State of development and release date change
This post is also available in: Russian
Dear backers and all who support us,
In this update we will tell you many things, including those that seem good and others that don’t seem so good, but are actually for the best.
We will have to delay the release of our game until September. Experimenting with gameplay and applying all polish, taking care of UI things – all this is taking us much longer than we thought it would. Taking longer will benefit our game and make it better overall, even though delay is not something we are really happy about. We will talk more about it below.
Also, we are fortunate to have found a new executive producer (yes, the sword reward has found its owner!) and this is good since our Kickstarter funds are pretty much spent, with exception of the amount reserved to fulfill physical rewards. This gives us a guarantee that we can bring our project to completion and ensure that we can release our game in good quality. Read further to learn the details.
Delay and reasons
Those of you who have access to beta probably already know that delay is inevitable judging by the state of the game now. We could have taken a “quick and dirty” approach and released our game in somewhat workable state, but we don’t think anyone would appreciate that. Also, this approach can pretty much ruin everything we worked for. Therefore, after looking at our schedule, at things that remain to be done, we think a realistic date to release our game will be sometime in September.
How did we end up in this situation
When last year we came out to Kickstarter, we really thought that having brought our game to alpha means that not many things were left to do. Core mechanics were in place and we thought all the “niceties” such as hints and tooltips would take much less time to implement. The only experience we had was based on development of our first title, Discord Times. However, that game was much simpler in terms of gameplay and user interface (UI), so our estimate was wrong. As you know, we only managed to get out early beta in November and that early beta could have been called by some the late alpha.
In November we got optimistic again and thought that now we can finish things until April and that’s why when we came to Greenlight, we set April as our target month. But again, it’s April now and our game is still not finished, even though much closer now. But this time reasons are a bit different than just a bad estimate. What took too much time was testing gameplay and making sure that certain things work, especially in combat, because it’s brand new combat system. Also, we experimented with hits system and ended up with something completely different. You saw already version 1 where hits were not restored, there was version 2 where hits restored but characters received wounds and that was not the last version it seems, the final one will contain both approaches since each system on their own proved to have some disadvantages.
Iterative nature of software (and game) development
Developing software is (usually) an iterative process. For games it means that first a version of the game or a prototype is developed, then things are improved and added new ones until everything is ready. In some cases, it’s good to have subsystems of software that could be brought to completion and polished before you start working on other things.
Well, that’s how we wanted it to work but we didn’t succeed in some cases. In the first two years of development we kept working on the engine, the tools (map and arena editors) and the game itself. Working on our game, Nikolay was and is taking care of the engine, UI and everything that had to do with how things look and appear in the game. Denis was, and still is taking care of AI, which includes how units move in combat, how armies move on the global map, how spells are cast, damage is calculated etc. Nikolay again is responsible to display effects of everything that is happening. Now, it would have been much easier if our game had only one type of gameplay. But we had to work both on combat and global map gameplay and this is simply too much for two developers to handle. If our Kickstarter campaign raised more funding, we probably would have been able to hire another developer to help us out but we didn’t and the logical consequence is that we are again delayed.
Stoic and the Banner Saga approach
Quite a few of our backers came from the Banner Saga campaign and we would like to say a couple of words about their process how we see it. Many of you probably heard that Banner Saga: Factions was released recently. It created some controversy but we think that they did a very smart and good move. From the point of view of software development, they separated one big piece of their game and made a product out of it. As a result, the combat now in Factions is done and ready and they can now go on to the next big step to create global map gameplay. We worked and keep working in parallel on everything and that takes a lot of time. By the way, Factions look like a lot of fun and Dmitry is soon going to become a big expert in it. After losing his first 10 or more battles he is now much harder to beat :)
The financial situation
Despite being frugal and everything the money that we got through Kickstarter is gone now with the exception of the amount reserved for fulfilling physical rewards. Every cent went to development or to create art assets and we lasted 10 months on this funding, which is quite an accomplishment. But no worries! Remember that sword that we had as a reward during our campaign? Despite the fact that sword is not physically made yet, it found its owner! Our game and process attracted a very resourceful person, a businessman from Russia who will act as the executive producer for our game. In addition to getting the sword he will finance the development until we are released. His main business is construction of chemical laboratories and industry buildings but he always was greatly interested in medieval RPG and strategy games, so he is a great addition to our team. We are planning to have a proper introduction of him sometime soon but also, we want to use it as a PR tool for our game, so stay tuned! Right now we are good to finish the development and fulfill our promises to all of you.
We hope soon opening pre-orders on Desura directly, so it might help us offset some of our costs.
We talked quite a bit to the team who made Giana Sisters (awesome game by the way). One of them is actually from Minsk too, working in Germany. We are very grateful for all the information they shared with us, and if we extrapolate their experience and use some other information we have like Greenlight statistics, it makes us cautiously optimistic about our game. That’s gives us some confidence and being right now on place #12 is something we feel good about. The amount of new votes for us really slowed down in the last couple of weeks but once new features in the game are ready, we can start talking to the press more actively again.
New additions to our team
Seeing how slow the process is going, we decided to hire a few people to help us out. Our game seems to attract people interested in medieval times and we are happy to present you Joel Martin, a writer (no, he is not related to George Martin:)), and an author of the book called “The Inquisitor”. Joel contacted us back in February and after he showed us what he can do, we couldn’t resist the appeal of his writing and hired him. Now, the main campaign concept is already written and what Joel would do is to write it out, meaning create dialogs, descriptions and other things based on the material that Victor already wrote. Our poll about the quality of translation showed that it could use some improvement but now, with the help of Joel Martin, English localization will be taken care of! Rejoice! :)
Joel lives in Australia and actually in the same city where our PR agency, Surprise Attack is located too. Local press here in Minsk already wrote an article saying that we hired an Australian author which created quite a buzz here. This is not such a big event like when the biggest game dev company here, Wargaming, creator of World of Tanks, bought Gas Powered Games recently, but still… Minsk can become soon next big game dev center of the world :)
Another big addition to our team is Sergey, a programmer who will take care of special effects and some other optimization. Sergey is an old-time friend of ours, and he was the one who in the beginning inspired Nikolay and Denis to make games. Big advantage of having him on our team is that he knows the engine for Discord Times because he worked a bit with Nikolay on it and it won’t take him a long time to figure out how things work now and create a particle system that will provide a nice visual addition to combat and global map. Last patch had quite a few bugs that were a result of not enough testing.
Please welcome Marina, who will lead our QA team. While she doesn’t have a lot of experience of being a QA lead, she is very enthusiastic, loves the medieval times and we think the quality of our game and patches and organization will greatly benefit from working with her. Our new executive producer will assign some of his employees to do testing and Marina along with testing herself will manage and organize this extended QA team.
Scripting scenarios is quite a task, which takes a lot of time. It includes drawing a map, placing buildings and armies, adding events and many other things. Please welcome Irina, who is now helping us with this tremendous task. She is a big fan of Discord Times and already familiar with that map editor of that game. She started earlier, in January, because back then we already saw that we needed help with it.
Things left to do
Our progress is good and steady but unfortunately not as fast as we would like it to be. At this point we believe we have to stop adding or changing major gameplay features, otherwise development can go on for years – research and experimenting takes a lot of time.
These are the main and biggest tasks left to do to make our game ready and complete:
- Add mounted units – Nikolay is working on it this very moment
- Hints and tooltips – Nikolay keeps adding things
- All heroes talents – This is what Denis is working on
- Special video and audio effects for battles and global map – This will be mostly done by Sergey with help and guidance by Nikolay
- Scripting scenarios – Dmitry and Irina are the ones working on it the most. However, all of us participate in it one way or another…
Some thoughts about promotion
For now, since some reviewers mentioned the raw state of our beta we stopped actively pushing it to the media. Hopefully we will be greenlit in one of the next batches which should generate at least some media attention. Then we most likely would contact media when new features become available, create some videos that would show great new things and continue working.
Our Russian community of Discord Time fans seems to be very active recently and asking us to put Discord Times on Steam Greenlight. We might give it a thought. We don’t have any gameplay video or a trailer but once it’s ready we might go for it. They say that it might actually benefit our Legends of Eisenwald campaign and they might be right about it. We could put a demo version there consisting of tutorial and the first scenario of large campaign.
A friend of ours who used to work a lot in PR and advertising used to say that magic in the modern world exists and this magic consists in how you can reach out to people with well chosen words. We are still trying to figure out best ways to describe our game and reach out to media. Talking to many PR and advertising specialists we saw many different things. For example, if you can say something about a game that is unique and “sexy”, it is definitely a draw for public. Example of this would be: “In this game you can throw people into lava” (that’s Telepath Tactics, the game currently looking for funding here on Kickstarter, looking pretty good by the way). So, in the view of this, we are looking for a catching phrase to say about our game and if something comes to you, it would be great if you mail us here, email us or write something in the comments. We will find a way to thank you :)
Until next time,
All of us at Aterdux Entertainment