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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsFragments of Him - a story about love, memories, and hope.
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Author Topic: Fragments of Him - a story about love, memories, and hope.  (Read 5023 times)
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« on: February 21, 2014, 05:41:26 AM »

Fragments of Him is a narrative game played in the first person. The story revolves around a tragic accident, and the life of the victim and his loved ones before and after the incident. The player plays through the events and the locations as if they were the spirit or intellect of the characters, making decisions and starting actions that progress the story. Through this snapshot of their lives we see that when a young man suddenly dies, left behind there will always be Fragments of Him.

During Ludum Dare 26 (April 2013) we made the first prototype of Fragments of Him, you can still play that here. This prototype demonstrates that the type of game (or as we call it, an interactive experience) we're making definitely has a place in this world. There are some problems with that prototype such as the amount of clicking, no real flow throughout the gameplay, terrible audio (it's Chopin cut up to sort-of loop). These are all part of the things that we're changing for the full game.

Art Style
For the art style, we're sticking to what we used in the prototype. We felt that it worked great with the gameplay and works even better when trying to convey moods (using lighting). Here's a couple of in-engine screenshots of Fragments of Him:

Stay in touch!
Want to know more or get in touch? Here's pretty much every possible way I can think of to get in touch:
SassyBot Studio twitter account (we post game updates on there)
Tino van der Kraan (Artist)
Elwin Verploegen (Programmer)

SassyBot Studio Facebook

IndieDB page

Or just leave a message here

Or read more on our Blog, or just visit the Fragments of Him website.

Thanks for checking out Fragments of Him!
« Last Edit: April 26, 2016, 02:25:06 AM by Tinovdk » Logged
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2014, 07:09:19 AM »

I would like to see more of what the game looks like and maybe some concept art? I could only find one picture in this and I'm not going to take the time to play the game right now. I like the idea of the game itself.
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2014, 09:47:11 AM »

Hey Savick,

Here are a few images of the environment in development I've been sharing on Twitter although it's all still pretty rough. As you might have guessed, this is still very early in development.

Aesthetic test: http://sassybot.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/FoH8.png
Blockout 1: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BhA06JbCAAEES4o.png:large
Blockout 2: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bg2tHnWCcAE1bMW.png:large

We feel the concept has already proven itself in the prototype and we are using real world environments as a reference to create the game space from. We will eventually need concept drawings for the characters. Saying I'm a bad concept artist would be an understatement. When I have some concept art of the characters, I might swallow down my pride and let people here judge it. :p

In order for us to reach an MVP (minimum viable product), our priorities lie in blocking out the navigable spaces, integrating the bare bone interactions, and implementing mock narrative audio and subtitles.

Hopefully that answered your question. Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2014, 02:26:14 PM »

Hello TIGSource community! I'm really pleased to be able to share another update with you regarding our #devlife and progress of our game Fragments of Him. Hopefully, you will be able to excuse me for reposting from our blog that includes an image that has been posted in this topic before. Dev time is precious and preparing these updates takes a considerate amount of time. I also apologize for not understanding BBcode indentation tags well enough for the lists to appear properly in this blog. Without further delay, please enjoy the following write-up.

This blog is intended as a write-up of recent events and activities of our game development company SassyBot Studio. As a result, the contents of the blog reflect personal approaches and insights that we like to share and should not be taken as industry facts. We hope that by sharing our thoughts and experiences of past and future events it may help other start-up indie devs with struggles and questions of their own. We embrace contact and encourage you to share your adventures and lessons with us either here or through Twitter @SassyBotStudio.

Office space for digital media
As of this month, you can find SassyBot Studio in an office space of its very own. Well, that’s not technically true as we share it with a few other folks. Regardless, we believe that having a space for our projects and operations is invaluable.
It could be argued that, because the nature of our business is largely digital, game developers don’t really need office space. That would be true if virtual collaboration with others would be as rich, synchronous, and seamless as it is in the real world. The biggest bonus of having a dedicated space for work is most definitely the noticeable focus and productivity increase compared to working from home. Working on a different location outside of home gets you out of the everyday domestic distractions. It’s possible to find these work places at a library, university, a diner, or coffee shop. The real benefit of an office space over public work places is obviously the ability to customize the work space, determine your own work hours, and the peer pressure of showing up and putting in the necessary hours.
Of course, there are also downsides such as rent, insurance, furniture, equipment, and other matters that are mandatory or recommendable to a practice such as ours. Even though an office space comes with an initial time investment and financial cost, we think it is definitely worth the sacrifice as productivity has increased and collaboration is now a lot easier.

Additional assistance – interns
As of this month, our team is also being reinforced by the very cool Baiba, who is active for the foreseen future as an art intern. She is currently assisting us in the character department of Fragments of Him with character concepts. When we post future videos and images about our character development process, it is very likely that you will be seeing some of her work. It’s important to have a focus for the work of an intern, and in a small company it is especially important to be sure that they fit with the group both creatively and socially.
There is much to be said on the subject and we mean to share more about working with interns in the future.

Fragments of Him update
Progress on our upcoming title Fragments of Him has been picking up over the last month, although other important matters, such as external work and the recent Casual Connect conference in Amsterdam, has taken a chunk out of our precious development time. An outline of the game’s design now exists and it is enough to block out the premise, characters, and mechanics for the game.
Based on the instructions and descriptions in the design, we have started blocking out environments that provide the player with context in which the game will be taking place. The basic gameplay systems are currently in place, such as player navigation and an art pipeline that allows for fast iterations.

Motion capture
The characters in Fragments of Him are going to be more dynamic than those that were seen in the prototype that is still up on Kongregate. Even though the story in the prototype could be told in an impactful way with static characters, we believe that lifelike animation can greatly emphasize the message, if acted out properly.
We want to have a lot of short, realistic animations in the game. In order to quickly iterate through motions until we have the right one, we think that a motion capture system could be greatly beneficial. Hand animating believable and lifelike character motions requires a substantial amount of time and expertise to pull off. Cleaning up animation keyframes from motion capture data takes less skill and it will probably be faster to get to the desired result. For these reasons, we are close to making the decision of creating a motion capture rig of our own.
The software we intend on using to create a motion capture setup that fits within our budget is called iPi Motion Capture and it supports consumer motion cameras such as Kinect and PS Eye as input devices. What we have seen up till now has made us very enthusiastic about the ease of use and overall possibilities using this technology.

iPi Mocap demonstration video:

Fragments of Him development approach
As we are creating a larger game than previously attempted, we have been doing quite a bit of high-level thinking on how we can best approach this project. It’s important that we make the best use of our available time and resources by catching problems early on when they do not yet have a considerable financial impact on the end result.
The high level approach we currently use for making Fragments of Him can be seen as a sequence of phases which we have labelled as follows:
-          Horizontal slice phase
-          Vertical slice phase
-          Decor phase
-          Polish phase
During production, we use the term horizontal slice to indicate the bare minimum that we need in order to have the game playable from A to Z. In this phase, we try to put the most important and rough objects into the game as soon as possible. This is also known as the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The horizontal slice is made up out of critical elements that are necessary for the game to function.
We are going to approach the horizontal slice of Fragments of Him in this order:

  • Environment blockout/whitebox
  • Key interaction objects and functionality
  • Critical interface elements
  • Narrative system with placeholder scripts
  • Main characters in crude forms
  • Audio placeholders
    • Music
    • Sound effects
    • Foley

(Great foley examples: [ur=http://youtu.be/UNvKhe2npMMl]http://youtu.be/UNvKhe2npMM[/url] & http://starwars.com/watch/films_arenot_2.html)
Good audio is critical to the experience of a narrative-heavy game such as Fragments of Him and, although this approach appears to place it at a low priority, we hope to move on to including it very rapidly. We expect to use free assets from classical royalty free libraries before moving on to working on a finalized score for the final release.
The result from this phase can be used to figure out if the core value of the game can already be experienced. Usually, the first result will not create the experience that the design has in mind. From this point onwards, a lot of iterations need to take place that will nudge the game towards where it needs to be. When the core design is present and representable for the game’s intended experience, we can include playtesters into the iteration cycle who will be able to tell us whether or not the design and game is working as intended. While that happens, we can direct our attention towards creating a vertical slice.

Vertical slice phase
A vertical slice represents a short segment of the game to a standard that is representative of the final product. On a graphical level, this can set the standard as to how the rest of the game should look and feel. Additionally, this is useful for promotional purposes as it can give people a taste of what they can expect in the full game. If you are looking for funding for your game, then creating a vertical slice of your game can be used for this. With Fragments of Him, we intend to create a vertical slice for promotion in order to raise awareness and muster support. We’ll try to make this vertical slice available to as many conferences, game journalists, and let’s play content creators as possible.
To get an impression of what is required for a vertical slice, you could imagine the work required for the phases below applied to approximately a 10% segment of the final game. It is basically getting a taste for a piece of the cake.

Décor phase
The décor phase can be seen as the phase where non-essential assets and functionality gets added to the game. A lovely analogy for this is this:
Imagine actors rehearsing for a theater play. These actors picture the environments and props around them as they practice to get the entire piece acted out and presented properly. In many ways, that can be seen as the horizontal slice. The décor phase is where the set dressing, lights, music, audio, and character costumes are pulled out to complete the set for the grand performance.

Before décor

After décor

Essentially, the elements that get added in the décor phase of our game development process are to accommodate for mood, atmosphere, flow, and ambience that support the core of the game. The elements required for this phase are not critical for playing the game, but it does add tremendous value to the intended presentation. Some of the elements you can think of adding in this process are:
  • Scene dressing
  • Complete set of rigged character models
  • Textures
  • Additional, non-essential, animations
  • Scene lighting
  • Particles and effects
  • Additional, non-essential, functionality
  • Interface graphics
  • Complete audio set for music, sound effects, and foley

Polish phase
When we get to the point where all the elements of the game are put together, we will go into the polish phase. In this phase, we will not add any more assets or elements unless they will add considerable value to the game. Usually, this phase can take the longest to finish. Most of the work that is done in this phase is not really visible to the player and takes place behind the scenes. The purpose of this phase is to improve game performance by optimizing game assets and code as well as track down and minimize the occurrence of game breaking and experience hindering bugs. This process aims to make the game look as great as our resources allow us. Some of the activities we do in this process are:
  • Clean up and perform optimization of:
    • Meshes
    • Textures
    • Animations
    • Game systems
    • Interface
  • Tweak scene light parameters and light bake settings
  • Quality assurance of the game’s performance and experience

This last month has been pretty busy as we moved into SassyBot’s first office, attended a conference, and the awesome Baiba joins us as an intern. Due to all this, the development of Fragments of Him has taken a slight backseat although we have made progress. We also decided that motion capture will very likely be the way we intend to get animations into the game and have researched cost-effective ways of doing this. Lastly, we have planned the development approach of Fragments of Him by dividing it up into the horizontal slice, vertical slice, décor, and polish phases. Thank you for reading all the way to the end and we hope you let us know what you think either through Facebook or Twitter (@Tinovdk & @SassyBotStudio). What blog topic will be next? I don’t know, but I’ll let you know when I do. Wink
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2014, 02:23:09 AM »

A while back, our game and narrative designer, Mata Haggis travelled to New York to attend the Different Games Conference with a prototype of Fragments of Him. That experience has generated a lot of food for thought about where the full Fragments of Him game is headed. Below you will find these thoughts and hopefully these are meaningful to you.

As posted on our SassyBot Studio blog: http://sassybot.com/blog/diversity-halo-and-the-sexualpolitical-agenda-of-fragments-of-him/

"This post looks at how games in the field of diversity are viewed as having strong cultural and political agendas based on the cultural space that they occupy rather than the intentions of the developers.
Last weekend, at the same time as PAX was corralling indie developers into a ‘diversity lounge’, I had the pleasure of showing Fragments of Him at the Different Games conference at New York University. A few hundred people gathered there to talk about gender, sex, sexuality, representation for people of colour, queer lifestyles, and diversity in games and the gaming industry.

It was quite an emotional weekend for me: I’ve only watched ‘Let’s Play’ videos of people playing Fragments of Him, and this was the first time that I had seen it being played live. It was a very powerful experience, watching as they paused, their shoulders dropping, the mouse perfectly still as the situation in the game revealed itself. Like I say, I’ve seen this in videos, but it was a very different sensation to watch in person. Some people had to stop and walk away, muttering a ‘thank you, it was very good’ quietly as they left. I’m sorry to the people that the game upset; I hope that you find the time to experience the rest of the story and that the resolution is some consolation to you.

Direct and indirect diversity

There were a lot of discussions on diversity, and it was great to see the range of ways in which different developers were addressing these issues in their games. Many were very direct, such as the way in which Perfect Woman combines difficulty settings with a parable about the impact of today’s choices on our later situations: if you choose to be a terrorist as a twenty year old then it’s going to be tough to be a professor at thirty! It was simple, explicit (in more than one sense), and delivered an easy to understand message.

Next to this, the Fragments of Him prototype that I was showing at the conference felt extremely reserved – it’s not a game about a gay relationship: it’s a story about grieving and moving on, which also happens to feature people who were in a gay relationship. I feel that this is a strength of the current prototype, not because being overtly about a gay relationship would automatically make it weaker as a narrative, but because it shows the universality of emotions that people go through in times of crisis, regardless of their sexuality.

However, avoiding dealing directly with sexuality isn’t something that would work in the larger Fragments of Him game that we are now developing after the success of the prototype: looking back at some of the significant relationship events of the lives of the characters, the incidents that their sexuality have provoked will almost inevitably be a point of attention.

I have mixed feelings about this. I have no fear of representing the normal lives of adults who are not heterosexual, but I also feel a little sad that it is unavoidable that some kind of forced sexual or political agenda is going to be read into all of this.

Diversity or reality?

Is there a diversity agenda to Fragments of Him? Not by intention. I want to treat my characters as normal people living in the modern world, and I hope that I can make all of the characters recognisable and believable. By treating non-heterosexual people as absolutely normal human beings (because what else would you want to do?), the story is conveying a message of compassion and empathy for all people, regardless of their identity (not just gay/bisexual men seen in the Fragments of Him prototype, but also other sexes, genders, sexualities, ages, races, and other people who may differ from ourselves in their bodies or lifestyles – some of which will feature in the expanded version that we are now developing). I am making no effort at all to force diversity into Fragments of Him, but a range of realistic characters will automatically contain people with a variety of attributes.

It strikes me as odd that this will likely be received as a political statement about diversity, when my intention is to tell an everyday story of love, loss, and hope. I do believe in the value of diversity in society, and naturally the things that I create are going to reflect those opinions. I would be happy if the game makes people appreciate the commonality of experiences between people with otherwise distinct lives, but the primary intention is to create an enjoyable drama (in the way that a tragedy can be enjoyable through a cathartic release of emotions).

I would welcome social improvements as the result of a game, but I have no intention of preaching my views through Fragments of Him and wouldn’t be egotistical enough to expect that an indie game with a good heart is going to change the world. I hope it will comfort a few people in sad situations, help a some appreciate the lives of others, or assist in thinking a little more about the people that they love… That would be a wonderful result, but that hope is not at all unique to games: it is also what very many storytellers want, I believe, and just because Fragments of Him is a game, I don’t believe that hoping for this result can be called a sexual or political ‘agenda’.

Storytelling and empathy in games

Games are a communication medium, and we must not be afraid of representing the world as we see it, or how we would like it to be. To me, a message of treating all others as humans worthy of respect shouldn’t be considered an ‘agenda’, as if this were a subversive intention: respect and civility should be the default state of all people. If, with the story in our game, we can do a little to help build a society of empathy and compassion, then I’m just fine with that. If this helps games development to mature and find sources of inspiration from outside of the common sci-fi/horror/fantasy tropes, then I would be happy with that too.

I love games, everything from zombie slaying through to blowing petals in the breeze, and I hope that the full version of Fragments of Him will be a valuable addition to the growing number of games that are interested in telling stories outside of the current mainstream. Perhaps, if anything, there is a deliberate agenda in that: expanding the language of our creative field.

It is interesting that a game such as Halo is not commonly talked about for its agenda. In many ways it supports the dominant patriarchal paradigm of heroic masculinity. For example, the lead character ‘Master Chief’:
  • is a tall, muscular man
  • is suited permanently in full armour so no fleshy weakness is ever exposed
  • speaks with a gruff voice
  • has a face that never shows emotion (because it is never seen)
  • recovers almost instantly from injury
  • can single-handedly turn the tide of a battle
  • has a girlfriend who is a hologram so they never have to do anything as emasculating as kissing or hugging, or squishily organic as having sex
  • spends his time penetrating organic-looking alien ships
… And so on.

It would be easy to read this as adamant support for a hyper-masculine ideal, devoid of feelings and mental or physical intimacy, where the primary goal is domination of anything seen as organic, uncontrollable, insane, and other attributes that western society has historically associated with femininity. I don’t for a second believe that Bungie set out with that as their agenda, but it can easily be read into Halo.

It is possible to see an agenda there, if we wish to look for it, just as it is possible to see an agenda in Fragments of Him, but I know which game is more likely to be discussed in terms of having a sexual/political agenda.

Agendas or simply messages?

It is a sign that our industry needs to mature, that the presence of any character outside of a standard heteronormative binary system (people who do not fit a modern stereotype of youthful, aggressively heterosexual vigour) is read as an ‘agenda’. Master Chief fits the system, so he is not viewed as a political statement, but a gay protagonist is outside the norms of gaming lead characters, and so the game is likely to be assumed to be intentionally making a statement.

I’m content that a diversity-aware reading fits Fragments of Him, but this is neither something that I have forced to be present or something that I would ever dream of avoiding. It is a natural result of trying to represent loving and open people both fairly and honestly.

Perhaps I am saying this the wrong way: it’s not that Fragments of Him doesn’t have a sexual/political agenda: instead it is that every game has one. These agendas are usually only identified in games that feature characters that are perceived as being outside of mainstream society. Like all cultural artefacts, all games have a societal message, but in games those messages only appear to be called an ‘agenda’ when they do not fit into a very narrow range of cultural models.

My thanks to the organisers of Different Games for a wonderful and inspiring conference, to all the lovely people that I spoke to, and everyone who played Fragments of Him. I look forward to next year!

If you haven’t played Fragments of Him yet then you might want to try it here.

We look forward to sharing the progress of our game with you as we continue to build it over the next few months. Thank you for reading!"

We hope to be able to share more information with you about Fragments of Him in the near future.

Thank you for your time and attention. Smiley

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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2014, 01:49:44 AM »

Hey everyone!

Just dropping a message here that we now have a website for Fragments of Him. It features a video that gives an introduction to who we are, what we are making, and why we are making it. Future videos will elaborate more about the game itself and what you can expect.

Website: www.FragmentsofHim.com

Furthermore, the website has a few new screenshots that give a sample of where we are taking the game's aesthetics and environment.

We are working hard towards giving you a sample of the experience we are tailoring. Hope that you will be around to see it. Smiley


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« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 05:30:16 AM »

It's been a while, but we've not been sitting still. Exactly the opposite in fact, we've shown Fragments of Him at GaymerX2 this weekend and are also going to Casual Connect SF to be part of the IDEA Showcase.

Development has been steady, we've expanded the team with another artist and are currently working hard to get all the environments done. In addition to that, we've finished the first teaser - showing off some of the new environments and animations:

And to leave you with a gif of our lead artist dancing (to test the mocap setup):

(recorded at 10 FPS)

A lot more has happened, and a lot is happening right now. We'll be sharing more screenshots and gameplay in the near future!
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« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2014, 07:34:18 AM »

Good luck with this.
I played the prototype.  It really works...  just needs polish like you are doing.

It's effectiveness is clear, bringing to mind family and friends who have passed or are sick.

I'm developing OBEY - Steam | Devlog | Twitter | Facebook
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2014, 02:54:34 AM »

Hey there TIG folks.

Over the last weekend we have been showing Fragments of Him to the wonderful people at GaymerX2 and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. To encapsulate the experience of GaymerX2, Mata Haggis (game design and narrative consultant) has written about his time there which you can read more about below.

Mata Haggis:

"This weekend I have been in the company of a couple of thousand wonderful, creative, supportive gamers and developers. These people also happen to be ‘gaymers’.

The GaymerX conference happened for the second and final time in San Francisco this week, and won’t be happening again… But something will be taking its place. The term ‘gaymer’ was coined as a banner for uniting a group of gay geeks who didn’t fit the mainstream discourse of gaming, but it became something much more broad. This weekend saw people with many expressions of non-mainstream diversity coming together to show the games world that they exist, they matter, they want to see themselves in the games that they play, and that they are happy to put their money behind events and games that recognise them.

That last part is important – GaymerX is a statement that a whole market exists that many games are rarely addressing, or that are being spoken to in ways that are not recognising the real issues faced by the players.

The weekend raised some deep issues of diversity representation in games, such as the subtle balance of the pros and cons of fantasy games where homosexual relationships are available; these games were recognised for being positive for including these options, but there was discussion about whether the absolute in-world acceptance from other characters is a help, or a hindrance, towards the understanding of challenges faced by people in real-world gay relationships. Is it more valuable to have an escapist fantasy or an educational reflection of life? These kinds of discussion provided food for thought, and were good-willed on all sides, which encapsulates the mood of the weekend where the ‘safe space’ attitude was largely undisturbed.

Not only ‘gaymers’

The visitors to the conference were mostly gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender. These are the main groups that you would expect, but the GaymerX conference also welcomed a crowd that embraced diversity in many more respects than sexuality: people with different physical shapes or capabilities, people of colour, genderqueer people, people with social or mental health difficulties, kinky people, and it should not be forgotten that straight people were there and welcomed too.

Straight, white men were absolutely not an ‘enemy’ at the conference; it simply was not focussed on their stories. The stories being told were of queer developers and players expressing their lives through games, or of celebrating the WWE professional wrestler Derren Young (@DarrenYoungWWE the first openly gay pro wrestler in WWE) who was there to talk about his work and meet fans, or about being a gay parent who games, or games dev entrepreneurship when you are non-mainstream in your lifestyle or content, and many other stories that do not regularly make it into mainstream games culture.

The conference featured talks about queer lifestyles, diversity, and equality, but also experimental Oculus Rift projects and defying design conventions in your gameplay mechanics. The mix of content for attendees ranged between feminist discussions with Anita Sarkeesian (@femfreq) to practical games development experience from Bioware’s David Gaider (@davidgaider).

Recognition from major sponsors

The sponsors contributed some very high quality stands to the show: 2K Games showed the first ever playable demo of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. IndieCade and Cards Against Humanity had a strong presence, and League Of Legends helped out cosplayers with a sponsored changing room. Non-gaming sponsors Logo TV and Mailchimp also put their support in financially, but didn’t exhibit.

Ubisoft were a major sponsor of the event, showing that there is a lot of goodwill in the company towards becoming more diversity-sensitive. The staff on their stand talked passionately about their efforts to make Ubisoft a leader in this field. In the light of the recent Assassin’s Creed male-only playable cast controversy, it was heartening to be reassured that the error was not indicative of the whole company, and that genuine efforts are being made elsewhere.

Ubisoft’s presence was a marker of the tone of a lot of the conference: there was a general feeling that improvements are coming in the games industry, but also that mistakes are going to be made. A production judgement call is going to remove representation for women when it shouldn’t: these things are still going to happen, but a growing number of people from the games industry are listening and trying to foment change. The tone recognised a general goodwill towards developers as long as mistakes are recognised and responsibility is taken to try harder in the future. Everyone would rather mistakes were never made, but the feeling at the conference seemed to be one of positivity about progress and not dwelling on errors apart from to learn lessons.

There is a stereotype of feminist/diversity activists that they are always angry and demanding changes. The anger wasn’t there this weekend and those demands were polite. Yes, the attendees and exhibitors all passionately desire change, but the number of voices speaking is changing the tone: instead of demanding change, those voices were saying ‘if you want to get a bigger market, talk to more people in meaningful ways’, and the feeling from the weekend was that games developers are beginning to listen.

There were some notable big publishers absent from the event. In the mode of Nintendo talking about not having gay characters in Tomodachi Life, there was a feeling those other publishers do not want to make ‘a political statement’ by attending. As Matt Conn (@mattconn), one of the key organisers of the event, said in the opening speech: ‘it’s not comfortable to have my identity described as a “political statement”’. Despite some very vocal commenters on the internet, it is increasingly difficult to believe that other publishers will hold off from supporting these kinds of events in future.

Queer lifestyles and awareness in games development and education

For my part, I spoke at a panel on how LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) developers are creating games that in some ways reflect their lifestyles. The panel was headed by Gordon Bellamy (@GordonBellamy), former head of the IGDA, who is both openly gay and a person of colour, and featured a mix of gay, bisexual, and transsexual games developers. We talked about how tropes for gamers are going to be expanded as non-mainstream lifestyles become more recognised.

I also ran a panel on how queer lifestyles and diversity awareness can be included into games development education. I am a senior lecturer at NHTV University in the Netherlands, where I teach games design at IGAD (the games development department). It is a Bachelors-level programme that is highly rated in Europe, and part of the training given to the students is in ethics. Alongside concepts of understanding the possible links between violence and video games, responsibility for gamer addiction, and other serious topics of social importance, I teach about diversity awareness and sensitivity towards queer lifestyles.

The term ‘queer’ scares a lot of people, but it is being reclaimed. It is a term that has long been used as an insult, and still is sometimes, but many people who do not comfortably fit the stereotype of a mainstream gamer are also not gay: they may be heterosexual but also transgender; they may be heterosexual but they are also polyamorous (they can love and have supportive meaningful relationships with multiple people); they may be bisexual; they may be cross-dressers, or furries, or kinky, or many other expressions of humanity that are not precisely encapsulated by the term ‘gay’. Rather than a person saying ‘I am a kinky heterosexual cross-dresser in a polyamorous triad’ sometimes the term ‘queer’ is enough!

I’m not exactly sure what I was doing with my right hand here…

In my panel, like in my classes, I talked about how awareness of simple modern feminist critical tools can make games development and content much more diversity-aware, using four main topics: privilege, micro-aggressions, victim-blaming, and tone policing.

Also in my panel, I talked about some of the challenges that can be brought on by these subjects for students, teachers, and educational institutions. I am very lucky that my colleagues and my university are supportive of the overall drive towards diversity-awareness. Of course, there are always going to be areas where students and colleagues occasionally feel some discomfort as their boundaries are pushed, but with consideration and conversation on both sides, NHTV is proving that games programmes can make progress towards very good consideration of diversity issues. Like Ubisoft, NHTV is making progress: we are all going to make mistakes sometimes (including myself, I’m sure!), but the general drive is for better treatment of everyone, and there is a genuine goodwill towards making this happen.

Fragments of Him at GaymerX

For the other part of my time at GaymerX, I was showing Fragments of Him. I am the game and narrative designer for the game, collaborating with the NHTV alumni games development team SassyBot Studio (@SassyBotStudio), and this weekend truly showed me that we are making something very special. We premiered the first ever trailer for the full game, and we also had a polished version of the prototype available to play for the visitors.

Fragments of Him Teaser:

To say that this was an emotional weekend for us would be an understatement: the outpouring of positivity from players was overwhelming. We always warned people that the prototype deals with the grieving process but, even with this, almost every player was visibly moved by the experience. We kept a pile of tissues on standby, just in case, and nearly finished the whole pile by the end of the weekend! A huge thank you to everyone who visited our stall, don’t forget to pre-order soon! http://www.fragmentsofhim.com

Conclusion – the future of the GaymerX movement

Although this was the final GaymerX, Matt Conn, Toni Rocca, and the other organisers all made it increasingly clear that there would be a rebirth of the conference. In Matt Conn’s closing speech he said that ‘the term “gaymer” was useful but it doesn’t reflect the diversity of people that I see in this room’. The speech was a moving and passionate statement of his belief that the future is very bright for diversity-awareness in games content and games development. The conference was incredibly positive in its tone: it wasn’t about negging straight lifestyles, it was about saying ‘and this is also cool and interesting too’. It was about telling stories outside of the usual topics, and by doing that finding new inspiration for games’ stories and gameplay mechanics.

There was a political tone at times, with a shared hope that queer content in games might lead to more tolerance in the real world for people whose lives turn out to not be in the mainstream, but this did not feel like the push of the event. Instead it felt like a celebration of what diversity can bring to games to make them even better for everyone, whether they are straight or queer, regardless of skin colour, mental health, or body shape. It was about embracing love and acceptance, and adding more awesome content to games.

GaymerX burned brightly for two years, but the changes it heralded are continuing. Matt Conn was clear that this was not the end of the GaymerX movement, only the name. There will be more events in the future, in some form, and they will celebrate and recognise even more people’s stories, and they will keep on saying ‘we are here, we are your audience too, and together we will make everyone’s games even better’.

About Dr. Mata Haggis:

I am not affiliated with the GaymerX organisation. All views are personal impressions from the event.

I am a senior lecturer and games & narrative designer with over ten years of experience of making both indie and AAA games, and writing for games, television, webcomics, and print. I occasionally blog about games on my own website (http://games.matazone.co.uk/) and reblog onto Gamastura here.

Since 2010, I have been teaching the next generation of games developers on the IGAD (International Games Architecture & Design) programme at NHTV University in Breda, The Netherlands. It is a very highly rated course, taught entirely in English. If you are interested in learning more about games development then I highly recommend it: http://made.nhtv.nl/

When not teaching, I am the consultant games & narrative designer on Fragments of Him, collaborating with the alumni company SassyBot Studio.

This blog originally posted here."
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« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2014, 06:09:44 AM »

It's been a while since our last update, but I figured I'd just post a proper update instead of a couple of small ones. A lot of things happened since we showed Fragments of Him at GaymerX2, including Gamescom & Indigo (a smaller event for Dutch indie devs).

First up is some new screenshots, we've been careful with what we show and will remain to do so until we get closer to release. Here's a couple of screenshots of the Apartment scene (which you may recognize from the Ludum Dare prototype).

A small section of the living room

A sneak peek at the bathroom.

An overview shot of the entire living room.

In the last screenshot you can see the environment art that Frederik Plucinski made for Fragments of Him. You can also see what Tino has been up to, with the interface.

The Unity3D update 4.6 introduced new tools to create interfaces, which we have been waiting for. Tino was very eager to start making the interface, and we have been making a lot of progress with that. Here’s a gif showing you how it looks at this moment. Do note that we’re still working on finalising a lot of things, and everything shown is subject to change.

Work in progress of the menu screen.

The menu is designed to support both mouse and controllers. If you’re a PC gamer using a controller we make sure to change the interface based on what you’re using. Hopefully this’ll make switching between these 2 input devices as smooth as possible.

Switching between input methods on the fly.

We also got around to buying Shader Forge, which we've been learning and applying as we go along. To illustrate this you can look at the difference in the results below. On the left is the default material that Unity gives us that makes use of diffuse, specular, and normal maps. On the right hand side we have the same maps with increased performance, better colour control, full range in specular intensity and glossiness control, Fresnel intensity and colour control, and the ability to make it transparent and opaque.

Additionally, we now have a skin shader that makes the skin for our intended look behave better when subjected to shadows at an improved performance.

We'll be showing off some of the gameplay of the first level soon(tm)

If you have any questions, remarks, comments or just want to say hi. Just poke us over here or get in touch on

or if you're more into facebook:
SassyBot Studio on Facebook
« Last Edit: October 03, 2014, 06:49:30 AM by Aceria » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2014, 03:48:41 PM »

I speak for myself and my company when I say that there isn’t much that is more difficult than
coming back on a promise. A promise, to us, is like an oath that we will not easily make unless we are very sure that we can live up to it and not disappoint those we have made the promise to.

You may recognize in your own life and ambitions that there are moments that you feel the need to
push yourself to achieve, even though the goal is really difficult to pull off. In order to push ourselves,
we have set and communicated an unrealistic goal that we will need to revisit and set right.

This goal has been setting a release date for Fragments of Him. In hindsight, the release date that we had set for ourselves (Winter 2014/2015) was rather optimistic considering the amount of unknowns we were dealing with at the time. We laughed in the face of reason and are now embarrassed for not living up to the expectation of meeting this release date.

The biggest question on your mind is probably, why is it taking so long?

There are several reasons causing this to take longer than expected and I will try to shed light on this
as best as I can.


At the time of estimating a release date for Fragments of Him, the script for the experience had
undefined elements in some of the core narrative arcs and that made it difficult, if not impossible, to
get a clear indication of when we can get Fragments of Him finished. We now know that the core of
the story that we want to tell feels whole and rigid. With that, we know the number of characters,
environments, scenes, and narrative branches we need in order to tell this story.


One of the biggest time sinks, by far, is that we are creating an experience with a lot of unique
elements in it that require artistic authoring to get it the way we want. An example of this is the 3D
models we need to shape the environments and characters and interactions that come with it. There
are a host of environments in the game for various scenes, throughout a range of times, with
changing seasons, portrayed by a number of characters that occasionally wear different outfits,
which are driven by a lot of motion capture data. We are undertaking this challenge with a
reasonably small team and we’re paying its price.


We are using new tools and techniques to make Fragments of Him look and behave as an experience that is unlikely to come from a small team such as ours. We can also tell you that over the past year we managed to become registered ID@Xbox and Sony developers with help from our fellow friends and developers. What this exactly means for the future we can’t say just yet, but it may give you an idea. Wink

A realistic release date

With all this uncertainty about when this project is finally ready to show to the world we have
adjusted our estimates and expectations. Our burndown chart is now telling us that we are 387,5
working days removed from finishing what we have started by following our current course.

According to the almighty interweb, there are 251 working days in 2015. Luckily, this project isn’t being made by a single person and we can distribute this labor of love over the people that help us realize our vision. That leads us to assume that we should be able to bring you the title that you may have been eagerly waiting for somewhere in 2015. We have realized that we are not that good in setting a release date based on feelings, hunches and wishful thinking. We really want to bring you that which we have promised and are hard at work to realize this.

On behalf of the team and myself I sincerely and humbly apologize for not being able to live up to our promise and we hope you still choose to support us in realizing Fragments of Him.

Yours truly,
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« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2014, 09:25:21 PM »

Id say you guys have done a great job so far. Sometimes thing like this happen. :/ Good luck for the future either way, cant wait to see more!

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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2015, 03:19:40 AM »

We haven't actually written any large updates regarding the game since our last update (we've been working hard towards getting the first story arc content complete). I do really want to show off this piece of animation (click on the image to see it in motion):

In this part of the story you think about the memory of 2 of the characters in the story, playing in the backyard. We have some more really cool news coming up in a couple of days!
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 03:38:35 AM by Aceria » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2015, 03:50:56 AM »

While the release of Fragments of Him is going to take a bit longer, we have been giving Downloadable Content (DLC) some of the thought and attention that it deserves. Let us take you through all the versions and DLC that you might be able to obtain now or eventually for Fragments of Him.

Basic Edition

Fragments of Him: Basic Edition

The full game* as we intended it, completely playable in all of its glory.

Deluxe Edition

Fragments of Him: Deluxe Edition

For those that want/need more, we bring you the Deluxe Edition. In addition to the full game*, you get the Director's Cut. This version is exactly as our narrative designer intended the game to be, which is the same as the regular version albeit with a different title screen leading into the game.

In the Deluxe edition you can also expect a 'Behind the Scenes' video. This 4 hour documentary shows the developers eating greasy pizza, drinking mildly enjoyable (but potent) coffee, shooting NERF guns and weak attempts at rhetoric on whose weekend was more eventful.

Premium Edition

Fragments of Him: Premium Edition

The Premium Edition contains everything the Deluxe Edition has, and more. The Premium Edition adds the Cinematic DLC. We know that some users desire a truly cinematic experience while playing Fragments of Him. We also realise that 60 FPS (frames per second) makes it a lot less cinematic (which is why most films are shot at 24 FPS). This is exactly why the Cinematic DLC will lock your frame rate to a maximum of 30 FPS, for the best experience you could ever want.

To add to the ultimate cinematic experience possible, we also introduce the Popcorn DLC where all the camera angles have been carefully picked for the most optimal narrative delivery possible without having to play the game whatsoever. All you need to do now is press the play button.

We also recognized that by giving you so many options to expand your Fragments of Him experience with all this DLC, that you need a way to manage it all. To meet you mid-way we also include the DLC Manager. The DLC Manager gives you an additional option in the menu to see what DLC you have enabled, which you are missing, and what discounts or sales are currently ongoing. Obviously perfect for those who want to stay on top of all the options in DLC. You can find this option in the in-game menu.

Fragments of Him: DLC Manager

Season Pass

Fragments of Him: Season Pass

We know that you love DLC, and if you don't, we hope that our DLC will convince you. If you really want to show support for your developer you can buy the DLC Season Pass ahead of time. All DLC will be available to you on release meaning that you don't have to wait to enjoy the full game! The Season Pass contains 2 content packages that we haven't discussed before.

The Effects DLC allows you to play around with the settings of the game, for those who want to use the full power of their computers. We recognize that not everybody feels comfortable using these settings, so we decided to put this in a separate package. Once enabled, you can use FSAA, MSAA, SSAO, Bloom, AO, Tesselation & more! The perfect DLC for the true PC gamer. A cheat sheet to all these acronyms will be included with this DLC.

The Polygon DLC is for those that deeply care about graphics. As most of you know well, pushing more polygons on screen will obviously make any game a lot better. With the Polygon DLC you will benefit from double the polygons, giving you twice as much enjoyment out of the same game.

Freedom Pass

Fragments of Him: Freedom Pass

Finding the compassion and empathy to characters in a game can be difficult, as such we decided to allow the players to let the players change the location of the game to Texas instead of England. The pass revamps all of the levels to look like Austin. This pass will also give you multiple options for the voice overs in the game. If your state is not available you can send us a request to freedom{at}sassybot.com, and we will make sure to look at your specific request.

Hats, Hats, Hats

Our final announcement involves hats. Research has shown that everyone loves hats in their games. This is why we will be opening up a hat shop on release, allowing you to customize all the characters in the game to your liking. Hats can be found in the game as well as bought in the store.

Fragments of Him: Introducing Hats

We also know that you have that one question: Can hats be stacked?

Yes. Yes they can.

Fragments of Him: Stacking Hats

That was it for the announcement, if you have any questions please send a tweet to @sassybotstudio

* The full game does not contain any DLC.
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« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2015, 06:34:05 AM »

serious props for the effort. way above and beyond the call of duty.


Mark Mayers
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« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2015, 07:10:55 AM »

You should include keys for $2.99 that unlock chests containing the option to buy Secret Bonus DLC(TM).

Don't forget Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Google+, MySpace, and Usenet integration; the kids love that stuff.

The soundtrack also needs to be entirely dubstep.

Desolus Twitter: @DesolusDev Website: http://www.desolus.com DevLog: On TIG!
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« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2015, 07:45:28 AM »

Don't forget Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Google+, MySpace, and Usenet integration; the kids love that stuff.

Great idea! We'll add Social Media DLC later this year, it will post every single frame to your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ as a separate post. If you don't like 60 posts per second you can always buy the cinematic DLC to lower that to the more cinematic 30.
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2015, 06:01:24 AM »

It's been a while since we have last shown stuff of Fragments of Him. I'm really happy that we are able to show a bit more today in the form of screenshots, a video, and an updated website. Let us know what you think. Smiley


Click here to see the new Fragments of Him website.

Christmas Dinner at Mary's house.

Sarah's home.

Desk with a chair. :D


Will in an Elevator.

Harry in the street.

If you want to know how this plays then you can meet up with us at Develop: Brighton this week and at Gamescom in a few months. To get in touch, I will always read and respond to Twitter @Tinovdk.

Thanks for your time and have a nice day. Smiley
« Last Edit: July 13, 2015, 06:08:16 AM by Tinovdk » Logged
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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2016, 02:24:44 AM »

Hello everyone!

Apologies for the irregular updates on development. Many of the updates and tutorials we publish are posted on our Sassybot website which I urge you to visit if you are interested in independent game development topics and adventures.

Blogs: http://sassybot.com/blog/
Tutorials: http://sassybot.com/tutorials/
(Yes, we should totally provide an overview of all the ~100 blog posts)

The main reason I'm posting here is to announce that Fragments of Him is coming to Steam on May 3rd (Next week!) and we are incredibly excited and scared for that. People keep saying they love the story but deep down I always doubt. Please watch our release trailer below, check out some of the never before shown screenshots, and let me know what you think. Also ask me anything you would like to know. Smiley

Fragments of Him release trailer


Thanks for taking the time to look at all of this stuff. <3
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