Three UCF alumni began a space-faring fishing trip last year that culminated in the release of the team’s first video game: Blacksea Odyssey.
It’s a top-down shoot em’ up, giving players the perspective of looking down on their character while they play, with rogue-lite elements such as random procedural generation, where the game world is created using algorithms that make different levels every game, and perma-death, where players get one life per game or else they have to restart a new.
“The premise is that you are in this space fishing competition where the greatest huntsmen gather and you go out taking bounties,” said producer Percy Legendre.
The development trio consists of Percy Legendre, who graduated fall 2014; Sean Pinnock, who graduated spring 2015; and Peter Milko, who graduated spring 2014, all with degrees in digital media – game design track.
The original concept for Blacksea Odyssey was inspired by the classic arcade game Asteroids and Ernest Hemingway’s literary classic “Old Man and the Sea.”
“I liked the idea of fishing in space, I thought it sounded interesting and weird.” Legendre said.
The game has hit digital shelves despite a rocky road in development that hit the team late last year.
“We were able to work full time until November, or late October, when we found out that [our publisher Mastertronic wasn’t] doing so well financially,” Legendre said. “They were having trouble with their own financing, so we ended up parting ways with them. So we needed extra funding to finish the second half of Blacksea Odyssey and that’s when we turned to Kickstarter.”
Within the span of a couple of weeks, the small development team put together a campaign that raised them $12,300, a couple grand above their goal, and pushed forward into development.
The game itself came out of a list of 200 odd ideas from the team, which were eventually condensed down to five or six before they began prototyping. After trying several prototypes for different ideas, the team went back to Blacksea Odyssey for the Global Game Jam in January of last year to a positive crowd reaction.
While the initial prototype is a far cry from what the game is today, the core premise of playing a big game hunter remains from the game jam’s theme of “What do you do now?”
“[Players] collect all this fish and take them to where the boss is supposed to be,” Pinnock said, describing the gameplay from the Global Game Jam prototype, “and the camera zooms out 10 or 15 times and you’re this tiny little spec on the screen next to this monster that is several times larger than the already enlarged screen and ‘What do you do now?’ comes across the screen because you’re fighting this absolutely massive titan.”
At the time, the game had a different feel thematically from its current fast-paced action style.
“It was more of an atmospheric adventure and less a fast-pace shooter, which I think is more like what we were originally going for, but I don’t know, it just wasn’t as fun.” Pinnock said.
Because the game is also being developed by a small team, they needed an art style that was simultaneously unique but easily repeated.
“We did try a couple of different art styles,” Art Director Milko said. “The reason we went with this geometric art style is because I’m the only artist on the game we wanted to choose something that I could draw very quickly, but also something very stylized, that way when you see a screenshot you think, ‘Oh, that’s Blacksea Odyssey.'”
Working on this game and trying to create an attention grabbing art style forced Milko to readjust the way he approached drawing as well.
“Normally you have a very dark foreground and a bright background, but for Blacksea Odyssey, it’s the opposite,” Milko said. “So I had to sort of adjust to drawing the opposite way I normally do.”
Taking a positive reaction and some constructive criticism, the team pursued this idea into a full release.
The team created a pitch deck, a document that tells publishers development milestones, schedule, budget and gameplay, alongside a more advanced prototype with many of the new core features and began sending it out to independent game publishers. They ended up signing with Mastertronic, a London based publisher last May before parting ways later that year.
Blacksea Odyssey has a planned release window in June of this year for PC and a console release a month later for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Christopher Bobo is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.