Hello, it's Writer Buddy Joe here! I've crammed Johnny into a storage crate and posted him to an off-licence in China on a long-haul beer run so that I can take over the Kickstarter backer pages and throw words around for a while.
Now, it's no secret that MTS is behind schedule and taking its sweet, turn-based time. You knows it, I knows it, Johnny and Liz knows it. The milkman knows it. Er, do we still have milkmen? Milkpersons?
Look, forget about the milkman thing, it's not important. What's important is that the project is moving slowly (I think been adequately discussed in past updates so I won't elaborate here). These days we're all working part-time and life keeps getting in the way. Plus making games is hard: the script alone has had more revisions than a GCSE student in June (good luck, kids!).
So, we decided to try and do something about this: to get together for a few days, stock up on Hobnobs and just blitz content. An intensive development session: fleshing out levels, integrating story, creating wave patterns and devising puzzles.
Thusly, MTSJAM was born.
And by the way: we can do this now, in a way that we couldn't six months ago, because Johnny has put a lot of effort into moving content out of Unity. This separates concerns, democratises content creation and prevents Johnny being the bottleneck - which no doubt he's pleased about. Excitingly, this enables third-party modding, which Johnny will have more to say about this when he's out of his crate.
I had big plans for MTSJAM: I really thought we’d blast through content and lock down the structure and story of the first half of the game. But man, content is expensive. We managed to produce three rough level re-designs, a handful of new art assets, and some critical new dialogue features. A fraction of what I’d hoped for.
Speaking personally, it's opened my eyes to exactly how time-consuming content creation is. We weren't mucking around (although the cats were), and I spent quite a bit of time learning the new tools, which obviously slows things down. But in thirty hours I was only able to very crudely block out three maps, plus interface the script to them.
When we started, the tilemaps for the space environment levels 2, 3 and 4 (of 5) looked a little like this:
They were empty, repetitive and dull. These were little more than placeholders, with copy-pasted sections, and a few logic puzzles thrown in for demos.
By the end of MTSJAM, those tilemaps looked more like this:
To be fair, while I wanted to achieve more, you can see the progress. Each level has a different feel and structure. Pacing is starting to creep its way into the design. Key bits of story, which up until now have only existed as comments in the script spreadsheet, have been hooked up. Light spoilers ahead: I was able to hook up a dialogue between the ship's buddies and Orbital Defence Buddy, who controls turrets and will try to (cheerfully) shoot you out of the sky in Space 3. In this sequence, Shield Buddy is able to hack Orbital Defence Buddy and turn its figurative coat, Jedi mind-trick style:
Liz produced a number of beautiful new assets for us, giving us mining vessels, new art for the first space boss, and a mysterious new faction of ships to populate the space environment:
And as well as training me, fixing blocking bugs and implementing story hooks: Johnny co-ordinated some beautiful waves. Check out this balletic formation of fliers:
It's onwards and upwards for MTS, struggling through the gravity of atmosphere to hit the sweet freedom of orbit. We're on a content drive now, aiming to get a beta in your velvety backer hands as soon as possible. But I hope this post has shed a little light into just how much time goes into content creation - and sometimes, that time isn't easy to find.
I'd best go, it's taken two weeks to get this written up and Johnny's shipping crate will be arriving shortly. I just hope he hasn't drunk the beer already.