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Realistic single-player RPG set in the medieval Europe. Open-world sandbox with period accurate melee combat. Dungeons & no Dragons.
35,384 backers pledged £1,106,371 to help bring this project to life.

Got a cloning device?

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Another month gone (tempus fugit – it feels more like a week) and it’s once again time for an info update. I’ll begin with practical news – new tiers have been added to our website, so if you want to support us, you can now pledge up to King level and get a beautiful handmade woodblock print, a (real) silver coin, a t-shirt, an action figure and other goodies. King is limited and there are only about 250 pieces left.

We have also launched an official Wiki page in collaboration with IGN and information about the game will be gradually added there. 

Looking at the crowd of backers with a surprise
Looking at the crowd of backers with a surprise

So now back to telling you about how the development of Deliverance is progressing. Although it looks from the previous blogs that the work is going without a hitch, the time has come to cool down a little and look at all the stuff that is not going so great and that we’re seriously struggling with. Not that I want to make us look like incompetent amateurs and lead you to a state of despair, but I think you will be interested to know about all the things we come up against.

Sustainable growth

As you may have gathered from the previous posts, Warhorse has doubled in size in the last two months from less than 30 people to 60 of us. The new recruits came not only from our own little country, but also from the US (even from Bethesda), Poland and Sweden. So theoretically we can now do twice as much work. The problem, though, is that work on a game is based on the design document. Naturally, our original plan was to write the design as we went along. According to the design, the core features were supposed to be designed first and as the designs gradually expanded we would take on more people as needed.

Walking around our future offices (Curtesy of Ondrej Malota)
Walking around our future offices (Curtesy of Ondrej Malota)

But our situation in the last, quite dramatic year drew a stroke through our budget. Since I was looking for money and shooting the Kickstarter video instead of designing, our design document has a few, quite significant gaps and even though I am now far from alone on the job (there are eight of us now), it is only coming together as a whole very slowly. The new people have to be trained, we all have to get on the same page, write the design in the same way, set up a system of work and define patterns of how we will write so that other people apart from us will be able to find their way in it, and all of that is demanding. Especially when, like me, you have to roll in front of you a massive boulder of backlog stuff.

Got a cloning device? 

Don’t get me wrong. Our design runs to several hundred pages - we don't pull the game out of thin air. Most of the features are described down to the minutest detail. Only then a situation come along where you are desperately trying to write the last few missing, but quite important features for the programmers, the designers meanwhile are working on lacking craft mechanisms and in the middle of it all ten new graphic and concept designers are asking for assignments. But to assign work to the graphic guys, you first have to read and comment the crafting design from the designers, which after two weeks of work by six people “surprisingly” runs to a hundred pages, and that you cannot read in five minutes.

Fisherman decides to cook a fish (eventually)
Fisherman decides to cook a fish (eventually)

So you make an agreement with the graphic artists that instead of creating assets for minigames they should first design situation plans and white boxes of the villages on the map and then start on the crafting next week after you've done your review. During the course of the revision, however, you discover that some of the designers haven’t quite gotten the idea of how the crafting should look, that two very similar activities from two different designers have completely different controls, and you will have to go over it with them, redo it and add some stuff that you didn't think of when conceiving the crafting, but turn out to be quite fundamental obstacles to its functionality. 

So in the end it turns out that the graphic guys have to wait a week longer and the designing of features and handling the backlog will have to wait, too. The Boulder of Sisyphus has rolled back a bit. And then when you've finished all the crafting and show it to the programmers, they throw their hands up and tell you it can’t be done like that and they’re not going to waste two months of work on some nonsense like cooking and we should go and simplify it. So the graphic designers... 

Plan 

Along comes anarchy, which in the majority of game studios is on the daily agenda and to some extent is inevitable in something as complicated as game development, but which I honestly hate. Especially when it is I who am the main cause of it, and the fact that our woes of last year had a lot to do with it and everything would be different if things had gone according to plan doesn’t change anything. What’s done is done. At our regular leader sessions the heads of the individual departments complain that I ignore them and they feel like the ship is tossing in the waves without a helmsman. 

Anarchy takes over our office while compiling! (Curtesy of Jan Smejkal)
Anarchy takes over our office while compiling! (Curtesy of Jan Smejkal)

So for the last month we have been gradually establishing order and trying to get into a routine. We updated our roadmap. We started fundamentally reworking the planning system and since we use agile planning, we even had a guy here from Hansoft to help us set up the right processes. Even that did not go ahead without shouting matches, because even though agile planning is great for programmers, planning design and its implementation in it is something like writing the script of a big-budget movie while shooting. It happens sometimes, but it’s not OK. Here, too, we had to work out complicated compromises and hopefully we’ve done that. Only now we have to update our entire backlog. And my Boulder of Sisyphus rolls back another little bit… 

Don’t count your chickens 

There’s one more thing that is bothering me quite a bit just now - I have to constantly keep my eyes on the ball. The problem with Kickstarter projects is that you are promising something that’s not ready yet and you are making that promise at a time when even with the best planning in the world you can never be quite sure that everything you’re planning and everything you would like to have in the game will succeed in happening. When you’re planning a game of such massive dimensions, even with a crystal ball you can’t have 100% certainty. 

A game on the scale of Deliverance has thousands of graphic assets and animations, hundreds of features that have to be programmed and thousands of lines of script, and all these incomplete things influence each other. To assess at the beginning of development how long some asset will take to program and how easy it will be to program some feature is simply impossible and so there’s no choice but to estimate, refine the estimates during the course of development and if they don’t add up, then make cuts or extend the development and make it more costly. Obviously, from previous experience your estimation gets more precise, but it's still an estimate and usually at a time when the person who's going to do the job in question isn't even working in the firm yet and the technology you want to use for it has yet to be programmed. 

While in the case of a commonplace game you go and peddle your wares a few months before publication, when all the chaos is pretty much behind you and it’s clear to you what you will succeed in implementing and what you can still get done in the six months left to publication, in the case of Kickstarter the most you can do is show a prototype and your plans. Of course it’s not written anywhere those plans will succeed and experience tells you that all too often they don't succeed. Just look at stuff like Broken Age, Wasteland, Divinity and Star Citizen and their original estimated schedules. 

Feature freak 

By keeping my eyes on the ball I mean not getting dazzled by your own awesomeness and coming up with more and more new ingenious features before you realize that to implement them you would need a five times bigger team and budget and double the time. Then comes the cold shower, the crossing out and the annoyed fans who didn't get what you promised them. The more new people joined our team, the more ingenious ideas there were about how to improve just about everything or add some awesome new thing. 

At the same time, the basis and main features alone are a big enough mouthful for a team of our size. It’s up to me, then, to curb the over-optimism and ban the addition of new stuff. Sometimes it’s a real battle (with myself). When you know something would really improve the game, you can hardly try to think up a worse way of doing it to make it easier, especially when the people who would be working on the feature in question are enthusiastic about it and try to persuade you that there’s plenty of time for it. There isn't. 

Just today we were talking about how cool it would be if the player could have the job of innkeeper. He would simply take over from the NPC innkeeper, the other NPCs would give him orders and he would bring them beer. We already have it all in the game, so why not add that? Well, maybe because the NPC innkeeper has precisely defined places to stand when he puts the beers on the tables, while the player can come from anywhere and it would look ugly if we didn’t have extra animation (extra work) for it, so we’d have to deal with all sorts of new situations. Like for example if the player ignored an order, which the innkeeper never does (extra work), how the player pulls the beers at all (GUI, animation and extra work) and lots of other things, and so we immediately dropped the subject - to the great chagrin of the designers and scripters who came up with the idea. 

Where is Henry heading now?
Where is Henry heading now?

Right now we are in a situation where we have most of the stuff written, recruited the people and now we’ll see whether we can get the written stuff implemented as fast as we thought we could. And if we don't get it done fast enough, we'd have to simplify or move to the next act, and you probably wouldn't like it... 

That’s the big drawback with presenting a project too soon.

What to do?

I wouldn't want it to look like I’m just crying here over my own incompetence, so I better share with you what we intend to do about it. The design, which so far has been the biggest stumbling block, is finally getting to a desirable stage. The stacks of notes I’ve accumulated over the last few months are gradually getting integrated into the design. Hopefully we will finish the remaining unwritten of the design this month. It seems we may have finally sorted out our writing system. It might seem like a trivial task, but drafting an open world RPG is really a lot more complicated than writing a linear script. Multiple NPCs have the same dialogues, the quests are composed of smaller fragments and roles and all of that has somehow top be processed symmetrically so everyone is on the same page and nothing is being unnecessarily done twice over. 

We also scripted dozens of events for the world and activities that the player will be able to do outside of the quests. As soon as we’re finished with all of that we will get stuck into the final versions of the quests, the scripters will start working on them and the graphic artists will compose the world according to their requirements. 

So keep your fingers crossed for us and I sincerely hope that the list of things we planned that will not end up in the game will be as short as possible :-)

Dan Vávra, Creative Director

Comments

    1. Creator Philipp Wagner on June 12, 2014

      Thank you for sharing an honest report of the current situation!
      Keep on the great work! :)

    2. Creator Dean Thrasher on June 9, 2014

      Thanks for sharing the process with us. Making games -- especially ambitious ones like this -- is a complicated undertaking. Sometimes the constraints and compromises are what spur creativity.

    3. Creator Daniel L. Kovacs on June 7, 2014

      Dan, your approach is brilliant. I am most confident in your and your team's abilities. Best of luck to you all, and keep it coming!! :DDD
      Dan (from Hungary:)

    4. Creator Ted on June 7, 2014

      I've been working on a project by myself for a few months shy of 2 years now and things in game development Always take longer than expected. Now considering you're pushing the boundaries of what has ever been done before add even more time as you stumble through it on top of trying to get a new team up and running smoothly together.

    5. Creator GoneJackalsLegacy on June 6, 2014

      Excellent post - it shows how complex and difficult it is to create a complete game.

      I pledged to that project because I believed in the devteam, and I was not disappointed: honesty and pragmatism are clearly there.

      I know how hard it is to axe out entire features and ideas, but that's always something you have to do. Focusing on what the game should be, its core, and not just what the game "could" be (if there was infinite money, time, people), is the most important thing - I know you people can do it.

      Keep on rocking Warhorse Studios, you will make that game and it will be good !

    6. Creator ProtonAx on June 6, 2014

      What?!? Your programmers balked at coding your complex cooking mechanics? Tell them they must now implement vomiting and diarrhea simulations to go with the food poisoning the player will now suffer!

      Seriously, though, good luck managing the chaos until you can get your game design documents finalized.

    7. Creator Lukas on June 6, 2014

      Sounds like standard startup / new project problems.

    8. Creator Lirsumis on June 6, 2014

      Hey guys, take your time! The people interested in this project are interested because we're deeply passionate about the subject matter and hungry for a game that hits those keys for us. Don't feel rushed, make it right.

      I'd probably back again if you guys ended up needing a second round of funding in the future.

    9. Creator Theobeau:OOoE\Mad man with a box/Exiled on June 6, 2014

      Like most commentators here, we backers appreciate updates that are honest and direct about delays and timeline issues.

      Also, very informative regarding the process of making what should still be a great game.

      Cheers!

    10. Creator 'Yngvald' aka HannesFury on June 6, 2014

      Glad to see game developers are also humans. Surprises!

    11. Creator Conrad Schmidt on June 6, 2014

      In tune with everyone else who honoured your honesty: Creating something, anything on this scale is ridiculously complex. Every person working on budget games or movies that's not a public speaker will tell you the same, after a beer or two. But they'll also tell you how they love it nonetheless.
      Just take your time, I can wait.

    12. Creator David Andrew Reeves on June 6, 2014

      Well an idea is just that, putting this into motion is why not everyone makes games. Thanks for an honest, open, and interesting insight to what is happening!

      For me, it's done when it's done.

    13. Creator Morrandir on June 6, 2014

      Thanks for the honesty, Dan. It's deeply appreciated. :-)
      Just take the time you need and make an awesome game. There will be delays, and that's ok.

    14. Creator Алексей Озеров on June 6, 2014

      :) How about - Help the Innkeper side quest/mini game?

      He got many guests and You just bring him news, that his helper was eaten by wolves.
      Player must took orders from guests and bring back their correct orders - in correct orders and didnt drop off it by the way. May be help - non violent with too drunk and aggressive guest - and may be if its good with pickpocket got some additional money :)

      BTW - and what about some "hot coffee" ;) if avatar is women and there is nice bard or travelling knight between guests?

    15. Creator Oliver Kitzing on June 6, 2014

      Great update.

      Keep up your honesty about the process... because this is just what I want to read! :)

      Game development with all its pitfalls and problems... If I were you, I wouldn't be concerned with "bothering" your backers with your problems.. (or announcing a delay.. such a big game project without a significant delay would be.. well... someting like a "orld wonder" I guess) because this is - for me at least - the reason I do "kickstarting".. because I want to be part of the process.. with all its problems which may arise.

      Regarding "Feature Creep": Really, don't let all the "good ideas" which come up now creep into the project.. I mean, I'm not a game dev or project lead, but I think this is as in many other projects I've participated in.. there is a time - "agile" project or not - where you have to say "it's enough.." and I'm sure that you know this (of course), but it's so hard to say "no"... :D But be strong, someone has to say it... ;)

      And believe me, the "innkeaper idea" is just such an idea which "sounds cool on paper", even where some backers would say ("Ohhh.. cooool! We NEED that!") but which takes a ton of extra work to be made and only a few, if anybody, would use this feature for more than 2 days....

    16. Creator LuckyLuigi on June 6, 2014

      Any group programming effort is inevitably a descent into madness. Nice xkcd reference :P http://xkcd.com/303/

    17. Creator Lord Veldrin on June 6, 2014

      thanks for the great update, it was an interesting read... anyways, there are going to be Acts 2 and 3 (at least i really really hope so), so maybe you will be able to add the features like inkeeping there =)

    18. Creator ElfFriend on June 6, 2014

      Perhaps some of these ideas can make their way into KCD in the form of stretch goals. Anyways don't rush KCD. I rather have a completed experience than an early game that requires several months of patching to be playable. I didn't back KCD to get an EAed game :P

    19. Creator k2_8191 on June 5, 2014

      Three things I would like to say:
      * Thank you for your honesty. Capitalism tends to disvalue that...
      * I hope you are focusing on core gameplay and extensibility. Good games have a solid fundamental, IMO.
      * Potential "Further Reading" for everyone who come here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month

    20. Creator Sviatoslav Bogachev on June 5, 2014

      I like this type of DevDiary more than other.
      It's always nice to look deeper into Game Dev process, in all it parts.

    21. Creator 9LittleBees on June 5, 2014

      Thanks for your openness. One of the great things about crowd funding games is that a profit driven publisher is not there demanding a poor quality product which is on time. We all want the best game you can make, even if it is late, so please do not sacrifice on quality to try and meet your original dates. That said, feature creep will seriously destroy your timescales, so it's good to read that you are resisting the temptations (innkeeper).

    22. Creator Bruno de Bernardy on June 5, 2014

      Are you trying to say delays will happen? It happens everywhere and not only in games. Dates are just goals and goals are made to be changed.
      I would suggest to focus first on a great story, game system and mechanics more than details like being a bar tender for the first part. And with the second part of the game add these funny features (but make them compatible with the first part!!)

    23. Creator Paul Jackson on June 5, 2014

      Great update. The clarity and honesty with which you describe the development process is admirable, and will be familiar to many of your backers. I have confidence you will make the right decisions; and so should you. From the comments here, backers will understand both a delay in the schedule, and the need to trim features. Even if I would _really_ like to have been that innkeeper;)
      The reality is (and I am sure you must realise this already) is that we fans and backers will accept most decisions that are made transparently and in good faith.
      Hodně štěstí

    24. Creator Senne Van den Abbeele on June 5, 2014

      I've never felt so much depth to the explanation, reasoning and honesty of developers problems and knowing about it actually makes me feel confident that everything will be okay in the end. It beats being surprised with belated, meager excuses when release dates gets set back a month before release in other game developments. In any case, if the game will be as realistic as you are when faced with obstructions like the design or the time to implement (or not to implement) crazy things like becoming the barkeep then I don't mind if the wait is a bit longer at all!

    25. Creator Helena on June 5, 2014

      Sounds like you're having a major problem with 'feature creep'. :-P Tbh, I'm a little surprised that people are still proposing new features at this stage in development. This is just an opinion, but I think you should cut some of the extraneous 'sandbox' features if they're eating up time and resources - the innkeeper thing being a good example. I'm sure it would be fun to take over NPCs' jobs like that, but ultimately the game we pledged for was an RPG, not 'The Sims: 1403 Bohemia'.

    26. Creator Arian on June 5, 2014

      So well written, you may consider write the story dialogs yourself :-) Just kidding, this was one interesting read and the reactions I see show how mature your community is. After the money this is another awesome gift and I hope you keep up your good work and honesty to keep showing appreciation to your fans.
      I think most of us know that being in charge isn't easy all the time.

    27. Creator Redsnorf on June 5, 2014

      As with Mikhail I'm really just agreeing with existing sentiments. I really don't care about the release date: produce something excellent and release it when it's ready. Leave the on-time mediocrity to the regular industry publishers: we backed you on kickstarter precisely for a riskier shot at something great and novel.

      Also honest status updates are great. I'm really excited for the game and excited that Warhorse will make it happen. ^_^

    28. Creator Mikhail Aristov on June 5, 2014

      Gonna agree with other people: honesty is the best way to approach a KS update. :)

    29. Creator Last95 on June 5, 2014

      Vynikající update!

      Chválím za upřímnost!

      Myslím, že naprostá většina backerů si raději počká na
      vymazlenou hru, než aby mohli hrát nějakou nedodělávku o půl roku dřív..

    30. Creator Ondrej Stasek on June 5, 2014

      Good luck with your agile planing :) Not easy to focus on core with all the people around wantinh something :D

    31. Creator Khalaq on June 5, 2014

      Excellent update! D

      I know there's always the temptation to pretend that "everything is fine, really," but there will always be difficulties to overcome. What inspires confidence in your backers is being open and honest about such hurdles (which you've done) while making it appear that you have a plan of action to get past those hurdles (which you've also done). It seems to me that you have your priorities straight, you are making headway in organizing and adapting to all of the changes that have come along, and there is still progress being made toward the end goal of a finished game.

      Keep up the good work! )

    32. Creator David Ross Watson on June 5, 2014

      Please keep telling it like it is. I rarely read the in-depth developer updates from most of the projects I've backed. You are the exception to that.
      Good and done is better than perfect and rushed - keep that focus on the core mechanics of gameplay and I'm sure you'll blow us away with that alone.
      Post release you can always release DLC for the awesome ideas you can't afford to pursue now.
      Thanks for the honesty and see you next month!

    33. Creator Jozern on June 5, 2014

      Cheers for hearing more how the things are going. I can't even imanige the workload. I feel that you should F the deadlines. There is NO reason to rush a game the size and complexity as Deliverance. It was clear from the get go that KCD would be a child that needs nurture and time. We know this and are here to cheer you on. Keep being honest and you will never loose your backers.

    34. Creator Pavel Míča on June 5, 2014

      Taky si radši počkám, tak jako spousta jiných pod touto aktualizací. Díky za poctivé aktualizace a když bude vývoj o pul roku víc trvat, nevadí.

    35. Creator Peter Lykke on June 5, 2014

      Hang in there, man!

    36. Creator Doyle Clemence on June 5, 2014

      Thanks for the great update. As with others, I appreciate an honest update. I also prefer to wait for a finished product that wasn't rushed just to meet a deadline. Deadlines are important and I've backed other companies that pushed them too far to be reasonable. From this update alone, I feel that I can trust your judgement on what would be a reasonable new deadline. Good luck and keep up the good work (and great updates!).

    37. Creator Dawn_ on June 5, 2014

      Always such interesting update Mr. Vàvra, it is always a pleasure to read you.

    38. Creator Pavel Stangel on June 5, 2014

      As long as you remain honest Dan, I don't mind waiting at all. Delay can be a good thing, as long as funds exist.

    39. Creator Jethro_E7 on June 5, 2014

      Getting the basic things in place are really important and much more efficient in the long run. Growing a team is not easy, get the advice & support you need. :)

    40. Creator Cameron Usman on June 5, 2014

      Just don't get bogged down by stuff that doesn't matter. Make sure the game is fun to play (controls and interfaces) and getting that right should be #1 priority. Since it is an open world sandbox, #2 priority should be having a soundtrack that is something the player wont tire of even as they spend time exploring and doing whatever. It doesn't have to be many varieties of tracks. Think Skyrim (just a few amazing tracks, with one iconic track and multiple variations). None of the rest of the game mechanics and systems matter if it isn't fun to control, and doesn't have a good soundtrack.

    41. Creator Weresheep of Sin AKA Stefan on June 5, 2014

      Waiting a bit longer for an awesome game? No problem here ...

    42. Creator Eli Yang on June 5, 2014

      I rather have a perfect game than a rushed imperfect game. :D
      Also looking amazing.

    43. Creator Thomas Reus on June 5, 2014

      Hang on to the really great ideas, you'll have time to implement some of them into acts II & III.

    44. Creator Christopher on June 5, 2014

      Take your time on the project, better late than rushed and unfinished

    45. Creator Emirhan Ekşioğlu on June 5, 2014

      Don't worry about a thing! Time is not a problem for true gamers who value work and effort. I'd rather have a beautiful game after waiting years than a half ***ed piece of crap. We the backers backed this project with full knowledge of the risks. It is not the un-intelligent people that whine for a fast release that you are making this game for. It is the ones that want to see it in all its glory. Keep up the good work all of you!

    46. Creator Phil Rau on June 5, 2014

      I would rather wait for a better game than get a worse experience right on time. I think I am not alone here. Don't be afraid to push your timeline back in order to make something really good.

    47. Creator Alexander Fevola on June 5, 2014

      Take your time guys we can wait a bit longer.

    48. Creator Jethro_E7 on June 5, 2014

      I understand that you recently shared technology with Star Citizen, which was pretty amazing! Well done, as a Star Citizen backer, as well as this project, I want to see this partnership help you. Please be sure to touch base with CIG and get some additional support from CR as to how he has structured the design teams so that you get something smooth operating. Have someone from there fly out for a week / few days if they can be spared and get your team up and running as a specialist. Good Luck! This is a game I want to see made!

    49. Creator Senchaholic on June 5, 2014

      I love, LOVE, your honest updates. So you're having some challenges. I'm confident, since you're aware of these issues, that you'll be able to, if not get rid of, then mitigate their effect on the project.

    50. Creator David Sullivan on June 5, 2014

      We've got faith in you guys to adjust on the fly. Keep cranking and we'll wait patiently.