Funded! This project was successfully funded on July 10, 2012.

Update #22

Project Temporary on Hold

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tl;dr: This project is temporary on hold and we will be offering refunds. No, this project is not dead and no we are not bankrupt, however, due to some complications, we're sad to say we can no longer work on this full time.

The really long version:  No excuses, I screwed up. It is very difficult writing this update as I've tried so hard (and still am) trying to come up with something, anything to make it up to you before I resorted to this. I kept putting off writing this because there was nothing worthwhile to write, just a lot of disappointment and excuses. I tried so many times, as early as October, but ended up disappointing and hating myself every time I did. We worked on so many little unfinished "gifts" to appease you, we're even working on something right now that was supposed to be done weeks ago (I'll get to that in a second) but I believe this is now the best course of action to keep everyone happy or at least not feel screwed over by all of this.

Before you go on a rampage (if you haven't already) please hear me out one last time. I know some of you probably already hate me, I don't expect you to forgive me, I don't expect your opinions to change after this but I'm hoping that you're willing to read this one last thing from me.

Here's our story:

Late last year, right after releasing the demo and opening our real, actual, non-virtual studio, we were living some of the best days of our short lives. Some even said we were "living the dream". For a short period of time, it felt like it. Day in and day out we had fun. Learning and creating cool stuff everyday. This, for some, is definitely a dream job. Make games, stories, art and animation and learn while having fun with amazing people and if you're lucky, make some money, feed your family and make a career out of it. There is nothing quite like it.

Unfortunately, reality eventually caught up and my primary concern, which at first was to make sure we shipped a good product, became "Oh my god, oh my god, I need money to feed dozens of people and their families for a few more months". You probably noticed the drop off in my communication and consistency the months leading up to our studio opening and our big move because of the immense pressure, self doubt, anxiety, excitement and everything else I felt and had to deal with. Logistics, looking at new apartments at places hundreds of miles away, relocating people while convincing our mothers and ourselves that yes, we can definitely make a living out of art and video games and this whole endeavour was worth it while we put on brave faces and dipped into our savings accounts. It was the most nerve-racking experience of my life. I can honestly say that the job became twice as hard and five times more expensive after we opened our studio, at least for me who pretty much did everything: from accounting, to directing, to programming, to lending a crying shoulder, keeping everyone sane, to janitorial work.

It was not an enjoyable experience. It was not what you or I imagined it would be (It never is). I was scared to death of failing these people who threw away careers, relationships and opportunities just to join me in a crazy adventure. I was deeply ashamed that it was taking longer than was promised, that I was not doing a good job and that I was failing everyone - I was failing you. I worked harder, and convinced myself that if we released a great game, all will be forgiven and I should just shut up for a while and finish the game. "A while" turned out longer than I wanted. Deadlines kept getting pushed, things kept coming up, one problem after another from all angles. It was insane. The personal ones - Living and working with people you've only known through Facebook profiles and Skype conversations hoping to god that none of them were serial killers, in a new city nonetheless. Leaving behind friends, families and comfort zones. Ending a relationship with someone who's been with you since high school. Meeting new people, learning to love, and regretably, hate some. Developing chronic health problems and malnutrition because of skipped meals and trips to the doctor. Hating yourself for not being there for your family when they need you the most: while your mother's at the operating table, you're hundreds of miles away trying to decide which shade of yellow works best for a sword slash particle effect. It's as ridiculous as it sounds and there was no quitting or taking personal breaks for me.

Not for the boss.

Living with people meant you've welcomed them and all their baggages into your life. If you're the boss, their problems are now your problems:

Someone's dad loses his job and suddenly that someone, a starving, arguably underpaid, artist, becomes the family breadwinner? It's now your problem.

Unexpected death in someone's family and they need help with funeral arrangements? You're now partly responsible.

Someone's relationship ends and it totally devastates him and he needs to take some time off even though you can't afford it because of an upcoming deadline? Deal with it.

Someone you've shared laughs with suddenly starts questioning their self-worth and throwing around statements like "I'm scared I'll never amount to anything in this industry" and "suicide"? You reel them back in and keep them afloat when you yourself are barely doing just that.

Who helps the boss when he needs it? The boss is not allowed to show weakness and instability, it trickles down and makes everyone uncomfortable and hesitant. No, the boss soldiers on. I am not complaining, just stating facts. I am proud to have helped these people in whatever small way I did and I will continue doing so, but I'd like you to understand the things that contributed to my current state of being. Every time I tried writing an update here, I'm already emotionally and physically spent. I'm exhausted. I couldn't lie through my teeth, telling you that everything was fine and we're inches closer to being done when we're not because life wouldn't give us a break.
 I just wanted to finish the damn game.

And that's just some of the personal stuff, let's talk business.

This project has become very ambitious. It did not start this way. We are victims of feature and scope creep. The original plan was a fraction of what it is now. We were inexperienced and we overestimated our capabilities. We set our bar so high that we could no longer reach it, not with the resources we had. I underestimated the costs.

I started working on this, treating it like a REAL job, when I was 22 or 23. Here we are, 4 years later and I've poured in just a little over $240,000 into this. Not just into this project exclusively, but the company, the people in it, our other projects, and the infrastructure we needed. Equipment, utilities, appliances, furniture, food, transportation and entertainment for everyone - everything. We have no big investors and no crazy bank loans as I didn't want to be tied down. I just turned 27 a few months ago and I've blown through a quarter of a million dollars on a video game company. You'll be surprised at the number of people who find that hilarious and/or unacceptable. I thought my personal savings was enough to see the project through. You see, I was aiming for Vanillaware/Atlus' Odin Sphere, Muramasa or Dragon's Crown level quality - great games that didn't compromise on the art. If you tried out the demo, maybe you'll agree that it was getting there and it's actually improved a lot since then. At one point I even convinced myself that it was possible, even with our handicap. The reality is no, it's not. Not with our budget, which is a tiny fraction of theirs. Not with the number of people and collective experience (or inexperience) we had at hand.

People look at the $30,000 (We actually got way less - after Kickstarter/Amazon fees and credit cards that bounced) we got from our two Kickstarter campaigns and see a lot of money. During our earliest stages, with our original scope, it was actually enough to see it through. At one point, a lot of the game was already done, albeit not at the level I wanted, but it was done. It wasn't good enough and I got overambitious. If we were going to do this, we'd better do it right - this became our mantra. I kept pushing everyone to take it to another level and they answered. We worked our tails off. We live, eat and sleep in the studio. We scrapped a lot of finished work. We built our own tools that would normally cost a company tens of thousands of dollars in R&D. We built animation software and level design tools that suited our needs. We obsessed over getting that extra two frames per second on your 4 year old iPad 2. Our artists learned to be more efficient and dabbled in styles that were way outside their comfort zones. We trained each other. Programmers learned art. Artists got crash courses in computer science. Over and over we iterated. We're young, hopelessly idealistic and inexperienced, we don't have superstar developers coming from Konami, EA or Nintendo. The biggest thing any of us have ever worked on prior to this was a hidden object game from Big Fish or an educational app from Gameloft but we weren't going to use our lack of experience as an excuse. We studied, we got better. Rinse. Repeat. It was expensive, it was ridiculous, we couldn't afford it, but the results were glorious but the game, sadly, isn't done yet.

It pains me to see a lot of my friends and acquaintances in this industry result to releasing games just for the sake of releasing games. Riding trends and fads and hoping for a hit. We are not going to start releasing clones of Flappy Bird, Tiny Tower, Candy Crush or Whatever's The Flavour of the Month. There's enough people doing that. We play a lot of games, we note down the things we like. We know what we like. We made it a rule to only work on games that we liked, games that we could see ourselves playing even if we didn't make them. If you're a game developer and you're reading this, do yourself a favour, If you don't see yourself playing that game you're currently working on, don't waste your time. Never settle.

This is no longer just a job for us, it's a way of life. Unfortunately we're all human. We're anchored down by responsibilities, some more than others. That means while working on this, we had to take on commissions. We need money. We can't feed our families on hopes and dreams. We took on a lot of jobs. We bit off more than we could chew. Normally, a number of us would be delegated to work on commissions while the rest of us would work on RT.

Then we started taking on big contracts.

Though we're unproven, we're fortunate enough to never run out of exciting offers. We've received numerous buy-out offers from gaming companies, one of which is a household name. We've receive job offers from car companies, oil companies, charitable agencies and government branches from different countries. We've worked on a huge traffic safety ad campaign. We're working with a trailblazing new studio that's bringing amazing new content previously unheard of in a continent starving for original creative content. Suddenly, we're an animation studio. Although our numbers doubled and at one point tripled, it still wasn't enough and some of us got pulled into doing two or three jobs at a time. Things never turn out as expected. We ran into complications that we weren't prepared for and suddenly, no one was left working on RT for months. We worked through Christmas. We spent Christmas and New Year's eve in the studio. Our last big project, something we've been working on for a year, was just finished two weeks ago. We just started working on another job today and have a couple more on the way.

For me, it has become a necessity. I cannot stop. Within the span of a few months, I'm suddenly responsible for the lives and careers of dozens of people and their families.

A few weeks from now we'll be releasing "The Puppetmasters", a small prequel to Rival Threads. It is done. A small number of us worked on it in our spare time between projects also known as time that should be spent sleeping (hah). As Melissa mentioned in the comments section, we debuted the game at a small venue a few weeks ago and are now currently working out the kinks and improving the areas that we felt people had trouble with. Everyone of you will receive a copy of the game on the platform of your choice. It is a full game based on The Puppetmaster shorts we did for Rival Threads. Based on initial feedback, people found it a fun little distraction and we received a lot of praises for the visuals. Although it's a small game, compared to Rival Threads, it is still a full game with a complete story, professional voice acting, fast-pace gameplay, animation - the works. It will be released on iPads first and other platforms shortly after. We were supposed to be done with it weeks ago but again, things didn't go as expected. Our attention was needed elsewhere as another deadline sneaked up on us like a ninja and delayed the game's release.

I know that this is not the game you paid for. I am not asking you to accept this as a compromise. It will take a while for me to put together the amount, but I will refund you the money you funded us with later this year or the first half of next year. We will STILL credit you in our games as a sign of our gratitude and you will STILL receive copies of Rival Threads once it's done. Can I put together that money? Yes, definitely, we have active jobs and incoming jobs that ensures just that, but you'll have to give me some time to close a number of projects and contracts and we'll slowly, but surely, make our way there. According to Kickstarter rules, I am not obligated to do this, I've supported and heard of projects that never delivered or under delivered but I will not abandon you and betray your trust any further like I have. I did not ask for your money with the sole intention of creating a company that worked on projects other than the one you paid for. There was no way for me to foresee that the studio would turn into this. I was not prepared of being responsible for the welfare of dozens of people so soon. I just wanted to make a game. A good game. I feel like I'm doing things that I'm not even supposed to be doing, at least not this early in my career.

I read each and every comment and I've spoken to a number of you on Skype, Facebook and Twitter and it pains me to see people think we've given up on RT. Understandable, because of my silence. I was exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. Exhausted in every way, and only now have I finally found some breathing room and the courage to write this. For you, it definitely felt like half a year has passed but for me, with all the crazy stuff that's happened, time passed by in the blink of an eye. I got caught up in my own personal hell and I failed you.

We will finish Rival Threads. You will get the game you paid for. You will get your money back.

It's a sad thought but we are victims of our own success.

Thank you so much for everything you've done for me and my team. Whether you pledged $1 or $500, some of us, myself included, literally owe you our lives. Thank you so much for the opportunities and doors you helped open for us.

Leo


Update #21

August Demo

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Dear Friends,

After months of craziness, problems, re-designs, re-makes and delays, as promised, here's a playable demo. Although we strongly feel that this isn't ready yet as there's still a TON of work and polishing to be done, we've all waited long enough, and you deserve something playable. Hopefully this gives you a feel for what's to come. Thank you so much for your patience and continued support!

Windows

Mac

Linux

Instructions (for those who need it)

Why the Delays?

We know this has taken longer than the original estimates and we've kept a lot of things under wraps so it's totally understandable that a lot of people are getting antsy. Most of us witnessed firsthand how this project evolved artistically, but we haven't been as generous sharing the gameplay. We wanted to make sure the game not only looked pretty, but was fun to play as well, and we went through hundreds of hours designing, testing, programming and reprogramming. The biggest redesign happened shortly after we opened our new studio, after a peer review of the current system. Which, unfortunately was one of the key factors that caused the delays you were subjected to the past few months. 

We'd like to take this opportunity to show just how much the gameplay has evolved over the years.

Original Last Class Heroes.

Here's some super early footage from last year's Kickstarter pitch showing the game as an action RPG.

The thing that ultimately pushed us to exploring other gameplay modes were our limited level sizes. Our level sizes were limited because of our fixed sized backgrounds. Back then, our artists were still unfamiliar with the concepts of modular level design. Remember, this is the first game for most of us and 90% of our team are art majors. We realized action RPGs weren't as fun with small levels so we tried creating a simple/classic turn based RPG like above.

That was way too simple so at one point we experimented with rhythm game mechanics, while this was fun at first, it became really tedious, really fast. It made the game very limited. 

We then tried out a grid based strategy RPG that incorporated a gesture + rhythm based command system.

And for the longest time we used this button combo + dynamic queue turn based system.

We still felt like the levels were too small and we almost completely ruled out changing the backgrounds because they were all done and we would be wasting months of work. Ultimately, we started prototyping multileveled rooms like the .gif above. We were happy with the results and how much larger the world felt so we started creating completely modular levels, which allowed us to quadruple the sizes of our biggest levels. Unfortunately, this meant dozens of wasted assets and hundreds of work hours lost.

Now that the problem of limited sized levels was solved, we decided to go back to our original design of making a straight up, classic, action RPG. Which can be previewed by downloading the demo. Unfortunately, we only made this transition a few months ago, AFTER we announced the release preview, after we opened the studio and for the first time, did face to face peer reviews. Which will be evident when you play the demo. So instead of a "release preview" we'd like to drop down this release's status to "demo".

Thank you for your understanding! All the delays and decisions being made are necessary to provide you with the highest quality and satisfying game possible. (with our limited resources)

Shoutouts


Our good friend and RT Voice Actor Edwyn Tiong is part of Conspirocracy, a game about the travails of David Poulson (voiced by Edwyn) a schoolteacher who one day finds himself without an identity and his existence completely erased from seemingly every public and government record. Check it out!

Check out this super cool Anino fanart/speedpaint from Lancer Cross! Thanks Lancer!

Check out the results here.

Kontrabida Art Director/Enviro Artist Anne Ballaran's contribution to Chris Lewis Carter's YA novel, Camp Myth: Kraken Fishing which will be featured on the Cast of Wonders podcast on September 25. 

Last Words

Once again, thank you so much for your continued support and patience. I really hate having to make excuses but it's better than keeping you guys guessing. Sorry for the lack of communication. Rest assured everything that can be done to keep this group, this project and this dream alive is being done, albeit by one person. Although the Rival Threads team still exclusively works on Rival Threads, Kontrabida has grown beyond just Rival Threads, with four ongoing game, animation and commercial projects. Managed and directed by one person, things can get hairy sometimes (all the time). Our numbers have grown but our resources have yet to catch up. We are as indie as indie gets. 

Leo


Update #20

This Is Not The Update You're Looking For

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I'm starting to sound like a broken record but... guys, we're almost there! I know we're all frustrated waiting for this to come out but we'd like to ask you guys for three more days! Why is this taking longer than expected? These past few months, the game underwent (and is undergoing) a major gameplay redesign. We took a long and hard look at what we had and the game was sorely lacking in the fun department. This required a lot of wheels to be reinvented. So far, it feels like we reinvented these fancy new wheels and we're running ourselves over with them. We've been sleepless the past few days just trying to make this all work. Unfortunately, we're only human and our resources are still, unfortunately, limited. To make up for it, here's a bonus poster for everyone. (click here for full version)

See you after the weekend. O_o

Leo


Update #19

August (More Hiccups)

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Hey! 

So we've come to update you on the status of the Release Preview, and in turn, hope that you'll put aside any disappointment and allow us just a bit more time. To be honest we can't wait to have everyone try the game out and give us your feedback but unfortunately, we spent more than half the month setting up the studio, getting desks made, buying equipment and furniture, waiting for boxes we shipped over, getting utilities and internet set up and a hundred other things. It was more work than expected.

We're excited to see you excited, and all of you who keep checking in on us, we can't thank you enough for your support! Now that we have the team together, first half of last month aside, everything has been progressing much more smoothly! Unfortunately, we're still not comfortable showing it as-is. A lot of spit and polish still needed before it's ready for primetime. With that being said, we'd like to ask for at least ten more days. 

Go Anino!

A few surprises with the gameplay.

Theme Song! 

We've been working on this for months with Singer and Rara Voice Actress Amanda Lee. Have a listen! 

Fan Rebecca Collis sent us pics of her Sebastian clay sculpture and papercrafts! Thank you so much Rebecca! These are fantastic! <3

And that's that, another ten days isn't a whole lot of time at all for what's left to be done, at the same time we hope the small extension can be pardoned. In the meantime, our idols over at Vanillaware has their newest title "Dragon's Crown" releasing tomorrow in North America. If you haven't already seen the trailer ten times then here you go: 

Our friend Chris Carter just launched a new Kickstarter campaign! Some Kontrabida regulars helped out with some of the art. Check it out here!

Once again, we know we're stretching your patience, really sorry, hang in there! Thank you so much for all of your support. Thank you so much to all of our friends and family who helped us with the move and a personal thank you and shout out to our sleep deprived, underpaid and overworked team members for hanging tough. Love you guys.

See you all in ten days!
Leo & Jennee


Update #18

July Hiccups

12 comments
1 like

Hey everyone! 

We've got some news to share... We really didn't want to do this, but unfortunately the Public Release Preview set to be launched today, July 5th will be postponed until August 5th. We've run into a lot of hiccups and regardless of what was in our way, we weren't ready to deliver today. We're sorry for the disappointment, and hope that you all don't mind hanging in there for a couple more weeks.  

I know this update dropped a little later than most of you expected. We were grinding until the very last second to make this happen. We took a very, very long look at what we had - to see if it was something good enough for the public and ultimately we decided to delay it by a few more weeks so we can polish the game a bit more.

I know we keep pushing back our deadlines and at this point I'm sure some of you are already frustrated hearing the same thing every update but rest assured we're working to the best of our abilities with the resources we have, which unfortunately at this time, isn't a lot. 

Now about those hiccups.

Shortly after we announced the date for the Public Release Preview we were presented with an opportunity that was simply too good to turn down. As you all know by now, we've been doing this for two years with a high degree of difficulty - most of us have never met each other in person, work together in the same room, let alone in the same country. Our team is made up of people from four different countries. All the work has been done through iMessage, Skype or Google+ chat rooms and email. This means everything took a lot longer than usual; a simple colour swap request or modification would take hours, sometimes days as opposed to seconds or minutes in a normal office setting.

And this is all about to change.

We've decided to finally go all in and invest in a real studio. A year and a half ago this would have been impossible, but thanks to the success and exposure we received from Kickstarter and a lot of amazing people who pulled through for us - our friends at Alter Ego Productions, our angel investors, our friends and family, and with my personal life savings we finally had enough money to make the studio a reality and be able to sustain a real business for the remainder of the year and beyond. Everything just lined up conveniently and we had to act fast.

Unfortunately, this amazing sequence of events weren't considered when the release date for the Preview was made and I naïvely believed we would be able to deliver the game in time while at the same time looking for office and living space, setting up furniture and utilities, legal papers, and successfully flying over and moving at least 60% of our team to the same country.

Aside from being the lead developer, co-creative, technical and animation director, I also had the unfortunate task of making this happen. This image represents what happened the last two months:

 Most of the team finally together in the same room for the first time.

Our New Studio

Preview of The Release Preview

The whole game has 6 Chapters/Scenarios. The release preview will feature Chapter 2: Old Vermilion. Child prodigy turned Academy professor Rara Goddard leads a group of students into abandoned Ashford Manor where the original Vermilion Troupe honed their skills with puppetry and conducted untold experiments. What else lies inside these old walls? 

Area Map:

Click here for larger version.

And the world premiere of Anino, Sebastian's Marionette.

This is a feature that will be explained in-game but here's a peek at Anino's Heart. Each Marionette Heart is different and customizable to varying degrees. 

A rogue marionette:

Your supporting cast for this scenario:

Edwyn Tiong as snobbish and vain Julian

Danielle McRae as headstrong Nora

Peter Gerkman as shy but opinionated Theodore

Annalie Davidson as sweet Alice

Amanda Lee as morbid Cecila

And there you have it. So what else is left to do and why do we need extra time? All of the/most of the major pieces are already in place however, what the game lacks right now is a higher level of polish. Unfortunately the immense amount of distraction from the move and studio set up set us back a few milestones.  We're really sorry about this delay, but after much deliberation, we believe it's for the best.  

Thank you for your continued support and understanding. 

Leo (@finalbossleo)

Studio Kontrabida


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