Backbone — pixel art detective adventure inspired by noir

Created by EggNut

Backbone is a pixel art noir adventure with stealth and action elements, set in dystopian Vancouver inhabited by animals. As private investigator Howard Lotor, you are set to solve detective cases, interrogate witnesses, explore the intriguing and dangerous world around you, and sneak your way to safety using smell-based stealth mechanics.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Backbone: Prologue is out on Steam!
about 1 month ago – Thu, Apr 25, 2019 at 03:02:33 AM

Dear friends,

Backbone: Prologue is out on Steam! Get if for free here - http://bit.ly/bb_prologue

Thank you for your invaluable support, kindness, and patience. This game wouldn’t exist without you. Please let us know what you think about it, we worked really hard to make the Prologue an enjoyable 1-hour introduction into the world and story of Backbone. Your opinion is very important for us! 

If you enjoyed it - please leave a review on Steam, it really help us out a lot.

The game is only available for Windows and in English for now. We will work hard to bring it to Linux and Mac soon, as well as provide localization for as many languages as we can. We’ll spend the next year working on the main game and patching Prologue, so consider this to be a demo / early access / first story chapter of Backbone.

Join our Discord community to discuss the game with us - https://discord.gg/backbone

And follow us on Twitter for quick news and pics - https://twitter.com/backbonegame

Thank you! Enjoy!

Quick beginning of 2019 recap!
about 2 months ago – Sat, Apr 06, 2019 at 01:47:15 AM

Dear backers,

This update is long overdue, and we’re very sorry for keeping radio silence for three months. Here’s a recap of what’s been going on:

We have been working hard on developing Demo Prologue since the end of this campaign in May 2018. It’s been an exciting and rocky road full of revelations and turns, and the game evolved a lot. A year later, and today we're almost through with it, all content and features of the Demo are complete, and it plays really well! 

Stealth!
Stealth!

As of today, Backbone is an exciting mix of point-and-click adventure, complex branching dialogues inspired by classic CRPGs, puzzle-infused stealth sections and beautiful environment exploration. The story of Prologue will introduce you to the world, main characters, and begin to reveal the ugly underbelly of dystopian Vancouver. Main story of the game is going to be focused on intense and up-close character study, the tragedy of living in a society, and showcase the strategies different people use to adapt to horrible circumstances. We are very satisfied with the direction the game is heading right now, and hope you enjoy this personal story that aims to examine the human condition as much as we do.

Prologue is about 1 - 1,5 hours long, and takes up about a fifth of the whole game we have planned so far. It has some level of replayability, as every character you meet could be treated in various ways, and you can follow the different paths while solving the case. It’s not our goal to make the game open-world, instead, our mission is to tell a cohesive story with strong characters. But some level of variety is always a plus because it enhances the feeling of being present in this world.

Close-up view!
Close-up view!

A small group of volunteer beta testers have been helping us in catching bugs and giving general feedback about the pace of the Prologue, and thanks to them, we think we arrived at a good level of balance. At the moment, we’re preparing a final build for beta testers and Steam review. There are couple of new gameplay features we implemented in March, and we’ve been enhancing the visuals and writing all the way through, so the extra time we took really paid off. We also made a release trailer that'll be out as soon as we have a confirmed release date from Steam!

Howard Lotor in his natural habitat!
Howard Lotor in his natural habitat!

Pease know that we're working really hard on bringing the game to the high level of quality and out for everyone ASAP. We've been in crunch mode since at least December 2018, and it's taking a toll on us, so right now the best decision would be to go slow and steady. We don't want to push the team to do overtime and crunch even more. 

So, wrapping up, the best answer to «When is the prologue going to be out?» right now is «As soon as humanly possible with the level of quality that we're proud of!». We’ll post a Kickstarter update when it’s out, but also feel free to wishlist the game on Steam to get notified via e-mail: https://store.steampowered.com/app/992310/Backbone_Prologue/ Please don't hesitate to ask any questions - you're the best!

Granville street!
Granville street!

That brings us to the next topic - Backbone will not come out in 2019. After the Prologue is out, we will start looking for additional funding and most likely a publishing partner, so we can fully realize our vision and get ourselves more time to work, resulting in better game on the day of release. It’s a common thing for Kickstarter games to postpone the release, but we want to ensure you that we don’t want to release it later than 2020. Thank you very much for being patient and understanding about this! More news about this later.

Dialogues!
Dialogues!

Some of you may have noticed that you’ve been charged by BackerKit for any additional pre-orders you’ve made after Kickstarter. We did this early to support our development cycle until we can secure additional funding. If it’s in any way inconvenient of you - please let us know by e-mailing alex@eggnut.net and we’ll return the money any time. Thank you!

_____

If you want to receive tiny bits of weekly updates instead of big chunks like this one, and be able to talk to us personally - please join our extra friendly Discord server https://discord.gg/NU7nRQX or follow us on Twitter or VK (for Russian speakers)

That's it for today, thank you very much for your support, and we'll see you soon in the next update when the Prologue is out.

End of 2018 Update
5 months ago – Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 07:39:04 PM

Dear friends,

First and foremost, thank you all for your endless support, kindness and patience. 2018 was a year filled with challenge, determination and thrill for our small international team. We have quit our full-time jobs, changed cities and countries, and worked harder than ever in our lives. We have so much planned for the future of Backbone and we thank you for giving us this one-in-a-million chance to follow our dreams!

It's a big, detailed and transparent update, hope you enjoy it. TLDR: development is going really well and is in its full swing, and we can't wait to show you the results (soon!).

Granville street at night
Granville street at night

Backbone Prologue is very close to release, but not quiet there yet. Art, story and development is finished for distinct locations filled with branching NPC dialogues, puzzles, stealth sections, and exploration. Game is playable from start to finish, and provides some level of replayability. We are currently working on music, sound design, and enhancing the visuals in tech art department. 

As a new studio, there was (and still is) so much for us to learn. When we first talked about the demo, it was easy to imagine the release in August, just 3 months after Kickstarter. When that deadline passed and we only scratched the surface of the content and quality we wanted to show you guys, it became pretty apparent that we can't achieve that without attracting new people into our team. Nikita was doing the work of the only developer, composer, game designer and tech artist on the project, Alex was juggling marketing, project management and narrative design, and artists had so much on their hands, that they couldn't possibly take on more diverse tasks without compromising the quality. Maluly came on board to take on the writing task, and it made things so much easier. And two months ago we were joined by our new dedicated full-time tech artist - Artem Pisarev! He is focused on discovering and implementing new ways to make Backbone look even better, it's a complex and time-consuming job that you'll definitely notice in the end result.

Scene without any enhancements - just pixel art sprites and textures
Scene without any enhancements - just pixel art sprites and textures

Other great news is that after 1 full year of development and 2 years of planning, we now have a much better grip on what we want Backbone to be. It took writing 30 pages of lore and characters backstory encyclopedia (describing foods, musical bands, and social-political structures of dystopian Vancouver), several script drafts, multiple gameplay iterations and testing, art concepts and hundreds of hours of conversations to get where we are. And we're very lucky to have had the time and resources to do that, because the world of Backbone now feels more alive then ever, and the goal to tell its story more manageable. Of course, the concept is going to evolve during the next year of development, but we're now much more prepared to take on the challenge.

Same scene, but with dynamic lighting, effects (rain, fog), normal maps and materials
Same scene, but with dynamic lighting, effects (rain, fog), normal maps and materials

There will be several stages to Prologue release: testing (and lots of it), marketing campaign (producing a trailer, building hype in social media, get streamers to play it and press talk about it, etc), and actual release with troubleshooting and other difficulties that come with it. When the build is 99% close to completion, we would like to open up a closed beta-test for our Kickstarter Backers. We'll be able to take in your feedback first-hand, polish some more, and then launch Prologue on Steam (wishlist here - https://store.steampowered.com/app/865610/Backbone/) and other stores. 

This demo is a vertical slice of the game, but unlike early access titles, it's a self-contained story that also serves as a prologue to a bigger plot of Backbone - your first introduction to the world of dystopian Vancouver and Howard Lotor. That means we only have one shot to make good impression, and really want to make it count! Successful Prologue launch will hopefully make more people excited about Backbone, so we see it as an integral part to the final game launch in 2019.

Sketch of Vogue theatre found on Vancouver's Granville street
Sketch of Vogue theatre found on Vancouver's Granville street

If you'd like to participate in the closed backer beta-testing, we'll post a Backer-only Update when the build is available. The best way to get in touch with us personally is to join Backbone Discord server: https://discord.gg/NU7nRQX

One last thing to polish before the launch is sound and music. Our composer Nikita Danshin is recording most of the sounds of rainy Vancouver live: determined steps on the rain puddles, heavy breathing after a chase, dripping water from the rooftops, warm crackling of the vinyl record and snapping of neon lights. Soundtrack will include original ambient tracks (you can listen to some of them on our Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/eggnutohmygod) and songs recorded with young vocalists from the Sunshine coast. For one of the tracks, we made a cover version of the haunting soviet song from the 60s that our parents used to listen on vinyl when they were young. Translating lyrics to English and adapting soviet sound to our modern vision has been an exciting challenge, and we hope you appreciate the result when you hear it in the game. 

From raccoon PI simulator concept to Backbone: 1 year later.
From raccoon PI simulator concept to Backbone: 1 year later.

That's it for today, please let us know in the comments if there is any aspect of development you'd like to be covered in the future updates! We're always eager to be transparent and share as much as possible (while still avoiding spoilers) with you guys. 2019 is going to be great. Thank you. 

Happy holidays, wishing you the best in the new year! Love, Eggnut.

August & September Update
7 months ago – Tue, Oct 23, 2018 at 12:59:47 AM

Howard meeting Clarissa and her confidante Boy for the first time
Howard meeting Clarissa and her confidante Boy for the first time

Hello, dear backers!

Thanks to your support, our co-founder, developer and composer Nikita Danshin was able to quit his full time job and move into the Canadian woods to develop Backbone full-time starting this October. Check out his new track for Backbone OST called Public Disquiet on our Soundcloud - https://soundcloud.com/eggnutohmygod

It's been three months since our last update, and we have been working hard to finalize the pre-production of the game in the form of a playable Prologue. The narrative, gameplay and visuals are almost done for this first chunk of Backbone! Branching dialogues, puzzles, stealth sections and some of the technical art stuff (lighting, materials) take a lot of time to perfect, so we'll announce the release date once we're 100% satisfied with how the game looks and feels. This first iteration of the game should be a good example of the experience we want to create, so we want to be as proud of it as possible. 

We're making a lot of polishing progress by testing the game every day, optimizing it so it functions as expected on different hardware configurations. The Prologue is free and will be released on Win, Mac and Linux in Steam, GOG and possibly other stores.

Gamedev has always been about quality and art for us, and with our experience in crunch during the preparation for this campaign (which brought us fast results but was difficult to recoup after, like all crunch), we are absolutely certain that taking as much time as possible to perfect team's vision while maintaining healthy work ethics is very important. Our main goal with this Prologue is to test most of the ideas we will further develop in Backbone, to ensure going through production smoothly without blowing the scope and unnecessary prototyping along the road. 

Backbone in 2017 vs 2018 (pre-trailer). Right now we're working on making the third iteration even more beautiful!
Backbone in 2017 vs 2018 (pre-trailer). Right now we're working on making the third iteration even more beautiful!

Here are some project stats: we're keeping a good development pace, having so far spent 2861 hour on demo development since the end of this campaign, by tracking 500-600 hours a month. 80% of tasks set in project roadmap are complete, and although there are still a lot of bugs to be found and fixed, the prologue is fully playable from the narrative standpoint from start to finish.

What goes into building a scene in UE4: beautiful pixel art + modern engine effects
What goes into building a scene in UE4: beautiful pixel art + modern engine effects

Our team has recently been joined by a new narrative designer Maluly - our mega supportive Kickstarter backer #1000 and Discord community mod. Maluly is from Mexico, with a degree in anthropology and an amazing feel for words and stories. With her help, we'll be able to bring more depth and character into the game world of Backbone! Eggnut team has been working together full-time since June, and it has been a very rewarding, enriching experience in teamwork, communication and art. We are very lucky to have this amazing team of individuals, and it couldn't be possible without your support.

Wishlist Backbone on Steam!
Wishlist Backbone on Steam!

Backbone page is live on Steam - please wishlist it! You're going to get notified there and on Kickstarter once the Prologue is live. https://store.steampowered.com/app/865610/Backbone/

Pitch your Backbone ideas, write romantic fiction between a detective raccoon and a cook and more on our Backbone Discord server
Pitch your Backbone ideas, write romantic fiction between a detective raccoon and a cook and more on our Backbone Discord server

By the way, if you want to participate in the discussions when the demo is out - please join our warm and amazing Discord community. Make sure to get Backer role to get into secret backer channels - discord.gg/NU7nRQX

Until next time, stay awesome, detectives!

July '18 update: characters and climbing
9 months ago – Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 01:05:06 AM

Dear friends,

Super quick update today on the work we've been doing throughout July. Can't show you a lot, because we want to save the best stuff for the release. Our current plan is to spend at least a whole month on final visual and writing polishing, and then we can announce the exact release date for demo. 

Characters

Take a look at some of the exciting characters you're going to meet very soon! 

Sooz. She will cut you. Sniffer type enemy
Sooz. She will cut you. Sniffer type enemy
Anatoly. Your favorite taxi driver. Will not stop telling sleezy jokes.
Anatoly. Your favorite taxi driver. Will not stop telling sleezy jokes.
Clarissa Bloodworth. Bear fatale and a major side character.
Clarissa Bloodworth. Bear fatale and a major side character.
Boy. Bartender at the jazz club.
Boy. Bartender at the jazz club.

Gameplay

Most of gameplay mechanics, especially smell based stealth are super duper WIP in terms of visuals, so excuse us not showing this important part enough. For now, take a look at these exciting things:

Jumping and climbing! (WIP)
Jumping and climbing! (WIP)
Picking up items! (WIP)
Picking up items! (WIP)

Streaming on Twitch! 

Last week we tried something new and streamed our pixel art process on Twitch for 4 hours straight. It's been loads of fun, and we're doing it again! Mark August 18th, this Saturday, 8AM PDT (4PM London) in your calendars. You can check out previous stream and follow us on Twitch to get notified when we're live - https://www.twitch.tv/eggnut_studio

hello fellow stremer kids!
hello fellow stremer kids!

Backbone merch and pre-orders:

The pre-orders on BackerKit will be closed on September 1st, and your cards will be charged for any additional purchases. Pre-order here - https://backbone.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders. You could still change your add-on selection and shipping information, which we will put on hold closer to the game release. If you have not yet filled in your survey, please check your e-mail for a link from BackerKit. If you haven't received this link - send us a message and we will fix it! Here are Backbone T-shirt size charts for your reference:

Women and Men size charts
Women and Men size charts

Working on Backbone is a dream come true, and we are so grateful to have this opportunity! Thank you so much!

Join our friendly Discord community https://discord.gg/NU7nRQX

Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/backbonegame