Holy cow it's been a long time since I visited the ol' dev blog. Truth be told, it's because there wasn't much dev happening!
Since this past April, let's see, what's happened? Well, Vidar was released! The 1.0 came out in June, and since then we've had a few quick fixes to the game. Vidar has also been accepted to a host of indie showcases, including as a finalist for Indie Prize for Most Innovative Game, and as an official selection in the Indie MEGABOOTH! It's been a whirlwind summer showing the game all over the country, and I'm so excited to be capping it off this weekend at PAX West alongside some major names at the booth.
One of those events was PlayNYC, our first real consumer-facing games convention in NYC. It's insane to think about, but when you look at our other events, like IndieCade East (which didn't even come back to NYC in 2017), or smaller events like Game Devs of Color, they tend to be pretty niche and often industry focused. Or, games were a second class citizen like at ComiCon. We never had something "PAX-like" until now, and it could not have been a better event. Sold out on Day 1, lines out the door, lines for every game, and people absolutely loving Vidar. Newsweek (!) stopped by, you can read their review here. "For a game with such a somber mood and story, I was surprised to find it's also a hell of a lot of fun."
On the Kickstarter front, the box sets have officially been sent for printing! There was a lot of back & forth to make sure the box art, the instruction manual, everything was perfect. The last of these items was just finalized, and now we're just waiting on the prints. About 50 will be available as a limited edition purchase on the Square store - I'll post the link when they're available!
Once those come in, all physical rewards will be go out in the weeks after. And with that, at long last, the Kickstarter will be complete. It's been such a long road, but the finish line is in sight!
Lastly, work has really ramped up on my next game, From Rust. I'm going to start trying to do a dev blog for that, on its own website - so if you're interested in following me, come join. And if you're just here Vidar stuff, you won't have to go digging through stuff you don't care about!
Since it's been a while, here are the combined patch notes since way back in April. I'll be back once the boxes are in!
Bring Him Home
Boy's Best Friend
Hair of the Dog
Reading Is Fundamental
Smoke Them Out
The Name Game
A pretty casual week as I monitored for any bugs in last week's patch. One bit of exciting news is that yesterday we got codes out for the digital soundtrack! About 85% of our Kickstarter backers now have all of their rewards, and there are just some high-tier things like the boxed set and puzzle designer remaining.
I also announced a review drive for Vidar! Here's the skinny: Vidar needs reviews on Steam (we're sitting at only 22 right now). If we get to 50 by the end of April, I'll add a 4-quest plot arc called "Constant Critic" that spans the entire cave of Vidar and features some of the game's most judgmental people. Whether good, back, or ugly, I need those reviews - so hope we can hit that target!
That's all for this week, and there may not be a dev blog for a few weeks now. I'll be working on a puzzle designer tool that will allow high-tier Kickstarter backers to get new puzzle options into the game.
How exciting, it's our first huge content patch since the Early Access launch! I just wrapped up playing through the entire game on this recent patch, and I gotta say, the Dark Cave is feeling full now. I have no doubt that your quest journal will be loaded with plenty of quests to do here now, no matter who dies!
And that quest journal has a new and sexy UI! With all of that said, let's get into some patch notes <3
Puzzles & Maps
Man's Best Friend / Boy's Best Friend
Reading is Fundamental
The Second Son
This past week was nearly entirely QA for the upcoming patch, along with some business shenanigans. I'm happy to report that the inventory has been reenabled in town, for good this time. Any items which shouldn't be used in town will now just not work in town! What a concept!
The fonts in the game have also been adjusted to be that cleaner, no-outline look. It looks a lot nicer against the new menu UI.
Finally, I managed to improve some old quests. Specifically, "Hunting Party," "Sketched Out," and all of the library quests have seen some bug fixes, clearer journal edits, and other similar things.
Short post for this week since it was mostly cleaning up all of the things we've previewed in the past. Check back next week when the patch goes live, and we've got all the notes up here!
We're back from SXSW Gaming, and their inaugural pitch competition, and holy cow that was an exhausting 24 hours! Here's a run down of all I got to do (which is just as much for me to remember as it is to talk about what got done this week).
Considering travel, I had basically 1 day at SXSW. So at 9 am on Friday morning, I started at the Hilton to meet with Webcore Games, a neat studio that seems to have their fingers in an awful lot of pies. From VR to 2d to casual and everything in between. They do a fair amount of outsourcing, and I'm excited for possible partnership opportunities for more Vidar market penetration as well as on upcoming projects.
Next up I met with David Wolinsky before his panel on suicide prevention in the games industry. David is the writer of Don't Die, an awesome collection of long-form interviews on the games industry, self-reflection, insecurity, and a hint of Gamergate exposition. It's phenomenal stuff, and you must check it out.
And then it was finally time for the pitch competition. The competition was divided into two rounds - in the first, 16 games competed in closed room sessions before a panel of 4 judges. Before the presentation, we were each given 30 minutes with a mentor to help go over our stuff. This was tremendously helpful, because just talking it out helped me focus on the problem I wanted to emphasize with the judges. The only concern I had? How do you take the feedback from a 30-minute mentor session and immediately incorporate it into a 10 minute pitch? We didn't have any time in between, so it was going to have to be done on the fly.
As if that wasn't enough, my computer died about 3 minutes into my presentation. Slideless and defeated, I improvised and tapdanced and mercifully had print-outs to give to the judges. After a 10 minute presentation, I fielded questions like "how on Earth are you doing this alone?" and "what's your break even point?" and just like that it was done.
I explored the convention hall a bit while waiting for the results to be announced. SXSW Gaming is growing, but it's not there yet. The place is like, 1/10th the size of PAX East, and walking through the featured indie showcase I saw plenty of empty booths. The only major anchor tenant was Nintendo, showing off the Switch, and lines for that were pushed to the outside of the hall - so that line huggers wouldn't have seen any of your signage etc. I think in 3 years this convention could be really awesome, but for now, I'm glad I didn't spend $1200 on a booth. IGDA Austin had the right of it - they bought one booth, and then rotated in several games in a few-hour shifts (spreading the cost in a pretty efficient manner).
Just about as I finished making the rounds, the finalists were announced, and Vidar was chosen with 7 others to participate in the Final Round!! [Insert Dramatic Music]. This time, 2 additional judges joined the panel (for a total of 6) and the presentations were open to the public. My computer pulled through, and at the end, I got extremely few questions. In legalese we call this a "cold bench." It's worrisome. It means the judges aren't engaged in your presentation, and I felt defeated. After one or two questions, I kind of realized that it was because Vidar is already on Early Access, and that my presentation had covered all of their other go-to questions for other presenters ("what's the gameplay loop?" "what's your target demo?" etc.).
Sadly, Vidar did not win - but major congrats to the team from Tessera Studios because they seriously deserved it for their VR thriller game Intruders. No worries, though, I made it exactly where I wanted - the final round, to be able to present Vidar to the public. And afterwards, ended up sticking around with the judges for over 2 hours just to chat about marketing, where Vidar goes from here, etc. That was the part that made this an invaluable experience.
From there I left for North Austin for IGDA's post-SXSW Gaming Dinner, which was absolutely wonderful. I got to meet aspiring devs, old friends and new, and writers from some of my favorite indie games. And finally got to eat - because I had forgotten to all day. After about 20 hours of go-go-go, I crashed at the hotel for an incredibly short nap before hopping on a flight home.
And now we dive back into cleaning up the patch for April 4! Caught In Your Web will feature our next Town Event, "Venom." As I teased last week, this Town Event centers on Dorottya and Katarina, and specifically follows the quest "Clearing The Way." Players who make it that far into their story will be able to explore a new side area in the Water Cave filled with spiders. They'll need to be quick, or else they could run into one of the worst possible fates in the game - two villagers dead in one night.
This Town Event comes complete with an additional helper quest as well, Arpad's "A Test Of Leadership." This quest, while quite different from "Make It Work" (which we previewed in detail a while back), takes its place; that is, you can only get one or the other in any playthrough. If "Make It Work" is unavailable to you, but Arpad's reached his leadership path, then he can help you out in completing "Venom" to save a villager from a poisonous spider bite.
To trigger "Venom" you'll need the following:
The rewards are not to be missed, either, and finishing the quest can definitely turn the tides of the Water Cave in your favor!
That's all we've got for this week. Next week we'll have a short preview of some additional changes and quests, and then the week after that the patch drops! See you then!
A small post for this week, but for good reason. We just wrapped up at Big Apple Con, and this week we're headed to SXSW to talk about Vidar, so not a ton of new announcements.
That being said, we're about 90% done with implementing "Venom," a new town event focusing on Dorottya and Katarina. It's been wonderful to finally and fully put some meat on the bones of their relationship, and I'm excited to have some full blown queerness in the game.
We'll have a full scale preview of it for you next week, for now, wish us luck at SXSW!
This week we slapped a fresh coat of paint on the menu screen. Here's what we've got for you:
This lovely book has replaced that ugly, small window in the top left corner of your screen. With that boring black background. And all of its grossness. Your journal will also show up in the book, for a more, well, journaly feel.
The inventory menu saw a small improvement, we finally got rid of that stupid "key" icon that required you to have to press twice to enter the menu. Wonder what that was all about? RPG Maker has a concept of "key items" much like a lot of other RPGs. In Vidar, everything is tagged "key item." We had deleted the other default menus (like armor, accessories, weapons, etc.) so the only thing left was the "Key Items" menu. But the window that forced you to choose among those possible menus remained.
Further down the road (that is, not for the upcoming content patch) we'll be revisiting the item menu again. We're saving that for a bigger inventory-management overhaul later in Early Access.
We also added a people-looker-upper:
This is part 2 of 3 of my plan to improve playability around town. Part 1 was the town map (added in late January). Part 3 will be a "Book of the Dead" in the Church that updates you with the names of people who died - so long as someone is at the Church to update it. Combined with this directory, players will have access to a suite of possible tools to aid in exploring town, all available from different citizens.
Note that the directory will only be available if you have the journal, and it won't be terribly functional at the start of the game. Only people you've met will be displayed in the directory, so if someone dies before you speak with them, they'll remain a silhouette forever.
This week we also added "Vigil" and "Music to My Ears" to the game. Last week, we talked about how "Make it Work" was added as one more path into the Wolf Cave. Well, "Music to My Ears" is one more path to the library, for many of the same reasons! Lilja's quests were feeling a little lackluster and often stalled out, so she's the perfect person to seek this long buried treasure if Mihaly is dead.
We're off to New York City's "Big Apple Con" this Sunday, sitting in the Playcrafting Booth. If you're in town, come by for swag and to play and buy the game!
See you next week!
This week I took a break from bug fixes to work on some new content for Vidar, because it's always nice to have more game to play. This week, we're ready to preview how "Make it Work" will, well, work.
This quest is designed to do a few things:
And so, if you happen to be pushing Arpad along his leadership plot, you'll have the opportunity to get "Make it Work" in two different ways. First, if you happen to have "Den of Darkness" but Etel doesn't join you in entering the Wolf Cave, Arpad will step up to join you instead. Trade a coward for an indecisive hero? I'm not sure it's any better, but it's something. Second, if you can't get either "Scared of Shadows" or "Hunting Party" (the two current paths into the Wolf Cave), then Arpad will offer the quest to you as well.
Arpad has some extra tools up his sleeve in the Wolf Cave, and can be used in ways to make the puzzle a little bit easier. People trying to avoid Etel's....lack of usefulness...might angle to try to get the quest this way instead.
"Make it Work" is one of 4 new quests we're adding in the upcoming patch, hopefully you'll find it rounds out our game a little bit more!
In addition to new quests, we've got some new mechanics cropping up in the Water Cave. Generally speaking it's been a good idea to try to "drain" each map to move forward, in order to reach levers etc. That's not a safe assumption anymore:
We'll have more previews ready for you next week!
We've had two weeks now to work on some additional tweaking of Vidar, and version 0.8.0.2 was launched this past Friday to address some additional bugs that were cropping up.
A personal favorite bug was that people were reporting they couldn't switch tools in the Dark Cave between the shovel and the lantern. Which, yes, that's what it seemed like. But the real bug was that they had managed to make it to the Dark Cave without ever picking up the lantern. The "can you switch tools?" enabler was off - because you only had one tool in inventory - but it would still seem like you had two. This has been solved! You can't go to the Dark Cave without first physically picking up the lantern. People who have already experienced the bug have had the lantern auto-added to their inventory.
Additionally, I took the opportunity to remove the last room of the Dark Cave. I saw a lot of people on streams struggling with it, and so far in my metrics have seen very few people make it out of that room (and even fewer make it out in a reasonable time). I'll be redesigning it and bringing it back as a possible variant. For now, I want to make sure people are getting to the Water Cave without getting too frustrated to keep playing. Otherwise, I'll never collect data on the second half of the game.
Finally, a lot of dialogue was written for the upcoming content patch. All of the conversations for "Make it Work", "Vigil," and "Music to My Ears" was added behind a version control system, so while it's there, it won't unlock until we reach the actual content patch.
On the docket next week is to continue progress on the content patch, as well as fixing a few additional non-progress blocking bugs. I'm also hoping to start working on improving the menus!
What a whirlwind week it's been. As I posted last week, Vidar went into Early Access on Steam this past Tuesday. Since then, there have been a lot of reviews, streams on Twitch, Youtube series, etc. and keeping track has been a bit exhausting. But in a good way!
We've also gotten plenty of bug fixes, and pushed out the first major bug fix patch this past weekend. Right now I'm trying to group as many things as I can into a hotfix, and also any changes need to now be retroactive, which is taking some time. I'll try to get out a patch this weekend of next.
Also, I've reevaluated the plan for monthly content patches. I think rather than deploying two-three quests and a few new puzzles, it would be more valuable for both the player and for me if I do less frequent, bigger content updates. This would allow me to do more thorough testing, and use those moments as a big marketing announcement. It would allow players who have set aside Vidar during Early Access (having played through it once already) to come back sink their teeth into something meaty.
So two planned patches - Blinded Me With Science and Caught In Your Web - have been combined into one. That will be releasing, along with additional features, at the beginning of April. It's a lot, so I've already started to break some ground. We'll have more on that patch in the coming weeks.
That's all for this week!