TANGLEWOOD Alpha Update
Make a fresh cup of tea, we've got a lot to talk about!
TANGLEWOOD has reached Alpha!
This is a huge milestone for the project; the whole game is now playable from start to finish, on real hardware, with all mechanics, puzzles and level transitions working, and all cutscenes, menus and credits in place. There are a few placeholder assets still to replace, some sound effects missing, some small extras to squeeze in, and a whole lot of bugs to fix, but there's light at the end of the tunnel!
With all 29 acts now playable in one session, we have a better idea as to the length of the game. For a seasoned pro who is familiar with all of the puzzles, the game can be finished in around 1 hour 40 mins, which is quite long for a platformer of the era! We reckon that players new to the game will take between 2 and 3 hours to figure out the puzzles and boss fights.
Another benefit to hitting this milestone is that we can see the bigger picture. Being able to play the game from start to finish has allowed us to note parts that don't fit, sections that overstay their welcome, steep difficulty curves and poor segues between areas. We've got some changes in mind to smooth out the rough bits, liven up the boring bits, and make sure there's a level of consistency throughout.
Some big boxes have started to arrive
We have an office full of equipment, cartridge cases, test print work and prototype shells, and it's starting to get very exciting. We've received the proofs for our custom moulded cartridges, a small batch of finalised PCBs which we're very happy with, the final cover artwork, test prints of the game manual, and various parts for the Collector's Edition boxes. Nerves are now calm regarding the manufacturing stage, and we think it's going to be a lot smoother than we anticipated!
We're going to be a little late, and we're sorry
You may have noticed that November is fast approaching, and unfortunately we're not going to be able to fix up the remaining bugs and have the cartridge PCBs manufactured in time to make the original release window. This is all on me. I made some large-scale changes following our last demo release - which required a batch of new assets and animations authoring - as well as letting some problems with the development tools fester until they bit us back. These problems led to difficulty fitting the game onto cartridge, performance issues, and a few big unexpected bugs. Rest assured, everything's now been resolved, and the final stages of development are running full steam ahead, but it's set us back a little bit.
Taking into account the rest of the changes I'd like to make (see below), the remaining bugs that need fixing, the testing cycle, and the lead time for PCB manufacture and cartridge assembly, we expect to release TANGLEWOOD in spring 2018.
We only get one shot at burning the game to cartridge - we can't patch it like a modern title - so we hope you'll understand that we need to have the game in a 100% releasable state before we send a build to the factory. We'd love for TANGLEWOOD to be remembered as being a great game, one that is both fun to play, and of an exceptional quality, and to achieve that we need a little more time.
This will also affect the timescale of opening up pre-orders to the public. More news on this as we work it out.
We'd like to make some changes
After playing the Alpha build and collating feedback from testers, we think the game could benefit from a few additional extras to turn it from a good game into a fantastic game. Considering we've already overrun our original time budget, we're being very careful about this. We've weighed up the pros and cons of each idea, with regards to time and cost to implement vs. reward, and we think we have the best "bang for buck" list ready to go:
Critter enemies to fill open spaces
The vista parts of the game in-between puzzles are beautiful to look at, but could benefit from a little extra danger. I'm sure you're already familiar with the Djakk monsters from Chapter 1, the Elders from Chapter 3, and those following our Twitter account might know about Borgus from Chapter 4 - the disgusting swamp monster designed by one of our Kickstarter backers. We've got some other boss enemies in the game that we won't be revealing until release, but otherwise the only other hazards to Nymn are environmental.
We'd like to add some critters. Small in size, small in memory, small in cost and time to implement, but if placed in the right areas of the game could provide a big payoff to the overall experience. We would need to add a way for Nymn to kill these little pests, but we think it'll be worth it.
We have a brand new cutscene system! We've been using it for small director cutscenes to highlight hazards and introduce enemies, but we'd like to add some transitions between levels to show how Nymn got from place to place. The new system makes it fast and easy to build cutscenes from existing in-game assets and animations, and it's tried and tested, so this will be a low risk high reward addition to the game.
Password save system
Originally we planned to leave traditional save systems out of the game, since lives aren't limited and each level contains multiple checkpoints, but considering the final length of the game compared to others in the genre, we think some players might like to take a break. Our cartridge PCBs don't have the capability to hold save data, so we'll be adding a password feature so you can continue where you left off.
We're very proud of what we've achieved so far, and we think you're going to love the game. Just hang in a little while longer while we get it polished up and perfected!