Welcome to the first Developer Diary. It is really great to be able to update you on the game. Please forgive me for the delay in writing this - but at least that means there's a lot to report back on…
We were absolutely delighted by the way that the Kickstarter campaign went – on so many levels. Of course the funding is crucial. For many years the business model has made it impossible for indie developer to write original games – which is why so many have turned to ‘work for hire’, doing conversion and porting work, rather than producing original games. Publishing our own games on Apple / PC / Mac, and then Android allowed us to fund the first part of this new Broken Sword game, but then we needed to find a way to pay for the balance. Being able to do it with you, rather than through traditional routes has benefitted us enormously, and will help us deliver a better game.
But what I hadn’t anticipated was how the campaign would excite and pull together all the fans. Our message that we would be working together with you clearly struck a chord. And your comments were incredibly valuable in so many ways. From your feedback we realised that we hadn’t quite got George’s face shape right so we changed it. We responded to your concerns at the way that the characters looked against the background by writing some additional technology. We also added options to display the UI in a ‘classic’ mode so the game can be tuned to look and feel just like it did in Broken Sword I and II.
The thirty days of the campaign were exhilarating, humbling, exhausting. Thank you, once again, for your support.
One of the many initiatives that we loved seeing was the ‘Order of the Goat’. A particular thanks to Sara Patrick and Adam Legge for making and sending me an OOTG mug!
We were fortunate enough not only to reach our target, but also to achieve a number of stretch goals. These stretch goals promised that we would add new characters, new locations, and enhance the design to deliver a richer gameplay experience.
The new characters were announced in advance – Pearl and Duane, and the goat. We also promised that two characters that would bear the likeness of backers (see earlier updated for details - congratulations to Kat and Adam by the way!) These characters add new, richer gameplay, though they obviously also required a bit of a design rethink!
Another of our pledges was to create a new section in the Middle East / North Africa. This has actually inspired us to write a much more epic ending. I had been worried that the previous ending wouldn’t feel quite ‘large’ enough and I'm pleased that we've now considerably redesigned the final sections of the game.
In promising that the game would feel richer, we also decided to hold a full review and add characters / locations where we felt that they would be beneficial. For example we added an exterior street scene to the opening Gallery – with a café run by its surly owner. Plus, and I don't want to give a spoiler, we've also added a popular character from a previous Broken Sword game (not Duane, nor a goat before you start speculating!). Adding this location, and associated gameplay was valuable because it expanded that section, and made it feel more alive. Wherever possible, exterior locations should be used to complement interior locations to create visual as well as gameplay contrast.
So we went through the whole game, undertaking a full review. This has had knock on effects on the story and therefore the gameplay. We have rescheduled this and unfortunately the extra content will add to the development time. We are currently honing the last elements of the design and, until we've done that, we can't be more specific – but the delay is likely to be a few months. Several people did post that they were worried that delivering the expanded game in the specified time would compromise quality – they were wise words. But we promise that it will be worth it.
We thought you might like to see how a game screen progresses from concept to complete layout. Having mentioned the street outside the gallery, here are the stages that it went through –
Once the design is nailed, the designers create a very rough thumbnail to use as a basis for communicating the core gameplay requirements. Much discussion follows – at this stage it is easy to create many new variations. This thumbnail was drawn by Nigel – you can see why he is a designer / scripter and not an artist!
One of our layout artists (in this case Tori) then creates a guide. Once approved, this is then scanned and the scripter implements it in the game and checks all the required functionality. Again this can take quite some time – we need to be totally confident that it is right before we move on, because it becomes expensive to make changes after this stage.
Once the guide is checked and approved, the layout is then drawn in full detail. If an area is going to require a zoom then this section of the layout is drawn at a higher resolution.
Once the layout is completed, individual animations can be specified and then animated (it is only at this point that we can confidently specify exactly what is required). At the same time, the screen can be digitally painted. The artist creates multiple layers - anything that a character can walk behind needs to be drawn as a layer so that it will mask that character. Where there are parallaxing layers, they need to be drawn larger than what is immediately seen because they will obviously scroll one way or the other. How much is added to each side determines the relative speed at which they will scroll.
So, over the last month I have worked hard with the design team to re-work the story and review the design while, at the same time, they move forward with scripting. I should explain that an adventure, uniquely, requires the story and the gameplay to run in parallel since they are so intertwined. We write the outline of the story, then think about the puzzles, then update the story to work within the confines of those puzzles, then write new puzzles, then review it all over again to ensure that everything is logical.
We believe that one of the strengths of the Broken Sword games is that the puzzles are logical with the context of the character motivation at that time, and within real world constraints (although sewer keys going into pockets may be a bit far fetched).
We constantly strive to write adventure games which feel innovative in a good way, but also feel familiar. Clearly point-and-click / slide-and-tap works really well – but how can we ensure that we deliver what people love from adventure games while making them feel fresh? Amongst other things, we have started work on a camera zoom functionality. Scripters can choose, always subtly, to zoom the camera into and out of the location. This will allow us to enhance the cinematography of both cut scenes and in-game scenes.
In January I will talk more about the story, whilst avoiding giving away any major spoilers. We are also working towards a vertical slice – a small section of game that is close to complete in terms of graphics and functionality. Once we hit that we will release screenshots.
By the way - a huge apology to people who have had to wait for issues relating to the Backer Panel. We are a small team and most people have multiple jobs: Peter is the author of the Backer Panel, but he's also our Android expert. He is about to come free and will work tirelessly over the next few days to catch up. He will then complete the Backer Website which will allow you to view all updates, your panel, Tony's Blog and some other things that we aren't quite yet ready to announce. Everyone has been remarkably patient and we thank you.
We were delighted that Kelly Willoughby joined the team as our Producer just after the Kickstarter Appeal ended. She will ensure that we work efficiently, and in particular that we can work on different projects in parallel: for example we were able to complete Broken Sword II – Remastered on Android without affecting development of Broken Sword – the Serpent’s Cure. She takes on full responsibility for ensuring that things happen on time.
We are just finishing off the first digital reward – it will be sent to you before Christmas. We are pretty pleased with it – and we hope you will be too. So expect to hear back from us shortly...
In the meantime, please let us know if you have any thoughts. We value your feedback enormously. Thank you for being a part of this fantastic adventure.
Charles Cecil, Director