Look both ways before you cross...
Welcome to the first weekly update since our Kickstarter ended a week ago! As this is our first update, I wanted to spend some time talking with you about the expectations, format, and where the best place to find information is now that the Kickstarter is complete.
But before we dive into the details, I wanted to once again thank the entire community for supporting us. A week ago today, we made history. Out of the 301,000 projects funded on Kickstarter, we are the 115th highest backed project to date. Out of the 9,180 successfully funded video games on Kickstarter, we are the 24th highest funded. That's insane!
Take into consideration that before Chronicles of Elyria, Soulbound Studios was entirely unheard of. This means your enthusiasm and excitement for the game has demonstrated that with good ideas and a willingness to take risks, truly anything is possible.
So once again, from the team here at Soulbound Studios and me in particular, thank you all for your support. Our path forward would have been difficult, if not impossible, without your pledges. But you all stepped up, and now it's our turn. So with that said, let's get started.
The first thing I wanted to do was set expectations with respect to outreach and updates. During the Kickstarter we worked hard to respond daily to the community, answering questions and making ourselves accessible. We were doing regular interviews, writing articles, doing multiple Q&As and live streams per week, etc.
Unfortunately, as our outreach team is still relatively small compared to the scope of our project, moving forward we will virtually always have to prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to keeping the community updated.
With that in mind, we'll be transitioning from the roughly daily Kickstarter updates we had during the Kickstarter campaign to roughly weekly updates throughout the remainder of the project. In addition, I know there were questions about the best way to stay connected to our progress so I wanted to list some of the most important sources here in order of regularity, from least to most.
- Newsletters: Monthly
- Media: Every few weeks
- Kickstarter Updates/Design Journals: Weekly
- WIPs/Comments/Thoughts: Every couple days
- Forum Questions: Daily if possible
- Chat: Daily if possible
What this all means is that we will continue to push out monthly newsletters that will contain important announcements, as well as links to our past updates and design journals, the best media to be released over the last month, etc. If you just want to hibernate for a while, then reading our newsletters as they come is the best way to get everything in one place.
Beyond that, we'll continue to put out new screenshots, animations, concept art, etc. every few weeks. The best places to find those things is on our social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, as well as on our website in the media section.
Next, we plan to continue to do weekly updates here on Kickstarter, which will often take the place of a design journal. Or, when we have a design journal, will be replicated as a Kickstarter Update to keep everyone informed.
Next, we'll occasionally post "Work in progress" stuff or comments through Twitter or Facebook every couple of days. Again, we aim for quality not quantity, so if there's a Facebook post from us, hopefully there's always value in it.
After that are forum questions. There're hundreds of questions showing up per day now, and while we'll be increasing the size of our moderator team, the core team won't be able to provide answers to questions but maybe once a day, or once every other day. Any more than that and we start losing valuable development time.
And finally, we will continue to have a presence in our IRC/Discord channels while we have them, and then on our external chat server when it rolls out. We won't always be available for questions, but one or more of us will attempt to stop by daily if we can. Ok. That should give you a good idea of what to expect from us as we go forward. If you have any questions/comments about that, please don't hesitate to ask.
The next thing I wanted to talk to about is the format of our weekly updates. As this is the first, there's a bit of a prologue, but the basic idea is that the weekly updates, when not a design journal, will mirror the teams we have set up internally, along with progress reports for each team. The teams/format of these updates will look something like this:
* Technical Design
* Environment Art
* Character Art
Not every team will have an update each week nor will the updates always go down to the lower levels, such as Tech Design vs. Writing. Sometimes it'll just be "Design". We believe this system to be extremely transparent and with it, you should always have a clear idea what we're up to. So let's begin.
From a production standpoint, this last week -- and indeed the rest of June -- will be primarily focused on improving our workflows and pipelines and preparing for the next 18 months of development. This week has included a few different tasks in this respect:
Version Control: We were previously using Git for version control, but over time we discovered that it wasn't ideal for large binary files as upload/down times were increasing. So among other things, we're currently switching from Git to Perforce. This required the installation and setup of new servers, as well as the migration of our code and assets from our previous version control system to our new one.
Kickstarter Pledge Issues: As part of ensuring we secure the funding we set out to acquire with Kickstarter, we've been working with people who had payment processing issues.
Hiring: One of the most important things we can do with the additional seed money received from Kickstarter is hiring new employees. We've now received over 150 resumes/CVs to date, and a big part of this week has been spent revisiting those documents, looking for potential new hires.
Online Shop: The last and most significant portion of this week has been spent in the development and negotiation of our new virtual shop. During the Kickstarter we had planned to put a simple marketplace on our website bound to a PayPal gateway. However, during the final week of the Kickstarter we were approached by a reputable online merchant service provider to integrate their solution into our website.
After meeting with them in person and having a discussion, we decided this was the best long-term solution. It means we don't have to handle the processing of payments or the record-keeping, we don't have to provide customer service/support for people that are having problems processing a payment, and most importantly, because of the breadth of their infrastructure, they're capable of taking payments beyond just PayPal. They can take international credit cards, as well as many different forms of local payments. In the end, we felt like it would give users the most rewarding end-user experience, had the lowest overall cost to us, and provided users more ways to purchase than we would have thought possible.
The side effect to this, however, is a lengthy legal discussion, as well as time spent addressing technical issues that arise from integrating a foreign system into our website. Specifically, most shopping cart systems aren't designed to function like a Kickstarter page. There are problems that need to be addressed for things like purchasing multiple packages, handling upgrades, and handling returns on packages after Influence Points have been awarded and spent.
That all said, we've wrapped up the legal questions and are finishing the technical integration. We should have the shop up and running early next week.
The main thing Design has been working on this week is combining our multiple design journals and design documents into a single design bible that's accessible to all existing and new employees at Soulbound Studios. This makes it easier for people to find answers to questions they may have, and also means our community managers and outreach team can find the answers themselves rather than having to come ask the developers.
The other thing Design has been working on this week is fleshing out User Stories for the Feature Areas beyond those which have already been implemented. Writing User Stories, from a workflow standpoint, is the step just before implementation. It's where we convey to the engineers and content creators, in their own language, the work they need to do to call a system complete.
In the May 29th Kickstarter Update "Building a rope bridge..." I talked about our process of developing systems as a thin, vertical slice in order to get to the next problem to be solved. While that's true, like any load-bearing structure, there comes a point in time where you have to add a bit of reinforcement before you can hang anything else off of it.
This is the focus of Engineering right now. There's multiple systems including World Interaction, Locomotion, and Combat which felt a little frail. They're functional, but by no account complete. Rather than continuing to build more features on those very key systems, we decided to spend a little time reinforcing those systems and adding a bit of structural support. The goal is to exit June with not only systems that feel pleasant to use, but which are strong and sturdy enough to have other systems built on top of them.
Finally, I spoke with the folks at Improbable a bit more this week as we're discussing some of the more advanced technical challenges we'll face as we move forward. So far, no red flags on the play. Everyone recognizes the challenges and feels confident we can continue to move forward as planned.
Concept Art: Perhaps one of the most interesting things to come out of this week's work is some new concept art; one completed, one still under development which will be shown in next week's update. The concept art depicts another pair of Qin, Antepyrovians, or Ancients, depending on the term you choose to use.
Lore: In the beginning there was just the one. Her name was Angelica. Angelica was alone in the vast emptiness and so she brought light into the world so she would feel warmth and see color. At the moment she created the Light, the cosmos spread out around her, expanding, filling the world with hundreds of billions of spiral and elliptical light sources, each themselves filled with hundreds of billions of lights.
But with the Light also came the Darkness, for one day Angelica looked out and saw her silhouette, cast as a shadow upon the world itself. At first, she was entertained by how it followed her, but she was lonely and got bored, and so she gave life to it. Her shadow, which she named Luna, became her twin. A darker version of herself, which she kept as her constant companion.
Environment Art: The Environment Artist, who many know as Raevantiel, is working on Titan's Steppe in preparation for our next major milestone -- Prologue: The Awakening. He's also planning his relocation from the east coast to the west coast, where he'll be joining us in Bellevue to work in-office.
Character Art & Animation: One of our character artists, as well as our animators, are working on the known creatures of the world, getting them ready for both a future video as well as use in the Prologue.
Finally, the other character artist, who'd previously been only part-time, is making the transition to full-time and now has an in-office workstation. He's working on new equipment and clothing to flesh out the items in the world for the Prologue.
Ok folks, that wraps things up for this week. As we settle into our new development schedule and begin making forward progress again, please remember that our sprint is over, but the marathon is just beginning.
The main takeaway from this Update is that while we're still moving forward, it's important to take a moment to make sure there's nothing unexpected coming our way, and that we're fully prepared for the journey ahead. In other words, we're looking both ways before we cross...