Monday, April 16, 2012

Our New Agenda For The Last Week Prior To AVWW 1.0.

The short version: we're going into bugfix, polish, and usability mode between now and about Thursday.  Then Friday I'll be getting stuff to the various distributors so that everything can be all hooked up for a release on Monday.

Then this weekend I'm going to take the weekend off (barring unforeseen catastrophic issues); it'll be my first days off, weekends or otherwise, since February 16th, aside from last Monday when my wife and I toured around Boston before coming home from PAX East.

And then next week, after our release on Monday, we'll see what happens.  Keith and I have a ton of new stuff I wanted to get in prior to 1.0, but that stuff will just have to wait until... dun dun dun... next week or the week after (gasps).

Rationale For The Shift In Focus
In some recent releases from last week, we added a few new spells and various other major new features.  Initially, my plan for this week was to keep doing the same.  However, other releases from the last week focused more on general polish, bugfixes, and improvements to usability and the new player experience.

The former is more exciting for existing players, sure.  But the latter is a lot more important to new players, and to broadening the playerbase in general.  And if we want to keep developing AVWW out over the long haul, like we have AI War, then we have to actually have a playerbase big enough to support the staff we have.

In that light, the only sensible thing to do is focus on making the experience as fun as possible for as many players as possible, and to lower the barriers to entry as much as we can without actually changing the game that the experienced players already love.  Sometimes it's something as simple as improving our support for the XBox 360 controller; other times it's something like allowing custom mappings for key items like wooden platforms or light spells.

This Happens Every Time
Whenever a big release is getting near, I always start getting worried that there isn't enough content.  Because, however much content there is, it's never as much as I've thought of.  Which is actually a good thing -- it's a sign that we didn't just wring every last shred of possible interesting ideas out of our central premise.

Well, I guess Portal 2 was actually criticized by some indies for not doing exactly that sort of wringing (which is a whole other matter).  But in our case, our style of post-release support is such that having lots of untapped potential is something we view as a good thing.  That way we can still be making lots of additions to this game three years from now, players willing, and everybody is still interested and having fun, including us.

That's how you get something like AI War 5.0, which is a game so massive at this point that I don't think any indie could have made it behind closed doors on a fixed budget before releasing it into the wild.  That's what I want to see with AVWW, years from now: I want us all to be looking back at the game in its current state and going "can you believe how small it was back then!?"

And of course, by "small" I mean that there's only about 30-50 hours of playtime required to see everything the game has on offer (after which you can still keep playing because, you know, procedural).  Compared with AI War, where it probably takes 300+ hours at this point to even see all the ships and AI personalities if you're playing full games.

So, yeah -- this happens every time.  Shortly before AI War 1.0 released, I still had another 30ish ships I'd been planning on adding before release.   Then I finally hit a point where I realized "you know what?  This came is more than large enough already for 1.0."  So I focused on this sort of polish and fixes, pushed the game out, and wound up adding most of those ships in the weeks following its release.

On That Note, We're Looking For Feedback
Both on general polish, as well as multiplayer in particular.  If there's anything that's not working quite right, now's the time to let us know!

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