December development update
Greetings, fellow travellers!
December is upon us like a wet and cold blanket. The constant drone of Christmas music and the scent of gingerbread biscuits and clementines — it's a Norwegian thing — fill the hallways and offices of Red Thread Games, as the team lingers longer and longer into the lengthening nights to wrap things up before the church bells chime and we stumble, exhausted, into the holidays.
The days may be getting progressively darker, but we have some updates today that will hopefully make this particular day a tiny bit brighter.
A big, huge THANK YOU to everyone who attended this year's inaugural JourneyCon! On Saturday, November 23rd, fans from seventeen (!) different countries congregated in Oslo for a full day of talks and presentations, and a chance to party with fellow fans and the development team.
We had a packed house and schedule — both at the con and at the awesome party — and team Red Thread was kept busy, but it was worth it: we had a blast! It was a real honour to meet and interact with so many passionate supporters from all corners of the world, and to be able to share brand new footage from the game with a roomful of engaged and enthusiastic fans.
We will of course be sharing everything we showed at JourneyCon with our backers in the weeks and months ahead, so even if you weren't able to make it to Oslo, you won't miss out on anything — aside from the unique opportunity to chat and socialise with fellow fans from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Romania, England, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Russia, France, the United States, and many more countries.
For a chance to live vicariously through the eyes of others, here are just a few of our favourite photos from the event. Check out our Facebook page for more pictures:
Head on over to our Facebook page for a lot more pictures from the event! (And credit goes to our buddy and team-member-for-the-day Dan Olthen for the awesome photographs.)
Just after the event itself, we sent out a survey to all attendees asking for their feedback. An amazing 100% of respondents said they would "most likely" or "definitely" attend JourneyCon again. We couldn't have hoped for a better response.
So will there be a JourneyCon 2014? Nothing has been decided yet, but we certainly hope so. We will gauge interest again early next year, so stay tuned for a chance to decide the ifs and whens and wheres of next year's event!
Dreamfall Chapters pre-alpha
On Friday December 6th, we reached our long-in-the-planning pre-alpha milestone. This was a big milestone — our biggest so far — and we weren't even sure it was realistic meeting all the goals prior to Christmas. But the team pulled it off, and we now have a large chunk of the game ready for internal testing.
Our definition of pre-alpha means that almost three quarters of the game is in a playable state, with most of the core features in place, along with final, in-progress or white-boxed versions of all the scenes.
White-boxing means that our artists use simple shapes or untextured geometry to represent buildings and items in the game world. Using these unfinished scenes, our designers can script the gameplay without having to wait for the artists to complete their work. The purpose of white-boxing is to get each level of the game to a playable state as quickly as possible, without worrying about aesthetics or graphical details.
Here is what one of our white-boxed locations currently looks like:
Even though we can now play through the game from the title screen and all the way through chapter nine — of thirteen — that doesn't mean we're close to the finish line quite yet. The gameplay is very rudimentary; you can get from start to finish if you know what to do and how to do it, but there are no alternative paths, no support or feedback for doing the wrong thing, and no signposting. It's a loose framework, a foundation to build on, but not particularly fun to play for anyone outside the development team. You need to have a lot of imagination to see through the rickety framework, and, without proper dialogues, you need to know the story in detail to understand what's going on.
The upside is that we can really see the game taking shape. We can walk around and experience the (white-boxed) worlds. We can poke and prod and get a sense of scope and size and ambition. We can assess the gameplay and narrative flow, the puzzles and pacing, and we can finish the writing and begin recording the final dialogue.
It is all that a pre-alpha needs to be, and we're very, very happy with it.
As for chapters ten through thirteen, we plan to have those in place by our alpha milestone in 'spring' 2014. After that we will focus on getting all the final assets into place for beta, hopefully in late summer. And post-beta leading up to release is when the polishing and tweaking and bug fixing takes place.
Of course, some polish is already being applied, along with final (and very, very pretty) assets for characters, locations, animations, effects — even some dialogues, although those are often the last to be finalised, due to constant story tweaks and changes.
The player driven choices in particular are creating many narrative challenges that we need to sit down and play to uncover, something that's relatively new to us. One conversation in particular that we looked at last week is directly affected by over a dozen different decisions and consequences, which means that until the gameplay is properly in place, it's hard to decide on all the words.
On the positive side, however, these player choices — our 'Decision Points' — are becoming so central to the game's narrative that players will really feel it's their story. And that's exactly what we've been aiming for.
We always like to share something new from the art team in our Kickstarter updates, and today is no different.
Here's a piece of concept art from a location many of you will recognise, one you'll visit early on in Dreamfall Chapters: Zoë Castillo's hospital room in Casablanca.
Zoë, our heroine, begins the game in a coma, having been drugged by a woman named Helena Chang at the end of Dreamfall. The first hour of Chapters is all about Zoë escaping this comatose state and reemerging into the world. To be born again. To start a new life.
This image also contains the subtle revelation of Zoë's hitherto unknown middle name. Can you spot it?
In case you missed it when we posted the art to our official Dreamfall Chapters Facebook page last month, here's a look at another scene from the first thirty minutes of the story:
What exactly is going on? Feel free to theorise, though you'll have to wait another year to find out if you're right!
Our monthly T-shirt update is here, and after almost half a year of searching, we have finally found a factory that meets our ridiculously high quality goals.
If you haven't done so yet, please log into your BackerKit account to choose your T-shirt size as soon as possible. For reference, here is the sizing chart:
If you ordered a T-shirt, either as part of your reward tier or as an add-on, please consult the above chart and make sure you're happy with your selection. We will lock down your order this coming Sunday.
If you pledged for any tier of $1,000 and up, you are entitled to one or more free T-shirts. Please log into your BackerKit account and make sure you have selected the style and size you want.
If you want to make changes to your selection, please log into your BackerKit account at https://dreamfall.backerkit.com
If you have any trouble changing your selection, please shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our best to help you.
We are ready to begin production on the shirts, so as soon as backers have confirmed their sizes, we will start shipping them out. The shirts should arrive at some point in January.
The Red Thread Yuletide Game Jam
With the team having met their Christmas pre-alpha milestone, we’ve given them a tiny bit of a breather from Dreamfall Chapters in order to work on something completely different.
It can be good to get some distance and perspective when you’re neck deep in a project, and we firmly believe that the brief time away from the constant deadline pressures of Chapters will end up benefitting both the project and the team.
So what are the team jamming on? We won’t tell you yet, but we hope to have something ready before Christmas — and if we're happy with the result, we'll share more at some point next year.
That's it for this update — but it won't be the last you'll hear from us before Christmas. Next Monday we'll have a little surprise and a Christmas greeting from the Dreamfall Chapters team.