Just a little update to say Update 0.49: "Use of Weapons" is going live!
Here's a video of me playing a quick game:
It was a pretty intense few months to get this done. As you can imagine, switching on the colonist's emotions and social needs absolutely broke the core game-play as they all became blubbering wrecks.
Adding in the weapons was also a massive pain. Getting the colonists to hold and interact with items has been something I've been putting off for ages, and making the them work as a coordinated squad pushed the limits of the rather selfish AI needs system to the limit.
That said, the game is starting to feel good to play. The detail and complexity of the interactions really bring the colonists to life and should invest the player in the base's well being. It's a relief, as you never really know how these systems will interact with each other beyond the design phase.
Over the last few weeks I spent some time carefully combing our bug tracker and have been systematically eliminating any bugs that caused issues in the longer term game. IMPs and colonists will now work happily for hours at a time (if you can manage to keep them alive!).
Here's a trailer that shows off some of the other new features:
There's also some update notes here on the Maia blog.
So now we move on to 0.50. As I've said before, this update will bring the sandbox to a state close to being mechanically complete. That's still a tall order, but I feel this update has laid a really solid foundation for it. I'm quite looking forward to being able to start polishing in some complexity and late game surprises.
As always, drop me an email if you have any questions, requests or feedback!
It's been a busy few months. Offensively busy. But things are going well. Time for a catch up.
The studio is now properly up and running. We have a new business coordinator; Caroline, who is handling a share of the day to day parts of running things. This has freed me up a bit to focus on running the development. She's been doing a wide array of really helpful tasks, from answering key requests to filling out the wiki with lots of detail.
I've also hired Hannah, a new full time graduate level 3d artist. She's working on some new assets and reworking a few of the ones Rudi and myself had done earlier in development. If you've been following updates you've probably seen some of her work popping up in the game already.
We also had an intern, Pete, for a few weeks. I worked with him back at Bournemouth University when I was there for my doctorate and has recently been working at Ubisoft. He's helped me put together a few editors and modding tools that I'll be releasing soon.
Financially, we are doing fine, even with all these fun new fixed overheads. If we never sold another unit we could run at full strength for another six months or at a stretch over a year. That said sales are not too shabby and as my vision starts to come together I think people are going to get really excited about the game again.
As with all things development is a series of tradeoffs, you have to pick two of the following: Doing the job fast, cheap or properly. I've decided to do things cheap and properly. As other Kickstarters have completed and been a disappointment, or certain others have made something good, but then run out of cash, we are still going strong and I am resisting the temptation to throw resources (read 'money') to get this game shipped.
We did Rezzed a few months back and got a huge amount of data and player feedback on the game. People were playing for hours and hours at a time, and we looking at design issues I hadn't really seen. Working from that I reprioritised a lot of small things.
We then took the game to Minecon last week and it seems the effort of working on connecting game design loops, and fixing bugs that broke them has started to really pay off. We had several people play the game for the best part of a day, and really enjoy it. I now have a pretty clear vision of the key features that need to be focused on for 0.50.
I'm attending Develop next week. So if anyone is around Brighton and would like to catch up, give me a shout. I'll be giving a pretty dry talk about how to set up your own studio at the conference itself.
The current state of the game.
If you've played recently you've probably noticed that the game flows far better, things are starting to be a little balanced and actions have started to have a bit more depth and meaning. The UI is more.. workable (although it will be overhauled once the campaign is nailed), and interacting with the game is more engaging and satisfying.
The main issues now lie in small annoyances for the player and a lack of a longer term game for advanced bases. Once you get research up and going you don't have much of a defined challenge or purpose. Fire gutting your base, and protobirds stealing chickens is entertaining and challenging, but the lack of a large goal in a game after a few hours makes things get a little stale. (At this point a lot of the younger kids at Minecon just started to murder off their colonists one by one, but I'm hoping not all of you are closet psychopaths!)
Week after next I will be releasing 0.49. This will add a pile of smaller interactions into the game. Hopefully turning the characters from small unpredictable little drones into little characters that feel a lot more alive. It's also got the weapons in the game, and the creatures on the surface will be far more dynamic. They will breed, migrate around and fight over territory, posing an ever shifting danger to your base.
After that we have the most important milestone: 0.50. This will be the build where we start really focusing on polishing the sandbox. It will be critical at this point that the game has no major issues and that players can really get a feel for my final intent. We're aiming for a completely bug free build. If you are one of the people procrastinating this will be the one to play.
I am putting out 0.50 at the end of August. This milestone is now fixed and I will be pushing seriously hard to ensure that I hit it and we ship something that you can sit and play for ten hours in a single session and be utterly absorbed into.
Post 0.50, as you've seen before (I'll be updating our roadmap soon), the focus will be on some of the features that sit outside of the core design such as the full campaign and stand alone missions. The campaign is fully planned, and partly scripted (as in words, not code scripts) already. It will be case of building in the scenarios, that should be quite fast with a stable sandbox.
That's all for now. As always you contact me at Simon (at) maiagame.com if you have any issues, questions or suggestions.
(PS: Everyone get their Thomas Was Alone key alright?)
Firstly I have a cool new years gift for everyone in the Polokov tier and above!
A full copy of Thomas Was Alone is now claimable from your members area page (I'll open it up to the lower tiers next week, I need to write some code for the site to support it first).
It's a fun little indie game with a lot of character and I thought you, my awesome and eternally patient backers, might like a little present. :)
Next up, I delayed this update a few weeks because I had this exciting news that I was waiting to announce...
A New Office!
I finally found somewhere to base the company that I didn't immediately hate. It's a great set up right in the middle of Oxford. I can't stand office lighting, so finding somewhere with real skylight was a real stroke of luck.
It's a decent size, so I'll never have to store tonnes of poster tubes in my flat again, and we'll be able to expand if we need more heads working on the game. I'll be hiring some proper full time staff soon to take over many of the business related things I currently spent too much time doing.
This should let me focus on starting to finalise everything with the game and save me from the intense cabin fever that was going to drive me insane sooner or later.
If you've been keeping up, you'll know that we are a few weeks away from 0.47, which will be another significant update. We've got animal attacks going in, colonist emotions, new AI stuff, more objects to build and a rework of the room placement and building. The plan now is to get the entire core sandbox (0.50) nailed by around Rezzed so we can get the campaign in now.
I'm most looking forward to adding fire to the game. I did a quick test for it the other day and everything went to hell in about thirty five seconds.. It was glorious!
Here's the previous update video if you missed it:
I've booked a booth for Rezzed at Tobacco Docks in London. We've got three machines and will be in a cool little indie section with the War for the Overworld and Prison Architect crews. Come try the latest build, talk to me about the game and I might even have some sweet goodies to give away.
Forbes named me as one of their 30 under 30 in games last week. I'm very honoured to be on the list and hopefully I can leverage some of the prestige to open new doors for Maia development, or at least do a cringe worthy Ted talk or something.
If you still haven’t got your game key, please email me. Hotmail and Yahoo were terrible to us so many went to spam boxes or got deleted. If you mail email@example.com I can generally manually email you your key.
Same for poster backers. I have a pile in the office that were returned with the labels ripped off during transit. Please get in touch if you never got yours or received a damaged tube.
I'll be organising the full launch party soon. It will be located in central Oxford, probably around late spring. Keep an eye on these updates for more info.
It's been a while since I put together a written update on here. How are you all?
Some good news! I've been nominated for a Develop award in the category of “Best Microstudio”. It's cool to be recognised and put forward for it although I don't rate my chances against Chucklefish and Vlambeer!
Since I'll be at the awards, I decided to make use of my trip down to Brighton to attend the Develop conference too. This means I may be slow at dealing with your emails until Friday. My general plan for the event is to heckle the talks of sweaty men in cheap, ill fitting suits, but I'll also be using the opportunity to meet and interview a few developers and artists that I am thinking of hiring to help me on Maia. Which leads us on to:
Now that the game has a good flow of income I've decided to expand into an evil megacorp. I'm looking at getting some proper office space in Oxford center along with some full time and part time employees to inhabit it. It's a big step and is stressful beyond measure. It will however let us increase the development output rapidly once I have it up and running. After that we can focus our efforts on building electric sheep.
Development is moving forward slowly and by no means steadily. The next updates will have some substantial improvements and new features. A new room, new creatures, a reworked research system and hundreds of new animations to bring the agents in the game to life. I've also been improving the code quality substantially and are now including performance issues into the QA so we can focus on solid playability on all systems.
By the end of the summer I will be locking down the core sandbox experience so we can focus on the games campaign and the dreaded 1.00 release to complete the first iteration of the game. Paul is already writing the first drafts of the script and we will be spending a lot of time ensuring that we create something interesting with a bit of depth.
That's it for now. As always, email me with any questions or problems or missing keys!