#46 PSX2016 Report, Development Updates & Juicy GIFs!
Hey there! We hope you've had a great year's start and that 2017 has many awesome things in store for you. It's about time for another update and there's a lot to cover. We've bolded the important bits for you.
General Development Report
The game is coming along nicely. Each area of development is its own battle, and while some areas are easier than others, some end up taking more time to get through than we anticipate. We're hard at work so come mid-2017 you'll have a clearer roadmap about our progress towards getting the main game to a near-finished state, as well as a tentative release timeline.
This past couple of weeks we’ve concentrated on alpha testing some newer sections of the game. For now these are internal tests, but once most bugs have been squashed, we’ll roll a new alpha out for the Elite Backer tier to try out. More info in the next update.
As a result of testing the game, the mid-game areas afforded an interesting balancing act. Some testers felt the difficulty was a bit too demanding, while others found the game offered a fair and enjoyable challenge. I obviously can't physically be there with each tester, so it's important to pinpoint issues like that in aggregate.
In light of that, we decided to create a game analytics system to let us visualize all kinds of information from testers’ playthroughs.
The idea here is to get a deep, granular sense of what specific rooms/enemies/situations present more of a challenge for players and balance the game accordingly. Lukas is finishing the backend and GUI work for the system, so we should have something up and running pretty soon! We’re excited to see the wealth of info we’ll get from this; we’ll make sure to share our results in the next update.
Other Development Updates
Work continues being poured into getting the first 60% of the game to a beta stage. Here's a list of things that have happened since the last update:
- Jonathan’s been working on getting some cutscene-specific music done. I can only say you guys are going to love this OST!
- Deryk and I have been working on creating missing assets to replace placeholder graphics. I've also been working on creating and replacing some placeholder sound effects.
- After getting feedback from the alpha tests, I’ve worked on creating a few extra rooms to give the mid-game areas a bit more breathing room, as well as slow down the pacing a bit to allow players to get familiarized with new mechanics or new enemy behavior.
- Mathias and Lukas continue optimizing the C++ runtime, as well as working on the console/mac/linux ports.
- The game now runs at a 16:9 aspect ratio instead of 15:9. When we went widescreen, we initially chose 15:9 to accommodate the 3DS' resolution, but seeing that we didn't reach the stretch goal and that the Nintendo Switch is coming out next month, we feel more inclined to set our sights on the Switch for an eventual port. The Wii U port is coming out as promised, so no changes there.
- Dialog writing & revising. Dialog is a crucial part of storytelling, so it's important that each line advances the story in some way (new information, subtext, foreshadowing or confirmation), sounds natural to each character and strays away from the cliché. It takes a good deal of iteration to get the rhythm and wording to feel polished, but in the end I'm hoping it will make a difference when you experience the game.
- FMV cutscenes. As you no doubt remember from the Kickstarter trailer or the GIFs that we've sprinkled throughout our updates, you'll know that HFA features pre-rendered cutscenes that seamlessly blend into the game, much like in FFVII. We held off on producing most of these until this point in development, and although developing these requires a lot of work and collaboration, the rewards in terms of storytelling and world-building justify the effort. Like the saying goes, an FMV is worth a thousand words!
- New development tools. During these past months we’ve also coded a few tools to soften out some development tasks. Some of these shine when developing cutscenes (e.g. camera & NPC movement scripting), or make it easier to implement branching dialog trees depending on what items or quests you have completed. I've also made a mob battle editor for the scripted encounters in different parts of the game world, as well as a fully functional in-game achievement system. Pretty happy to have these tools at our disposal.
- We've reworked some of the level design for later areas and their rooms, including a couple of extended puzzle mechanics that will add a lot of depth to the later game and the optional puzzles. We’ll start building most of these rooms in the next stage of development.
- Tied to the above, we've also been working on getting some of the side game/optional content plotted out. We're building a library of sorts with dozens of puzzle designs that we'll translate into the game at a later point in development. Since most of these puzzles will be optional, we're giving ourselves the chance to make them seriously challenging. We believe these will be a delightful change of pace for the casual gamer, and a healthy challenge for the completionists among you.
PlayStation Experience Report!
In December we took the game to PSX2016. We got a chance to show a new demo to an army of PlayStation-loving folks out there. This crowd seemed especially pleased with the game, taking notice of the kinship between Heart Forth, Alicia and games like Xenogears, Castlevania SOTN, Zelda or FFT.
It's an awesome feeling to see players engage with the game, even more so when people hold dear to their hearts the very same spark that inspired me to begin work on Heart Forth, Alicia almost 10 years ago.
Here are a few articles written about our visit to PSX:
- Game Informer - My Nine Favorite Games at PSX2016
- Press X to Talk - Interview with Alonso Martin
- PSU - HFA: Cute Visuals Mask Deep Story & Tight Gameplay
- Nerd Reactor - HFA is a must-play Metroidvania
- RPGSite - 5 Exciting Indie Games from PSX
- 2 old 4 gaming - PS Vita games at PSX
- PC Gamer - Our 2017 Gaming Resolutions
- Kotaku - Western RPGs of 2017
Livestreams - Tuesdays @ 1pm CT
That’s it for now! We’ll go back into the cave to continue working on the game, but don’t forget to watch the development livestreams every Tuesday @ 1pm CT over here:
We also have a pretty active Discord server over here:
Make sure to follow our Twitter account for day-to-day development tidbits, smaller news and livestream heads ups: