UPDATE #15 – making ghosts not becoming them
Dear Hunters, Patrons, Angels and fans of Ghost Theory,
We know it’s been ages since we published our last update but we’re finally in a position to spew what's new, about us and about Ghost Theory. There’s a lot to cover here, so grab a beer, a brew or just whatever appeals to you when reading lengthy and generally rather glum missives.
Erm, we're going to be late
There is some proverb about tigers never changing their stripes or giraffes keeping their spots or some such but the point is we are the same developers who made the ever-so-slightly delayed Dex. This is due to a sickness known throughout the developer community as Over Optimistic Projection of Selling-date – which, if you put the words together, spells 'Bugger.'
We’re going to be late with the delivery. And we thought it fairer to tell you now rather than at the last minute so that you might at least give us points for being honest. And we honestly didn’t expect anywhere near as many problems as we faced after the Kickstarter campaign. But the important thing is that the development of Ghost Theory remains on-going, just like our ever-beating hearts. You’ll get the game, your rewards and our bleedy-vascular love for your patience.
* Change of Engine
The first reason for delay, apart from contracting a nasty case of Bugger, was the effect that changing our game’s engine had on development. We were forced to rework everything we made in Unity and that meant starting almost from scratch. We had some issues with CryEngine’s documentation as well, to be frank - and consequently spent quite a lot of time figuring out the necessary operationals and their related pipelines.
* Development of new side-projects
The second reason for the delay is that we needed to develop other small titles in order to secure future cash-flow. Although it's true your Kickstarter money didn't keep the development train tooting for long, it gave us a bridge over the worst and helped the project stay alive. It also showed us that this was a game with a passionate fan base which was worthy of our own ongoing investment. We now have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to you to deliver Ghost Theory, and as soon as we can. But, for that, we need to keep our best resources – our people, our Dreads – in the fold. And that means not leaving them so hungry they start boiling chair legs to make soup.
Our income from Dex, our previous game, is getting thinner every month, as expected. And, at the moment, it isn't covering the studio’s monthly costs.
That’s why we’re simultaneously developing other small projects – in order to keep our people in the fold. Don’t panic - we’re constantly developing Ghost Theory too, but not many of us are working on it full-time right now. And definitely not as many as would love to. It’s quite common to see one Dread working on two, three or more projects projects at at any one time. Securing the cash flow and keeping the chairs for sitting on.
So what are we working on right now?
* Ghost Theory
* a new casual F2P mobile puzzle game for iOS, Android
* Dex – DEMO (PC, Xbox One, PS4) + marketing campaign
* Dex – Wii U version development
* Dex – Japanese and Russian Localization + market research
* Dex - PS Vita - Optimizations Update
* Mimpi Dreams (iOS, Android) – reaching out for the Asian market
* Mimpi Dreams licensing
So, how long a delay are we talking about here? Our rough estimate is the size of a baguette. In the world of clocks and linear time that means somewhere in the region of a year. But the baguette could be a really long one or, if we're lucky and get an investor, one of those short ones you find in supermarkets. We just don't know. Basically each of the two reasons for the current delay slapped on an additional 6 months to the development so far. And our future productivity on Ghost Theory depends heavily on the size of the final game against the size of the team working on it. With the cash-flow situation bobbling around like an apple in a bucket, we simply don't want to project in case we happen upon another Bugger.
One thing, we'll say, though - we have started discussing the possibility of going into Early Access, which would allow you to get your hands on the game earlier. Do please feel free to let us know what your thoughts are on that.
Securing the funds from investments and support programs
As we've said before, there are on-going negotiations with potential investors, publishers and other business partners, the fruition of which would stabilize our cash-flow and allow us to focus exclusively on the development of Ghost Theory. But it’s not easy to find a sponsor with the same vision and expectations we have. If Ghost Theory were a free to play multiplayer game, for example, we would already have an investor. But a high budget single-player adventure to which future business partners aren't permitted to demand big changes... that’s kind of like trying to find a poodle trainer to help you raise your lion. But we're very active in the hunt. We recently visited two b2b events – Casual Connect in Germany and White Nights Prague here in Czech Republic – and have been approached by several new interested parties. These talks have led to new negotiations and we’re devoting as much time as we can to securing a productive partnership.
Of course, last year, we participated in Crytek’s Indie Dev Fund, hoping to win some extra funds for development. Thanks to your 1181 votes, we climbed up to third place. When the contest ended, all applicant projects were asked to wait for the announcement of results. We’ve sent a few e-mails to them during the last six months but always received the same reply – please keep waiting. We’ll just have to wait and see.
We’re also applying to an EU fund for game development in the hope of getting some funds from there. At the moment we’re filling out forms, iterating like a Victorian poet and communicating with a partner company who can help us make our application stand out.
Arriving at a design crossroad (aka liposuction day)
We always thought that, by this stage in the development, we would have solved all budget questions. But, as you can see, that’s still far from the case. We always hoped to develop our full vision of Ghost Theory and so kept in all the key features of the game, even if they were part of stretch-goals which were not reached.
We fancied that along the way we’d meet a business partner (poodle trainer) who could help us integrate our lionsome features into the development. But the reality is, if we ultimately have to foot the bill for the rest of Ghost Theory's development ourselves, we're going to have to suck out some creative blubber from the project. Which is the last thing we wanna do, cause blubber is good – it's what seals use to swim in ice water, for example.
But negotiations have been so incredibly slow that we’ve already passed the stage where we need to make a decision about what can stay and what has to go in the game. We’re still hoping, pushing and doing everything we can to put off the grand liposuction day, but we've had to set a final deadline for the sake of the game’s design – as it is now sat at a cross-road, eating chips and a kebab, waiting for the light to turn green... Too many metaphors? Never.
But if we don’t find the right publisher/investor by the end of March 2017, we’ll be sucking up the pink grease with an aching heart and will push GT towards a release in a reduced form. It will still be awesome – and some actually prefer leaner anyway. The cuts will be mostly with regards to Barbara’s personal story and related scenes, RPG mechanics, the University as a playable sandbox... Our lean liposucked version would instead use the University as a menu through which you access the playable ghost hunting missions – and these missions will retain their full-flabber awesomeness.
Acquisition of Silicon Jelly and the birth of Dreadlocks Mobile
Silicon Jelly was once a small Czech indie games studio which mostly focused on the development of casual mobile games. Their last work was called Mimpi Dreams - a magical puzzle platformer for iOS and Android with a cute white dog as the main hero. Unfortunately, revenues from this game didn’t flow in as fast as expected, so the studio staff left to created a new startup. Dreadlocks were then offered to acquire Silicon Jelly and we went for it. We believe there is enormous business potential in the games this studio produced and we aim to build on their portfolio. We decided to use this acquisition as a springboard for our own mobile games development department. So, it is with some pride that we can announce that Silicon Jelly will be soon rebranded as Dreadlocks Mobile. Revenues from Dreadlocks Mobile will mostly be invested into Ghost Theory.
Footage from Unity GT Early Prototype
As you know, we moved the development of Ghost Theory from Unity to CryEngine. We promised to show you at least the footage from the Ghost Theory prototype we made with Unity before we drew a chubby line through that stroke of history and left GT's Unity heritage behind for good. Although at this stage we feel that publishing the prototype might be a little counter-productive, we promised it so here you go. This video is the one we’re using to pitch GT to publishers and their poodles. Enjoy.
The actual publishing of this playable prototype is still under discussion. It’s quite buggy and we feel like we would be better off advancing the full game in CryEngine than bug-flogging this stinky old mare.
Forum & Feedback
We saw that we missed a patron call on the forum – doh – and replied late in the Kickstarter comments section. No wonder it left you feeling anxious. Our sincere apologies. To prevent this from happening again, we’ve assigned one Dread to community management whose goal won’t be just to answer your questions but also to explore new ways of connecting more closely you, the players, with us, the developers.
More frequent updates
We realize that staying quiet for so long is not acceptable. It's actually not even very nice. So we want to improve on that front as well; we really appreciate what you have done for us so far and we want you to feel that appreciation. So from now on, no matter how busy we are with the development and other things, we’ll always be looking for reasons to send you a new update.
What’s gonna be in the next one?
There are a few other things we’d like to talk about in the next update. For instance we’d like to share some new info about the Ghost Theory documentary series that's currently in the production pipeline. It'll definitely be something to look out for.
And we'll of course keep you abreast of the situation regarding funds as they relate to GT liposuction too.
Thank you loads for reading all this!
See you in the next one,
All of us Dreads