Originally I thought I’d just do this in a Kickstarter update, but there’s actually a lot to say. Now that we’re in August, I wanted to give a progress report on the game so far, and explain my goals for the time to come.
I want to say upfront that I didn’t meet the goals I set for myself at this point. If you recall, I said my goal for July was to finish the game’s dictionary. That hasn’t happened. Of course, at that time, my conception of what the game would be was very different. I imagined the player progressing through the story with the dictionary gradually unlocking more and more of the language’s vocabulary. But that structure comes at the cost of freedom for the player, and I feel that those constraints are unflattering towards the player’s intelligence. The current model is a tutorial stage similar to the pre-alpha I showed on Kickstarter, then a stage where the player has limited guidance and part of the dictionary opens up, and then a final stage where the player has the whole dictionary and no further guidance from the journal. The final stage will be the largest by far.
When the structure of the game shifted, my priorities shifted towards working on the game as the player would progress through it, rather than dividing the complete product into parts and working on those individually. My idea for the journal guiding the player in the second stage is a simple checklist of topics the player needs to ask about, which is added to as the player asks more questions, but eventually exhausted as the player is unable learn about everything due to their limited vocabulary. When the full dictionary unlocks, the player will be able to revisit those dead ends and move past them into new territory.
Aside from restructuring the game, the creative aspects of the second stage are mostly planned out, but they remain a lot less concrete than I would’ve liked at this point. I struggle with creative tasks, because it’s never clear when something is “done”. Or rather, it’s not clear when something needs more work. Moreover, with creative problems, it’s not clear what needs to be done. You simply start with nothing, and you need to end with something. This isn’t my forte. I’m good with practical problems.
I could extend my deadline to keep working on creative stuff, but I don’t think that’s the most productive course of action. Instead, I think I’m just going to get to work on implementing what I already have and continue to add new ideas to it as I go. My goal for August is to get the second stage in a working state, and then work on the third through September, then continue to polish and fix up the first stage and release a beta in late October, which will be accessible to those of you who pledged at least $10.
Of course, I won’t be able to finish the third stage in that time. I just want a working model. In fact, I intend to continue adding new topics and filling out the game right up until the full release. The other thing is graphical updates. I have ideas for simple “cutscenes” – text over static images – which I won’t worry about until we’re in beta, as well as smaller graphical upgrades which I will try to squeeze in before the beta release.