The Birds and the Bees

Where do Cipher Prime game ideas come from?

What we love most about being a game company is bringing our crazy ideas to life. When we’re not doing our “normal work” (chipping away at our main studio project, dealing with customer support, yelling at each other, etc.) we’re making silly little prototypes for fun.

But every so often we’ve got to knuckle down and make a cool product. So how do we do it? And how has our process changed over the years?

Auditorium

Cipher Prime started out as an interactive media company, doing Flash and other web development work. At that point, games were just a twinkle in Cipher Prime’s eye. Long story short, Auditorium began as a very different experience from what it is today. Young Dain and Young Will explain it all in this video (1:40-2:40):

Fractal

Our sophomore game, Fractal, was a more “traditional” creative experience, since we tried to design it from the ground up. It began as a competitive multiplayer arcade game, with everything prototyped out on paper, but ended up having something of an identity crisis as each member of the team gravitated toward making their own vision of the game. Fractal’s present-day arcade mode, puzzle mode, and campaign mode were each refined by different team members!

Fractal on paper.

Wanting to unify the creative process, Cipher Prime team members agreed in the future to make a prototype first, then show it to the team. If the team likes it, the team builds on it.

Pulse

Will drew the concept for Pulse out on a napkin. Nobody else thought it would work as a game. I mean, come on–it was on a napkin. So he built it out in Flash, along with a level editor. By forcing the rest of the team to play by tapping the dots in time to the music, Will convinced Cipher Prime to do its first rhythm game.

Splice

In 2011, Cipher Prime attended the Indiecade festival in Culver City, California. While there, Dain ended up coming down with a pretty terrible fever and was stuck in his hotel room the entire weekend. So what do you do when you’re stuck in the middle of a game development convention, having fever dreams about rearranging binary trees? You make the prototype to Splice. Afterward, he pitched it to the rest of Cipher Prime, and we ran with it.

original splice

Feedback and Intake

Our two pre-production games for Auditorium: Duet (Feedback and Intake), were initially based off designs made by Will. For Feedback, Will came up with a radial pong design, Andrei built out the first prototype, and after joining the team, Aaron rebuilt it from the ground up. Intake, likewise, was actually based on the first game that Will ever made! The team took on his game concept and fleshed it out as a Cipher Prime title.

Feedback and intake.

Duet!

So, what are we doing with Auditorium: Duet? Well, we’ve already got a very basic prototype (the original Auditorium), and we know the feeling that we’re going for: a rewarding, cooperative multiplayer experience. We’re big fans of iterative development, and we like “proving” ideas to each other by building them out and making sure they feel right.

We’re building Duet through feature-based prototyping. We have a bunch of ideas for how we want to extend Auditorium, all of which are varying degrees of crazy: new visual styles, new camera motions, new controls, and new genre-bending experiences. But we’re implementing them slowly, as a team, and making sure that they work.

2 replies
  1. Kickstarter Backer says:

    Interesting to see the process of how it all happens. Sounds like you are all living the dream (or as close as life gets to one at least).
    Regarding Feedback, saw it quickly in passing before. Can it be made available, or am I not grasping the scale of the work needed to make a functional, but not complex, working game similar to the original web based Auditorium?
    Harrison.

    Reply

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