So for those who have been following us, you may have noticed our dev blog update posts have become fewer and more far-between over the past year. This is partly because we were working so hard on development and trying to finish the game that we aren't scheduling time to make posts, and partly because as we get closer, we were worried about spoiling any parts of the game trying to look for things to post.
A New Calendar for Posting Online
Marketing an indie game is pretty tough, and we've read a lot of post-mortems on what other indie devs have tried. Some were successful, others were not. We hope to be in the "successful" list as we inch closer to our release. That means spending more time on engaging with you guys, our readers, while also maintaining a constant flow of energy and work on the actual game itself.
In the spirit of being transparent, here are some things we just want to say:
1. A Full Build!
- We have recently made a full build of the game, which we have had close friends and family members play from beginning to end. This means that pretty soon (probably within the next 2 months) we will be going into our Private Beta phase, where we will have our Kickstarter backers who backed for the beta get to play the game and give us their feedback.
- This is an exciting and scary time, since we will be allowing people we don't know at all, and can't watch over have access to the game in the state it is in. As a developer, it's a tough thing to trust in other people to not share your work on YouTube or anything else like that before it is completed, since there is always that risk, even with NDAs. We haven't spent all this time trying to make it amazing to then have it be shared before it's ready. However, the exciting part will be gaining new perspectives on the overall feel and structure of the game that are not friends or family, or people at conventions who we can meet and watch play.
- While having a full build of the game is super exciting, it doesn't at all mean that it's done. We have 4 sections of levels that still need quite a bit of work, including the final level, along with a bunch of polish work that needs to be done.
- This polish work includes things like making sure the materials on objects are seamless (so that unsightly seams don't break the immersion), adding sound effects for everything, general bug fixes, testing all of the collision, vertex painting models all over the levels to mask repetition in textures, adding particle effects to EVERYTHING BECAUSE THEY ARE AWESOME, and making sure that the story flows and makes sense now that the pieces are in place.
3. The Game Maker's Path
- For us, making this game was never a perfectly set path with steps to follow to completion.
- We've learned and grown a ton as we've made more and more advancements in overall game design, as well as both visual and written narrative. Everything we do is basically learned from what we can find online - tutorials, picking apart how other people made things, and making our own tools to aid in development.
4. Visual Look and Style
- Our style has changed bit by bit over the past 3 years of development. I made a graphic showcasing this change about a year and a half ago, and now I'll show you where we are today.
- This change has a lot to do with the new technologies for rendering things that are being made on a daily basis, as well as our own growth and knowledge. John is our main Tech Art guy, among many other things, and he is always trying to make sure the visual quality of the game is where we want it. Sometimes it's tough to keep up with the times, since the longer it has taken us to make this game, the better graphics have become. Our goal is to have XING be a beautiful, immersive and modern-looking game the day it comes out.
5. Company Face
- Every company has a face that it shows to the world, and ours has been no different. Some people might be annoyed at the PR and Marketing agenda that lies behind the face of all these companies, because very few companies show "who" they really are. Of course, it makes sense not to give away everything you are doing at your company, as a lot of things are under contract not to talk about. However, we want to be different.
- The three of us - John, James and I - all want the world to know who we are and what we really think. The three of us make up White Lotus Interactive, and so far I don't think we've done the best job at showing our true characters. That's why each of us will take turns writing these dev blogs, in the hopes that you will see the different "faces" of us, and how we work together.
- How do we work together? On Google Hangouts, 6 days a week. 11am to 11pm Pacific time. Some days with bigger deadlines run longer, of course, but we mainly stick to that schedule.
- We try to examine all the possibilities and solutions to issues, especially when we don't all agree. Sometimes we have to just sit down and discuss what we each think are the most important things to be working on, and how we each think any part of the game feels at any given time. Since we are all equals in making this game, nothing big really gets decided on until the 3 of us can come to an agreement on it. This differentiates us from most studios, with a set structure for leaders.
- For us, we are all 3 leaders, and all 3 followers. In the hopes of making a better, more well-rounded game, we will hold discussions on issues ranging from color choice (mostly my area) to how we should best integrate Virtual Reality for motion controllers or locomotion. Yeah, that's been a big one. (We were glad our solutions we presented in our last post [link] pleased almost everyone who commented. That took a WHILE to decide on.)
- Since starting the game in college, the 3 of us have worked our butts off making this game. We pour our heart and souls into making it everything we envision.
- We each still live at home with our parents, while most of our friends have already moved out and taken jobs at larger companies. Our situation has added some strain on our families. I'm currently 25 years old, and it's both wonderful and frustrating to be still living at home. Wonderful because my parents still take care of me, while I pay a small rent with my bills each month; frustrating because I really want to be out my own, with my own place, my own food and my own curfew ><.
- Money has been a challenge for us, but fortunately we were able to get 2 company loans earlier this year that are making it possible for us to continue working as we do.
7. The Future After XING
- It's hard to talk about the future, when we aren't sure what it will hold for us. Whether XING: The Land Beyond is successful or not is obviously a large factor for the 3 of us. And by "successful", I mean allows each of us some mobility after launch. We want to touch as many people as we can with our game, but I would also like to move out of my parent’s house and maybe even have an actual office instead of my bedroom. That would be nice. So while we plan to offer support in the form of patches and bug fixes post-launch, we can’t speak too much about our plans after XING releases.
- If people end up liking, or even loving what we've done, and we can make a living on continuing to make games, that will be success.