ISSUE #69                              THE VALE, QUILL                              16 OCTOBER, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

It's been an unorthodox past couple of weeks for us here on the team, but things are slowly returning back to some semblance of normalcy. About a week ago Charlie was suddenly hit with a bout of sickness, leading the rest of the team to insisting he take some days off to recoup (and mildly chastising him when he still snuck online to do work). At the same time, our illustrious musical maestro was off helping out with a fun side project at a medieval music festival in which there's no internet connect for miles. (The horror!) So we figured we'd wait to do a new issue of The Post 'til there was more of us around, hence us being a bit off schedule with this issue. Thankfully Charlie is back in action and although our musician is still away, we expect him back very soon.

Regarding game progress, things have been clicking along despite the above mentioned schedule wonkiness. The most notable bit of progress to mention is that in recent weeks Neal, our programmer, has had laser focus adding in the adult player art into the game as well as preparing the game's dating systems. This is a rather large undertaking in fact, as it means that Neal has to go through and replace every instance of the current player's assets and animations of the twins as youngin's and swap them all out for their adult counterparts - all whilst ensuring this doesn't break anything along the way. The team expects we'll be doing quite a bit of testing in the days and weeks ahead!

Also, as mentioned in the last issue, we're looking to tweak our approach to game updates a bit. In addition to the more frequent written updates of The PixelCount Post, we've also been doing larger written updates anytime we release one of the major milestones listed on the roadmap. The only problem we've found with this approach is that, depending on the size and complexity of the roadmap milestone, some may take a couple of months or so to get finished. So to help keep the pace up and to make sure folks are adequately updated in the meantime, we're going to start pushing out game updates as well as written games-focused progress reports once a month. This will mean that some game updates will be incremental in nature - aka, a stepping stone toward one of the larger titled milestones of the roadmap (like "Growing Up & Going Out, which is the next milestone ahead).

If any of the above seems a bit rambly, the main gist of it is this: The Post will continue to be our casual week to week devlog, plus we're now also doing monthly game updates and progress reports. Sometimes a monthly update will be for a big roadmap milestone, while other monthly updates will be a stepping stone toward a big roadmap milestone. Long story short: your game will be getting updated a bit more frequently now.

(We'll also be updating our development branches every few weeks for those of you keen to try out and give feedback on early developer builds.)

Dirty Hands

Been a huge relief to get back into the levels this past week after having a couple of weeks of a bad throat and being generally unwell and tired. A good rest and time away from the game helped and once the creative juices got going again, things flowed pretty well.

As I was making the Mellowfields levels, I realised that a couple of them were quite small in regards to exploration, and Neal confirmed that. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of where you are, so it is good to identify issues and solve them. I often create a rough layout and will chop and change it until my instinct tells me it feels right. I have no real pre-planned maps, but I do have the game stored in my head and work off that. (Making maps on paper often feels to me like a is fine for rough layouts, but you need to be in and walking around to really experience the feel.)

It maybe doesn't sound like a great way to work, but my levels have always been organic and 'messy'...quite amateur in many respects, but because I live and breathe in them, they come to life with detail and character. I would hope our artists go over the levels later and tidy up where assets were badly used and so on, so they will still be subject to changes right up until the end.

The creation of the levels was helped by some great new assets coming in and they can often really tie the room together. During the making of Fable 2, Brightwood was stopped and started 9 times before it became what it became. Wraithmarsh, arguably my favourite region (tied with Snowglobe and the intro level for Fable Legends), underwent 6 iterations. If I had my time again, I would make it way better.

We can always look to improve, so I'm just glad I am back in the hungry mood to mess around and get my hands dirty giving form to the land of Quill.

Bit by Bit

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur. In stops and starts, work is progressing on the next update as life happens, as I get to grips with the next update requirements, and as I also play catchup on issues in the wild. Something I've been thinking about lately is the method to madness that comes about in that process. Especially in the last week where I've had productive spells that very freely come and go.

I've been sticking with my aims for each day by quantifying the outcome in terms of more achievable results. So instead of expecting to have completed a whole section of a feature, I'll split it up to spend a few hours on it to see how it goes in parallel with other important aspects (so results measured in focused time spent). This leads to some days that feel full with little to show as conclusively done, but that there is progress made and it is slowly reaching that point where it comes together. Little by little it should all add up to something good!

This also ties in with last time's mention of a new plan with updates. Our new intention is to have a more regular pattern that allows builds to come through at a faster pace than 'when it's all ready' for a roadmap milestone, while still allowing some quality control. At this moment I've been working on UI bits, workflow, importing the adult player character art and how that fits ingame, along with dating for relationships and looking into some intermittent crashes and out of memory problems that seem to finally be getting somewhere in the investigation stage.

This bubbling pot of activity, if looked at right now, might be a bit mad with how unconnected they are - but there is method to it in that it genuinely allows more steady progress than the straight path of one at a time might! As usual, I better head back to that assortment of ideas and advance them all that little bit closer. Wish you all a good week!

Gone Drumming

Note from the Editor: Our musician friend is currently away on a medieval festival adventure, providing his services as a merry traveling drummer. He shall no doubt return soon with tales of his travels.

Covering Your Assets

It's been a bit of an unusual past couple of weeks between team members being out for various reasons (Tice being away for a project and Charlie being under the weather). When you work on such a small team, it's a bit surprising how noticeable even one team member's absence can be, let alone two. Things get a bit quieter around the virtual office of our team's Discord server and there's fewer voice chat meetings to be had. Though one obvious benefit to this is that it gives the rest of us an opportunity to bury our heads into the work and focus exclusively on our immediate tasks, completely uninterrupted.

I feel like this has been particularly handy for Neal, who's been slowly going through and adding in all the adult player assets into the game. Hearing Neal describe the work makes it all sound a bit tedious, as there's simply so many player asset tiles to add into the game for all the various situations. As always, I continue to be impressed with the myriad of things Neal has to tend to in the code. It boggles my mind to think about how Kynseed's engine is the work of a sole programmer.

Meanwhile, art has been churning out quite a bit of new content in recent weeks. Gary has moved on from making adult versions of the players to making different age versions of NPC's, which are shaping up very nicely. He's also been creating a number of side characters, ranging from a frightening monster to the more friendly (if not occasionally grumpy) Pott the Brounie.

That said, when it comes to game development, it's very typical (if not necessary) for the creation of art to outpace how quickly code can implement art. This makes logical sense given the nature of these two departments, but it does unfortunately mean that many times Gary will be working on something that won't be ready for implementing until quite some time from now. We still like to give sneak peeks as we can though, so every now and then I'll create a GIF like below to give a glimpse of what's to come in future updates.

This is Pott the Brounie, a sharp tongued goblin who will show up sometime after the game's Prologue to live on your farm and help look after things. He'll help keep things tidy and will even make sure your kids are looked after. He can also be talked to for pieces of advice, to check on the status of certain things, or even to learn about different stories of the Fae. Just be sure to feed him offerings now and then, cause otherwise he'll get unhappy and he won't be shy in saying so!

For back issues visit The PixelCount News Vault

P R I N T E DᅠA TᅠP I X E L C O U N TᅠC A S T L E,ᅠT H EᅠV A L E

Copyright 2019 by PixelCount Studios (Limited).ᅠᅠAll rights reserved.ᅠᅠEdited and assembled by Matt Allen.