State of the Manse
September is one third gone already, and obviously we have not released the beta into the hands of our beta testers, although we've been playing a lot internally.
There are two reasons for this. One, the last big system, online play, isn't done yet, so internally we've been playing pass and play either in the same room or using a screen-sharing service like Join.me or Go To My PC. These work just well enough for us to use, but the experience is pretty terrible from a lag point of view - those screen sharing things are not meant for video games, even turn-based ones. So we want to wait until we have at least the basic online gateway up so people can actually play versus one another (which is the real way to play this game).
The second reason is also experience-related. The game's systems are all in place and we're having fun playing it, but it is in dire need of a user-interface polish. We know all the key-bindings and abilities by heart and can play the game with ease, but putting the current version in front of a new player has a pretty steep learning curve. From friends and family playtesting, we know most of the feedback we'll get will be to confirm a list of changes and features that we're already going to do, and which would get in the way of people's experience.
That said, time is running out, so what I'm thinking about doing is making up a detailed manual/illustrated guide for testers telling you both how to play and all the things we're already planning on changing. So, depending on how quickly the multiplayer gateway comes online in the next two weeks, we hope to get things going with the Beta then.
An important note, something I mentioned last time but want to reiterate, is that from testing and playing the game we've found the fun and it is in the versus play and not any single-player story stuff. The single-player story was not fun and is now effectively gone, supplanted by very different-playing levels designed around versus play and which are fun to play over and over again. There will be versus the AI for these maps, but as with any kind of competitive game, they will be best played against a human. The online gateway will support multiple games at once, not unlike Words With Friends or any other asynchronous online game.
Finally, the t-shirts are back from the second print run, this time with the image in the right place and the red on all of them. Almost all of them are going out in the mail today and tomorrow. The only exceptions are for those high-end supporters who also get a pen and ink caricature from Austin - he's still working on those and we want to mail the shirt and drawing together in a single package.
And that's where we're at. Working hard and coming uncomfortably close to the wire. Thanks again everyone for your patience and support.