Hey Gang, when last we spoke we were at the threshold of a pretty exciting upsurge of productivity on a game project that by most standards is getting pretty long in the tooth. At that time I promised increasing updates and then lapsed into radio silence as we worked. Instead of asking for forgiveness I’ll just jump right into what we’ve done during that time.
I never know just how technical I should get with you all, so if this is boring just skip a couple of paragraphs.
The first big scary thing that held the game up was getting away from the dying Kobold2D framework that we had originally gambled on using. Thanks to the quick and pragmatic work of Rusty Moyher, we amputated that gangrenous limb and have replaced Kobold2D with Cocos2D v 2.2. That’s not the whiz-bang Cocos2D X that would have gotten us an out-of-the-box Windows version, we opted for the faster port, but we still plan on delivering a Windows version in time.
Once we switched frameworks, we were able have an at-parity-with-iOS Macintosh build that allows for much faster testing (no more sluggish iOS simulator!). An AppleTV build is also now viable (if anybody actually plays games on the AppleTV, the jury is still out on that question). We updated the game to 64bit, which future-proofs us a little (all this stuff is a race against time. If you are a slow indie game project and hardware cruises by you, you end up constantly having to rebuild stuff to work on new devices. Since we’re a mobile game first, that rabbit is even harder to chase). The game still works on iPads back to the very first version, and performance is excellent. On the Mac the game runs great but doesn't yet have retina display support, but that will be on the way.
Next we got to work on a big list of features needed for us to release a beta worth playing to our volunteer testers:
- Container Items (put stuff inside stuff!)
- Consumable Items (eat stuff! stuff happens!)
- Our stat system that most of the game depends on
- The foundation for life states in characters (right now these are, death, megalomania, unconsciousness, confusion, and dephasing from our dimension, which is a fun one)
- In-game debug menu (We really needed this one!)
- The Episode System (This one is pretty big. Now we load and unload modular scripts that define “episodes” within the game. I am not personally a good programmer by any stretch of the imagination, but I am able to write these episode scripts with relative ease. That means that when the last of the engine features is done, I and other writers can conceivably finish the game on our own without having to find more funds to work with a programmer)
- Lots of scripting hooks so that we can actually get those episodes to have stuff happen other than just making characters pace around in circles
- We added the cadet generator (remember that free thing we released that makes space cadets with random histories and names?) to the actual game, and now it actually populates the game with those random characters, including the protagonist (a series of protagonists actually) Rusty and Scott Lee worked together on this
- Finished the save system and added a main menu to access and manage saves. This one took a lot of bulletproofing by Rusty to prevent corrupted saves that would result in lost progress
- Added a new audio engine (This one was painful and involved reworking something we’d already built, but it had to be done, for a list of reasons)
- Added triggers- these are definable floor targets that fire off scripting hooks inside episodes, we needed them for a while and we have a very nice, flexible implementation of them now.
- Made our first demo level, this was where I stopped begging for new features to work with and accepted the ones we already had and wrote an episode that we could use to playtest with
- Did 77 animations of different hairdos- Our sprite animator Al McClelland got hired to work on a cartoon by Rooster Teeth, so I ended up hand animating the 11 different hairdos in all the different animation cycles needed to have the character generator put characters with femme-ish hair in the game. Fun fact- In November I got fired by the "great new job" I mentioned in that last Kickstarter update, and I've just started going to school for animation full-time. I'm planning on using school as a way to devote time and funds to work on Thunderbeam, (rather than working a day job and cranking on Thunderbeam on nights and weekends)
- So, so many bug fixes
Anyway. You all don’t need me telling you how games are hard to make again. You do need to know that we are working at a consistent pace, and that even after all the difficulty, (going broke, losing collaborators, all the stuff life throws at you when you're trying to do something stupidly ambitious for the first time) this is still the most rewarding and enriching thing I’ve worked on. And most importantly you need to know it is going to absolutely be finished. I’m waiting for just a few additional features to work and then I’ll update the demo episode I’ve made to push out to everyone who volunteered to beta test. We are now approaching the point where we will need user feedback to refine and continue the work.
Now, while I have your attention (ok, maybe just some of your attentions), I’ve been really lucky to meet so many other game developers during this process. I've been able to see how they struggle and ultimately get the job done, and I am very inspired by what I’ve seen. Night In The Woods is a game that was just released. It is a story driven adventure game with great art, great writing, and it required a lot of time and effort of the small team that made it. I highly recommend you check it out while you wait for Thunderbeam. You won’t be disappointed.
As always, let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll be regularly griping about work, life and making this game on Twitter, where I’m @wileywiggins.