Hi everyone, just a quick update to let you know that a whole bunch of community items just went live!
We've got trading cards, badges, emotes, backgrounds, and even animated avatars for each character, complete with a custom radio border. ːthumbsup_ttkː
If you've already played the game, you should find cards dropping into your inventory soon. ːgrin_ttkː
Hi Everyone! We're rolling out V01.01b, this patch fixed a variety of issues that players have identified!
These could potentially be considered spoilers, so if you're looking to avoid anything regarding areas of the game, check back later, and rest easy knowing the game's just a little better than it was before!
Office: Some players never found the drawer key, and without it had to brute force the safe code. The drawer key has been moved to a more visible location, and enlarged slightly. Making it much harder to miss!
Bathroom: Breaking the mirror sound effect has been reduced. It should be slightly less ear piercing now!
Bathroom: The text on the mirror would still load in, even after the mirror had been destroyed. It doesn't now!
Closet: The broken wire, which is necessary to progress was too hard to see. We've added a new sparks VFX to make it harder to miss.
Consultation: The scratches on the wall, a requirement to proceed, have been made visible and unique compared to other generic wall scratches/details.
Consultation: The stethoscope item was easy to miss, so we've moved it to a more obvious position.
Consultation: The Surgical Arms object gave the incorrect description, and have now been fixed.
Consultation: The Incorrect Antidote item did not display a view model in the inventory, this has been fixed.
Cold Storage: There used to be a giant bloody footprint floating near the back of the room. We've removed it!
Kitchen: The recipe card graphic contained an accidental red herring. We've updated the textures to more accurately represent the stove and its orientation.
Music: Some of the music was accidently playing Demo versions of the tracks. They've all been replaced with the correct final versions!
The Tartarus Key is Now Available!
After years of development, we are incredibly proud (and nervous!) to say that The Tartarus Key is now available! We hope you enjoy yourself, as much as anyone trapped inside a mansion with elaborate death traps and obscure motivations can. Don't forget to grab the soundtrack to enjoy some impeccable murder vibes as well!
It's always tricky to write these posts, as it can feel like you're just echoing the words of every developer out there who puts all the time and effort it does into making a game. "We hope you like it." "We hope you have fun." "Don't forget to review it!" All of those are obviously things we feel and want to say - making and releasing a game is always hard and scary, even if you aren't making a horror game.
But more than anything, what we want to say is thank you. The excitement and curiosity of everyone who has ever sent us a message, shared our game, or even just wishlisted it has meant the world to us, and has been a wonderful support to have.
So, thank you. Yes, you! Imagine this is like one of those post-credits scenes where they add "... and YOU!" at the end, because we couldn't have done it without you.
Dev Log: Texture Trickery
We wanted to take a moment to talk further about some of the design choices we made in The Tartarus Key that we think adds to the game's charm and appeal, such as the deliberately low resolution of the game's graphics and textures.
We made a conscious decision to embrace an aesthetic inspired by PlayStation 1 visuals for the game, both allowing us to more quickly and effectively create assets as a small team, as well as create a unique and memorable atmosphere. On top of that, we love the gritty, low-fi look that this style provides!
One of the unexpected benefits of working with low-resolution textures is the artistic freedom it gives us. Because players would be unable to read small text on assets, we've had a lot of fun filling the game world with silly and absurd labels and designs. For example, you might find food cans with labels like "Brand - It's food probably, wow!" and "Sardines - Food Food Food".
While we typically take our game design very seriously, we also believe that a little bit of humour can go a long way in making a game more enjoyable. We hope that these little touches add to the overall experience of The Tartarus Key and bring a smile to your face.
We want to thank all of our fans for their support as we continue to refine and improve the game. We're excited to see what you think of the low-res aesthetic and the quirky humour it allows us to incorporate into the game world.
Thank you for your support, and we'll see you in the game!
Dev Log: Maps
In The Tartarus Key, we take great care to ensure that every aspect of our game is designed with the player experience in mind. One detail that we're particularly proud of is the map system, which we've designed to be both functional and immersive.
Early in the game, Alex is given a map by Torres to help navigate the mansion. However, we didn't want to create a standard, boring map that simply showed players where to go. Instead, we wanted to create a map that felt like a real object in the game world, with its own personality and quirks that shift and change as the game progresses.
That's where Alex comes in. As players explore new areas, Alex will add them to the map in real time, creating a sense of immersion and exploration that really brings the game world to life. As you discover rooms, solve puzzles, or experience certain events, she'll leave little notes commenting on what she's seen or how she feels. Our hope is that players find her notes useful, entertaining, and at times, even relatable.
Despite our efforts to make the map an integral part of the player experience, we noticed during playtesting that some players were not engaging with it as much as we had hoped. Essentially, they were forgetting that it existed.
In response, we added a visual prompt paired with a sound effect that reminds players to use the map when they enter a new room for the first time. We believe that this small addition will make a big difference in how players engage with the game world, and ensure that they have the smoothest possible experience playing The Tartarus Key.
Coming May 31st: The Tartarus Key!
A dark and stormy night, a group of strangers, and one seriously strange house... The Tartarus Key reveals its mysteries when it launches on May 31st for Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and XBox!
It's been a long road getting to this point, and we're so excited to finally be able to share our game with you. The Tartarus Key is our love letter to classic horror thrillers of the PSOne era and beyond, and we hope you'll enjoy your stay inside its walls more than Alex does. (Hard to blame someone for being a little sour when they've just been kidnapped, we suppose!) You'll also be able to nab the game's original soundtrack on launch day, composed by the amazingly talented Josie Brechner.
Thank you to everyone for your support so far! If you haven't already, why not try downloading the game's free demo? It contains the story's opening act, and sets the stage for what's to come. Don't forget to wishlist the game as well if you haven't already!
What's going on with this place? Who's behind the cameras following Alex's every move? What's up with those strange things she keeps seeing out of the corner of her eye? You'll find out very soon...
Dev Log: Music
Music is a vital element in setting the tone and atmosphere of any game, and developing the soundtrack for The Tartarus Key was one of the pivotal processes in bringing our vision to life. Working alongside the incredibly talented composer, Josie Brechner, was a true privilege, and her outstanding work spoke for itself. One of the many highlights of collaborating with her was witnessing how she interpreted our minimal direction and somehow managed to create precisely what we envisioned.
At the outset of the game's development, we had the initial areas mapped out and planned, but a significant portion of the game was still in the “grey box” phase. We provided Josie with detailed story information for each character and area, as well as video walkthroughs to illustrate where the puzzles would go. Additionally, we gave her a "colour" to represent each character's personality traits - for example, William was associated with the colour purple, as we believed it conveyed a sense of luxury and extravagance.
Despite providing only what we considered to be minimal details, Josie consistently responded with enthusiasm, saying "Perfect, that's great!" She would then proceed to send us a perfectly crafted track within the week, capturing the essence we desired for each character.
Each track was produced on a per-character basis, with three tracks per character, each increasing in intensity. This approach allowed us to blend between tracks seamlessly as the puzzle difficulty increased or as tension built within the story. The music that players hear at the beginning of the game is vastly different from what they hear at the end, highlighting the versatility and range of Josie's compositions.
We hope that players will appreciate and enjoy the music that Josie created as much as we do. Her extraordinary talent and contributions have undoubtedly elevated the game to new heights, and we are incredibly grateful to have worked with her.
Dev Log: Puzzle Progression and Mansion Gating
We put a lot of thought into the design aspect of gating access to the mansion and opening it up, as well as puzzle difficulty, to create the best possible player experience. Initially, the player is only allowed in a small set of rooms, which unlock one after the other. We consider this the introductory tutorial area of the game, where players can get a feel for the mechanics and story without feeling overwhelmed or lost.
After meeting Torres, the game opens up massively, allowing players to wander the halls of the mansion as they see fit. While many doors are locked at first, players can get a greater sense of scale and begin to understand the layout of the mansion. Our intention was to have two tracks of puzzles available to the player after the tutorials, so that if they got stuck, they could go off and try another room. The map comes in handy here, as it highlights rooms of interest!
As players progress through the game, they'll find that puzzles slowly increase in difficulty, building up their skills and knowledge in the process. Players will eventually have to complete both tracks to finish the game, with each containing their own unique characters and unlocking different areas of the mansion. Depending on how they choose to play, their experience can vary quite dramatically from another player's!
As players approach the end of the game, the two puzzle tracks merge back into one, with rooms naturally leading from one to another. This allowed us to control the pacing of the ending and account for the multiple endings in a way that made sense to us.
We've conducted play tests and have received positive feedback thus far, and we hope players will enjoy exploring the mansion, tackling its puzzles, and experiencing the game's multiple endings!
Dev Log: Paintings Puzzle
Today, we'd like to take a moment to share some insights into the puzzle development of The Tartarus Key. During the early stages of the game's creation, we experimented with many different ideas of varying complexity and depth. One of these concepts was a puzzle that involved swapping paintings of horrifying creatures to unlock certain areas of the game.
As you can imagine, the process of designing these creatures was both fascinating and challenging. Basing the designs on historical demonic beings, we aimed to create a sense of dread and unease in the players as they uncovered and examined these terrifying demons. We painted each creature with the goal of eliciting a unique emotional response, ranging anywhere from disgust to outright terror.
Unfortunately, during playtesting, we discovered that the puzzle was too confusing and detracted from the overall experience. As a result, we made the tough decision to scrap the entire puzzle, including most of the artwork we had created for it; though a keen-eyed player might notice a couple of the paintings do make an appearance.
While we were disappointed to lose the puzzle, we took solace in the fact that we had the opportunity to design some truly grotesque creatures. Even though they didn't all make it into the final version of the game, we are proud of the work we did and are excited to share it with you.
We want to assure you that we are committed to creating the best possible experience for our players, and we’re not afraid to experiment with new ideas, even if they don't always pan out. We hope you enjoy exploring the twisted world of The Tartarus Key as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Thank you for your support, and we'll see you in the game!
Dev Log: Text Accessibility
In The Tartarus Key, we place a lot of emphasis on story and narrative, which means that players will be reading a lot of text throughout the game. As a result, we wanted to make the reading experience as comfortable and accessible as possible for as many players as we could.
To achieve this goal, we implemented several accessibility features that players can toggle in the options menu. Today, we’d like to walk you through some of them!
Our first example is text backgrounds. If players ever have trouble reading the text on screen, they can choose to add a solid black background to all dialogue and narration, which makes the text easier to read due to the high contrast.
We also added the option to change the colour of the text itself from the default yellow and red to standard black and white. This can be particularly helpful for players who may have trouble distinguishing between certain colours, or for those who simply prefer a more monochromatic aesthetic!
In addition to these colour options, we also included the ability to choose a sans serif font, which some players may find easier to read. We understand that readability can be affected by a variety of factors, and by providing these options, we hope to accommodate as many players as possible and make the game more comfortable for everyone.
Along with our text options, we also provide other optional features for players to utilize, such as disabling camera shake, toggling sprint instead of holding and more. Still, our work didn’t end there—we also took care to ensure all of our puzzles are colourblind-friendly and will never place players under time constraints.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy our game. By providing a range of accessibility options, we hope to create a more inclusive gaming community and make The Tartarus Key a welcoming experience for all players!