📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #27
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  1. #1
    Matt's Avatar

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    June 24th, 2016
    Los Angeles, California

    📰 The PixelCount Post - Issue #27


    ISSUE #27                         THE VALE, QUILL                         MAY 13 2018                         ONE BRASS

    A Note from the Editor

    Hello there wayward traveller.

    This is The PixelCount Post, a regularly released periodical written by the Kynseed team in which we chronicle our development progress. We're also occasionally known to offer musings about the games industry, challenges that we're experiencing (project related or otherwise), and what we had for breakfast.

    Many of you loyal readers already know all that, but there are no doubt some new faces among us since this is the first issue of The PixelCount Post being cross-posted over to Steam - something we'll be doing for all future issues! Some of you lovely Steam members may be wondering why our maiden issue on Steam is already at Issue #27. That's because we've been doing these development updates for quite a while! (To read the full library of prior issues, just hop on over to The PixelCount News Vault.)

    Up until now, we've been publishing The Post exclusively on our own forums, but the Kynseed community has been growing a fair bit and we'd hate for any of you to miss out on all our horrible puns. So whether you're a longtime reader or a brand new reader, we welcome you to check back regularly for new issues. In general, we post each issue around the weekend. (Though we have been considering making it a more scheduled thing, such as on every Friday perhaps.)

    Here's a very quick crash course on the faces you'll likely see in each issue. Neal is our programmer. Charlie is our trusty game and level designer. Matthijs composes the music and assists with sound effects. And lastly there's me (Matt), and I assist with all manner of community and production.

    We hope you come to enjoy these development updates as much as we enjoy writing them. Our intention with each issue is to help demystify the game development process and to keep an ongoing public log of what we're up to. We're not mysterious developers silently working on some game in secret. We're real tangible people that you could poke in real life. (But please don't actually poke us. We're ticklish.)

    We want to foster the kind of culture in our community where it's not weird at all to message one of us directly. We mean that. Send me a friend request on Steam and say hello anytime. Or drop by our Discord, where the entire team hangs out with everyone near daily. Or just drop a comment down below and we'll be sure to reply. As one reader has described these weekly updates:

    "The PixelCount Post. It's like a parade
    and fanfare and confetti and business." - Lynn

    Well said, Lynn.

    It seems we've already been walking down the trail of this journey for some time, but in many ways there's still a long walk yet ahead of us. Since it seems our internet paths have crossed, we welcome you to come walk along with us. We can keep each other company.

    P.S. For breakfast, I had yogurt and granola.

    Focus Woke Us

    The week of the backer build release was unquestionably one of the most intense weeks of work I've ever had. It's been great to see people play the game and soak up some of that excitement to keep me going while sleep deprived. Crunch is never one of the popular topics about games and it's something I've generally tried to keep to my own pace after my first year or so in the game industry, which was relentless. I'm not proud of doing it or boasting about it, and I genuinely wish it weren't necessary...but sometimes there is no choice because a date is set and hopefully that week is worth it and there is time to recover after.

    Now that we have got the build out there, it's hopefully going to be easier as we get the practice in making updates and learning more to avoid that kind of intense workload! After that rush though, the energy does fade a little and I'm glad to have been able to get a bit more rest recently. It was important to make things better that first week with some quickfire updates, but this is just the beginning and we've now got a marathon ahead of us rather than a sprint.

    It was also great to be able to chat to people on Discord to share a bit of info on the game making process and find out about some of the bugs encountered and then pick and choose the more critical ones to solve ASAP. After two updates in the first week, the game (fingers crossed) should hopefully be quite a bit more stable, so now it's a case of addressing the smaller issues and starting to look at ways to be smarter on the work ahead!

    Week two of the backer build was less intense but still very focused. We managed to get together another update that saw more issues fixed on saving, plus a bunch of common issues found along - with a small but useful feature too! It's continued being great having the community to talk to and discuss some feedback around control schemes, future work, and of course bugs. Some of the work to be smarter has been pushed back a little already as the third build still had plenty of issues to resolve, leaving little time for long-term code work.

    Plans are coming together though and, dare I say it, work may commence on such things early next week?! There are a couple of rare system issues which are in need of investigation and resolving though, so it's a hard choice at the moment as to where time should be spent. I suspect the way to go will probably be to time limit each of these tasks so progress is made, as both will be big improvements to make.

    There's a place where birds are all a twitter with things to say. Maybe you've heard of this place. Sometimes we shamelessly ask our community to help us spread words there. If that sounds like something you'd be into, then poke the banner below to help get people all twitterpated about Kynseed.

    Teeming with Streaming

    Utter chaos.

    That's what our Discord dissolved into when we released the backer build. We had 100 people singing in voice chat, mass violence, riots, earthquakes, meteor strikes. (Oh wait, that's Fortnite.)

    We struggled to keep up, but one thing was for sure: it was very special. Since then I have hardly done any real work. It has been a blur of Twitch streams, YouTube videos, emails, and Discord chats with crazy, passionate, fun players. I have tried to pop in every one I could and it is fascinating seeing how people play. I often bite through my knuckles and scream "South, he told you to go bloody south!" at the screen. It's great fun.

    We have taken a lot of feedback onboard and responded quickly where we could, and it is very useful. We are incredibly proud to have such backers supporting us. We even sold out of Legend tiers! Thanks to everyone who has joined our journey; lots to come!

    Good Sound Speaks Volumes

    Our backer build is finally here! The last few weeks have been insane in the best possible way. I've been all over our social media, and your Twitch streams, collecting feedback on the music and sound effects. Y'all have been super supportive of our game, and it warms the heart!

    Things I look for in particular is if anybody feels volume levels are out of wack anywhere. A sound effect that is too loud, a piece of music you can't quite hear properly, and so forth. I also look for other aspects like transitions between music tracks. In the initial Saturday build, the transition to shop music was too abrupt, creating a jarring effect. We were able to change it in time for the second day, when the rest of our backers could finally play it. Similarly, things came up like waterfall sounds being too loud. (Should be fixed!) There's just a deluge of feedback like this to sift through and adapt to.

    At the same time, there's bug hunting being done, which I helped out with. At some point we had to figure out why the pig on Willowdown Farm was disappearing - we spent quite a lot of time trying to figure that one out! It involves meticulously retracing your steps when the pig disappears and figuring out exactly what you did that caused it. And that's just one of many things that needed testing.

    Further fine-tuning of sound levels will happen continually, as well as new sound effects being added. There's a ton of work left ahead of us, but from now on you can see the progress by playing these early builds! I hope everyone will keep feedbacking on the game. And on my end, the soundtrack and sound effects could use all the feedback you're willing to give. Without feedback, it can't become the best version of itself - we need you.

    Furthermore, I dove into some newly acquired samples to get to know the instruments within. Instruments that are joining my repertoire are, among others, the cimbalom, several types of accordion, the bandoneon, a new acoustic guitar, and more. To get the most out of these requires practice. Getting a new virtual instrument isn't unlike getting a new real instrument, as in: you have to learn how to play it first. Learn how and where you can apply its sounds, what other instruments it blends with, what its technical limitations are, and so forth.

    You may have noticed that in the current build, the tavern isn't getting much use yet. But that won't stay that way forever. That's where many of these new instruments will come in handy. Mummers, traveling bands, ritual processions, all forms of music that could happen within the world and performed by its inhabitants. But NPC's can't write music very well, so I decided to help them out with that. This also means researching these styles of music. I've had a go at it at a much earlier stage in development, but back then I lacked the instruments I felt the music really needed. With this new sample library, that's no longer the case.

    Some old tracks left by the wayside will be revisited to see if this time I can make them work. It's definitely a great opportunity to diversify as a composer, since these styles of music aren't that common in games. So I consider myself lucky with the diversity that Kynseed throws at me. I hope I am up to its challenges!

    Rush Hour

    That was...crazy. Releasing an early build of the game to our backers ended up being the absolute busiest few weeks I've ever had on this project.

    I feel that there's a tendency for developers in the industry (and no doubt other industries) to glorify overworking, as if it's a sort of 'rite of passage' for game creators. I don't want to help propagate that view by back patting myself for overworking, because honestly, it's not good for you. But there is an asterisks on that: despite one's best intentions, crazy workload is a bit like Liam Neeson. It will look for you, and it will find you.

    Let's rewind a bit. *cue the rewind sound effect*

    It's a week before what's intended to be a small release of our latest build for backers only. In the announcements leading up to this, we did something that we don't commonly do: we gave a specific date. April 29th. That date was picked for a number of reasons. We'd have a build ready by then, there weren't other game releases nearby, it was eerily the same exact date and day of week as the opening of The Wicker Man (a film that influenced Kynseed), and it was the 2 year anniversary of the closure of Lionhead Studios...to the day.

    So April 29th it was. The entire week leading up to this date was filled with heaping amounts of preparation. If I was awake, I was working. Neal was busy preparing the build, Charlie was polishing regions and text, Matthijs was engrossed with adding sound effects, and our artists were submitting new assets daily. I assisted everyone where possible but was otherwise busy organizing elements of the upcoming release.

    Then Saturday April 28th came, which was the day we'd send out a small batch of early copies to a small group of higher tier backers. Yet within that small group of backers were individuals who were anxiously wanting to stream the game. Naturally, we anticipated that backers might want to stream the build and we were totally cool with that. But what we didn't anticipate was that just a few handful of Kynseed streams, all happening at the same time, would create a small ripple effect from our little corner of the internet.

    The minute I sent out the build, our Discord began flooding with new members. We went from 200 online members to over 400 in an hour. Word began to spread on Twitter. Dangerously Funny began streaming and had over 700 active viewers. We began popping up on a dozen streams on Twitch alone. Emails were coming in left and right. My Discord DM's blew up in mere minutes. Our website crashed from the unexpected traffic. I was busily talking (aka, arguing) with our server provider to get things fixed. Meanwhile, my phone's notifications were going off every few seconds.

    And this was just the early wave of backers. An even larger wave was still a day away.

    Coordinating the team's schedules in the midst of all this was equally challenging. Most of the team is in European time zones and I'm the one weirdo who's in a North American time zone, so I typically stay up late to make sure our time zones align for big milestones. This meant that I woke up Friday, worked straight through Friday night into Saturday for the build release, and then finally went to bed late Saturday night.

    It wasn't until the following weekend that the rush of traffic gradually began to get more reasonable again. It also wasn't until that following weekend that I took a proper day off to recharge.

    All in all, the biggest thing that took us by surprise that weekend was the splash that such a tiny backer release caused. As a team, we've always kept our expectations very low for how much interest we think our game would generate at this early stage. The project is still very young and we make it a point to not over-market the game. So to have such a sudden spike of interest come out of nowhere was crazy for us.

    Of course, I'm not sharing any of this to glorify overworking or under-sleeping. But it does show how situations can arise where it feels like there's little choice in avoiding it. It'd be hard to imagine just logging off in the middle of last week's rush - even to sleep. We spend so much of our time yammering on about being accessible devs, so it was important to us to make sure we were around when there was a large influx of new members coming in every hour.

    The challenge is that we're all personally invested in this project and that can make it incredibly difficult to ever convince ourselves to stop working on it. (Especially since we enjoy the work.)

    Thankfully, during it all, community members were messaging us with high fives and enthusiasm. I don't know that we'd have been able to work as much as we did with our sanity intact were it not for the community supporting us. And I don't mean financial support. I mean real support, in the way that you support a friend who's chasing after a ridiculous dream. It means the world to us.

    As Neal points out in his above section, this is a marathon; not a sprint. There's still much ahead for Kynseed's development, especially for these very early versions. And as I've mentioned in recent announcements, we're not really getting too hung up on what to call the current build. We've sometimes been using the term 'closed beta' as casual shorthand for it being backer exclusive, but ultimately it's more of a pre-Early-Access work-in-progress sorta thing. But folks seem to be understanding the spirit with which we're sharing it, which is cool.

    These days, there's an understandable amount of reservation about Kickstarter games and Early Access games. Which I totally get. I'm not a 'developer' so much as I'm a gamer who happens to be working on a game. As a frequent Steam user, I've been burnt by Early Access games before. It sucks and it makes you wonder why the developers got into games to begin with. So from the onset of this project, we've always wanted to make sure that we'd stay candid and accessible no matter what.

    The fact that we've had so many people join our community and 'get' what we're trying to do has been incredibly encouraging. These past few weeks have shown us that when there's an unexpected rush of traffic, it can be challenging to still maintain the sort of accessibility we want to have. But despite that challenge, it still has to be a non-negotiable part of how we work. Being an open team has been the compass we've followed since the very beginning and, much like true north, that won't ever change. So for those of you who have been with us since Issue #1 all the way to those of you who've literally just started following the game, we look forward to this next chapter of our story together.

    Feel free to message us any time, day or night. That's not some line we're giving - we genuinely want you to know that it's totally cool to do that. Have a question about music software? Message our composer. Not sure how to get started in programming? Hit up our programmer. Have a funny GIF you think I'll appreciate? You send that GIF my way, you GIF finding warrior you.

    See you around the community!


    This is our weekly dev log that we're now cross-posting over to Steam. Long story short: our small backer build release got way more interest than we anticipated, which made for a week as busy as it was awesome.

    We opened a lot of tabs last week.
    Some of them in browsers, some of them in bars.


    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 2018 by PixelCount Studios (Limited).ᅠᅠAll rights reserved.ᅠᅠEdited and assembled by Matt Allen.

    Last edited by Matt; May 15th, 2018 at 07:31pm.

  2. #2
    BriarRose's Avatar

    Join Date
    June 28th, 2017
    Woooooooow. Just reading all that made me feel like I was part of all the craziness! There is always so much behind the scenes that this side never sees. Thanks for lifting the veil a bit. NOW GET SOME REST.
    "I have a cloooooooooooooothing stooooooooooore in my noooooooooooose."- Jurak, Dark Cloud 2

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 1st, 2018
    Quote Originally Posted by BriarRose View Post
    Woooooooow. Just reading all that made me feel like I was part of all the craziness! There is always so much behind the scenes that this side never sees. Thanks for lifting the veil a bit. NOW GET SOME REST.
    Ya your right rose a lot has happened since the release and reading everything that's happened from then to now is jest wow
    Now you guys get some well deserved rest

  4. #4
    Chisaki's Avatar

    Join Date
    May 16th, 2018
    Germany, Rhineland-Palatinate
    Ohh, I'm so happy to see Kynseed progressing so fast and great
    When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better.

  5. #5
    Matt's Avatar

    Join Date
    June 24th, 2016
    Los Angeles, California
    Another week, another issue of The PixelCount Post! This time, you're getting two for the price of one. Go read all about it!
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

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