The PixelCount Post - Issue #37
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    The PixelCount Post - Issue #37

     






    ISSUE #37                         THE VALE, QUILL                         6 SEPTEMBER 2018                         ONE BRASS





    A Deadline Headline
     



     
    Hello, and welcome to another issue of The PixelCount Post, the periodically periodical. In the last couple of weeks the team has had their hands full with juggling tasks, stoking fires, and spinning plates. In fact, hands have been so full that it was difficult finding time to put this issue of The Post together! Hence it's merely lukewarm (rather than hot) off the presses.

    Much of the distractions were for good reason though, which I'll ramble a bit about in this article. The first item of note is that we recently shared one of our larger and more formal development updates which highlighted our progress on Kynseed's combat! Give that update a look if you want to see a GIF of how combat's shaping up. Another item of note is that I recently launched a Kynseed Concept Art Giveaway where you can win a physical print of some really nice art made by Sarah, our talented concept artist. There's a few ways to enter, all of them pretty easy, so give that giveaway link a click if you want to nab that art print. (There's only a few days left!)

    But perhaps the most significant item of note is that the team's had numerous in-depth talks this week in which we've been coming to terms with the sobering reality that launching on Early Access is increasingly imminent. And all our recent team meetings aimed to figure out exactly how imminent that actually is.

    In some ways it already feels a bit like we've been doing a sort of 'Early' Early Access, since the backer build of the game has effectively served as a very helpful test run for the sort of open development we want to do. (And yes, for the sake of shameless promotion, you can still back the game and get an instant download of the backer build if you head to our Piggy Backer page.)

    Yet where as the backer build was merely dipping our toes in the pool, the Early Access launch will be more akin to making a cannonball splash. We're very keen to be as ready as we reasonably can be and, more to the point, to get the game as ready as reasonably can be.

    And although it's a huge (and somewhat daunting) milestone for our small team of plucky devs, it is in many ways just the very beginning for the project. Everything that came before (from the initial game idea, to the Kickstarter, to the backer build) were all stepping stones on the path to Steam Early Access. So much will depend on that important day and it could very well dictate the future of the entire project. No pressure!

    But despite its immense importance, we're excited and optimistic about it all. In many ways, I've found that the team has an amazing way of doing some of their best work when the pressure is on. There's a sort of magic that happens during those moments on the team - everyone feeding off each other's energy, each person working towards a common goal. I know that I can't possibly predict how intensely busy and hectic those final week(s) before Early Access will be, but part of me almost looks forward to the manic frenzy of it all. (Though I'll probably be whistling a different tune when it's caused me to go a few days without sleep!)

    So we now have a full launch schedule in place that we'll be strictly following. One of the facets of my job is helping to manage those schedules and make sure that the cogs of our development machine are staying well lubricated. It'll no doubt be a challenge to keep things as on track as possible, but I can already tell that the entire team is feeling better just from the existence of a schedule alone. Beforehand we had very general and broad ideas on what sort of release window we were shooting for, but it was all hunches and predictions. In a strange way, this was a mild point of anxiety because we knew that there was a hypothetical countdown floating around us but none of us knew what the exact numbers were. Now that we've nailed down the schedule's specifics, it no longer feels like there's a mysterious entity looming.

    That said, game development is littered with the corpses of missed deadlines. So I imagine things will go wrong. Not because I doubt my teammates or the efficiency of our work, but because part of good planning is planning for things that can't be planned for. So some elements of our schedule will slip and we'll have to make up time in other areas as best we can. Inevitably, unforeseen challenges will rear their heads. It's all part of the wild west of game development - particularly for us indies.

    But it feels good to have an attack plan in place. Unsurprisingly, we don't have any dates or predictions to share with you just yet, but the time for such things is growing ever nearer. It goes without saying that we have a lot of hard work ahead. And what's crazy is that Early Access won't be when that hard work stops. That'll be when it gets even harder.

    Yet the one thing that keeps this team going is seeing the support and enthusiasm all of you have had for this game over the many months. Excitement and encouragement is what fuels the PixelCount team. Seriously. Anytime we see kind words from a player it's a guarantee that we'll be in high spirits for the day (which tends to lead to a more productive workday altogether). So if you see your friendly neighborhood dev around the forums or Discord or Twitter, give them a high five for me. They're doing amazing things and I'm so damn proud to be working with those nutters.

    For now, it's time to go full steam ahead towards Early Access! In the immortal words of The Doors: "The time to hesitate is through."







    Second Wind
     



     
    So two weeks ago I made it back from my trip to the Baltic states and I immediately got back to work. I missed it! There were a new list of sound effects that needed to be made and after consulting Charlie I now know which new regions of the game's world I need to write music for next. There's a cluster of regions connected to one another that form a larger whole and I want that to be reflected in the music. So in a sense, I want to create a musical 'culture' for that region.

    This is done not just with melodies, but also instrumentation. These regions use instruments not found in The Vale, except with people who travel to The Vale but come from outside it. The accordion plays a major role in these places and in The Vale the accordion is only heard when the Mummers play in the Tavern. This tells us that the Mummers don't originate from The Vale. It's this level of detail I want to imbue the soundtrack with. I hope that the music for each region can tell you something about the people that live there.

    Charlie wrote what the various cultures in the game are like and all the aspects of a game need to work together to show it to the player. Perhaps it's providence that so much of the lectures I witnessed in Estonia on my trip had to do with other cultures and the way they define their musical identity. I often asked the question 'what exactly makes this music belong to this culture'. I got different answers. Sometimes the only answer was 'it was made by a person from this culture, therefore it is music of this culture'.

    For a fictional culture this would be impossible, as nobody is from that culture. And yet I have to make the music feel like it does have a cultural identity. I hope I succeed. I hope you'll be able to infer how these cultures in Kynseed are, based on what you see and hear even in the most subtle ways that don't spell it out. Much of the game is about letting the world speak for itself. And the art and world building does this beautifully in my humble opinion. So I better step up my game!

    At the same time as I'm working on these new tracks, I'm also adding more ambient sound files. Some of them I already had ready and waiting to be implemented and another I built last week. We don't want you to hear the same bird and wind sounds in every region. And in one of the new regions that isn't in the public build just yet, I've made an ambient track with a howling wind and very few animal sounds. The howling wind was Charlie's idea and I think it works beautifully to illustrate a more open space.

    It's also sufficiently different from the sounds you hear in The Vale that you'll not feel quite as 'at home' as you once did. Not that it's a bad place per se - it's just not where you grew up, and every sound and sight will remind you of that. Even the grass has a different color. I can't wait to see players exploring these new places (and streaming their experience!). For now it's back to work for me, as there's so much more left to do!







    Predicting Unpredictability
     



     
    These past few weeks I've been progressing work on setting up seasons, getting the build out with the pig auction, and a dash of work on combat! In what should hopefully be a quick revamp I've also been working on the blacksmith minigame with Charlie to adjust its setup to have a clearer path of how each step is rated, what it does, and how the overall rating of the produced weapon results.

    Things are gearing up as we enter into the start of September. There's still much to do and honestly it's been slow going at times. I think there's a paralyzing effect to have such a looming amount of stuff. We (or rather I'd) intended to have a first playable build ready at the end of August but that has been delayed a little further to pull the pieces together.

    I think maybe there's a tendency to have grandiose plans for these bigger milestones and that without regular assessment of progress and probably the decision to cut back on the to-do list (or I guess be more realistic) then it's hard for them to come together. The reasons for that are many, but the biggest one is usually that the future from any point in time is unpredictable and so schedules are 99% of the time too optimistic. Lessons hopefully learned this time.



    Aye Eye
     



     
    Well not the best of weeks really! Prettying and layouts for Summerdown gathered apace and they are surely taking shape now. It can be a little overwhelming or disheartening when a level is blank or ugly - it's only after piling in assets that the fog lifts and the motivation ramps up. Sadly, my week has been hindered by a large stye high under my upper eyelid that is near impossible to get ointment to so it has been an era of pain, soreness, discomfort, and annoyance.

    I did win another Victory Royale in Fortnite solo though, through my usual tactic of run and hide. I fire one shot to kill an AFK player who stood in the middle of the open, but other than that my trigger finger was lazy. Victory came as I hid and watched 2 players slug it out, only to be killed by the storm!

    In other happenings, we had discussions about the combat zones and the use of 'lairs' within these, plus the structure of the regions so that there is incentive to return and see new things. It was also a week where Graveyard Keeper was recently released. Along with Moonlighter, it was a game we seem to get mentioned alongside often, so it was of interest to us. Seeing the mixed reviews gave food for thought and reading the feedback is incredibly helpful in aiding us in avoiding the same pitfalls.

    Next up is the release of Two Point Hospital, by our friends at Two Point Studios. We will be hoping for their continued success - even if they did steal some of the talent we wanted here at PixelCount, those dreadful, horrible Lion-headed monsters. *sob*

    Now, where is my eye gouger...



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    I always enjoy reading The PixelCount Post! Keep up the good work guys it is really appreciated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dukep6 View Post
    I always enjoy reading The PixelCount Post! Keep up the good work guys it is really appreciated!
    Many thanks!
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

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    I love the personality y'all put into these posts

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