We are working on new ideas for our next game at Dynamighty. As part of that, time to revisit some old classics. These Bruce Lee vs everybody scenes were the best.
CounterSpy Launch Party #TBT
It’s been a little short of a month since CounterSpy was released into the wild and realized we hadn’t shared any of our pictures from the launch party. How rude of us!
The team kicked off the fun at Free Gold Watch in San Francisco. Besides being a screen print shop the space is host to more pinball machines than you can count with 2 hands and numerous arcade games (including Street Fighter 2!).
The classics sure are great but how we load CounterSpy on one of these? ;)
From our family to yours, thanks for joining on this wonderful adventure with us!
A Dynamighty Conversation with: Robert Valley
Hey Dynamighties. It’s been so great to see people enjoying CounterSpy since we launched it. You guys know we released on iOS & Android right? :)
We thought it might be fun now that the launch craziness is behind us, to look back at some of the earlier development of the game. As a co-founder of Dynamighty and creative voice for CounterSpy, one of my privileges is that I was able to reach out and work with some really talented people, whose work I really admire. One person that has long been a huge inspiration for me has Robert Valley.
For those that don’t know, Robert Valley is an artist & animator that has a unique style. It’s a very bold style that has influenced a lot of the artists that I have worked with over the years. More recently, he was a major part of defining the amazing look of the Tron Animated Series. Before that, he helped shape the incredible Beatles Rock Band end sequence (one of my all time favorite game cinematics EVER). He also has an incredible series of semi-autobiographical books called Massive Swerve that you should totally hunt down and buy if you like what you see here.
So how did we end up working with Robert Valley on CounterSpy?
One of our biggest challenges early in development on CounterSpy, was that we didn’t have a character artist. We had Mark Holmes as Art Director, and Mark was shaping an amazing visual direction for the game with his graphic design, environment art & reference.
We cast around trying a few different people and I kept coming back to Robert Valley’s work. Something about the bold straights & the elongated proportions had an elegance Mark & I could see carrying over into our fiction.
I’m the kind of guy that is not afraid to track someone down and bother them if I want to work with them. After all, someone can only say no but they could also say yes! :) I got lucky in that I managed to get hold of Robert right as he was finishing his work on the Tron Animated series. So he was between gigs and also on a little road trip taking him through the Bay Area. So we met up for a beer and hit it off. He agreed to help us out for a few weeks to see if it would unlock us.
In sharing the work he did for us, you can see its quite different to where the project ended up. However, it helped us take a real step forward in visualizing the aesthetics and the shapes we were looking for. I loved the work he did for us and its never been shared before. A Robert Valley exclusive! :)
When we eventually brought in our talented Character Artist, Nathan Sisler, he was able to use Robert Valley’s art as an inspiration to jump off from, and shape it into his own stamp that was very unique and awesome. Sometimes it just takes a little push in the right direction and I’m so proud that this gave me the opportunity to work with one of my favorite artists.
Recently, I had an email chat with him about his experience with the project, as well as a bit about his process. I’m posting it here I hope some people enjoy this!
Tell us a little bit about your background and where you went to school
Vancouver BC, I went to a fine art school called Emily Carr and did a 3 year animation course.
What was your first ‘real’ job in the industry?
First job was at Colossal Pictures in San Francisco, a hockey commercial for ESPN.
What were the major turning points/influences that you attribute to the development of your style - at college? Or when you started working?
What’s an early artistic influence you remember from your childhood, that inspired the moment where you thought “I don’t know what this is but I want to do this”
My older bro used to feed that part of me, made me look at drawings, and really study them.
Were your parents generally supportive of your doodles & artistic obsessions?
What makes you excited to get up and go to work in the morning?
Just getting up early and going to work makes me excited about getting up and going to work. (endless feedback loop)
What is your morning routine as you get up and prepare for your work day?
Shower, coffee joint, email, photoshop, the earlier the better.
How much has music played a part in your life, and what is the music that moves you?
A huge part, i can’t play it but i listen real good. I guess I am always trying to make the animation equivalent of what i feel when i hear music.
Do you like to work to music? (if so what)
I’ll play a song till its dead; that a really bad habit. I like lots of stuff.
Music has been such a big influence on my life and shaped the way I think about things. I was wondering if you had any specific tracks/lps/artists from back in the day that shaped you, as well as anything you’ve been listening to recently that you’ve been killing it with?
Well. I come from more of a Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin Pink Floyd type direction.
The Pink Floyd Planetarium show here in Vancouver was made for kids. That definitely shaped me. The song ‘sheep’ on animals… that was a game changer.
Then of course I got on the electronic music bandwagon. I always preferred drum and bass, never knew the names of djs or songs. Lately I have come to rest somewhere between Trip Hop, and Cypress Hill. That sort of brings it back around again to Black Sabbath.
Do you have any methods you’ve developed to overcome when you hit a creative wall?
Not really, just have to get thru it.
You’ve moved around the globe a lot in your career. Is that something that you love to do? Or more a necessity of the work (go where the jobs are).
Yeah I go where the work is. That is harder now that I have a son. Lately I have been frequenting France.
How much do you think your traveling has shaped your work?
My work… I guess a lot. It rounds out my understanding and opens up some new shit.
What’s a bit of advice for a young fledgling creative type that you wish someone had shared with you when you were a kid?
40 year grind, then do it some more.
Who are some of the artists out there working right now that excite you?
When we approached you, we were nobodies, and it certainly wasn’t for the money. What was it about CounterSpy that interested you enough to work on it?
You seemed like a nice fellow, so I thought why not. Something about the Scottish accent.
What elements did you key off when you were thinking about that mid-century espionage world?
Sean Connery, Goldfinger what else?
Your work has such a strong identity with its hard sharp lines. Which aspect of the work do you enjoy the most? Character, environments, comic panels, or animation?
I like all of it, bounce back and forth between book and animation. Thats where I want to be.
Do you like the mix of working alone and as part of a bigger team? How do you think the two feed off of each other?
Yeah, can’t stay home all the time. I haven’t worked on a team for a while. maybe its too late for me now.
The dance illustrations remind me a lot of old reggae/dancehall posters I used to see around London in the late 80s. Very primal. You’ve also mentioned before you enjoy that part of the world. What is it about London that you dig from a creative POV?
Yeah London, its a grind, nothing but good flavors going on in my head right now. San Francisco is like that too.
How is work going on Pear Cider & Cigarettes film (which is looking so rad by the way)? At your current pace when do you think you will be ‘done’?
Next year, i feel like i am on the shrink’s couch when I am working on that, so I should get off it soon.
Can we grab a beer next time you are in the Bay Area?
CounterSpy is out!
It is now available digitally for PlayStation 4, PS3 & PS Vita.
The game is a Cross-Buy title and includes Cross-Save, so you can switch between platforms and keep your progress.
North America price is $14.99
Europe - Price is €12.99/£9.99
You can buy the game from your console store or in NA buy PS4 or PS3 online
We are so excited to finally have the game out in people’s hands. It’s the culmination of many long hours and late nights but the thought that people are now playing our creation is what makes it all worthwhile!
You can join the discussion around CounterSpy by following us on twitter @dynamighty as well as following #CounterSpy
For now, conserve your ammo and watch that DEFCON!
The Spy Who Took Cover
Hello Agents and fellow C.O.U.N.T.E.R conspirators! Agent Claymore (aka David Nottingham) here.
With E3 behind us and our Gold Master fast approaching, it felt like we were past due a blog post update.
I wanted to take some time to talk about an aspect of the game we think people will enjoy getting hands on with, the cover combat mechanic in the game.
The game started out as a side-scroller, inspired by our irrational love and countless childhood hours playing those games. We wanted to bring our own hook to the genre though, and thought about what elements of modern gaming could be interesting in this context. We’d been playing a lot of cover shooters, and felt like there was something there that we had not seen yet in this genre.
Although the game is a side-scroller, the world is all fully built in 3D. We realized that we could take advantage of this to open up the combat space in certain circumstances. And so the cover combat mechanic was born.
As the player stealthily moves through levels, you will encounter many strategically placed cover objects. One thing these military superpowers really like to do is leave conveniently placed, well marked crates and other objects in the world that make for good hiding spots.
With a button press, the player can go into cover, and from there, the view turns from side on into a full 3D view, opening up the combat space for the player. So as well as staying hidden and scoping out areas ahead, the player can pop out and shoot at enemies. You’ll find this essential as the challenge ramps up, and especially when you are in the final combat rooms of a level, where enemy resistance is at its highest.
For advanced stealth players, a fun way to use cover combat, is with an equipped stealth weapon such as the ‘Diplomatic Pistol’ (a silencer is sometimes the best version of soft diplomacy) by taking time to quietly pop off enemies one by one. If you are skillful enough, you can clear a room without alerting anyone. This also is a great way to goose your score, as you can watch your stealth combo multiply with each new silent kill.
One of my favorite weapons for clearing a room is the ‘Dart Persuader’. This is one of the advanced C.O.U.N.T.E.R weapons that you unlock later in the game. With a single well placed shot, you can turn a guard against his fellow men, then sit back unseen and watch the bullet show commence!
As we put the finishing touches to the game, we hope you are as excited to jump into the diabolical world of C.O.U.N.T.E.R as we are to share it with you. We will share more soon!
Join Dynamighty devs giving an introduction to the gameplay & world of CounterSpy, talking with Ludwig Kietzmann from Joystiq
E3 2014 Report - CounterSpy mission engaged
Hello covert agents….Here’s a quick writeup from David, sharing our experience of showing CounterSpy at E3 this year. Enjoy!…
So CounterSpy was at E3…and E3 was nuts.
That’s a simple way to sum up the experience we had this year!
To give more context…
As you have have noticed (or NOT noticed more to the point) Dynamighty has been ‘deep undercover’ for a while now on CounterSpy.
Periodically, we’ve emerged to make a small announcement (such as bringing the game to PS4, yay!) and if you follow this tumblr you will have seen some small nuggets of info such as this awesome Jesse Harlin post about the games original musical score.
But overall, we’ve stayed true to the spirit of our game by operating ‘covertly’ as we apply final touches, polish, bug fixes to prep the game for launch.
Because of this going into E3, we didn’t have much sense for what response we were going to get to the game.
Thanks to our friends at Sony, the game was fully playable on the Sony booth. We also managed to land a spot over on the IndieCade Showcase area.
The game was being let out into the wild!
Over the course of the next 3 days, I ran around from booth to booth, talked myself hoarse about the game, met super cool fellow developers showing their own games (shoutout to 17-bit!) met up with beloved old friends and generally reflected on the last 2 years of development that started with John and I wanting to form an independent games studio to now being on the cusp of releasing our first game.
The show begun with a really nice treat for us. John & I got to attend the Sony Press Conference and see all the great games we’d be sharing the floor with over the next few days.
One of the highlights for us, was seeing a dear friend and old colleague Dominic Robilliard, get up on stage and share the game, Entwined, from a brand new Sony studio called Pixelopus.
Dom was a member of our team at LucasArts and now works at Sony as part of the same group that we’ve been working with on CounterSpy.
It was a very poignant and happy moment because we had all shared a lot of hopes and dreams for our team at Lucas and here we all were, years later, building on those dreams with Sony!
In fact a side note about the experience of working with Sony, that has been really gratifying for us, has been meeting all the fellow talented developers working with the San Mateo group that we have worked with to publish CounterSpy.
Over the course of E3, we got to hang out, eat sushi & play classic arcade games with Arrowhead Games. They are a super nice Swedish team creating a game called Helldivers that is SO much fun.
Hanging out with them at the show and seeing Dom’s success, made us feel a bit like part of a growing extended family of like-minded developers all working to make awesome games!
I also have to say, this was one of my favorite E3’s ever and one of the reasons was the diverse amount of interesting games on the show floor.
All the major Publisher’s & console players have been making such a push to support smaller games, to expand beyond just the traditional blockbusters that would typically dominate past E3s.
I still love my big AAA games but something about the smaller games that I love is that they embody so much of the personality of the small team that makes them.
But enough about everyone else, we were here to show CounterSpy! We kicked off the first day with a live demo on Gamespot.
We’d done this last year and got hit with some funky technical issues live on stage, with a controller that stopped working. It was a good exercise in improv but not ideal for your first time ever doing something live. So imagine our surprise when the same thing happened this year!
Gaaah, must be some kind of Dynamighty/Gamespot curse? Or maybe we’ve started a new tradition!
Either way, we figured it out a lot quicker this year and so it did end up being a good start to the show.
Unfortunately, Ed (our Lead Designer) had to go off-stage to conclude his live play-through so we missed out on a full session of his game-face. But you can enjoy this photo to see how intensely he focuses when playing our game! :)
From this point on, the rest of the show was a blast. Press were getting hands on with the game and we were seeing really positive feedback.
The thing that was so satisfying for us was that people were really enjoying the gameplay. We always felt good about the strong visuals for the game but the two other elements we’d been working so hard on were the playful tone/humor of the game (a ‘playful’ game about the Cold War!) and the gameplay. The fact that people were so positive on both made us super happy and made all those late nights worthwhile!
Here is just a selection of the great coverage for CounterSpy:
"Counter-Spy is a sneakily addictive retro-delight."
"Dynamighty’s stylish, side-scrolling stealth game has personality for miles, switching between Mark of the Ninja-style sneaking to 2.5D shooting segments"
”..the environments are deftly detailed and the whole game oozes style…Creeping up behind enemies before blowing their heads off looked like fantastic fun, and it’s clear the developers have been careful not to take themselves too seriously.”
"CounterSpy’s striking art direction will instantly draw your attention. Influences in the art design include 1950s propaganda posters, the work of Saul Bass and Pixar’s The Incredibles."
throws in a dash of stealth combat, a soundtrack full of twangy guitars and a tone that vaguely mocks the Cold War–enough to look like the game Rolling Thunder might have become if it hadn’t been forgotten.
"CounterSpy is a triple-threat. It has great art, unique gameplay, and a fun story"
To cap it all off, we also ended up with a nomination from the Games Critic Awards!
After such a positive experience at E3, we have a full head of steam as we put the final finishing touches to the game.
At this point, we are down to final bug fixes, getting the game ready for all PlayStation platforms (as well as the mobile versions!) ready to launch this summer.
We are super excited that soon, you too will be able to get your hands on and play our creation. We really hope you love it and enjoy the world of CounterSpy as much as we have enjoyed the journey of making it for you!
A Song of Sneaks
If there’s a musical equivalent to black and white film, it’s 1960s era spy music. You know it when you hear it. It’s a sound that instantly brings to mind film grain, exotic locales, and impeccably tailored suits.
When David Nottingham asked me to write the music for CounterSpy, I jumped at the chance to reunite with him. I’d written music for him on Lucidity when we both worked at LucasArts and it remains one of my favorite creative experiences.
“All I need,” David told me in his typical understated style, “is a main theme that stands up as instantly iconic and memorable as the greatest spy themes of the ‘60s. That’s all.”
No small task.
But what is it that makes spy music sound so iconic? There’s a musical language that evolved in the 1960s from the works of composers like Lalo Schifrin, John Barry, and Henry Mancini. The first thing I did when starting the score for CounterSpy was to steep myself in the musical vocabulary of espionage.
In a way, it’s almost formulaic. Start with a jazzy guitar, bass, and drum rhythm section. Add some unusual melodic instruments, usually ethnic stringed instruments, alto flute, or an organ. Pepper with beatnik percussion like bongos. Then add a healthy heaping of half-steps, the smallest interval between notes in Western music.
Spy music is full of half-steps and it’s this constant movement to and from important melodic notes by way of adjacent half-steps that gives spy music its bluesy, cool feel. They’re the key to the hooky riffs of “Mission: Impossible”, “Peter Gunn”, “Get Smart” and the rest of the spy music oeuvre.
David was a big fan of the sound of a Hungarian instrument called a cimbalom, one featured in some of the spy-score sampled tracks of British trip hop band Portishead. Its exotic string sound fit perfectly with the vibe of the era.
With the formula in place and some processing to make it sound like the track was being played off of old analog tape, my first demo of a theme landed close to the mark.
The vibe was right, but the tempo was too slow and the melody wasn’t strong enough.
Dynamighty at GDC 2014
It’s Grace again, here with a post-GDC recap!
The 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) was a big event for Dynamighty. We were so excited to finally share CounterSpy with a wider audience for the first time, and our Lead Designer, Ed Kay, also gave a talk at the conference about the design process on CounterSpy.
We had hands-on demo stations at both the PlayStation and the Unity booths. Over at the Unity booth, animator Chris Magovern and myself were around to chat about CounterSpy and show people how to play the game.
— Eddie Lee (@eddietree)March 20, 2014