As you'll no doubt be aware if you've been following along with our updates, development has been advancing rather well on Mages' Initiation and the game is fast heading down the track to completion! Sure, there's been the fair share of hiccups, hurdles, and illnesses to stumble over along the way, but the overall forward momentum is unstoppable and in this update, we'll document our progress thus far and cast our prognosis for when we expect to launch the beta.
So, come! Gaze into the Sphere of Knowledge. Let the clouds of prophecy roll in and we shall see what the fates have in store.
Name in Library Book - Please Read if You Backed at $20 or More
We wanted to get this out there first-- we ran into a little snafu. Kickstarter lets us survey a tier just once and the only tier we've surveyed to date is the $20 Apprentice tier since these backers were only receiving stickers and no other physical goods.
We've reached the point where we need to collect backers' names for inclusion in the "Book of Backers" in the Mage's Tower library. Please note the following:
- There's a 30 character limit on names. (Due to the formatting of the book, each name can only occupy a single line. This character limit ensures the names will fit.)
- Keep it clean, non-abusive, and avoid any mention of copyrighted terms or trademarks.
- If you don't want your name or pseudonym included in the in-game "Book of Backers", please type OPTOUT in all-caps into the field.
Since we're not ready to receive the other data from the higher tiers (e.g. we don't need your mailing addresses just yet), for the time being we'll be sending a private message to each tier, linking to a Google Form asking for the name you'd like to have displayed in the library book.
If you backed by PayPal, you’ll be receiving an email. Sorry for any confusion!
Progress Since January
We’re pleased to announce that we recently hit a glorious milestone! The art and animation assets for the project are now essentially finished. Every game background and associated animation (e.g. things like rivers, doors opening and closing, smoking fires etc.) has been completed. Our lead artist, JP Selwood, has worked endlessly, detailing over 80 game backgrounds. He has given each screen a consistent artistic style so that the landscapes appear seamless, without any clashes or variation in the style and quality (which is sometimes hard to avoid when multiple artists have worked on adjoining background pieces). We have truly strived to give the valley of Iginor the most verdant landscape we could imagine, remembering the way our imaginations ran wild playing all the classics on account of their brilliant art. We hope you'll enjoy getting lost in this lush, aesthetic world.
Karen also finished the last of the animated in-game character dialog portraits, which is another milestone worth celebrating. We're very pleased with the high quality of her work and it has been a blast seeing Iginor's diverse cast of characters come to life on-screen. Since none of the character voices have yet been recorded, their mouth frames currently just animate in a looping pattern. But we're really looking forward to getting the voices in place and the lip-syncing added, in order to witness the full effect of all those intricate mouth phoneme frames that Karen has painstakingly crafted.
Onto the final artistic front: the character animations. Shane and Jeremy have been knocking down the remaining entries on the animations list for both D'arc and NPC characters. Once a grand and intimidating sight to behold, the list is now dwindling and contains little more than a small handful of entries, which we expect will be finished in a matter of weeks. With 4 player classes and animations for nearly every player action, Mages is a very animation intensive title, and this, in large part is a major factor in what's contributed to the lengthy development time-frame. So to say that we're "elated" to finally see the animations list reach an end is the understatement of a quarter-decade… quite literally!
The music and sound effects are coming into the final stages. Brandon is currently working on polishing the remaining pieces for the game and we're getting them set up as they roll in. Adding sound effects, on the other hand, is a somewhat painstaking task which we usually leave until the very end.
In terms of programming, there are several outstanding areas that we still need to focus on before the game will be in a state fit for beta testing. Jason is getting close to wrapping up programming the Wastelands section of the game. This is a region which had to be put on the back-burner for a long time, for a couple of reasons The first being that the decision to re-include the wastelands as a fully-explorable area was decided upon later, as it was based on meeting our $80K Kickstarter Stretch Goal. And the second being that it's a complex area to script, with chasms, unique landmarks, and other obstacles - we wanted to get the combat system fully functional before implementing the wastelands as a secondary major combat zone (the forest being the first). That, and there were more important scripting priorities that took precedence, such as getting the RPG and Stats system working without flaws.
Simultaneously, Morgan is working through a very long list of combat-related bug-fixes. These tweaks are aimed at bringing stability to the battle system so that it can be fully-integrated into the RPG system. Hooking both of these together is something that still needs to be done, as if you were to test the game in its current state, it would simply play like a straight adventure game with optional combat tacked on that you could ignore. This means you could finish the game without raising any stats and the only mandatory combat encounters you'd face would be the bosses. Obviously, a lot of fine-tuning needs to be done once the combat and RPG systems are interlinked, and the timing of this long list of combat bugs is the largest variable affecting when the beta will be stable enough to release.
Those programming tasks aside, there's a trivial amount of work to be done on the class-based side-quests, one interface GUI still needs to be properly implemented, and a couple of mini-games are in need of fine tuning. That pretty much encompasses all of the remaining programming work.
A Word on Beta Testing
When all is said and done, we're realistically looking at a beta launch of around mid to late August 2015. Bear in mind, however, that this beta will likely be closer to an alpha, as the voices won't be present and there will be a fair few rough edges. Releasing a beta this way is a new process to us, as with all our previous games we've held off on releasing beta versions until the products were in a very polished state, complete with voices, and having been comprehensively alpha tested internally until we couldn't find any more bugs. At that point, we'd turn it over to a small, controlled group of beta testers to scrutinize and report their own findings.
To be honest, we do feel a little 'exposed' at the prospect of releasing such an early build as a beta version to a much larger test group, but we also feel that this will be the right time to let backers at the appropriate tier levels see the game they've backed after the long wait. This new approach also comes with some advantages, in that backers/testers can help us weed out any spelling or grammar anomalies before the time comes to record voice actors. (It's always a bit of a hassle having to get actors back for pick-up sessions if you've already recorded all their lines prior to the beta.)
We're aiming to have the game and all of its systems fully-functional and playable to the end by the end of June, so we can spend adequate time internally alpha testing it for a month or so. We'll keep you posted!
General Progress Report
More than a few people have mentioned that they liked the way we gauged our progress with figures and estimated percentages, so here are the latest numbers for your perusal:
Writing & Design: 99.999999%
Background Artwork & Animations: 99%
Character Animations: 99%
Sound Effects: 45%
Adventure Game Programming: 98%
Combat System Programming: 95%
RPG/Stats/Equipment Programming: 90%
And here are the stats for latest AGS engine assets being used.
AGS Game Engine Assets & Stats
Total sprites: 17847 / 30000
Sprite folders: 799
Total views: 767
Total GUIs: 68
Inventory Items: 300 / 300 (dynamic inventory system, we have over 300 items)
Dialog topics: 393 / 500
Sojourning west to represent Himalaya, Rachel attended her first GDC this past March and was still pretty star struck weeks after heading back east! Unfortunately, we had missed the deadline to have Mage's Initiation featured at the Indie Megabooth or at the expo hall's indie exhibit.
However, GDC is one of those holy grail events where you have everybody from indies working on their first game, who tried not to cringe thinking about their savings, to designers representing billion dollar studios whose booth costs could've paid for ten more games.
While not formally exhibited, it didn't stop Rachel from pulling out her laptop and getting feedback from other developers, especially at the adventure game party. Reception toward Mage's Initiation has overall been extremely positive! People have been loving both the gameplay and aesthetics, the best comment received was that it had something for the players who want to get into a story and game world, and plenty of spells and monsters for the twitchier gamers among us.
"I stayed at this place that based on the trippy decor and colorful, abstract furniture made me feel like I was in an Al Lowe game in 1992. And I had an ice cream taco after looking for places where The Room was filmed. IT RULED." -- Rachel's GDC diaries from her upcoming book
A Green Postcard is a Good Postcard
Nothing makes us happier to announce that we're back in the Greenlight system with another game. Hooray! "Al Emmo's Postcards from Anozira", a casual game spin-off, is currently doing the rounds. We can think of few more joyous occasions than being in Greenlight. So much so, that we want to tell the world about it! Please note that the above statements may be laced with sarcasm. At any rate, please share in our emotions and give the game a "yes" vote, as well, as a favorite and follow, if you can spare the additional clicks.
Infamous Quests: The Trifecta
The guys at Infamous Quests are going for the hat-trick in their latest Kickstarter venture, with no less than 3 new adventure games being funded in the same campaign! Count 'em:
Quest for Infamy: Roehm to Ruin
The Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge
The Order of the Thorne: The Fortress of Fire
The entire team has a clear passion for adventures and they release great titles, which we can wholeheartedly recommend. Having met their initial goal, they're currently angling to reach their $35K Stretch goal and put all 3 games into development at once. If fantasy RPG/Adventures are up your alley (and we know they are, since you backed Mages!) these are definitely worth your consideration.
Tournament of Might
If you’re into card games at all, check out Tournament of Might. It's War on steroids! There will be a Kickstarter launching for this in a few weeks for new armies to be made.
Visual Design in Action
This campaign will be launching on Tuesday the 28th, if we have any graphic designers and lovers of print books in the house. Ladislav Sutnar's groundbreaking piece, Visual Design in Action, will be reprinted!
Playcrafting Spring Expo 4/29 & Upcoming Classes
Rachel is extremely active with Playcrafting, an NYC game developer collective. Mage's Initiation will be showcased at the spring expo along with 74 other games! If you're in the NYC or metro area and want to hang out with a bunch of cool indies and gamers, play lots of different games, and have free pizza, grab a ticket and stop by Himalaya's booth and say hi! The expo's at Microsoft's Times Square office, adjacent to almost every train.
If you ever wanted to learn AGS, adventure veteran Francisco Gonzalez will be teaching an AGS class May 12. Rachel will also be teaching a new class on June 4, Taxes for Indie Developers. You don't leave until you've learned about at least one oddball tax loophole and laughed until your sides hurt!
That's all Folks
If you backed at the $20 tier or above, remember to fill in your surveys, which you should receive shortly after this update goes live. Next update, we hope to be in a good position to tell you more about the Mage's Initiation beta testing phase!
And as the Sphere of Knowledge's cloudy residue subsides, we invite you to reflect upon the newfound insight you have acquired this day, as we bid you a fond adieu.
Until next time, stay magical!
The Himalaya Team