Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Getting ready for Steam release

    I had a couple of technical articles in mind for writing and posting in the blog but the last few months I had such a tremendous momentum developing the game that I just couldn't divert my attention to writing anything other than code! The good news is that the game is almost finished. Let's quantify "almost":

    Content-wise, the game currently has everything it should have: One should be able to play it from start to finish, encounter all events, explore all originally planned areas, resolve any main plots/subplots etc. The only thing left to add is something to do with the player character's birthday: So far it's just empty info, so I have to tie it in the game. The prevalent thought here is about townsfolk who like you giving you birthday presents.

    Player-wise, I'm still adding some touches like alternate keyboard bindings (for example, you can press the spacebar or whatever key you've assigned to select a menu item, but why not also be able to use ENTER at all times?), additional options and of course there must be some form of rudimentary in-game help on the basic stuff.

    At this point I should state that I don't like games who treat players like morons. Overly explanatory cutscenes, usable stuff that glows from 1,000,000 miles away in case players don't understand they can interact with it, popups every 5 seconds...no thanks. I'd rather have half of the people complain about not understanding what to do in a given situation than treat all of them as idiots. So I'm thinking about a "Press F1 for Help" prompt and when players do so a basic "starter" help appears: Where to save your game, where to craft items etc.

    Also,  the ability to wait (or, more accurately, skip) an hour or two should be added. As of now, one in-game second is one real-life minute. So a whole day is about 20 real-life minutes! That seems like a long time and initial tester feedback should help fine-tune the time scale. Sure, players have a lot of ground to cover going from place to place in this huge town map and the surroundings, and the townspeople have a quite busy schedule forcing players looking for them to do a little searching (at least at first). But the game has events like "meet me there at midnight" and players may have nothing to do until then but stroll aimlessly. Plus, when indoors, time is frozen.

    Audio-wise, could be better, could be worse. I tried my best to write some competent music and feedback has been positive so far, but I wish I had the time to add a few more tracks to the mix. January was mainly "sound effect month" so I slaved over shifting through hundreds of sounds at Freesound for lots and lots of hours, but I can safely say that aside from the occasional tiny miss, the game has 99% completed audio.

    Then, of course, I have to make the game trailer, set up the Steam store, add Achievements, cards etc and, last but not least, contact the press. God I love this part! How fun it is to send literally hundreds of personalized emails to people only to be thoroughly ignored by 99% of them!

    Remaining bugs are being hunted by testers. I will see to it that the game ships without any game-breaking ones. It's fascinating to look back at a couple codes of line last June and see that right now I'm sitting on 95,000 lines of code, over 16,000 individual images and animation subimages, over 200 hand-picked, individually fine-tuned or mixed sound effects and more than 3,000 lines of text. Someone could get all these resources, make 50 asset flippers within a year and still have leftovers. So the bottom line of all this is that I'm probably an idiot and maybe I should resort to making asset flippers too. Because the final boss of my trials are Player Expectations and since asset flippers begin with zero it can only go uphill for them.

    You see, I have a quirk that, for today's "All Singing All Dancing" gaming trends that throw at players 90% of their content in the first hour, is bad: I like games that are a slow burn. Maybe I've put a cool dungeon that players aren't really supposed to find. Maybe I've added some other content that's not too obvious to most people. Maybe in your first playthrough you will miss the so-called main plot entirely, and that's fine, really! The point is, I like games where you discover things after playing for some time and because you are playing them, not because a quest marker pops up every tenth of a second and things happen around you automagically. I don't really like gratification simply because I double-clicked the game's icon! I actually want to do stuff, and I'm totally fine with missing some of them!

    But here comes the hitch: Is the game primarily a mystery/horror story, or a farming sim? People who are in for the former might be disappointed because the game doesn't blatantly throw horror stuff at them at every turn. People who are in for the latter might be disappointed because they want a pet kitten and the game doesn't have one. It doesn't matter if you've thrown in 308 items, 110 cooking recipes and 44 crops: There will always be something that other farming games have and yours doesn't. Right now the big bet is whether the game will hold on both ends enough to be enjoyable to most people. In any case, we'll find out really soon.


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  2. This looks awesome...do you have any plans to bring it to other platforms if it does well?