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The Story of Ambrosia

So, we're making a video game.

Who isn't, right? It certainly feels that way when you first strike out on your own with an untested product and an untested studio at the height of indie game development output. I read somewhere that Steam sees 5,000 new releases a year. So who are we to put out the 5,001st?

Actually, let's just start there.

Who are we?

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Nate and I met in college at the video game design school, DigiPen. We collaborated on our sophomore year project, but I dropped out that year to pursue a degree in English. Nate stayed in and eventually finished at DigiPen, and we remained in touch. He eventually moved out to Colorado, where I was still in school (turns out there's not very much overlap between a video game programming degree and English literature), and roomed together for awhile before once again parting ways.

Years later, we reconnected again, and I learned that Nate was wrapping up the groundwork on a little video game project he had been working on. He had a name, a concept, and a handful of enemies and levels.

The project was called Ambrosia, and it starred a plucky heroine picking her way through an abandoned and mysterious island. (Are there any islands in video games that are not mysterious?) But the core of Nate's idea, revolving around a weapon-customization system that promised incredible potential for emergent gameplay, was the heart of the project. So, hungry, I jumped in. This was mid-autumn 2015, if I remember right.

About a year into the development of Ambrosia, around mid-autumn 2016, it became clear that the game's scope exceeded our reach. But I had a secret weapon in my back pocket: a gentleman from rural Oklahoma named Ian Clark.

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I had met Ian online in high school through a fan-based StarCraft map editing website, Campaign Creations. Back then, we had collaborated on an RPG Maker project, and I had watched with interest as Ian developed his own RPG Maker games. At the time, I had been struck by his obvious talent for game design, and when Nate and I decided we needed help with Ambrosia, Ian was the first name to come to mind.

It wasn't hard for me to convince Ian to join. At that point, Ambrosia had a fairly tight prototype, enough to convince Ian something was there. So he joined, and so here we are.

Ok, so that's us. But what are we doing? What is Ambrosia? Well you can start to guess at some of it by poking around this website. But I can lay out some marketable terms for you here: it's a 2D Metroid-vania with a focus on weapon customization and experimentation over rote exploration. I could also say it's about an airship engineer named Iris who comes to a remote island to find her missing friend and finds herself unraveling a terrible corruption within the island.

But the interesting thing, I think, is that if you asked the team what Ambrosia was to them and why they were excited in creating it, you would get three different answers. In the coming weeks, I hope you will hear Ian and Nate's answer. But since I am here, I thought I'd share what it means to me.

Technology is scary. For as long as we have been unlocking the secrets of the universe to create things like the combustion engine, or silicon-based computer processors, or rocket ships, we have been afraid of what it might cost us. This is probably a healthy fear to have in the nuclear age, but I truly wonder how new it is. 

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I am personally convinced that there is not much new under the sun. We find new technologies, sure. We go to the moon. But humanity remains the same. We love; we war. We uncover the same spiritual truths, over and over again, as we make the same mistakes, over and over again. Looking at history, it's hard not to wonder if we will ever truly learn anything, as a race. Will we ever really evolve? And maybe, most disturbingly, what would it look like if we did? What if we didn't evolve to learn charity, compassion, and peace, but instead forgot them?

The first day I knew I was going to make this game, no matter what, was when we uncovered the story beneath the crust of our little remote island. It wasn't, as it turned out, a story about the dangers of technology. It was a story about cycles. Discoveries that weren't really discoveries after all, but remembrance. It was about every story, every rise, and every fall. And it was starting to ask a question: for all our advancement and sophistication, are our struggles today really any different than they were yesterday?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There's still a video game to make here. And over the coming months, I hope to share that journey with you. Won't you come along?

blogMichael Betts2 Comments