This update is about the beta launch of Exanima but first we think we should address the elephant in the room. Why the lack of updates? What's happening with the game's development?
Let's be honest here, when we came to Kickstarter we didn't know what we were getting into, not so much in terms of development but everything else. We were excited about making the game and naive about many realities. We saw ourselves as indie devs promising to do a lot of cool new things that people would share our enthusiasm for. Our plan was to focus on the game's most unique qualities, release it and then continue work on it indefinitely after release, improving and expanding it. What we soon realised is that most people were not so willing to forgive a few flaws for the sake of the game's virtues. We would be subject to harsh criticism on all fronts and where we showed ability and quality these would only serve to make them expected everywhere. Sui Generis does not present itself as a humble game and expectations were sky high.
Our focus almost immediately shifted from just developing the game to improving everything and responding to criticism so that people would not prematurely dismiss the game. It is a very unconventional game, one that can't be described with what are usually the biggest selling points. It's unfamiliar and people don't know if they want it, they will more easily compare it to what they know and fixate it on flaws rather than understand its unique potential. This was further reinforced by our first alpha releases, our alpha backers were in large part people who believed in and understood the game but a lot of people who knew less about what they were getting into and what the game aimed to achieve were, at least initially, not as impressed.
Does this mean we've bowed to criticism and let it change our game? No. We've listened to what meant improving on what we already had, whether it was making animations more fluid and lifelike, controls more responsive, armour designs more realistic or whatever reflected our own desires for the game. It seems there's endless room for improvement and as something approaches perfection any flaws only become more apparent. For a small team with limited resources working on such an already ambitious project this has proved to be a gargantuan challenge and incredibly time consuming. Doing things well just takes a lot of time and some of Sui Generis' more ambitious and experimental features are incredibly difficult to do "well".
Is this overall a bad thing? We think not. Without so much scrutiny and feedback early in development the game would never be as good. It has evolved from something experimental and rough around the edges to something very refined. But it has been taking a lot longer. It has had the unfortunate consequence that with the game being constantly subject to new iterations and dramatic improvements we became reluctant to show it in its incomplete state. Recent months have also been a constant cycle of feedback and us making improvements, something that is not very meaningful to those that haven't experienced the game. Our insider forum is a busy place where there is constant and meaningful interaction with us developers, now we are opening the gates to this interaction for all of you.
WHAT IS THE EXANIMA BETA?
We call it a beta but really this is more indicative of what tier of backer has access to it than anything else. We've reached a level of quality and functionality that we're happy with, we've used our alpha testing period to refine core gameplay and weed out all the bugs we could find. Exanima is a prelude to a game that is still in development and our focus has been on getting the most fundamental things right and solve any issues before we start piling on more features.
The purpose of Exanima is to give all of you something to play and provide feeback on as we complete development of Sui Generis. It is also designed as a standalone game that we can release to raise further funds for the final stretch of development. It is designed as a slice of Sui Generis. It is set in the same world some 20 years earlier, it tries to convey the existence of this world beyond it and the events taking place at this time are of some importance. You could see Exanima as what a long trip into the underworld in Sui Generis might be like, we have been faithful to it in every regard.
Despite all of this it is important to remember that while Exanima could be seen as a slice of SG as an actual game it doesn't have much in common with it. It's made from the same ingredients but follows a completely different recipe. More importantly we've prepared the finest dough and baked it to perfection but we're still adding the final icing that will make it taste delicious.
Given the kind of criticism we've been subject to in the past this could be considered risky. We've been accused of focusing too much on technology and not enough on the game, an accusation that frankly we consider utterly ridiculous. In order to make exactly the game we wanted we had to develop all the technology, games are made with technology and it's all about the game. This means a lot of very large scale development goals are the reality we are confronted with. Implementing the complete gameplay front-end to this is hugely important, perhaps more important than anything else but considering what we actually had to do and implement, it is trivial. We're not saying the design of the gameplay is trivial, only its implementation.
We are as you know including all the trappings of an RPG, it is a genre that we love, we are crystal clear on what we want here and it's something we take very seriously. But we've often described ours as "world first design", what we want above all else is a world that feels real and is incredibly dynamic with an unprecedented potential for emergent behaviour. This includes complete interactivity, realistic and functional behaviours, meaning attributed to every single thing, AI making real decisions rather than following rigid scripts, physics, lighting and basically just everything being part of a real functional world rather than being symbolic of it.
So, while we hope that Exanima succeeds in conveying at least the spirit of SG please bear in mind that it is far from feature complete, there are many details and big gameplay features still missing that are hugely important to your enjoyment of the game. Despite this the game does already provide a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. More features will be coming in fast, just in the past two weeks we've added a really large amount of new and important content and features and made countless improvements. Expect the game to improve dramatically in the near future. We've been battling giants all this time and now we're just breezing through development.
In past updates we've also talked about the care we were putting into many things such as interaction, animation, the inventory system, sound, combat AI, pathfinding and many other things. Now you can see how serious we are about doing all these things right. It's easy not to notice these things but that means we've done our job well.
Finally, please note that the game has a very steep learning curve and does not yet include a tutorial. Be sure to read the user guide accessible from the main menu, experiment with the game and learn to play it. There's a lot to the game that is not immediately obvious so take your time in discovering it.
GAMEPLAY VIDEO AND NDA LIFTED
We've put a quick gameplay video up so you can all see some of the game in action. This is not a trailer intended to demonstrate features but just something to give you some idea of its current state. The footage is actually a bit out of date, but you should be seeing more recent and complete videos from players as this version is not under NDA.
To download your copy of the Exanima beta use the following link: