Since this is my first Dev Diary, I think introductions are in order. My name is Ben Kanelos, and I’m a game designer. My background is in tabletop game design. My role at Strife AI is to ensure the game we are developing is fun for the player (that’s you!). While I’m writing our first Dev Diary, it won’t just be me. We’ll have all members of the team adding their voices on a wide variety of topics.
Why a re-brand?
If you are here reading this, chances are you’ve played C.H.A.S.E.R. or are aware that our game is available on Steam Early Access. You’re in the first wave of players experiencing our game and discovering what machine-learning can do in games. We’re thrilled that you are interested in what we’ve been building, and we want the community to grow. However, we don’t feel C.H.A.S.E.R. is reaching its intended audience.
So, that left us wondering. What were we doing wrong? After poking around for a bit, we kept coming back to the fact that our game's name and capsule image wasn’t really describing the game we had built. (For the uninitiated, the capsule images for a game are the header and thumbnail images that appear in the Steam Storefront for the game).
Where are we now?
Here’s what we have now. It’s the robot with the name of our game: C.H.A.S.E.R. Why did we call the game C.H.A.S.E.R.? We wanted to let the player know that it was an infinite-runner style game where you were being chased, and the name didn’t have any overlap with other titles on Steam. That was it. The name was meant to be a temporary placeholder, but through accretion it eventually stuck. The team joked about changing it to chAIser to try and highlight the machine learning, but we never followed through.
So, for our Capsule Image we put in the robot sprites we had and called it a day. We figured we were done. Name? Check. Capsule Image? Check. Don’t get me wrong, I still like this Capsule Image and name… but it’s not doing what we need it to do anymore. The image isn’t giving the player the fundamentals. Who are they playing as? What is the robot? What type of game is this? It was clear we needed to change things up.
Where are we going?
Our artist Lexy Alfman gave us a full graphical update, and I think it looks killer! The capsule image now puts the player character (astronaut) in the foreground letting them know who they’ll be playing. The robot is still there, but now it's actively trying to pursue the player character. On top of that, we’ve got some blood on display. The robot is no longer just a vaguely menacing threat. Its programming is clear: catch and kill the player. This makes the gameplay much more apparent. Toss in Cypher (the fish-like robot companion) and we’ve got a much improved capsule image.
Also, we’re changing the name from C.H.A.S.E.R. to Human-Like. Why? First, C.H.A.S.E.R. is hard to search for. The periods make it a pain to type. Second, the name isn’t foregrounding what we think is the unique aspect of our game: machine learning. There's a bevy of runners and platformers on Steam, so we wanted to emphasize what makes ours unique. The name is doing double-duty. It tells the player the robot will be mimicking human interactions and we’ve also highlighted ML in blood, making it a sneaky allusion to machine learning. The hope is that either way, the new name will give players a better idea of what makes this game unique.
Will this work?
Honestly, we don’t know. The benefit of using Steam is that we’ll be able to track our numbers and see if they are improving or not. We’re hoping they’ll improve, but if not we’ll go back to the drawing board and come up with something else entirely. But, now you’ll know why C.H.A.S.E.R. is getting rebranded to Human-like on Steam.