Tag Archives: Prologue Games

[KNEE DEEP] Official Fiction No. 2: The Long Haul

Act 3 Screenshot - The Murk FinalAs a reward for our players posting 75 Steam reviews about the game, we’re sharing a bit of Knee Deep fiction. The next official fiction piece will be released after we hit 100 reviews on Steam. Enjoy!

The agent sitting across from K.C. Gaddis sips his coffee. He sets the cup down next to a manila folder. His partner, the woman with the no-nonsense ponytail and short-clipped fingernails, presses her hands on the table in the interrogation room.

“Tell us more about your father’s dealings with the Church of Us,” she says.

Gaddis doesn’t look at her. Keeps his eyes on the gray porkpie hat resting on the table in front of him. “No,” he says.

“C’mon, Mr. Gaddis,” the male agent says. The cup’s got a motto on it: WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES. “It’s relevant to our investigation.”

“Is it?” The private investigator gives a dark chuckle. “Dad’s dead. Been dead a long time.”

The female agent stands straight, crosses her arms, and paces behind the detective’s chair. “Motive, Mr. Gaddis.”

Gaddis rolls his eyes. He sees her in the mirror on the wall behind her partner. She’s stopped now, scowling down at him. “Oh, give me a break. I didn’t kill the guy. Certainly not over Dad.”

The manila folder opens. Slender fingers pluck out a photocopied page. The male agent says, “We’ve got the incident report from 1980, when he killed himself.” He slides the paper across the table to Gaddis. “You talked to Cypress Knee’s police chief at the time.”

“Chief Groves,” Gaddis replies. He moves the porkpie so it’s on top of the paper. “So what?”

The male agent shrugs. “Your father sank a lot of cash into the Church of Us. Nearly cost your mother the house. You’d taken, what, two part-time jobs to help the family survive?”

“Three if you count the paper route for the Notice,” the detective says. “But that was decades ago. A long time before I met the vic. As far as I know, the church reps who got their claws into Dad are still out there, scamming people left and right with their crazy cult religion.”

“Still,” the female agent says, “you’ve clashed with him before. Maybe he just made a convenient target for a lot of pent-up rage.”

Gaddis shakes his head, letting out a sigh as he laces his fingers together. “You’re fishing, lady. Maybe it makes a convincing story for you two, but I don’t have much stomach for killing, even in anger. I just want to do my job and get paid.”

“So you must really be mad about your gig going south,” the guy with the waffle cup says.

“How does that go to motive?” Gaddis asks. “That was after our pal died. Donovan Miller delivered that news. Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to shoot the messenger?”

The woman rounds the corner to the other side of the table to stand next to her partner. “Crimes of passion don’t always make sense. You’re an ex-cop. You know that.”

“Wrong,” Gaddis says. “They’re usually pretty clear, unless the perp’s a nut. She left me. No one else can have her. He called me a chicken. He cut me off in traffic. Everybody’s got their reasons. And even if the killer’s a lunatic, they’ve got some kind of twisted logic at work. So let’s cut through the bullshit, all right?” He slides the chair back, stands, and picks his hat up off the table. “I’m done answering questions. I’m done listening to you accuse me of a murder I didn’t commit. It’s been a long goddamned couple of days. I doubt I’ll ever get this swamp stink out. I want a shower. I want a lawyer. I’m done here.”

The man clears his throat. He rests a palm on the folder. Looks toward his partner. She shrugs. He says, “That’s the thing, Mr. Gaddis. You’re not done here. Not by a sight.”

“Excuse me?” Gaddis frowns. He jabs a finger at the agent. “I know my rights.”

The woman offers a thin smile. Crosses her arms again. “They don’t apply here,” she says.

“That’s kidnapping,” Gaddis replies.

“More like protective custody,” the man says.

“Bullshit. I don’t need your protection.”

“We’re not protecting you,” the woman says, her smile fading.

“So you might as well get comfortable, Mr. Gaddis,” the man suggests. He raises the waffle tribute cup in a grim salute. “We’re in this for the long haul.”

Celebrating one-year anniversary of Knee Deep’s first act!

It seems like just yesterday Colin and I walked into the London Tobacco Dock for the first time to share Knee Deep with prospective players at EGX Rezzed.

How has it already been a year since the launch of Act 1 on Steam?

Time flies by like tourists in nondescript rental cars blithely zooming past the rundown teepee tower of Chief Roadside’s Wonderland on their way to happier places.

Of course, once Act 1 launched on Steam, it was like we’d topped the first rise of a rollercoaster and started down toward the loop-the-loop of Act 2. We learned so much just during the first couple of weeks, including:

  • Character voices matter. In a game driven less by puzzles and more by narrative, we couldn’t just hand players walls of text to read. It became especially apparent when we noticed people like Jim Sterling risking laryngitis to perform their own versions of the dialogue in the 2.5-hour opening segment of Knee Deep.
  • Untried, unknown indie developers can’t expect immediate trust of players. We ran with advice that we should charge a full “season pass” price up-front for Act 1, with the idea that we’d add Acts 2 and 3 as they were finished. Turns out, players got burned too many times by companies that promised episodic content but either didn’t deliver or delivered very slowly.
  • We’re our own best cheerleaders. Few people discover your game and make it popular on accident. It’s critical to keep a heartbeat going on social media – Twitter, Facebook, the company home page. And, whenever possible and affordable, share your work at big gaming conventions.

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One blessing of Knee Deep’s three-act episodic approach and our small, agile indie dev team was that we could take player feedback, assess it, and then act on it in short order. The in-game voiceover issue is a perfect example of this.

We’d heard some rumblings about the lack of character voices months before launch at EGX Rezzed. Initially, we opted against it – mostly because we thought it would be too expensive but also because, from an artistic standpoint, we thought players should be able to imagine those characters voices on their own.

We were wrong on both counts.

After Act 1 launch, we revisited the issue because so many otherwise positive critiques dinged us for the lack of voiceover. We connected with Krash Creative in Raleigh to help us coordinate the hiring and direction of voice actors for 40 characters in all three acts. We retroactively added voice acting to the first episode and plugged it into Acts 2 and 3 for their launches.

Those few months between Acts 1 and 2 were, suffice it to say, incredibly hectic but rewarding. Now I simply can’t imagine our characters without the voice performances.

We also took some criticism for the high price point out of the gate. We gave it a lot of thought, discussed it, and within two weeks shifted to the approach of simply raising the price of the game as each episode launched. This meant early adopters paid less for the full game, which was a nice perk. But we still struggled to get past the “I’ll wait until it’s done” mentality from many skeptical players. We don’t begrudge them that attitude – we’re gamers too. We get it. However, we’re proud to have demonstrated that Prologue Games can reliably design, produce, and launch a full episodic adventure. The first act launched in July 2015. The third and final act hit Steam less than a year later in March 2016. We don’t promise what we can’t deliver.

Big takeaway from all this: What you say matters, we listen, and we act on it if we can. We also work very hard to remain responsive to people who post reviews or add discussion topics to our Steam community. We’re not some faceless international corporation. We’re a small team of enthusiastic game designers who don’t improve without your feedback.

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On the social media front, we’ve kept busy with our Twitter feeds (@PrologueGames and @DougPiranha, mostly), our Facebook page, and the Prologue Games website. We’ve engaged communities at Justadventure.com, adventuregamers.com, rockpapershotgun.com, and reddit.com. We’ve granted keys to dozens of game streamers, podcasters, and journalists. Yet we’ll still show up at PAX East as part of the Indie MEGABOOTH and hear people say they’ve never heard of Knee Deep. And we’ve barely been a blip on the radar for big gaming news sites such as RPS, Kotaku, and Polygon. Instead, we rely on smaller enthusiast sites to get the word out, hoping against hope that the bigger sites might realize what they’re missing.

The marketing department can never sleep, it seems. It can use your help, though. The game’s done now, so there’s no more waiting for the next act. Help spread the word about a unique experience that combines the drama of a stage play production with a point-and-click narrative adventure/visual novel, without quicktime events or grueling puzzles! Tickets for Knee Deep on Steam are far cheaper and easier to get than a matinee of Hamilton on Broadway – and you won’t see a dog named Monroe driving a bulldozer into a shed in that show!

We’re so grateful to our friends, families, and fans who’ve stuck with us during the first year after the curtain rose for the first time on the Prologue Theatre. We’re looking forward to showing what we can deliver next!

Knee Deep Update: The Naked Narrative

Here’s a look inside the narrative development process for the new “Knee Deep” swamp noir adventure that we’re working on at Prologue Games. Curiously enough, my experience as a storyteller on OtherSpace informs what I’m doing now far more than my work in the MMORPG sphere.