Hi, Corey here. I’m the Project Lead for The World Next Door - thanks for checking in! This is going to be the first of many informational posts about the game, and I wanted to kick things off by writing a little about about the how this project came together and introduce you to everyone on the team.
ROSE CITY GAMES
Will and I are the Co-Founders of Rose City Games, and along with Sandra, we’ve been working on all kinds of game projects together for almost three years. For TWND, Will is a Co-Producer, and Sandra is the Associate Producer. Basically, this means the three of us have our hands on a little bit of everything for the game, from creative direction to marketing strategies.
Rose City Games and VIZ Media have been quietly working together for awhile now. We met at GDC a couple of years ago and starting chatting about how it would be cool to make games together. We had just wrapped up an awesome project with Cartoon Network, and we really liked the idea of continuing to partner with companies working on some of our favorite characters and themes in media. Then, last summer, we decided to run a sort of internal game jam focused on concept art and game design… with the goal of eventually greenlighting a game!
THE CONCEPT JAM
We’re in a unique position of knowing a huge pool of creative people, mostly thanks to the indie game scene in Portland, OR. We’re still a small community, but there’s a lot of talent here, and working with PIGSquad has helped us meet a ton of awesome people to work with… which means we’re able to quickly put together great teams. Literally everyone on The World Next Door team met through PIGSquad in one way or another! So, when we started assembling game concepts to pitch to VIZ, we knew the right move was to engage some of the great artists we know right here at home.
We hired a big group of local artist friends to come work with us over the course of one weekend last summer, and the result was 13 original game concepts created from collaborating with 14 different artists.
… and this is how we first met Lord Gris! She’s a local Freelance Artist / Media Influencer, and after seeing some of her work on the PIGSquad Facebook Group and her Instagram, I really wanted to work with her on one of our design ideas. During that weekend, she developed the initial character designs and early story treatments for what turned into The World Next Door.
After the jam, we put together more formal pitches for a handful of the concepts and sat down with VIZ to see if we had a winner. The original pitch for The World Next Door (codenamed “Shocktarts” at the time) really stood out as something fitting the style and narrative themes we love about VIZ’s properties and as the type of games we’ve been dying to make, so the decision was pretty unanimous to move forward.
Our next steps were building a playable prototype and creating some early art tests. We teamed up with our friends Chris and Ankit of Crystal Fish Games to tackle the roles of Sr. Producer / Software Engineer and Sr. Software Engineer, respectively. They’re programming the game, keeping the project on schedule, and working with us on game design.
Chris used to work at Cartoon Network Games, and actually moved to Portland on the same weekend we were hosting the Cartoon Network Game Jam (there’s a lot of serendipity there…) We had been flirting with the idea of making a game together since he came to town, and The World Next Door felt like the perfect opportunity to finally team up.
Ankit is Chris’s partner at Crystal Fish, and because he lives in Atlanta, we’ve actually never met IRL before (luckily we’re all going to GDC this year!)
We also recruited our friends Justin and Alex from SleepNinja Games early on to help with the prototype. Justin took on the role of Art Director and In-Game Artist & Animator to help define the art style and environments and compliment Lord Gris’s character illustrations. Alex, as the Lead Writer, started creating story treatments based of the development we did during the concept jam.
Will has known these guys for a long time via PIGSquad. He did some work on a game called Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake with them, which was published by Cartoon Network in 2014 ...and Chris was actually the producer for that project when he was still working at Cartoon Network!
We all spent 4 weeks making the initial prototype of the game, and brought short demos out to local PIGSquad meetups for feedback. We actually secretly showcased a build at last year’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo, so if you were there and remember a rough looking, unnamed puzzle-battler… that was us!
With a solid concept, strong characters, and a fun little proof of concept, we got the go-ahead (and funding) from VIZ Media and were ready to move forward into full production!
We still needed to think about sound and music, and our friends Nick and Andrew were the first guys we called. Our Sound Designer Nick and I actually met on a plane going to GDC a few years back when I overheard him talking about PIGSquad, and after connecting back home we worked together on an unreleased project for a bit. Our Composer Andrew has worked on several games with Chris and Ankit before TWND, so everyone was already very familiar with each other!
The final role we needed to fill was someone to take care of online content and community management. Marlowe is a local freelance artist who we’ve been working with on other small projects for over a year now. We met her when she started attending PIGSquad events, and her media skills and community management experience felt like the perfect fit. If you’re following us online on Instagram, Twitter, or other various social media platforms, she’s the one answering your questions and sharing all the work we’re doing on The World Next Door!
So that’s the story of how 11 friends and VIZ Media teamed up to make this game! I feel like our team is a real testament to the local indie game scene in Portland, and I can’t wait to show you more of the work we’re doing over here. We recently completed our pre-production milestone and are presently in what I like to call “pre-pre-alpha” which involves building, testing, and iterating on the game’s core features. On top of that, we’ve been bringing demos out to those local PIGSquad events as much as possible, to get feedback from a mix of developers and players.
Right now we’re taking some of that feedback, and improving the game for the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, where we’ll have the first outside-of-Portland public demo available to check out! There are a few ways to play the game at GDC: