The State of the Game Update!
Wow, is it already September? Time certainly flies when you spend all of it on the same project. The HJ team is spending all of our time with heads down at our respective desks, drafting tables and laptops, and we're getting close enough that the final product is starting to look like something truly awesome. Here's a quick update on everything we've been up to since the last update!
Art: The last of the cosmology maps added as a stretch reward is heading into its final draft, and, like the other three that are already completed, it's beautiful. Artist Jenna Fowler has done a terrific job bringing the universes of different mythologies to life, and we can't wait to unveil the final versions when the book comes out! In the meantime, here are two of the early sketches for the Egyptian and Norse cosmology maps:
As you can see, they're going to be something well worth the wait!
Meanwhile, we had a slight setback with the deity portraits, but it was the good kind of setback where the wait let us make sure that we were really getting the quality we wanted. After sharing some sketches on our blog, we heard some feedback from modern-day worshipers of these pantheons that was way too important to ignore. Several people took the time to send us awesome messages, letting us know about important religious imagery that should not be left out of the artwork or to point out places where the artists had accidentally made a misstep, so we ended up asking the art department to redo several of the half-finished pieces. Because they are awesome troopers, they jumped right in to do so, and we hope the updated portraits will capture the spirit of the gods they portray so that everyone can enjoy them.
Alas, we can't share those particular portraits because they're back in the process, but how about this finished piece of Heimdall, Norse god who guards the rainbow bridge and will blow his horn to herald the beginning of the apocalypse?
Huge thanks and applause for Samantha and Stephanie Braithwaite, whose incredible portrait work is really making these gods come alive!
Systems: The systems for this game have been an intense part of our lives for the past month, as we make the final passes to make sure that everything works as intended and that nothing interferes or causes conflicts. Brush-ups that have recently been concluded include finally pinning down the mechanics allowing Heroes to forge important and relevant bonds with non-player characters, ensuring balance when it comes to divine favor granted to Heroes by their patrons, and streamlining the advancement system to incorporate both player-driven skill-gaining and GM-helmed advancement based on the stories told during the course of the game.
We'd love to say that there are no remaining systems kinks to be ironed out, but sadly, this is not quite the case. We're still exploring the possibility of slightly redesigning the system that allows Heroes to build or create things like their legendary crafter counterparts, and we discovered that a few things we had put in the "finished" bin could be improved with a little more time spent on them. It was already August by the time we realized that, but after a serious roundtable discussion, we decided that it was more important to be set back a week to give them another look and make sure they're as excellent as they can possibly be, rather than forever committing to the game something that could have been better.
Writing: It's a neverending stream of powers! Blessings, which are the specific powers available to Heroes when they want to do awesome stuff, make up the bulk of the content still to be completed, and we know that we can't skimp on something that's the lifeblood of the characters! Chapters having to do with the game's setting, rules for basic play and character creation have already been completed and sent off to the editing department, where they are mercilessly red-penned and made better through sheer academic rigor.
In the less crunchy department, we've had a blast over the past few weeks finalizing the idea of the Hero's Journey itself, a device for GMs to use to design mythologically resonant games, for use in a roleplaying game. It provides GMs a structure around which to build their adventures even if they aren't super experienced, and for those who have been around the block a time or two, it provides suggestions and narrative ideas that can be woven into your own campaigns as you like.
Those of you who pledged for a copy of Children of the Sun, the fiction novel being released along with the game, might be excited to hear that it is also reaching its home stretch and should be off to the editing department fairly soon. It concerns a pair of young God-Touched Heroes who have only just discovered their powers, trying to make sense of their world and fight divine forces that seem determined to keep them apart.
Playtesting: We've done a few informal playtesting sessions as we've been going along, but playtesting season is opening in earnest! Select local and virtual gaming groups have been scheduled for some critical but awesome playtime over the next few weeks, overseen by our Lead Systems Designer John, who will be paying special attention to any wrinkles in the system that he might still need to address. We are eternally grateful to everyone who is part of the playtesting process, and we hope they'll share their thoughts with us and all of you as the game unfolds!
Delays: The worst part of this update! We can now definitively announce that there will be a delay in HJ's release.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and several of them are in the update above this - needing to redesign a few systems caused a small setback, and sending some of the art back into the process necessarily required us to give the art department a few more weeks to work their magic. The added content from the stretch rewards also requires some added production time that wasn't in our original estimate, as we said it might during the campaign - the additional deities have mostly been completed and their artwork mostly processed, but the extra Spheres, Fire and Fortune, need a little more love.
We also have to admit to all of you that, since this was our first Kickstarter campaign ever, we definitely did not realize how much extra time the campaign itself would require. We spent a lot more time updating you folks and working on the Kickstarter itself than we anticipated back in June, and while we don't begrudge any of that - on the contrary, it was awesomely fun and we loved hearing from all of you! - it was something we hadn't foreseen, which is nobody's fault but ours. First-time wobbles are something we're just going to have to try to resolve as quickly as we can, and learn from so we can do better next time. (Let me tell you, I have learned some important things about trying to write a novel and a game system at the same time already...!)
However, in spite of the existence of a delay, we're still confident that it won't be a long one. We are still shooting for an autumn release, and we'll keep all of you updated on our progress as we head toward that final glorious day. And if you have questions, ask away - we're all ears! In particular, Cameron, our fabulous community manager, is always taking questions over on our forums to incorporate into official updates.
That's all from us today, but as always, feel free to keep tabs on us via our blog, where we post weekly updates of what specifically we're working on as well as recaps from playtesting and articles on mythology around the world. We'll see you there!