Dev Blog 1/14-1/21

This last week in the studio has been impossibly busy across every department.  As we get closer to the release of this game, the studio is struggling to stay on top of the workload.  Across the board, we are moving into final stages of creation with all of the content planned for the early access; working without version in this situation control means a very clogged pipeline.  In addition, preparing for release means testing the game far more than reasonable, which means miles of QA data and bug-fixes to be implemented across the board.

The first and most notable change of this week is the narrative. Personnel changes always bring shakeup, and in this case there is a very welcome reimagination of what this game says narratively.  This does not mean that the themes of the game are changing (those are still deeply ingrained in the art and design of the game) but the human characters have all received facelifts, and the way the narrative will be delivered was reconsidered to better match with the game.  Most impressively, the changes to the script were all delivered within the week leaving us in an advantageous position (for once).

Which brings us to audio: music, voices, and screaming.  This past week, the music changes that had already been laid out were delivered, and we now how the first half of the full suite of music ready to go into the game. Before the week is out, the full suite of music will be both composed and implemented.  On the more technical side of audio production is the voice lines.  The new changes to the script mean a mountain of work for the audio team, but with concrete plans in place, it should be completed shortly and much of the spoken narrative will be ready by the weeks end.  In addition, our playtesting management is focusing heavily on player interactions with sound cues, and the systematic side of sounds in Prisoner will be significantly more refined by the full release.

Moving forward in the lineup is art.  As the art in the game has progressed, the art style has become more defined than in the early days.  This means that some considerations were made mindfully on much of the art, but not on the earlier pieces.  The art team has worked hard this week to isolate some of the most obvious cases for this and updates have been planned to consolidate the artistic feel of the project. This attention extends to more than just characters; the new environment from last weeks changes means a shifted level-feel, and more changes to many of the structures to account for this.  In addition, the level has taken on a static quality, relative to all of the changes to the rest of the game, so dynamic effects (mostly non-structural) have been drawn up for future updates.

On the side of design, as the game inches ever closer to our desired product, some of the monsters have been left behind.  Many of the changes from last week meant that some of the monsters feel dull in comparison.  To match this with our themes, the monsters have been reconsidered, redrawn, and partially overhauled to both take advantage of new infrastructure and make use of the new asymmetries in our design.  In other words, as the game expands, so to does the capabilities of the systems and as a result, each monster becomes more distinct;  older monsters have been partially rewritten to reduce overlap and take advantage of fun and interesting parts of their design.

As is the curse of game production, all of the previous changes bring both programming expansions and bug fixes for the future.  Our playtesting section has been furiously stress-testing the game within several breakpoints.  Each update brings an enormous section of bug-fixing that are being tackled by programming as well as serving as the exit point for every single pipeline.  On top of bug fixes, systems implementation, and pipeline finishing, programming has been setting up for the full release, which mostly means familiarizing ourselves with the current code base.  Having more than one person programming means not everyone knows every single line of code.  When the game fully launches, we will inevitably be fixing bugs which we have not yet discovered, and effective management means the entire programming team needs to be able to tackle any single one.

This has been our second to last week putting content into the project, and as a result, we have been extraordinarily busy trying to plan, create, implement, and fix assets that will eventually by played by many people.  The stress on the team is building, and the pressure that every team is under grows with every passing day, but so does the anticipation.  The possibility of having both reliability and sustainability in our production is far more exciting than it sounds.  Not only does it mean a smaller sense constant of panic for the entire studio, but also the ability to deliver not only more content, but content that is more meaningful to both the creator and the player.  The launch of the early access carries that possibility and the promise of openness and consumer feedback.  As time continues to pass, so to do tensions and excitements begin to rise! The next week will be both busy and exciting for everyone!

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