2017 - Our Latest Update
First and the most important thing, we want to apologize deeply for our inactivity in social media. We were in a total chaos, but it’s still wrong to not maintain our communication with you all, and we are really sorry for that. :( We really wanted to update things, share what happened, etc., but as many things happened, it’s just simply too hard (more in the story). A lot of things has happened, and we wanted to share it through this post. Here, we are talking to you all as the Pale Blue development team, and not as the company. We skipped the managerial thingy and post this from our own side. This is the voice of the people who are working on this game for almost about three years, and we really hope that you could learn what really happened through the development from this post.
In 2014, we were in a need for new project to keep the company living. We decided to make our next product with Kickstarter support, since we wanted to try living by working on game product that we loved. But it was not that smooth. We had several game idea pitched, and finally we got one idea which we all want to make. But, the upper management decided not to do the game for some reasons, mainly marketing reasons. Finally the team has to make another idea, and in the end, Pale Blue was chosen.
Going from small & medium sized games (mobile), we expected some difficulty in developing PC game, but we were confident (too confident) that we could learn things on the go. Our base GDD was based on “What are the cool things to make?”, “What can we make on those duration?”, and “What can we do with our current experience?”. Now, we know that we were imagining something that are way beyond what we could manage at that time.
And then comes the Kickstarter pitch. At that time, the company decided to make the KS funding target fewer that we should have asked. The main reason is because we want this game to be funded, since asking too much could resulting in failure, while this project’s success was crucial to keep our company running. Even with the stretch goals, it was still too short from what we expected to create the base game.
Journey & Difficulties
The Kickstarter was funded! We was thrilled that there are a lot of people like you who have the same vision with us and want this game to happen. We were so happy and so excited, and at that time, we thought that everything could be done as long as we were working for it. So we celebrated a bit, forgot about the funding targets, and then we started the whole things. By the time this KS was funded, some of the people were actually still in the middle of another project, so we didn’t have that many people to put in the Pale Blue team except the original Kickstarter member. In the beginning, there were only one programmer and several artists on Pale Blue team. We are used to doing mobile games, so we thought that we’ll be able to do this by this much people in the beginning. We’ll just figure out the real team after all our member are finished with the other projects. We didn’t have dedicated game designer, product manager, nobody to lead the timeline, minimal plan for the financing, and nobody to lock the game scope. We have all the freedom, but nobody to lead. There was an assigned leader, yes, but we didn’t have that much experience on managing team that much. Our past mobile game developments was mainly just like a group of friend working together. In the end, nobody knows what to do with developing a game in this scale. We just did what we used to do.
For several month, what we did was: doing the game assets while programmer tried to make the base game. This is one of several problems that we learned: We are trying to prototype with polished artwork. We did the colored character animations which was decided mostly by aesthetic considerations from the beginning. What we didn’t realized was that the art will affect the game design aspect, not the other way. For example, we must make the running speed a bit fast since we have Ellen running sprite stepping too big, causing her to slide when the speed is not fast enough. In the end, we did a lot of asset redesign (especially with background assets) because we have to design them based on what the game design needed.
After that, our other crew from the other projects started joining Pale Blue team. We also recruited several new people for this team. It was around more than 11 people at that time. But there were still no game designer, no game producer. We were still doing what we want to do. We were aiming to finish Chapter 1.0 and 1.1 to be tested, and then progressing to Act 1 on Q1 2016.
Tokyo Game Show and after
Almost one year after the Kickstarter, TGS 2015 came and went. We launched our first completed integrated build. A lot of feedbacks came through the testers. We took a look on them, and after many considerations, we decided to revamp our workflow and many other things:
- Redesigned enemy and background assets from the beginning
- Revised the combat system
- Unfinished modules/content development (cinematic, boss, Ellen abilities).
- Created level design content together
- Managing our social networks (since we promised some forum before)
- Followed Bethesda’s workflow level design (from GDC slides etc)
In our (still in)experienced head, we thought we could still make it somehow. We planned the Combat build to test the core mechanics, Cinematic/story build to test content workflow, Boss battle and Tyrant build to test boss battle, and then full content development. 2016 is a whole new start. (Spoiler: we didn’t make it…)
We changed things, but there is no one to justify if what we’re planning is necessary or not. There is still no singular vision for the game mechanic part, there is no one to ask about the budget and how we can get around with what we have, and there is no one that directly said, "This is it, if we can't hit the target at that time, we're done". It’s just as we could do this forever without anything bad happening.
2016, Fund, and Passion
This is our planning, taken from March update:
- 1. Pass Zero - Concept
- 2. Pass One - Layout -> Already done for chapter 1 - 3.
- 3. Pass Two - Gameplay -> Ongoing build, 1.3.
- 4. Pass Three - Complete (Late April 2016)
- 5. Beauty Pass (Late June 2016)
- 6. Final Pass - Polish, Polish, and Polish (Final targeted at July/late August)
We had our plans, but our lack of production experiences really came around this time. We seemed to have clear goals, but it keeps on moving. We finished combat build weeks late. We still going through with the lack of experience to our next build (cinematic & story). On the other side, there is no one to point out our budget issues. Worse, we didn’t actually know anything about the budget condition. Is it safe? Where does it goes? Are we taking more than we should? Is there anything left for the merchandises?
Around the time of creating the (late) cinematic build, finally there was a shocking revelation from the company that there will be no fund left. To be honest, the fund may already have been out from a long time ago, but the company still have other projects to fund the team. There were already finance problems before, though (some of the team not being paid in full, or at all). Finally, around July 2016, it was decided that the Pale Blue team couldn't be paid anymore, because there is no money left.
Actually, this project could’ve ended that day. But then, everyone from the team discussed together and we came to a conclusion: the team will continue this game’s development, with or without money. We already loved this project too much, and we know that there were a lot of people who were waiting for this game to be finished. Maybe we couldn’t deliver what the massive beginning project was plan to be, but we want to deliver something.
Back to the productions, we realized that we had problems with our level designing flow. Level 2.1 that we were doing was too confusing to navigate, and at that time a lot of other stages were also designed without thinking this aspect. We needed to redesign the levels. By this time, we were still going but we can't really focus fully like before. Relationship between the company and the team started to strain. On the company itself, various department are collapsing. Nobody are there to take care of social media, website, or even the human resource. The team ourselves are full with working on the project, and as much as we want to share all the things with you all, we have no visible improvement from the game to share, and the company also thought that it’s still not the time to share all the things that really happened within the project. We felt really, really bad when we always know that all of you were expecting a lot of things, but we couldn’t provide you anything. After all, what keeps us from going on from the beginning was all of your support. Seeing supports becoming hatred was very hard for us...but it’s also our fault.
The team started to work on other projects from both inside or outside the company, freelancing, and doing other jobs to make the ends meet while still doing this game. Progress started to drop, still going on but way slower. The bright side of going outside the project was: we have different perspective on things. We learned how good production happens on other companies. We implemented a lot of new development system and it really helped many things. But we're a bit too late. Burdened by the past works, the unorganized process, and the lack of game design vision, we couldn’t fully implement the system that we learned. We need to continue with all the mess that we had from the beginning. What are the assets that has been done? What are the features? Why are we making this ability for Ellen? Do we include this feature or not?
Early 2017 and The Waning Fire
Our production process was far more organized by now. But we’re still a bit blind on game design by now. We’re still designing based on all of the team’s opinion, with no one to decide fully. Our visions becomes blurry. We tried to get back from the beginning: core gameplay. We researched many games, and finally we decided to make the whole feels more like Muramasa. Not much platform, but focused on combat and hack-and-slash feeling. Polished artwork and story.
But then, the team was also tired. By now, it’s already around a half year that we are working this game with no fund. There’s still a gap within the team and the company, which leads to another question: is it our game, or their game? After we finished this game, will it be our IP, or their IP? For the team, the company’s support is a bit lacking in this last few months, and it was hard for them to work while thinking that in the end, what’s really getting it all was the company. It’s as if we’re a baby team that was expected to walk on our own, and the company is just a house for us to stay. It lead to a stressful air inside our Pale Blue workplace. People started to work from home since their family disagreed with us working without salary. And finally, people started to plan their resignation. They want to help if there’s any clear plan that needed help, but for now, it’s impossible to stay fully at the company with no clear plans.
After the declining passion and various issues within the company, finally we took a step together. The team and the company finally reached a decision with Pale Blue: we will now spent a three-month-intensive development on Pale Blue core gameplay. The team will be small, fully funded for three months, and there will be a dedicated Game Designer to make decisions. There will also be Producer to help, we will follow a systematic development planning, and we will have a real deadline. At the end of the three-month-sprint, we are planning to produce a working prototype build for everyone to test. It won't be the full game, but it'll be the core that'll become the base for the real game. It doesn’t mean that we’ll redo all the things that we made up until now, since we will still keeps some of the usable assets and also codes.
But then, all we can do for now is just making another promise. We know that maybe some of you already lost your trust on us, and we don’t blame you for this. If you want to request your money, please feel free to do so via email to email@example.com, therefore your request could be listed. We will try to inform the company about your requests, but unfortunately we cannot promise you anything from our team… :(
We hope that from this update, we could answer some of your questions on what happened all this time. For now, we really want to hear your honest opinion on this. Please let us know what you think on the comment section, and we will try our best to reply your comments. Let it be your question, your response, your anger, your dissatisfaction, your disagreement, your support, or maybe your idea or suggestions based on your experience. Anything! We are desperate for your voice, since we couldn’t do this alone. This whole post was created by the team for this one purpose: to hear your opinion.
Also, we are thinking to update you all throughout this three months, but we couldn’t manage all the social medias with our current conditions. So, we will try to focus our update on one social media, which one would you prefer for our main communication media? Kickstarter, Facebook, Twitter, or other(please specify)?
Thank you for reading this, and thank you all of you who stayed with us up until now. We really hope that we could really pull this three month through and make something real. Again, we are really, really, really sorry for all of the things that happened. :(
Pale Blue Development Team