Progress Report and a Non-Spoiler Screenshot
First the good news: I've officially begun work on level 20, of 20! This is still not alpha, but it's a big milestone. I'm extremely happy with how the end of the game is shaping up and I can't wait to share it with you.
The bad news? I now realize how much more work is left to do. While every level is now either alpha quality or at least is roughed-out, there are a great many details and elements that need to come together to bring all of the parts into a finished, polished game. On the other hand, I'm hopeful that things will start coming together quickly now. The guts are all there, so it's just a matter of pulling everything together and filling in the blanks.
Referring back to my running general to-do list, here's where things stand now:
Finish building the last 4 (of 20) levels.
Script 12-15 remaining cinematic scenes.
Integrate remaining music into the game and cinematics--some of which has yet to be written.
Finish writing/placing remaining log files/docs.
Build the core game menu system.
Finish adding details to the PDA.
Tweak, tweak, tweak the gameplay!
Finish texturing a few of the models.
Add more details/refinements to some of the levels.
Code a save/restore game interface.
Release Alpha. Refine the game...
Release Beta. Fix the bugs...
Release the game!
These percentages are somewhat arbitrary, of course. The tricky part is translating the work remaining into a timeline. Complicating things is my workload with other projects. As I've mentioned before, the nice thing about my situation is I have existing client work that helps pay the bills and ensures I don't run out of money to complete the game. However, at times this work cuts into game development time, and this last month has been especially frustrating in that regard. So I'm mostly insulated from a financial crisis, but at a cost of time. It's getting done, just not as fast as I want.
Taking a moment to breathe...
I told myself last year that I would go into crunch mode for six months--or a little longer if necessary--working weekends, nights, any time I could fit in. But the six months became a whole year, and now we're well into the spring. A few weeks ago I realized I had to pull back a little for the sake of my sanity. I'm still trying to work six days a week and evenings, etc., but I'm taking breaks to...breathe...a little more often. Over the last year I've started exercising regularly and I've stuck to it. Just 10-20 minutes a few days a week, but it helps. I get headaches sometimes, but I try to catch them early and then come back to work as quickly as I can instead of trying to work through them and finding I'm worse off.
This is a tough business. I've learned so much about 3D modeling, animation, game programming, etc., but I think I've learned more valuable lessons about how to approach a huge project like this. I know the next project I take on (and there WILL be a next project) I will have a much better handle on the process of producing the project, beyond the technical and artistic knowledge required. Thank you as always for your patience and for sticking with me so far past the estimated release date. You guys rock!
The Non-Spoiler Screenshot
So all that aside, I'm super-excited with how the game as a whole is shaping up. This game is not going to be for everybody, but I think there's a core audience out there that's going to simply love it.
Now, I've been torn a little about what to share with you from the final levels of the game. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I also want to show some progress from the last few weeks. I came up with the idea to create a "non-spoiler" screenshot. Basically, I've combined four screenshots that contain some spoiler images but by cropping them together you don't really see any of the spoiler elements in any of them. It's just a little glimpse of what's been going on behind the scenes, and what is in store for you in your journey across the Lifeless Planet...
My upgraded workstation
I got a huge tube in the mail a couple weeks ago and out of it I pulled a late Christmas present from my brother: a four-foot-square custom-made poster of an Apollo astronaut! Quite an amazing upgrade to my workstation, and this photo doesn't do justice to how big it looks. Thanks, bro!
Retiring the Alpha Demo Build
A note to my beta-tester level backers: I've left the last demo build up for a while now, but I'll be pulling it in the next couple of days. So you've got one last chance to get it (remember, this is for beta-level backers only)!
A New Trailer on the Horizon
As I get closer to really pulling the game together I'll be releasing a shiny new teaser trailer. It won't be next week, and maybe not this month, but that's the next big thing to look for. In the meantime, I'll be digging back into work and I will keep you posted as things progress. I've been posting to the project comments now and again just to let you know I'm still plugging away...