Update: Clearing the Mists
What Happened: The Long Silence
This post by John Ruthven, systems developer for Hero's Journey.
Way back when we started this project, our somewhat tongue-in-cheek Risks and Challenges section said, "While we are absolutely committed to Hero's Journey for many years to come, someone integral on the production team could still get hit by a bus tomorrow..." What we meant was that since we're a very small team, one person getting seriously taken out of play could cause major problems for finishing the game. And, as some of you may know or have guessed from the long silence, that bus did come along. Happily, it wasn't a literal bus, but it was a bus in the form of a sudden-onset severe medical condition - and it hit our head writer and coordinator, Anne.
We're not going to go into details, because it's a private medical issue and not only do we not want to talk about it, you probably don't want to hear about it. Suffice it to say that it incapacitated her for the better part of two years, and between hospital and doctor visits and the accompanying struggle with life maintenance, the pace of work on Hero's Journey slowed, then crawled, and then had to be put on pause completely. (For those of you not aware, HJ is mostly generated by a married-couple team - I (John) am the systems and design lead for the game and Anne's my wife.) We had already been slowed way down from our original plans by the initial stages of the health problems, which we didn't recognize for what they were at the time, and once Anne was down, the game stalled as a result. Things like playtesting feedback and rewrites dragged on because we weren't able to work directly on them as much as we wanted to, and updates for the community also fell by the wayside.
The Long-Overdue Apologies
We very deeply and seriously apologize for the long break, the long silence, and the long-running pace of this project.
Anne getting knocked over by the Crosstown Episode-of-House-MD Express is an explanation for what happened, but it's not an excuse. We didn't communicate with the backers or the rest of the community about why the project went dark or what was going on behind the scenes, and we should have; the piecemeal updates and occasional answers to individual PMs didn't cut it. There were reasons for that, and the first one was that Anne didn't want to tell anyone she was sick; it's very personal and for a long time she fought it and fought mentioning it to anyone except close friends. We kept hoping the problem would get cleared up quickly so we wouldn't have to talk about personal issues, and we kept putting off doing an update because we wanted to have something to show, like a PDF or a solid time estimate or even just new previews, before we made another update that just said "hang in there" - but those reasons still don't excuse failing to communicate with all of you for so long. We should have done better, period. Our Risks and Challenges section for this project also said "If [a setback] happens, we'll not only let you know what's happening and why things have been delayed, but also keep you updated on our plans to move forward and any new projected times we set," and we did not follow through on that pledge the way we should have. Plenty of you folks have let us know you're frustrated and angry here or on our blog, and you have a right to be upset with us and to let us know it. We appreciate how passionate everyone has been about the project, and how many of you have kept up with looking in on it even during the long period of silence.
Where We Are Now
Hero's Journey is not, as understandaby worried about by some folks online, dead. In yet another quote from our Risks and Challenges, "We'll see this game brought to life if we have to do it from cardboard boxes while leeching off of coffeeshop wifi." Anne is (sort of, mostly, if you listen to her) back upright and able to work again and the team is settled and stable. All our previous work - which represents the vast bulk of the completed game! - is still there, all your already-created and purchased backer rewards are still safe in storage, and all your pledges are still safe in their account.
We would like - so much! desperately, in fact! - to give you all a projected date to be finished, but given how this has all played out and how unsure we are of how quickly we can get back up to pace, we don't feel like we could do so and be honest. We're also frustrated and pissed off about how long this has taken and about the fact that it isn't finished yet, and we're keenly aware that we owe you all something awesome.In the coming weeks, we have some important doctor's visits upcoming for Anne, and we're hopeful about the results. We'll be posting another update two weeks from today to let you know where we are with everything. In the meantime, we're STILL working our butts off to finish this damn game. (Which we still love and cherish and want people to enjoy, but when we're talking about how long production has taken, it's always "this damn game".)
Thanks and Acknowledgments
During the long silence, we added some additional folks who have been helping a great deal behind the scenes but who you may not have heard about yet, so here's a shout-out to Tanay, our fabulous Hinduism consultant who provides invaluable context and religious information and regularly saves us from missteps that plain research does not, and to Katie and Stewart, who joined the playtesting pool for about a year and provided their additional valuable insights into the sorrow of playing magician characters and the joy of murdering the bad guys, along with all the other playtesters who have been along with us for this long ride.
And, most importantly, as always: thank you all.