Beta testing has resumed after some physical changes to the studio location, and taking a month of downtime. During that period, I wrote and published a book which is a sort of companion volume to this game (in spirit). It is a non-fiction work titled Underworld: Esoteric Reality, which goes into some detail on various esoteric subjects, some of which actually inspired the writing and design of Exalted Seracthon. Voice tracks and some details for wrapping up Part 1 are complete, and I am currently focusing on some further play testing to discover any lurking bugs, and polish the overall experience. Some of this time will be spent gathering and editing gameplay video for promotion, and we will engage in some actual advertisement/promotion.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images]This is just a status report: still very busy with testing and final details. After a full round of fixes, optimization, and polish, I’ve generated a second beta test build, which will undergo a new round of player testing. Voice tracks are still underway, and will be included in the final test build, as they do not impact gameplay. However, that will be the version I use to record videos for advertisement, and to send to play testers on YT or elsewhere. A Linux test machine has been set up at the studio to test the game. So far the early tests have been running very smoothly, and I think releasing on that platform as well as Windows will get locked in as long as testing is finished, and there are no serious issues. Both versions would be released on Steam and Gog.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] Development has been slow through the beginning of this year due to other work that has required time and resources, however testing and final details are still underway. One of the issues with end to end testing is that every change to the code requires another test run, as things that affect movement, combat, the flight model, etc are affected by various unique conditions in different scenes, which can often impact how that change needs to be implemented. This is normal development stuff, but it is actually a weak spot for a single developer scenario, because you can only be looking at one thing at a time. Release strategy for ES will be an ongoing effort. A compelling preview video can only get so much exposure, and even getting featured on a YT gamer channel is a limited audience. Time has shown that word of mouth is actually the best type of promotion that exists for an indy game, and that largely depends on whether people like the game or not. So for this reason, I’m focusing more on creating a quality game experience than I am on generating a temporary bubble of popularity. In terms of time frame, my soft target for release has moved out to April/May. Things will take as long as they need to, so I won’t be locking down any dates until a solid release candidate is ready to go.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] Play testing is underway, and things are getting rather exciting. There are plenty of small bugs and annoyances to find and plenty of polishing to do, but this also provides an opportunity to tune thing like plotline, dialogs, levels of difficulty, general player experience, and other things that are hard to see from inside an intense building process. This log entry is mainly just to stay in touch and let anyone know that things are still on schedule. I hope you all have a Glorious Pagan Yuletide Celebration, and (lets just say a ‘better’) new year.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] The first test build of Exalted Seracthon Part 1 has been completed. All areas, missions, characters and dialogs are in place, and can be played through entirely. This month will consist of adding in a few non-crucial features and details that will make the experience more enjoyable, and of course, the dreaded sound studio work begins now. All actors will be given voices, and music and sound effects will be give a second pass. Dedicated playtesting will begin when this is done, so that the game can be optimized wherever needed, and any bugs fixed. During this phase I will be recording gameplay for use in advertising, so promotional videos will start appearing probably after December. The goal of releasing by March is still on track, but things will become more publicly visible a while before that. There is not much to rant about with regard to development at this point, and this log really should be converted to an Announcements page. I just wanted to make a progress update – finally approaching this gate is pretty exciting.
Work is now being completed on the final areas of Part 1, and initial testing will begin shortly. There have been no coding challenges lately, work has been primarily focused on world development; assets, scenes, lighting, sound. Following the last scene and its missions and dialog, work will shift to pre-release mode. There is still plenty to do in terms of voice acting, end to end play testing, and polishing. With 4 months to go, there is plenty of time to get this done, and if it is completed early enough, Builds of the game may be released to play testers on YouTube who are interested. If this occurs, there will be announcements and links.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] I am currently completing the last set of missions which will finalize the first part of Exalted Seracthon. There were some issues with warp travel that had to be sorted out, and consisted mainly of scene transition timing. Work was done to further develop the navigation systems on two of the ships, to smooth out the travel experience. Once these elements are in place, the next few months will consist of the final rounds of player testing, voice acting, sound, music, and visual polish. I expect that Part 1 will release in the spring of 2022, assuming the western world hasn’t descended into chaos. I will be negotiating with GOG and possibly Steam, as these are the most widely available host platform(s) for PC games at this time. I have not (and will not) feature any images or video of this game’s High Strangeness (the horror aspect) in these deve logs because I would prefer this aspect to be a surprise. However, even if these elements were not part of ES, it would be quite a fun game. Test scenarios in space have been what I had hoped to experience in Star Citizen, which ironically was one of the reasons this project was started in the first place. Suffice to say, it doesn’t require 100 million dollars to make an enjoyable space game. The second part of ES will release later in 2022 or the next year, though I don’t want to lock that in place right now. When both parts are published, the option to purchase the entire game in one package will be available, so this is technically a type of Early Access release – the difference being that I’m not launching a ‘game framework’ and then building as I go. These will be finished products, with part 1 ending at a moment of suspense.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] July has been extremely busy with non-dev work (moves, repairs, etc) so there is not much to report concerning the progress of the game, except to say that it will continue once things are wrapped up (should be all done this weekend). Most recently, some issues were fixed with near-lightspeed travel, and some improvements were added to make this feature feel smoother during runtime. This had to do with how scripted locations coordinate during travel events, based on distance and other factors. I find that a lot of solutions which have to be developed for this type of game rely pretty heavily on effective event-timing methods.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] May was rather heavy for non-dev work, and because of that there has been no huge changes since the Apr 20 log in terms of what is being done. Chapters 3 an 4 continue – playtesting did reveal some things which had not been detected before, and eventually led to some improvements to collision handling, the flight model itself, and ship controls. Ships can now be exchanged for other vessels as they become available to the player. This version of the game will not likely have a modification system for adding and removing things on your ship, however if there is time to add this before release, I will set it up with the intention of adding more via DLC if it is a desired feature. As it is now, each ship has its own feature emphasis based on its intended purpose, so players will be able to select the one that suits their playstyle and preferences. For example, a built-in auto-lander may be more desirable to some than an immersive navigation room.
[Click the title of these Dev Log titles to see the full version with images] Took a couple of weeks off to attend to local work, and now back at the helm. Work continues on Chapters 3 and 4, with plenty of debugging for a playtest build. Unity has an interesting bug where compilation is cached but not completely saved. This means that when the libraries are rebuilt, changes to code revert backwards, and a build is not the same as what is seen in the editor. I have not found a report of this bug, but finding these reports and voting them up can be quite a task. I’ve just been trying to work around it, but it does result in some lost cycles. I believe this is caused by an intended or unintended lack of process for tools like VS Code (which I use), which would otherwise not be noticed by users of VS Studio. When this round of playtesting is complete, I will make another update with a look at some of the new content.