The Esoteric Order of Dagon Wants YOU!
The time has come again to sit down and ramble about the project. You know that I prefer to send one juicy chunk of stuffs instead of frequent casual tidbits, so grab a cup of coffee, Scotch, blood, whatever, and brace yourselves.
First, a foreword about the status of the project: as Halloween draws nearer many are wondering about a release date. I know that I said Halloween was a potential date but the truth is that we're going to need more time. We've been achieving great progress on every front of Asylum but not as quickly as I wished, and I explained why a couple of updates ago: I don't want to burn our budget yet, which is why we're still four people working on the game. You see, the economical situation is precarious down here (or pretty much anywhere in the world) and planning ahead is requiring winning coin flips, so the sensible thing is to keep it cool and avoid as many risks as possible. I'm still able to hire two more people, which not only means more expenses but a greater deal of responsibility, but I'm holding until we achieve further progress in the game. As soon as we have our first full playable, which isn't that far down the road, we are ready to begin the craziest and most intense crunch period ever seen this side of the pond. My amazing team — bless them — are prepared to partially live in the office until all is done. We could even do a livestream, a sort of Big Brother of game development crunch time!
But I'm already rambling. That's the lowdown: I'd rather keep playing safe for a while longer and ensure that we're able to sustain ourselves. The tradeoff, of course, is that we're going slower than expected. Why not hire right away? Because I'm not sure how much time we're going to need. We're still on a tight budget and further delays could put us in a troublesome position with six team members. Why not outsource? No, I just don't like it. The whole point of this was to create our own working environment where we can see each other every day and bring more dynamism to the project. Most importantly, outsourcing could mean losing our "personal touch", that which makes Asylum a unique game. We told you that we're going to give you a one-of-a-kind experience, and we're going to deliver on that promise.
Anyway, it's not that serious. We trust to have our first playable by the end of the year, but we're still going to need to produce more content, mostly cinematics, and of course test. A lot. All in all, I'm thinking March 2014 as a tentative date, but I'll be confirming this as soon as possible.
Dagon: The Micro Version
Well, that was a bit of a long foreword. Let's keep this section short: as promised, we're releasing today a brand new version of Dagon, our adventure game engine, that you can test right away with the Asylum Teaser. There's a huge deal of improvements to mention — just know that all major concerns voiced since the teaser was launched, such as speed and control method, have been addressed. Also, loads of love for fans of Linux on this update. Be sure to tell me about your experiences, how you find the new control method, if it feels smoother and speedier, etc.
Notes for Windows and Mac OS X: To use the new engine, just unzip the contents of the file in the same folder where you installed the teaser (go ahead and overwrite everything). It should work on Windows XP but I haven't been able to test much. We will definitely support it. In the case of Mac OS X, anything from 10.5 and above is fine.
Notes for Linux: The binary is now installed in /usr/games/dagon, so execute that one while inside the teaser folder. You may need to edit dagon.cfg to use your screen's full resolution and try the new direct control mode (or just grab the cfg in one of the Windows or Mac zips).
Dagon: The Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away Version
Phew! And the writing continues. When I began working on Scratches years ago there weren't any suitable engines around. You see, at first Scratches was going to be a slideshow adventure reminiscent of Myst or Dark Fall, that is, only static images, so available engines were either overkill or not powerful enough. I needed a middle ground and that is how SCream (Simple Creation Engine for Adventure Makers) was born. Truth to be told, my initial approach was to do a quick and dirty implementation for Windows and not thinking much in long term. However, as I progressed, two things became obvious: one, doing a Windows-only implementation wasn't giving me many advantages, and two, there were no portable adventure engines whatsoever. Now I wasn't ready to throw away all the work I had done to that point, but then Cellar of Rats happened: not only he convinced me that Scratches would greatly benefit of a soundtrack (I didn't plan any music for the game in the first place), he also encouraged me to make the move to panoramic movement instead of slides. And that is how SCream was reborn.
The new engine was built with three things in mind: portability, simplicity, and performance. A far cry from its initial conception, it was meant to work for future games, not just Scratches. The idea always was to do as much hard work as possible in the engine and then allow a casual programmer to code an entire game with a very simple scripting language, an approach that worked as intended: programming Scratches took me around four months, while the engine itself might have taken me eighteen. SCream was further developed for the educational adventure Risk Profile, though it was only released in Argentina. Support for 2D adventures was added and the scripting language proved to be very flexible, as it easily adapted to a whole different presentation and gameplay.
But, that was as far as SCream went. As you may know, the company that produced Scratches was shut down, which brought me to Senscape and Asylum. Legal complications prevented me from reusing and continuing work on SCream, so there I was again facing a new dilemma: should I settle with a readily available product or attempt the not-so-sane feast of doing a game engine from scratch TWICE?
Fast forward to this moment and you can tell that I'm clearly insane. In my defense, my only option in early 2009 to do what we had in mind was Unity, which wasn't as developed as it is today, but I'll confess there was a bit of pride involved: if I did it with Scratches, then why not Asylum? Our very own engine, one that we could tweak to our liking and ensure it works on any device that we want. But Asylum is a far more complex project than Scratches ever was, larger and meaner, demanding a more technically apt and powerful architecture, and of course many more features, which is why this new take on SCream took a life of its own. It's no longer "the engine powering Asylum" but Dagon, a versatile, highly efficient, and extremely portable adventure game engine.
I really should stop now because the word count is skyrocketing. Open sourcing Dagon has been an excellent move for everyone involved: I received fantastic fixes and suggestions, and many developers are adopting the engine for their projects, chief among them the intriguing Adamantus. Our forums are very active and I can already feel this is the beginning of a strong and friendly community. There's so much more to tell in future updates, but for now I invite you to peruse our GitHub repository. The Issues section provides a rough roadmap and you can even see what I'm working on at the moment, although the Wiki needs a makeover and a thorough update. The roadmap is rather loose but it should also give you an idea of where we're standing with Asylum.
PHEW! And now for a completely unceremonious goodbye.
P.S.: Dagon actually stands for Unix-like recursive naming Dagon Adventure Game Objects Nexus. The coincidence with THAT other Dagon was completely unintentional.
P.P.S.: Also, Dagon happens to be the #1 software on Steam Greenlight. How cool is that?
P.P.P.S.: This update is dedicated to Serena Nelson.
P.P.P.P.S.: Riggo is awesome.