ISSUE #41                         THE VALE, QUILL                         29 NOVEMBER 2018                         ONE BRASS





Welcome Aboard!
 



 
Hello there internet traveller!

For any of you who've just joined us on our game development adventure, allow me to introduce you to The PixelCount Post - a regularly released periodical where we chronicle development. In it we also share musings about the game industry, any challenges we're experiencing, and sometimes what we had for lunch.

Of course many of you already know that, but there are no doubt some new faces here from our recent release on good ol' Early Access. In fact, as you may've noticed, we're already up to Issue #41! (For the full library of prior issues, hop on over to The PixelCount News Vault.) We release new issues of The Post as often as we can, though in recent weeks we've had our hands busy pushing out some game updates. Speaking of, be sure to check back in less than a day for news on when you can expect the next larger content update!

For now, allow me to give you a quick crash course on the faces you're likely see in each issue. Neal is our programmer single-handedly making the engine. Charlie is our trusty game and world designer. Matthijs makes music and sound effects. And I (Matt) handle production and community.

We hope you come to enjoy these updates as much as we enjoy writing them. Our intention with each issue is to demystify game development and to keep an ongoing public log of what we're up to. We're not mysterious devs silently working on things in secret. We're actual tangible people that you could poke in real life. (Though try not to if you can help it. I'm ticklish.)

Ultimately, we want to foster the kind of 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.

Evident by the 40 issues that've come before, we've already been on our dev journey for a while, but now that we're on Early Access there's still a long walk yet ahead. 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 lunch, I had rice and veggies. (I'm sure that's exactly the sorta fascinating dev updates you're all here for.)



Early Days of Early Access
 



 
8th NOVEMBER - 13:04

The Early Access build is planned to be going live very shortly. Much like the end of April when we released our backer build, it's been a frantic few days! It's mostly been fun I've found though - some natural breaks to sleep and I've tried to keep going outside for walks along with shopping and a few other normal day activities! The build has really started to come together in the last few days. That focus of limited time plus trying to be as cautious as possible not to break anything definitely keeps the pressure on, but it's balanced out by the excitement of seeing what happens next and watching numbers tick up on Google Analytics and wishlists!

It's been a humbling journey to have all the support for the game and we hope that the game will live up to that. There's a lot to be done, but it continues to evolve and this is a key moment in that process. I don't really know what to expect in terms of what happens next but mostly I just know that I've got a big list of improvements, features, and updates which I'm eager to get on with! I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position of working on what I love and having the flexibility of being my own boss. I wish some day everyone can experience that (if they want to and if the world stops making everyone afraid to try).


24th NOVEMBER - 12:15

I wish I'd kept a better journal of the emotional roller coaster of the last few weeks. There were such highs and lows that nearly every day felt at odds with each other and even sometimes hour to hour. What I hope we've succeeded in doing is launching off this momentum and getting straight into focusing on the issues encountered, improvements, and the amount of content/features to come.

Everything prior to the launch was all focused on that one moment, trying to anticipate what might happen. Coming up with contingencies and being as ready as we can be for what was a big moment for the project. Funnily enough, quite a few of those expectations didn't turn out quite the way we thought. (Mostly they veered into that 'everything is ok' territory where it didn't turn as good or bad as predicted!)

A lot of the issues that happened with the launch build were due to us keeping to our date and just time being this constant that can't be changed amidst unpredictability. The responsibility for that is with me and I'm hoping that taking in the lessons learned from it we can do better with practice and with more of a focus on putting the important things first. The trickiness is often determining those important things in the moment - often what seems obvious in hindsight is chaotic at the time. It seems in part about taking a step back, but also looking from too far away nothing makes much sense either at times because of the complexity and the way everything overlaps.

So I think we've emerged from that chaos with more of a passion than ever to fulfill the game's potential. The exciting thing for me is being freed from that single moment determining the game's future and instead it's now a new path opening up where things should get incrementally better and better until one day we feel ready for full release. Though that day won't be for quite a while yet!



Early Access: The Ride
 



 
Up and down, up and down. That's the roller coaster.

We experienced ours as we queued up in the Early Access Theme Park, ready for our turn on the ride. We had built up a head of Steam, and were AGOG at the amount of Discord in our ranks as we impatiently waited and fought for the last bits of popcorn.

As you wait for your turn, there is a thrill. An anticipation. But also lots of fidgeting. As a team, we were throwing things into the game, fixing bugs, hyping ourselves one moment, and readying for disappointment the next. We knew our amazing community would be watching the launch of our little train, and we wanted to make a huge splash. We had chosen to join the ride now as there were some spare seats and we didn't want the Theme Park to close early.

Finally, the moment came and we sat down - excited, scared, baffled. The train started moving and we headed into the first tunnel...

At this point, I realised that the Theme Park angle was getting boring and so I'll simply cut to the chase. Early Access was just the start of a long and tough journey, but an exciting and intriguing one. We did well, but not spectacularly. Better than we dreaded though. Way better. There is a solid base and the reviews have been mostly great. We know what needs to be done and the reaction has helped encourage us to continue full pelt.

We have to thank everyone who backed us, and believed in us, and who will hopefully be there when the train pulls in to the shed. There we will be, covered in popcorn, fizzy drinks, and our own vomit. But smiling ear to ear.

Now we just need to get cleaned up and queue at the next ride: Full Release. It's got corkscrews.



Russell Up Inspiration
 



 
27th OCTOBER - 15:31

So this week will have me switching gears a bit. The secret scene I was working on before needs to make room for something of higher priority, which means clearing the mind and getting into a whole different vibe. Meanwhile, I've had to re-do the sounds for selecting your character at the start. They were found to be a bit too 'sharp', so I picked a much more gentle sound. Like last time, I matched the pitch with the music that's playing at the time. Once you select your character, you'll be brought neatly into the key that the music for the intro is written in. I also take into account how, when you've played the game for a while, you'll quickly skip the first screen and main menu and get right into the game. There's three pieces of music involved with starting up the program and then beginning your new game. When you skip between them quickly, they'll blend together in a way that doesn't feel like you're skipping between songs at all.

Original Fable composer Russell Shaw has a title screen track which is the first music you'll hear when starting the game. It begins with high strings in C. There's also a menu music loop that I'll soon add after Russell's track which also starts with that same high string C. And the character selection sounds finish up the other notes in a C major chord. Then the intro music also starts with that high C. They fade into one another, so it all sounds like one continuous piece of music. And now that I've altered the character select sounds, it doesn't jump out quite so much.

In anticipation of needing to make new game music, I'm using some Master Class courses as a palate cleanser. Sometimes a quick bit of work on some completely unrelated style of music helps me go into things with a fresh mind. I've seen interviews with composers who say they do the opposite; that they can't afford to listen to any other music during a project because they'll lose the vibe of it or get contaminated with the other music they're listening to. I can certainly understand that, but I don't think it works that way for my brain. I actually feel a need to increase the diversity of the music I listen to in order to gain more 'tools' to work with.

I've also been studying Wagner's work on the Der Ring des Nibelungen, a great opera where his use of leitmotifs is world famous. It's so educational to study how the grand masters incorporate themes into larger bodies of work. The Ring opera is a 14 hour massive epic, and Wagner had to think very long-term about the development of his themes. Games also happen over very long stretches of time, so his techniques certainly come in handy here. There are themes in Kynseed that I hope see very long-term developments over the course of the game. If only I had a fast-forward button to see how it'll all pan out...


10th NOVEMBER - 11:50

We're now past our Early Access launch and it's been fantastic! Though some things I was hoping to do before launch didn't happen as expected. The scene I described working on wasn't finished - it's in the current build in a more rudimentary form than what was planned. Also, the changes to the main menu music didn't get implemented yet either. So I was spinning wheels a little before launch.

After the launch however, I've been diving into people's streams to see what might need improving. I've learned a lot from watching everyone play. Like how much time people are spending at the blacksmith and how the music isn't quite long enough to avoid becoming repetitive. Or how certain transitions in Candlewych between area music and shop music isn't quite right yet. So I added a few things to my to-do list. With all the positive comments that I've seen about the music and sound, I'll start working on these things fully recharged and with increased determination!

One thing that definitely jumped out at me from my stream watching is how the scene I have been cryptically describing so far has impacted some of you. Laquetuph's reaction in particular was incredibly memorable! Despite not everything being properly in place yet, and the theme I wanted to bring back also not being in yet, it seems to have hit him like a falling anvil hits a carton of eggs. I almost feel the need to apologise for it...


24th NOVEMBER - 11:29

By now the launch is some time behind us and although the buzz of it lingers there's loads more that needs to be done. At present, my focus is on figuring out what one of the Fae realms will sound like. This one is based on Celtic mythology, but it's not as straight forward as just doing Celtic music. I tried that and it was too 'human'. I need something more otherworldly, but I do want to put Celtic vibes in there as well. This time I actually looked at Lionhead's Black & White soundtrack for some inspiration (which is also by Russell Shaw). That game deals with the divine, but it blends it with various cultures from our history. The soundtrack reflects this by being otherworldly on the one hand, and distinctly Celtic, Greek, Japanese, and more on the other. I want to achieve a similar blend, though without being a direct copy.

Luckily there's about a billion ways to blend the otherworldly with known cultures. As of typing this, I'm on my third draft already. Previous ideas included a very poorly played orchestra, which I felt ended up a bit too gimmicky. Long ago, I had grand dreams of always getting tracks right on the first go. That has long since become unattainable. But with all the love and support the community and the team have shown, I feel I can still hold my head high. I've learned it's not about never getting it wrong. It's about how you react when you do get it wrong. I try not to 'defend' my drafts too fiercely, unless I have exceptionally strong feelings about it. It's not inexcusable to try and fail a few times. And I'm not in danger when it happens. Growing up, it has long felt that way.

Meanwhile, I have some things ready and waiting for implementation. Among them: a longer version of the blacksmith track and a Poppyhill version of the shop tunes. There's also a plethora of things left on my to-do list. And occasionally, a new assignment will come in as well. A couple of days ago I was working on the sounds of a dispensing machine that needed to sound a bit comical in nature. Some whirring of clockwork mechanics, some clanking, a pause, and finally a spring that comes undone and dispenses the contents of the machine. (I'll leave it to your imaginations what the machine might be.) It was perhaps the first time I started to feel confident with sound effects. Once I knew Charlie wanted something comical, I knew I could deliver. And it was fun to work on.

In my own time, I've been studying Wagner more. I've acquired sheet music for his grand opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen. This allows me to get an accurate view of how he creates the sounds of his opera: which instruments he combines and how he uses them within a larger orchestra. Such things can help me increase the richness of my palate as a composer. It's not something one does in an afternoon though. Just the first part of this 14 hour opera is 321 pages long. But, much like this game, the notion that I'll be better at my craft when I get through it fills me with determination!



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