May has been a crazy month. I mean, they all are but this one has been crazy in some different ways.
We had a very successful LudoNarraCon in April, massive thanks to Fellow Traveller for organising it and making it an amazing event! Lots of people played the demo, checked out our stream videos and talked to us on Twitter. Thanks to everyone who played the demo, I had a huge grin all weekend.
Straight after LNC we got confirmation that we’ll need a new trailer for some exciting events soon so we got straight on with that. When you’re an indie dev you suddenly find you have to learn a lot of skills that you didn’t have before. Phil has done an amazing job on all our trailers and pulled the new one (more on that soon) together very quickly.
We’re launching Paradise Killer later this year and to make sure we hit our dates we set the end of May as our content lock deadline. Content lock means everything that will be in the final game is in the build to a near final standard. Somethings always slip through the net but the goal is to get 99% of our content in. Anything that doesn’t make it in will be minor (missing images, missing SFX etc) but the systems to support them are in and the game is “complete”. Our remaining time will be spent doing small bits of polish and attacking our mammoth bug list until we ship. We’ve been in Paradise for two years now and it feels very strange to be finally getting to the point where we’ll call it final and release it. I’m not ready to say goodbye to Paradise yet. I love the sun bleached concrete and psychopaths on the island.
Anyway, in order to hit content lock we had roughly 1 (one) billion tasks to do. Lots of incredibly small jobs but also some major ones. We restructured all of the end game trials to allow players to make more choices and choose how they will present evidence to the court. The new structure feels loads better and has more drama. Along with the restructure, we also completely redid the trial UI. It has been first pass for months and really didn’t sell the climax of the game. It has all been redone and looks loads better.
Another big change was the gutting of a gameplay system that’s been in the game for ages. We originally had a system where you would be given keywords by suspects that could be input as search terms into a computer. These searches would pull admin records from the Syndicate’s moon database. The system worked fine but felt redundant. There was no player creativity since you had to put in exact search terms to get exact results and you could only get a handful of records. It always seemed weird that you couldn’t just search the whole database. In focus testing, players felt the same. It was an unnecessary step to get evidence and felt half-baked. We had two options; create an entire database of records for a society that has existed for thousands of years (and in the process, confuse the player with way too much information) or pull the system out.
I’m a big fan of slightly unnecessary friction in games. I like games that have rough edges with systems that aren’t streamlined. It creates flavour. However, in this case the answer was to streamline the experience and rip it out. The evidence the player would get from the moon database is still in game but we have strengthened a number of suspect interactions and crime scenes by placing the evidence directly in context rather than putting in an unnecessary step to acquire it. It also means I haven’t had to write a trillion database entries that players would never read (and even if they did read, would muddy the waters around what is evidence and what isn’t evidence). It feels much better and I’m particularly happy with one change that made an area of the game much more important and tells a nice story about someone’s movements.
We also did final dressing on loads of areas. A very unique and secret area has existed as a white box (a term that means it didn’t have any real art in it, just blank cubes to designate the playable space) for about 18 months got final dressing and looks really cool. We also got a new prop in that helps tell the player how the island works. A haulage trolley based on the ones used in Tsukiji fish market are now dotted around the island and show how workers in the Agri Fields and Deep Factory transport their cargo around the island.
And now we dive into battle with the bugs! Catch you next month!