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Chris_Bischoff

KICKSTARTER: 2D Isometric Adventure Game inspired by the classics!

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http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bischoff/stasis-2d-isometric-scifi-horror-adventure-game

Hey Double Fine backers!

My name is Chris Bischoff, and I am the sole developer of an Adventure Game called STASIS.

STASIS -Classic point & click adventure game played from a unique isometric view point set in a science fiction universe in 2D.

Stasis is a 2D isometric, point-and-click adventure game for Windows & OSX, set in the distant future on a desolate spacecraft. John Maracheck must interact and solve puzzles to save his family, while uncovering horrific experimentation, illicit research and an ever deepening mystery.

Recently there has been an exciting resurgence of the point-and-click adventure genre. Standing on the shoulders of greatness, Stasis follows the game-play mechanics of classics like Space Quest, Kings Quest, the Monkey Island series, The Dig and Day of the Tentacle.

The critically acclaimed, Sanitarium - a psychological horror adventure game - used a similar graphical setup to Stasis. Stasis follows this unique visual aspect to bring the terrifying tale to life.

Stasis EXISTS and is playable. Several chapters have been fully completed, remaining areas have been technically planned and large portions of graphics have been created. Experience Stasis for yourself, by going to www.stasisgame.com/getstasis

Stasis hopes to reinvigorate the mature isometric adventure gaming genre by combining an exciting sci-fi, horror story and awesome graphics with classic game-play.

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There are a few LETS PLAYS here for those that don't want to check out the ALPHA Demo:

http://www.stasisgame.com/lets-play-stasis/

And yesterday we announced that Mark Morgan will be doing the orchestral soundtrack for STASIS!

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If you are a fan of Fallout 1, Fallout 2, Zork, or the Planescape: Torment universes, you have an idea of what's in store!

In just a few days, we have gotten more than 60% of our goal! I've been a huge fan and backer of the Double Fine Adventure, and I know that if it wasnt for you guys, and Tim Shaefer, none of this would be possible!

I would love to answer any questions you guys have, and look forward to keeping the Double Fine community up to date!

-Chris

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http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bischoff/stasis-2d-isometric-scifi-horror-adventure-game

Hey Double Fine backers!

My name is Chris Bischoff, and I am the sole developer of an Adventure Game called STASIS.

STASIS -Classic point & click adventure game played from a unique isometric view point set in a science fiction universe in 2D.

Stasis is a 2D isometric, point-and-click adventure game for Windows & OSX, set in the distant future on a desolate spacecraft. John Maracheck must interact and solve puzzles to save his family, while uncovering horrific experimentation, illicit research and an ever deepening mystery.

Recently there has been an exciting resurgence of the point-and-click adventure genre. Standing on the shoulders of greatness, Stasis follows the game-play mechanics of classics like Space Quest, Kings Quest, the Monkey Island series, The Dig and Day of the Tentacle.

The critically acclaimed, Sanitarium - a psychological horror adventure game - used a similar graphical setup to Stasis. Stasis follows this unique visual aspect to bring the terrifying tale to life.

Stasis EXISTS and is playable. Several chapters have been fully completed, remaining areas have been technically planned and large portions of graphics have been created. Experience Stasis for yourself, by going to www.stasisgame.com/getstasis

Stasis hopes to reinvigorate the mature isometric adventure gaming genre by combining an exciting sci-fi, horror story and awesome graphics with classic game-play.

a31216039415339974b00d4cdaca429c_large.jpg?1382253859

c5b5fb83940084e71d8f868584dc3bc9_large.gif?1382256639

e2d4be3dfafc0440a21e5d1eed718c50_large.jpg?1382254243

2ef7b36f259403e35af82a7ed18dc2ae_large.gif?1382257314

There are a few LETS PLAYS here for those that don't want to check out the ALPHA Demo:

http://www.stasisgame.com/lets-play-stasis/

And yesterday we announced that Mark Morgan will be doing the orchestral soundtrack for STASIS!

a6658f2d239b5e99e7c2729981ae221c_large.jpg?1384187370

If you are a fan of Fallout 1, Fallout 2, Zork, or the Planescape: Torment universes, you have an idea of what's in store!

In just a few days, we have gotten more than 60% of our goal! I've been a huge fan and backer of the Double Fine Adventure, and I know that if it wasnt for you guys, and Tim Shaefer, none of this would be possible!

I would love to answer any questions you guys have, and look forward to keeping the Double Fine community up to date!

-Chris

Oh hey Chris. I tried a little of your demo before at the urging of my best friend. It seemed pretty cool!

I was wondering a few things...

Obviously in this game you're in a fairly perilous situation. Traditionally I've only really been a fan of adventure games where it's generally not possible to die except in very special circumstances, because I like the feeling of being able to explore without pressure.

If I had to guess, STASIS will have plenty of situations where death is possible, am I wrong?

If I'm right, what I'm wondering is how is this handled? How are you thinking about avoiding making it a trial-and-error type affair where the player won't be able to see logically what they did wrong and feel suitably punished for dying. I think it's a problem in adventure games that death can often feel unfair - getting punished simply for exploring is something I worry about.

If I'm wrong, then I'm also interested in what your general philosophy/approach is to building tension in a game with this kind of atmosphere when players are actually safe.

I'll be interested to hear your responses!

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Stasis does have deaths, but they certainly aren't there to frustrate the character, but in a way they are there to make you care about John. You don't want him to be melted by a vat of acid, or gassed to death!

But I have implemented a very robust auto save feature in the game which virtually eliminates backtracking after death. At most you'll loose 10 seconds of game time. Therefore death isn't a penalty, but becomes a learning experience. That, and the death animations are pretty spectacular!

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As for building tension, I have spent a long time on setting up a very unsettling atmosphere in the game. Danger IS out there-but the truth is that in real life it's quite difficult to get yourself killed if you are a cautious person. If you stick a fork in a socket, you are probably going to hurt yourself-so don't stick a fork in a socket!

Death is easy to avoid in Stasis, by just being a careful, logical player. Someone who keeps this in mind should be able to play through the game without dying once.

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That sounds mostly fair, Chris. Thanks for the answers.

I'm on the fence about death-as-learning experience. I think in some games it works really well (and you definitely have the right idea to make sure the game doesn't set you back too far). However, I've heard some compelling arguments about it being something that can really take you out of a narrative driven experience, kind of like if you were reading a book and you got to the end of the page and the main character died, and then it went 'oh no, wait, that didn't happen at all' and it started again from the top of the page. It's sort of learning-experience-by-retcon, which can be odd and feel unfair if not handled carefully.

I'm sure from the responses that these are issues you've thought about though, and I do want to say the game did a convincing job of building atmosphere from the part that I played :)

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Adventure games, though, are less about being pushed along by the plot and more about unraveling the plot at your leisure.

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That sounds mostly fair, Chris. Thanks for the answers.

I'm on the fence about death-as-learning experience. I think in some games it works really well (and you definitely have the right idea to make sure the game doesn't set you back too far). However, I've heard some compelling arguments about it being something that can really take you out of a narrative driven experience, kind of like if you were reading a book and you got to the end of the page and the main character died, and then it went 'oh no, wait, that didn't happen at all' and it started again from the top of the page. It's sort of learning-experience-by-retcon, which can be odd and feel unfair if not handled carefully.

I'm sure from the responses that these are issues you've thought about though, and I do want to say the game did a convincing job of building atmosphere from the part that I played :)

I think that its very much in how you handle the situation, but its very difficult to create tension and a dangerous environment without putting the character into direct danger.

Originally in my design document, I had John being injured when things happened instead of death, and actually had a 'health pack' element to the game....but honestly, it felt MORE punishing to the player than death did! Its still something Im willing to explore later on, but from my initial tests it really felt like adding in complexity for complexities sake.

Adventure games, though, are less about being pushed along by the plot and more about unravelling the plot at your leisure.

Some adventure games are certainly like that! I think that Broken Age will definitely invoke those emotions, but STASIS is really a different experience. I want it to be foreboding, and intense. The game is all about exploration, but the emotions I want to to evoke are those feelings when you first entered the derelict in ALIEN, or when you first boarded the Event Horizon.

Its not about being 'pushed' along the plot...its about being careful what you may find in the next room. Apprehension, tension. and a sense of discovery!

Woah, those graphics are SHINY! SO PRETTY!

They are better in motion! Head over and download the alpha demo if you get a chance!

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I think that when you are playing to the strengths of a video game, then narrative driven might not be the best way to go about it. Engagement in a video game comes in part from the ways you can interact with it. It seems that the fear of their "narrative intent" being broken is the reason some developers put invisible railings in their game -- they are afraid that going off the beaten path and getting lost or falling down somewhere would ruin the immersion or break the game flow or frustrate the player. In the Thief reboot for example, jumping has been made contextual, because, according to the developers, if the players were able to jump up and down freely, they would do that constantly and ruin their immersion. However, I think that immersion is something that players voluntarily engage in, not something that has to be actively maintained by the game at all times. Immersion comes from an atmospheric and interesting environment, not from limiting the ways the player can interact with it in the "wrong way".

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I think that when you are playing to the strengths of a video game, then narrative driven might not be the best way to go about it. Engagement in a video game comes in part from the ways you can interact with it. It seems that the fear of their "narrative intent" being broken is the reason some developers put invisible railings in their game -- they are afraid that going off the beaten path and getting lost or falling down somewhere would ruin the immersion or break the game flow or frustrate the player. In the Thief reboot for example, jumping has been made contextual, because, according to the developers, if the players were able to jump up and down freely, they would do that constantly and ruin their immersion. However, I think that immersion is something that players voluntarily engage in, not something that has to be actively maintained by the game at all times. Immersion comes from an atmospheric and interesting environment, not from limiting the ways the player can interact with it in the "wrong way".

I agree to an extent (and I don't think what you're talking about was really what I meant by narrative driven, I really meant narrative-heavy) but I do think that it's a very situation dependent thing. There are games and even moments within games where well-designed railings are an appropriate or even beneficial thing. It's all about what the designer is going for, and sometimes limiting interaction can be helpful. It's at least a tool, like everything else in game design it has its uses.

The other thing I'd say is that adventure game pacing is a bit more complicated than simply letting the player figure stuff out at their own pace. There's certainly an element of that, and adventure games tend to be more loosely paced than, say, a heavily scripted action game.

But there are still major pacing decisions. In Curse of Monkey Island, say, you start the game with 2 locked room puzzles, quite tight and focused, with a limited number of things to try. Then it opens out considerably, but there's still a limit to what you can achieve in the game until you find out what your real 'quest' is. After that, there are 3 major puzzles to solve, each with smaller components to them, and they can be approached in various orders and left half completed and revisited. At some point during all this you get another couple of locked room puzzles - the snake and the quicksand, and the bit with Mr Fossey. Later on you get a similar mixture of open and closed puzzle environments, switched up for a new location with a new atmosphere, and the game ends in a much smaller area, culminating in a final puzzle under time pressure.

All of these decisions aren't arbitrary of course, they're all to do with creating a pacing for the game that isn't flat. Sometimes you want to put the character in more constrained situations, sometimes it needs to be more open, and the general effect is to to make the game feel pleasantly bumpy. If the designers are doing their job well, this doesn't feel forced.

Anyway, sorry for that digression. I think STASIS looks cool, you guys, and you should all check out the demo at least!

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Oh I enjoy the conversation! Death in Advenure Games is one of those strange polarising topics. At the end of the day, STASIS is a game that I would want to play (and I'm making it because nobody else will!), and I really enjoy death in games. Dead Space has some amazing death sequences, and I'm one of those strange people that hunted down as many deaths as possible!

Ironically, my favourite Adventure Games are from the classic Lucas Arts collections.

AND on that note: Stretch goals:

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Even more death!

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I think there's a lot of potential that can be lost by limiting what your character can do and what can happen to your character. In a video game, the audience is basically automatically invested in their character whose success and failure becomes the player's success and failure. Not to mention that having consequences to your actions can help with the verisimilitude.

I'm not saying that you can't have a good video game story with limited interactivity. I think a good example here would be The Walking Dead which plays to the strengths of choose your own adventure books. I'm mostly talking about using the strengths of a video game as an interactive medium with an active audience participation as opposed to books and movies whose audience is in a passive role.

Unfortunately (for me), narrative-driven design has become very prominent in the last 10-15 years, almost a staple of modern games. You can see it already in Half-Life, probably the biggest cause of this trend. The gameplay is almost incidental, filler between setpieces and story chunks.

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If I may hijack the thread once more, here's a short video with Harvey Smith talking about game systems: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=66688488

and here's Warren Spector talking briefly about choice and consequence in games: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=38452167

I also recommend taking a look at other videos on the site. These are very short videos (a couple of minutes) with developers like Tim Schafer, Chris Avellone, John Carmack, etc. talking about games and game design. On the top right corner of the video there's a button that closes the video and lets you select another one.

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If I may hijack the thread once more, here's a short video with Harvey Smith talking about game systems: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=66688488

and here's Warren Spector talking briefly about choice and consequence in games: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=38452167

I also recommend taking a look at other videos on the site. These are very short videos (a couple of minutes) with developers like Tim Schafer, Chris Avellone, John Carmack, etc. talking about games and game design. On the top right corner of the video there's a button that closes the video and lets you select another one.

Briefly, because I don't want to get into a long discussion about it here... I agree that choice is important for (most?) games. (I say most because there are notable exceptions where there are very few choices by design, but they're no less games. Like, say Rock Band where your only real choice is when to activate the bonus, but the actual game is in being as accurate as possible)

But it's not a simple equation: choice is a thing games can do that other medium can't, therefore to best take advantage of that include as many choices as possible. Because choice is something you can have in games, deciding when to restrict it is as legitimate as deciding when to include it. Both of those design choices are meaningful.

Sort of like harmony is important in music, but that doesn't mean the best music is always the one with the most complex use of chords, and in fact a lot of effective music has been made without complex harmonic content at all.

While we're on the subject of what design choices are legit, I'd recommend this one from the same site, from Tim Schafer: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=38442969

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While we're on the subject of what design choices are legit, I'd recommend this one from the same site, from Tim Schafer: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=38442969

Yeah, I've seen them all, multiple times. I think I also brought a very good example of a game that has very limited interactivity. I'm not talking about what games are or what is or isn't a game or what should or should not be in a game. But there's power in player agency that goes beyond movies and books. Not only for the player but also for the designer: http://criticalpathproject.com/?v=66674105

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Damn, I never saw this Kickstarter. Stupid news sites are slacking on reporting prominent ones, and I think it's a disservice to gamers.

Is there still a way to back this? I was interested from first sight, but as soon as The Dig was referenced... The Dig is one of the most awe inspiring and scenario-attractive games to me - and one of the few adventure games I could figure out on my own.

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Damn, I never saw this Kickstarter. Stupid news sites are slacking on reporting prominent ones, and I think it's a disservice to gamers.

Is there still a way to back this? I was interested from first sight, but as soon as The Dig was referenced... The Dig is one of the most awe inspiring and scenario-attractive games to me - and one of the few adventure games I could figure out on my own.

Hi,

the Paypal-pledge option via http://stasiscommunity.com/pledge/ is still open, so that new backers like yourself can still join from what I can tell. According to the latest KS-update, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bischoff/stasis-2d-isometric-scifi-horror-adventure-game/posts/692570 , this Paypal-option will be available for a limited time, to lock down the number of physical rewards "in the near future", whenever that might be. I don't know if you could still pledge later only for digital reward tiers, who knows, but at the moment all the reward levels up to "classic edition", the physical box, are still open.

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Hey guys, I know this is a bit of a necropost, but you guys may be interested in a new video showing some of the environments of Stasis!

Always happy to answer any questions. ;)

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Looking good! Care to share some of the technical aspects of your environments. Are you using video backgrounds or blending and animating separate lighting layers together in real time etc...

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wow! looks amazing! i missed it the first time!

It brought a

vibe to me.

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jussi-k,

The entire game is 2D sprite based.

Essentially I render the entire scene as 1 big animation and then cut out each of the animated sections creating a unique sprite for that area. Things like flickering lights are just a few frames played in a random order.

The lightning is done in the same way as the flickering lights, but has a sound attached to it, with different strikes being called randomly.

There are 'some' transparency effects and blending happening (the water and the floaty dust particles), but but for the most part they are all solid sprites.

There aren't any lighting layers in the scenes - its all prebaked into the images. It can be limiting, but you get a really good result with highly realistic shadows and lighting effects.

Corfu, Thats for that link! I had almost forgotten about Flashback....damn that game was awesome!

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PS. Secretly I was hoping for some technique where you first render the ambience and then overlay the lights animated and still using some approptiate blend modes to allow for overlapping lighting.

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I've played the alpha long after I put a little cash into the kickstarter, but man, so glad that I did both. :D

The demo had me on the edge of my seat, and the tension in the air was so thick I could have cut it with a knife...

It was also great when the puzzles started to click in my mind.

One of the best feelings with adventure games, but that's not stasis exclusive. ;)

I didn't die in the demo when I played, though. Are there any player deaths in the demo?

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Thank you so much for the wonderful words!

The final game does have some rather gruesome deaths. We removed them from the demo for 2 reasons.

1 - The autosave system was spotty at best. The way it works now is that even with death, you are only set back to the entry point of the room. The idea is that death is a penalty...but not so much of a penalty as to be a frustration. I have a feeling that there will be people who specifically hunt out the many ways that John can die!

I experimented with all sorts of gameplay ideas with death. Limited save points, rewards for completing puzzles - at one point there were even 'quantum spheres' that you would smash on the floor which would provide a save point for John (a sort of 'in world' reason why saves exist), but at the end of the day the simplest solution was the best.

2 - I wanted the game to have a presence with Lets Players during our Kickstarter Campaign, and I know that to people who aren't familiar with Adventure Games it could be quite frustrating to poke around and...well..die a horrible painful death! That, combined with the spotty Autosave/Autoloading system as it existed would have possibly killed the Lets Plays, or at least stopped them from finishing the demo!

The tense atmosphere was however kept in terms of 'I can die at any point', so I'm hoping that when you play the final game, and that atmosphere combines with the deaths that it will make for a very 'on the edge of your seat' game experience!

Each death is a custom animation created for those specific situations, very much like the Sierra games of old! One rather gruesome one involves you being inside a room that's heating up...and having the skin melt off your body. Its...disturbing to play through but awesome to see. :D

One of our stretch goals was to add suicides...its a little morbid, but I have been having fun trying to think of the ways that John can commit suicide with the various tools in his possession. (Un)surprisingly most people tried the glass shard and the neural drill on themselves at some point...I think those people are in for a surprise!

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Thanks guys! Full update:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bischoff/stasis-2d-isometric-scifi-horror-adventure-game/posts/940503

KICKSTARTER UPDATE!

Music is incredibly important to me. While I'm usually a I-can-do-it-on-my-own person, I knew that having the perfect music for Stasis would mean having to find a pro.

One of the main goals of the Kickstarter campaign was to bring on a professional composer to translate the Stasis world and story into music. That is way easier to say, than do!

When Mark Morgan asked to be a part of the project I almost fell off my chair. It's no secret that the Fallout series was a transformative experience for me when I was younger; to have Fallout's composer work on this little project of mine... well, I was more than a little intimidated!

From the get go, Mark and I shared the same vision for the sound of Stasis. The main sounds of the game come from John's surroundings (you know who John is by now!) but the music comes from within. It's his experience - his personal story - that is being told through the score. Mark instantly understood what I was trying to put across and has created a haunting internal score.

The idea was to have a strong melody base around a lullaby. Creepy, huh? There are early leanings towards this idea in the trailers, as well as the opening piano music in the Alpha (played by me when I was in my I-can-do-it-on-my-own stage). Mark took this concept and created a beautiful melody that we are using as a foundation for the score.

Instead of focusing on scene based music, we're using the score to accentuate John's emotions. HOPE, FEAR, TERROR: these are the central themes for the music of Stasis - the skeleton that everything hangs off of.

I'm incredibly proud to give you a small glimpse into the musical world that Mark has created.

Q&A WITH MR MORGAN!

The main lullaby is a strong piece of music as a melody - something I know that was difficult to pin down. When creating 'Dream Of Us' (the main lullaby tune), what were the inspirations for the piece?

Mark Morgan: To me, it was about John singing a lullaby to his daughter so I envisioned what that would be like and went for a simple melody that could be sung by itself.

Is it difficult to create the emotional aspects from this melody? Do you draw from previous experiences? Or is it a process of trying different keys and instruments and seeing what fits?

Mark Morgan: I think it's a combination of both. The goal is to have a melody that can speak to you differently depending on the vibe. I believe that it all indirectly comes from your existence and experiences as a human being, rather than finding that emotion though the music. Certain orchestration portrays a certain emotion. Both Chris and I decided that for the more emotional pieces, cello, violin and piano would be the solo voices for the sound of Stasis. Then it’s just a matter of fitting the puzzle together.

While John's external journey is being told visually, his internal journey is being told through the score. Are you still using the visuals as inspiration or does it help to focus JUST on the story elements?

Mark Morgan: I think for John's internal journey, musically I am focused on the story elements but I’m always aware of the visuals so not to lose sight of where he is. The visuals directly or indirectly have a huge influence on the musical palette.

Is working on Stasis any different to the other game projects that you have worked on, and if so how?

Mark Morgan: As of late, most of the games I’m involved in are in some way story driven, but in then case of Stasis, the story is so important and the music plays a huge role in telling that story. Sometimes I have found when it’s just about gameplay, musically it's hard to feel that you're immersed in the moment. It becomes about broad stokes as opposed to written for the moment.

PROJECT UPDATES

We are past the halfway point and things are moving as smoothly as ever! Nic and I have spent the last few weeks focusing on our writers, even adding another to the team. Mark Odell has provided us with an incredibly terrifying piece of writing. Each body you find has a story to it and exists as a small piece of the puzzle. It's satisfying to see all of this come together.

Graphically, the game is pushing to completion. 90%, with one final scene being added. I'm purposefully leaving this screen towards the end of production because of how intense it will be to produce.

I've also been implementing some additional effects - courtesy of the latest release of Visionaire. GET IT HERE! The implementation of camera effects and screen shaders will add extra life into Stasis.

The script has only the last two chapters to be completely refined before we can send it to the copy editors and the voice artists. There will be a time when I have to say, "enough editing!", but until that day, I will continue to tweak!

-Chris

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