America (eventually achieving the rank of Eagle Scout) and went camping at least once a month. Out in the wilderness, my imagination reigned unfettered, surrounded by old oak trees and away from the cities. Every remote location I hiked to became the perfect setting for a new story.
I eventually went to college at Texas Christian University, where I graduated early with a double-major in Writing and History. This education helped refine my writing skills and solidified my desire to work on video games. I had always been an avid gamer, but it was at TCU where I realized I wanted to do more than just play them. I wanted to build them, to create the lore-filled worlds and settings, to craft the villains and heroes.
So, I came to The Guildhall to learn the skills necessary for game development, where I will graduate from this December.
I joined the Kraven Manor team pretty early in its development, back when we were still set on creating a huge dynamically-generated mansion. Whenever the player opened a door, the game would choose a random room to place behind it, including hallways with more doors to open. Over time, the player would explore the mansion and generate the mansion’s layout. Eventually, the player would hit a specific room that triggered a “Haunt”, an event with its own unique enemy that the player must defeat (or escape from). Every level designer came up with multiple Haunt ideas that we could possibly use, thus leading to my earliest and most lasting contribution to the game: the concept of the game’s enemy, the mannequin.
My Haunt’s enemies were statues that could only move when unseen and were killed by moonlight. Due to the simplicity of their design, this Haunt was the easiest to implement (in fact, the Level Designers were able to fake their behavior for the first few demonstrations). Time constraints prevented us from implementing any of the other Haunts in their entirety, and the statues eventually became mannequins. Over time, it became a single mannequin that hunted the player throughout the entire game.
I am also the level designer who designed/built the Bedroom (at least the first time you visit, with the bloody trunk). It was originally supposed to be a tutorial that taught the player how to defeat the mannequins with moonlight (that’s why the mannequin disappears after the shutters open up).
The other level I developed was the Escape Sequence. That includes the Wine Cellar when it’s on fire, the Bedroom when it starts shifting its layout, and the Sideways Library. I was tasked with utilizing the existing levels to create an experience where the player is always pressured to move forward, and never allowed to rest. We wanted the player to flee, so I used fire, smoke, and a gravity-breaking spirit to force the player to keep moving.
I also developed another room, but that was over the summer…don’t think I’m allowed to talk about that yet.
So You Want to be a Level Designer?
It’s not easy breaking into the video game industry. Most entry-level jobs require you to already have several years of experience in the industry, and they’ll expect you to have a decent portfolio. Having said that, there are three main ways to get into the industry, all with their own pros and cons.
It’s relatively easy to be hired for QA, but the job is very demanding and not as fun as you might think. You’re not playing a game, you’re testing it to find bugs. This includes walking into every wall in the game to make sure it has collision, opening doors hundreds of time to see if they break, and dying thousands of times to verify the checkpoints. You’ll play the same segment of a game so much that you won’t be able to enjoy the rest of the game. Your job, at its most basic, is to break something that a developer spent hours and hours making in order to improve the game. Many developers out there appreciate this, but some can be very bitter about people breaking their levels.
In the past, this was a strong route into the industry. You would do QA to learn the basic skills and, if you showed talent, your superiors would train and promote you. This job also allows you to network and make good contacts with people inside the industry, people who may offer better jobs in the future. If you luck out, there are some exceptionally good studios out there that treat their QA teams very well.
On the downside, fewer and fewer QA testers are being promoted into the modern game industry. Additionally, there is a long line of eager and inexperienced gamers who don’t understand what QA really is and would love to have your job, so there’s little job security. Those that stick with a studio long enough are becoming professional QA testers, people who are expert bug-finders and are valued by the industry.
Pros: Great opportunity for networking, potential to work with good games and developers, may eventually be promoted to a more secure position, and technically you are in the industry.
Cons: Long hours and a potentially stressful environment, tedious, little job security or pay, may make you hate video games.
There are many free or cheap tools out there that allow you to create your own games and levels. The Unreal Development Kit and Unity are great, especially if you can make your own assets or work with code. Many games, such as Skyrim, offer access to their own engine when you buy their game (if you own Skyrim, you have access to the Creation Kit and can make your own levels and environments). These are especially good because they already come with beautiful assets that you can use. Most developers recommend grabbing one of these tools right away and teaching yourself the skills that can get you hired. Being a modder allows you total creative freedom, to create whatever you want with the tools available to you. There are also many tutorials online to help you learn the engine, and learn basic game design principles.
Mods are very diverse, allowing artists, programmers, level designers, and producers to build a portfolio. Making mods on your own isn’t always easy, but it shows that you can self-motivate, solve problems, and teach yourself. Studios love all of these skills, making you a better potential employee. It is also extremely impressive if one of your mods becomes popular, as you can brag about how many thousands of people played it and enjoyed it.
Obviously, if you aren’t able to motivate yourself or learn from tutorials found on YouTube, you won’t be able to make it as a modder. Modding is also difficult because your life will get in the way. Don’t expect to make any money while working on mods, so you’ll have to work a job as well. This takes up more of your time and modding may very well become a hobby instead of your professional passion.
Pros: Build up a very strong portfolio, learn many of the non-technical skills that studios love, and a studio may come to you if your work is good/popular/successful enough.
Cons: Not everyone is able to keep themselves motivated to keep modding, your personal life and jobs will soak up the time you have to work on mods.
Gaming schools are a relatively new path into the industry, but can be very effective when taught by industry veterans. Every school offers different programs and focuses on different skills, and generally get a good number of their graduates into the industry. Each school is different, which makes it hard to generalize them, so you should do your own research into each program.
Gaming schools, either by design or by happenstance, tend to specialize. Some schools are very good for programmers, others allow their students a great deal of creativity in their own projects. At Guildhall (at least for Level Designers), they focus on teaching us how to produce good documentation, how to learn a new engine quickly, and time management. Schools let you form close-knit networks with the other students, most of whom will one day work in the industry.
The major disadvantage of a game development school is the cost. All of the schools, even those considered cheap, are very expensive. The workload can be very intense as well and you may not even have time to work a part-time job to help cover tuition.
Pros: Good networking opportunity with teachers and other students, can help build up a good portfolio, industry veterans teach you the skills you need and what to expect.
Cons: Very expensive and time consuming.
I recommend taking up modding first, regardless of what you want to specialize as. Modding will give you an idea of what it takes to be in the industry and whether or not you really want to make video games as a profession. If you’re college student, you might have some free time in-between classes to work on a few projects.
For Level Designers especially, I recommend picking up a free editor and throwing together some basic multiplayer levels. Find a game or editor that supports bots (Unreal Tournament III or Unreal Development Kit are both good) so you can watch “people” play your level. This teaches you the basics of map design and game flow. Michael McCoy, one of my professors who worked on the Rainbow Six games, says, “It is easy to create a good multiplayer map, but difficult to make it great. It is difficult to create a good single player map, but easy to make it great.”
Start out making multiplayer maps because you are essentially creating a shell that players fill with their own gameplay. In single player, the players are relying entirely on the designer to create a fun experience for them. Learn the ropes of level design with multiplayer maps first, then get into the more difficult process of single player design.
If you’re weak at coding or scripting, you should start learning it now. Some editors come with visual scripting (watered down programming with pictures instead of with words) like Kismet. These can help you learn the logic of scripting and are easier to work with at first, as you don’t have to learn a whole new language. As a Level Designer, you will eventually need to know at least basic scripting. If you’re more art-oriented, I’d still pick up a few scripting skills but you should focus more on 3D modeling (Maya and 3ds Max are both used in the industry).
Random Things of Interest
Cliff Bell, Level Designer
Hello, everybody! It has been a couple months since we have spoken a word, so for that, we apologize! I wanted to give you all a quick update on the status of Kraven Manor and provide some insight on what is to come in the future.
First and foremost, another big thank you to everybody who has supported us by playing, sharing, helping translate, and participating in both the open and closed betas. With your help, we are proud to announce that we have completed (for the most part) developing Kraven Manor! For those of you who were able to participate in the closed beta, you have seen the remainder of our new content and gameplay. For those that have not, your time is of course coming!
When Will Kraven Manor Officially Release?
The big question is, "When will you guys officially release the game?" Well, this is more complicated than most know and thus warrants a public explanation for why you cannot play the finished game quite yet.
As you may or may not be aware of, we are currently graduate students and Kraven Manor was our student project for a course that took place in Spring 2013 (with minor additions developed over the summer). Our development took place while studying and completing projects for our other courses as full time students. Since we developed the game at The Guildhall, the intellectual property is actually owned by our school, Southern Methodist University.
What does this mean? Basically, it prevents us from publishing, selling, or otherwise releasing Kraven Manor via a distribution platform (in this case, digitally over something like Desura, Steam, etc.). It is also why we have been unable to officially give permission for you all to monetize via your "Let's Play" videos on YouTube and such.
So, over the past three months, the team has been going through the complicated process of trying to acquire the intellectual property from SMU so that we can release the game on a distribution platform. Our setback: legal stuff takes forever!
Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes to acquire the intellectual property is out of our hands. We can push for it to move along, but the reality is, it could take until as early as next month to as late as sometime in 2014 before everything actually becomes official.
What happens when we finally acquire the IP? Well, we do not yet have an official answer. We are interested in pursuing Steam Greenlight or Desura so that we can familiarize ourselves with and learn the process of getting a game on a modern day digital distribution platform. It would be an incredibly valuable experience from both technical and business standpoints, but may result in needing to put a price tag on the game (which leads to things such as purchasing professional, non-student licenses for the software we used).
Regardless of whether or not we decide to go for Greenlight and / or put a price tag on the final game, we at least know for certain that it may take some time before we can actually release all of the new content we created over the summer. If we do end up selling the game for money, rest assured that there will be a process in the future for all our current fans to claim a free copy. After all, without you guys, we'd be nothing. More details on that to come.
Of course, the moment we know more on this matter, we will share it with you all.
What is the Team Doing Now?!
As stated above and in previous posts, we are currently working toward our Master's degrees in Interactive Technology. As you probably have guessed by now, school started up again in early August and has in turn made us incredibly busy. Since we are expected to graduate this coming December, we are all dedicating most our time toward finishing our respective theses, our individual projects, and our portfolio websites. And, even more exciting, in the next few weeks, our job searching process officially begins. So, with that in mind, we hope you understand and forgive us for our decreased presence both on here and via our developer gmail account.
It is very likely that once we graduate, all of us are going to take our respective paths toward starting our own careers. Regrettably, this means the team does not at this time plan to expand Kraven Manor more so than we already have during July.
With that said, we continue to love you guys and wanted to do something special in the void between now and when we can officially release Kraven Manor. Ever since we put out our first beta build, we have received numerous emails of people asking how we got into The Guildhall and what tips we had for getting started in game development. While we replied to everyone who inquired, we asked ourselves, "Why not just share this with everyone?"
So, starting next Monday, October 14, 2013 until we run out of available people, a different developer of Kraven Manor is going to write a blog post here at the start of every week, talking a bit about their back-story, what they did on Kraven Manor, what they think now that development is over, and/or perhaps where they are planning to go in the months ahead. In terms of content, each developer has the creative freedom to say anything, but you can at least expect a few tips here and there for any aspiring artists, programmers, level designers, and producers.
While we obviously do not have experience in the actual game industry at a real studio (nor do we claim we have the necessary knowledge to compete with those who do), we are hoping we can at least use our own struggles and revelations to encourage or assist those of you who share our passion and aspirations. Game development is hard stuff, but nobody is born with the knowledge and expertise.
Alright, well, I don't want to keep you TOO long. Thank you for reading and for being you! More posts and information on the opportunity to get the final game for free are on the way, but until then, you stay classy!
Posted by Benjamin Klingler, Lead Programmer
Hello everyone and Happy Wednesday (we stole this expression from an amazing art professor at The Guildhall)! I'm here to share a bit about the trailer contest results, a sweet milestone, and what sort of new content we've been working on for the past couple of weeks!
First and foremost, in case you haven't seen Facebook / Twitter / our homepage, we announced the winners of the Create-A-Trailer Contest! In total, six people submitted a trailer to the contest and, we must admit, you all have some pretty sweet talent!
The first place, grand prize winner was Wane Mikulić, otherwise known as TsoniLiara on YouTube. This guy did a phenomenal job at putting together a wholesome trailer while still maintaining the creep factor of Kraven Manor. Please give him an internet hug by checking out his YouTube video below and giving it a thumbs up--the man deserves it!
Second and third place of the contest went to Laurence Derbyshire (GameReEdits) and Christopher Palmer (MarsShadow), respectively. Their trailers, as well as the rest of the contestants, also had an incredible amount of effort put into them--each of them offering a unique and interesting, creative take on Kraven Manor. It is very obvious just how much time these people spent on creating these--definitely worth checking out for yourself!
To see the second and third place trailers, as well as the rest of the submissions, check out the winners page here: http://www.kravenmanor.com/contests.html
50,000+ Downloads, 900+ Facebook Likes
Holy cow!! A day or two ago, we reached the 50,000 download mark on IndieDB! Thank you guys again for your tremendous support and for helping spread our game throughout the entire world--you all are incredible!
We make sure to spend some time every now and then to see what you all are up to, including watching your videos, reading your reviews, and sharing your art. We recently took a gander at Tumblr to see what you all have put on there, and let me tell you, some of those images are amazing!
One of them caught our attention and did not make sense until we saw a commercial for a product called Robax. Don't know what Robax is? Well, you're in for a treat. Secretly, this is what the statue does when you aren't playing.
August Closed Beta
As you may or may not have seen, there is a huge countdown timer on our homepage counting down to our upcoming closed beta registration. For those unfamiliar, we are basically opening up a signup sheet for the first twenty-five (25) people that visit our Closed Beta page starting tonight, Wednesday, July 31, at 9:00 PM CST. These twenty-five people, along with all of our translators and Create-A-Trailer Contestants, will get a chance to see brand new content before any of their friends.
We read and watch a lot of the internet and have listened very closely to what you all have had to say in both your feedback submissions and in your reviews / Let's Play videos. In a perfect world, we would have done everything that everyone wanted; however, due to many circumstances, we could only pull so much off in the couple weeks we had to develop with a subset of our original team.
In total, after a few members received some pretty awesome job opportunities with local companies and a few others started to focus on their theses, six of us spent a little less than twenty days developing what will be seen in this closed beta. Obviously, this is not a lot of time, haha, which is precisely why the game is not a heck of a lot longer than what it already was. However, don't let that deter you just yet...
Despite our limitations, we were still able to pull off quite a bit in my opinion. And, while we are not yet willing to reveal some of what we have done, we can at least say the following about what closed-beta testers will get to experience (in no particular order). If you want to be surprised, stop reading! Seriously, go away.
That's all I got for today! Thank you guys so much for everything and be sure to check out the website when the timer ticks down for a chance to enter our closed beta!
Posted by Benjamin Klingler, Lead Programmer
Hello, everyone! It has been a while!
Since our last post, the team has been hard at work continuing to improve upon Kraven Manor. While a few members of the team had to break loose and focus on other projects, we are still making modifications, many of which we hope will address some of your playtest feedback. As for what we have been working on--well, that's for another time.
As of today, Kraven Manor has been seen in over 150 countries around the world--an accomplishment that we owe to your incredible support and enthusiasm. While this is really awesome, we are a bit bummed that the game can still only be played in three languages: English, Finnish, and Spanish. Naturally, much of our knowledge of foreign languages only gets as sophisticated as saying "¿Dónde está la biblioteca?" And, that's only because we saw Dodgeball. So, in hopes of not having to fall back on a machine translator, we wanted to ask for YOUR help in showing off your fancy linguistic abilities!
Unfortunately, we do not have the power to compensate you; however, we can and will show off your glorious name in our in-game credits. And, even better, we'll give you an internet "high-five". What is an internet high-five, you ask? Well, you'll just have to find out.
If you are looking for some boosters for your resumé, extra credit for your foreign language class, or just want to help us out because you are awesome, head on over to our application at the URL below (or, you can click Help Translate in the top navigation bar). We do not yet have an official starting date, but will be in touch should you choose to apply. We really, really appreciate any donation of time and effort!
Thank you again everybody for keeping up with us and for supporting the game! Also, do not forget about our Create-A-Trailer Contest, where you can enter for a chance to be showcased on our homepage and receive a signed physical copy of the game! Deadline is July 15!
For our American readers, have a safe Fourth of July!
Posted by Benjamin Klingler, Lead Programmer
Hello, everyone! A little over a month ago, we were mere students working on a student project for our graduate degrees. Today, our game has been downloaded in over 130 countries around the world, and it is all because of you and the magical power of the internet. Your kindness and support has meant a tremendous amount to us.
You all have helped spread the word about Kraven Manor; now it is time for us to return the favor and spread the word about you! Today, we are excited to announce a new campaign. We are officially launching the Community Contest Program. The reason? To show the world just how awesome you are.
The idea of the Community Contest Program is to host contests that require various skills, allowing for you, the community, to excel and show off what you do best. While we have a few contests up our sleeves, we encourage anybody to post on our forums any suggestions for future contests--we would love to hear them!
Our first official contest, which begins today, is the Create-A-Trailer Contest. As the name suggests, we are inviting you to create and submit a trailer for a chance to get a signed physical copy of Kraven Manor and to be showcased on this very website. For more information on the contest, including the rules and where to submit, please check out the following URL:
The deadline to submit is July 15, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST. Winners will be announced on July 29, 2013.
This first contest serves as the experimental contest to see if something of this nature interests you, the community. If enough people submit or request, we will definitely be hosting more contests in the future!
Thank you all so much for everything! We absolutely cannot wait to see what you come up with!
Posted by Benjamin Klingler, Lead Programmer
Hello, everybody! A new installer is now available online for you to download! Heads up, this build does not contain any new gameplay / story related content.
So, what changed, then? This new update primarily focuses on fixing bugs, making content optimizations, and polishing the overall experience (both visually and mechanically). We also added in a graphics quality adjuster, which for now allows you to select between "Low", "Medium", and "High".
The reason for spending the past couple weeks on this was a secret up until last Friday, when we announced on both Facebook and Twitter that we had officially submitted Kraven Manor to the Intel Level Up 2013 Competition. The contest requires a game demo that can, among other things, run smoothly on an Intel 3rd Generation Core i5 processor, Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, and with 4 GB DDR3-1333 memory. After a number of optimizations and fine-tuning, we are proud to say that we were able to accomplish that goal and have the game run at a nearly constant 30 frames-per-second!
We submitted Kraven Manor into the "Adventure" category of the contest, where we are competing with eight other titles. All categories considered, there are a total of 98 game demos that were submitted, including ours. Here are the official submission statistics (source: http://software.intel.com/en-us/forums/topic/393562).
The top winners get their demos featured on Steam's demos page and the ultimate grand prize winner (Game of the Year) actually gets a chance to negotiate with Valve to potentially release a full version of their game on Steam! Demos can win best in their genre or best in the following categories:
The official results of the contest do not come out until late July, so until then, we will just have to keep ourselves busy with other super secret stuff for you all.
Thank you all so much for your continued support! If you have issues with the new build, want to give us feedback, or just want to chat, you can always reach us here, at our forums, or any one of our social media pages.
See you around!
Posted by Benjamin Klingler, Lead Programmer