It's been a busy few months. Offensively busy. But things are going well. Time for a catch up.
The studio is now properly up and running. We have a new business coordinator; Caroline, who is handling a share of the day to day parts of running things. This has freed me up a bit to focus on running the development. She's been doing a wide array of really helpful tasks, from answering key requests to filling out the wiki with lots of detail.
I've also hired Hannah, a new full time graduate level 3d artist. She's working on some new assets and reworking a few of the ones Rudi and myself had done earlier in development. If you've been following updates you've probably seen some of her work popping up in the game already.
We also had an intern, Pete, for a few weeks. I worked with him back at Bournemouth University when I was there for my doctorate and has recently been working at Ubisoft. He's helped me put together a few editors and modding tools that I'll be releasing soon.
Financially, we are doing fine, even with all these fun new fixed overheads. If we never sold another unit we could run at full strength for another six months or at a stretch over a year. That said sales are not too shabby and as my vision starts to come together I think people are going to get really excited about the game again.
As with all things development is a series of tradeoffs, you have to pick two of the following: Doing the job fast, cheap or properly. I've decided to do things cheap and properly. As other Kickstarters have completed and been a disappointment, or certain others have made something good, but then run out of cash, we are still going strong and I am resisting the temptation to throw resources (read 'money') to get this game shipped.
We did Rezzed a few months back and got a huge amount of data and player feedback on the game. People were playing for hours and hours at a time, and we looking at design issues I hadn't really seen. Working from that I reprioritised a lot of small things.
We then took the game to Minecon last week and it seems the effort of working on connecting game design loops, and fixing bugs that broke them has started to really pay off. We had several people play the game for the best part of a day, and really enjoy it. I now have a pretty clear vision of the key features that need to be focused on for 0.50.
I'm attending Develop next week. So if anyone is around Brighton and would like to catch up, give me a shout. I'll be giving a pretty dry talk about how to set up your own studio at the conference itself.
The current state of the game.
If you've played recently you've probably noticed that the game flows far better, things are starting to be a little balanced and actions have started to have a bit more depth and meaning. The UI is more.. workable (although it will be overhauled once the campaign is nailed), and interacting with the game is more engaging and satisfying.
The main issues now lie in small annoyances for the player and a lack of a longer term game for advanced bases. Once you get research up and going you don't have much of a defined challenge or purpose. Fire gutting your base, and protobirds stealing chickens is entertaining and challenging, but the lack of a large goal in a game after a few hours makes things get a little stale. (At this point a lot of the younger kids at Minecon just started to murder off their colonists one by one, but I'm hoping not all of you are closet psychopaths!)
Week after next I will be releasing 0.49. This will add a pile of smaller interactions into the game. Hopefully turning the characters from small unpredictable little drones into little characters that feel a lot more alive. It's also got the weapons in the game, and the creatures on the surface will be far more dynamic. They will breed, migrate around and fight over territory, posing an ever shifting danger to your base.
After that we have the most important milestone: 0.50. This will be the build where we start really focusing on polishing the sandbox. It will be critical at this point that the game has no major issues and that players can really get a feel for my final intent. We're aiming for a completely bug free build. If you are one of the people procrastinating this will be the one to play.
I am putting out 0.50 at the end of August. This milestone is now fixed and I will be pushing seriously hard to ensure that I hit it and we ship something that you can sit and play for ten hours in a single session and be utterly absorbed into.
Post 0.50, as you've seen before (I'll be updating our roadmap soon), the focus will be on some of the features that sit outside of the core design such as the full campaign and stand alone missions. The campaign is fully planned, and partly scripted (as in words, not code scripts) already. It will be case of building in the scenarios, that should be quite fast with a stable sandbox.
That's all for now. As always you contact me at Simon (at) maiagame.com if you have any issues, questions or suggestions.
(PS: Everyone get their Thomas Was Alone key alright?)