This is going to be a shitty update because a) I got nothing done and b) I hate making excuses and c) I can’t go to AVCON.
First off, I got pretty sick last week and had to go on antibiotics. I’ve just recovered from that, so with AVCON only a few days away, I’ve decided it’d be unwise to dive into the virus zone that is games events. I’m yet to attend an event without getting sick afterward. Luckily, I have friends and my partner who are going to show Exo One for me. I have enough energy to go and setup/tear down on the Friday/Sunday, so that should be safe enough I guess.
Secondly, (this is the comedy part) as I started feeling better and sat back down to do some work, my OS SSD died and failed to boot. SMART and Crystal Disk stats gave some conflicting info, and I did a Windows 10 reinstall, which lasted only 2 days before the drive died again. Really average timing prior to AVCON, and zero chance I can show the new build now :(
Spent all day today sourcing new parts for a new computer, as this is actually the 3rd time in 3-4 years I’ve lost HDDs! The first time was due to an unlucky purchase of an infamous model of hard drive that failed at a high rate, the second time was from a power surge, and this last time I don’t know, but all the houses I’ve lived in the last few years (3!) have had power issues (brown outs and black outs). That may have something to do with it. I also fear the computer is just ‘haunted’ (dodgy motherboard or PSU or???) hence the new computer.
I’ve grabbed a bunch of premium brands/parts to try and reduce hardware failures as much as possible and ordered a pure sine wave UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that arrives next week to ensure my home’s power isn’t causing problems. So now I do the impossible and not put together my fast new computer – I don’t really want to take a brand new machine to a games event I’m not attending. I wouldn’t use it beforehand without the UPS anyway, just in case. You would be paranoid too if you’d lost this many HDDs :P
I’m planning on using this downtime for story work, as that can all be done easily on my laptop.
Apologies to anyone that was hoping to say hi at AVCON, but at least you’ll still be able to play Exo One! I’m off to put in a new OS HDD and get Exo One running on the TV before Friday.
Hopefully a more positive update at the end of the month!
Slight ‘wing tip trail’ upgrade on the craft in glider mode.
Partial world streaming tests. Instead of generating terrain in real time, I’ve pre-generated it in a huge area, which results in a big performance gain, and hopefully no frame rate spikes for people without beast CPUs. There’s still plenty to explore, but this would mean no more infinite terrain. With the focus of the game more on the movement and feels, and without a huge amount of ‘content’ to find, I think this is fine. I’m still yet to complete testing this as I have to actually stream the terrain in. Have to see if there’s a framerate spike from that next.
As part of optimization tests, I’ve tested baked lighting as the terrain now exists (pre-generated) before the game starts. This would mean a slight improvement in distant shadows, but unsure if I’ll be using it as I have less control over lighting (afaik, need to spend a little more time) and there would be a huge lightmap generate time for the number of terrains.
Pre-generated, streamed terrain (if they’re as smooth as I hope) will have a number of other advantages visually as well, since I won’t have to try quite so hard to keep frame rates super high to account for frame rate spikes.
Wind air currents. These are nice little atmospheric objects you can find if you look for them. If you manage to get inside the air current, they will give you a speed boost. I may toy with other ideas like having your controls become harder to handle within as well, so you have to ‘wrestle with’ the turbulence/speed.
First Ansel Tests. While this didn’t work in Unity 5.4, now that I’m in 5.6 we are in business. Just need to remove my own camera controls while in Ansel mode to make this work, since now the camera controls are competing with Ansel’s. Below is just a silly retro snap:
New trueSky, MapMagic, material updates. Here’s a screenshot of Sagan4 with the latest versions of these plugins, using MegaSplat for their rather awesome texture clustering (minimizes tiling effects):
AVCON. If you’re in Adelaide and are coming to AVCON, I’ll see you there! Unsure yet whether I’ll be bringing an older or newer version of the game. Might depend on what state the current build is in.
Catch you for the next update, where I hope to have made some solid progress on planet streaming!
I’ve had a little time to decompress, and since then I’ve been doing the following things:
Managing all the rewards/surveys/spreadsheets post-Kickstarter.
Some add-on rewards (the self-print poster) will be sent out shortly. Just trying to minimize the time I spend sending out rewards as new survey results trickle in.
Trying to track down a small number of show-stopper bugs for some players, but not having much luck. This is thankfully only a tiny number of players as far as I know.
Upgrading Unity to 5.6 for its various speed improvements and new plugin versions, which are also offering speed improvements on top.
Experimenting a little with Voxeland, a Voxel terrain plugin for Unity (integration 1000% unconfirmed!) by the creator of Map Magic
Posting a bunch of new bug reports for all the issues I’m running into while upgrading to 5.6
Boring stuff like accounting/tax planning for the Kickstarter money
Moving forward, I’ll be working with Rhys and Tim to plan out the next planets and the music to go with them.
I’ll be completing the Tidal Locked world and optimizing it. Since I created it during the Kickstarter, it was a bit more thrown together than usual, and I’ll likely need to combine all three biomes into one for performance reasons, as all three biomes generate at once due to their close proximity to one another.
I’ll also be integrating fixes from plugin developers as they come in for Unity 5.6.
Plus, I’ll be setting up a pre-order page for Exo One via Humble Bundle too, probably so that pre-order customers get instant access to the backer preview build.
Since survey responses have now slowed to only a couple of responses a day, you can probably expect to receive your Rezzed poster add-on (if you pledged for it) today or tomorrow. Please fill out your survey if you haven’t already!
I’ll be sending out the first backer-poll very shortly, stay tuned!
Off Topic, Other Games
After an almost games-free Kickstarter month, I’ve finally had downtime to get back to playing a few games. Lately, I’m back on Rocket League, and having a few games of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
I also tried Klei’s Oxygen Not Included, which I liked, but perhaps feels just a little too much like work for me to want to spend that much time with it. When I’m working on solving coding puzzles and business problems all day, somehow base-building/management stuff doesn’t appeal as much as driving around whacking a ball in Rocket League!
Oh, I also tried the new dirt tracks on iRacing, really great physics! I had one race and finished 3rd in my (super low skill!) tier :)
Finally, check out this amazing looking game I spotted via all the E3 press:
I could watch this 1000 times! If all I do is press a button to advance the pretty graphics, I’m sold!
Catch you for the next update, hopefully with a screenshot or two from Unity 5.6!
Thanks to all 1076 backers, we have ended our Kickstarter campaign for Exo One with a total of $40,103 after targeting $35,000! Couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support, sharing, advice and encouragement! I’m so grateful!
If you missed out on pledging before the deadline, I’ll be investigating post-campaign options for supporting Exo One, once things have calmed down.
Then, development will enter full-steam-ahead-mode! I hope to bring you a truly unique game that takes you to the farthest reaches of outer space for a mesmerizing, sci-fi, planet-hopping journey!
TLDR: 15 years ago I left AAA racing game developer, Ratbag, to form Hyperfocal Design, which sells only sky textures (hemispherical sky photos). I’ve since been able to develop indie games mostly full-time using the passive income. AMA!
From 3D in high school to race tracks in games
I was in high school when I began working with 3D software, and this new obsession eventually landed me a job at Ratbag. While there, I helped make tracks for the PC racing game Powerslide, and designed Dirt Track Racing. We made it part way toward an unreleased car combat game that looked a lot like GTA meets Mad Max, before I left to form my own company. I’d been inspired by reading Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
Leaving game development to start a business
With a little background in photography, and experience using textures in 3D, I somewhat blindly jumped ship with the thought to make some random texture maps and sell them on Turbosquid. I drifted towards doing skies, because no one looked at me like I was a big weirdo, as they would when I was taking photos for dirt textures! Plus I could go to the same location every time and get a different end product!
To fund the business, I sold my Nissan Silvia sports car and promptly ran out of money a year later(!).
After scraping the bottom of my bank balance for another year after that, Hyperfocal Design began making decent money, and since that point has been a fairly solid, reliable source of passive income, meaning I don’t have to actively work on the business to make money. That’s only partially true, of course, since the longer I neglect the business, the less it gets promoted, the less updates go out, the more competition comes in, and the less money I make.
…went something like:
5 years at Ratbag
2 years of scraping through to get Hyperfocal off the ground
A few more years doing well (during this time, Ratbag ‘went under’ – closed by the publisher, Midway)
A year trying my hand at professional poker (I really love the game, but boy is this a stressful career choice!)
A few more years at Hyperfocal
After getting a real creative itch again, went back to developing games with Saxon Druce from Ratbag
A few years of making Zombie games with Saxon before parting ways
1 year creating Unknown Orbit, solo (first Unity title)
1 year back to Hyperfocal
1 year making prototypes + vr prototypes
Now: Over a year working on Exo One
During this time, I very rarely ever worked on Hyperfocal every day, except for the latest 1-year stretch. Mostly I’d put in a few months here and there, which allowed me more time to do whatever else I liked – semi-professional poker, training for triathlons, traveling, surfing, bread making, and whatever else I was interested in at the time.
While I’ve been comfortable from Hyperfocal’s income, it doesn’t bring in the big dollars or allow me to hire employees or anything like that. But with a pretty low-key lifestyle I haven’t had to worry too much about money, while simultaneously not being chained to a desk 8 hrs a day. I’m also confident that if I had a higher income target, I could have certainly made it happen (as I did recently in 2015 where I dedicated the whole year full time).
When Ratbag went under, I was particularly glad that I’d gone and formed a business where no single entity (a publisher in this case) could ‘fire me’ or cut off my entire income stream. For Hyperfocal to die off, I need to lose every one of 100’s of customers a year, which isn’t likely.
Back to games
So since I began making games again with Saxon 8 years ago, I’ve been mostly making indie games while Hyperfocal pays the bills. If Hyperfocal ever started declining too much, I was perfectly free to take some time to prop it up. I wasn’t forced either way to do one or the other, and I was never at risk of sudden and complete income loss.
I’ve also been fortunate that the zombie games we worked on together contributed a little to some additional passive income, which has certainly been a nice additional safety net.
Setting up your own content creation/passive income streams
If you’re a game developer, or someone with skills in 2D/3D art, coding, sound, music, etc, there are good opportunities to create niche ‘content’, plugins, assets, etc that may help supplement your income, or fund your lifestyle entirely. Especially since so many game developers use Unity these days.
If this sounds interesting to you, I’d ask myself:
Where do my skills lie
What do developers need (in my case, choosing skies was a nice choice, since so many games take place outdoors!)
What niches are under served or don’t suffer as much from multiple, similar assets.
What could I teach? (unless you’re a complete beginner, there’s people out there who know less than you!)
I’d personally (as an artist type!) look at assets that tick one of these boxes:
Don’t require constant updating as new Unity versions come out (or even assets that are completely untied from any software)
Can be sold for a higher price. Lower prices typically = you dealing with more support issues.
Has a creative aspect that can’t be easily copied (so making yet more 3D, real-world gun models would probably be a poor choice! )
Since working on Exo One, here’s just a few things I’ve noticed, which may or may not be of interest:
Substances and procedurally generated textures are now pretty amazing, and there’s not enough of them
Despite already having music in the game, I get a deluge of emails from musicians wanting to help (good luck, musicians!)
But zero emails from voice actors, despite, as above, already having voice/story/narration in the game
Real time volumetric skies are starting to look rather awesome!
Having decent support and response time from plugin developers is incredibly important, especially when so many people like myself are solo or small teams that rely on that support to put a game out.
Ensuring plugins work with other plugins is pretty huge
Platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter can help you get things started
To end with, I’ll just say I’d encourage you to think about whether you have some skill that you can use to create products to help create your own passive income streams. As real-time graphics have gotten increasingly realistic, often a product or ‘content’ can also be sold to people in film/vfx and architectural visualization as well.
Depending on your skills, products could include art assets, sound/music libraries, plugins, a course where you teach something, etc.
Market your stuff!!
Perhaps the biggest challenge these days with almost anything, is that everyone is doing it – you will absolutely need to do some marketing and promotion! I also encourage you to put your face and name behind your business, to give it a personal angle.
Throughout Hyperfocal Design’s life, I’ve rarely put much if anything into promotion for my products, outside of sending an email to my newsletter. “Back in the day”, I got by with newsletters + Google search, but you can no longer guarantee a good Google placing. In 2015 when I finally decided to stop being a wuss-bag and actually market Hyperfocal’s latest product, I had my best year ever! It is hard, and your ego is on the line, but power through!
Tell me your experiences
If you’re currently selling on the Unity asset store, I’m curious to know your experiences as well!
I’m happy to answer any questions you have in the comments.
I’m currently Kickstarting Exo One, and the campaign is now in its final days. If you like the look of it, please consider spreading the word, thanks!
EXO ONE is a momentum-based, exoplanetary exploration game being developed mostly by myself (Jay Weston) in Unity. Players pilot a strange, spherical alien craft that can manipulate the laws of gravity, on mankind’s first ill-fated mission outside the solar system. The gameplay mechanics are inspired by games like Tiny Wings (iOS), Journey (PS3), and Tribes Ascend (PC). Every aspect of the game is laser focussed towards delivering an entrancing, flowing and exhilarating feeling of movement across a range of alien exoplanets.
EXO ONE at EGX Rezzed
After being selected to show the game in the EGX Rezzed: Leftfield Collection in London, EXO ONE received praise from a range of media at the event, going on to be named among the events top games by Eurogamer and The Guardian (among others!).
This month, Edge magazine, in a 2-page preview, said, “Tiny Wings, Journey and Kubrick collide in this sci-fi delight”.
This is a real career highlight for me, I can’t say I ever expected to see my name or my game in its pages. And yes, it’ll be framed on my wall for alllll timmmeee! Now all I have to do is live up to the hype! Eep!
The New Reveal Trailer
You can watch the Reveal Trailer, launching today to coincide with the Kickstarter:
The trailer shows for the first time substantially more gameplay, as well as the future-historian narrator that features throughout the game.
So after over a year of development on the game, I decided to move forward with the Kickstarter launch to raise the quality bar, and help fund the remaining 8-9 months of development. Myself, along with Rhys Lindsay (our musician) and Tim Mcburnie (artist) will be looking for $35,000 AUD (or $26,000 USD) to complete all 12 planets, record music, develop concept art, record the voice overs and optimize the game. The campaign focuses on almost entirely digital rewards to keep overhead low when fulfilling rewards, with the sole physical reward being a limited run of one of Tim’s posters, signed by the team. The campaign will run until the end of the month.
Here’s the reward grid:
A week ago I began sending out preview builds to press in the hopes for some launch day coverage of the campaign. The preview build, which will be similar to the Backer Alpha build reward, contains a quick tutorial scene and 2 planets. I’ve also beamed out a press release, which you can check out here if you’re curious. And I’ll be all over the rest of the internet as well, on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc!
As you perhaps know, the first 48 hrs of a Kickstarter are super important, so if you’re thinking of backing EXO ONE, I’d love if you considered backing it on day one to help drive momentum and help the campaign become a success! Otherwise, I’d be super grateful if you could help out in the following ways!
Forward this email to someone who likes space/sci-fi games or games like Journey, Tiny Wings, Tribes Ascend, or Abzu.
Tell your friends!
After a long crunch period working up to EGX Rezzed, and then without much pause to get this campaign ready, I feel like I have done all I can to try and make the Kickstarter a success. With a little luck and your support, hopefully, the campaign will reach its goal!
Very excited to be taking EXO ONE to Kickstarter to complete the game, and at a higher standard than would be possible on my own.
I’d really appreciate if you’re a fan of the game, to help me spread the word, whether that’s simply hitting Like on social media, Re-Tweeting, or just telling friends. You can follow Exbleative’s Kickstarter profile page here, and when the campaign goes live, you’ll be notified immediately.
Here are some other ways you can track the project and keep up to date:
At the same time, I’ll be revealing a shiny new trailer that will be featuring in the Kickstarter. Here’s a taste!
I’ve been really working hard to get this all out since I returned from Rezzed a couple of weeks ago (hi again if I met you there!), and look forward to sharing the Kickstarter URL and trailer with you all very shortly.
Earlier this year I got a rather excellent email notifying me that I’d been selected to show EXO ONE in EGX Rezzed’s Leftfield collection, a curated selection of indie games. I had set my expectations and hopes for Rezzed to go something like this:
Have some fun at the event
Meet some cool new people
Hopefully appear in at least 1 or 2 articles
See old friends and family
All of those things happened + more!
The things as they happened
The day before Rezzed, things started off super rocky. As I arrived to set up and test the game, it was rendering with a pure black sky. I had backup builds, but this appeared to be more a bug or incompatibility with a graphics card. Luckily, I checked the build logs and pasted the error line into Google and one other person reported the same issue, solved by downloading the 2010 Direct X SDK.
The phew’ing was deafening. Almost paid $1500 for a ticket to Rezzed to look at some other people’s games! Hard to know if I should have brought the entire project over somehow, incase this was a problem I needed to fix in Unity, then rebuild. I’d of had to fix it on the PC that was running the game (remember I flew to London from Australia), download Unity, etc, then only have a few hours to get it working before the show.
Hard to know if I should have brought the entire project over somehow, incase this was a problem I needed to fix in Unity, then rebuild. It’d be awkward to fix it on the PC that was running the game (remember I flew to London from Australia), download Unity, etc, then only have a few hours to get it working before the show.
I put my poster up, chatted with a few people from Leftfield and grabbed food with Jai from FINIFUGU.
Used my London coffee app to find ONLY THE BEST coffee, in this case, the closest was LMNH Kitchen (look mum no hands). Truly an important step that cannot be overlooked!
Bumped into Andreas of Promoter app fame, who thought I was the event organizer, David Hayward (this seemed to happen to numerous, different people throughout the event, which was odd). Andreas was also showing his game, Future Unfolding. I had some really amazing moments after playing it for just 10 minutes. His description goes like, “Future Unfolding is an action adventure that is all about exploration. Your goal is to unfold the mysteries and solve the puzzles hidden in the beautiful landscapes around you. There are no tutorials, and no one is telling you what to do.” I definitely advise not to look at trailers or anything before playing.
We had breakfast/coffee here on all three days and I really enjoyed chatting game dev, promoter app/biz stuff and events in general. It was nice to start each day at Rezzed with such great food, coffee and company! Andreas is a real dude, and his app looks quite good too, I’ll probably try it on the lead up to EXO ONE’s release.
This was just one of many real-dude encounters I had during the show. I’m not sure what it was about all the people in Leftfield, but I seemed to get along really well with everyone. In particular, since they shared my wall/opposite wall, I got to chat a lot with Jai, the guys from Alpixels (A Place for the Unwilling) , Joe from Four Last Things, Richard Boeser from Chalo Chalo , the PjamaLlamians who are making Flotsam, and the girls from Oniri Islands. Some of these peeps I felt an instant connection with, and it makes me kinda sad they’re now on the opposite side of the world.
This first day was kinda quiet, and there was occasionally some down time, but it was nice to be able to ease into things.
I had one press meeting that went well and resulted in me appearing in this:
After the first day I went and met an old Londonian friend for drinks, but I was so dead from not taking a break all day that I had to return to home base and eat, immediately followed by sleep. Didn’t seem to get much in the way of jet lag, luckily.
This was a little busier than Day 1, got lots of good feedback, ideas, etc, all of which I wrote down during the day. Had another press meet up today which resulted in EXO ONE being included in this article, which painted the game in quite a glowing light!
This is the Outside Xtra trio who came and hooked up their gear to do a bit of an impromptu Let’s Play of the game. The video isn’t out yet (and there was some sound technical issues) but I can’t wait to see it. Outside Xtra have quite a fan following, and during a ‘meet’ event at Rezzed I heard they had a line that stretched half of the building.
After the day was over, there was the The Rock Paper Shotgun drinks night, and a bunch of the Leftfieldians went out for dinner beforehand, which was at an old pub overlooking the Thames. Then I met and hung out with another old friend from when I used to live in London, who introduced me to some cool people. I didn’t do much in the way of networking with press, though. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’m trying to befriend them partly to improve my chances of them writing about my game. Maybe a missed opportunity, I dunno. I seemed to do fine regardless.
This was the busiest day, and I’d often be standing a couple rows deep behind my game. I’m still told Rezzed is a pretty quiet event in the scheme of things. Again, nice to just ease into my first big event instead of DIVE in the deep end.
Met up with and hung out with a couple more friends and contacts on this day as well. Despite the larger numbers of people, I possibly talked to players less because I was just pushed back (or wanted to get out the way so others could watch). So it wasn’t manic or anything.
Had dinner after with some Leftfielders again then I was convinced to attend the after party, which was good fun with yet more games in every room. Checked out some of the retro games and played a bit of Joe Bain’s new game, Yucatan, which was super madness fun! There was some crowd based game in another room I think, but didn’t get to see it!
I think my press strategy was pretty ‘normal’. I suppose I often thought I needed to be doing some secret tricks or ‘know people’ or something special to really get noticed and stand out, etc. But now that the event is over and I got basically the best response I could have ever hoped for, I guess the basics worked pretty well.
Before the event, I made the following Rezzed trailer that I pinned to my Twitter, saying I’d be at Rezzed, along with my email address (no it wasn’t even spammed):
I emailed around 20 writers/game sites/YouTubers with somewhat personalized emails (more so if I knew more about them) saying essentially, “come play EXO ONE at Rezzed Leftfield”, and included the above, very short video. Got 2 solid meeting times, maybe 2-3 “I’ll come over at some point, whenevzies” and a bunch of ignores. Some ignores ended up turning up regardless, but I don’t know whether that was from my email or just because they happened to be in Leftfield. I talked to a handful of other developers in Leftfield about their press outreach efforts, and most did nothing at all, so if that was common within Leftfield or Rezzed in general, then contacting the press potentially puts you a step ahead just by pressing send.
I ordered 3 t-shirts online which I could have spent too much time on, but ended up just using my EXO ONE logo on the front and back, with “developer” written on the back, so if anyone was looking to chat with the developer, they could easily spot me.
Press Stealth Abilities
Something I noticed about press at the event was that almost all of them (unless I’d set up a meeting) liked to fly in under the radar and play without me spotting/recognizing them. That worked for a few people who I saw write/tweet about the game afterward, but otherwise, if I recognized someone I just said so. Otherwise, I’d risk being weird (sorry, person I was totally weird to!). I imagine this is done so the developer doesn’t bug them too much or affect their play experience any more than it should. Generally, I just said something like, “the tutorial is kinda bad right now, so if you need any help lemme know”, then I left them to it.
I definitely felt that fan-boy factor a little with some people I met, but I had some great chats with press, gamers and devs alike. For the most part, with press, they’d come play the game, ask between 0 and a dozen questions then take off pretty quickly. Wasn’t overly hard, and while I practiced a bunch of practice answers to questions, many never came up.
After the event, I wrote and thanked anyone who wrote about EXO ONE, if I had their email address/Twitter.
Tweets ‘n Articles
Here’s most of the press/tweets I got during the event and after:
Rezzed people. If you've not seen Exo One, go see Exo One.
Damn it, I didn’t meet Terry! Terry is one of these darned people who don’t use a photo on their Twitter profile, I didn’t recognise him! I do recall seeing he was showing his game before flying over, but slipped my mind once I was there. I may have met him or Ruari as I recall one of the State Machine (his game) devs chatting to me. Tried to go play before open one day but someone was on it. Huge fan of Super Hexagon, so would have liked to have gone and been a weird fanboy/say hi briefly :P
Ordered about 500 and used a quarter of them, mostly taken by gamers. I put a screenshot on the front and some words (game name, my name, contact details) on the back.
One small error perhaps I could have improved would have been some way to sign people up to the newsletter at the event. The Flotsam guys had some kinda small iPad with a sign-up form on it, others went for the handwritten method. I guess the handwritten way stands out as being a mailing list quite obviously due to the email addresses on it, while the iPad kinda requires prompting (“hey you, sign up for our newsletter?”).
I’m not sure how many people went home then signed up for the EXO ONE mailing list, but over the entire event I added about 80 people to my list. Really don’t know if this is “good” or not.
Before the event, I asked everyone I knew for advice, including some people I didn’t know. This resulted in a couple of meetings that might not have otherwise happened, various tips/tricks for events, who to look out for (I hadn’t heard of OutsideXtra for example), introductions to press, how to keep my expectations realistic for a single, small-ish event and more.
What did I learn about EXO ONE?
The biggest stand out problem with the game was the first tutorial level, which is going to be getting some major love and redesigning soon. The camera I’m using hates the kinds of movement you can do in the starting level, and I throw a bunch of controls at the player and pray they remember (they never do). So this resulted in many players not ‘getting’ the game as they were missing pieces of the puzzle. Most people that I helped out ended up getting the hang of it, and luckily all press did too.
I got mixed feedback on the story, but I’d say fairly overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the story as-is, but also some very convincing “you should make it less literal” arguments.
Also received a handful of comments that there were too many controls. Mentioned this to some other Leftfielders and of course heard the opposite, “I had no problem with the controls”. Simpler is definitely better, but I feel like I might be able to remove at least one control combo (like holding two things to glide up for example).
Thankfully most of the feedback hit exactly the mark I was going for, with comments like:
That was super relaxing
It was mesmerizing
The sense of speed and feeling you get when you reach the clouds is amazing
I could just watch it all day
Like the Adelaide games event before (AVCON), people sat to play and didn’t want to get off. I should have forced an end timer on the demo as people had to wait ages to play in some cases. I was lucky the musician, Rhys, told me to shorten the first level, since even after doing so, people sometimes asked me if they could ever reach the transport structures in the distance. A classic example of the game developer being too good (fast) at their own game.
Quick Notes on Other Games
Since this post is getting long… Quick bullets on other games (I mentioned Future Unfolding above) that were near me and I played in Leftfield.
Those rolling quadrupeds… I saw some really, really weird stuff happen in this game during the event! I jumped on for 2 minutes, but think I need to have a proper go and hear the narration/music to really get into it.
…to David Hayward for organizing the event, it went off without a hitch! And thanks to SEGA for sponsoring Leftfield.
It really was an amazing event, surrounded by awesome people and great games! With any luck, I’ll bump into some of my new friends again at another games event… *sniff*!
I’ve left the best till last! I’m wildly excited to announce that next month (May) EXO ONE is getting a 2-page preview in Edge magazine! So pumped! I’m not a huge games magazine reader, but whenever I do pick one up, it’s always Edge!
Next – Kickstarter
I’ve increasingly gone from ‘maybe doing a Kickstarter’ to ‘probably doing one’ to ‘doing one’ to ‘most likely doing one in May’. It takes time to build up the courage, you see. I’m going to get some advice on exact dates, but that’s my current thoughts. I’ll be announcing an exact date soon, so if this is something you’re interested in, you can sign up to my newsletter below:
Since I’ve got a build done for Indiecade, pressure is off a bit for Rezzed, as even if the game dies often, I’ll be there to restart it etc. My biggest fear is I’ll be overseas without my PC and unable to fix any issues that occur. I’m most concerned that there could be some kind of graphics card incompatibility or some other thing that causes the game to run badly or fail, but I’ve tested the game on a number of friends computers with no issues so far.
I took Monday and half of Tuesday off to recover from working most of the weekend into an all-nighter. Now:
Final Rezzed Tasks
Ensure my build shortcuts work so we can just load planets from wherever we are. ~30 mins
Fine tune camera some more ~30 mins
Script energy spheres so they’re closer to the ground for new players to pick up more easily. Couldn’t get a handle on what my dumb code was doing, gonna bail on this for now at least ~30mins
Try to get level restarting working again ~3 hrs :(
I wasn’t looking close enough at my debug logs ordering or my if else logic!
Improve timing on navigation icon hint animation ~15 mins
More camera fine tuning ~30 mins
Improve planet 2 ~4 hours
Hanging out probably a bit too much on William Chyr’s excellent Manifold Garden stream :P Highly recommended occasionally though, especially if you’re a solo dev. ~2 hrs
New creature stuff for 2nd planet ~ 3 hrs
Integration with MapMagic ~30 mins
Directional vector UI stuff ~2 hrs
Bug fixing above! ~30 mins
Further creature improvements ~1hr
Profiling above. Oops it runs like hell :/ ~30 mins
Improving planet 2 biomes, variation. ~2 hrs
Testing ~30 mins
Rezzed prep work ~1 hr
Build testing/uploading ~30 mins
Not really going to add anything of substance from here on, it’s Friday, I’m leaving Monday for 1 1/2 weeks, so I’m going to make sure it works properly then pack tomorrow and chill out before the hell that is international flying on Monday.
Air particlezzz! I’m embarrassed to say ~3 hrs (it’s hard to get these just right!)
Tweaking both planets ~3hrs
Tweaking lighting ~1 hr
Rezzed prep ~30 mins
Final testing has picked up a bug with the wormhole sequence where the screen goes black (but game continues afterward). So this will be my last task before flying off. If anyone going to Rezzed is reading this, I’ll cya there, hopefully without a buggy game on my hands!
My main priority this week (or the first day or two) will be completing my wormhole upgrade, complete with smoother transitions and loading. With any luck it’ll just be a few hours, but I seem to have introduced some new bugs at the same time.
Then I’m back onto a bit of story related stuff, and after that I might reassess what to do next for this Rezzed build.
Smooth wormhole transitions ~6 hrs
Fixing new WH related bugs ~2 hrs
“Pro” coding tip and OMGTHX to Mr Rhys Lindsay, our EXO ONE musician:
If you start a coroutine from one script on another, ie “StartCoroutine(AnotherScript.instance.thing())” and then destroy your scipt/unload the scene, your coroutine will be destroyed, and you will wonder for HOURS why the helllll said coroutine fails to continue…!
Cleaning up from yesterday. Wormholes mostly working as intended now. Didn’t really get the nice super smooth transitions I wanted by loading the next level in the wormhole, but I think that is perhaps a much bigger task than I realised.
Wormhole clean up completed, bugs removed ~3 hrs
Fixing up overlays a bit when wormhole camera comes on, but still a very average solution. Think I might need some kinda ‘overlay’ camera that handles all my post processing! ~1hr
Fixed random sound loss on first planet ~30 mins
Tutorial tweaks ~30 mins
A whole bunch of other tweaks, now that everything is working again! ~2 hrs
Profiling/fixing some resource hogs
Fixed wrong ground contact sound in tutorial
Added wormhole exit effects to 2nd planet
So, happy to report game is buildable and pretty much bug free.
Going to profile the game a bit and see how the frame rate is, if there’s any easy wins to make it smoother. Noticed some frame hiccups near monoliths, for example…
Sole remaining bugs:
Null ref on some sounds. ~30mins
Somehow at some point, the ParticlePlayground (plugin) manager disappeared from the wormhole scene, which meant I couldn’t turn it back on… Took me ages to realise this! ~2hrs…!
Then I wrestled unsuccessfully with why, in editor, the wormhole transition looks fine, but colors break in the build… ~2hrs
Similar to above where the entire game start screen was broken in build but not editor… ~1hr
Wasted another day in town waiting for my car to be re-repaired (they didn’t fix it the first time…)
Now I need to hunt down why there’s issues with my build, but not the editor. Checking:
Player log for any errors. Went in and fixed some warnings just in case.
Noticed maybe we weren’t in the right quality setting… That wasn’t it.
Logs pointed to my scene loading stuff, realised the intro scene wasn’t loading. Put in a million debug lines.
Tracked it down to (I guess due to load speeds between build and editor) the wormhole scene not finishing loading in time and messing up a coroutine sequence
Perhaps not overly wise (I don’t know?) I updated the camera system to reduce the amount of cliff/ground staring you can do sometimes! Still needs fine tuning but liking the result ~2hrs.
Indiecade E3 deadline is tomorrow, and I’m wondering whether to submit to that or not.
Might have less competition with other submissions because it’s the earliest submission date
Could send it and ‘forget it’/not spend more time on event/award submissions for a while.
Potentially lower my chances of being selected because I have less time to improve the game
Barely enough time right now to test the build
I’m going to work assuming I’ll submit for the e3 deadline, then see where I get up to and make a decision tonight/tomorrow morning.
Tasks for tonight’s deadline
Restarting levels/game is a bit broken. Perhaps not a massive problem, especially if I make a note to restart the exe instead, I dunno. Not a great foot to put forward… “my game is broke so don’t press THIS button”.
Had a huge amount of trouble getting this to work in wormholes as I was async loading the next level in the wormhole, and you can’t cancel async operations… Gave up on pause in wormhole! ~3 hrs wasted
Checking normal pause/restart stuff working ~1 hr
Perhaps minor color bug when we enter a wormhole in the tutorial. Ignoring!
Decide whether to fix or remove some new ‘story-like’ feature in the 2nd world (don’t want to spoil) which isn’t 100% working. Fixed this, took ages ~3 hrs
Fine tune new camera stuff or just use old one?
Had a play and had the new stuff working quite fast so sticking with new ~30 mins
Not obvious enough ‘objective arrow’. Use some combination of:
Text/blinking text (at least at start/level load, then turn off). “Energy signature”.
Start the arrow size large/blinking then quickly reduce size.
~1 hr (still not obvious enough!)
Picked up lots of restart level/restart game issues. Restart level I removed completely as I was stumped and had no time left. ~2 hrs
Numerous other tweaks to planets, UI, sound, etc, etc. ~2 hrs
Profiling for frame rate issues ~1 hr
Playing through the entire build many many times ~2 hrs.
I ended up pulling an all-nighter to get this finished before the deadline. I still had ~4 hours before the deadline, but I opted to work all night just in case it came down to the wire.
Also quite badly underestimated how much work was required for the Indiecade submission in terms of text. They needed ~300 word answers to a bunch of questions, and that was rather hard at 5-6 am. Took me another hour or two.
Now going to take a day or two off to recharge before Rezzed!