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Ethereal is “Medieval CounterStrike”

An intense and visceral 3D multiplayer medieval combat game.
Built on the Unity3D Game Engine.

Ethereal is a multiplayer medieval combat game that explores what is FUN about a realistic simulation of medieval combat through a video game using the, at the time, nascent Unity 3D engine. Project Ethereal began as a Graduate Thesis Project. Much of our game design came from documenting the action of modern medieval combat reenactments.

I like to be really involved in everything that I do – the more I can get my hands dirty the better. My experience in learning live medieval combat with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) was a reference point in designing the Ethereal game mechanics for a visceral, gritty medieval combat. The SCA practices full contact martial sport – and it was such a thrill.

The ShieldCam

Ethereal Woods Battle at PENNSIC

Click here for 2-Minute Hits from the Shield Cam

It was hot and humid from July through September as I wore 40 pounds of homemade armor, a shieldcam, and carried a rattan sword every week to learn what it felt like to be a medieval combat warrior. I had installed a Contour stunt camera into the aluminum shield (see image below); Footage from the ShieldCam was referenced during the design of our game.

There’s nothing like the real thing, being in a skirmish in the middle of the woods, or an open field facing off with another group of armored individuals swinging swords and trying to stab you with their poles. This chaos was captured on camera; And we wanted to give that same feeling to hard-core gamers.

That’s me on the right holding the ShieldCam.
That’s me on the right holding the ShieldCam.
The 30-second trailer has a few ShieldCam moments.

In-game footage with dynamically arranged music provided by our talented UK composer Mikolaj Holowko.

Winner of IGN Entertainment’s Indie Open House

Coordinating with IGN’s Gamespy Technology team and their Indie Open House Program was instrumental in getting our game to the final beta version we released. The IGN Indie Open House was a big deal for our team. Working out of the offices of a credible media outlet such as IGN was a great motivator for the team. At that time the unique incubator program opened many doors for us as we were developing the game. Here’s the Indie Open House announcement article from Engadget.

We were discussing the publishing rights to Ethereal with several indie publishers. Though trusted reviewers had felt the game was either trying to be a combat simulator or a fantasy combat game, and it would have difficulty selling to both gamer markets. The Ethereal team had parted ways shortly after we finished what was our final beta.

We had set out to develop a new gritty combat video game using real-world research and a new video game engine (Unity) as our grad school thesis project. Many of the team members moved on to joined other video game companies. I would move onto a mobile game developer accelerator to define their program and mentor other game dev entrepreneurs as they developed their games and ventured to break into the Silicon Valley game dev industry. It seemed at the time that the opportunities in the games industry were boundless and, later, I would return to return to game development at Nukotoys merging physical and digital play with trading cards and children’s games on iPad.

The Team