Welcome, welcome, once again, young Initiates! Please gather in the Reading Hall and calmly take your seats while we recount to you the latest happenings in the land of Iginor.
Update on Alpha/Beta Status
A.L.F. is the Alpha Alien Life Form, eating Alfalfa while driving his Alfa Romeo. What does this have to do with Mage's Initiation? Nothing at all! But it sort of rhymes with the topic of today's discussion (and also fills in some extra space which doesn't hurt).
So, what's the news? Well, we've been working feverishly on prepping the game for its alpha release! And while we had anticipated being able to release said alpha build this month (and have made incredible progress to that end), Himalaya's involvement at GDC set things back just a tad, and we still have some loose ends to tie up before it can be deemed 100% fit for backer consumption. In other words: we're *almost* there, but there are a few trouble-spots remaining that we still need to clear up: stubborn bugs, some textual dialog that needs tweaking, a handful of graphical placeholders in need of updating, and some missing functionality that we'd prefer to get in-place, so that everyone has an optimal game-play experience. Our aim is to get the alpha looking as close as possible to a preliminary beta, prior to release. For the past fortnight, Chris and Daniel have been playing through the game, sequentially, with each class and noting down all the adjustments/fixes to be made and then hitting all of the entries on these very long-lists until they're all checked off. These play-tests are typically day (and nearly) night-long processes, but it's a great feeling to finish each one, knowing that every time, the game is that little bit more refined and closer to completion!
Normally, the aforementioned things may not prevent an alpha release (people expect there to be rough edges in an alpha build, after all), but due to the way the AGS engine easily invalidates player save-games if certain types of changes are made after mass release (i.e. when patching/updating the game) -- usually anything related to adding new graphics, animations, sounds/music -- we really need to take some time to be forward-thinking, in an attempt to preserve player's alpha save-games for as long as possible. Because once we release the build, there'll be no going back! Or rather, there will, but it will break everyone's save-games and force them to start over. Due to this consideration, we need to take measures to preempt such issues, by adding reserved 'placeholder' assets into the game's source, which can be overwritten at a later stage, if needs be, without breaking anything. We just don't want to rush this out the door, without having considered all the possibilities where the game could break save-games, post-alpha release. We also want to fix all of the outstanding bugs that are already known to the dev team. We fear that releasing an alpha with known bugs to hundreds of players will only result in these same bugs being re-reported many times over, cluttering our pipeline, which would then take even more resources to sort through to weed out all the duplicates. This is not optimal, as it would actually prolong the final release of the game. By getting the game as bug-free as possible prior to releasing the alpha, it will allow us to start with a clean slate with a bunch of fresh eyes, which will be far more conducive to a streamlined release, instead of bogging the process down.
Additionally, we are currently refining character dialog, fixing bugs, and adjusting game puzzles while we wait for AGS version 3.3.5 to be merged into 3.4.0, and for the new build to be released publicly. This yet-to-be-released AGS build will have many additional benefits over the current release, such as allowing players to adjust mouse sensitivity to their personal preference, and providing better support for various screen resolutions, ensuring that the game can be played as intended (visually) on a larger number of systems and screens.
With all that said, we know you wonderfully fine and exceptionally patient people are chomping at the bit to play our creation, and we're just as eager to get it into your keen little hands! Please believe us when we say that we're taking measures that will result in a speedier release of the final product (truth!), and that the wait should not be too much longer!
We've had some feedback regarding the combat system from the video shown in our previous update. Many people were very enthusiastic about it and thought that it looked like a lot of fun, while others had concerns that it might be overwhelming and that there could be too much going on at once, or that there may be too many simultaneous enemies to focus on, which would place a greater emphasis on "kiting" (AKA, leading the enemy around the screen like they're attached to an invisible kite string, and being forced to attack them with ranged shots). We wanted to address a few of these observations.
The beauty of the Mages combat system is that every aspect of it is very easily adjustable by changing a few lines of code! From the number of enemies on-screen, to the number of simultaneous attackers, to the behaviour of each individual enemy on the battlefield (i.e. whether they aggressively pursue and attack or actively avoid the player if you walk close them). For the most part, we've been heavily focusing on fixing bugs in the combat system for many months, and hadn't paid a lot of attention to balancing various aspect of the monster encounters yet. Now that our list of combat-related bugs is growing very small, we'll be paying extra attention to adjusting monster encounters to make them both fun, and not too overwhelming. Here are some measures we've already taken, based on feedback we've received and seen floating around the web (such feedback is always invaluable, especially in the development stage):
Kiting: Some people have suggested that we add a melee weapon for close-range combat to counter kiting. In the initial version of the game, we did actually have a unique melee weapon for each Mage class, but decided to remove them to better fit with the established plot. Instead, each Mage class has what we call a "Primary Nuke" projectile spell. For example, a Fireball for the Fire Mage. This spell can be cast even with 0 Mana Points (albeit only doing 1/4 damage in that case), and will injure and push-back an enemy who's standing toe-to-toe, trading blows with the player. While it's still possible to get surrounded, this feature helps a lot to reduce kiting, by allowing you to stand your ground against 1 or 2 close-range enemies. Secondly, each class has a 'protective' spell that either shields the player for a time, or shields them AND causes damage to nearby enemies. In both cases, the enemies will flee the player while shielded, but the player can still attack them.
Overcrowding (or being bum-rushed by monsters): A common concern is that there are a lot of assailants on-screen at any given time, which might make combat more stressful than fun. The first measure we've taken to mitigate this is that the game offers 3 combat difficulty settings; all adjustable in real-time. On "Easy" mode, enemies have very low HP, will do low attack damage, and there will only ever be 1 simultaneous attacker, regardless of how many opponents are on-screen. This setting is ideal for casual players who prefer story over arcade. On "Medium" (the default setting) there can be 2 simultaneous attackers (only one of them can be a "strong" enemy), and enemies are scaled up slightly in HP and attack damage. On "Hard", there can be 3 simultaneous attackers (2 of them can be "strong" enemies), and enemy HP/attack damage are high. Also, the way we pan things out (in "Easy" and "Medium" modes), is by having only the strongest enemy on-screen aggressively pursue the player. If you walk near other weaker enemies at this stage, they'll actively avoid you and run to a different area of the screen. Sometimes they may try to do a hit-and-run if you corner them, but they'll always wait their turn in the hierarchy, and step in only when their strongest ally has been killed. Monsters that you injure greatly will also flee the screen and clear the area. Plus, you can always run into an adjacent screen as a tactical advantage to get all the monsters to enter from one side and then pummel them as they line up for you.
Overall: It's possible to win the game by completely avoiding/escaping from regular combat and focusing only on the adventure portion of the game. There are 4 "boss" encounters that are mandatory, but due to the way the game is structured, it ensures you're always at the appropriate level you need to be and are always strong enough to defeat each boss (particularly on the "Easy" setting).
We also intend to further adjust the combat system during alpha and beta testing, based on the feedback we receive from players. So, by the time the game is ready for its final release, we should have a nicely polished battle system that's entertaining to play, and has received the official player/backer 'stamp of approval'!
Latest AGS Game Assets & Stats
Total sprites: 19485 / 30000
Sprite folders: 874
Total views: 801
Total GUIs: 76
Inventory Items: 300 / 300 (Uses a dynamic inventory system, we have over 300 inventory items)
Dialog topics: 396 / 500
Available on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/439310
So, that raps up this update! Thanks for tuning in and hopefully those wooden benches in the Reading Hall haven't been too uncomfy. We'll keep you all posted on the impending alpha. Fingers crossed that the new AGS build will be released soon, too!
The Himalaya Team
New Year's Initiations
Happy 2016, Practitioners of the Arcane!
We hope you’ve had a happy and healthy New Year. Himalaya has some exciting plans on the horizon for 2016, for sure. There’s been some major issues that we’ve had to deal with personally (primarily homebuying mishaps that fortunately, finally came to an end), so we’re aiming to get the game headed towards beta testing faster, with those things now behind us. This is a shorter update on the state of progress, but an important one, nonetheless.
Light At the End of the Programming Tunnel
So, what have we been doing since last you heard from the development team, we hear you ask? Well, we're glad for your question, dear Initiates! For the most part, our time has been spent bug-fixing combat issues, as per usual, and playing the now all-too-familiar combat "whack-a-mole", addressing two new issues for every one issue that gets resolved. We know these updates are probably a little on the dull, repetitive side and they probably make it sound like not much has been taking place behind the scenes, but we have come a very long way on this front since August last year with literally thousands of battle bugs being squashed. And now we're thrilled to announce that we have finally resolved every combat bug (that we're aware of) for every spell, monster, and boss in the game -- bar one! Yes, a sole combatable critter remains to be tangled with and we plan on duking it out with him and taking him DOWN over the course of the next few weeks. After that, it's simply a matter of refining gameplay elements, fixing some non-combat bugs, juggling the score/XP and RPG system a bit, and then we'll have our first alpha-release candidate that can be considered for in-team testing and, subsequently, private backer testing!
In the meantime, please enjoy this video sneak peak of the Air Mage in action. On show are some of his spells and a few of the monster types in the dreary Bloodbark Forest of Iginor.
Latest AGS Game Assets & Stats
For those keeping score, here are the latest AGS engine stats for Mage's Initiation: Total sprites: 19049 / 30000
Sprite folders: 865
Total views: 785
Total GUIs: 74
Inventory Items: 300 / 300 (Since the game uses a dynamic inventory system, we have over 300 inventory items)
Dialog topics: 394 / 500
Alpha For Your Thoughts (We Need Your Feedback!)
You’ve all been lovely and exceedingly patient in terms of waiting for the beta release of Mage's Initiation. While we’ve made a lot of refinements to our original, in-house alpha build on account, fleshing out more code and bug-squashing, we’re still a ways off from showing you guys a playable beta version. Yet we know backers are eager to see the game and get a feel for how it has been progressing.
So, we have a question. We're wondering if eligible backers would rather test a rough (but complete) alpha version sooner, in a couple of months time? Or would you prefer to hold out several months longer for a more stable beta build? In either case, the playable build won't have recorded voices yet, as we don't want to record them until the game has been thoroughly tested and any necessary textual changes to the dialogue have been made. It's always a pain to get actors back for pick-up sessions, so we're hoping to work around that by testing the text-only game first and foremost.
Additionally, would backers prefer to receive their test builds via Steam or Humble Bundle? We're still trying to figure out the logistics of getting the test build into eligible backer's hands in the easiest, most seamless manner possible.
Please let us know your feedback in the comments (or via email if you’re a PayPal backer.)
Our very own Rachel has written a book all about tax law for indie developers.
She also launched a new blog to go with her business, Sonic Toad. Go check it out! And if you’re in/near NYC on January 26, check out her class on business basics for indie devs along with Playcrafting’s weekend-long global game jam with NYU and their Winter Expo at Microsoft on the 28th. Make a whole extended weekend out of it!
Aubrey Hodges recently released a fully revamped version of the official Quest For Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness soundtrack. It includes over 60 remastered tracks using real instruments. Well worth supporting, just remember to listen while enjoying a garlic and avocado sandwich.
Don Bluth fans can rejoice as he’s gotten his team back together to make a Dragon’s Lair movie, bringing the arcade classic to life in a new medium. Show some love on Indiegogo!
Well, that's all for this update. There hasn't been much variation in our work for several months, which means there hasn't been much other than combat and bug fixes to talk about! We're very much looking forward to the next phase of development, which should give us a wider range of things to discuss.
Until next time, stay magical, our almost-Mages!
The Himalaya Team
Greetings, Mages in training! This is just a brief update to keep you informed about the latest happenings with the game's development.
The Story Thus Far
We've continued to make excellent progress, slashing our way through the combat-related bugs and issues, since bringing our new programmer on board! We've completely eradicated the combat spell-specific bugs from our list now. To give you an idea about the magnitude of this accomplishment, there are 4 playable character classes in the game and each has 6 combat spells, which makes 24 combat spells in total. Each combat spell had approximately 20 bugs associated with it (initially). So, that's 480 issues, just for the combat spells! We fixed all of those, but new bugs kept creeping in with nearly every fix, due to the intertwined nature of the battle system. Whenever we fixed one bug, it would cause another (sometimes 2 or 3) to take its place. For a while there, it was a case of taking one step forward and two steps back, but we eventually got on top of the bugs, got them under control, and ultimately, checked everything off. I don't even want to hazard a guess at how many spell-related bugs we've addressed over the past couple of months, but it's easily over 1,000!
Seriously, our combat bugs list is so large, that we even have it sorted into sections where different types of combat bugs are categorized. For example, there's a spells section, and each spell has a sub-section, listing its bugs. There's a monster section, where each monster has its own sub-section. A boss section, a GUI section, a loot section, and a general issues section, and so on and so forth. Having resolved all of the entries in the spell-related section, we have most recently turned our attention to the monsters and boss battle sections. 85% of the monster-related issues have been resolved and approximately 80% of the boss battle bugs have been cleaned up. Things are definitely getting closer to completing the combat system now. Though new bugs still manage to creep in here and there, so we need to be vigilant.
Truthfully, it's difficult to write an interesting update when the entire time since the last update has been spent polishing and refining the combat system. We're working away at it, every day, including weekends, yet it's hard to convey in words the amount of progress this constitutes, since there's only so much that can be said about it. Some of these bugs have been so elusive that a few have involved 14 hour sittings just to track down and fix a single issue. in any case, there you have it - an accurate outline of what we've been working on.
Since we haven't finished fixing the combat bugs yet, we still don't have an estimate for when the voice-less beta will release. However, If progress continues at the current rate and the bugs behave themselves, we'll certainly get there sooner than later.
Latest AGS Game Assets & Stats
The latest AGS engine stats for Mage's Initiation, fresh from the editor:
Total sprites: 19016 / 30000
Sprite folders: 865
Total views: 782
Total GUIs: 72 Inventory
Items: 300 / 300 (Since the game uses a dynamic inventory system, we have over 300 inventory items)
Dialog topics: 393 / 500
If you're in or coming to NY or NJ, you'll definitely want to check out some events that Himalaya will be participating in!
This one is awfully short notice, but here goes: tomorrow, October 22, Rachel will be showing Mage's Initiation at the Playcrafting Fall Expo held at Microsoft's Times Square office, conveniently located across the street from Port Authority. The expo's very reasonably priced and there'll be over 75 other games plus free pizza!
And if you're in the area December 1 which is one just one day after Playcrafting's November demo and play night, Rachel will also be teaching a class all about taxes for indie developers.
Himalaya will also have a booth at Gameacon which is going on in Atlantic City November 20-22nd! Stop by and say hi if you're making the trip!
Here are a few shoutouts to some adventure game Kickstarters:
The Journey Down : SkyGoblin have been making quality point & click adventure games for a long while now. Having previously released chapters 1 and 2 of their polished, African-inspired title "The Journey Down", the fellas are now reaching out on Kickstarter to fund the 3rd chapter.
Memoranda: Memoranda is an interesting point-and-click story-driven game based on a series of short stories involving everyone from a WWII survivor to an elephant trying to become human and the game looks like it's going to be an amazing surrealist experience!
And as the Mages' Tower bell rings, signalling the end of "spelling" classes for the day, this, in turn, brings a close to this edition of the Kickstarter update. We wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween!
Until next time!
The Himalaya Team