ISSUE #71                              THE VALE, QUILL                              15 NOVEMBER, 2019                              ONE BRASS

The Short Report

Howdy, and welcome again to yet another issue of our dev log. As you may've heard us mention before, we've been wanting to release incremental updates to the game on a more monthly basis which, as it happens, we did just last week! November's game update represents just the first step in getting us closer to the relationship milestone of our roadmap, so hop on over to the announcement to check out the details. Or if you prefer, you can jump straight into the first and second changelogs that went up last week.

After pushing that update out, the team then spent a bit of time finding and squashing any bugs that had arisen. Thankfully we made fairly quick work of it and in just a matter of days we'd already begun work on the very next update ahead. With some of the most preliminary aging and dating systems now in, our next area of focus will be adding in the basics of the marriage system. You can read on below for more details on how that's going and, as always, we'll see you again soon in the next dev log. Cheers!

Smart Assets

Back to some level tidying and rejigging this past week. We decided to unlock the Mellowfields regions one at a time, so it has been a case of getting them in order. We have a set of assets that we use per haven, and some that can be used in any. Many times I have had to use assets not designed for that region, and they eventually need swapping out before we let the level loose on the world.

Mr Weekes, our wonderful environ artist, and myself review the regions and see what else is needed...from flowers to furniture, from weird landmarks to grass. At some point before release, we will go over all the levels and do a prettying pass to ensure we don't use old assets and to get the best out of the objects and tiles. (The more complicated tilesets are such a massive enigma to me that you need to work at Bletchley Park to be able to decode them. In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch would probably just give up and hide all the dodgy bits with rocks and bushes.)

Also got to do more dialogue for a new 'mini-system' that has spawned from the dating system, to solve a problem we had with teen player sprites. More will be revealed over time!

Memory Leaks & Memory Lane

Last week saw the first of our more regular updates released. It has been a strange month anyway, but it has had the feeling of a possible turning point. The last week was a rush of trying to prepare things as usual but it felt a little more organised and manageable this time around. Since then, I've spent a few days working mainly through bugs that slipped by and getting a little obsessive over memory use in the game. I put some preventative measures in to allow more memory use for the released build, but it was still occupying my mind that I couldn't find any specific causes. Thanks to a more methodical investigation, I was able to actually pin down one specific problem with audio where entering and leaving a shop would use memory for the music each time and never dispose. (Funnily enough, this happened because it was held in a list to dispose at the end of the game session!)

I've not really had much experience with memory issues before, but it reminded me of some of the more obscure bugs I've worked on in the past where the place and circumstance of the crash rarely gives any hints on the issue because it was something done 30 minutes back in a completely different area that set the problem off! Really the only course of action for those types of situations is just to play the game as long as possible and hope that at some point debugging will lead to a bit of information discovered. It becomes hard at that stage to know when to quit and try again another time, because maybe you might see something if you try just this little bit longer! For now though, I have moved onto adding marriage to the game, having hopefully fixed the most serious case.

With marriage, I'm not one to particularly be good at hyping up a given feature so I won't try and do so here. Hopefully it'll be interesting to players the way there's a traditional process and buildup to it that gives a roleplay feel. Then there'll be the way the spouse moves in to your farm and the extra effects that'll lead to. Having children is still a ways away because of the extra art requirements on that, but it's starting to head in that direction. So far it seems to be going ok where I'm mostly placing the broad strokes of it to give a first playable version by the end of the week and, all things going well, something should be playable next week on the experimental build.

In other news, last week marked a year since the Early Access version of the game launched. At the time, I remember thinking that must mean things are getting closer to done and that perhaps a year would see the game completed (though typically our estimates have been off by a factor of two, so I wasn't entirely convinced we would!). Now looking at where things stand, it does feel like the game has come quite a long way in that time but there is still plenty more to go! There's a general rule of thumb I read recently that in life we overestimate a year's progress but underestimate longer periods of time, such as 5 years, so perhaps my new expectation is that the game will certainly be wrapped within 5 years but that each year is going to be making a big difference in the replayability and refinement of the experience.

Last year before the release, there was a constant flow of activity as we busied ourselves with a thousand different tasks in preparation for a near unmovable deadline. It's a time I look back at nostalgically to think of how productive I felt but then at the same time I realise what a burden it had been to cram for and how the months after that initial rush of excitement at the launch fell away to burnout and a general realisation of the long road ahead. That burnout does seem to have faded finally and, as mentioned, it feels like it could be a turning point of maturity on the project that we perhaps might finally be finding a stride at which we can go. Whether that pans out, I guess tune in next year to find out...

As often is the case when I'm in one of these reflective and pensive moods, I mostly feel a damn strong urge to overcome any obstacle. This is undoubtedly the game I'm most proud of working on to date and, as long as I am fortunate to have the ability to, I will keep working to find a way to make it fulfil its potential.

Feeling a Draft

It's been a strange week for me. A few non-Kynseed things are pulling me in multiple directions, so I needed to realign my creativity with the Kynseed vibe. To do so, I browsed through the work I had done so far - including the rejected tracks. And then I found something...

A track I had written that was turned down, but clicked for me this time. There's a region not yet in the game that I suddenly realized this could really fit. I reuploaded it and asked Charlie if he agreed and he did. So a track that would otherwise have gotten lost in the forgotten crevices of fate managed to claw its way from oblivion to a hill overlooking a swamp, where it will be heard by players in the near future.

So I'm glad I took the time to look at all the drafts that didn't make it (yet). Sometimes you might find just the right thing...

Kyndred Spirits

After my tale of woe from last issue, I spent much of this week acclimating myself back into a normal work routine. There was a slight sense of jumping back into the deep end though, as I had quite a bit of work to get done with having to get November's update pushed out everywhere.

That said, it's good to be diving back into the work. Plus, now that we managed to make good on our first attempt at adhering to a new monthly update schedule, the team is in high spirits with a sense of confidence that we'll be able to stick to this release rhythm going forward. Monthly updates are something I'd been gently pushing for now and then on the project, but perhaps it's only until now that we've accrued enough experience with working on this particular game within this particular team to feel like we had enough handle on things to publicly commit ourselves to a monthly cycle. (Every game and team is different and the 'rate of development' can vary dramatically for any number of reasons.)

I'll be keeping my update this week a bit short though, as one of the natural side effects of being indisposed for a week or more is that the work sure manages to pile up in one's absence! All that to say, I'm slowly chipping away at a slight backlog of tasks. Thankfully though, whenever the team finds itself in high spirits, I've found this has a knock-on effect of making the work not only speedier but more enjoyable. So with that, I'll see you all again in the next issue!

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