November development update
Our long-awaited October update has spilled into late November, and consequently we have a lot of stuff to talk about, including: several brand new pieces of concept art; an exclusive screenshot; a last-minute JourneyCon update; and information about our upcoming new community forum — but first off, we’d like to briefly mention an announcement we made a couple of weeks ago.
The Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) recently awarded Red Thread Games with a $144,000 grant for Draugen, a first-person survival horror adventure set amongst the mountains and fjords of the Norwegian west coast in the 1920s.
I’m sure some of you are wondering how this will affect the development of Dreamfall Chapters.
The simple answer is: it won’t.
The slightly more complicated answer is that this will benefit Dreamfall Chapters.
We've been thinking about starting up a second project for a while, and with this generous grant from NFI that's finally possible. We’re building a completely new team to work on Draugen: no one currently working on Dreamfall Chapters will be affected. Since both titles are being developed using the Unity engine, however, the tools, technology and knowhow will be shared between the teams, benefitting everyone.
Our primary focus is and will continue to be Dreamfall Chapters.
The NFI grant gives us a unique opportunity to spread our wings and have multiple projects in production, but our first responsibility remains with our backers, supporters and fans. The team is deeply passionate about Dreamfall Chapters, and they are all working hard to make this the best game yet in The Longest Journey saga!
Which brings us to:
We are less than one week away from JourneyCon, and we're working day and night to get everything ready for the big show. We have released a full program for the event, and we have promised attendees an exclusive look at the latest version of the game, a panel Q&A with the development team, plus an exciting announcement — along with reveals of new characters, locations and plot details.
We will be recording the entire event, and we want to release some of that footage in the new year — and hopefully also, at some point, all the sessions — but rest assured that everything we show at JourneyCon will also be communicated to our backers before Christmas via Kickstarter updates, our website and social media channels, and via press previews.
(On that note, we encourage everyone to visit and follow our Facebook page, to stay updated on all the latest news! We have just posted an exclusive-to-Facebook piece of concept art, so click here to open our official Dreamfall Chapters Facebook page and check it out for yourself!)
New & exclusive art
The journey from idea to reality begins with the concept art.
Inspired and guided by the writers' words, artists transform thoughts into lines and sketches. These lines are mutable, charged by new ideas, failed experiments and constant iterations, until they solidify into complex and detailed colour designs, capturing — hopefully — the heart and soul, the essence, of our universe.
We are very lucky to have some wonderfully talented concept artists working on Dreamfall Chapters, and they have spent these past six months designing the characters you’ll meet in the game, the locations you'll visit and the beautiful scenes you'll explore.
Here, for the very first time, is a look at one of our darker and moodier locations: the Riverwood Swamp, located north of Marcuria, capital of the Northlands, in the magical world of Arcadia.
Spooky. As for what lies beyond the swamp, we won't reveal that quite yet — but it should be instantly recognisable to those of you who have played The Longest Journey, and who ventured into the darker corners of Riverwood...
Of course, without talented 3D artists to turn these beautiful concepts into virtual reality, we'd be left with a lot of pretty pictures and no game to show for it.
As luck would have it, we also have some fantastic character and environment modellers on the team, who are able to give these visual ideas depth and physicality, transforming them into things of substance that can be touched, felt and interacted with.
You may remember Mira and Wit — two of our favourite characters in the game — from the Kickstarter campaign. Here is the early concept art we revealed more than six months ago:
Our art director continued working on these Europolis-based characters, evolving the rough sketch into final design, resulting in this amazing piece of concept art:
Finally, one of our character modeller used the design to build the finished 3D models, filling in the blanks and making the ideas work as actual in-game characters.
Here is how these characters look in real-time — untouched and unedited — inside Unity, our game engine:
Often, compromises are made transferring the dream of the concept art into the harsh reality of final models. Often, some of the magic vanishes in the process. Often, the heart and soul of the characters and locations are lost in translation.
For Dreamfall Chapters, we strive to maintain that heart and soul all the way from the written word to the final game. And with Mira and Wit, we feel the team has succeeded in carrying over the true essence of these interesting and complex characters — from concept art to finished 3D model.
In closing, we have the WatiCarp:
Last Friday evening, we held our very first Dreamfall Chapters focus test.
During two intense hours at the Red Thread Games headquarters, our visitors played the game, filled out an anonymous survey, and participated in a roundtable chat with the development team — fuelled by pizza, soda, chips and beer.
We plan to reveal some of our observations from the focus test at JourneyCon (and in an upcoming Kickstarter update) and footage from the event will be included in the making-of video next year.
For now, we're happy to report that the focus test was a big success! We received plenty of feedback, both positive and negative, and this feedback will help us build a much better game.
I think it's safe to say the overwhelming majority of the focus testers thought we have a really good thing going, and that — with some tuning and tweaking and polish — Dreamfall Chapters has the potential to be a really good game. And with a year to go before release, that's exactly what we needed to hear.
This week, in preparation for JourneyCon, we will implement a few of those changes into the latest demo, and hopefully everyone will agree with our testers' assessment when we show the game running live this coming Saturday!
As I’m sure some of you have realised by now, we are a lot better at making games than we are at making T-shirts.
In fact, you could very well make the case for us being terrible at T-shirt production. And you wouldn't be entirely wrong.
Part of the reason for the unfortunate and extended delay, however, is quality: we want the best quality tees possible, and after multiple runs from multiple factories failing to deliver the print and textile quality we're looking for, we may have finally found one that meets our demands and expectations.
If this works out — and we will know by the end of the week — we will post a sizing chart and get everyone’s preferences as soon as possible. Fingers crossed, we can start shipping T-shirts before Christmas.
Which, to be perfectly honest, is quite a bit later than expected.
Again, however, the most important thing for us — and, we hope and believe, for you — is to meet our high quality goals. A substandard product serves no one, and we believe it's important to get this right — even if that takes us a bit more time than we'd want.
On the positive side, the next time around, we'll be able to do this a lot quicker. Our T-shirt production skills will have gone up with at least fifty points.
Our official forum has been suffering a lot from bots and spam and general decay. Our mods have been doing an amazing and tireless job keeping things as tidy as possible (thanks, guys!) but they’ve been fighting a losing battle, and we’re not happy with the state of things.
We are therefore going to be making some dramatic changes in the very near future, including a switch to a brand new forum technology. Hopefully the transition will be perfectly smooth, with all user accounts preserved and existing threads archived. There might be a few bumps in the road, however, but we promise to keep everyone updated, and we’ll send out an update when the process is complete.
The new forum is part of a bigger project to unify all user accounts and to bring it under the Red Thread Games umbrella, which should benefit all of our backers and players in the long term.
The end of the year is approaching, and in addition to preparing for JourneyCon, the team is hard at work putting together the pre-Alpha: our next big milestone.
For the pre-Alpha version, large chunks of the game will be (somewhat) playable, most of the important systems will be in place, and we will know exactly what's left to do during the next (and final) year of development.
It's an important milestone, but also a very demanding milestone, and the team will be under a lot of pressure leading up to Christmas. We will update everyone on our progress and release more new information, videos, screenshots and concept art closer to the holidays — but until then, we may be a bit quiet.
Rest assured that this is because we're neck deep in Dreamfall Chapters, however, and not because the team is taking an early break. And if everything goes well, we'll have some excellent Christmas gifts in store for our loyal backers and fans!
Until then, thanks for reading and thank you for your continued patience, support and backing. We really appreciate it!