Author Topic: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.  (Read 9372 times)

Offline x4000

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Yesterday I said November would be the new release date, but that was met with lots of dire warnings.  Wise ones, I think.  So, here's the skinny:

I've been talking with my wife, and my mom (an excellent businesswoman), and listening to the thoughts from all of the staff individually and as a group, and thoughts from players, and just looking at how I feel about all this as well...

Here's what I come to:

1. Trying to do a release of a new game like this in 2015 is just plain going to be a shortsighted grab no matter how you cut it.  There's no scenario that really truly makes sense if you look at things in a three or four quarter window and you say "oh yeah, they totally should have released in that horrible period at the end of 2015."

2. The point about "if the game is great, it doesn't matter when you release" is somewhat taken, but I think that people do tend to overlook all the great "cult classics" that never caught on for one reason or another.  In other words, this smacks a bit to me of being over-confident.  Which I have certainly been many times, but am not really feeling in the spirit of right now. ;)

3. So, one way or another, we come down to releasing something in January 2016, best case.

4. When it comes to pushing on with Stars Beyond Reach at the moment, I am just not feeling like that is the wisest thing either.  Let's take away all other factors, and just look at money.  If we keep on with SBR and go for a release of that in January, that means that we've put ALL our eggs into the one basket of this game.  If it does poorly, then there's a big uh-oh moment.

5. But beyond just the money and eggs-in-baskets bit, I am personally just plain burned out with the game right now.  I need time to regroup and collect my thoughts and take things in a more timely manner.  I need time to work on the game without feeling constantly under the gun, and I need to not be SO emotionally invested in it.  After 14 months of just being on this game and nothing else, it starts to intertwine with my self image to a dangerous degree.  I need time to separate myself from that.

6. I do still believe very strongly in SBR, though, and I think that buying ourselves time to then work on that in early 2016 and really finish that up with a flourish rather than a grunt of exhaustion is the way to go.

7. In the meantime I am super excited about the other project, and I do believe that we can do it in the timeframe for a January release.  My goal with that will be to get it to a point where we can start selling it on our own site (and I guess Humble?) in November.  So skipping Early Access and all that jazz, and just building up a community outside of Steam, then doing a full proper Steam release in January.

Hold On A Second -- "Next Game?"
Right, so here's how it goes: we stop all work on SBR, and instead work on the next game, for full release in January.  I've been excited about this and planning it for more than half a year.  It's meant to be a project that can comfortably fit in that timeframe, with minimal amounts of the things that take us (as a company) the most time.  Interface is minimal, etc, etc.  And we have a pretty solid baseline of other games in the market that we can model on, unlike with some of our other titles.  It's a much less risky project because it's not so darn novel, but nonetheless still scratches an itch for me that I don't get scratched by anything else that's out there.

During that period, whenever there are some dead periods, if there are, then work can be done in spots on SBR.  But otherwise, mainly we just put it on ice until after this next game comes out, then resume working on it again after the next game is out.  At that point we're looking at a March release for SBR, but we've put out another game in the midst of that.  Then if the SBR release needs to slip AGAIN, we'd be in a better financial situation to weather that.  SBR is just a larger beast than I'd anticipated, and handling it properly is important to me.

I have hesitated on this because I worry about the "grass is always greener" effect when thinking about this other game we're going to be doing in the interim.  That said, there is a clear model of other games that do this same sort of thing for the next game, whereas that is not the case with SBR.  And there's been a massive market appeal for the other kind of game, too.  And we have a lot of code just sitting around that does exactly what we want in that realm, too.  So we're in much safer territory on a whole lot of fronts there.  Is there still a risk of schedule slippage on that game?  Of course.  But it's a much lower sort of risk than with SBR.

Overall I think that this is the plan that will be the safest for the company financially, which gets you another great game in the meantime, and which will let SBR have the funding to truly live up to its potential.  I hate walking away from a project even temporarily, but this is one of those times I'm super glad that we didn't do a kickstarter or sell preorders or whatever.  You guys would be pretty pissed at me right about now.  As it stands, hopefully this is something that instead is ultimately a positive message, even if delays are never something one exactly looks forward to.

Any questions, please do let me know.
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2015, 05:14:13 PM »
Well nuts.  :'(

Would this other project be Life at the End of the Universe or something else?

Offline crazyroosterman

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2015, 05:15:16 PM »
well I certainly wasn't expecting this over all this was probably for the best though.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 07:39:59 PM by crazyroosterman »
c.r

Offline mattymuc

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2015, 05:16:56 PM »
Oh :( No testing this weekend  :(
But it was a good decision to not release the game in november!

And I am excited about the other game :-)
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 05:29:04 PM by mattymuc »

Offline Castruccio

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2015, 05:18:51 PM »
Wow.  This is huge, and courageous.  So the new game may hit alpha next month, but will only be sold through your site and not the early access program on Steam.  So you will be doing things like we used to do them around here (with light of the spire and valley 1) where we buy the game early and you push updates through the arcen updater?

I have no idea how this will turn out as a business decision, but I bet the players will all do all we can to make the new game great.  And I am still very much looking forward so SBR.

  Good luck!  Can't wait to help when the time comes. 

Offline Aklyon

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2015, 05:31:22 PM »
I was gonig to ask if you could afford to do that, but then half the post is about why, likely, you would be able to later. And neither of those dates are February where xcom2 is showing up in, which is probably good.

Offline Bambusek

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2015, 05:45:38 PM »
I was gonig to ask if you could afford to do that, but then half the post is about why, likely, you would be able to later. And neither of those dates are February where xcom2 is showing up in, which is probably good.

Yeah, now lets hope that Sega does not decide that March is a great time for TW: Warhammer release.

Well, avoiding the craziness that will be November is a good thing.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 05:50:40 PM by Bambusek »

Offline Tridus

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2015, 05:50:18 PM »
This is both surprising and not surprising at the same time. It was showing in some ways that SBR was a difficult project, and having been pushed back into November's gauntlet, trying to push through was probably not a great idea.

Big decision, but it sounds like a good plan. :)

Offline Bambusek

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2015, 06:35:48 PM »
There is a polish game studio called Wastelands Interactive. They expertise were a niche turn based strategy games, usually in world war II setting.  They were really good at it. Then they decided to make a spiritual successor to Master of Magic. It was the biggest project for them and they even went Early Access. The result is a disaster called Worlds of Magic that was "released" on March, but even now need serious patching. So if Stars Beyond Reach are the most ambitious project for Arcen it is for the best to put it in a freezer for some time and release polished in more calm period than try to rush it because of finances and get crushed by crazy competition on November.

Offline tuigirl

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2015, 06:59:41 PM »
I fully agree with the decision. You really had me worried with the November date yesterday.
This way SBR can be made into something great and you can look at it fresh after you take a break from it.
Thumbs up.

Offline Rythe

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2015, 07:17:20 PM »
I approve.

Offline x4000

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2015, 08:10:11 PM »
Well nuts.  :'(

Yeah, ditto.  Just delayed, though, not dead!

Would this other project be Life at the End of the Universe or something else?

Yep!  Although that will undergo another name change.  And the description of it is pretty incorrect now, too.  But I'm very excited about it, and it will be refreshing to work on something smaller and different for a while.

Oh :( No testing this weekend  :(
But it was a good decision to not release the game in november!

And I am excited about the other game :-)

Thank you!

Wow.  This is huge, and courageous.

I really appreciate it. :)

So the new game may hit alpha next month, but will only be sold through your site and not the early access program on Steam.  So you will be doing things like we used to do them around here (with light of the spire and valley 1) where we buy the game early and you push updates through the arcen updater?

Yep, exactly!  It was never the case that we completely gave up on that model, although I can see why one would think that.  Keith has his own ways that he prefers to run his betas for the AI War expansions, which I respect.  And with the other things that we have done in a more closed fashion on Steam, a lot of that has just come down to the nature of the game and what I felt like I'd need in terms of feedback.  And/or what sort of volume of feedback I felt like I could take on.

This new game is more mechanics-focused in a lot of respects, versus having lots of huge interlocking systems (being systems-focused), and that has a big impact on my willingness to get a lot of feedback early.  Hating some mechanic is cool with me, because it doesn't mean a cascading failure of lots of systems.  With something like SBR, a failure in the economic system can bring down the whole game, by contrast.

I have no idea how this will turn out as a business decision,

I don't either, but I think that I can safely look at it and say that it is the least bad decision out of the ones available.  I highly doubt I will regret this specific decision.  It's entirely likely I will regret other decisions that I have recently made or will soon make, regarding either SBR or the new game, but the decision about dates and game shifts is hopefully not one of them, heh.

(Oh, don't say that Chris -- you're just tempting fate now.)

but I bet the players will all do all we can to make the new game great.  And I am still very much looking forward so SBR.

  Good luck!  Can't wait to help when the time comes.

I really, really appreciate it. :)

I was gonig to ask if you could afford to do that, but then half the post is about why, likely, you would be able to later. And neither of those dates are February where xcom2 is showing up in, which is probably good.

It will potentially involve taking on about $30k to $50k of debt, depending on how Steam sales and whatnot go in the next few months.  Or it might be as positive as having almost no debt and almost no cash, in the best of the likely cases.  I tend to plan around the worst of the likely cases, as a way of helping errors not be disasters.  But anyway, financially we've been through far worse before.

The thing I don't like about this is that it removes a lot of safety nets, and does potentially add that debt, and so if this interim game bombs in January then we are well and truly hosed.  But I mean, what company can afford to put out lots of games that bomb and not be hosed?  Most large game studios are one game failure away from closure.  Thankfully we've weathered multiple game failures without closing, despite them causing layoffs (blaaah).

It's a tough business for sure.

Yeah, now lets hope that Sega does not decide that March is a great time for TW: Warhammer release.

Well, avoiding the craziness that will be November is a good thing.

Oof, yeah, I didn't even know that one.  When is their current slated release?  Anyhow, that's certainly less threatening than the lineup of November, so I'll take that over the other.  The overall cash availability that customers have should be better then when the AAA glut isn't full-swing, too.  In theory if the interim game does well, we might have more flexibility to finish SBR in March but sit on it until April or May if the market is hostile with things like Warhammer in March.  Meanwhile working on an expansion to AI War or the interim game or who knows what.

I'm not saying I would want to do that, but the flexibility goes a lot higher in that time period is all I mean.

This is both surprising and not surprising at the same time. It was showing in some ways that SBR was a difficult project, and having been pushed back into November's gauntlet, trying to push through was probably not a great idea.

Big decision, but it sounds like a good plan. :)

I appreciate it.  This turned out to be about double the budget and complexity that I expected.  I'm not sure why I thought I could be so clever in simplifying a 4X and citybuilder hybrid, but there's hubris for you.  I feel like it's going well at this point, but we needed to hit this point a few months ago, not now.  And you guys are still finding various systems that have things wrong with them or that lack fun in some fashion, and that concerns me greatly.  I want to have proper time to address that sort of thing, versus having to go "well the other parts are good, and they can just live with that one bit, oh well."  Blah to that!

There is a polish game studio called Wastelands Interactive. They expertise were a niche turn based strategy games, usually in world war II setting.  They were really good at it. Then they decided to make a spiritual successor to Master of Magic. It was the biggest project for them and they even went Early Access. The result is a disaster called Worlds of Magic that was "released" on March, but even now need serious patching. So if Stars Beyond Reach are the most ambitious project for Arcen it is for the best to put it in a freezer for some time and release polished in more calm period than try to rush it because of finances and get crushed by crazy competition on November.

Yikes!  That is definitely the sort of story I wouldn't want to have, yeah.  Then you are in an incredibly terrible spot.  What do you do then, if the game is not selling, but is also kind of broken?  Do you keep working on it, and lose even more money?  (In the past when we had some issues with a project, I chose this).  Or do you walk away from it because you have to, and then everyone calls you a crook and you kind of feel like one?  That whole situation just has no upside, and there's really no escape from it once you start selling something like that.

Whew.  Yeah, that is something I wholeheartedly want to avoid.  But even more than that, I honestly think this game could be huge, a real watershed for Arcen, if I can just get some things figured out.  It does a lot of stuff no other game does, and if all the kinks can get worked out of that, I think that could be really a special thing.  I'd hate for that to get all thrown away and turn into the other kind of story.

I fully agree with the decision. You really had me worried with the November date yesterday.
This way SBR can be made into something great and you can look at it fresh after you take a break from it.
Thumbs up.

Thank you. :)

I approve.

As a huge tester lately, I definitely am glad to hear that.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2015, 08:30:31 PM »
well I certainly wasn't expecting this 1 does stopping work on this game(temporarily) involve bugs? I presume it would be but I'm just curious since it seems to me that there a fairly straight forward thing to deal with

It's not really bugs, no, although that certainly is a factor.  There are more than I'd like right now, and since we are still changing the codebase I can't really say how many there are until we stop adding them, heh.  Having proper time to test is a big thing.

It's honestly a lot more about systems design and balance.  With the various game systems, are they as fun as they can be?  As clear?  Are there some that need yet more rejiggering because of how annoying popups continuously appearing is?  Should international abilities be direct-use, for instance?  Or is that simply a case of them needing to somehow display in a way that doesn't spam your sidebar?

That's just one example.  But for another, how about the economy stuff?  I'm fairly well versed in that sort of thing from past experience with strategy games, and getting that balanced is not a quick job.  The 10,000th player sometimes finds something really off with them that nobody else did.  But right now lots of people are exploiting the economy.

There are a variety of solutions that I can think of, some of them very straightforward.  However, they increase the fiddle-factor a lot.  They encourage players to fiddle with the dials to optimize things.  We went through that with various mechanics in AI War for quite some time.  In many games, a lot of 4X games in fact, they introduce AI governors to handle that sort of fiddling for you.

To me... I don't know.  I'm against that.  I think if you're getting into AI governors, something else is maybe wrong.  Not for sure, and maybe I'll eat my words and wind up coding something like that.  But I don't like it.  If there's an aspect of the game that should "play itself" in order for me to have fun, that just feels icky.  So rather than going with the simpler solution and just doing what other 4X titles have more commonly done, I've been trying other things.  With varied success.  In other past games we have solved some of those problems in certain contexts.  I want to have time here to truly solve that in this context so that people can be happy with the economy and not exploit it, but we don't have any sort of system where the game is playing for you.

2 could I help with the testing for this game as well? (if this is lateotu were talking about) I wouldn't be much help in turns of insight really since I don't really play that .type. of game but id be more than happy to bug hunt I've discovered testing stars that I really rather enjoy bug hunting.

Of course!  When we get to that point.

3 are you sure its as straight forward as think its going to be? I vaguely remember we had a set deadline when I first started testing stars but we know how that turned out don't we.

I lack the arrogance at this point to say that I'm sure of that.  If you asked me a year ago, I would have confidently told you yes. ;)  But at this point...?

In all honesty I do feel like it is what I think it is.  I've done enough of this exact sort of game before that I know what it is, from top to bottom.  I'm not inventing a new genre.  There are also multiple other games on the market now that do a lot of what I want, but not fully everything, and so I can pull ideas from them and add the things I thought were missing.  In many respects this is what AI War did.

SBR and TLF and some of our other titles were really challenging ones because they try to break really novel ground.  And I absolutely love doing that.  But sometimes it's also really fun to just take a specific idea and really try to run with it as well as you can and do some stuff that people don't even know they're missing.  I feel like the AI War expansions all fit that sort of description if you compare them to vanilla AI War, and Tidalis was largely that way for that small portion of the market that noticed it at all.  Bionic had aspects of that, although we made a key mistake of having two cooks and a design that got more ambitious partway through the project.  It mostly worked out, and I'm proud of the game, but we had far less understanding of what we were going to make before starting that game than before starting this one.

Actually, that's an important thing to note: I have far, far more detailed of an idea of what this game is going to be like than I have any other project in the past.  So there is that going for us.  ;D

4 just out of curiosity besides what you mentioned about being burnt out is there any particular reason you choose not to go with the idea of putting it into early access?

Well, "you only get one release on Steam."

Downsides as expressed by one of our staff:  Loss of revenue because we never get a full "launch period" and from negative EA reviews (the current state of the game is extremely rough fun-wise), flood of people who don't realize (or don't care) they're playing pinata with the developer. Probably not being able to actually do the 1.0 release in November or even December anyway, for the same reason as without a EA period.

Or as another staff member put it: I'd say the landscape has changed dramatically since Valve launched the service. There have been enough false promises and abandoned projects in the space, that most are super wary about putting money toward an Early Access project -- unless it's something that really, really speaks to them. Another question to ask: Is SBR suited for Early Access? Many space/sci-fi games apparently are, but that might not be the case with SBR. Then again, it might be, but I feel like it's way more likely for a given game to find its audience at 1.0 over Early Access at this point.  I'm not against Early Access entirely -- I think it could be an integral part of the process, but I do worry about the idea of making Early Access SBR's coming-out party.

I had my own lengthy thoughts about it as well, but I'm not sure where I put them.  The other two expressed it really well, though, and it was basically my fears also.
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Offline Bambusek

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2015, 08:39:31 PM »
Oof, yeah, I didn't even know that one.  When is their current slated release? 

Still 2016 only, nothing more specific, not even what quarter of next year. So I think it is unlikely they will go for Q1, especially that after Rome 2 disaster both Sega and CA reputation suffered and it reflected on Attilla sale. I believe this time they will take as much time as needed to avoid another broken release, but Shogun 2 was released on March, so it is always a possibility.

Offline x4000

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Re: Whoa, this game is coming out in 2016 now? Well, it's for the best.
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2015, 08:43:35 PM »
Yeah, March is the new "second Christmas season" for games these days.  Hopefully not for them, and they go for another E3 cycle, though.
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