ISSUE #55                              THE VALE, QUILL                              23 JUNE, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Welcome back readers! We've been rather busy these last couple of weeks due to some team members traveling and attending E3. This led to our virtual office being a bit more quiet than usual, so the other team members used it as an opportunity to dive deep into update work. As of earlier this week, the whole gang is now back together and we're running at full capacity once more as we get the "Song of Price and Hire" update prepared.

You can read accounts of E3 adventures in the individual dev updates below, some of which include double updates to make up for not having a new issue of The Post in recent weeks. (As fun and worthwhile as E3 is, it does make for quite the development disruption!)

Earlier this week, the team did a catch-up meeting to play through progress on the update. Goods Store ownership is coming along nicely and its various mechanics are all starting to fit together into a cohesive gameplay experience - placing items, setting prices, bartering with customers, managing staff, and so on.

We've still got a bit of UI presentation and economy balancing to do before we push the update out (both of which will continue to evolve during development, of course). With E3 over and the full team back in place, we're back to firing on all cylinders, so keep an eye out for update news very Soon™.

Brass Roots

I got a bit carried away recently. I was meant to be starting on the next haven, Mellowfields, and the plan was to block all the levels out roughly. However, I got carried away with the first area and ended up prettying it.

This was mainly due to the lovely art assets provided by our very own Mr Weekes, and the fact that as I built it, it was looking nice. Then I got onto the next region...and did the same. Then the next...

There is just something very relaxing about prettying and detailing everything. I would often step back and look at the layout, then change chunks of it, which is why you shouldn't pretty until layouts are done...but I don't seem to care apparently!

I have also been utterly addicted to the Goods Store ownership. It's enthralling seeing who comes into the shop and what they buy. Your brain fills in the story. It was great building my reputation and seeing more people come from further afield.

The balance still needs to be done this weekend, as currently everybody is happy buying strawberry pies at 99,999 Brass. Now excuse me while I go dive into my gold pile like Scrooge McDuck...

The Dance of Chance

7th JUNE

Following from the first week on the update, I've been carrying on filling in the main areas of Good Store ownership and business reputation. As mentioned before, I've been trying to front-load the work a bit. I went through my list of things to work on and started labelling all the different types of tasks as gameplay/strategy/immersion/presentation/UX followed by concentrating on the gameplay/strategy ones first (such as reputation, blacksmith ore stock ordering, regional preferences, and customer price preference).

Now that those bits are in place, I've started moving into the other categories to improve the feel of it. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that these tasks are spreading out in volume to fill up the rest of the update (in fact, I'm pretty sure my list is bigger now than when I started the week).

On the plus side, I'm hoping it'll feel like a comprehensive new addition to the gameplay and it won't need revisiting much in the future. At the moment, the list is up to about 60 items which probably also need more breaking down, so I guess my challenge now will be to see how quickly I can get through them (without breaking anything) while also finding time to prepare for the next update!

23rd JUNE

About 2 weeks on now and am still whittling down the list. It took a while, where the list seemed to consistently expand as I picked up extra bits that needed doing and each item itself turned into a 10-15 step process. Thankfully, that is finally quietening down.

Mostly left is balancing and presentation tweaks which, in theory, should be self-contained. The only challenge is that the recent team playthrough with the shops has revealed a few intermittent issues which are proving hard to repeat and debug. The difficulty is mainly coming from the random chance aspect, where it would seem like some specific combo of events leads to issues.

Though I had it happen once this morning, I've not had it in a few hours of trying since. That leaves a dilemma: A) to carry on trying to figure out that issue or B) to get back on the tweaks. So far I've been on the 'A' choice but, without much to show for it, 'B' is starting to look more tempting.

Maybe stepping back from it for just a little bit will bring up some new angle to work on it as that is probably what is needed. That angle might just be a bit of extra debug that helps navigate the random chance. However it works out, it does seem like we're getting closer on this update. Still not sure exactly when it'll land, as we want to make a good solid build, but it's definitely getting there!

A Curiously Cozy Corner

7th JUNE

In the past week, between packing and other E3 trip prep work, I talked to Matt and Neal about the future updates and when more music and sound assets might need to be done by. This allows me to plan and leave for Los Angeles without worry of being late on anything.

When I return, I'll know exactly what to get started on so that there won't be a slow start. (Except for jet lag, maybe.) Now I'm off to add the last few items to my bags and then I'll leave for the airport. E3 has never been as exciting to me as it is this year!

23rd JUNE

Soooo, the past two weeks were pretty epic...

I flew to Los Angeles a few days ahead of E3, but that didn't mean I got to take it easy. Matt and I went to the Bethesda press conference, held in a huge theater. It seemed Bethesda had spared no expense, making sure everyone in line had water aplenty, and when we got inside there were open bars to be had.

This was shortly followed by the press conference itself, which I'm sure many of you saw as well via stream. I particularly liked their GhostWire reveal. Afterward, there was more open bar and free food while people from Bethesda walked the crowd - including Todd Howard himself, whom I was lucky enough to briefly speak to.

In the rest of the time before E3 actually began, we met some familiar faces from communities past and present, sharing drinks and stories. The convention center itself, a huge complex, was adorned with many a giant poster of the latest games. They even painted the side of a whole building to depict Doom Eternal's cover art on a truly massive scale.

Like peacocks, everyone wanted to be seen by creating the largest and flashiest displays they could. Once the convention actually started, the lines to enter were as massive as the displays. An entire parking lot floor was filled with people wanting to be the first gamers to get inside. Once you do get inside, it's truly mind-bending how much visual information you get bombarded with. Companies did things like bringing in monster trucks, a modified school bus a la Fortnite, life-size dragons, elaborate water fountain displays, giant screens everywhere, obstacle courses, augmented reality gardens, huge gate structures, and even entire buildings were constructed inside the massive halls of the convention center - all to be the biggest and flashiest of them all. So many peacocks.

Almost hidden among massive titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Pokémon Sword and Shield, or Watch Dogs: Legion, was a small section of relative calm. Quieter than everywhere else, but filled to the brim with passion and hope, was an area for games of a smaller scale: IndieCade. This is where a dense collection of indie studios could be found, many of them single-person dev 'teams'. While sequels and nearly-guaranteed hits were being flashy like lives depended on it, these small indie devs humbly displayed their games and ideas. There were curious abstract ideas aplenty, like escape rooms that you could take with you in a small box and games that blended programs with real tangible objects.

There's still a wild west left to discover in game development, and many of these folks were the settlers traversing it. Sure, seeing a big game like Lone Echo 2 blew me away, but I'll always remember the time I spent playing curiously inventive and sometimes bizarrely abstract games like Ascend, Infinite Children, or Neo Cab. Or that time when a small augmented reality game called ARBox had me scanning the real world for a magic seal. No flashy stands, just interesting ideas with a lot of heart.

As 3 days of buzzing conference ended, followed by a magnificent Ludovico Einaudi concert as a cherry on top, I couldn't help but wonder if Kynseed might ever find its way to that cozy corner among the peacocks.

Chums of Yore

E3 has once again passed by in a blur, and already the week-long extravaganza seems to be fading into memory. This marked my sixth E3 I've attended and it seems like each year feels distinctly different than the ones that came before.

Not long ago the Fable Anniversary team was there, crammed into the Microsoft area right next to Sony and Nintendo's area - each as equally crammed as the other. A couple years after that the Fable Legends team was there. Fast forward to 2019 and suddenly Microsoft's area is gone entirely, having moved down the street to the aptly named (and owned) Microsoft Theater. Not to mention Sony's notable absence this year.

It's all an ever-present reminder that the game industry is a constantly evolving thing. Yet there does seem to be one constant that I've noticed: the people. Maybe the real treasure was the friends we made along the way. *Jim Halpert looks at camera*

The industry might change at breakneck speeds but the family of friends I've made over the years does seem to be the one constant thread throughout it all. This E3, I met up with industry peeps (ex-Lionhead and otherwise), new PixelCount friends, and even folks from the Fable community whose friendships span over a decade. In many ways, E3 serves as a sort of annual reunion for both dev side and player side. It's easily my favourite aspect of E3.

That said, when not gallivanting around with chums of yore, there was still work to be done. We didn't have a booth or anything (we feel the game's not quite at that point yet), but there were meetings to have, panels to attend, contacts to contact, and even the impromptu laptop demo here and there.

I'm sure I'll have more E3 tales to regale you all with in the week ahead (likely in our Discord server), though for now I find myself still recovering from a bit of 'post-con fatigue'. I'm very much looking forward to settling back in to my normal work routines this next week. As much as I enjoy E3, a part of me always just wants to get back to working on the game.

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