It seems our slated programmer is proving to be behind schedule in joining us... He will potentially be off of his current project and able to join us by the end of the year...
I would like to reiterate at this time that we are dedicated to seeing this project through, despite delays.
I spoke with Hiro and we have decided we just cannot afford to wait any longer. Our guy may still join us but we need to make some progress now.
I am putting out a call to any Unreal programmers who may be able to help us out. We are, of course, offering compensation but involvement would be contingent upon showing previous work, portfolio, etc. and interviews. We have a few dev friends we are hoping can help source but we would be happy to consider any recommendations our backer community could point to. Comment here or send a message with any viable leads.
We really need programmers with experience because we do not have time for someone to learn on the fly. We have waited too long already.
We know there are many of you who will support us in this decision and we need your continued encouragement to do our best and put out the game that we envisioned. We WILL get programmers on this project and we WILL complete this game.
In keeping with our stance to provide more frequent updates, even when there is not much to communicate, I just wanted to check-in.
As stated before, we are hoping to have the programming delay cleared up by the end of this month and then we can start giving dates on when we should see more content. Look for another update end of October/beginning of November.
In the meantime, I will be working to get some interviews with the devs, whatever they are willing and able to share, and any other content I can get my hands on.
I didn’t see their names on the list but are Kevin Penkin and Tomoki Miyoshi still on the project?
Kevin is no longer involved but Tomoki is still involved.
Do any of the Project Phoenix artists have pixiv or Deviant Art accounts?
Is Project Phoenix the final name?
No, but you will certainly hear about the new name (once we have it) here first.
Update on the programming situation:
We should be able to nail down contracts by late October and then we can begin scheduling out the rest of the work.
Here are some finished models from Act I as rendered in Unity. While the models are complete, everything else is not, such as lighting, textures, etc. and obviously also no animations or effects. They will also ultimately be rendered in Unreal 4 which may or may not make much difference in appearance.
Hi folks, here is what I have so far. I will continue to procure info and assets as I can.
Please take your time to assimilate all of the info here into a cohesive whole. If you have questions, finish the article, and if still not sated then hit up the comments and I will do my best to answer. It’s going to be a wall of text so bear with me until the end.
Now let’s dive into some of the more detailed info for the state of the game and where everything sits today as well as the future direction and timeline for the game development. GO!
State of the Game
100% Scenarios (Main battles and story elements for Acts 1-5)
90% Game Design (combat mechanics are designed and programmed with the exception of the threat system)
80% Overall models (all base models are done which includes characters and environment - variant models are left to do)
70% Overall animations (90% humanoid animations are done)
0% Script (text for the game)
0% Unreal 4 executable (sandbox used to create the game) - this is the main thing we need a programmer for
0% Level Design (“physically” building the world, placement of objects and characters, lighting, and scripting) - obviously this cannot happen until we have the executable
0% Particle Effects
5% Sound Effects
0% VO (dependent on script and casting)
0% Localization (mostly dependent on script)
?% Music - 80 minutes of unlooped music is composed (JRPGs usually have 90 minutes) - still needs to go through post production/arrangement and recording
We have made progress but still have a lot of work to do. A lot of the groundwork has been laid (i.e. base models) which is a majority of the work, time-wise. Once this is done, theoretically the rest of the work will go smoothly and quickly.
0% is kind of harsh to say on some of those things but I would rather be conservative at this point until we see some results. Yes, after 2 years there should be more to show but I will go into the reason below...
So what happened? What’s going on? Why the delay? Why such a long delay?
The short answer is: Programming. Programming was listed on the KS page as one of our major risks to the project and we got hit by it. We were holding off for a specific person and ultimately they could not join us. Now we have to get a replacement(s).
The long answer is: the Project Phoenix development was hinging on one major programmer to bring the project to a point where others could begin their in-game work. Obviously, that did not work out. The programmer’s involvement got delayed and therefore the game was delayed respectively. Now he has been removed from the project altogether and we are working to get a replacement(s) in as soon as possible. The replacement programmer(s) will be paid to do the work until the game is done, unlike the original staff’s arrangement which is based on royalties (i.e. they don’t get paid until the game is done and starts selling - and no, this is not the same as volunteering) but this will be paid out of CIA’s company account and not the KS funds.
Unfortunately, we are not able to solidify the replacement programmer(s) contract until the end of October 2015 which means that there will be not much to show in terms of in-game assets until closer to the end of the year.
Why rely so heavily on one programmer?
It’s not unheard of and happens more often than you might think. Especially for Indie projects like this one. The other game he was working on, Ori and the Blind Forest, was also mostly programmed by him and there was no reason to suspect he could not do the same for Project Phoenix. David Clark is a very talented programmer and any team would be lucky to have him involved.
Why wait so long?
This was a production decision and it should have been better and/or more explicitly communicated. We wanted him to be able to be involved but, at this point, we have had to move on. We hope to be more communicative going forward. If we are waiting on things, we will let you know. I will put out an update every so often and address development status.
After all of that, why switch game engines? Doesn’t that set you back even further?
The decision to switch game engines was made for two reasons. 1) The programmer we had been hoping to work with was very well versed with Unity but once we lost him we had no particular reason to stick with it and 2) Unreal 4 natively offers much more robust tools for development than Unity and it would have actually been more time consuming to stick with Unity sans our original programmer than to switch and have a plethora of tools immediately at our disposal.
Budget & Funds
It was stated on the KS page that “all funds raised through Kickstarter will go towards making the 3D models and making sure they’re as polished as possible” which not only tells us what the original purpose of the KS was but also where most of the budget comes into play. Granted, once you have a KS, you then have to consider funding production and shipping all of the rewards which is now the most sizable item in the budget.
Once the KS reached above its goal then we started putting other items in the budget.
Here is the money we pulled in from the KS campaign (approximated):
and its rough allocation in the budget:
Note: <$200,000 of what we have pulled in has been spent so we still have a majority of the funds left for finishing the game and producing the rewards. A lot of this has to do with the fact that most of the team is working under a royalty contract and are not being paid with the KS funds.
AAA refers to the staff involved and the collective resume they bring to the table. Final Fantasy titles, Dragon Quest titles, Halo, etc. etc.
AAA does not refer to the budget or perceived look of the game in any way. Nor does it exclude the development team from setbacks and delays.
$1,000,000 is a small game budget by today’s standards. Especially one which features fully modeled 3D characters and ~60 hours worth of gameplay (Acts 1-5) along with a renowned music composer. Also, keep in mind only about half of that is being used for the game development (some is taken as fees from the facilitating agencies) and a good portion (almost half) is used for rewards and shipping.
It was stated on the KS page that the development team “have taken time out of their personal schedule to contribute their expertise towards Project Phoenix's success” along with a line from the FAQ stating, “each of our members are professionals in their own field, they do not require a salary right now, and so, are donating their time and effort into developing Project Phoenix” which communicates that these developers are working “in their spare time” to produce this game.
They have day jobs they need to attend to but ultimately want to create this project on their own time and will see it through, even with delays and budgetary constraints. This in turn means though, that we are not dependent on additional funding outside of paying for the 3D modeling. Development will roll on until we are done; delays and all.
It was stated on the KS page that this game would be “a SQUAD-BASED, REAL-TIME STRATEGY GAME combined with strong Japanese RPG design influences”. Let’s break that down based on the intentions of the team.
Small group(s) of characters with specialized roles
Primary Influence: Many RPG classics with class assignments and small party of characters
Not turn based (i.e. everything moves/acts at the same time) and requiring some amount of micromanagement
Primary Influence: Warcraft 3
Strong story and characters, great boss battles, itemization and skill progression, grinding for xp, items, etc.
Primary Influence: Final Fantasy
In regard to all of this, I think the game is progressing along these lines. It could have been communicated better but here we are. Let’s work together to make it the best we can.
It was also stated that players will “experience the strategic options without being bogged down by overwhelming archaic battle systems” which communicates an effort to eschew traditional JRPG game mechanics and systems. There is character progression in skills, items, talents, and stats but these systems are relatively simple. The pitch video also asks “wasn’t there more to JRPGs than just flashy graphics and ever-changing battle systems?”. Project Phoenix set out to do something different from the onset.
It was stated on the KS page “Art that balances Western functionality with Japanese aesthetics” and “A JRPG primarily built for a worldwide audience, not just Japan“ which communicates that, although based on those things, we are trying something new. The risk when doing so is that it may not resonate or be well received with everyone but, it *will* be our own.
Also, under Staff, Asami Hagiwara is listed as SD artist. SD stands for “super deformed” aka “chibi” and, under the Art section, “In-game battle sequences will make use of super-deformed characters”. There are also examples of concepts of “in-game 3D model reference” in the chibi style.
All roles and responsibilities are accounted for by existing staff.
Nobuo Uematsu - Music
Yoko Enoki - Scenarios
Gontaro - Lead artist, Art Supervisor, Art Director
Take-B - Character/Monster Design
Yoko Tsukamoto - Monster Design
Koya Takahashi - Lead Cinematic Artist
Koji Moriga - Concept Art Designer
Asami Hagiwara - SD (super deformed) Character Design
Steffen Unger - 3D Character Modeler
Yumiko Sugihara - 3D Environment Modeler
John Kurlander - Sound Engineer (interested but would need to hit stretch goal)
Rene Paulesich - German Localization
Phil - German Localization
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi - Sound FX
Yasutaka Matsubara - Animator
Takaharu Matsuo - In-Game Art Direction
Those that have left have done so because they 1) became too busy, 2) Hiro bought out their share, or 3) there were creative differences in vision for the project.
Any role left vacant by these individuals is being engaged by existing staff or we have people lined up that we cannot announce yet.
Vaughan Smith - Game Design
Bill Benfield - Script Editor
Donna Burke - Casting, VO, Singing
Kiyoshi Arai - Art Director
Larry Oji - Community Team
Cronus - Community Team
So what about the staff “security breach”?
This was not a “security breach” in the sense that data was hacked or compromised. Rather it had to do with breach of protocol and locking down the KS account from the CIA team. We had to contact KS to reclaim our account. Everything with regard to this is resolved now.
Moving Forward and Next Steps
As stated before, we need to move forward from here, be more communicative, and stress getting actual content in your hands. Development is still underway, although slow, but the main contributors are still very much involved and interested in bringing this game to the light of day.
I hope I have helped clarify some major questions but I will be happy to help answer any others.
I would like to thank and appreciate all of the positive feedback we have received as well. We aim to complete this game with our vision intact and we hope you all enjoy it as well. It will take a bit of time but we will get there.
I will focus on getting more content in-hand but obviously I cannot get much until we resolve the programmer issue and get an executable and begin importing game assets and "physically" building the world.
I also have plans for some dev diaries which I need to line up. I really liked how Harebrained Schemes did some of theirs for Shadowrun: Hong Kong so I will see if I can get some people to talk about their work.
As noted previously, this is a post of all the test videos. These were created March of 2015 in the Unreal 4 engine. I hope to get some real content in ASAP so stay tuned.
They are not representative of the final assets or gameplay but will help give an idea for how the mechanics work. They can be boring and a bit technical. I am not providing any explanation so feel free to ask questions in the comments.