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Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Senscape Interactive
Release Date: 2014

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'Asylum' Drops In-house Engine, Switches To Unity 3D

by Rainier on May 12, 2014 @ 2:39 a.m. PDT

In Asylum players will be able to explore at leisure a vast and vivid asylum known as the Hanwell Mental Institute, while diving into a disturbing horror storyline unlike anything that has ever been seen before in the adventure genre.

The name and nature of this long awaited horror adventure are revealed along with a lengthy and moody trailer that shows its frightening atmosphere as well as a large selection of concept artwork, including the entire cast of characters in the game. While details are still scarce, it has transpired that players will be able to explore at leisure a vast and vivid asylum known as the Hanwell Mental Institute, while diving into a disturbing horror storyline unlike anything that has ever been seen before in the adventure genre.

For decades, the Hanwell Mental Institute has been housing patients of many ages with diverse degrees of mental illness. The institute admits feeble-minded men and women who are not fit for society under excellent conditions and nursing, with a high recovery rate thanks to advanced treatments pioneered by the universally acclaimed psychologist Dr. Ann Ebersbacher. Even patients with extreme mental disorders have shown positive progress and are now able to enjoy a full life inside the walls of the institute. Many others have returned to their families, ready to face new challenges and experiences in their improved conditions.

Senscape has issued a statement that the developer has decided to drop its in-house Dagon engine for Unity 3D.

Two weeks ago I was teasing about recent developments that were shaking the foundation of Asylum and, quite possibly, the very essence of existence itself (more or less). In short, the news is that we’re reimplementing the game in Unity.

Wait WHAT?!

It may take a while to digest the news but this wasn’t a decision that we took lightly. What began as a quick experiment became a serious consideration after we realized that some urgently required features could be implemented faster and better. Indeed, in merely three weeks we have achieved tremendous progress in our major pending task: the interaction with the denizens of the Hanwell Mental Institute. If you recall, we have discussed about the best way to integrate our characters with the pre-rendered graphics of the asylum. We didn’t have many options with the previous incarnation of our engine Dagon: since we were unable to incorporate realtime 3D graphics, the characters had to be pre-rendered as well, thus resulting in robotic and stiff animations.

While I toyed with the idea of supporting 3D models in Dagon, it soon became evident that we neither have the time nor budget to tackle such a development. 3D is darned complicated: from drawing the polygons, to properly applying the texture, to how lights affect the model, to correctly interpreting the internal skeleton for proper animation, to ensuring those polygons remain attached to the skeleton when it moves… Well, there’s a reason why there are dedicated engines for all that.

By moving to Unity we can bring our lovingly crafted 3D models with smooth, polished animations and manipulate them in ways that previously weren’t even remotely possible. It truly makes our lives much easier, and our tests are already promising vivid and meaningful conversations.

It’s true that right now we’re in a transitional period where things are progressing slower, reason why I also decided to postpone the alpha testing of the game. However, I’m convinced that within a few weeks not only will the game be at the same stage of development, but from then on we’ll continue considerably faster, especially with the character interaction logic out of the way (and one that is up to the standards we’re aiming). More so, we have been tweaking the Unity editor to fit our needs and allow a super-easy creation of the structure of the game. In short, porting the Asylum code itself is a straightforward and quick process, but right now we’re still focusing on the tools.

Surely the burning question in your minds then is why not choose Unity from the very beginning. When we began working on this game many aeons ago, Unity was still a young engine and not fit for an adventure like Asylum. It only became a suitable alternative in 2010, back when the game was announced. By then I was already working on Dagon and making solid progress, yet as months went by Unity became the powerhouse it is today. Make no mistake: Dagon is already a fairly mature engine that turns the creation of first person adventures into a crazy simple process. In fact, it would be already possible to recreate Scratches in Dagon alone, and make it look even better. It’s just that Dagon is still not up to the task of handling a game like Asylum. So, instead of bringing the expensive features we need for Asylum to our own engine, it makes more sense to Dagonize Unity to our liking. It’s important to note that most of the game is still node-based, though the illusion of realtime 3D is more striking than ever.

Yet another bit of great news is that we can now guarantee immediate ports to iPad and Android tablets once Asylum is complete. Suffice to say, everything that we do in Unity will be free and open in the same spirit as the original Dagon, and I’m hoping to upload our current tools to GitHub soon.

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