Developer Interview: Brenden Henry of 'Chaos'

"Chaos" is a new action-adventure game coming to Steam, Xbox One, and PS4, developed by Brenden Henry. According to the "Chaos" Steam page, "You have crash-landed on the most intriguing mysterious alien world you have ever seen! Look around, see 10 different alien creatures each with their own unique personalities, find clues that keep you immersed in the story right up until you solve the mysteries behind your crash on this alien world."

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Henry about his development and the learning curve of being a new developer.

Q: What are your inspirations behind ‘Chaos’?

Henry: I was inspired by 2 things. The first being how much I loved the original unreal and return to na-pali expansion pack. That is a game released in 1998 by EPIC but a lot of people still talk about it to this day. It was a great game, and I have since not seen too much like it. The storyline in “Chaos” was based on unreal but there are some twists. Unreal involved being a prisoner aboard "Vortex Rikers"- A crashed ship on an alien planet. In “Chaos” you are going to a new planet with your brother because your homeworld is facing destruction, and so you are looking for a new home while also trying to figure out what happened to the others who went there before you, who never reported back. As you descend through the atmosphere, your rocket crashes and you can call your brother on the radio, but it cuts out and you do not know what happened to him. So yeah the story is similar but different.

I should also mention the main reason I got into game development because I never intended to be a developer, it kind of just "happened". I was getting tired of repairing and designing electronics as an engineer, and I was burned out. I was looking for something new, and I thought game development could help "boost" my creative side, something I knew was my weakness. I thought that it could be beneficial in future electronics projects and even industrial design so It was kind of as a challenge to myself.

Q: What sets ‘Chaos’ apart from other games in the genre?

Henry: I think what sets “Chaos” apart comes down to 2 main things. 1 is the story being fairly unique. Although inspired by unreal, I have not really seen very many games that are similar. The 2nd being, a highly varied game. Actually one of the things some developers seemed to mention as a "flaw" was just this. So a lot of alien technology on this new planet functions in very unusual ways and there is a lot of variation as well. At one point you are floating down a river on a raft, then you are going over a rainbow light bridge. At other points you need thermal vision just to see through fog, sometimes you are underground, but then you are in a mansion above the clouds. The weather patterns vary also. At one point it is snowing and before you know it you are on a sunny beach. So yeah all of this was "intentional" but some developers were saying the "theme" should visually look the same throughout. However, this variability stood out to many others as a very positive aspect and many have told me that it is a very interesting point!

So yeah environments are kind of unique I would say. Also, it's not just a pure first-person shooter game either. A lot of it requires exploration so it is like an adventure-shooter, and some people who have played the demo seem to find that interesting as well, they don't necessarily view it as a typical first-person shooter experience.

Q: Can you tell us more about the custom soundtrack?

Henry: Yes so Vic Freeman is the guy behind the soundtrack. I actually was looking for someone to do the soundtracks and I first thought about going with "Alexander Brandon" since he did a lot of the tracks from unreal. He seems like a great guy but the price he wanted in exchange for the tracks was just totally out of budget as an indie developer so I politely had to turn him down. Vic is someone I met in the car audio industry and we worked out a mutually beneficial deal: Soundtracks in exchange for some software work. So it worked out much better for me, opposed to paying someone. All of these tracks were also created within FLstudio and Garageband, both apps for IOS. You can actually check out some of the tracks in “Chaos” here and find links to some of Vics stuff

Q: What's it been like as a 1 man development team?

Henry: “Chaos” honestly, but I feel like some of the mayhem was mitigated through good planning. For instance, I started off with the story, which I actually came up with most in a single day. I just started writing and then refined things as I went. I then had some concept art made to help keep things on track. Then I kind of just jumped right in, but definitely having some pre-planning and sense of direction before starting the main work was helpful for such a large project.

Q: What's the learning curve over the last 8 months been like?

Henry: Well when I started I didn't know how to use any game engine. I decided to go with unreal engine 4 though since I was familiar with epic and trusted that their game engine was good. Even though I had no engine experience, I was proficient in software development beforehand so that helped. Having said that, I found out a lot of things could be created easily with blueprints. It actually looked really complicated at first but after reading some documentation over the first week and getting familiar with it, I jumped right in and would look up resources along the way as needed. So I started off with just a grey box and a player model, then went to a larger "test" level with some free assets from the store. At that point I worked on animating and rigging the character model, and kept adding new NPC's (alien creatures) which were rigged and animated via Mixamo. I made some weapons, continued to refine all the gameplay mechanics, and when things were functional, I then started working on custom graphics and other refinements.

Things like the planetary atmosphere, day/night cycle, custom textures, and polishing work came later. Once everything was working correctly, I started to work on the real gameplay levels which take place in a huge open world. At this point things got much different and I ended up having to change some terrain textures, the grass, and some other things just in order for it to be optimized and still look alright in the larger levels. A lot of issues were encountered when joining the levels together and trying to make things load seamlessly without any loading screens. In fact some of the alien technology implemented with the unique features ended up giving a lot of trouble based on the way I wanted them to work, so I had to do a lot of experimenting around with ways to make them work.

Then came the idea of adding full controller support when already deep into the project. This required redoing the entire main menu, and nearly everything to do with the input system broke in the process. The planning and strategy here was pretty good overall, I think my experience as an electronic and engineer did prove beneficial with that... but yeah definitely I think it is important to try to plan things from the ground up so that you aren't revisiting certain aspects of your project and realizing you have to start all over in some areas. It can be tough to do that though because as I went along with things, I kept getting more ideas for features and additions. I guess it went about as good as I could have hoped, but I definitely did learn a lot from this project!

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