ISSUE #49                         THE VALE, QUILL                         26 APRIL 2019                         ONE BRASS

The Short Report

A new large update has been released (which you can read all about here), and so it's been a busy and exciting week for our little ragtag team. We ended up squeezing quite a bit more into this update than we originally set out to, but we kept getting the urge to add 'just one more thing' as we worked. Though even with all those small bits and bobs, Tir Na Nog is certainly the main highlight of this update and so we hope you're all enjoying a visit to that magically relaxing place.

Yet even though it was released less than 24 hours ago, there's still nary an idle hand on the team at the moment. Typically whenever we release a big update, we've found that it gives us a bit of an energy boost. No doubt it's in part the excitement of releasing a new chunk of the game paired with wanting to get straight to work on the feedback. In fact, Neal is already coding away at this very moment, looking into a few minor reported issues. Chances are another small update will be getting pushed out soon, if indeed it's not already out by the time you're reading this.

For anyone who's been following along with our roadmap, our updates take turns between three categories: Features, Content, and Optimization. "Gnome Pun Intended" was a content update, so our next stop on the road will be an optimization update. There's a hefty list of background work and polish that we've been accruing, so it'll be a nice productive change of pace to spend these next few weeks whittling that list down.

We'll still push out an update afterwards like normal, but it'll more than likely contain less obvious changes on the surface. Though for those of you keen to see what we're getting up to under the surface, we'll be all too happy to ramble on about them here in these regularly released issues. So see you all again very soon!

Lost in Music

This week has been mostly playing the update when not enjoying some of the spring weather and games like Steamworld Quest. I find that when playing Kynseed I often end up going to the same places, just to listen to the amazing music and ambient sound. Poppyhill, Rivermoor, Homesteads, Druida's Cross, Willowdown, and now Tir Na Nog.

I could happily lay back and listen to those Fae wind chimes all day, but I would fall asleep and wake in some strange glade, surrounded by chittering little folk, all wondering why I have no pants on. After I have snapped awake and scared off the faeries, I wipe my drool up and get back to fixing things...a layer here, a collision there. As I run around I think of how we can really add content and secrets to these places. They may seem empty now, but eventually we hope to have mystery upon mystery to ponder over.

We are building up the base of this world, but once we start exposing more loops and more of the sandbox, we can look at the little details. We want a tactile world with no silly progress bars or pointless grinding. We want a world of surprises, discovery, and a Guinness world record for most references in a game.
Now excuse me, I have some music to listen to and some Gnomes to moon back at.

Having the Time of Day

This week a flurry of last minute build activity took hold trying to get the next update finished. Perhaps due to not having an exact end date in mind there was this constant 'just a little bit more' feeling to getting things right. I think the payoff should hopefully be good in doing so.

Amidst those late additions and improvements, I also worked on some bugs that took a little puzzling out. One with the festival green minigame meant time of day got stuck which had me stumped for a while 'til I noticed an NPC present at some times and not others. Even then it took a bit of stepping through to figure out exactly where it goes wrong because I made some assumptions that turned out not to be true.

There's a nice cumulative effect to these flurries of work which can get a bit overwhelming when you want to just-get-this-one-thing-done, but with a calm perspective on it a lot of good can come out of it because it keeps things fresh. I've already started piling up a list of improvements to work on, on top of already known items, and then there's sure to be new issues to come with the new update - it's all leading to iteratively and cumulatively to making the game the best we can!

Chiming In

This week I'm away from home, which means I'm working on my laptop instead of my studio computer. While I'm here, we're working on the ambient sounds within mines. We had an ambient track for it that isn't working for us and we want more elaborate mechanics to govern how sound is changed underground. But the programming for that isn't in yet.

We've also been adding more sound to Fairweather's world. It's a tricky place to get right; there's an eerie silence to a snowy land, easily destroyed by wind. But there needs to be a distant wind as well. And chimes. While working on these things, I've also just celebrated my birthday! So it's been generally busy. I'm also learning to use a new virtual guitar I recently acquired, because even virtual instruments must be mastered over time...

Chicken Scratch

Always an exciting week when we release a new update! During weeks like these, my work tends to comprise almost exclusively of writing and making GIF's. Mainly that's due to large game updates all needing written updates (like this one) to coincide with their release.

Though in addition to the writing, there's always a surprising amount of media assets to make as well. For example, this last written update had 7 GIF's in total (8 if you count the little lost chicken at the bottom) and each one had to be made from scratch. I suppose I could always stick to text only updates and not include as many pretty images...but as they say.

Then there's also other things like The PixelCount Post, which in addition to writing my little bit here (as well as "The Short Report" at the top), I also edit and format it. Not to mention I have to make different versions for all of these things, as each community platform has different neurotic formatting requirements (our forums, Steam, Kickstarter, etc.).

For example, on our forums I can center images easily and typically aim for 640x280 resolution for most images there. However, Steam's maximum width for news articles is 610, so I have to make a custom batch of cropped images when posting there. Kickstarter is even stranger and has a maximum width of 639, which requires yet another custom batch of cropped images. Plus, Steam doesn't allow for centering, so to center things like the article titles above I have to add equal distance of transparent pixels to the left and right of each article title (for a total of 610) to 'simulate' centering. All that to say, update days tend to end up being pretty busy days!

Earlier today I also happened to notice that this is issue #49 of The Post, meaning next week's will be #50! Hard to imagine we've done that many of these little dev updates already. According to our own forums, there's also an additional 20 larger written updates on top of that. Plus any other miscellany threads out there as well as just general community chit chat. I shudder to think how many novel's worth of rambling I've done in our Discord alone...

Still, despite the workload that comes with releasing a big update, it's always a great feeling to be able to mark it all down as 'done'. Though of course, the best part is seeing everyone playing it for the first time and reading all the feedback. So I hope you're all getting on well with this latest update and, as always, don't hesitate to give a shout if you have any questions or feedback. If anything's clear it's that we're certainly a chatty bunch.

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