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Thread: 📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #79

  1. #1
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    June 24th, 2016

    📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #79


    ISSUE #79                              THE VALE, QUILL                              8 MAY, 2020                              ONE BRASS

    The Short Report

    It's been a while since our last issue of The PixelCount Post, but we're back and ready to give you more short updates on how things are going here on the team. You may've caught our most recent monthly progress report which included some new lovely bits and improvements, such as adding the oh-so-important feature: poop.

    Once completing this last monthly update, we turned our attention to tweaking the Goddess offerings setup (which Neal talks more about below) as well as putting together our final "must haves" list for the relationship features. There's so many moving parts to how relationships are handled in the game (be it romantic or otherwise) that we're now at the point where we need to start focusing on just the absolute most critical parts of that feature set. Which isn't to say more relationship features or polish won't come further down the road (they most assuredly will), rather this will help us prioritize the most important bits so we can get them in game rather than falling into that tempting but endless loop of perpetually working on and polishing a thing over and over.

    In other news, Gary continues toiling away at making more and more aging art for the world's characters. No doubt it'll make for an impressive art collection by the end of it all. Weekes, our environment artist, has also been making some new tree types to adorn future regions of the game. As for design, Charlie's been working through design docs closely with Neal. Meanwhile, Matt is diving back into production-focused work and helping put some new things in place to help the team stay more updated with each other and to minimize workflow bottlenecks. Naturally, Tice is still putting out lovely bits of audio, be it SFX or music, though he's away from the computer this week and so you'll not see his usual entry for this week's Post.

    Meanwhile, the world has continued to have its hands full with everything going on which, thankfully, has had minimal impact on our already remote team. Though, as with anything, the situation has still presented its unique challenges for us but we're grateful that we've been able to keep our nose to the proverbial grindstone regardless as we continue working on this game. We hope you're all managing well circumstances considered and welcome you to enjoy this brief distraction of developer ramblings below. Cheers!

    Come Fly With Me

    Strange times and stranger sleep patterns. Vivid dreams and overeating. But enough about life in Quill...

    Trying to sum up what I have been doing since the last post is like trying to catch flies with a straw. The usual fixing, tweaks, prettying, and rearranging. Then the design docs and finalising this, that, and the other. Writing tons of dialogue for various situations and playtesting the game. Oh...I just caught a fly with this straw.

    Whilst playing the game one night I realised something: I wasn't testing the new features and was compulsively doing anything but that. And lo it came to pass that the gameplay was really starting to solidify and emerge. Playing also highlights just what is needed next - NPC stories, the next part of the main story, more NPC reactions, recipes, star ratings working, and so on. So many things but so little Neal!

    It has been great to see the positivity and continued support and we often pinch ourselves that we have such a thing. So stay safe and keep the Kynseed flame burning, because there is great stuff to come!

    Untangling Wires

    It's been a while since last writing a post so will have to see how long this one becomes, though I will try to rein it in! The last month has seen a continued adjustment in routine due to the lockdown. For the most part it hasn't had a great effect on the development work because of working remotely already but there's still some unavoidable ones and a difference between doing something knowing you could do differently and being forced to do something the one way. Development has switched paces a bit from the last update where there were several new features like animal poop, partner gathering setup, and family secret boxes to working more on improving the existing setup as we aim to complete the relationship update work.

    At slight odds to that I have spent quite a bit of the last two weeks working on revamping the goddess offering setup. This was a system that had been due an update because it didn't feel exactly right ingame. We've been trying a new process for this kind of work where there is more of a flow between the design and art completing their work before the code is worked on with the aim of reducing the churn when it gets into code that can leave some aspects feeling unfinished (as by the time design/art catch up I'll have moved on to something else). I think this went quite well and hopefully the results (visible soon in the current build) will show a more sturdy setup. That's not to say there isn't still room for improvement though, as there was still some back and forth due to not having a code prototype to look over until after design and art were completed.

    The other curious aspect in this case is considering the "connectedness" that the feature had to the game. Initially when we decided to work on this I was expecting it would only take a week at most and that it seemed relatively self contained but as it started to come together it seemed to link with more and more bits! In particular, star ratings and the inventory setup but also thinking about the ingame economy and the effects of offerings which had only been half implemented before. It felt a bit like untangling a bunch of wires to ensure a neater setup.

    There's a lot of that untangling work ahead for me to do on this relationship update as I'm determined to start pushing the quality bar higher again with the code. The size and relentless pull of this project has stretched the code work quite thin I've found lately but little by little I've been able to begin to fix and improve on that. Noting down almost triple digits worth of potential improvements to process that will all continue to smooth out the work, I feel like I've started to identify ideas that would previously mostly just be on my mind but never go anywhere and in a way be quite frustrating. Now having written them down there's more of a sense of fun and enjoyment that during an hour where maybe I need a break from the typical grind on updates I can pick one, make things just that little bit better and be satisfied with that. Wishing everyone all the best!

    Solar Powered Game Development

    It's been a curiously challenging past few weeks for me and mostly for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. To provide a bit of context, I live smack dab in the center of downtown Los Angeles which, when talking of current events, is the second most impacted city in the US (namely due to its very high population density). So it's not that surprising that the quarantine has been understandably taken very seriously here.

    Thankfully though, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, we're no doubt luckier than most that our team situation here at PixelCount was minimally impacted due to the fact that we all worked remotely from home anyway. Plus, I'm very fortunate that a city the size of LA has a robust offering of (relatively) inexpensive delivery services in place. So ranging from groceries to food to even alcohol, pretty much anything you'd want can be delivered to your doorstep with contactless delivery. (Which is to say the delivery person leaves the items at your door, knocks, and then promptly departs.)

    So I really feel I don't have much room to complain, all things considered. Yet I did detect in myself a bit of a dip in my mood and overall gumption for things in the past few weeks. The conclusion I came to in order to explain this was when it suddenly occurred to me that I had not step foot outside my front door, nor seen another human, for over 5 weeks in a row now. (To go outside in my building requires walking down a long hall, riding an elevator down, walking through a shared lobby door, and then walking through yet another shared community gate which then steps right out onto the sidewalks of downtown LA. Which is to say, I've been very fastidious in leaving my building as little as possible.)

    It seems a somewhat petty thing to gripe about I suppose, but if there is one thing I know about myself it's that I'm solar powered and social powered. As anyone with even a modicum of insightfulness has probably detected when reading these devlogs, I'm a very chatty people person. *broadly gestures at his typical wall-o-texts*

    Getting outside on occasion and spending time with others is one of the chief ways that I restore my creative energies. Don't get me wrong, my situation isn't that bad really. It's always important to keep perspective in mind and, as that old adage goes, this too shall pass. Yet all the same, I couldn't help but notice the subtle impact its had on my overall productivity and creativity in general.

    However, lest this update be an uncharacteristically gloomy update, I'd be remiss to mention the fact that this game's community has been such a source of positivity for me during this all. I think many folks (especially some game devs) have this notion that a game's community is simply the means to a public relations end. As though a game's community were just a cog in the marketing machine. I mean sure, there are tangible marketing benefits to game communities and they do help a great deal when it comes to word spreading and playtesting. But in danger of getting on one of my waxing poetic tangents, game communities are so much more.

    To me they're like a support network too. They help celebrate the game's wins and they also help keep your perspective in place. They're also a great litmus test to know which direction the project should be heading, by either expressing doubt when choosing the wrong direction or by expressing encouragement when headed the right direction. Ultimately, though, it's just nice to have folks to hang out with and talk to and ask questions of during the long workdays. We're really lucky to have the kind of community we have and it spurs us all the more to hold up our side of that bargain by trying to do the best work we can. So a big thank you to all of you in the community, ranging from the daily chatters in our Discord to the occasional retweeters on our Twitter all the way to you most lurky of lurkers who still, I promise, are just as appreciated as anyone by being there in the shadows and following along on this journey of ours.

    Lastly, to end with a more tangible devlog update from me, we've recently begun doing team-wide calls every few weeks which we're feeling has had a positive impact on keeping our entire team on the same page. It's an obvious thing, really, because of course doing team-wide calls would have a net positive benefit overall. Yet the tricky thing has always been that our time zones don't always overlap and that most of the calls we do are department-specific. If I need to talk with Tice about audio stuff, then we conduct a call between just the two of us. Or if Charlie and Neal and I need to discuss boring business-ey stuff, then we just do a call between us three. And so on.

    In fact, on any given week it's not unusual for me to have 3 or 4 calls spanning a couple hours each. Even more if you count our weekly community voice chat on Discord, which I try to pop into as often as I can. (They're every Thursday around noon PST and all are welcome to drop by!) So it's not as though we don't have calls very often. Rather, we just don't have them with everyone very often.

    This month, however, we've sought to change that a bit and are now doing team-wide calls more frequently. Interestingly, the benefit of these calls is not so much that we can more easily discuss work. As mentioned above, we have the smaller department-specific calls for those, which tend to be more productive overall. Instead, I've been finding the benefits to these new calls are more from the perspective of just hanging out with each other as a team, something we don't do often enough yet has a noticeably positive impact I've found.

    Just as it's important that our community has a 'sense' of community, it's equally important that the team has a 'sense' of teamwork. It's not that we didn't beforehand, but for a small group of individuals like us to embark on this difficult high-risk adventure of Making An Indie Game™, it's important that we're able to occasionally just kick our shoes off and hang out as friends, not just as coworkers. Which, to tie this all together, is often how I feel about our community as well. Between it all, I feel like I've got some of the greatest friends an overly talkative indie dev could ask for.

    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.


  2. #2
    Kynseed is a piece of art, I can feel the passion you put into working in the game when I play it. I bought the game just recently on steam and I'm already eager for the next update. Plz keep this awesome work, it will definitely pay off.

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