Delving into 2017
As 2016 has come to a close, we thank you once again for your generous support, for your patience, and for believing in us and in the game in spite of delays. We understand that the lack of updates (both in terms of new builds and written Kickstarter posts), has been a huge concern for many of you.
- First, the game remains in active development, though progress has obviously been far slower than you or we might wish.
- Second, Kickstarter rewards will still be delivered - some in the shorter term, and some after the game is released. (More on that in a bit).
We plan to make 2017 a better year, and we hope to rebuild your trust in the coming months with better progress, both on the game and through improved communication. We know that there are literally thousands of you who have never personally met us — but please know that we are working as hard as we possibly can, and are committed to the completion and release of Delver’s Drop. 2016 was a difficult year for several of us, personally and professionally, but we have been making improvements both in the company and in our own working habits to increase efficiency and make much better progress in 2017.
Those of you who are still waiting with anticipation surely hope that Delver’s Drop will be amazing, as do we — to you, we continue to promise an excellent game, and a quality product.
For those of you who want something to play as soon as possible, we have heard your requests, and are making every effort to prioritize the items needed to release a new demo. We can only ask for your patience as we work toward these new builds, and hope that you have enjoyed the past builds that have been available via Humble. If you have not played the old build(s) or have not received your key, please contact us via private message or at firstname.lastname@example.org!
On Updates & Communication:
Our number one backer request, and the one that we have fallen short of the most frequently is regular Kickstarter updates. Our goal has always been to fill updates with progress and good news, but your comments have encouraged us to realize that even the struggles we face may be worthy of an update. We understand that to many of you, being a part of our story may be almost as important as receiving a finished product. Your generous contributions deserve a more thorough and frequent explanation of what the project's Kickstarter funding has made possible.
And while we have kept to our schedule of doing regular art livestreams twice per month, we realize that many of you would prefer written updates. Consequently, we will be putting our livestreams on the backburner, and may only do one every couple of months for the purposes of a video that we link from within a Kickstarter update. The time we will save by doing fewer livestreams will be put directly into writing and publishing updates.
So in the new year, we will get back on a schedule of updates at least once per month, if not more frequently. They may only be a couple of paragraphs at a time, but they will detail our progress... and our struggles.
So in that spirit, on to our year-end summary:
2016 Progress Update
While 2016 was filled with progress, it was a rough uphill climb through engine issues and rework — specifically improving performance while reworking the physics system (which influences everything from character movement, to pushing objects, to explosions). We know that we have mentioned this before, but our engine has been the one most painful aspect of the project, and this grueling patch of rework was holding up gameplay feature development.
But finally, within the last month, we have crested the mountaintop of engine work, which is now 99% complete. The result is drastically improved performance and the elimination of large numbers of current (and future) bugs. At this point, the engine will only require an occasional minor fix to accommodate gameplay features or to ensure operating system compatibility. This comes as a huge relief to us, and hopefully to you as well.
We are now working our way back into gameplay feature development, which is the most necessary element for producing new and interesting playable builds. So we’re entering the new year with much more momentum, and expect this to continue forward in the coming months. We also hope to add another part-time programmer to the team shortly!
But we are also excited to tell you about the many technical improvements that this engine work has allowed. Specifically, the game will now run with double the efficiency (and more stable framerates), meaning we can have many more enemies, spells, and explosions on-screen at once. It will also be more reliable on lower-spec devices, which means that many more of you will be able to fully enjoy the game on your device of choice (hopefully without a hint slowdown).
- Updated physics system: now quad-tree-based, with discrete resolutions and many gameplay ideas integrated into the system. Instead of trying to shoehorn cool gameplay mechanics into only moderately workable physics, we know have a deeper level of integration which resolves a lot of bugs and gives us more design flexibility.
- These spatial partitioning changes (via quad tree) have also dramatically improved performance for us, lowering the baseline machine requirements and in general allowing us to have a lot more dynamic objects resolved. On some devices we tested, this resulted in an order of magnitude improvement in performance.
- Fully integrated unicode support for language localizations down the road.
- Improved build process (now integrated into a single process) for Windows, Mac, etc, meaning that we will be able to much more quickly and easily create builds on multiple platforms at once.
- Lots of specific fixes and updates for Windows 10 compatibility.
- Update to support OSX 10.12 Sierra - almost complete.
- Other updates and improvements needed for the future system ports.
Content & Art Progress:
- Additional zone tiles and object artwork, to both improve current zones and work toward completions of later levels.
- Weapon art & designs for many more weapon categories, which were planned but not previously available - more staffs and wands, instruments, shields, etc.
- New enemy art for many enemies that were also planned, but had not yet been created - including additional ghosts, insects, gobels, cultists, and more.
- Implemented newly developed features from our animation software (Esoteric Spine) into our art pipeline for more fluid animations - specifically mesh and path distortion. This allows for effects like fire and lightning to be animated based on a mesh for more fluid movement, and will also allow us to more easily make animations for curving objects like whips or enemy tails. This also drastically speeds up animation, since we were previously drawing every frame of animation for some effects - which looks cool but has been very time-consuming. We will still be doing some traditional animation when the effect is warranted, but these new Spine features will reduce the workload by at least 50%.
- Improved character animation rig, which will allow us to more quickly finish the remaining characters and add more humanoid enemies efficiently, as well as create even more fluid animations for additional weapons and abilities.
- Enhancements to the story, adding more layers of world-building and character development, and deeper narrative significance to the mechanics already present within the game.
- Improvements in UI layout and design (waiting to be implemented). This also included some work toward improved user experience planning, and future-proofing for touch-screen-based gameplay.
Now that the new year is upon us, let’s get down to business.
Immediate Development Goals:
Our main objective for the new year is to release an updated Windows and Mac builds, including:
- All of the tech changes mentioned above, for optimized performance
- Integration of the not-yet-released (but complete) fully-procedural room and level generation, with infinite random various for rooms
- Better gameplay feel and physics interactions (pushing, bumping into objects, knocking back enemies, etc.)
- Updated controls with improved dodging and other mechanics
- Improved character art with additional animations
- New enemy and weapon types.
- Enhanced level aesthetics, with updated tile art, environments/walls, and more room objects for greater level variety. This includes such features as floating rooms surrounded by pits, (or with larger inner pits), and rooms with more doors, windows, columns, etc.
Subsequent Development Goals:
- Endless Drop Mode updated with new room generation mechanics for greater variety. Features added to complete this as a full gameplay mode, with some simple additional mechanics such as progress tracking (rather than a basic series of endless rooms).
- Finish implementation of the status effects system, which has been programmed to 75% completion, but has not been fully integrated for scripting. This will allow for more power-ups, potions, buffs, and debuffs to add gameplay variety and Roguelike experiences.
- Improved gameplay abilities and options for greater strategy in battles, so that the game is less Gauntlet-ish hack-and-slash, and more Zelda II or Dark Souls-esque in combat. These include multi-strike “combos” (swinging weapons in different directions from one slash to another), shield deflection, more precise 360° projectile aiming, and much more.
There are a number of additional items we would like to accomplish in 2017, and hopefully the above is just the tip of the iceberg. But for now, these are our most specific goals. We will keep you all more up-to-date as items are completed or refined, and as additional goals are added to the list.
Many have asked about the status of Kickstarter rewards. We were hoping to mail the next round of packages last year, but the biggest hold-up has been the completion of the game manual. With many of the features still in progress and undergoing revision, we did not want to release an inaccurate manual. However, since the manual is more for fun (as a keepsake) than for instructional purposes, we will be attempting to fast-track its design and production so that we can complete your packages and mail them.
We will likely send out a new survey to make sure that we have up-to-date addresses for everyone. This will be announced in a future Kickstarter update.
We will also keep you updated on the manual design, and once it is printed, we will send packages containing the following items (below). Note that the contents of your package depend upon the level of your pledge, but if you are due any or all of following items, they will be arriving together!
$60+ backers will receive (in reward shipment #1):
- Set of 4 pins (1” button size)
- Small Art Print (11 x 8.5” horizontal)
- Black & White Game Manual
$80 and up backers will also receive (in the same package):
- T-Shirt with Delver’s Drop logo
- Sticker sheet (with 6 character face stickers)
All other rewards will be delivered in one or more rounds of packages at a later time.
Additional posters and art prints (not listed above) will be shipped closer to the completion of the game, in poster-tubes. All physical copies of the game, Rogue figurines, and art books will be delivered after the game has been completed. We may change this plan and attempt to step up delivery of some items, but this depends highly upon what can physically be easily packaged together, and the related shipping costs.
Website & Forum Updates:
As some may have noticed, our websites (for the game and the company) have been out of date for some time, and we have let our online presence and social media fall to the wayside. We do still have a website update in the works, though progress has been slowed. But when we are able to update the site(s), we still hope to create an area where backers can log in to download current and past versions of the game, rather than being limited to the single build available on Humble.
Again, thank you so much for your continued patience, support, and understanding. The Delvers (and the Rogue especially) miss you as much as we are sure that you miss them.
We hope you will drop your thoughts in the comments, or if you have more specific concerns and questions, please reach out through direct message or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading!