ISSUE #53                              THE VALE, QUILL                              25 MAY, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Welcome to another issue of The PixelCount Post! As it happens, we just released a dev announcement mere hours ago for our optimisation update. So we'll be keeping today's issue short and sweet, like a small puppy. Preferably a pug.

This was our first optimisation update and it's really helped clean some things up on the back end of the game. You'd be surprised how much spring cleaning is needed when working on the same engine since the prototype. This proved to be a very useful update for us, so we're glad that we've made time to sprinkle a few into our roadmap. Next stop on our development journey will be a features focused update with an emphasis on running your own Goods Store, managing hired staff, and accruing shop reputation.

We'll be jumping on that first thing Monday, after we tie up any loose ends and bug reports for the current update. If you come across any bugs yourself, feel free to give us a shout or write us at Thanks folks, we'll see you again next week!

An Apple a Day

This past week has been document catchup and trying to finally get a good pass of the "Items Master" list finished. I was working 'til 1am on it the other night, then realised I didn't like it so started the "Recipes and Traits" doc again and made a lot more order out of it. I'm much happier with it now.

I was also testing the build a bit and just playing around. The seasonal items caught me out and I forgot that some ingredients go missing in certain seasons so I was complaining to Neal about the lack of apples in Spring. It turned out we ended up enabling apples in Spring anyway, so players have fast travel options still.

We also received some more excellent art from our artists: new UI, environment stuff from Matt Weekes (excellent as always), and monsters from Gary. I just saw a composition of all the latest monsters, and we really do have a fantastic line up. Colourful, detailed, and dripping with character. In the case of the big ones, their teeth dripping with your character most likely!

Next week I am back on the new Loverwood region and then I'll make inroads into Mellowfields, our third haven! Let's just say, I'm continuing a theme from a level I made for Fable Legends...

Focus Pocus

This last week I've been getting back some of my focus. It's a difficulty on a long project to maintain a consistent pattern of work and intensity. Oftentimes it comes with deadlines and this week was another update deadline. I feel like it's more than that though, where I've been trying to think about the work in a different way. Such as being more disciplined about working on detail instead of holding things off for some unknown future point.

It sounds simple and sensible when put like that, but I have found it easy to stray from and so it does feel like a big backlog exists to work on which I'm never sure when I'll get to. The details can be a problem as well when they mean too much time is spent on something that turns out wasn't necessary, but I think generally those things have tended to be rarer on this project at least.

Anyway, to get away from more general ramblings about process: I've been working on keybindings, skills in-game, and some editor screens. The keybindings took a good two days but am quite pleased with the general results. It was a nice standalone feature to get into the zone for with lots of details which seemed to keep popping up as I looked through the code. Skills in-game I had some trepidation about doing, but I think it's starting to turn out nicely in presentation.

One area I have held off for later is standardising the UI presentation more so that it's easy to reuse visual/audio flair without having to code it each time, but that did seem like a step too far in the circumstances so will have to wait 'til the next optimisation update. The editor screens are to help assist level design and placement of items/fish/growables, which have started to reach a quantity of data that would benefit from improving and, again, to avoid relying on code so much.

The rest of this week will be fixing any bugs with the new update along with more editor screen work and setting up more events in Festfield. Then it'll be on to the next major update with the Goods Store and business ownership. I'm looking forward to introducing more of the gameplay loop and getting stuck in their details!

Drumming Up Music

I have to write this a bit sooner than usual because I'm about to go away on a mission to play percussion at a festival abroad. On the one hand it cuts into what I'm currently doing, and on the other it's a breath of fresh air. Literally, as it'll be out in the open air.

On the game front, the themes for all the shop purchases are done for Candlewych and Poppyhill. At the time of writing this the current update is pretty close to done, and after it releases it all starts again with the update after that. There's shop tunes still needed for the next town beyond Poppyhill, which will keep me busy for a bit.

All in all, we're going through the items on our roadmap pretty quickly. It's great to see things getting crossed off the list as 'done' over time. There's also only 2 weeks left before my trip to LA begins and, believe me, I'm counting the days!

Game of Groans

Welp, that's our first optimisation update done then! It was the first update of this kind that we've tackled, so part of the challenge was determining exactly how flexible we wanted the update's focus to be. For the first week or so of the update we started off very flexible. The idea was that we'd give ourselves an opportunity to do some freeform collaboration on things that we've been needing/wanting to do but never found time for in other updates.

Though after a while, we found ourselves preferring a bit less freeform and a bit more balance - a sort of 'structured' flexibility. We've had a long time to work together as a team and learn what keeps us motivated and efficient. We like to stay pretty agile and reactive, but we also like to have a generally structured plan at the same time. A sort of underlying compass to follow behind everything we do.

That balance ended up being the special ingredient for making these optimisation updates pack the most punch. Plus, now that we've found that balance, we'll be able to hit the ground running even harder for when the next optimisation update rolls around. Though personally, I'm looking forward to getting back to focusing on features and content. I'm sure it goes without saying that back end optimisation is one of the least sexy parts of game development, despite being critically important.

For our next stop on our roadmap we'll be adding in Goods Store ownership, deeper staff management, and shop reputation. We're calling the update "A Song of Price and Hire", and I'm far more proud of that title than I should be.

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