Sections
Get a job in games graphic

Level up your career

Learn about working in games

Sign up to the GI Jobs board

View jobs board

Making the games industry a better place to work

See best places to work
Get a job in games graphic

What to do when you're Blind-sided

Tiny Bull Studios thought it was working on a totally unique idea, until they saw another developer Kickstart essentially the same game

Tiny Bull Studios has spent almost a year and a half working on Blind, its first big project for the PC and consoles, toiling away on the passion project in between work-for-hire gigs to keep the lights on. The game, a first-person horror adventure game about a blind girl exploring a haunted mansion using echolocation, is unlike anything the team had seen attempted before. At least, it was until Tuesday, when The Deep End Games announced its Kickstarter campaign for Perception, also a first-person horror adventure game about a blind girl exploring a haunted mansion using echolocation.

As Tiny Bull Studios CEO Matteo Lana (pictured) told GamesIndustry.biz earlier this week, morale took a hit with the discovery that the unique game they'd been working toward for so long wasn't so unique after all.

"We woke up to the news that former Irrational Games team members have announced a game which was more or less the same as ours," Lana said. "So it's been kind of an emotional blow. Our first thought was, 'It's been fun. We can now go and deliver pizzas for the rest of our lives.' But after a while, we realized it was probably a good thing that somebody of their caliber had the same idea, so we're not totally dumb."

"Our first thought was, 'It's been fun. We can now go and deliver pizzas for the rest of our lives.'"

Matteo Lana

As difficult as the revelation was for Tiny Bull, Lana has some empathy for the Deep End team as well. He doesn't believe they had any previous awareness of Blind, so they're also just finding out now that the seemingly unique game they've been working on has a doppelganger of sorts. It also threw Tiny Bull's publishing partner, Surprise Attack, for a loop.

The Australian indie games label had signed on to handle Blind at last year's Game Connection America, also believing at the time that the game's echolocation hook would be a unique selling point. Surprise Attack head Chris Wright was similarly agitated by the Perception Kickstarter, telling GI.biz his initial thought "was a slightly more NSFW version of, 'Oh shit.'"

The plan had been to announce Blind with a playable demo because it's being built exclusively for virtual reality platforms, and the experience is hard to convey with traditional trailers. Timing-wise, they were hoping to have things ready for such a reveal at Gamescom in Cologne and PAX Prime in Seattle this August.

"However, if we stuck to that plan, then we'd be close to three months after Perception and would face a lot of accusations of copying the concept," Wright said. "Also, the concept and the uniqueness of the core mechanic were such a big part of our newsworthiness and now suddenly that was gone. On the other side, we just don't have the assets to do the announce right now that we would like. The team at Tiny Bull haven't been working on a cool vertical slice like the one you see for Perception because we didn't need one yet and their time was better spent on regular development. So there is a lot of the game done but very little to show that is media- or public-ready."

While Wright hasn't encountered a situation exactly like this before in his career, it's not entirely uncharted territory for him, either.

"I worked on Saints Row when I was at THQ for example so that had obvious challenges around GTA, especially when the first Saints Row game launched," Wright said. "What I learnt from working on that franchise was that it is possible for games with very similar core concepts to ultimately have their own voices so that definitely helped keep the panic in check."

"Right now we're split between trying to avoid knowing anything about their game so as not to be influenced and actually following the development of their game to make sure we're not making the same things as them.'"

Matteo Lana

That differentiation is something Tiny Bull and Surprise Attack are clearly keen on making clear. One of the big differences at the moment is that Blind is set for VR headsets and Perception is not.

"We didn't want to just have another Amnesia, Penumbra, or Gone Home kind of game," Lana said. "We wanted to really focus on the VR possibilities that are opening up now with this amazing hardware."

If one won't work with traditional monitors and the other won't work with VR headsets, the two games would seem to be targeting different audiences. However, the Kickstarter campaign for Perception includes VR support as a stretch goal if it makes it to $350,000. As of this writing, it has raised $55,000 of a $150,000 target, and still has 27 days remaining to raise the rest. Just how closely Tiny Bull and Surprise Attack will pay attention to that campaign and the future development of Perception remains to be seen.

"We just have to keep to the vision we have of the game and try really hard not to let their game influence us in any way," Lana said. "Right now we're split between trying to avoid knowing anything about their game so as not to be influenced and actually following the development of their game to make sure we're not making the same things as them."

As the publisher, Surprise Attack is likely to keep closer tabs, but Wright said he wishes The Deep End Games nothing but success.

"It's obviously a difficult situation for us to have such a similar game coming out and especially from such an amazing team of developers but Perception looks awesome and The Deep End Games have clearly worked really hard on it," Wright said. "We genuinely want them to succeed and, whilst on one level our lives would be easier without such a similar game existing, we have to embrace the fact that Perception exists, wish The Deep End Games well and whatever the outcome of their Kickstarter, Tiny Bull need to focus on making Blind the best game they can and we have to focus on helping Tiny Bull reach the best success they can with it."

[Correction]: This article originally stated that the publishing agreement was struck at Games Connection Europe. We regret the error.

Get a job in games graphic

Level up your career

Learn about working in games

Sign up to the GI Jobs board

View jobs board

Making the games industry a better place to work

See best places to work
Get a job in games graphic

More stories

Facebook blocks Road 96 ad "for being political"

Questions arise as to which game advertisements comply with platform's ad policies

By Jeffrey Rousseau

The GamesIndustry.biz Academy Jobscast: Recruitment and diversity

Final episode of our four-part series now available, discusses how to improve your hiring process and appeal to a broader range of applicants

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (11)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
Hmmm. Perhaps the idea can be expanded upon by working it into a broader horror project. See the Siren games for details on how that gets it done (at least for me as a horror fan). Amusingly enough, I don't make games but have had the idea for at least a dozen years of using a blind character with a seeing eye dog as part of an ensemble "cast" of assorted people going through a big frightening event.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Krishna Designer I, EA Mobile6 years ago
The first time I was impressed by echo-location mechanic in FPS was in 2010. A bunch of talented students with a game called Devils Tuning Fork. Although the mechanic is not as evolved as what you see in these newer games, its definitely was a starting point. If VR makes it to mainstream in a couple of years, such mechanics might score high on "innovation" using newer hardware.

More info on Devils Tuning Fork here - http://www.devilstuningfork.com/
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend6 years ago
Unfortunately this is an occupational hazard that on my estimation will only get worse as the tools to allow people to make games get easier and easier to use. More people in the industry means less original ideas per person and inevitably this will lead to people working on the same games by total coincidence.

I am surprised this doesn't happen more often come to think of it.
6Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (11)
Adrian Stutz Co-Designer, Feist Game6 years ago
Interesting how ideas spread and then turn up at similar times in different settings. I think it's wrong to think of games as an isolated space, ideas spill over from other media and areas of life and so it's not a surprise that two similar games can crop up without either having knowledge of the other.

Kirby Ferguson's Everything is a Remix is great introduction to this: http://everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/

Personally, I find the horror aspects spoil the games. Especially the Perception trailer is really nice until the end where the ghost appears and the whole atmosphere goes downhill. There's also Beyond Eyes with a similar idea (blind girl explores the world) but without the horror aspect, so that's the game I'm looking forward to: http://www.beyondeyes-game.com/
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Shirley Programmers 6 years ago
With the constant drip of indie audio based games over the last 5 years this was inevitable. Of more interest is how they failed to notice echo location based 'Stifled' (perhaps due to ship Sep2015) or it's inspiration 'Lurking'. This genre is about to get crowded.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Ouch, tough thing to wake up to one Tuesday. In my experience you cannot sit on a good idea because someone else will surely have it. Execute to win.
6Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Yann Corno Chief Technical Officer, Days Of Wonder6 years ago
As I often tell young entrepreneurs who ask for advises, "if you are the only one in the world with 'the good idea', you should wonder if it would not be the sign that it's not such a good idea." Stay focused and work hard. At the end of day, execution quality will make the difference.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Shawn Clapper Programmer 6 years ago
If however comes out with their game first makes a game people love then it's good for both companies. Just hope the competitions game is good, then people will be hungry for more and could help sales instead of hurt them.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Burton Posey Game Developer 6 years ago
Just as Barry @ Fireproof said, speed of execution is paramount. It has always been one of the most constant and hardest lessons for me to learn throughout my career in various ways, be it someone else getting the spotlight because I hadn't worked hard enough to finish sooner, running low on money to fund my game project and having to entertain and follow through an acquisition, talking about an idea and fleshing it out before starting production while someone else just jumps in and makes it happen, and many more.

If you have an idea you think is special, sell out to it as soon as possible with as much as you possibly can give it.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Derek Elliott Executive Producer, Execution Labs6 years ago
@Burton - I would disagree completely and I'll give you two cases. A Bugs Life & Antz; Antz rushed to announce (knowing Pixar was working on Bugs) and rushed to theaters 6 weeks earlier. Antz grossed $90MM and Bugs grossed $160MM (according to BoxOfficeMojo). On this one quality wins out. In the 2nd case I had worked on Contrast for small Indie developer Compulsion. During dev (and before we announced) we saw the video for Shadow Physics - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO7e9s9GeUM which was essentially our game mechanic. We were crushed but vowed to own shadow platforming and make our game as good as possible. It was a rallying cry of sorts and we used it positively. In the end Shadow Physics was cancelled and never shipped.

So never give up hope, make it your own and be awesome!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Derek Elliott on 29th May 2015 7:39pm

3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Shane Sweeney Academic 6 years ago
It's nice to hear for once it was a coincidence.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.