Meet the Orwell Team: Stefanie Curth

While we are getting closer and closer to releasing Orwell, we would like to introduce some of the amazing people who worked with us on our first commercial project.

Please meet: Stefanie Curth

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Here is a short interview so that you can find out more about her and her work:

What are your favorite games?
I really like games with a fascinating, deep story and beautiful art style. So some of my favorites are Journey or Bastion/Transistor. I love the environment and character design of Rayman or Ori and the Blind Forest. I am also a big fan of the Dragon Age universe, of which I own all kinds of merchandise, from the games themselves to books, comics and art books which reveal the world lore. The Witcher, Bioshock, The Last of Us and Beyond – Two Souls are also some of my all time favorites. After work, I love to play League of Legends to relax ;3

What kind of work did you contribute to Orwell?
I worked as a concept artist and Illustrator for Orwell. The biggest task was to create recognizable recurring characters. The unique style I worked with was really fun to do.

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Some of Stefanie’s work for Orwell.

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What other projects are you currently working on?
I currently work as a concept artist and animator for Sir Eatsalot, a 2D Adventure-Platformer for PS Vita. In the remaining time I am working as „jack of all trades“ artist for Brutal Hack and writing my master thesis.

Can you tell us more about awesome projects you have worked on in the past?
I worked 1,5 years in a small team to create a vertical slice for the game idea of „Thirst“. My work contained concept art, 3D texturing and animation. I also participated in the last 3 InnoGames game jams and you will find me there at the next ones too.

Find out more about Stefanie here:
My homepage is currently under reconstruction, but will be available soon at
www.stefaniecurth.de

You can find me here too :
Facebook: www.facebook.com/PhySalisArt
Instagramm: www.instagram.com/physalisart
Twitter: www.twitter.com/PhySalisArt

Big Brother has arrived – and it’s you

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We have been working in silence since we first presented our studio debut project Orwell to you in June 2015. Today, we are proud to present our massive progress since then and finally announce that Orwell will be released in late 2016. With the support of the awesome guys from Surprise Attack Games, who are now working together with us as a publisher for the game, we are delighted to present the official trailer for Orwell:

 

 

Big Brother has arrived – and it’s you. Investigate the lives of citizens to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks. Information from the internet, personal communications and private files are all accessible to you. But, be warned, the information you supply will have consequences…

Orwell is a new governmental security program that has the power to survey the online presence of every person in The Nation. It can monitor all personal communications and access any computer. To preserve the privacy of citizens, human researchers examine the data Orwell finds and decide which pieces of information should be passed on to the security forces, and which should be rejected.

Selected from thousands of candidates, you are Orwell’s first human researcher. And when a terror attack rocks the Nation’s capital city of Bonton, Orwell, and you, are immediately put to the test. Starting with a single person of interest, you’ll help the security forces build out and profile a network of potential culprits.

But are these people really terrorists? What does the information you reveal to Orwell say about them? What if you find out things about them that not even their loved ones know? What is the real price of maintaining the security that the Nation is yearning for?

Key Features

Investigate the digital lives of citizens.
Search web pages, scour through social media posts, dating site profiles, news articles and blogs to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks.

Invade the private lives of suspects.
Listen in on chat communications, read personal emails, hack PCs, pull medical files, make connections. Find the information you need to know.

Determine the relevance of information.
Only the information you provide will be seen by the security forces and acted upon. You decide what gets seen and what does not, influencing how the suspects will be perceived.

Secure the freedom of the Nation.
Find the terrorists so the citizens of the Nation can sleep safe, knowing Orwell is watching over them.

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Find the game on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/491950

We’re planning to update our progress regularly until the release of the game which is currently scheduled to be later this year. Be sure to follow osmoticstudios or orwell_game (or both) on Twitter. We hope you are as excited about the game as we are making it!

 

Press

If you’re from the press, we’d be very happy to be able to talk to you about the game. Our Mel will also attend Gamescom, so if you are going to be present there or if you would just like to talk to us about the game, contact press@surpriseattackgames.com.

Please find our the Orwell press kit with basic facts, screenshots and a trailer here: http://www.surpriseattackgames.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Orwell

Let’s talk Orwell

Last week the folks from Welle Nerdpol visited our tiny Hamburgian office. We invited them to a “round” of Orwell, then discussed their impressions with them. The best part about that? They recorded the whole thing and put it online as a podcast (German only, sorry). Be advised that we discuss some game features and the beginning of the story in detail, so there are some MINOR SPOILERS ahead!

No, those are NOT the Welle Nerdpol guys.

Thanks to Welle Nerdpol for the nice interview! We had a blast talking about the project in depth, even if Micha didn’t make it to the session – it was really fun!

Orwell nominated for PLAY15 Award!

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Great news: Orwell is nominated for the PLAY15 Award as “Most Innovative Newcomer”! We are very happy about this and can’t wait for the jury’s decision, which will be on September 19th. So keep your fingers crossed for us!

The PLAY15 Festival is a computer game festival and conference taking place annually in Hamburg. The conference is specialised in social, political and education-orientated examination of digital games. PLAY15 targets pupils, teachers, students, scientists, people from the gaming industry and those who are interested in culture. Everyone, across all ages and from all over the world, is invited to discover the diverse possibilities that digital games offer, try them out and to explore their creative potential.

PLAY15 – festival for creative gaming introduces the new Creative Gaming Awards in the categories Most Creative Game and Most Innovative Newcomer Game. The award is particularly for projects that use computer games as a creative medium and encourage the player’s creativity in the game.Creative Gaming Award 2015 Nominee

The Most Innovative Newcomer Award focuses on the game idea and the innovation that is connected with the development of the game. This can be showcased by a special gameplay, transmediality, unknown possibilities of interaction within the game, essential graphic innovations, new interfaces, uncommon atmospheres, visual breakthroughs or new topics that are being dealt with in the game. The award is endowed with 1.500 €, furthermore the developers will be supported by Kai Fiebig from Daedalic Entertainment for 1 year, who will help them with the development of the game.

For this year’s PLAY award there were over 150 submissions from 20 different countries.

See all nominations here!

Keep an eye on our first project: Orwell

After a long phase of working in silence, some playtesting in the weeks past and with our first exhibition looming at the horizon we finally feel both comfortable and confident to proudly announce our debut project: “Orwell”

Orwell

A series of suspected terrorist strikes shake the most lively places in the city of Bonton, capital of the Nation. The reasons remain unknown. The only existing clues raise more questions than they answer.

As a new investigator in the governmental security program “Orwell” you are assigned the investigation of an activist group. Orwell itself is a software, a toolset that allows you to research online documents, observe messages and chats, wire-tap telephone calls and intrude into personal devices. It is your job as a trustworthy citizen to gather relevant pieces of data about the target individuals and fill their personal profiles to ultimately uncover the perpetrators of the assaults.

But are these people really terrorists? Are they really guilty? What if you find out things about them that not even their loved ones know? What is the real price for maintaining the security the Nation is yearning for? Digging through the most private documents confronts you with many inconvenient questions. And there is only one thing for sure: Nobody is innocent.

Orwell is an interactive thriller about digital surveillance in which the player takes on the role of the watcher. The game will first be shown (and be playable!) at the Magnology Hamburg and is scheduled to be released in 2016.

Over the months to come we will release more information on the mechanics, characters, the story and our work. You can stay tuned by liking Orwell on Facebook or following Osmotic Studios on Twitter.

Money and the road to EXIST(ence)

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Maybe you’ve heard the news on social media a while ago or just us screaming at the top of our voices: We got funded by EXIST! Today the official funding confirmation finally arrived at the office! Whew!

But … money? Really? Aren’t we “independent”? And still no word of the first game? Why bother with two months of boring paperwork? Well, read on. Also if you don’t know what EXIST is – don’t worry though, you don’t have to.

 

Most people who are in the so-called “independent” games scene don’t like to talk or even think about it: Money. After all, we are into entertainment and fun. We want to craft games. All day long. So money is a topic which is too serious for us, isn’t it?

Inevitably, the moment you set out to make games for a living, money is something you absolutely must take into consideration. The need to make money (or to have money to begin with) is pretty dominant, unless you have the infamous rich uncle paying for your everyday expenses and you can work in the even more infamous garage (or alternatively in an attic).

At the beginning, we were fortunate enough to be capable of covering our costs through the award money that we had received from the German Games Award in 2013 for GroundPlay. Shortly after this we were granted a rent-free office by HAW Hamburg. Still, it was obvious that this black day when we’d run out of shiny metal coins would come. And it was bound to come before we’d be able to release our first game in order to make money at all. It felt like a dead end sign, hinting our path would soon stop continuing. We needed to make more money with the money we had. Quickly.

There were a few possible ways to go from here:

  1. Make a publisher deal.
  2. Find an investor.
  3. Pick up a loan.
  4. Try crowdfunding.
  5. Find work for hire.
  6. Apply for public funding.

The list could certainly go on a bit, but these were the main options to choose from. However, our very own self-picked constraints narrowed the options down a little. If possible, we wanted to keep out third parties and obligations to those out of the equation. That excluded options 1 to 3. Also 4 to a degree, because even if we like the idea of crowdfunding, the crowd is yet another “party” to report to.

Work for hire is something we considered and already did to a degree, but it is nothing we are planning to continue on a larger scale. Since this is very time-consuming, it would have taken us much longer to get anywhere near the amount of money necessary to complete our first game. We feared that splitting resources, on the other hand (like some of us working exclusively on assigned projects, and some exclusively on our game), might be discouraging and counterproductive to the team spirit.

So we kind of chose the risky shortcut: We applied for public funding. In Germany, there are several ways to get public funding for games: Filmförderung (movie funds) usually include games nowadays. But most of them are tied to a certain federal state or region. Unfortunately, there is no such thing in Hamburg, where we are located. Although Hamburg has a really awesome game dev scene, this is something that is really missing in the self-proclaimed “Gamecity.

Alongside InnoRampUp, which is only considerable when you already have something close to a prototype, EXIST was our best public funding option, since it is a scholarship, closely tied to a college or university (just like our office). EXIST is public funding from the European Social Fonds for technologically-oriented start-ups. To get funded, all you have to do is apply and describe your idea, financial plans, and market research as detailed as possible. But that is easier said than done. For us that meant doing research and writing plans for nearly two months. With three people. Full-time. We never imagined it to be this time-consuming.

To make all the tedious paperwork worthwhile, EXIST will, when accepting your application, fund the living expenses of three people for up to one year, while granting additional money for hard- and software as well as hiring more people. There also is a small budget for business coaching. But if they refuse you, you get nothing. You lose. And to make things even worse, many promising game development studios who had applied for EXIST in the past got turned down. So we pretty much went all-in with that. Not getting the funding would have meant losing 2 months we could have used to work on the prototype, which in turn is essential in order to pitch the game elsewhere.

This is why we were eagerly waiting for the result during the next three months to come, anxiously calling our advisor Werner Krassau again and again and asking for a response from EXIST – to no avail. Finally, the relieving result came in: “Decision positive.” And what a relieve that was! We can still hardly believe our luck, as you might witness below.

Happy team

How do you celebrate a lot of money? Right! Champagne from plastic cups.

This does not mean that we’re rich now, nor does it guarantee success of what we do. This does mean that we are able to work on our game for another year, (for the most part) without troubling thoughts of the unpleasant, but yet essential money-issue. The dream of the “indie” game developer has come true!

Thank you for being so tremendously supportive, HAW Hamburg, Werner Krassau and EXIST. We’ll make it count.

Respawn 2014 – Reincarnation of the Indie Spirit

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At this year’s Respawn – Gathering of Game Developers there was one question which came up several times: What does it mean to be indie? There has been much discussion about „the i-word“ lately, especially since indie studios are getting more and more support and acknowledgement from the big players. At Respawn, apart from getting to know great new people, we got lots of input on the struggles of „wearing many hats“, „the suit“ or just trying to be yourself in the games industry.

Respawn is a very small conference, which is why it is easy to get to know people even if you’re not the super connector in your team. It is also much less of a hassle to get around and easier to switch between the talks than at large conferences. This is owed to a very neat idea: Since all the talks are in one large hall, only separated by light curtains, it would usually be hard to focus on the talk you want to attend. But at Respawn you get a headset when picking up your conference badge which you can use to tune into the channel of the talk you are attending and hear what the speaker says in crystal clear. This gives you the advantage of being able to tune into the talk on the other side of the hall and hear this just as clearly. Kind of like a radio station.

It also has some downsides though. As some speakers pointed out, they never know whether you are really listening to their talk or a different one because you discovered you find it too boring/it is not the topic you expected/you have an MTV-generation attention span of ten seconds and need to zap around. Another rather unpleasant disadvantage of this is that you basically can’t hear a thing without the headset. This wouldn’t have been much of an issue of course, if they’d had ENOUGH HEADSETS! So we arrived in Cologne after a five-hour drive, happy to finally soak up all the information from the talks and they told us they’d run out of headsets.

We were especially upset because two of us three had come to Cologne just for Respawn. So at the beginning, it felt like watching a silent movie – only with large audience background noise instead of the ridiculous music.

This is us looking really irritable because we couldn’t hear.

Even when the speaker talked really loudly, it was barely audible and hard to listen to. This resulted in me spamming the organisers with complaints on Twitter during the first three talks since I was really disappointed (I had missed the talk with Wolf Lang from THREAKS!!). Their Twitter account apologised and admitted that this was their mistake. During the last talk of the first day a few people returned their headsets and so we could hear in the end. Luckily, the problem didn’t return the next day. Still not amusing. But back to the content.

Yes, we found it! It was a sexy turtle.

One of my favourite talks was by Sebastian and Mareike from Studio Fizbin, who won this year’s German Computer Game Award in the category „Best German Game“ for their charming adventure „The inner World“. The talk was about character design, titled „Finding the Hunakel“. Mareike explained the difference between inner and outer character, which can be quite contradictory. Together with the audience, she then created a cute turtle that was also a great womanizer.

Andreas Suika from Daedelic Entertainment Studio West

Another highlight was Andreas Suika’s talk, who just co-founded Daedelic Entertainment Studio West in Düsseldorf. His very entertaining presentation about communicating game design was packed full of hands-on experience tools and approaches.

Tim Schafer (left) is the kind of guy people want to give thousands of dollars to. Jason is fine, too.

If you have read the editorial of the latest Edge Magazine issue, you might have noticed that there is much discussion going on about who or what is really „indie“ and whether this word is appropriate at all. Since the release of „Indie Game: The Movie“ everyone has this picture of the struggling artist on their minds. But how do we get to earn a living from it without Phil Fish insulting us on Twitter?

Jason della Rocca from Execution Labs gave a great talk about the struggles of „embracing the artist mentality as an indie dev“ versus running a successful business that is actually sustainable. He had many examples of indie developers who did things right in his talk „7 Habits of Highly Effective Indies“.

Gender (and Diversity) design in video games – “totally!” or “…not again…”?

There were also a bunch of discussions at this year’s Respawn. One of them was about gender issues. I had feared it would be a classic fight between machos and feminists, but it was, refreshingly, as much about character design and stereotypes in games and the industry itself. One of the discussed questions was how much thought you put into the male/female point of view as a character designer and whether male designers can make believable female characters and vice versa.

Did he get the publisher’s deal?

The grand finale was the Speedpitching-Session, hosted by André Bernhardt from Indie Advisor. Really great games and ideas! A memorable moment was when the last idea was pitched: A game which is basically a fork lift simulator with puzzle elements, called Forked Up. The presentation itself got withering criticism, but the game looked awesome. This lead to Dunium Games getting an appointment with one of the jury members at Gamescom, who appeared to be very interested. We don’t know if this lead to a publisher’s deal, but very impressing! Congrats!

Conclusion: This is definitely an informative and fun conference for every indie game dev or freelancer in the games industry. It is easy to get to know people, even if you’re not the most extroverted person. This is all under the premise of Respawn getting the headset availability problem solved, of course …

Off we go!

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Hi there!

Finally, after months and months of struggle, our website is finally online. Okay, it really wasn’t THAT hard. It neverless took its time. But forget about it! What’s done is done. The most important part is: We have a web page and are hereby now officially digitally existent!

Feel free to take a look around, browse here and there. You may find something interesting. Also, maybe not. Who knows? Certainly not you, ’cause you’re still here reading this uninteresting news!

Have a most awesome day,
the Osmotic Team