In a shocking twist of events that may be a surprise to some and a relief to others…
Hazard is being renamed to Antichamber.
I know that this may be coming a little out of left-field this late in development, but it wasn’t a decision that I made lightly, and a whole lot of time and thought went into the new name. Changing the name of something at this stage is like having a kid, and then 2 years later going “actually I don’t like what I called you when you were born. It doesn’t fit. You’re now ‘Jerry’”. But, better to fix it now while the game is still in development than waiting until it’s too late.
As was covered in the Joystiq announcement, this game has been the process of constant iteration on a core set of ideas, from an arena combat game, to a single player puzzle game, to a game about exploration and discovery. I chose the name “Hazard” back in the arena combat phase, where the world was, quite literally, full of hazards. Later I added the subtitle to it, to fit more with where the game was heading at the time.
It stayed that way until now because I just got used to saying it, and never really thought any more about what it meant to people. It was just a name to me. I was more concerned with spending my time exploring the game ideas to their fullest potential.
So why change it now?
At DICE and GDC this year after the Indie Games Challenge and IGF nominations, I started getting feedback about the name from a significant enough number of people whom I respect greatly. They were concerned with the fact that I now had this incredibly interesting game that a lot of people would want to play, and they didn’t want people to be overlooking it because of what it was called, particularly because of the subtitle.
I knew exactly why it was an issue for them, as in the past I’ve seen people recommend the game to others, and then have to fight really hard to get people to ignore what it was called (“Journey of life? Sounds pretentious / artsy / etc.”), and experience how it actually played. This is not something that I’d want to happen. Not being interested in something is one thing, being turned off entirely for this reason is another.
Why not just Hazard then? Why change it entirely?
Without the subtitle, just “Hazard” is not only not descriptive of the game now, it’s anti-descriptive. Though it does mean uncertainty, people more immediately refer to it as danger. People were confused, because nothing in the game was dangerous, and the player could never die. I argued against this point with several people (including getting a rather awesome quote from Jim McGinley, who stated “No one plays Crysis and goes “IS THIS THE CRYSIS!?”), but ultimately conceded that just “Hazard” puts the game in the same light as things like “KillZone”, “BulletStorm”, “Total Annihilation”, etc. which is not where I want to be.
Pretty unanimously, everyone I spoke to when deciding to change the name was quick to say “yeah Hazard sounds like an FPS. Doesn’t make sense”, regardless of what they thought of any other suggestions. Not only that, but without the subtitle, it’s impossible to find information about the game due to the abundance of websites about safety games, hazards in games, etc.
Apart from both of these issues, there’s also the fact that the game was released in a very early state for Make Something Unreal as an Unreal Tournament 3 mod, and a slice of it on the UDK Showcase in early 2010. Believe it or not, but there are still people who’ve seen the game from competition nominations etc. and believe that the game is still a mod, or that I entered that early showcase version. Neither of these is true, and the game has come a VERY long way since anything was made publically available.
Won’t I lose the branding that I have associated with the old name!?
I’ve spoken with a number of developers about this, and the general consensus was that pre-release, it can seem like everyone knows about your game, when the reality is that most of the people who will end up buying it didn’t even know that it existed before it went on sale. Those who already liked the game will likely not care what the name is, and those who overlooked it for whatever reason can now look at it differently.
Throughout the entirety of its development, the name wasn’t what was drawing most people into the game anyway. In all festivals the game was entered into, judges had to go through and play every game, and weren’t making decisions based off first impressions when seeing the name by itself.
Up until release and after, I was going to continue taking the game to festivals etc. anyway and drumming up more noise about it, so realistically, I just have to work a little bit harder at building awareness post-name change as well.
Does this mean that the theme of the game has changed?
Yes and no. What was made available previously was clearly labelled as a work in progress, and was much more conceptual than the game is now. Ultimately, the final release will be an extension of the same core concepts, but everything has been refined and iterated upon. There’s still a philosophical bent in the game, but it’s the mechanics and the rest of the world that have really come to the forefront of the design these days. The new name offered new places to take the narrative, and everything fell into place nicely once it was changed.
If people liked anything they’ve seen of the game thus far, they will like the final version even more. If they had reservations, rest assured that the game is becoming something very special. The name change is just to get things more in line with what the game has become.
Does this mean the game is ready for release?
No. I still don’t have a release date for the game, and I’m not going to give another estimate until I have something completely solid to work on. Quality matters most, and I’m not a fan of fixing things after the fact that should have been right in the first place. I want this game done more than anyone, because it’s been taking up all of my mental energy for a few years now. But now more than ever is not the time to try to rush to release, when I’m getting very close to having it all just right.
I’m still showing the game off at events throughout the year, so it makes sense to change the name now so that all future information about the game is under the final title.
Is there a new demo or trailers to go with the new name?
There will be new trailers etc. when the time comes. A new demo, however, will not be released until the game is finished.
Do you know which platforms the game will be on?
No, though at this stage, I’m aiming to have it on Steam and at least one console. Finishing the game is difficult enough though, so that’s the main priority.
How can I keep updated about the game under the new name?
Updates will still be posted here when there’s news about the game or other developments to talk about. Other than that, you can still follow me on Twitter, there’s a new Antichamber Facebook Page, and the website is online at http://www.antichamber-game.com.