ISSUE #81                              THE VALE, QUILL                              11 JULY, 2020                              ONE BRASS





The Short Report
 

 
Hello and welcome to another issue of The PixelCount Post! For those of you joining us for the first time from the Steam sale, this is our regularly released Dev Log where we ask a few team members to write quick bite-sized updates on what they've been recently working on. We like to keep these fairly casual and conversational, so in addition to sharing Kynseed development progress we'll also occasionally chat about things like how we're navigating the world of indie development, ways we try to stay productive, recent challenges or successes we've experienced, stories from back in our old Fable development days, and so on.

As you've probably noticed this section is called "The Short Report", which is our no-fuss summarized version of recent development progress for those of you who aren't keen on reading all our team's ramblings. So with that said, let's dive right into things!

Most recently we released a new update which contained a decently sized chunk of improvements as well as new content. Highlights include more player customisation, a ton of new UI improvements, a revamped Goddess offering system, more NPC aging, as well as the oh-so-important work of adding new visual effects for poop. Hop on over to the recent announcement to see the full list of everything the update included.

In the weeks since, the team has been keeping busy with our usual gambit of work. Neal (our programmer) has been working on how items are setup, UI improvements, as well as doing some preliminary brainstorming on potential localization logistics. Translations are still a ways off of course, but there's a surprising amount of code-based technicalities needed to get multi-language support working and it's important that we make such considerations now to save ourselves potential headache in the future. Meanwhile Charlie (our lead designer) has been knee-deep in game text adding new dialogue in addition to doing level designs on a new enchanting region called Evergreen. Also, Matt (our production manager and community developer) has been going through and organizing all the results from a recent player survey we ran. (We'll be leaving it open for a couple more weeks, so check out the survey here if you'd like to participate before it closes.)

Lastly, to give a quick update about art: Gary (our character artist) has been making more progress on all the aging art required for the literal hundreds of different NPC generations that will inhabit the world. It continues to be quite the undertaking, but if anyone can do it it's Gary. That fellow's a pixel whisperer.

Though occasionally we'll give him a break from that huge NPC undertaking to work on other things the game also needs, such as some new frightening monsters that we're keeping secretive about until we sneakily add them into the game one day when you're not looking. Another thing he recently made was a new impressively animated wagon to help make our trader character more prominently visible when on-screen. I think it's safe to say the trader will be rather hard to miss now. It's quickly become one of the team's new favourite pieces of animation, so take a gander down below and see how it turned out. And yes, that is in fact an enormously gigantic pig pulling the wagon...







Make Fae While the Sun Shines
 

(Lead Designer)


 
A lot of exciting things have happened in recent weeks. We had to prep for the Steam Summer Sale and were piling in lots of QOL (Quality of Life) improvements for the game. I have been on playthroughs, design, Evergreen (a new region), and designed a minigame for that Fae realm which is a creepy variant of a popular game. I hope you like it when we eventually get it in (though quite a while yet, sadly).

There was a flurry of interest in the game and we seemed to rise up quite nicely. There is still a long way to go to gain visibility before we can join those big names like My Time At Portia, Moonlighter, Graveyard Keeper, etc, and be a household name. We do feel like if we can keep improving the game and nurturing the fantastic rapidly growing community then we will eventually be big enough to bring Kynseed to other platforms and even more languages so others can enjoy the experience.

It is great to see the gameplay loops starting to come together with the proverbs, traits, and star ratings. But there is still much to do, especially when it comes to goals and clarity of what the player should be doing. We constantly analyse player feedback and do our own playthroughs to tweak the UI and experience. There are some big things coming to help the overall experience, from NPC stories to combat improvements to UI upgrades and better teaching of mechanics.

It is an exciting time and we love having you all in our little valley. Hope you are all staying safe!



Animation Integration Situation
 

(Programmer)


 
Been a few weeks since the last one of these! I've been keeping busy with a number of areas mainly still focused on items. The last few updates have concentrated quite a bit on the item setup to have more ratings and proverbs determining the conditions of when they show up. The type of fish in different ponds also underwent quite a big change related to this. Fortunately it now makes it compatible with both the way ratings/proverbs work where there is simple condition data that can be layered together to create quite a variety of setups very easily. It's something we'll be watching the balance of and probably tweaking throughout the remainder of development.

Most recently I've been working a bit more on UI to improve their presentation and usability. It's still a work-in-progress and somewhat laborious to work through. The main challenge is the sequence of events all being done via code. This makes it all a bit slower trying to map out where elements go and any elaborate animations.

With the relationship update in mind, the friendship rating is one of those aspects where we've tried to improve the visuals of it to be clearer. This ended up with a 10 stage animation all done via code in about 500 lines. It took a solid 10 hours over a few days to set up and get results I'm somewhat happy with. Weighing it up, it's possible within a week I might be able to put together a sequence editor to handle it well (there's a bit of dynamic values at play because the rating can be between 1 and 7 hearts which changes the visible number of elements and their colour) but the cost of that time felt a bit too large at this stage. I'm thinking that perhaps that editor (and other ones relating to UI) do need to be slowly assembled as there is going to be a longer-term benefit to them where they aren't quite as disruptive to the immediate flow of work.

My more immediate next focus is going to be on dialogue as we're starting to put together more for the NPC's to say things in various situations (and a system to edit/add to that with our ingame editor tool). So 'til next time, wishing everyone all the best!



Starry Eyed Replies
 

(Production Manager)


 
Hello again! It feels like it's been a while since we chatted, though for some reason the past few weeks have felt like they went in the blink of an eye for me. As the team's resident wearer-of-many-hats, I've had my hands busy with all manner of various things. For this last week specifically, it was finally time for me to start sorting and organizing all the results from the recent player feedback survey we ran.

We figured we'd give it about a month to accrue results and give everyone a chance to respond before we had a proper dive into the data. That said, we'll be leaving the survey open for a couple weeks more for any folks who still want to get in on it. Just head to the survey announcement if interested.

This was the first player survey that we've done, so I kept the questions pretty general overall when making it. It was fairly standard stuff as far as surveys go - nothing fancy really. Though some questions asked players to rate how they felt about certain game elements and, as some of you pointed out to me, these didn't always have a 'middle' or 'neutral' option available as an answer. This was an intentional design on my part, as it was recommended to me by a fellow community manager who said that they never include middle answers in their player surveys in order to "avoid fence-sitting and force people to choose a stance".

I figured it was worth trying for a few questions at least, but I'm not entirely convinced that I'd do it again in future surveys. Namely because I do feel like there's legitimate reasons as to why someone might not have a strong opinion about something one way or the other. Plus, I figure data is data. If the data indicates that some players don't have a stance about something in particular, that's still potentially useful information to have. So all in all this survey proved to be a useful learning experience, not just from the actual survey results but also from finding out which sorts of questions to ask and in which ways.

Though speaking of the results, I was rather surprised at the amount of participants we had. We weren't really sure how many replies to realistically expect, but in total we ended up with just over 1,600 individual responses! That may not seem like a high number at first glance, but for a small self-publishing indie team it's not a bad turnout at all.

Of course, the more participants there are the more data there is for me to sort through and to subsequently organize into a digestible format for the rest of the team to read (complete with written analysis and fancy charts). I'm still going through all the results presently, but perhaps in the next PixelCount Post I'll share some of the actual stats and numbers. Though for me, the absolute best part about sorting through these results hasn't been the numbers. The best part has been reading everyone's personally written replies to two of the survey's open-ended (and optional) questions.

The first question basically asked what one aspect of the game they'd like to change if they could and the second question just broadly asked if there was anything else they wanted to tell the team. I was honestly blown away at how the sweeping majority of people took time to write out very detailed and personalized replies to both those questions. The answers to the first question in particular were incredibly helpful and had a nice healthy mix of positive feedback as well as very useful critical feedback, the latter of which has given the team a great list of tangible suggestions and improvements to begin working on. As for the answers to that broad second question, we received an overwhelming amount of incredibly kind and supportive personal messages. So many of the replies were from players rooting us on and saying how much they've been enjoying the game and our approach to open development.

That's one of the things we set out to do when we first chose to make an Early Access game: to be as open and accessible a team as possible. To be real approachable people, not some pseudo-mythic devs who put up a sort of wall between themselves and the players. All of that to say, I can't adequately convey how utterly surprising and humbling an experience it was to read so many lovely comments from folks expressing their support for what this quirky little team of ours is doing. It's not that we don't see encouraging comments from around the community of course, but to suddenly have over a thousand (literally!) encouraging comments to sort through all at once feels pretty crazy.

So allow me to give a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who took time to leave personal replies. Whether it was positive feedback or critical (or both!), it all helps us make a better game and it means a lot to us. Not counting any additional responses we may get in the survey's final two weeks ahead, we've currently got 1,584 individual replies (some of which are many paragraphs long!) to read through. I've transferred them all to a consolidated document to make it easier to read for myself and altogether it's 78 pages in total. So I've certainly got my weekend reading cut out for me!

I'll let you know how it goes the next time we chat here in The Post, but until then I wish you all a lovely weekend and hope you enjoy any new games you may've scored during the recent sale. (I've personally been getting addicted to the newly remastered Command & Conquer. Such a deliciously cheesy game.)

See you 'round the community everyone. Cheers!



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