Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PAX East 2014: Source (Fenix Fire Entertainment)

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!


In the Indie Megabooth, a number of developers showed off games which benefitted from the influx of crowdfunding, whether by Kickstarter, Indiegogo or otherwise.  At the same time, other teams were showing off new projects in need of help from crowdfunding.  Developer Fenix Fire Entertainment was present in the Megabooth to show off their upcoming titles, as well as their new Kickstarter project, Source.

Source takes place in an alternate dimension inhabited by otherworldly, luminescent flora and fauna.  Players control a butterfly-like creature which is born to the world as its last savior.  A dark energy is spreading throughout the dimension, destroying everything in its path and threatening to end all life in the world, and as the last surviving being if its kind, the flying protagonist must go forth and stop the source of dark energy before it is too late.

Source is a 3D action adventure game set together in a metroidvania style.  Players move the firefly around the dying yet beautiful world, and as they progress, they will be able to find a multitude of new abilities to help solve puzzles, open doors, and defeat what foes the source creates.  Initially, the firefly is fairly limited in what it can do, revolving around the ability to absorb and release energy from its body.  This ability is important, though, as the firefly continually loses energy as any other being would; the player needs to ensure the firefly is kept nourished in order to progress readily through the world.  The firefly can use its released energy to pollinate foliage and cocoons along the landscape, and in doing so, more energy is expelled and absorbed, making the firefly stronger in the process.  As the game progresses, the firefly can get ability upgrades, including the Plasma Beam to fend off foes and different color polarities to open doors and interact with different objects in the world.

Pollination has gotten rather trippy...

In true metroidvania style, Source is complete with typical backtracking and upgrades throughout the world, but the game also has a unique rebirth element in place.  In Source, every action is recorded and used to eventually improve the next iteration of the firefly; upon being reborn, more abilities and strengths build onto the next generation, creating a more powerful opponent against the darkness.

The world is not as typical as it first appears, and that is saying something, as it appears far from typical to start!  At the beginning, Source takes place in the damaged world of light, but alongside it is a world of darkness, filled with immense monsters hell-bent in snuffing out the firefly's light.  As shown in the game’s Kickstarter campaign trailer shown above, these monsters resemble abstract spiders and flying snakes, but Fenix Fire head Brian McRae told us that there would be plenty more where that came from.  He said the team wanted to make sure to make the dark monsters balance between what we would know from this world and what could possibly be seen as otherworldly without going too far in either direction.  While the demo did not feature a dark world segment to my knowledge, McRae let me know that the world acted more like a large cube of sorts, unlike the light world, which tended to stray toward the more traditional orientation of gravity.

If there is something that needs to be said about Source from its earliest build, it is that the game looks tranquil and beautiful, even with its otherworldly visuals.  Pools of water reflect the world's topography and luminescence around them, and particles flow one way and another, following the firefly along its path.  Stones are typically cut in rigid angles, and blue and orange lights are emitted by the foliage and living beings within both worlds, akin to the cool and heavy electronic styles of older 1970s and 1980s futuristic art as seen in Tron and earlier video game worlds. 

The demo on the showfloor did not exactly demonstrate too much of what is expected in the final release, which is expected as the demo was made in a very short period of time.  What it did offer was a short glimpse into the world of Source.  One should be aware that the firefly does not necessarily fly, but rather, hovers some feet off the ground, and players can launch themselves upward by a pseudo jump into the air.  This took some getting used to, but it became more accessible as the demo progressed.  The game’s ambiance leads itself to a more relaxed pace of movement, which did not exactly match the more hustled pace of the showfloor, but I am certain the game does not stay as quiet as the demo does once darkness begins to flood the world.  I am sure the game will be full of moments both calm and pure as well as tense and destructive.

 Another Fenix Fire title: Smash Derby

Fenix Fire Entertainment is a husband-wife team who recently celebrated the birth of their first child.  It was the birth of his son that helped inspire Brian McRae to work with his wife Anna on Source, a world seen through “infant eyes” as explained on the campaign site.  Fenix Fire was founded in 2010, and the team’s first release was Roboto, a mobile action platformer staring a cute robot on a high-powered hoverboard.  The team is also working on Gates of Osirus, a space-dwelling alien hunter for PC and mobile platforms, and Smash Derby, a touch-based futuristic combat game for mobile platforms and Ouya.  Smash Derby, which Brian showed off to me at the showfloor, involves swiping the screen to launch yourself at your enemies, changing polarity with a quick touch of the screen; tower-defense elements are involved as well, allowing players to add in turrets and other defenses between each wave of attack.  Brian told me that Source originated in a style similar to Smash Derby, but the scale has grown to what it is now, and he hopes to be able to realize his vision through the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

Developed on the Unity engine, Source is currently slated for release late Summer 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC (Steam is hopeful at this point).  Although the Kickstarter campaign states that the game will likely see a PC release first, the different versions will have as close a launch parity as possible.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get to the campaign here and help be the source to make Source possible!

For more on Fenix Fire Entertainment:

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