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:

Dave & the Stage 2 team