First off, happy holidays! Thanks so much for your patience as we get our house in order. Over the last month, we’ve made some important decisions, and we’d like to share them with you today.
Philly Game Forge
In order to clear the time and mental energy for Duet, we have to reduce our external responsibilities. The largest of these by far is the Philly Game Forge.
For those of you that don’t know, the Philly Game Forge is our home: a collective of game developers we’ve helped mentor over the last 3 years. With weekly developer meetings, monthly game jams, quarterly events, and yearly showcases, we’ve watched the Philly Indie Game Community grow from a scant handful to a group with some of the most represented nominations from a single city in Game Competions across the US ( think Indiecade ). You may well have played Jamestown, Domino!, Mahou Shojo, RESISTOR, or Soulfill — just to name a few of the highly successful games that have come out of our tiny community.
But as much as we love it, we personally need to shift our focus. Funding for the Forge has always been touch-and-go, and the stress of making sure a roof stays over not only our heads, but the heads of our community, friends, and family is scattering our energy.
Therefore, we’re ramping down operations at the Forge. We’re trying to downsize our financial responsibility, and delegate leadership to other members of our community. We know this transition won’t happen overnight, but it’s a step we need to take for ourselves and our peers.
Duet Art Show
Managing finances is a balancing act for us — we need to make money, and we need to work on Duet, and those two goals do not always line up. Luckily, an amazing opportunity came our way — the opportunity to do an art show, on whatever subject we chose.
Naturally, we chose Duet.
We’ve Traveled So Far… was an incredible opportunity for us to not only do something we’d never done before, but move Duet forward in a massive way. We were able to block out and plan the major acts, UI look-and-feel, level transitions, thematic inspiration for each musical piece, and the overall story of the game. Since the first Auditorium reflected where we were as artists in 2008, Duet will reflect the journey we’ve taken since then — and all of you are a massive part of that journey.
Amazingly, the art show was a fantastic success! The prints are now available on our Society6 page. We also created an interactive exhibit powered by the Duet particle engine; this exhibit became #Headlight, an entry into Leap Motion’s 3D Jam. With exposure like this, we’ll be able to ensure that when we release Duet it doesn’t immediately disappear from people's radar. And the funds from the sales of art pieces and photos have gone directly to further Duet’s development.
We’re looking into additional sources of funding, and trying to get things arranged so we can take a focused 1-2 week working retreat to create without distractions and flesh out our plan to finish Duet in the new year.
We’re also going to come out of our cave a bit. Both of us have been relatively silent about what we’ve been working on, here and in general, and it hasn’t been working. We’d like to do things more transparently in 2016. This will mean talking about the other projects we do that earn us those sweet dollar bills so we can keep creating Duet.
We're incredibly grateful for your patience while we figure out what we’re doing. Until next month, happy holidays, and best hopes for a prosperous new year — for all of us!
Dain and Will
First and foremost, we’re unbelievably sorry for missing the October 22nd deadline. This has been difficult for us, and we’re in the process of picking up thepieces. We understand that you’re probably upset, and we agree — we’re right there with you.
Where We Are
Auditorium Duet and this Kickstarter have been an emotionally difficult, but ultimately rewarding endeavor. We’ve started from scratch multiple times, each time getting a bit closer to our goal. The original Auditorium in 2008 represented the very best of what the two of us could do then. We feel that Duet, now in 2015, should represent the same. But after some soul-searching, we also wanted it to represent the journey we’ve taken with you these three long years.
We’ve been trying to make something not just okay, not good, but incredible. And the journey, the art style, the narrative — all of this has us incredibly excited to create a game with depth and meaning. But, sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Sometimes your original ideas don’t work, no matter how hard you try.
Unfortunately, we’ve stretched ourselves too thin. Our communication has been crap. We’ve taken on too many responsibilities. We have been blindly running at this project for years, thinking that if we just worked a little harder, stayed up a little later, sacrificed a little more, we could finish the game, build our community, put food on the table, and stay sane — but that’s naïve. That’s 2008 thinking.
We need to take a step away and reassess how we’re doing everything. Come up with a real game plan that doesn’t rely on us being 26-year-olds with unlimited time and energy to give 110%, twenty-four seven. To figure out not just what Duet should be, but what Cipher Prime should be.
We’ve long since shipped all physical rewards. As far as the game, you’ll get access to the builds we’ve been working on as soon as we figure out the best way to deliver them. And you’ll get an update next month — even if that update is just “yeah, we’re still figuring out our next step.” We want nothing more than to finish Duet to its fullest potential, but we have to be smart about it. As you can understand and imagine, we are well past our budget, and any plan we come up with has to be a compromise between eating and creating. With all this in mind, we’ll be pushing forward with our old CP motto, “What would you do if you couldn’t fail” — but maybe, we’ll add a little ”Also, you need to eat too” in there.
Finally, thank you so much for your support. Thank you for funding our campaign, thank you for giving us ideas — hell, thank you for yelling at us when we fall short of expectations. Every happy or angry email, comment, or tweet we get is just another indication that someone out there cares about what we’re doing. There are few things in this world worth more than people genuinely caring about you, and we’re lucky to have spent this time with you. We can’t ever really apologize enough for our failures, but we can sure as hell try to learn from them, for you… and for us.
Dain and Will
Hey all! It’s been a very exciting month for us, so let’s get to it. Here’s what Duet looked like last update:
And here’s what it looks like now:
Now you may be saying, “That looks almost exactly the same.” Well, let’s back up a moment.
Where we were
Auditorium Duet was originally built on a prototyping codebase. The idea is that you are able to very quickly see what works and doesn’t; in practice the code got so jumbled so quickly that it became a nightmare to maintain. Each new feature we want to add turns into a week of work, with no way to easily keep experiments from breaking things elsewhere in the game.
We’ve known for a long time that our codebase was unmanageable. But the solution was a complete refactor — essentially, we would have to start from scratch, rewrite the entire engine, and slowly bring back features into this more stable base. Additionally, switching from Unity’s Asset Server to a more modern version control system like Git would give us more flexibility to experiment without bringing the house down.
At every step along the way, we have looked at a feature and said, “It will take less time to implement this feature than to rearchitect the entire game.” And while that has been true each time, the combined effect is that we simply haven’t been able to be as creative and productive as we need to be to deliver.
So finally, we took a step outside of the project. We tried a few new things with our game jam game, “Monster Want Burger!”, and quickly realized how much power we would get by refactoring. And this past month, we did just that.
What does it mean to refactor? It means we started from scratch — an empty project — and slowly, thoughtfully, rebuilt every single subsystem in the game from the ground up. We threw away what didn’t work, polished what did, and structured everything in a way that not only makes sense, but works with far less overhead and cruft.
So where does that leave us? We have a pristine new codebase that accomplishes everything the previous one did in *one-third* the code:
It’s easily understandable; it’s easily maintainable. It’s actually a joy to work with. And switching to Git has given us the freedom to experiment and add new features, so that Duet can be so much more than just a prettier Auditorium.
Still, it will be prettier. Upgrading to Unity 5 has given us access to newer rendering pipelines and features we would have had to write on our own otherwise.
We can say with certainty: we have never been more excited to work on Duet than we are today.
So what does all this mean?
Duet is going to be wonderful. We’re at a place where our original ideas are coming to light. Controller support is more stable than its ever been, and thanks to the refactor we'll have consistent performance across platforms.
The game is a pleasure to work on and development is happening at a rapid pace. It’s an exciting time and we’re very happy to be sharing it with you!
Will and Dain
P.S. So our game jam game, “Monster Want Burger!”? For a lark, we submitted it to the App Store a few months ago. Now, four days of off-hours work have turned into a new product. It goes live tomorrow for $0.99, and it’s kid-tested, family-approved fun. Anything you can do to spread the word — tweeting, sharing, posting, etc. — would be greatly appreciated.
P.P.S. Thank you for sticking with us and thank you so much for your support — we’ll talk to you soon!