Remastered/V.R., the Tower, and the Future of iDGi

After four years of dedicated work from Greg, Ryan, and Steve, we proudly announce today's release of Consortium Remastered and its V.R. counterpart. We hope this post will address any confusion or misconceptions about our motivations and reasoning behind this Remaster while serving as a brief company history lesson.

Specifically, if you are wondering why we decided to remaster Consortium, what our plans for the future are, and, most importantly, what this means for The Tower's development, this post is for you. Consider this an official statement from the company in our tradition of being as transparent as possible.

Consortium's 2014 Release:

A small team of six core people, a handful of contractors, and more voice actors than both combined initially developed Consortium. It was released in 2014. At that time, we severely underestimated how deeply complicated the process of playtesting a replayable choice-based game like ours truly was. Our team of six hammered away on the game for months leading up to launch. When we launched, we thought the game was in good shape and were excited to finally get it out to the world. Still, we did not anticipate the difference between SIX people playtesting and suddenly having THOUSANDS playing it across every computer setup imaginable.

Within an hour after launch, the comments and reviews started: "The game seems great so far, but it's too bug-ridden!" This was mirrored in early professional reviews we received in places like "Rock, Paper, Shotgun" back in the days when such reviews carried a lot more weight. People enjoyed the game overall, and we received many very kind responses, but folks kept getting hit with game-wrecking bugs. Since maximizing immersion is the most critical aspect of our core concept, this ruined many people's first experience and tainted their opinion of us.

So... we spent every waking hour for months after launch fixing as much as possible. This was primarily thanks to a handful of folks who helped us expand our pool of playtesters. We made the game stable and playable, but it was generally too late. Sales stopped dead due to the initial storm of reviews highlighting the bugginess, which meant momentum was dead, and no amount of screaming, "But we fixed it!" could help.

The Source Engine was our engine of choice then, and quite frankly, we beat the living shit out of that thing. We did stuff that stretched it beyond its limits, which showed clearly with many performance/loading issues and other engine-side bugs we were powerless to fix. Yes, we fixed everything we could, but we simultaneously regretted some of the decisions we made to twist the engine in ways it wasn't made to be twisted.

Much of the above detail and a lot more was written about in a post-mortem from Greg (C.E.O.), which can be found HERE.

The Tower's Initial Development:

After Consortium's premature launch effectively screwed its potential, but we had fixed it to the best of our ability, we decided to power forward into developing a much more ambitious sequel: The Tower. This was to be built using the Unreal Engine, a powerful game engine that is leaps and bounds better than Source for our purposes.

We had barely scratched the surface of a story we had spent more than a decade developing, and it would have been a tragedy to end it all, not because people didn't like our work but because of a buggy launch. We ended up with a solid version of Consortium, a team ready to keep going, and years of plans for Tower development that we couldn't wait to move forward on.

Itchy to get working in the Unreal engine, we (see: Ryan) manually ported much of Consortium's core systems, and we got to work. After we managed a big chunk of the current demo, amounting to the rooftop level, we launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to build as much of a budget as possible and to keep the team chugging. This allowed production to continue, and we got deeper into the Tower and its story while simultaneously realizing there was so much more we wanted to do than we originally envisioned. The story drives production with iDGi projects, and we were writing the script alongside production, which proved rather tricky when you have a full team of people with a high burn rate.

Much of the criticism we have received about Remastered/V.R. comes from our Tower crowdfunding backers. This usually amounts to thinking we have no intention of finishing the Tower and only want to milk Consortium for all we can. This implies we will eventually disappear after becoming stinking rich? I guess? Frankly, this unfortunate narrative hurts our collective feelings quite a bit, but it's also understandable considering the state of the video game industry. All we can do is remain transparent and TRY to reach as many people as possible.

We have always intended the Tower to be a massive open-world environment where you can choose to do whatever you want in whatever order. We realized there was a LOT more we wanted to do but could not accomplish with the budget we had generated through crowdfunding and Consortium sales. This partly drove our decision to go the Early Access route on Steam, hoping we could get enough people to jump on board to help us test what we had and keep the project going.

Unfortunately, this did not work out, and we were forced to disband much of our team. Ryan, Greg and Steve remained, and they did all they could on their own, keeping production going for over two years almost entirely in their free time while doing other jobs to keep the lights on. During this time, they tried their damndest to find anybody willing to invest in iDGi so we could bring back full development. Most found our game "too risky" or "too weird," and the flubbed release of our first game certainly didn't help matters. We did get a bite or two, but these usually amounted to deals where we would lose control of our company or be forced to change our vision, which we refuse on principle.

V.O.I.C.E. + Consortium Remastered / V.R.:

V.O.I.C.E. was initially developed to work exclusively for the Tower (thank you, Unreal Engine), while adding it to Consortium's Source Engine was impossible. We worked with another company to develop an initial version (though the current version is entirely our own using open sourced software), which allows players to speak lines out loud using a microphone in real time without an internet connection. Considering our concept of players being able to speak as themselves, we knew this would be a uniquely fitting addition to the game. As it turned out, V.O.I.C.E. or not, convincing folks to play a story-based game in early access was incredibly challenging. "I'll wait until it's finished before I play" is a common sentiment we have heard countless times.

Fast-forward to when Ryan said to Greg: "You know, I could probably port all of Consortium to the Unreal Engine in my spare time." This idea swiftly snowballed into realizing that a complete port to Unreal would simultaneously allow us to put V.O.I.C.E. into Consortium, create a V.R. version, and open the door to further ports for Xbox, Playstation, Steam Deck, etc. 

Once we got going with the Remaster, we knew we were onto something and kept going. At first, all three of us were working in our spare time while doing other jobs, and once again, our passion project had a hold of us. 

The new game engine instantly fixed all of our performance/graphical issues. It also meant we could adequately connect Consortium to the Tower and have a seamless playing experience between the two. We have more plans for this transition in the future, such as beginning the Tower on Zenlil (Consortium's setting), something only made possible by the Unreal port.

Ryan (our resident wizard) is responsible for so much insane wizardly in this Remaster that it would take an hour and about fifteen paragraphs to explain. Let's just say he accomplished by himself what SHOULD have taken a huge team to pull off.

Greg (jack of all trades) worked with our fan base and hammered away on bugs while doing everything he'd always wanted to do with Consortium in hindsight. This includes a lot of added detail, multiple choreography passes, a reimagined ending, scripting improvements, etc.

Steve (writer guy?) overhauled the game's "player dialogue" to work better with V.O.I.C.E., committed to multiple passes over 200+ Information Console documents, and helped Greg with the ending changes and writing/producing the new King conversation. During this time, he also worked on Whispers From the Rift, a nearly finished text-based prequel game (which will be available here on Stream and as a mobile app).

For detailed production updates and release notes for Remastered/V.R., see our Discord.

In Conclusion...

As we've expressed in various places previously, our intention since 2014 has always been to finish the Tower. In fact, all improvements and changes to the various game systems throughout this Remaster process have gone directly into the Tower project, ensuring a streamlined approach as we continue with production.

All in all, we have done everything possible to make Consortium the best it can be, putting in countless hours to refine and enhance the game. Now, it's time to send it out to the world and see what happens.

- Team iDGi (Greg, Steve and Ryan)

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Established in 2006, Interdimensional Games Inc (iDGi) is a wholly independant R&D "boutique" video game studio. We're on a mission to push hard on the boundaries of first-person interactive narrative with an underlying moral and ethical compass. We make story driven first-person immersive simulations and believe in the future of voice driven VR interactive cinema.
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