It’s hard to imagine that West of Dead was created in a pub, well the idea anyway!. Three people met in a pub to talk about an new game idea, that led to several beverages and even more ideas.
The small team of talented friends had left there jobs behind them from within the gaming industry to go it alone, in the relative comforts of indie craft. Thus enabling them to put there passion and desire in to a project that was close to there hearts.
Fast forward two years, and Wow….
The small team had a big list of passions that they wanted to pull together; Imkan (Co-Developer) loves Westerns. Adam Langridge, Co-Founder and Developer, Upstream Arcade loved twin-stick shooters. Imkan loves horror titles and wanted to make a horror game. Adam wanted to try his hand at making a new kind of cover shooter. What they both wanted though, was to make a game that looked like a comic book. They wanted to make a permadeath game with procedural generation, in which they could explore themes of fear and light.
A smart person would maybe have decided to focus on a few of those things and abandon the rest. However they choose to ignore the easy route and decided a hodgepodge of ideas felt like something interesting and rather different from what’s out there in the gaming world. They had the drive and belief, to produce something wonderful together!
So with all the ideas being left on table so to speak, a permadeath-cover-based-twin-stick-comic book-horror-western title with procedural generation and light-based mechanics was born in the name of West of Dead.
Classic, Modern Shootouts
At the heart of West of Dead is the desire to have a western-style shootout, but with modern arcade sensibilities. The small team want you to deal with enemies all around you – in true twin-stick style but to also plan your movements and count your bullets behind cover. The entire game fits around this, tries to make you get into cover, and then get out again while dealing with lots of scary things from all angles. To bridge these two flavours of action, you are kitted out with a lot of tools to use, whether diving to avoid bullets, sliding into cover, or vaulting from one side of cover to another, there is always a route to safety. However, you’re pretty dangerous too — with a wide variety of weapons and abilities to discover as you make your way through; no two fights will feel quite the same.
Crawling from the shadows
Comic rendering styles have always been a passion for the dev team, and they wanted to bring gothic stylings to life – pick out gloomy shapes from a background of pure shadow. The creatures you face, look their best when appearing from the gloom, so the process of lighting your way through the world is a key part of the gameplay. Igniting lanterns allows you to better target enemies that are now more clearly visible, and also briefly stun enemies, allowing you a second to plan your next move.
For the story the team pulled in an old Bullfrog and Lionhead colleague Dene Carter to bring the world of Purgatory together. You play a mysterious stranger to Purgatory – “a shifting land shaped by the souls of the dead.” The story is told with the amazing vocal talents of actor Ron Perlman, an absolute fan favourite of the developers!
Fitting a story inside a roguelite structure is a novel challenge, and the group of friends had to think of the game as a series of spiralling adventures, each passing through common spaces to figure out how to make it all work.
Finally, with a sense of wanting the world to feel sprawling. The Guys quickly found that a custom procedural generation engine was the order of the day, and built it from the ground up. Gone are the grid paper layouts of procedural generated games of old, and in are dynamic, art-driven levels to explore. Every corner, a potential threat.
If you wanna follow the adventures of this exciting new indie game studio Upstream Arcade – head over to UpStreamArcade.com and Twitter.com/UpstreamArcade or read more about West of Dead here WestofDead.com. We hope you enjoy West of Dead, we certainly know the guys had a blast making it.