Monday, June 25, 2018

Lifeless Moon Environments Taking Shape

Hi guys! Just a quick little update here. I think sometimes I work too hard to add lots of content to these updates and that's one reason I don't stay in touch as much as I want (and should!). So here's a quick look at before and after of one of the environments we're working on this week:

Before:




After:



You should be able to click the image for a higher-resolution view. It's really coming along nicely!

Dramatically desolate environments can still be interesting. We're trying to achieve a lot of detail on a budget. Been learning tons about how to balance high detail models with performance. Finally got a handle on some concepts/techniques that I've been meaning to put to use for a while now. This will definitely improve the look of Lifeless Moon over Lifeless Planet.

That's it for now. Have a great week!

Dave

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

An Unbelievable Update

Hello future astronauts! Way overdue for an update, so going to jump right in...

PAX West Submission


About a week ago we finished up a preview demo build to submit for PAX West. We've been working on this for a couple months, but things turned serious a couple weeks ago. I worked through two weekends and clicked "submit" with literally 10 seconds to spare on the deadline. I've never in my life come up against a deadline so close. Utterly exhausting but also grateful to have it behind us and moving on to next steps. Promising myself we'll not ever do that again!

I wish we'd made more progress and fixed more bugs, but the new demo is already showing signs of life. Lots of the imagery and mood of the game is coming through now and that feels really good. Here's a look:




What you can't see from screens is the groovy audio work. Rich composed some great music for this sequence and put it together in a way that we can seamlessly transition from one track to another. This way we can enhance the mood and match up the music tempo and character with what is going on in the moment.

In addition, we commissioned our first voice acting sessions and holy crap this is some good stuff. I think voice acting really adds to the immersion. As with Lifeless Planet, most of the audio plays while you are exploring--something I think more games should do vs long game-breaking cut scenes. For me, there's something about exploring while you hear creepy/interesting dialogue that really connects me to the game story and adds depth to the experience.

We're Doing "Unbelievable!"


I heard a sales coach say whenever a customer asks how you're doing, always say "unbelievable!" That word works good if things are going great, but you can also say it without lying when things are terrible.

Well, I've been doing a bit "unbelievable" lately... As mentioned, the last few weeks have meant working almost every day, and on top of that, client work has been strong but income has really slowed. Always a bit demoralizing to work hard but find you're scraping just to pay the bills. And then to top it off, I've been a bit ill. For months.

The good news is that the maniacal work schedule is behind us, and I'm taking steps to not put ourselves in that position again (working for weeks to within seconds of a deadline!). I'm hopeful the health thing is improving as well (don't want to jinx it). And money stuff always works itself out, so that'll be fine too...

I always hesitate to share negative stuff. Partly because that's easy to do and usually doesn't help the giver or receiver. On the other hand, I think you guys signed up to hear what it's like to develop an indie game and I don't think I've ever heard an indie dev story that was rainbows and unicorns. It's hard stuff. Epic, sometimes. And in the end it pays off, if not always in sales, at least in the satisfaction of seeing what your blood, sweat and tears produced.

Project Schedule


I suppose it's a good time to talk about where things stand. The reality is that we're quite a bit behind schedule. The game has grown in scope a bit (always does), bill-paying client work has consumed more time than expected (always does), and I'm not getting any younger (never do). I was AMAZED last month working on the demo build as I recalled just how much work went into Lifeless Planet. I've got a small team helping now (doing a lot, too) and it's still surprising just how much time this stuff takes.

So anyway, our goal now is to build out the demo--playable in VR--for PAX West. And we may actually release it shortly after--to you guys at least, and maybe as some kind of early access or standalone experience.

After that, we hope to wrap the first half of the game by the end of the year--maybe sooner, but realistically probably not. Whenever its done, we hope to release that portion of the game. Other games have done this too, to mixed success, but I think its a good way to get content in the hands of your audience sooner than later. Here again, we'll get this content to our beta tester backers at least, if not a full public early access - type release.

And then the good news is "Chapter 2" (the second half of the game) should be a bit easier to complete. Systems and structures will all be in place by then and the content is a bit front-loaded anyway. Our goal is a full final release now by next spring.

There's some more surprises and cool game design issues to share that relates to all this, but I'll just tease you and share those at a later date.

One Thing is Going Right...


Once again, I try not to sound whiny here, and really things are plugging along pretty well, despite the headwinds of life and work. Every time I push a little too hard life has a way of reminding you to chill, and so I step back and work a little harder at the art and science of chillage. What's more, recent comments by you, my awesomely super cool backers, reminded me of one thing that's going right: the continuing support and encouragement that I get from this community. I can't thank you guys enough for the frequent kind words and, frankly, inspiring comments. We may be sitting at the keyboards plugging away, but as I've said before, you are the fuel to keep going. Thank you and thank you again!

Thanks also for your patience with the slow pace of updates. I need to step it up just so we keep that positive communication going more often... and until next time, here's another parting preview of what is to come:
 




Thanks!
Dave & the Stage 2 team

Friday, April 6, 2018

Designing the User Interface

Happy April! This month is particularly (and I mean insanely, outrageously, horribly) busy for us as multiple client projects come due and we also are working on a preview build of Lifeless Moon to submit for PAX West in August. The dust will clear a little in May, but until then we're just trying to stay sane.

Here's a quick look at the astronaut notebook we're building for Lifeless Moon. This notebook will contain log entries, documents, mission objectives, and scientific notes based on your discoveries.



The notebook is being modeled after the actual Apollo mission "cuff checklists" used on the moon. We're even using the exact font used in the original:



We've also been working on a new jetpack mechanic. Lifeless Planet's jetpack was...unique, and we were never 100% happy with it. In Lifeless Moon, the jetpack you'll find has a more traditional "jetpack" feel. It also allows more control in platforming without providing access to the entire gameplay area. That last point is important because we feel like something is lost in regards to story if you can simply jetpack up and over any obstacle. In Lifeless Planet we addressed this by only enabling "boost" from fuel canisters in certain areas. This felt a bit forced at times, so we're hopeful the revised jetpack for Lifeless Moon will be a big improvement all around.

Short update this time, but have to get back to work. Next month we'll have more progress to show with some new screens!

-Dave & the Stage 2 Team

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Less Lifeless Every Day

Well, March 1st so time for another update, I guess! Goodness, despite my best intentions, it seems we can't seem to get an update out more than once a month so far. We'll keep working on that...


Preview Build

Our beta tester backers have been reviewing the first preview build the last couple of weeks here. If you're a beta tester and haven't reviewed the build, do it soon! We'll end access to the preview Friday next week. Thank you to everyone who's provided feedback. It's truly very helpful!

Project Status

Yesterday was a big day: I played the game on Vive, then Oculus and then non-VR with keyboard/mouse and gamepad and they all worked great (mostly!). We still have work to do on the core code, but this is a big step to being able to make this game playable in both VR and non-VR. I've handed the project off to Jazon to work his magic and finish converting the legacy JavaScript code to C#.
We here at Stage 2 central are turning now to building out the environments and puzzles for the rest of the game. We're focusing on the first half of the game and we may make that available sooner than later (but still for one price for everybody--none of that episodic, DLC nonsense). As usual, these things take longer to develop than we hope, so if we can get it to you sooner this way, we will...more on that later.

Still Hiring

We're still looking to add a Unity programmer, so if you or someone you know is interested in joining the team, check it out: http://stage2studios.com/jobs/

And that's it for now. I'm SUPER excited about what we're going to be working on in March... Much of the work up to now wasn't very visual so it was harder to show WIP. That will change going forward, so look for more updates soon.

Thanks,
Dave & the Stage 2 Team

Thursday, February 1, 2018

More Backend Work and Visual Effects

February 1st. How did that happen?! As usual, the time is flying by, but that's life in the fast lane, I guess. Thankfully, we have made some good headway since the last update.

Multiple Game Modes

Work on the back-end continues. We're trying to make this game playable (and fun) in VR and also without VR. One thing we discovered is that the "epic/cinematic" camera mode we're using in VR also looks really cool without VR. And we also learned that some people still get dizzy even with slow camera movements. So, we've decided to offer multiple camera modes in both VR and non-VR modes. This has meant a lot of time to make the game code aware of what the heck it's dealing with (VR headset? Monitor? Game controller? VR touch controller? Keyboard and mouse?...) There are a ton of moving parts, but this stuff has to be dealt with up-front or we'll have a huge mess on our hands later.

One cool thing we landed on was a cursor design for when in non-VR mode so you know what objects are interactive. We didn't want a cross-hair style reticle, and then we realized (Logan's suggestion iirc) we could use the Lifeless Moon logo. Notice how it changes when you roll over an interactive object:

      

Visual Effects Work


It's always hard to show progress without some sense of mild spoilers. Without too much discussion here, let me say we are working on some interesting visual effects for the game. They're proving challenging, but that's because we're doing something new and I'm excited at how this will pan out. Here's an early test render of one of the animated models we're working on:

 
Thanks as always for your support and especially for your patience! We're stretched thin most days but rest assured we're working hard to bring this project to life.

Thanks again,
Dave & the Stage 2 Team


Friday, January 5, 2018

Slow progress, so... we're hiring!


Happy New Year from Lifeless Moon! 


Well as usually happens, I can't believe it's been so long since the last update. Definitely overdue. The truth is, work is progressing, but slowly. The holidays got in the way of course, but the biggest issue is client work. Our largest client has been keeping us extra busy the last two months. We have to take the work to pay the bills, but it cuts into dev time.

So at long last we've decided to hire an additional programmer. Without another team member we're just not going to be able to pick up the pace. Thankfully, we have the capacity to hire. And since you guys are our strongest supporters, we wanted to let you be the first to know about this opportunity. If you or a friend have experience with Unity game programming, please reach out and let's talk! We'll be very selective and careful with this hire, but that's why we're coming to you: we want somebody on the team who believes in the Stage 2 mission of creating awesome science-themed apps and games. Please check out the link if you are interested: http://stage2studios.com/jobs/

Progress Update

 
We're in the process of re-working the code so A.) the character control is more refined and B.) the code is all moved over from javascript (aka UnityScript) to C#. Lifeless Planet was built entirely (almost) with javascript and we've since learned there are a great many shortcomings with that language. It's really a kind of Franken-code, borrowing a bit from javascript, but other parts from C# and generally just being a pain to write clean and reliable code.

In addition to the programming side of things, Logan continues to make good headway on the art side. He's got a lot more 3D models built for the world and I'm excited to add the interaction that will bring them to life.



We've also made some good headway on puzzle design and also the full game "walk-through" doc that we're using to set up the pacing and refine the story and flow of the game.

I promise we won't wait so long for the next update and we'll share a peek at what's coming.

Thank you again for your support!

Dave & the Stage 2 Team

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lifeless Moon is Live on Kickstarter! You Can Help Fund the Next Classic SciFi Adventure...

I'm thrilled to announce that our new game Lifeless Moon is now live on Kickstarter. Lifeless Moon will be the next cinematic sci-fi adventure in the Lifeless Planet series.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidboard/lifeless-moon


If you like the idea of an epic exploration adventure game with a classic science fiction twist, please consider supporting our new game:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidboard/lifeless-moon

Even if you don't pledge, please consider helping us out this week by sharing the link. I'm already amazed with the support we've seen!

Thanks!
David & the Stage 2 Studios Team