Thanks so much for all who played our demo. Over 300 people requested the demo and over 100 returned the survey. For those unfamiliar with the games industry, that’s a very good return rate! We’re encouraged by the interest in this game.
After reading feedback on the demo we clearly have a diverse group of blind and sighted gamers, many of whom are very familiar with audio games.
Our goal for this game is ambitious. We are hoping to make a game that can straddle a wide range of gamer experience. Many people in the blind community have reached out to us with the hope that this game might be a compelling introduction to what gaming has to offer them while others are hardcore Swamp players looking for new challenges.
In addition to these groups, we hope to introduce more sighted gamers to audio focused gaming. This is important to us because our long term goal is to be making accessible mainstream experiences with broad appeal and for both sighted and visually impaired gamers.
Without further ado, let's get to the feedback we received.
Combat MovementComment: About 25 percent of respondents wanted the player to be able to move during combat.
Take Away: We are not surprised that more advanced gamers would want this. We may consider working on a more fluid run and gun system in future games. For the Vale, we decided to expand on existing games like A Blind Legend… adding more narrative, choice, exploration, and RPG elements to proven mechanics. We did this for the following reasons:
Comment: We received a significant amount of feedback asking for more exploration. Whether that is village exploration, exploring combat areas, or quests surrounding exploration.
Take Away: We hear you. We are aiming to have more exploration all around. Villages in particular will have more interactions leading to bonus items and coin, quests and special story branches.
Comment: There is some interest in more complex village layouts with streets and alleyways like in A Hero’s Call, another audio game.
Take Away: We have decided to steer clear of maze navigation in Villages. We want exploration to happen in ways that feature Alex’s abilities. There is little context for making Village navigation complex, considering the sighted Shepherd could easily lead the way down twisted streets. We want Alex, our player character, to drive the action. The Player should be able to navigate easily to basic locations (tavern, blacksmith, etc) while optionally listening for details in the soundscape... subtle cues that could lead to interesting interacts and quests. We intend to add more of this to the game, both in villages and other explorable locations.
Comment: A number of you were interested in open world navigation to quests, instead of moving directly to quests.
Take away: Our decision not to include this comes down to team size (we simply don’t have the resources to make open world environments) and our desire to avoid excessive menu navigation (We move players right into quests to remove need for the creation and management of quest logs or extensive maps.)
RPG MechanicsWe know that many of you requested more RPG elements in The Vale. Even before the playtest we were aware of the demand for classic RPG mechanics such as loot/equipment, grinding, experience. In our efforts to create a game that is accessible to as many players as possible and to play to our strengths as a studio, we are seeking to make an narrative driven action adventure game with some RPG elements.
While we want players to be able to have choices for weapons and equipment, we do not want to bog people down with needing to listen to extensive menus. We feel that having too much focus on menus, min/maxing, and other statistic tracking takes away from the immersive experience we’re creating. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for games with tons of stats, menus, number crunching, and the like - it just isn’t going to be The Vale.
However, we do not want to abandon these tenants of RPGs either. To that end, we are experimenting with different ways to give players choices, without taking them out of the narrative of the game. For example, instead of analyzing every piece of loot that drops from an enemy, players will be notified when certain weapons or armor are better or significantly different than what they are wielding. Instead of dealing with equip menus with a heavy focus on statistics, the blacksmiths will allow players to switch between gear while making comments that indicate the difference in your equipment (e.g. You can swing faster, you can take more hits with this, etc).
The Vale seeks to innovate on games like Blind Legend in a number of directions. We know that given our resources, we can’t produce a fully featured RPG with full 3D combat, a myriad of locations, and dozens of playstyles - but we can deliver an immersive experience with a great story that harkens to the gameplay qualities made famous in RPGs.
Whether you’ve followed us in the past or just heard of The Vale, we’re so happy to have you along with us on our journey to release in the summer. Yes, that’s right, mark your calendars ambiguously because The Vale is coming to you this summer! “But that’s so long!” you say - well fret not, because we’ll be filling that void with more updates, more information, and even a demo to show off all those dynamic combat features we’ve been mentioning. We’re so excited and we hope you are too. From everyone at Falling Squirrel, thank you!
Oh heck, it’s finally here! Want to play a demo of The Vale? Then sign-up on our mailing list below!
We’ll be sending out more info, some testing questionnaires, and a link to a recent build. We really appreciate any feedback that you’d like to give, so please don’t hesitate to sign up.
You're all the best,
Blog two: Start! Last time we left our valiant devs, they had just received production funding for The Vale. Now that we had the money, we needed to flesh out our ideas for our all-audio Adventure game.
Two years ago when we started The Vale, there wasn’t this explosion of accessibility in both indie and mainstream gaming. You had some colourblind and key binding accessibility, and surely a few standouts that I’m not mentioning, but aside from that the only place to get accessible content for the BLV community was in audio games. Just because there weren’t many accessible games in the marketplace that did not mean that there wasn’t a demand for them. For years, many hobbyists, community members, and a small handful of developers have dedicated themselves to crafting audio games - games that allowed those in the BLV community to have similar experiences to mainstream gamers.
Most of these games attempted to take gameplay experiences and translate them in an accessible fashion. For example, Swamp is a multiplayer shooter that is blind accessible and can be played as an all audio game. Swamp has explorable environments, narration, a complex action set, and is by and large and very fleshed out game. The design choices in Swamp were immediately a little jarring to me, but not without good reason.
Hey there internet,
Thanks for clicking your way over to the FSG blog. We’ve been pretty silent for the last few months while we’ve been hard at work on our all audio adventure game, The Vale, so it’s about time for an update. Our team has had a number of great milestones this year, I almost don’t know where to begin. But first, let’s catch up those of you who might be here for the first time.
I’m Jamie, the producer of Falling Squirrel. A Niagara-region indie developer from Ontario, Canada. Falling Squirrel consists of a number of experienced industry vets as well talented newcomers to the games industry. Having worked together on a number of projects in the past, company director David Evans gathered a team with a plan to make his dream game. With an extensive background in Film, TV, and games, Dave always talked about making a project that explored the boundaries of narrative presentation using only audio. Finally, with Falling Squirrel formed and funding granted for a concept, we were on our way to making this dream a reality with The Vale. Little did we know at the time, but we were about to enter a world completely unknown to us - the world of Audio Games.
While we did not directly intend to make a game specifically for the blind and low vision community, we were blown away by how many people want more audio games. As soon as we started developing The Vale we started devouring up all the audio games we could - Swamp, Blind Legend, Papa Sangre, and more. We started working with the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to plan focus tests and added former CNIB senior technology advisor and Senior Accessibility Technology Specialist at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), Martin Courcelles to our team. With help from Innovate Niagara, the OMDC, a ton of neighbouring developers and studios, we turned our concept into reality and were granted funding for the full production of The Vale.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, we'll catch you up on the current year and fill you in more on the current state of The Vale