Dev Diary #16: Figuring out where we stand

It's been far too long since I wrote one of these.

To be honest, in the wake of our Kickstarter failure, I got pretty depressed for a while and became very anxious about our sales prospects for Legacy of the Elder Star, despite knowing our campaign was artificially inhibited by unusual circumstances and that I shouldn't extrapolate too much from its performance.

I posted about Rami Ismail's You don't stand a chance talk a few weeks ago, and a big part of what drew me to it was that that's exactly how I felt at the time: that our game stood no chance. I still do feel that way a little bit, but now I'm starting to think I'm actually just experiencing The Dip, the inevitable low point in the project where it's hard not to ask, "Is this even worth all the hassle?" In the interest of pulling through it, I've been thinking a lot lately about where we're at today and where we're going from here, and I wanted to do a quick review of some of the things we've been up to over the past month.

First, we updated our preview trailer:

I'm still not 100% happy with it and we'll definitely be cutting a new trailer with new content for launch, but for now I think we've finally worked through most of the pacing and editing issues and ended up with something we can be proud of.

In addition to that, we:

  • Showed the game at SLC Mini Maker Faire on October 10th
  • Applied to show at MAGFest in February (should hear back soon; fingers crossed!)
  • Submitted to the 2016 SXSW Gamer's Voice Award
  • Made art updates to a couple of our bosses (1, 2)
  • Hooked up animation sequences for four more enemy types
  • Achieved first light on our intro cutscene
  • Beefed up the rocket ability's impact effect
  • Made lots of improvements and fixes to the scoring system, including unique bonus-score mechanics for each weapon
  • Reworked the player animation system so the different animation layers for different weapons all play nicely together (this was long overdue)
  • Finally updated our settings page to fit the rest of the UI look-and-feel, instead of using the default Unity UI
  • Made many "quality-of-life" improvements and general bug fixes

Over the next couple weeks we're working on several new visual effects, finalizing artwork for our fourth stage (it's actually stage 2 in the playable sequence, but it's the fourth stage we'll have tackled development-wise), refining our game intro cutscene, and implementing the last three weapons in the Cosmonaut's arsenal.

It's actually really nice to be properly back in the saddle again. Erik's been able to stay pretty consistently focused on the game, but personally I've felt really distracted from it since mid-July, when I started organizing the huge Utah Games Guild showcase at Salt Lake Gaming Con.

(For those unfamiliar: in addition to running Kickbomb Entertainment, I'm also a co-founder of the Utah Games Guild, so I was prepping not only our booth for Legacy of the Elder Star, but the showcase as a whole: three days and 1600 square feet worth of Utah-developed indie games, demoed for a crowd over 15,000 strong. Planning and executing an event like that takes an enormous amount of time and energy.)

After Salt Lake Gaming Con I had several weeks of additional, unexpected Utah Games Guild work (mostly meetings) since that show attracted many potential partners and opportunities for the Guild. As that subsided in late August, I rolled directly into several weeks of Kickstarter prep, culminating in the launch of that campaign on September 17th. And of course, everyone knows running a live Kickstarter campaign is a full-time job in and of itself, so from then until October 8th when we pulled the plug, I got very little development work done.

In combination, all that stuff put me at like 10-20% dev capacity for about three straight months, from mid-July to mid-October. (Salt Lake Gaming Con was worth it. Kickstarter: probably not so much.) Fortunately, from here on out there are no big shows and no more crowdfunding campaigns in our plans, so I'm looking forward to a much tighter focus on game dev all the way through to shipping the game!