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10:28 AM on 09.10.2013  

Cognition Episode 4: The Cain Killer Releasing on September 19th!



The End Begins. In just two weeks, Erica Reed’s investigation will come to an end and all your burning questions will be answered: What happened to John? Where is Cordelia? Will Erica catch the Cain Killer at last — and when she does, will she choose justice or revenge?

On the 19th, not only will the final episode launch on the Phoenix Store and other online retailers, the full season will be available at both Steam and GOG as well! And in case that isn’t exciting enough, we’re having another livestream launch party on our YouTube channel on September 19th at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT featuring live Q&A with the directors, giveaways, and not one but two special guests: Amy K. Browne, the voice of Cordelia Smith, and the one and only Jane Jensen! Join us to hear more about the behind the scenes of Cognition, ask about our other projects, and hear what’s ahead for Phoenix Online Studios.

For now, enjoy the latest trailer and screenshots!
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9:46 AM on 08.15.2013  

Our game is out for the iPad!



It's with great plesure that we'd like to announce that Cognition: Episode 2 is now on iTunes!

Now you can save Sully and investigate the Wise Monkey serial killer case while waiting for the bus! Isn't life grand?

To celebrate Episode 1 is having a special sale -75% off. You can purchase Episode 1 here.


Gonçalo Gonçaves
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios
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9:48 AM on 08.14.2013  

Jack Dies In The End



Don’t worry, the title isn’t a spoiler. The first five minutes of the game shows our anti-hero Jack del Nero get shot, at which point we flash back 24 hours and see just what kind of trouble he got into that led to this untimely demise. This is also a two-part game, so who knows what really happens? Also I just wanted a witty title, okay?!

Anyway, Face Noir is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Italian indie studio Mad Orange. The game centers around Jack del Nero, a former police detective turned private eye. Jack’s story takes place in 1934’s Harlem, a large neighborhood in north New York City known for being the center of the Harlem Renaissance just a few years prior. The great depression is in full-force and times are tough for everyone. Add some rain and a touch of jazz, and you’ve got the makings of a great noir setting.



What else makes for a great life? Ah, the people! There’s plenty of wonderful characters that you’ll encounter in Face Noir. We’ve got Greta - who seems to be your only friend - sighing heavily and dreaming of her dancing past as she pours shots for people she doesn’t like or who won’t pay. You’ve got your Russian landlord Slovanski who’s interests include money and harrassing his tenants about rent (so, money). An angry ex-boss who wants to see you imprisoned for life, a Chinese cab driver who tawks wike dis and wies to you a wot, and a little girl left in your care by your traitorous ex-partner who just got murdered… these are just some of the colorful character’s you’ll encounter on the dark streets of Harlem.

Speaking of that “ex-partner murdered” bit, that is the key plot element that gets the game going after you perform the tutorial/job the game opens with. After returning home from the job you receive a phone call from your ex-partner telling you to meet him at the docks. When you arrive, the guy is dead and you’re being accused of the murder. This sets off a series of events that turn your mundane day-to-day life in the great depression into a race to clear your name and find the truth behind the ever increasing web of darkness that has been silently entangling itself around your life over these past few years, guiding you toward this very moment.



The game is played entirely with a mouse (and your thinking cap, of course). Everything from talking to people to picking locks to operating cranes is done with the mouse. This might pose a slight problem during some of the puzzles for players who use a trackpad on a laptop, but thankfully some of these puzzles can be skipped. You have an inventory system which you will use to select items from to interact with the environment in different ways, like using cash on a person to get them to spill the beans about someone. If you’re finding yourself having to go “pixel hunting”, there’s a feature that will highlight the spots on the screen where something of interest can be found. Cycling between simply looking at something and perhaps interacting with it is as simple as clicking your right-mouse button. Whatever appropriate action can be taken will be displayed by the icon that appears, such as the gear icon that means you can fiddle with the item somehow.

As mentioned, there are puzzles you can interact with directly (and some items that aren’t necessarily puzzles but you still interact with them in a personal way). Actions such as picking locks, placing fuses on a power circuit or assembling a doll all take place in real-time as you use your mouse to manipulate the objects yourself. Other interactions exist that aren’t puzzles but still allow your precise input, such as opening up a control panel and flipping a switch, or turning the dial on a radio.


From the moment the intro movie began playing I could tell I was going to have a lot of fun with this game. The dark noir setting is great and the protagonist Jack del Nero is as loveable as he is miserable. The artwork is simply astounding. I often found myself staring at a scene, admiring how well everything was drawn, how detailed it all was. The jazzy music is superb and really brings the story to life. The gameplay mechanics are very intuitive and never get in the way of your progress. The puzzles are clever, though at times some of the interactions seem to require pinpoint precision which can be a little frustrating. Overall the experience is a must for fans of the noir genre, adventure game fans or anyone who likes a dark story.


Drew Beardall
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios
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11:35 AM on 08.13.2013  

Cognition’s characters: A refresher course!

With the final episode of Cognition: An Erica Reed thriller getting nearer and nearer we thought it would be a good idea to take a small refresher course on some of Cognition’s characters. Who are they? What do they do? Will this article be spoiler-free? The answer all these questions is a resounding “Yes”… okay actually it only answers the third question, anyway, here’s some entirely spoiler-free character profiles.

Episode 1



Erica Reed: Boston FBI agent with cognitive abilities.

She’s haunted by the loss of her brother to the Cain Killer. Secretly she hopes every case she’s on leads her closer to her brother’s murderer, her motivations walk a fine line of duty and vengeance.

Scott Reed: Erica’s younger brother.

Three years ago he was kidnaped and murdered by the mysterious Cain Killer. Erica blames herself for this.

Brian Reed: Erica’s father, retired FBI agent.

He still mourns the loss of his son. He helps Erica with tips, hints or moral support, he’s also the game’s hint system. He’s so good in fact that he could probably solve the whole case while staying at home watching TV! Wish I knew his number.

John McCoy: Erica’s partner, laid-back and easy going.

He was once a respected agent but slowly lost the drive and passion for his job. Often mocked by other agents for his superstitious beliefs. He’s one of the more likeable characters in the series, a shame he spends most of his time in the office.

Terence: Boston office FBI’s go-to tech-guy.

He’s known Erica since college, geeky and with a good sense of humor he’ll always be there for Erica when she needs help. Terrence always struck me as the sort of guy who’d his downtime trolling people on YouTube, yep, he’s the reason you don’t read YouTube comments.

Jared ‘Sully’ Sullivan: FBI Detective

Erica’s ex-boyfriendThings between him and Erica are ‘complicated’ but he’ll still help her whenever possible. Poor Sully, he spends half of episode 1 asking Erica out for lunch, will he ever get lucky?

Director Davies: The head of the Boston FBI department

A close friend of the Reed family, but that doesn’t mean she treats Erica any different than she would another agent. She was also Sam MacAdams’ partner before both were promoted.

Dr. Gallagher: The Boston offices’ coroner.

A loner with no sense of humor only cares for her cats. Sounds like a real cuddly person, doesn’t she?

Rose: Runs the antique shop

She’ll often have an item for you or can help you learn more about a mysterious piece of evidence. Deeply in tune with the spiritual side of things, she taught Erica how to use her partners. She likes being called ‘mamma Rose’ for some reason, creepy!

Cordelia Smith: Citizen

Often found in Mt. Auburn Cemetery mourning her brother, she’ll often have a kind word for Erica, feeling they share at least one common trait.

Cain Killer: Serial Killer, whereabouts unknown

A serial killer who would kidnap siblings and place them in elaborate death traps. His last victim was Scott Reed before mysteriously disappearing.

The Hangman: Serial Killer, whereabouts unknown

A mysterious serial killer who hangs his victims, making all of crimes look like suicide. Only targets women

The Oracle: No information

Who is the oracle? What does he/she want?



Episode 2



Samuel MacAdams: The new Director for the Boston FBI

He was Davies’ ex-partner and if you thought she was a hard then get ready, he’s even worse! He’s also never been in a beer commercial, pretty surprising considering his name.

The Wise Monkey: Serial Killer, whereabouts unknown

A mysterious serial killer who removes his victims’ eyes, ears and tongues. All of his/her targets were musically inclined.

Episode 3

Skorobeus: The Smith’s family lawyer.

Snooty, conceited oh and he thinks he’s better than you, have we mentioned that? With a name like that you’d think he’d create a hair metal band!


So, all refreshed? Do you know who’s who? More importantly, how will the story draw to a close in Episode 4? Personally I say the butler did it! It’s always the butler!

Gonçalo Gonçaves
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios
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3:42 PM on 07.10.2013  

Find Noir: Face Noir Giveaway

Last week we released the very first #FindNoir image and we got tons of replies, so thank you everyone who particpated so far on this. Today, we’ve got the few ones that got ALL 5 right answers - the right answers were: Zombie Survival Guide book, Moebius wallpaper, black cat, muffins plate and rubber chicken. And the lucky winners are: Chris Ramion, Stefan Kellendonk, Eric Starker and Abel Garcia!

So after doing a very complicated and long analytical process of who may welcome positive karma and all that stuff into their lives (look at the serious documented process below) and now we have our winner!



CONGRATULATIONS ERIC! I will be contacting you today for this :)



Want to get free stuff!? Then participate! Here’s this week #FindNoir - Enjoy and good luck!



Say Mistage
Marketing Consultant
Phoenix Online Studios
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4:11 PM on 07.09.2013  

Face Noir demo is live!

Developed by Mad Orange and inspired by the writing of Raymond Chandler, Face Noir is a point-and-click adventure set in New York City, 1934. A disillusioned private detective named Jack del Nero is charged with the murder of a man who, just before his death, left a little girl in Jack’s protection. As Jack tries to find out who the child is, he learns the extremes to which human nature can go when trying to bribe something no one has ever tried to bribe: destiny.



We teased you about it, you’ve been waiting for it and the game is almost here, but until then, you can sink your teeth into the newly released Demo!
Play as detective Jack Del Nero and explore a depression hit 1930’s Harlem, as you track down a wannabe big time actress for a possible any affair.



It’s not Jack’s highest career point, but in these dark, depressing times, 30 dollars can save you from spending the next few days at a soup kitchen.



Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios
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5:07 PM on 07.04.2013  

Happy 4th of July!




To everyone hailing from the U.S. both Erica Reed and Phoenix Online want to wish you an awesome 4th of July! We hope you’re all having fun!


Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern
Phoenix Online Studios
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10:14 AM on 06.28.2013  

Face Noir: A Narrative

It was meant to be simple: my first job in weeks.  Find the girl, get the money-shot, get paid, get bent on cheap whiskey and fall into a drunken stupor at one in the morning. It was all so simple.

This is the life of a disgraced police officer turned P.I.,  and it’s falling apart. “But Jack,” I hear you say. “It sounds like your life is lousy enough: the deadbeat job, the lack of work, the alcoholism. You’re a P.I. and you’ve only got the dough for three lousy bullets. How could it possibly get worse?”

You know when you get a call in the middle of the night, and it’s your bitter, no-good past on the other end of the line? A past you’d hoped you’d never think about as long as you lived? And how about when that phone call leads you to the still-cooling body of your treacherous ex-partner?






Before tonight I thought I had problems. I had no idea what was coming.

Don’t get me wrong, the body wasn’t the worst of it. Finding a body’s one thing. The police thinking you’re the one who put it there? That’s different.

And if that weren’t bad enough, any sleep I do get is plagued by dreams of my ex-partner and the fellas that rubbed him out. And the queer thing is, the things I see? Turns out they happened.


And with that you’re dropped into Mad Orange’s 1930’s New York, brought to miserable, whiskey-sodden life through elaborate interactive elements. You can walk the streets on the bad side of town, take a turn in the cheap, ill-fitting shoes of an embittered alcoholic, maybe even bribe some folks and get answers to that age-old question: Whodunnit?

And in return, Jack might avoid spending what’s left of his life staring at the same four walls.

As indie developers, we want to bring our amazing content to the people who matter – the people who support the industry and the studios involved by contributing to our community.

That means you! Yes, you! You matter to us!

Fortunately, the indie scene no longer has to rely on publishers who’ve bled us dry and thrown us out! Phoenix Online was far from the only one to have terrible experiences with a publisher. That’s why we want to help these nice people at Mad Orange out by bringing their fantastic products to new markets, like the English-speaking world! Until now, Face Noir has only been available in German and Italian, but now you can enjoy the grit of 1930s New York with all the English noir-speak that entails.



Face Noir will release on July 18th with an updated inventory system, improved gameplay, puzzles and full English localization. Face Noir is available for pre-order now just for $15.99 (reg. $19.99) and the pre-order exclusively comes with the beautiful Face Noir Sountrack!

PRE-ORDER FACE NOIR HERE!


Katharina Bucher
James Patton
Social Media Interns, Phoenix Online Studios
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8:08 AM on 05.20.2013  

The Oracle’s Haunted House Mystery

I hope you’re ready to put on your sleuth hat!

Cognition Episode : The Oracle just around the corner, meaning we’re officially in crunch time: long hours, nights and weekends, all hands on deck and everyone’s neck-deep in testing and bug fixing to make this Episode ready and looking good. So this past weekend, I stepped into the role of playtester and finally got in my first full playthrough of Episode 3.

Episode 3 has been designed & directed by Nick Bryan, our assistant designer, and Cesar, so while I helped outline, edit and review the script for the Episode 3, I haven’t been as deeply involved with its development. And it was really fun to play a game I both knew and didn’t know for the first time!

Much like The Hangman and The Wise Monkey, The Oracle has its own unique feel and pacing. This time around, I found myself thinking of it more and more as a haunted house mystery. It’s got all the classic highlights:

- A new death reopens an investigation into a building with a bloody past
- Betrayal, secrets, and family drama lie at the center of this mystery
- Everyone has something to hide and no one can be trusted
- The past is intricately tied to Erica’s present in ways she couldn’t have anticipated
- Ghosts! (Well, Projection ghosts)
- There’s even a suspicious-looking butler! I mean, come on, look at this guy!
As soon as you enter the haunted house , the Enthon Towers, you know something’s changed. It’s subtle, but the whole tone of the game shifts as Erica digs into the grittiest of details here. Her post-cognition is really worked into every inch of the design in this Episode, which is so very steeped in discovering the secrets from the past of this place. So get out that sleuth hat, and you’ll want to bring a notepad and pencil for this one, too, because there’s a lot of detail to review and all of it is important. Get ready for some old-fashioned true detective work and an intriguing mystery; you’re not going to want to stop until you’ve figured it out!

I can’t wait for Episode 3 to be out there and to hear everyone’s reactions to the puzzles, new characters, and the mysteries in this one. Not to mention their theories on Episode 4, of course!
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10:41 AM on 05.10.2013  

Cognition Episode 3 Releasing on May 16th & Live Launch Party!



On Thursday May 16th, Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller continues in Episode 3: The Oracle! In this episode, you won’t just be playing as Erica, but also as the killer who’s been playing games with her. Meaning we’ll finally know the answer to one big question: Who is the killer?


Plus! Join us on May 16th at 11 AM PST/2 PM EST for a launch day livestream! We’ll be on Google Hangout, taking your questions, talking about Episode 3, and doing some exclusive giveaways at our YouTube channel. Just go to to http://www.youtube.com/postudios and hangout with us!

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8:41 AM on 04.23.2013  

Developer Diary: Harbinger of Red Tape

Today’s post is written by Gavin Greene, Production Coordinator for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, taking some time out of his very busy day to tell us about his role on the team!

Coordinators are the harbingers of red tape and re-prioritization, a bureaucratic middle man that can be respected, but never entirely liked. And that’s exactly where you need to be.


Artist's interpretation


Also known as an Associate Producer in teams that can afford such titles, a Coordinator’s lot in production is one of constant readjusting. The proud owner and operator of the master schedule, every week brings subtle transformations to your perfectly planned testing passes and animation blocking schedules. Game development is a process of constantly revising your prospects, as a thousand little variables are always in flux: Unity crashes and stubborn shoulder rigs, re-exports and complex renders. Add the fact that your entire team is satellite and around the world, and it makes the film production background you come seem like the most refreshing of breezes.

Luckily then, the day job of the Production Coordinator is to be everywhere at all times, or as close to it as humanly possible. One of the earliest things I learned is to remove the sound of Skype pings, my first few hours on staff was riddled with tiny chirps from a dozen conversations. You have an ear in every department during office hours, ready to rush in to solve any number of daily problems that can arise.

In between arranging and hosting all manners of department meetings and dailies (where everyone shows off their days work for their respective leads), you can be called upon to help get a recently approved prop into a character model’s hand or confirming a logic editor has the latest 3D layout of the scene he’s working on. It’s being on call on a phone line that’s always ringing. Given that we have departments in Italy and India, it also means daily midnight conferences on modeling procedures and approval processes.



Redmine: "From up here, you all look like little, compulsively organized ants."


Once (or if) you manage to quiet all immediate concerns for a moment, you shift from the microscopic back to the macroscopic. And at my position, that means going from firefighting to data entry. We at Phoenix Online use the SCRUM style of scheduling on a milestone delivery schedule – for at least one of our projects – all of which means a lot of organizing and updating spreadsheets and scheduling software documents. While each staff member sees their individual priorities in a shared “To Do List” Google doc, I primarily employ Hansoft for the grander plan. To my eyes, a game looks like a massive array of nodes and interconnected lines long before it takes manifests into something playable.

Once we establish a foundation of logic and everyone has a foothold in their department, minute bugs and polish assignments can be tracked using Redmine, a program which helps store and prioritize everything from a character with a spinning chest to a background that needs final shading. An average game project can run anywhere from 600 to a couple thousand of these little tasks, all of which come through your inbox at each stage of being fixed.

It’s certainly a mountainous amount of information to take in and process, be it day 1 or 1,000. But all Coordinators (or Associate Producers) learn fast on their feet, and I was impressed just how quickly I was employing a unique bag of tricks. Despite my intimidating introduction, my greatest asset is my team. If you have a wonderful assortment of people, your job becomes a whole lot smoother (if not less complex). The staff at Phoenix Online – my little schedule nodes – are a wonderful, truly dedicated bunch, with their own little brand of insanity that I’m proud to be contributing to.

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online

(Also, everyone, remember to like our Facebook Page and check out our twitter :) )
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12:23 PM on 04.11.2013  

Developer Diary: Music to Our Ears

Last May, composer Austin Haynes wrote a guest blog about composing the music of Cognition–music that went on to win the Adventure Gamers’ Aggie Award for Best Music 2012, AND win the Reader’s Choice poll for the same category! So I think it’s safe to say the man knows his music. ;) Here’s what Austin has to say about composing for Cognition.



Hi, I am Austin Haynes, the lead composer for Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. I also did the music for The Silver Lining, which was a fan game based off of King’s Quest. When I got involved in Cognition, the first point to discuss was what kind of music would fit the game? I had seen the lovely artwork designs and after discussing with Cesar Bittar, the project director and CEO of Phoenix Online, we both came to the conclusion that electronic elements along with some acoustic instruments would be a good fit. In our discussion, I learned that the game had dark imagery so the textures of synthesizers and otherworldly sounds would fit nicely along with dynamic instruments such as piano and strings. It is dark, mysterious, but also personal and heartfelt too. The setting was clearly different in comparison to The Silver Lining. This would be our first commercial game but as with the rest of Phoenix Online, we welcomed the challenge.

Cognition (Main Theme)

When making the music for the trailer, the visuals were so rich and strong, that it was quite clear in what emotion was needed to capture the moment. It had to be creepy, scary, gritty, and compelling. I used drones and processed sounds to achieve this along with screams I recorded to emphasize the pain and fear these victims were experiencing from these killers surrounded by the city.

There are a few different ways music is used in Cognition. There are some themes used for main characters and also of places that the player may visit quite a bit to make it special and memorable – nothing like music to set the mood. There are cinematic scenes that have to have the music timed and locked in with the visuals. This is very much in the same way that music is scored to film. I like to watch the video and get the sense of timing to start the composing process. This helps me set the pace for the music. Because a lot of changes happen in these videos, the music needs to reflect that so it can be challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Another different use of music is during gameplay. How long will Erica be in certain areas? What is the mood we are looking for here? Because things can change while you are playing and as you progress, we have certain music layers that can come into the mix when needed, making it a very immersive experience. For example, I have some distortion running through large ensemble percussion that comes in as the tension increases during a moment in Episode 1. Being able to have these layers is possible do to the Unity Engine we are using. For intense scenes, distortion was a great way of getting that gritty sound which brought a whole other level of dimension musically to the experience. This is exciting and different from movies that are always locked and set with how everything will go.



There is also the question of implementation. Because a player can spend a long time in a certain area, how long should this music be? Should it be looped or come and go? When it comes to in-game music, I sometimes need to imagine what it is like during early development because the objects, animation, graphics are still being implemented. Most of the time artwork, music examples, or descriptions are provided which gives a good indication of what is needed.

Momma Rose (Rose’s Theme)

I hope fans of The Silver Lining will like our newest creation and enjoy the music I’ve created! I am excited for everyone to hear the soundtrack and play the game!


We hope you enjoyed this blog post and please, don't forget to vote for us on Steam Greenlight

Gonçalo Gonçalves
Social Media Intern, Phoenix Online
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