Solace is a music based 2D top down shooter that uses dynamic audio
creation and “bullet hell” overtones to provide a unique aesthetic
experience. Every stage is different in that each one is themed after
one of the “Five Stages of Grief”, as described by Elisabeth
Kübler-Ross. The music, visuals and gameplay of each level are crafted
in order to convey the particular theme to the player. This project
began as an assignment during our sophomore year at DigiPen Institute
of Technology. Solace was programmed from the ground up, using no
premade engines by three programmers. All the art was done in one
semester by a single artist. After only nine months of development,
Solace has been recognized in the PAX10, IndieCade, IGF Student
Showcase, and IGC.
We wanted to make a game that focused on the experience of the player.
Using audio, visuals, and game play, we hoped to provoke a unique
emotional response from our players. Furthermore, the theme for the
Five Stages of Grief came after one of our team members had lost a
brother during the game’s development. All of us felt the pain from
this incident and decided to use these feelings as a catalyst to push
the game down a more intimate and personal path.
Since our game is entirely about the experience, we decided to rid
ourselves of most, if not all, UI elements. There is no score. There
is no set number of lives. There is only the player, the enemies, and
the music. We focused on simplicity and elegance, hoping to appeal to
the non-gamers. Our motto was: “Would my Grandmother be able to play and enjoy our game?” We like to think that we’ve accomplished this goal.
We made it over the course of two semesters at DigiPen Institute of
Technology, extending slightly into the summer. About nine months.
The hardest part about making Solace came with trying to accurately
portray and convey abstract ideas and feelings through gameplay. In a design meeting we literally had questions like “What instruments
The team originally shot down the idea of dynamic audio and basing the game on the Five Stages of Grief, but changed their mind within a
week. The acoustic guitar in the “Depression” level was recorded in
an empty classroom at our old Art Campus. We originally did not allow
the player to die, but changed this due to an overwhelming response
from playtesters. You can still play the game without a lose condition
if you change the difficulty to easy. The music for the “Anger” level
was rewritten over four times, trying to get the feeling just right.
Solace was playtested at the Euskal Encounter LAN Party in Bilbao,
Our game was originally titled “Syne”, but was changed to “Solace”
about six hours before it was entered into its first competition. We
believed that “Solace” would better direct player expectations, rather
than the nonsensical label we had been using as a placeholder.
Grant Park, Illinois, among the vast cornfields of the Midwest.
DigiPen Institute of Technology
I’ve played games my entire life. I’m pretty sure the first game I
ever saw all the way through was Final Fantasy for the NES. I found
the music captivating, which lead me towards a love of RPGs throughout elementary and high school. After college started, I no longer had time to dedicate 40 hours towards an RPG, so casual games now fill that gaming void in my life.
We met about two months before development on Solace began, so about two years. I knew I wanted to make a music game during my sophomore year at DigiPen, so I approached like-minded individuals. Jordan and I are both really into music games, so that was a perfect match! Not only does Jordan like music, but he is also an amazing composer (demonstrating his skills throughout our entire game). As for Robert, I knew he liked beer, and I too liked beer. We were instant friends. Beyond that, Robert is our technical power house, capable of answering any of our questions. This proved indispensable. Jami was a senior artist at our school during this time. I found out that she wasn’t
currently working on any game teams, so I asked her to join ours. She
was gung ho on the idea and did an independent study to be able to
work on our project for school credit. 2D UI design is her specialty,
so making a 2D game was second nature to her.
College. We are all playing to graduate, right now. In my scarce free
time, I’ve been known to play Super Meat Boy, Shibuya (iPhone), and
Back when I played RPGs, I loved Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, Skies of
Arcadia (I have a thing for flying ships), and Etrian Odyssey (I also
have a thing for RPG character classes). Though in the past couple
years I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to Tetris DS.
How can I answer this without offending anyone? Final Fantasy
Dissidia due to the combat system, Beat Hazard due to the sound
effects, and Puzzle Quest due to me losing because of random elements
in a puzzle game. It’s nothing personal, guys!
When I was a freshman, I started the Music Composer’s Club at
DigiPen. During the summer, one of our professors wrote to Nobuo
Uematsu, asking him to come to our school to talk to the Composer’s
Club. He agreed to stop by while in town for a Final Fantasy concert.
Being the founder of the club, I had the opportunity to interview him
for about an hour or two in front of the entire school. I couldn’t
believe that I had the chance to meet my musical idol and looked for
every opportunity to shake his hand. Definitely one of the high points
in my life.
There’s also the story about Tim Schafer giving me a wet willy outside
of a men’s restroom, but that’s for a different time.
Atari 2600! I used to love Tanks. ET was…interesting, too!
Although I love the PS3 because Sony supports unique indie games like Flower (ThatGameCompany) and Everyday Shooter (Queasy Games), I believe the Xbox 360 has a better overall game library and interface.
We all have mad skills at Rock Band. Beyond that, I know Jordan and I play (real) guitar and a slew of other instruments. Robert enjoys
coding and playing other multiplayer games, such as League of Legends and WoW. Jami has a job and enjoys role playing.