The "Better Late Than Later" Update!
We're not sure how many versions of this update have been written at this point. The last draft we have saved in Kickstarter's editor is from a month ago. Our earliest attempt was drafted much earlier than that. We try to keep our Facebook page updated, but to those who haven't heard from us in a long time, and to everyone who has been waiting for this update for months now - we're very, very sorry for the delay!
So, first things first - Why's this update so late?! The answer to that has changed so many times, we'd bore you to death if we enumerated all the reasons. Ouya still existed as a company last we updated, after all, and we want to get to the part where we show you guys how much Exogenesis has progressed.
But the gist of it, and what we've been trying to explain (in an admittedly limited manner), is this: we wanted to either finally sign a contract with Razer, or sign with the publisher we're in advanced discussions with. That way, we could end the update on a positive note, whether it's assuring everyone we have all the money we need get to the finish line with all the promised features intact, or that we already have a partner who will put us on 3DS and Vita, among other platforms they wish to publish us on.
However, it's a little tricky to proceed with the publisher without knowing whether we will receive funding from Razer/Ouya's Free the Game's Fund, so we're left with one option.
What's our current status, then? I'm not sure if we can divulge the details, other than there's been a lot of waiting on our end, but I think it's safe to say we're finally expecting the milestone payment this December. We've signed the finalized contract as far as we're concerned, and we've been told that everything will materialize soon.
To be clear, we didn't factor in the FTG funds when we planned the game and the Kickstarter. We didn't see ourselves in a situation where we'd be dead if we didn't get that additional funding. FTG was supposed to be the safety net that's crucial to game development, where unforeseen misfortunes could cause budget overruns. And overrun the budget we did, largely due to hiring the wrong people to set the game's foundation on Unity early on. It took a very long time to correct the problems they caused, and time is money in game dev.
We still have just enough in the war chest to finish the game. What's the problem then, you ask? To be completely transparent with you guys, if you'll remember, the voice acting stretch goal was a big chunk of our total funding.
I bring this up because, in the worst case scenario, we might have to release the game without full voice acting. Either that, or we record the lines for a game that will now exceed 200,000 words, then the VAs allow us to make a very late payment, as it'll be coming from the game's sales. Both are less than ideal, and we're hoping we can address them via the funds we'll receive from Razer.
The Ouya Situation
Without getting into the whole narrative of Ouya being sold to Razer and Razer being pressured to honor the Free The Games program, which has been a hell of a ride (not a fun one, mind you), let's talk about the Ouya port. Like we've said in the "teaser" to this update, it has been a very long process.
Despite having done a bit of work on the Ouya port already prior to our last update, it still took another two months to become fully playable on systems Razer wanted it to run on. Porting started immediately after said update, back when Ouya could still give us some assurance regarding FTG, but communication died down soon after. Various rumors about Ouya came out, and we knew it was a race against time. Turned out we weren't the only devs left in a tough spot, then the whole Razer thing happened.
Why did the port take two months? Well, it was definitely a lot more work than expected. Textures, images, even atlases that weren't in use had to be optimized. Our UI had to be redone from nGUI to uGUI because of a number of reasons, like having too many physics colliders which made the game slow to a crawl on the Ouya, and interacting poorly with the new input system. Speaking of which, a new input system had to be created because the game originally used the system mouse, which is a no-go for Ouya. A virtual mouse had to be created, and the implementation of this meant going back to all the other interactive portions of the game, which turned out to be using problematic scripts, as well as way more scripts than were necessary. Even then, the game still kept crashing; scenes had to be split up into smaller portions, and there were a lot of other under-the-hood optimisations.
That isn't to say the port was all bad news, though. The new input system and other improvements should benefit the game across all platforms. For example, the performance gains will make the game run more smoothly on older machines.
The Good Stuff
On the bright side, a lot of progress has been made on the game itself. After a short break from the porting madness, our programmer was back on track implementing content and programming the all-important puzzles. Chapter 2 is 95% ready, and we've found a workflow that will allow us to encode the remaining game text in 4-8 weeks depending on how long the final script is going to be. For this, we've hired two encoders who work on a part time basis, allowing our programmer to focus on setting up assets, puzzles, animations, game logic and other important stuff.
As far as writing goes, some of you may already know that we're now way past the original 150k word count. While this brings Exogenesis closer to large AAA visual novels, the increased volume comes with its own set of problems.
We have to make sure the story flows nicely, the exposition feels natural, the mood is the way we want it, loose ends are minimized as the plot becomes more complex... Just thinking about it makes me want to go back to work. There's a lot more to be done! This is considering we've already removed parts that are too simple or cliché, which include a scrapped mini-game, and a major puzzle section that's been overhauled to become larger and more challenging.
The World Realized
How do we post new art without spoiling anything? How?! Tell meeeeee!
Ahem... What I meant was, we already have a lot of art done. But it's getting harder to show new things without entering spoiler territory, particularly because we saved ending CGs for last. We're also taking the time to improve our main puzzle sections in terms of themes and content, to the point where they've departed from the original design document. They could be revised at any given time, so they're mostly in their non-final state.
We did post some art on our Facebook page, and we'll try to squeeze in some more here.
Suffice to say, we have even more new characters than before. How about we go with a theme this time? Tell us if you can figure out what the theme is. :P
Our Soundcloud also now hosts a few more tracks. It's only a small selection from the new tracks that were made since the last update, but I think people will be happy with the diverse and well-rounded score the game will have in the end. :)
We've seen Kickstarters where the devs talk about needing more money from investors, others who discontinue the project and offer minimal refunds, still others who put their game on early access and then sell it as an actual product with early access issues still unfixed, or projects that disappear completely. It's frustrating for me, because given the long delay of the game, I'm sure a few, if not many, are having doubts, wondering whether we're committing the same mistakes as the others.
Yes, we've made mistakes. Other than our initial bad hiring, which led to severe repercussions (and crippling personal anxieties), we were also in a situation where I practically had to fight for our programmer's freedom from a third party so that he could put in as much time as he wanted into the project and be compensated fairly. Programming had roughly 6 weeks of downtime total, including our guy moving back to his hometown to minimize distractions, but we're good now.
We've experienced many missteps and disappointments, but we've recovered from all the setbacks, and production is now going better than ever. I wish I could express this clearly enough on behalf of the team, but we do feel your frustrations and fear of whether the game will ever come out. This is an extremely important endeavor for us, and a very personal commitment for me as the director of Exogenesis, so I hope for your patience and you can rest assured that we're never giving up! :)