《打字編年史》(Epistory)內容製作開發過程回顧

本文原作者:Urbain Bruno 譯者:ciel chen

《打字編年史》是一款打字冒險遊戲,由Unity 3d遊戲引擎開發製作,發行於2016年3月30日。這款遊戲自發行起便受到評論家和玩家的一致好評,此外該遊戲銷量已超過10萬(包括捆綁包)。

這是一個震撼人心的旅程!在這篇回顧文章裏,我們會試着將這個我們瞭解並熱愛的遊戲開發過程——從遊戲原型一直到遊戲發行——整個呈現給你們。我們也會聊聊製作這樣一個遊戲我們做了多大的努力,儘管《打字編年史》不是一個AAA級大型遊戲。但我們會分享我們一些成功、失敗和錯失機遇的歷程。

我們試過很多種收藏圖片的美術風格。這是第一種版本,沒有出現在遊戲中。

fire dungeon car watercolor(from gamasutra.com)

fire dungeon car watercolor(from gamasutra.com)

那段時光既是最美好的也是最糟糕的

在遊戲開發中,最重要的事情就是識別和排除風險。想嘗試最大膽最有特色的東西,你就得儘可能快地進行測試,因爲你不會願意在晚到來不及的時候還有一個討人厭的驚喜來找你。在一個冒險型打字遊戲中,因爲我們不知道打字遊戲機制是如何運作的:所以很早就做出了一個可玩的遊戲原型。我們的首要目標是測試遊戲機制與各個項目的交互情況,處理人物移動方式(當時是拼接的),以及探索、解密和競技場戰鬥要如何結合。

遊戲開發在早期是最好美好的時光,因爲所有的機會都對你敞開,而且你可以嘗試很多有趣的東西。但是同樣那也是最糟糕的時光,因爲你嘗試的大部分內容都沒有你想象中那麼有趣。你會對遊戲充滿了樂觀主義精神的同時又抱着懷疑的態度。

你可以看到我們的一開始做的遊戲原型,但是那真的只是個準系統,裏面沒有任何美工內容(它是用Construct 2引擎製作的)。從那以後,就得從頭重新開始開發了,我們使用了不同的遊戲引擎(Unity 3D),不過這個時候我們已經有了從原型那裏得來的經驗了。

當原型構造階段結束後,我們的下一個目標就是着手定下這個打字遊戲的類型,我們主要集中的想法還是做短回合制的街機類遊戲。我們放棄了8個現成的巨型地下城和主地圖,將目標鎖定在了18個小地下城地圖上。

我們作爲一個相對小的遊戲工作室,爲了冒這個險,得先解決可用資金的問題。我們一開始的預算大概是12.5萬歐元,但是最後我們需要30萬歐元,我們之後會解釋這當中的各種原因和經過。這是3.5個人一年半的費用。

第二款美工風格。沒有出現在遊戲中。

fire_dungeon_clr(from gamasutra.com)

fire_dungeon_clr(from gamasutra.com)

然後她騎在了一隻大狐狸的背上

從有了第一個故事的想法開始,我們就希望能將打字的機制和寫書的過程結合起來。於是我們開始一段遐想:我們希望玩家通過在這個夢幻世界的打字之旅,能在這個體現了作家內心世界的幻境中感受到作家的靈感源泉。正如遊戲成品呈現的那樣,在一開始,這個世界是空曠的,沒有故事的,所以有很長一段時間我們把這個項目叫做《沒有故事的女主角》(The Heroine of no Tale)。有個挺好玩的事情是:我們之前還曾經用過這個標題的縮寫字母“THONT”來叫它,而且就算我們已經把它取名爲Epistory之後還是用它用了很長一段時間。現在我們都叫它的小名“Epi”了。

如果你試玩過遊戲原型版本,你會注意到女孩在行走的時候附近並沒有什麼狐狸。這隻三尾大狐狸是以日本神話中的九尾狐爲原型創造的,它的手工風格看上去很不錯。但是它的真正存在原因是我們需要給這個女孩一個坐騎,所以我們可以讓移動速度的增加變符合現實而不需要對這個世界規模作出改變。

我們工作室有一隻巨型手工紙質狐狸!

paper_fox_crop(from gamasutra.com)

paper_fox_crop(from gamasutra.com)

在開發的起初,我們決定讓《Epistory》成爲項目運作新方法的試驗品。所以我們沒有項目管理人來做整個項目的監督,我們整個團隊就是自己的管理者,不過我們有一個Fishing Cactus的主管來充當我們的客戶/製作人。那個時候,我們一個團隊就三個開發人員——一個遊戲設計、一個程序員還有一個3D美工。每個人都是另外兩個人的管理人,負責任務清單的更新、落實質量保證等等內容。

當然了,當這個項目一開始的時候,我們沒有馬上意識到這樣一種組織意味着什麼。總而言之,要做的事情真的很多!在遊戲世界裏還沒有一個移動的人物的時候,創建一個任務清單好像沒什麼意義。隨着時間發展,我們彼此之間逐漸有組織地把各個任務分派給經常爲之做出處理的管理人。我們當中,有一個主要負責與外界(本地化和音頻)的溝通,而另外一個就主要負責任務清單的完成對進度和截止日期的密切關注。在開發的末尾幾個月,我們三人會花小几個小時來給任務清單和估計剩餘時間做完整更新,這樣可以確保我們前進的軌道依舊在預算內。

總而言之,我們認爲這樣的方法是可行的。是還有進步的空間沒錯,不過作爲第一次試驗,沒有出現“火車事故”已經挺好了

第一個控制系統是從遊戲原始模型那裏繼承過來的——屬於拼接類型並且靠DFJK鍵來移動。我們對這種運作方式感到疲憊:因爲那太慢了太笨拙了。我們很快改成了導航網格(navmesh-based)的行動方式,這樣就給了玩家移動的自由。這樣以後好多了:我們解謎的速度快了,也有了更好地探險體驗。不過還有一些東西還是困擾着我們。

我們爲什麼用DFJK鍵而不是像其他遊戲的WASD鍵呢?這是我們收到來自每個當時測試過我們遊戲的人的疑問(就是在發行了以後也還是有很多人這麼問!)。答案是我們不希望玩家養成不好的打字習慣,因爲你在打字的時候是習慣這樣的手勢的。所以我們希望把控制鍵放在中間的字母上,這樣你的手指就會自然地放在典型的打字位置上。不過基本方向控制鍵放在同一行字母鍵上確實很讓人混亂。

所以我們就開始尋找更直觀的控制鍵,同時又要保持好的打字姿勢。在我們內部反覆測試過各種古怪的控制鍵組合後(比如用八個建來控制八個方向之類的),我們決定使用EFJI鍵(加上在廣泛的要求下,我們增加了WASD)。這樣就保持跟默認的輸入位置接近並且讓每個對角方向有了對應鍵(因爲我們採用的是等距視圖,所以這樣操作起來更自然)。這個組合最後通過了我們的“直觀性”測試:能在地圖上繞圈圈而且不用看鍵盤,這意味着你可以在在八個方向上自然地進行切換。

在我們開發的起初幾個月,我們從自己工作室內部和外部的玩家那裏都看到了對這個項目無限可能性的很大熱情。一開始,我們不知道公衆是否對這樣一款打字遊戲有所訴求,所以我們開始的時候真的很謹慎。後來我們蜻蜓點水地展示了一下這個遊戲以後,我們知道了——我們能夠做出讓玩家感興趣的遊戲來。除那以外,Fishing Cactus工作室的第一款獨立遊戲爲工作室形象畫上了成功的一筆。

爲此我們自信心倍增,決定在這個項目上投入更多的資源、大量增加預算。一款本來應該是小型的街機遊戲,現在將以更深入故事歷程爲特色,成爲一款整體規模更大的遊戲。這款遊戲本來就有一個優勢:我們早先已經爲即將來臨的Gamecorn做好了一個遊戲短demo,我們已經在遊戲玩法方面領先了一步。

我們小說創作中的第一個襲擊只是作爲一種概念性的證據而存在而非真正故事內容的一部分。遊戲一開始的隕石墜落是唯一在遊戲成品中存留下來的內容。很顯然,相關文本都已經改動過了。

我們試圖自己來編這個故事但是很快地我們明白:a)我們沒有這方面技能的天賦;b)我們光是做這個遊戲就已經非常忙了。於是我們請求作家們來信爲我們的遊戲故事構造一個框架。我們收到很多答覆:作品有的是搞笑的,有的是有點叫人坐立不安的,然而其中有一份作品讓我們爲之一振,讓我們相信這就是我們遊戲需要的故事。

敘述者尋找着一種靈感,一種能讓故事有更深入的發展,還能讓不同層次的讀者接受的靈感。我們爲了給玩家一些提示,利用不同的字體和聲音。你可以點這裏讀讀有關這個故事的內容,別怕沒有劇透。

隨着故事就位以後,我們開始搜尋聲音。我們需要一個聲音能表達出這個故事該有的情感。很奇怪的是,我們收到了很多類似商業電臺的音頻樣本。其實它們本身都還不錯,不過離我們想要的還有一段距離。最終,我們找到了她——Rachael Maesser!她有過很多的遊戲配音的經驗,而她的聲音正是Epistory需要的。

接下來要邁出的一大步是根據新的故事內容重新寫遊戲介紹以及完成第一個地下城地圖。我們的目標是將遊戲最初的高質量延續到最後,也可以說就像做一個大型vertical slice那樣。

通常來說,vertical slice(或者縮寫爲VSD的vertical slice demo)是遊戲早期demo,主要是爲了展示遊戲的最佳運行狀態。它爲最終視覺質量和遊戲體驗設立了目標,不過這隻針對遊戲的一小部分來說的。你可以想象成我們做出了遊戲成品,然後隨便截下的一小段都可以拿出來當vertical slice這樣。

最後,終於到了這一天。2015年9月30日,我們發行了Epistory搶先體驗版,讓玩家體驗故事的第一章節(8個地下城中的2個地圖)。遊戲搶先版跟迷你版相似:在完整版中體驗的輕鬆樂趣在搶先版也能體驗到,不過跟完整版比起來,搶先版吸引的玩家會比較少就是了。不過由於遊戲沒完成,你得跟什麼都沒發生一樣回頭繼續做遊戲。

好吧,實際上不會這樣的,因爲當你第二天醒來的時候,你會收到很多遊戲漏洞和特色的反饋。不過大部分是關於漏洞就是了。也就是說我們有更多的事情要做了——而且要儘快,因爲你在做遊戲的時間裏,看到這個遊戲的新玩家會越來越多。雖然這些反饋會讓人產生壓力,不過這些都是我們別想從工作室內測中得到的寶貴反饋。所以呢,感謝願意花時間給我們寫評論和反饋的所有人,謝謝你們。

遊戲的早期核心玩家組幫助我們遊戲打響了知名度。我們發行搶先體驗版就是爲了這個:我們希望在遊戲正式發行之前組建一個以該遊戲爲中心的玩家羣體。我們有Steam上的評論、社交網絡上的分享、媒體覆蓋、以及口頭宣傳。畢竟你作爲一個獨立遊戲人,沒有跟開發遊戲費用差不多的營銷預算,有沒有玩家社區是遊戲能否在商業上取得成功的關鍵因素。

這是我們選定的第三款美工風格

epistory_hd_fix2(from gamasutra.com)

epistory_hd_fix2(from gamasutra.com)

很自然地,我們會根據故事的發展順序來開發和增添遊戲的餘下內容。最初我們是計劃在搶先版基礎上一章節一章節地來發行,而我們也確實這樣做了第二章的發行。但是這個方法讓我們在做臨時遊戲版本時花了太多的時間,然而我們需要把時間儘可能地花在遊戲的打磨上。況且我們也沒有因爲更新而得到更多的銷量和可見度,我們決定耐下性子把遊戲剩餘部分做好了再一起發行。

接下來聊到地下城迷宮的時候,我們會逐一地透露一些關於它們的軼事。

作爲第一個做出來的地下城地圖——Burning Hollow是重做最多次的地圖,因爲我們是線性初學者,我們得從頭開始添加隱藏寶藏點和回程點;Forgotten Forest和Drownig Halls在設計上會更直接一些:前一個地圖的重點是在森林裏迷失(超出了我們能在開放型世界做到的那樣);後一個地圖重點是解謎;Ice Mausoleum地圖中的很多道具都是Burning Hollow裏面的修訂版,因爲這兩個都是地下洞穴類型的地圖;唯一的區別就是我們給這個地圖設定的海拔比較高。

關於遊戲的後半部分,在有了更多的經驗的情況下,我們不再希望單調無聊地重複前面的內容。所以我們嘗試了一些不一樣的地圖,主要是希望它們能更立體一些。Creation Ctiy地圖的製作正符合了我們的期望:它有7層,在你戰鬥到最頂層時,你可以從高處看到下面的一切。所有的東西都按照階層排布的,而高於你的階層會隱藏,這樣纔不會擋到屏幕的視圖;這幾幅地圖中,技術挑戰最高的要屬Crystalline Mine,因爲我們給它增加了新遊戲系統在裏面——切換燈光玩法。我們必須把這裏所有的燈都設置好以便把單詞隱藏在黑暗中,做這個系統的實際操作遠比我們想象的要複雜很多。Forgotten Forest的有很多懸浮在水平線下的小島,Shattered Isles就是在這些小島的啓發下設計的地圖。最後一個地圖——Lost Desert採用了對山脈的常規視角以象徵遊戲的終極目標。你在那裏可以看到山脈的額外部分,這部分是你真的到山上反而看不到的。
整整八年,我們在爲別人開發遊戲的同時祕密地策劃這個遊戲,直到開發商最後決定發行它。所以,我們的首要問題是:我們該在什麼時候公佈這個遊戲?早早地在遊戲開發期間就公佈?這個主意確實很誘人也確實就是我們想要的,但真正的問題在於:什麼纔是遊戲需要的?
把打字遊戲作爲你發行的第一款遊戲是個很大的挑戰。我們知道,Epistory一開始本來應該是個相當小型的遊戲。它常常被歸類爲教育類遊戲,我們想強調的重點是它的美工風格和“RPG+冒險+解密”的遊戲類型,所以在早期我們收到遊戲社區的反饋後,我們想到了一個標語:“如果《塞爾達傳說》(Zelda)和鍵盤有了寶寶,那這個寶寶的名字會是《Epistory》”

我們其實不喜歡單單爲了解釋就把自己的遊戲跟別的遊戲作比較,但是由於它的概念實在是太模糊了,我們似乎不得不這麼做。

我們整個團隊都有參與到公共交流中,這對於我們來說是非常有利的——這節省了我們的時間,更好地展示了團隊形象,而且在我們要舉辦活動或者寫關於遊戲開發的文章時,還方便了我們對玩家社區管理。我們總的想法就是希望能盡我們所能地,爲了追隨這個遊戲的玩家,做到真實而坦誠地呈現出這個遊戲的開發歷程。我們不久以後會發表一篇更深入的玩家社區策略文的。

我們的一張營銷用圖

在整個遊戲搶先試玩的發行過程中,我們在Steam論壇上都小心地保持在線、活躍以及樂於提供幫助的狀態。我們當時(現在也一樣)堅定不移地堅信玩家和開發團隊的直接交流是最好的交流方式。這締造了強有力的玩家社區,我們就是光在那裏呆着也會得到很多玩家的表揚。同樣地,能夠跟stream用戶和youtube用戶進行交流真是太好了,他們大多數是我們在視頻下的評論或者聊天中偶遇到的,這對我們來說真是驚喜。

因爲我們沒有資源來組織大範圍的遊戲測試,對“Let’s Plays”的查閱就是我們尋找bug和進行玩家行爲分析的主要來源了。我們在視頻中發現玩家無法完全弄懂火焰魔法的燃燒效果後,我們就更新了指導信息讓玩家更容易明白。順便在這裏我想感謝所有給過我們出色反饋的streams和LPers。

在2016年二月份,包含了兩個章節的遊戲搶先版發行以後,遊戲的整體已經準備就緒了。遊戲的最後一個地圖已經添上了的末尾的潤色,bug也在隨着我們對遊戲的打磨一天天地減少,我們的遊戲整裝待發地等待着那天(發行日)的到來。

很快,再過幾周就是:發行日!

遊戲已經被打磨得光光亮亮都能反光了。我們用了幾個月的時間完成了遊戲原型構建,而後用了一年半的時間進行遊戲開發,終於,我們做好了準備,準備按下這個綠色發行按鈕。

在隨後的幾天裏,我們欣喜若狂。玩家們喜歡這款遊戲!評論家也喜歡!我們好愛自己的遊戲,我們爲自己的成就而感到無比自豪!

但是這還只是旅程的第一個部分。時至今日,在遊戲發行一年以後,Epistory還在努力前行着——儘管速度緩慢,因爲我們團隊大部分人都已經將注意力投注到其他項目中了。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao
Epistory is a typing adventure game, built with Unity3D and released on March 30, 2016. It received very positive reviews – both from critics and players – and sold over 100k copies (including bundles). You can see the game’s Steam page here. We recently opened a Discord channel for the company, which you can join using this link: discord.gg

It’s been one hell of a ride! In this retrospective article, we’ll try to give you a sense of progression from the early prototypes up to the release of the game we all know and love. We’ll also talk about the great endeavor a game like this represents, even though Epistory isn’t a big game by AAA standards. We’ll share some of our successes, failures and missed opportunities.

fire dungeon clr watercolorWe tried several art styles for the collectible images. First try, not in the game.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The most critical thing to do in game development is to identify and remove the risks. You take the riskiest feature, and you try it as fast as possible because you don’t want a nasty surprise when it’s too late to make changes. With an adventure typing game, we didn’t know how the typing mechanic would work out: so we created a playable prototype very early on. Our primary goals were to test a typing mechanic to interact with items, handle character movement (which was tile-based at the time), and the mixture of exploration, puzzles and arena fights.

Early game development is the best part because all opportunities are still open and you get to try a lot of interesting things. But it is also the worst part as most of what you try is not as interesting as expected. You experience optimism and doubt at the same time.

You can see our first working prototype yourself, but keep in mind that it is really barebone and that no artist was involved (it is made with the Construct 2 engine). After that point, development restarted from scratch, with a different engine (Unity 3D), but with all the experience we gathered from the prototype.

Play the prototype

There was a girl

When the prototyping phase ended, our next goal was to find a new take on the typing game genre, mostly focused on arcade gameplay for short game sessions. We were aiming for 18 short dungeons instead of the 8 large dungeons and overworld we currently have.

Being a relatively small studio, we had to settle on the amount of money available for this adventure. At the beginning, our budget was around €125k. We’ll explain later why and how but by the end, we were talking about €300k. That’s 3 and a half people for a year and a half.

fire dungeon clrSecond art style. Not in the game.

And she rode upon the back of a great fox

Since the first story ideas, we tried to link the typing mechanic with the process of writing a book. We started with a muse giving a writer’s inspiration by typing words in a fantasy world which represented the writer’s mind. As in the final game, at the beginning the world is empty and there is no story, so the project was called The Heroine of no Tale for quite some time. Mildly interesting fact: we got used to the acronym “THONT” and used it for a long time even after we named the game Epistory. Now the nickname is simply “Epi”.

If you launched the prototype, you’ll have noticed that the girl was walking and that there was no fox around. The great three-tailed fox is based on a mythical creature, a Japanese nine-tailed fox, which looked good in a papercraft style. But the real reason for its existence is that we needed to give the girl a mount, so that we could realistically increase movement speed without changing the world scale.

paper fox crop
We have a giant paper fox in the studio!

But they were lost

At the start of the development, it was decided that Epistory would serve as an experiment for a new way to manage our projects. Instead of having one project manager serving as an overseer for the whole project, the whole team would be its own manager while one of the Fishing Cactus directors would act as a client/producer. At that time, there were only three developers in the team. One game designer, one programmer and one 3D artist. Each acted as the manager of the other two, responsible for updating the task list, validation of quality standard and so on.

Of course, when the project first started we didn’t immediately see the implications of that kind of organization. After all, there’s so much to do! Creating a list of tasks feels pointless when you don’t even have a character moving in the game world. Over time, we organically divided the tasks usually dealt with by a project manager among ourselves. One of us would mostly handle the communication with the externs (localization and audio) while another would mostly deal with the task lists and keep an eye on the schedule and deadlines. In the last few months of development, the three of us would take a few hours to do a full update of the task list and the estimated time left, to make sure we were still on target budget-wise.

All in all, we think it worked OK. There’s room for improvement, but as a first experiment, it could have been a train wreck!

They had always been lost

The first control system, inherited from the prototype, was tile-based and used DFJK to move. We grew tired of the way this worked: it was too slow, too clunky. We quickly changed over to navmesh-based movement, to unleash the player’s freedom of movement. This was a lot better: we solved puzzles faster and had a better sense of exploration. But something kept nagging at us.

Why did we use DFJK to move instead of WASD like any other game? That’s the question we got from everyone who tested the game at that point (and continued to hear even after release!). The answer is that we did not want the game to teach a bad typing behavior, because by playing you’ll get used to typing that way. So we wanted to place the control keys on the middle row, where your fingers are supposed to rest on a typical typing position. But having cardinal direction controls aligned on a single row was very confusing.

So we began searching for more intuitive controls while maintaining good typing form. After repeated internal playtests of many weird control schemes like 8 keys to handle 8 directions, we settled on EFJI (plus, after popular demand, we added WASD). This stays close to the default typing position and puts each diagonal direction to the corresponding key (that works more naturally because of our isometric-like view). That binding passed our ultimate “intuitivity” test: running in perfect circles without looking at the keyboard, which means that you can switch naturally between the eight possible directions.

EPI The Retrospective Article
Final recommended movement keys

Until a path appeared

A few months after starting development, we saw more enthusiasm for the project’s potential both inside the studio and among players. At first, we didn’t know if there would be public demand for a typing game so we were really cautious. After showing the game a bit, we knew that we would be able to make something that players would be interested in. Besides that, the first independent game of Fishing Cactus has to be a critical success for the studio’s image.

Our confidence was increasing and we decided to commit more resources to the project, considerably increasing its budget. What was supposed to be a small-ish arcade game was now going to feature a deeper story and have a bigger scope overall. The game was already in an advanced state: we had prepared a short demo for the upcoming Gamescom and we had the first hour or so of gameplay ready.

early textOur first foray into story writing was mostly as a proof of concept rather than actual storytelling. The meteor strike at the beginning of the game is the only one that stayed in the final game. Of course, the associated text changed.

 

We tried doing the story ourselves but it quickly became clear that, a) we were not gifted for that skill and b) we already had a lot of work just creating the game. We applied for pitches from writers for the game with story and structure intentions. We received a lot of answers: some of them were comical, some were a bit disturbing, but one struck us as the perfect match for the game.

The narrator looking for inspiration shifted to a deeper story which can be read on different levels. We use different fonts and voices to give the player a few hints. You can read more about the story without spoilers.

With the story in place, we began searching for a voice. We needed someone who was capable of reaching the emotions needed for the story. Strangely enough, we received a lot of samples sounding like a radio commercial. Not bad by itself but so far from what we were looking for. Finally, we found her! Rachael Maesser has a lot of experience voicing games and her voice was just right for Epistory.

And so she followed

The next big step was to rework the introduction of the game according to the new story direction and finish the first dungeon. The goal was to bring that first hour of the game to final quality, kind of like a large vertical slice.

Usually, a vertical slice (or VSD for vertical slice demo) is an early demo of the game that aims to show how the game could be at its best. It sets the target for the final visual quality and gameplay experience, but only for a small part of the game. Imagine that we take the final game and cut a thin slice of it; that’s your vertical slice.

With one hour of gameplay at the middle of Epistory’s development, we had the same objective as a vertical slice but with a larger chunk of the game. The other objective of polishing that part of the game was to get it ready for an early access release.

Was the path leading her?

And finally, that day came. We released Epistory in early access on September the 30th 2015 with the first chapter of the story (two of the eight dungeons). An early access release is like a mini-release: you feel the same joy and relief of leaving your game to the players, though it reaches a smaller audience than a full release. But the game is not finished so you come back the next day as if nothing had happened.

Well, actually not, because when you wake up the next day, you have received a lot of feedback for bugs and features. Mostly bugs. That means extra work for us to do – and quickly, because new players are seeing the game while you are working. It can be stressful, but that is valuable feedback we could never hope to get from internal playtests alone. So, thank you to all of you who took the time to write comments and send feedback.

That core group of early players also helps the game grow in popularity. And that is the other reason we released in early access: to build a community around the game before the actual launch. We get Steam reviews, shares on social networks, media coverage and word of mouth. When you are an indie and don’t have a marketing budget that equals your development cost, it is what makes the difference between a commercial success or failure.

scene dungeon fireThird and chosen art style for the collectible images.

Or was she leading it?

Naturally, we developed and added the rest of the game in the order of the story. The initial plan was to release it chapter by chapter throughout the early access, and we did that for the second chapter. But that method was taking us too much time to make temporary versions of the game, and we needed that time to make the game as polished as it could be. Since the updates were not really followed by more sells or visibility, we took the decision to wait and release the rest of the game in one batch.

While we are talking about the dungeons we can reveal some small anecdotes for each one.

As the first one to be made, Burning Hollow, has been the most reworked dungeon. From a linear beginner level, we restarted from scratch to add hidden treasures and backtracking. Forgotten Forest and Drowning Halls were more straightforward to design: the first one is focused on getting lost in a forest (more than what we could do in the overworld). The second is focused on solving puzzles. Ice Mausoleum has a lot of props which are modified versions of the ones in Burning Hollow as they are basically both underground caverns. One difference is that we added a bit of elevation on this one.

For the next half of the game, we were more experienced and we didn’t want to make the same thing over and over. So we tried to make the dungeons look different, mostly by making them less flat. Creation City does exactly that: it has 7 stages and from the final fight at the top you can see everything behind. All items are sorted by stage and the stages above you are hidden so they do not block the camera. The more technically challenging was probably the Crystalline Mine, because we added a new gameplay system with light switching. Setting all those lights and having the words hidden in the dark was way more complicated than we expected. Shattered Isles’ design is inspired by the part in Forgotten Forest where you can see small islands floating under the level. Finally, Lost Desert has regular point of view of the mountain that symbolizes your final goal. The mountain you see there has additional parts that are hidden when you actually reach it.

She didn’t know. It was just there

For eight years, we developed games for others and we used to keep our games secret until the publisher decided to release it. So, our first question was: when should we make the game public? Having the choice of going public early in development was quite shiny and new and definitely what we wanted. But the real question was: what did the game need?

Releasing a typing game as your first product is a big challenge. We knew from the beginning that Epistory was going to be a fairly niche game. Too often categorized as an educational game, we tried to emphasize on the art style and the “RPG – Adventure – Puzzle” side of it and after early feedback from the community, we came up with a tagline: “If Zelda and a keyboard had a baby, it would be Epistory.”

We didn’t like to explain our game solely by comparing it to others, but with such a nebulous concept, it felt like a necessity.

Our whole team got involved with public communications, which was definitely an advantage to us. It saved us time and helped present a better image of ourselves. It helped with community management, both during events and when we needed to write articles about development. The idea was to try our best to give a real, honest insight into development to people who followed the project. We will publish an article diving deeper into our communication strategy soon.

epistory hd fix2One of our marketing image.

All of a sudden, she knew where she was

Throughout early access we were careful to always be present, active and helpful in the Steam forums. We were (and still are) firm believers in direct communication between players and the development team. It creates a strong community and we even received praise just for being there. It’s also great to get to interact with streamers and youtubers, mostly as a surprise random encounter in the video’s comments or the chat.

Since we don’t have the resources to organize extensive playtests, checking Let’s Plays was a major source for bug hunting and player behavior analysis. Our tutorial messages were updated to be clearer after seeing videos with players not fully understanding the fire magic burning effect. Thanks, by the way, to any streams and LPers who gave us this excellent feedback!

By February 2016, after releasing two chapters on early access, most of the game was ready. The finishing touches were being added to the last dungeon of the game. The ending sequence and the accompanying video were being finalized. The list of bugs was shrinking day by day as we polished the game, getting it ready for its big day.

She was home

Fast forward a few weeks and: Launch Day!

The game has been polished until it shines like a mirror. After several months of prototyping, followed by a year and a half of production, we were finally ready to hit the big green LAUNCH button.

In the days that followed, we were ecstatic. The players loved the game, the critics loved the game, we loved the game and we were proud of our achievement.

But this was only the first part of the journey. To this day, one year after that release, Epistory is still being worked on – albeit at a slow pace since most of us have moved on to other projects.(source:gamasutra.com