ISSUE #56                              THE VALE, QUILL                              30 JUNE, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

With E3 fading away as a distant memory, the whole team was able to fully jump back into update progress last week. Most of that work is falling on Charlie and Neal who are polishing up the final bits. Meanwhile, art and audio are working ahead by making all the assets needed for the next few updates (such as adulthood and relationships, which is what we're tackling in the update after this one).

As Neal mentions below, we're planning on releasing the update to our Steam test branch for any who are interested in taking it for an early spin. From there, we'll get it prepared for pushing it out to the public branch and then we're on to the next update!

Stock in Trade

I am always amazed by what our team comes up with. Other than marvelling at Neal the machine and his tireless engine, we have great artists and a superb musician. So this week we got the line up of all Mellowfield NPC's, idle animations for some of them, cool new caves, a bunch of nice UI elements for a better looking chat system, music concept for Woemarsh, and more!

I spent a lot of time playing the build and running my shops and loving it...then time passing and me realising stock was running short and that I hadn't paid my staff or looked after my farm and pets. We hope that when you play the update, you'll share some of your stories with us. Just who buys what, and what you did to make money. What did the window shoppers say about your wares? How did you run your business? We can't wait! Now, back to gazing at art and listening to awesome music...

Whittling Away

This week has kept things rather busy on the update front. On Tuesday, we had a playthrough to establish what to concentrate on and I've been busying away on that ever since. That 60 item list from 3 weeks ago had gotten down to about a net 40 on Monday. (Scanning my completed list, I've done about 200 items of varying sizes in that time so you can see there's quite a bit of extra work getting figured out!) This was then pushed to one side with the playthrough for a new list of 15 essentials.

In the last few days I actually got that down to about 4 of the 15 but now even more items have popped up in their place to drag things back to about 30 (albeit, these are definitely the smaller kind fortunately). This might all seem a bit meaningless to talk about, but I guess it just goes to show the chaotic nature of development and how you never quite know what's around the corner.

I think one thing I've also found is how lists can degrade in value pretty quickly. What seems optimistically possible a few weeks back becomes a burden when you get down to it and slows things to a crawl. There's definitely items on my list that I actively push to the bottom cos I just don't want to get to them quite yet, but the drastic improvements often come when you finally get to them because they really complete the experience. In this update's case, it's been about me figuring out shop reputation levels and how to handle the frequency of customers. Both of those fall into this tricky category of balance and felt fiddly to get a handle on to construct, but now that they're in it really starts to tie it all together as a whole.

Next week should see the build up on the test branch once the list is finally down to the single digits again and then we get to start again with new lists of feedback and the next update to work on. It's a good thing I like working on lists!

Swamped with New Music

Since being back from the US, my focus has become an entirely new region. It's swampy and I was asked to make its music less 'happy-go-lucky' than what has come before. So in the last week I've been experimenting with creating a new sound. I ended up using a rather jazzy acoustic bass, banjo, and fiddle on top of a soundpad made by mostly strings and woodwinds.

I want the overall feel of these places to be bordering on scary, but not really scary. I want them to be bordering on sad, but not really sad. Swamps can be pretty from time to time. I just presented a draft of what I'm going for to the team today, and they seemed quite happy with it so it's full steam ahead for the whole region. Other than the music, I also have to create an ambient soundscape for these places. I'm going to be looking for the sound of frogs, flies, and water...all wrapped in mist. It's going to take a while, but I'll have a lot of fun doing this!

Cheaty McCheat Face

We've been getting back into our usual groove this week and my schedule has thankfully returned to some semblance of normality. Lately I've been spending much more time just playing the 'vanilla' game - basically, the public version that's up on Steam and everywhere else. Typically I do all my playtesting using internal dev builds. Which is to say: typically I do all my playtesting as a dirty dirty cheater.

Usually I do this purely for time saving reasons. A fair chunk of my work involves making a lot of our screenshots and video, so if I need to quickly take a screenshot of the player running the Goods Store, it's a whole lot easier to give myself unlimited Brass so I can quickly purchase it in a few seconds. Playing the game as normal would mean it'd take me hours just to get a single screenshot set up.

However, the biggest disadvantage to this is something that happens to a lot of teams: debug becomes a crutch and they can end up playtesting almost exclusively with dev tools enabled. All that to say, it's wise to still make time to playtest the game as it's intended to be played. I've been making more time for those kind of playtests as of late and they've been a really nice change of pace. Perhaps it's a good sign that as more of the game is put together I find myself more inclined to play it without debug.

Personally, I'm most looking forward to our current update and the next ( with aging and relationships) get added. I can't wait to start a new character from scratch to playtest it all. Perhaps this time I'll play as shop owner who sales delicious pies that become famous across the land.

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