In 2017, Ubisoft inaugurated the Indie Series, a yearly competition open to indie game development studios from Quebec and Ontario (Canada) that includes money prices, mentoring, marketing and creation tools as well as financial advice in order to magnify the winning studios and their games’ success. The Indie Series is held in collaboration with National Bank and other experts in the industry.
Invisible robots in space, lasers, explosions and multiplatform online competitive gaming: that’s the Quebec independent answer to dynamic shooters who currently dominate the multiplayer market. In an era where online gaming technology gives access to a myriad of possibilities for players, the indie studio Chainsawesome Games, based in Quebec City, comes with a new multiplayer title as revolutionary as it is exhilarating: Aftercharge. The eSports flavored project, winner of the jury’s choice award in the last edition of the Ubisoft Indie Series presented by National bank ($25 000 in financing and collaboration with Ubisoft’s development resources and technical advisory), is now at the eve of its launch.
In a futuristic, intergalactic atmosphere, players will have to endorse the role of either invisible attacking robots or indestructible defender humanoids in order to destroy or protect six objectives. The quick and dynamic 3 v 3 match formula in small environments promises a maximum of action for the brave souls willing to take part in this surreal universe. Aftercharge is also part of the limited breed of games offering the multiplatform functionality. Players on the Nintendo Switch, PC and Xbox One alike will be able to challenge each other in the same game in a seamless fashion.
A spontaneous project that snowballed
Even though Aftercharge is now wrapping up its third year of production, the project wasn’t born in the most conventional way. In fact, it rather originated when founders Jean-Simon Otis, David Paré and Jade Bélanger took part in the 2015 edition of the Pixel Challenge, a Quebec City game jam during which small teams of developers are tasked to create a game in 48 hours. While they already had the idea of an asymmetrical multiplayer pitting invisible robots against invincible humanoids in mind, the team was far from the polished product they have now when they finished the contest. However, game mechanics and and concepts were tight enough to come to a conclusion: the idea works and makes for a fun game. Therefore, by building on these foundations, the team got to work and made what is now one of the most anticipated indie games of the year.
Motivated by this solid concept, Chainsawesome officially started development in 2016 with a team of six developers and artists. In 2019, the studio now counts 10 full-time employees to its arsenal. Notwithstanding a few more part-time developers from other indie studios also based in Quebec city. Chainsawesome is thus not only an example of the abundance of local talent in the videogame industry but also a proof of the presence of a real collaboration between indie studios in Quebec.
However, the Chainsawesome team’s flair for innovation does not limit itself to the way they approach game design or resources management. It also transpires in their choice of distribution channels. Aftercharge will be among the very first auto published Quebec indie games to benefit from the Xbox Gamepass, a new monthly online game access service by Microsoft. This represents an undeniable opportunity for the studio to reach a maximum amount of players without compromising quality and originality.
Not a reinvention… but close!
Being huge fans of multiplayer gaming themselves, the members of the Aftercharge development team aimed to approach the genre with an experimented but fresh eye. Laurent Mercure, chief of communications at Chainsawesome, explains the studio’s goal to present a more balanced experience to fans of asymmetrical multiplayer games: “We were playing Evolve (the 4 v 1 shooter published by 2kGames in 2015) a lot at that time. The problem with a game where 4 soldiers battle a huge monster is that everyone always wants to be the monster. In fact, that’s the problem with a lot of asymmetrical multiplayers: there is often a side cooler than the other. That’s when we told ourselves that we would make a game in the same style but this time, both sides would be just as fun to play.”
Part of the studio’s mission was also to make the multiplayer shooter genre more accessible and lighthearted. Wanting to distance themselves from shooters with long, extensive matches in huge environments, Aftercharge goes rather in a direction that prioritizes constant action in a short timeframe. This results in three-minute matches in condensed maps during which players never have time to even think about being bored. Laurent, generating perplexity for some, likes to compare Aftercharge to the 2015 indie success Rocket League. Comparing this project to a giant soccer game with flying cars can seem far-fetched at first, but after playing it, many will find that the rhythmic and fast-paced aspects of the 3 v 3 and its light-hearted atmosphere are pillars that both projects have in common.
It is therefore with a combination of an unprecedented balance in asymmetrical shooters and a quicker, lighter atmosphere than games of the same genre that the Chainsawesome team dug up a winning formula. Ubisoft is proud to have had the opportunity to honor Aftercharge with the Jury’s choice award in the last edition of the Ubisoft Indie Series presented by National Bank. With a seemingly endless pond of creativity and innoviation in their Qubec city offices, it seems clear that this local indie studio will be one to watch in the coming years.
Aftercharge will be available on PC and Xbox One January 10th, and on Nintendo Switch later in 2019.
Access Aftercharge’s Steam page right now.