Almost seventeen months ago, a small group of friends gathered together to participate in a game jam, as they had done on several prior occasions. This time, for Ludum Dare 50, they decided to be even more ambitious than some of their prior efforts. They were ready. They had ideas, and a process to turn those ideas into a working and enjoyable gameplay loop. There were things they wanted to do… and they did them.
And at the end of the jam, after seeing public response to their effort, and becoming attached to some of the ideas and characters they had created, they decided they couldn’t abandon this particular idea.
And so the decision was made to move forward, and despite all of our own separate full-time avocations, found a game studio… and make Somnipathy a full game.
Today, Tuesday the 12th of September, 2023, marks the point where Somnipathy arrives at retail, via Steam, where anyone who likes can and should buy it. For some members of the team, this is an end point – attaining a lifelong dream of being a game developer and having a published game. For others, this is a starting point – knowing that there are more games to be made, and more stories to tell. For a few of us, it is both.
We also know that we’ll be hearing from you, over the days, weeks, and months to come. We want to know about your experiences with Somnipathy, both the good and the bad. We’ll still be developing and maintaining the game, even as we move on to the next thing, and the next thing after that. So let us know what you think!
And if you’re still undecided about making your own foray into the world of Somnipathy – this week we have a slate of Twitch streamers who will be taking their own adventures with Aggy, Lamp Cat, and the rest. Check them out, see a little bit of the game for yourself – and know that we’ll be hanging out in chat to answer questions during each stream.
Here’s to Somnipathy, and here’s to you all helping Aggy finally get a good night’s sleep!
The level of excitement here at Tearcell is through the roof, and we are delighted to announce that Somnipathy will be releasing on Steam in just over a month from today! Many of you have downloaded and enjoyed our different demo versions over the past 11 months, and we hope you are also enjoying our current curated demo version for visual novel fest, which shows you a bit more of the world and character interactions to be found as you advance deeper into Somnipathy.
Our lead writer James Thomasos, recently one of the winners of Rusty Quill’s Rusty Fears 6 horror writing contest, shares this: “Somnipathy is a story we’ve all lived: a story of crushed dreams, broken promises, nightmarish realities, and facing tomorrow. Haven’t we all found a demon or two waiting inside the quiet parts of our minds?”
We’d also like to advise you that the full release of Somnipathy will contain some differences from the demo experiences many of you have had with the first level of Story Mode – we look forward to reading, hearing, and seeing your responses in September as you encounter more of the horrors contained within Somnipathy.
In the meantime, keep an eye on this spot as well as our social channels as our developers continue to preview some of the art, mechanics, and characters you’ll encounter soon.
As we push through for our fall release, and finish up submission and content for the summer festival season, we have another update to share that affects our demo! Remember you can play our demo from steam or itch.io
0.6.0 Pax Rising 2 release
Capped FPS at 90 to avoid a runaway GPU bug on some systems
Hit Detection. Fixed hitboxes based on feedback from the community
Generally reduced and moved Aggys primary hit box
Corrected hit box size of ‘tail strike zone’ in Sleep Paralysis demon fight
Adjusted trap hit boxes
Added dialog to Sleep Paralysis Demons room if you try to use quest items too early
Some objects are now only revealed when a light exposes it
Added hint lines to east door of trap room 1-7a. Increased respawn time of mobs in this room as well
Improved the ‘hint lines’ for object relationships
New Loading system
Changed the system for loading and reloading rooms. Rooms you’ve been to are now cached, so it should be faster overall now. Cache is cleared on level change
Added a loading an animated ‘pulse’ icon while things load
Added a counter for objects being loaded
Increased run speed of bump in the dark enemy
Changed light in rooms 1-8
Adjusted light occluder on Creeper
Health Bar Changes.
Changed ‘Stress’ to ‘Resolve’ It is otherwise identical
Changed the color of Resolve from Blue to Red to match player expectations
Changed the color of Stamina from Red to Yellow to match player expectations
Changed HUD life bar elements, to better support growth upgrades
Added Stamina and Resolve upgrades to the first dungeon and some quests
Replaced pathing system with a new system to support dynamic obstacles
Dynamic obstacles now exist. If Aggy is already moving, she will try to go around them automatically, but it will be much faster if you readjust her yourself
Fixed some broken animations
Added door opening animations
Added new ‘vignette’ effect during combat
Fixed many small graphical glitches in intro area
As always thanks for your support! Hopefully there won’t be too many other major updates that affect the demo level. Also be aware we will be putting up a completely new demo in August for Steams Visual Novel fest, to show off our social systems properly. The classic dungeon demo will NOT be available during that time! So if you want to try all of level 1, do so before August!
The team continues its work on Somnipathy, as we move into the 3rd nightmare, and with 2 full levels under our belt, it was time for a change of workflow for certain. While the intro was redone many times, the 1st nightmare didn’t ultimately take too much time to design. The ideas were fresh, and most time was spent building our Event, Interaction, and other core systems. But with the 2nd nightmare we drastically increased scope of things, and we ended up spending FAR more time than originally budgeted on it.
While the reasons for the 2nd nightmares delays (6 months for the level 2 vs 4 months for intro + level 1) are extensive, and probably worth their own post, the tools we were using certainly played a part in it. While the level 3 tileset was being developed, our content makers started experimenting with outside too. So we circled back around to Tiled.
The ability to copy and paste arbitrary sizes is priceless
The workflow process for the levels in Somnipathy is somewhat complicated. We have some heavy metroidvania elements of exploration and short cut opening, which requires quite a bit of pre-planning. Then we also have ‘side’ areas unrelated to the main nightmare that are eventually required to explore, but more linear in design. Finally we have the day time interactions, which are closer to a Visual Novel than anything else. For this we go back to our Dungeon Master roots and hit pen and paper…
Spoilers! Level 3 design, maybe.
We’d then previously try to build this in Godots tile map editor. It did the job, but we often felt like we were fighting things. Adding new tilesets was cumbersome. Cutting the tiles and adding collisions was tedious. Tiled fixed many of our pain points, but how do you get Godot 3.5 to recognize the maps?
Enter this nice plugin The Godot Tiled Importer. There are many different variants out there, the project has forked a few times, but this was the one we used successfully. It did come with a couple caveats, however.
We use Dialogic for MANY things and Dialogic 1.x for Godot 3.5 stores these things in JSON files. The tiled Importer plugin will try to interpret those files as maps by default, breaking many things. We instead used Tileds XML format. Make sure to hit your project settings to disable json format to fix this problem.You disable JSON importing here!In addition, if Godot has already tried to import the JSON files before you disable things, you may need to do a clean up. If you’re using Dialogic, you can check out the step by step instructions given here.
Given we already had a set of requirements for our tilemaps, we needed Tiled to set a bunch of properties for us. We do that with a Post Import script, which you set in the Import tab.You set the tiled script here!The script for us at the moment is pretty simple. We could also check for Tiled ‘objects’ and instantiate objects in place of tiles here, among MANY other features such as reading and reacting to meta data on the tilemaps. But for now we keep it simple, and do the dressing in engine.
With the set up done, we can simply drag and drop the imported .tmx files into Godot. Any changes we make in tiled, will be automatically imported into Godot.
Its hard to state how much time this has saved us so far. The Tiled editor is simply more feature rich, faster, and easier to use then the in engine editor in Godot 3.5. While the editor has been drastically revamped in Godot 4+, we’re not in a position where upgrading the engine makes a lot of sense. While their are always risks when you change your process mid project, this has been an overall win for us. Cya next update, and don’t forget to Wishlist us on Steam to help us out.
We’re nearly done with level 2 in its entirety and are already hard at work on level 3. That means new features for the demo too! In addition we have a fresh new trailer that is a step up from our last one, enjoy it at https://youtu.be/KLgbX_5FqH0
Our newest version yet of the Somnipathy demo is now out! From here forward alot of work is going on to post demo content, but when things affect the gameplay in the demo, we’ll be posting all relevant patch notes! Without further ado, the patch notes!
0.4.0 End of year Release!
Journal Revamp – Brand new animations, organization, and an enemy codex!
Added ‘hint’ system for misplaced items on the Whiteboard. Rooms with items you can pick up have a cat paw icon on them
Visual FX additions – New filters and effects to let you know when you’re in danger, take a hit, and more
Fixes to visual glitches in the Intro levels
Added many missing sound effects in the Intro levels, Piano room, interface, and store
Added more feedback when you pick up, use an item, or hover over an item
Fixed broken Aggy animations (Grab, Stare)
Added new Aggy animations (Wakeup, Death, Walk, Sit, Dance)
You can now make Aggy dance by hitting the ‘d’ key
Added a video mode. Hide HUD and Mouse, by hitting ‘v’
Fixed sprint persisting through interactions
New cutscene added to room 12 (piano room)
Fixed pathing and interactions in room 17 (forge)
A new ‘pre tutorial’ cutscene flashback has been added to new games!
Dialog Fix for the intro flashback
Added new flashback
Minor text fixes
As always, please wishlist on Steam if you haven’t yet, and play the demo there or on Itch.io. Stay tuned for more exciting information!
Next fest has come and gone, the feedback was read, the streams analyzed, and a short 2 weeks later we have our next version ready JUST in time for Steams Screamfest! That’s right! The demo returns TOMORROW on Steam!
So what’s changed? First for Screamfest we bring you a test bed turned Halloween level in a NEW score attack level. This is a very different beast from the Ludum Dare 50 stage, much harder, but hopefully more interesting, and with a new leaderboard to boot!
Next? A brand spanking new introduction in story mode! The introduction was by far the most critiqued part of the game, and the new intro should address nearly all the issues brought up. You speak, we hear, and together we make a better game
And then last but not least we added a sprint mechanic. Changing movement speed is a tricky prospect, but the decision space this adds to the game is immense, and we hope you’ll enjoy it.
You may have noticed that this week’s blog post is hitting on Friday morning instead of Wednesday morning but that is because there’s a lot going on here at Tearcell. The biggest item first, of course: the demo is currently out and available via Steam! Thousands have downloaded it, and… wait, how many? Really?!
Ok, thousands have downloaded it, but only a select few have provided us with feedback so far. But we are LISTENING! So play, hit the feedback forum on Steam, and let us know what you think!
Also we have been furiously preparing for our participation in Next Fest – not only planning our broadcasts on Tuesday October 4th at 4pm Eastern and Saturday October 8th at 8pm Eastern but also preparing for several other fun things. Do you follow us on TikTok or Twitter? We’re running giveaway contests on both platforms for a limited run of Somnipathy Next Fest stickers. That’s not the only way to get them though – if you attend our Devstreams on Steam during Next Fest, we’ll also be giving away a limited number of them during each stream.
All this going on doesn’t mean we’ve stopped working on the rest of the game. Level two is well under way, and for those of you who have made it through level one in the demo already… well, level two is bigger. We’re looking forward to throwing more twists, turns, and level loops at you to navigate Aggy through while continuing to uncover the mysteries of Somnipathy.
Maybe we’ll even talk about it on the dev streams next week… so stay tuned!
Tomorrow the demo for Somnipathy goes live on Steam – we hope you have your calendar marked. There is far more available in the demo than just the small bits we’ve shown off here in the blog and on our assorted social channels. We are excited to see what you think and how you react!
But before we can see how you respond to what you’ll find in Somnipathy, we can take a moment to ask our creative team to talk about some of their favorite and most memorable moments, elements, or encounters that you’ll be able to experience in just a few more days.
Mink (creative director and artist), lead writer James Thomasos (@HVCPHD on Twitter), and Ryan (artist and cutscene artist) have been some of the most involved members of our development team since day one. Somnipathy lives and breathes via what the player sees on the screen. We asked them each a few questions that we think will resonate when you all get to dive into the demo.
Mink: There are quite a few easter eggs in the game that I am pretty excited about, but naming my favorite one specifically would ruin the fun in finding it. 😉
James: Hmm. Honestly, I’m excited for people to encounter and carry out the Pianomantis questline. I’m reasonably proud of how that one turned out.
Ryan: The weird and quirky way the player uses “dream logic” to solve puzzles.
James: I think it will be Aggy’s boss’ line about having a meeting to schedule a meeting. Truthfully that one hurts me every time I read it!
Ryan: I like where Aggy is “too tired for this sh…” and yells at big scary things like she’s an angry old man.
Mink: There’s a warning but no one is going to listen. 🤣
(Ed. Note: Very, very early in the demo, you’ll be asked to make a cup of coffee. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE HOW TOUGH THIS MIGHT BE!)
Ryan: There is one part where the player will have to navigate a sequence of events at macro and micro levels, all while evading a threat. Always be prepared!
Mink: I think the biggest struggle anyone will have is managing your inventory under pressure. It’s coming…
James: I think the most difficult set piece involves the opening of The Forge. That set piece involves crossing a ton of thresholds in rapid succession to collect heavy items, which will quickly raise the difficulty of the game as well as the speed of The Creeper. The only hint I’ll give is that there are two or three workarounds depending on how patient you are or how much of Aggy’s money you’re willing to spend!
Mink: Thirsty. 🧛♀️
You’ll be able to download the demo on Steam tomorrow. We’ll see you there!
It seems like a million years ago now that the members of Tearcell Game Studio sat together in a Discord call and discussed moving forward with transforming Somnipathy from a limited-mode entry to Ludum Dare 50 into a full narrative experience for retail release. We quickly identified a list of what needed to be done to make that happen, and with public release of our demo on Steam coming up next week we wanted to take a moment to go behind the scenes for some of the business and technical efforts that went into bringing us to this point.
I am Vibe, and along with being the voice behind our weekly blog posts (and a host of other duties related to the development of Somnipathy) I am also the business director for Tearcell Games. I sat down with Darius, our technical director and leader by acclimation and inspiration, and we talked about all the “I’s” dotted and “T’s” crossed to get where we are today.
Vibe: Let’s go back to early May after we decided to make a go of it. I wandered off to do the “guy in a suit” thing and plan out our formation, draft our bylaws, and attempt to project some kind of budget, and you immediately got working on… well, doing what exactly? I know there were a bunch of technical adjustments that needed to be made to turn our jam project into the start of a full Somnipathy game, but can you explain them to me [as if I were a small child, please]?
Darius: With the clear feedback we got from Ludum Dare 50, we knew we were on a great track atmospherically but the gameplay didn’t match the strength of our setting. Before rewriting we had to get organized. There are eight of us touching code and assets that started out held together with a combination of duct tape, glue, and prayers. The whole project could turn into an unmaintainable mess of spaghetti code if we didn’t invest in good structure before doing anything else. We also had to fix a lot of things that had been hard coded just to make the jam deadline and were not flexible enough to be used as a general API and system to build a larger game around.
Vibe: I saw drafting our bylaws similarly! They are the API for our operations, if you will – the functions and flow chart to how the work gets broken up as well as what needs to be done for us to be a functional company. Continuing to speak of APIs, there was that moment where we had done all of the suit-steps needed to set up as Steam developer-publishers, they had verified that we were “a real boy” – well, a real business – and we had full access to that side of things… which we can’t talk about in huge detail, but there was that first moment where it was like, “wow, this is real now,” and then you immediately dived into learning how publishing on Steam would work and what was required from a technical perspective…
Darius: I’ve deployed a lot of software and a lot of systems on a lot of different platforms in my career, and Steam solidly falls in the middle of the spectrum for complexity. They provide a wealth of documentation, tools, and information, but there are definitely best practices that need to be strongly adhered to. They have some deployment concepts that are still a bit confusing even with all my experience, but having command-line APIs to do automations while working on projects has been fantastic. That said, once you get the hang of the “Steam Way” you’re unlikely to make mistakes, their high level of organization provides great guardrails for your process. Thankfully for us we had the support of Gramps of CoaguCo Industries, his amazing GodotSteam integration builds, and his strong and supportive community. If I had a question they were there and eager to help.
Vibe: I know from watching this process how much work it was, even if I still don’t quite have a grasp on it. If you had to put a number on it, how much time did you spend working on just lining things up so that they’d work later, over that first month after the big thumbs up moment?
Darius: From the original thumbs up moment, it was roughly two solid weeks – about eighty hours total – just pulling off the duct tape and reinforcing the fundamentals (interactables, events, and dialogues) that were the initial pillars of development for us moving forward… and then another six weeks or so before the code was back to a foundation that I was comfortable with us building upon. Then I set our lead writer loose to do in-engine level design, but even today I’m continuing to build new features onto the core of the game’s base.
Vibe: And now we’re sitting here, and the demo for Somnipathy will go LIVE a WEEK FROM TOMORROW. For me, that’s a real surreal feeling. I keep expecting to wake up and I’m 13 again and Steam wasn’t even a thing yet and I’m playing X-COM Terror From the Deep for the umpteenth time and thinking, “hey, someday I’d like to make a video game,” would you say that you have any kind of similar sensation at times?
Darius: I was sitting here today designing new features for the boss battle at the end of the demo and I couldn’t help but stare at my work and think, “this is really cool!” and thinking about how it compares to Mr X in Resident Evil 2. (Ed. Note: We’re not saying the first boss is at all the same as Mr X! Just capturing the feeling.) I have those moments most days – when I’m not hunting down bugs that is!
That’s it for us for this week. We’ll be back next week, talking to some of the creative minds on the team who will be giving us their perspective on what you’ll find in the demo. We can’t wait for you to play it!