Content Update, PAX East & Vertical Slice Early Access
In today's (big) update, we will cover three things: The new content that has been added into the game since our last post, our trip to Boston for PAX East and our new plan for the Beta version of the first episode!
Unsurprinsingly, we have been really busy over the past few months working on Kôna (duh!).
What's New in Kôna?
Among other less important things, we have been working on the following features:
An inventory sytem
This is what our basic implementation of the inventory system looks like.
It is shaped like a ring to make it easier to use with a controller. For keyboard/mouse player, it is still as easy to use as a grid-shaped inventory. The whole circle represents the space you have to hold items, while another (TBD) indicator will indicate the weight of each object.
The center shows a preview of the item that you can rotate to inspect it. It is still really early in development, but we are confident that in the end it will be great and intuitive :) The next steps for this one include:
- Reducing and uniformizing the size of each slice.
- Adding some kind of Weight vs. Size tracking
- Improving its look and feel.
- Stacking items such as bullets, medecine, etc. It is already supported, but not shown.
- And MUCH MORE
English voice overs
We searched for and finally found a voice actor that tell the story the way we want in English. His name is Forrest Rainier and his voice is awesome. We still plan on having the option to play the game in its original langage if you want to :) (with or without subtitles).
As described in this lenghty post on the User Interface, we now display some information on a surface near the object you interact with. We don't want to have voices all the time, especially when the only think that you have to know is: It's locked.
Interaction and objects iconography
Since the beginning of the project, I (Alex) handled everything called UI and graphic design. At some point, it became clear to me that if I wanted a beautiful, polished set of icons for interactions, I had to work more than a few hours here and there.
I decided to outsource the work to someone who could focus 100% on the game iconography. So I hired Ariane Petitclerc to do the job. As you can see, the result is quite satisfying and in all honesty, I wouldn't have done a better job.
These icons display in the inventory. There will be more of them :)
These icons display on top of objects and allows the player to understand what will happen if he press the action button.
At PAX East we had a basic implementation of wolves into the game. Since we do not have a full-time animator (yet!), the end result was pretty stiff. Still, the wolves successfully augmented the impression of this world being truly alive. The player can deal with them in many ways:
- By feeding them so they don't want to eat you.
- By scaring them with loud noises so they will run away from you.
- By hurting/killing them.
The goal is to give you the flexibility of dealing with encounters the way you think its best. You can clear the whole episode without killing, but to achieve this you'll have to be super-careful with how you spend your resources and how you move.
About a month ago we went to PAX East with almost no expectation. Our goal was to have many people play the game and to see how other devs were setting up their booths. We are working on a solid marketing plan for the game release and wanted to "feel the PAX" before planning the post-launch push.
The crowd was amazingly receptive. People stayed at our booth for an average time of 10 minutes. People asked a lot of questions and were genuinely interested in knowing more about the game. We know that approximately 500 people played the game while more than a thousand people watched it being played.
Our main issue with our presence at PAX was our booth. We planned to go there with one screen and one Oculus setup, but we were so tired and exhausted when we left Quebec City that we forgot one computer at our studio. We ended up having only one slightly too small screen with no headphones, and no Oculus.
We also brought our roll up banner, but did not know that the most important banner to have at PAX is the one that you hang on top of the curtain.
We spent way too much time creating the build and not enough time creating things for out booth. We only had business cards. We gave approximately 1000 of them, but they were pratically useless. We wanted to have "50% off" cards, but couldn't find the time to design them.
Up North Indies
One of the thing that worked well was that we went to PAX with a bunch of other Canadian developers. The group was called Up North Indies and even had its own logo and Facebook page. We plan on convincing other Canadian developers to join us and on improving the concept for upcoming events! If you're interested in knowing more about the games made in Canada, follow the group on Facebook or check our Facebook photo album for an overview of the other studios!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it was awesome, but we were not prepared. We went there to stalk other developers and starting from there, define a rock solid plan for the future :) Next time we will have three or four chairs with headphones and will let people immerse themselves in the world of Kôna. The booth will also look like a room from the 1970s, more on that later!
Vertical Slice Early Access
When we first looked at Early Access last year, we did not believe it was a good fit for Kôna. Our initial opinion on the subject was that the game is heavy in narrative and put a lot of emphasis on the atmosphere and story.
Kôna is still an open world with many survival elements. At first, we planned on having its Beta played by people "behind closed door" here in our studio. This is the classic approach to game development: You test the game internally and release it once its 100% done, at full price.
What if we could release a spoiler-free chunk of Kôna, at a discounted price (free for our backers) and ask for feedback and bug reports in return?
This approach would allow us to pinpoint issues that could have partially destroyed our official launch and fix them before release. It also gives people the opportunity to get involved in the game development by suggesting improvements and changes to the game mechanics.
More benefits than disadvantages, for everyone.
We believe that even a narrative experience like Kôna can benefit from listening to the community.
We can read the feedback and improve the game mechanics. In return, people can save some bucks and play parts of the game earlier in time.
By parts, we mean:
- Surviving in the north (body temperature/wound management)
- Exploring a huge forest on a snowmobile and on foot
- Fighting/dealing with wolves
- Exploring lumberjack houses and other areas filled with 1970-themed objects you can interact with.
- Taking pictures of side-story evidences in order to reconstruct crime scene(s) or other event(s).
All of this in a spoiler-free, controlled area we call: The Lost Woods.
The Lost Woods
The Lost Woods is basically the most survival, open and feature-complete area of the first episode.
Approximetaly halfway through the first episode, there is large forest you have to cross to reach an important location of the experience. At this point, you have your journal, your camera, some kind of weapons, the snowmobile and some resources.
This is also the moment when the night starts to fall gradually. This is basically the most survival and feature-complete area of the episode. This is the vertical slice of episode one and it happens to be spoiler-free. We think there is approximately thirty minutes of meaningful content there and many ways to expand it through updates, without spoiling the story.
Early access for everyone in July
This July, we plan on releasing The Lost Woods on Early Access. From that point, we will gather (your) feedback and release updates on a regular basis until the full story-driven experience launches somewhere in late September, early October. This is not the same approach as other survival games, as we do not intend to stay on Early Access for more than 3 months. This is simply a way of converging the community toward Steam and see if there are major issues before telling our story the way its meant to be told. We are not EA or Activision after all, we need you in order to succeed in shipping Kôna.
What happens to those who paid for Beta access?
To those 10 backers who paid for beta access and Hangout sessions: We will contact you during the summer with many options. Options can include additionnal Steam keys, T-Shirts or other things. We will figure this out soon enough. We believe the game will be better in the end if more people get involved and we hope you will understand our position on this.
Questions? Comments? Threats?
We know it was a TL:DR update :)