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Franklin Cosgrove Discusses the Etherially Psychedelic HomeMake

By Nathaniel Liles

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homemakelogoCliqist : As architects, what made you decide to venture into game design, and what benefits do you feel your team has when it comes to designing games as opposed to buildings?

Franklin Cosgrove : Game design has always been an interest of ours. Obviously we grew up playing video games but when we started our studies in Architecture we found that immersive technology proved useful for understanding our Architecture projects on a more human scale. We’ve been building miniature games of our Architecture in various development kits since our first year in school and finally just decided it was time to take a crack at making a full scale game.

What caused us to come back to video games were exciting new indie games, the strength of the indie community, and wonderful programs like Unity, which have helped us structure our project. Digital environments and coding have become standard practice in Architecture over the past two decades and the tools we use are not much different than the gaming industry. Designing a game allows our imaginations to go in a very different direction without constraints like construction budgets, physics, politics, etc. That is the wonderful thing about game design, anything you can imagine, you can immediately sit down and make real. This is not always the case with Architecture and we find the freedom very liberating.

 

homemake1Cliqist : What kind of emotions will HomeMake invoke in the player as we play? Will there be a continuous story?

Franklin Cosgrove : Yes, the narrative of the game is something very important to us and is constantly under discussion. We are trying to make the game an emotionally involved one. A lot of the story elements and conflict will stem from our body swapping gameplay mechanic and how this affects the relationships between characters. From a storytelling point of view, the mechanic begins to question the meaning of self in a world where bodies are discarded on a whim for a different version. Ultimately, the story will revolve around this struggle to find one’s “self” amidst the diversity of choices and what it means to be an individual in a city where everyone is constantly reinventing themselves literally.

 

Cliqist : How did the idea of HomeMake begin to take shape? Were earlier versions drastically different?

Franklin Cosgrove : Somewhere deep in Archgame’s Tumblr archives there is the first screen grab of HomeMake (called cyberthesia back then). All it was at that point was a simple sphere with some boxes that this robot could run between. This idea of the inverted sphere, however, comes from our experience playing video games as children. All games have that moment where exploration is abruptly cut short by an invisible wall or abnormally thick grove of trees. These types of moments really take us out of the game, so we wanted to make an environment where these boundaries didn’t exist. The earliest versions of HomeMake’s City are actually a painting and an architectural model, the first two posts on HomeMakeLovesYou.tumblr.com. From all these things, you can see the game has been continually building on previous ideas.

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Cliqist : How would you categorize HomeMake’s gameplay?

Franklin Cosgrove : If we had to categorize our gameplay we think it sits strangely between Legend of Zelda and Super Smash Bros. LoZ for the overall action adventure style of gameplay but Smash for the multiple characters and their overall impact on the outcome of the game.  The main gameplay feature of our game is body swapping between characters in order to solve the task at hand. Naturally every person has a different way they see the world. In HomeMake, on top of the perceptual changes that will take place when you take control of a new character, each one will have different strengths and weakness when it comes to platforming around the city. Some are good at jumping and climbing, allowing exploration to the rooftops. Some are smooth talkers, allowing you to get information you might otherwise not have access too. Some are better at fighting, allowing you to defend yourself if need be. These are just some examples but ultimately it is up to the player to decide which character can best be used to solve the task ahead of them. We are excited to see the different choices people make.

 

homemake2Cliqist : How “open” will the world be? Will players be able to enter some buildings or use any vehicles?

Franklin Cosgrove : The notion of “open world” in HomeMake is slightly untraditional in structure. The game does adhere to the common usage of the term where a player can free roam around an environment and tackle challenges as they see fit, but where we begin to add complexity is how this environment changes. Cities change every day and in HomeMake it’s no different. Buildings, street grids and neighborhoods will constantly be shifting, expanding and rearranging themselves as the player progresses through them. This prompts platforming challenges that must be tackled by the various characters available and deciding which one is best suited. Since this all takes place inside a sphere, the player can continuously explore, with no set beginning or end.

As buildings move towards the center of the sphere they collide with one another and create interior spaces. This will create some interesting interior/not interior and exterior/not exterior situations. It will probably feel a lot more like a Hong Kong back alley than entering a Pokemon Center though. We aim to have certain key buildings be occupiable and would certainly love to make all the buildings this way but it’s out of the development scope at the moment.

Instead of vehicles, we want the player to turn towards the different inhabitants as the solution to getting around. We are offering a myriad of character options to body swap into, some will likely feel like a vehicle in the way they explore but we wanted to keep the concept simple: character and environment.

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Cliqist : A big part of Kickstarter is the communities’ ability to influence the design of the game. What role will the community play in the development of HomeMake? Will there be any multiplayer elements?

Franklin Cosgrove : We think the community aspect of Kickstarter is the most important. In our rewards tier we offer a relatively cheap character design reward compared to other projects. We want people to help us design the world they imagine it being. We plan on going through multiple alphas and betas to get as much feedback as possible before the actual launch. Currently there are no multiplayer elements. We’ve discussed this, and feel like the game would turn into a Grand-Theft-Body game if it went multiplayer. It’s not out of the question, but in the current scope, no it is supposed to be a single player adventure. Part of the inspiration comes from being alone at night, sneaking out of the house, gazing at the stars; we want players to have that same kind of feeling when playing the game.

 

Cliqist : How playable is HomeMake in its current state? What’s your favorite thing to do in-game?

Franklin Cosgrove : In its current state players can swap bodies, control the camera, and platform around the City in different ways. We are still developing the overall narrative and how the story unravels. We will say that the first objective in the game is to build the robot you see in the trailer, finding his parts littered around the City. Our favorite thing to do in the game is look up, which was actually a surprise, and we’ve found a lot of people share the same interest. We are trying to work it into the game as one of the primary navigation tools since we don’t plan on providing a mini map, relying instead on visual or auditory clues as to where to go next.

Regarding the game’s development, we are aiming to release a closed HomeMake alpha the weekend after Labor Day, with a closed beta to come out around Christmas season. After digesting all the feedback from that initial launch we want to send out a second beta around Memorial Day weekend, with the final game to be released September 2015.

 

Cliqist : Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers?

Franklin Cosgrove : First, we’d like to thank all of supporters, without them this game would not have all the positivity surrounding it. One thing we haven’t talked about is the games music, which a lot of our supporters have commented on. So we made two of our songs available for free download. We hope you check out our page and grab the free songs for your time.

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The HomeMake Kickstarter campaign runs until July 9th and has a funding goal of $15,000.

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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/nathaniel.jpg”]Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free on his BandCamp page. You can watch him play games on his Twitch channel. You can also follow him on twitter at @NathanielLiles. And finally, you can read more of his writing over at EliteGamingComputers.com. He’s a pretty connected guy.[/author]

Nathaniel Liles
Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/.
Nathaniel Liles