Valley 2 and Shattered Haven Plans and Status

I just wanted to clarify where we are with Valley 2, what our goals and priorities are at the moment, and what’s been happening lately.  We’re getting close to the end, and things are getting quite busy (as if they weren’t already), so clarifying these things might help our beta testers in particular know where things stand.

What’s Been Going On Lately
Me — As you’ve noticed, I’ve been mostly focused on the monsters, but also with some asides for a few other things like controller support, aiming, and various miscellany.  I’ve also been working on coordinating everyone else, the art, and working on getting the code for Shattered Haven where we need it to be.  Right now I’m kind of running a mile a minute, and actually worked all through last weekend to get more stuff done.

Keith — He is spearheading the implementation, internal testing, and balancing of the strategic side of the game.  He and I are working together on actual design of this.  When he’s not on strategic stuff, he’s on mostly multiplayer-related bugs, most of which take a really long time to solve individually compared to most other kinds of bugs.

Josh — He is spearheading the monster and spell balance fine-tuning, and anything to do with bad slices, as well as overseeing the slices that are coming in.  He’s also been overseeing some parts of object artwork that are coming in, although that’s been put on hold for a few weeks for him due to time issues.  And most importantly, he’s been reading all the feedback on the forums and mantis, and trying to come up with a concentrated list of what is most important for us to address sooner than later at any given time; Keith and I also read, but it’s a big job to get to everything and someone needs to hold it all in their head; someone who is not me, because my head is full of design and code right now.  The problem is that Josh has been seriously ill for about 12 days now, though he’s getting better now.  That’s made us a bit short-handed, and so some of these things have fallen behind temporarily.  Nothing to worry about, but it’s why some of the balance isn’t more finely tuned than it is thus far.

Where We’re Headed – January
Me — Overall, we’re planning 116ish monsters for Valley 2.  I say “ish” because it was 114 just a week ago, but two got added because I had ideas and art for them.  My goal for January is to get most, or if possible ALL, of those monsters in by the end of the month.  In addition to that, I’m trying to get all the remaining base code in place for Shattered Haven by the end of this month, and do my various managerial/design things as needed also.  Aside from that, I’ll also be addressing the most critical bugs and other issues that I (or Josh) think are really detracting from the game in the short term and/or need a lot of testing.  That’s pretty much all I’m going to have time for this month, and it’s going to be a stretch (and tons of overtime) for me to hit just that.

Keith — The big goal for Keith this month is getting the strategic game settled down.  We have a fourth round of major improvements to it that we came up with yesterday, and I think that you’ll be really excited to see these.  But anyway, there’s lots of testing and balancing and implementation work on the strategy side, and then after each round of changes we sit down and talk about what we think can be improved from there based on our own experiences and your feedback.  We feel we’re getting close on this one, but I’ve reserved most of the rest of January for Keith to focus on pretty much solely this (getting in more multiplayer fixes as he can beyond this).

Josh — Balance balance balance is the big priority for Josh this month.  My goal is for all of the monsters and spells to be in the right ballparks by the end of the month, and that’s a big job.  It’s hampered partly by the fact that I’m still constantly adding monsters, and that underscores another reason why I’m making such a concerted push to get all of those out this month.  Beyond this, Josh is still fixing bad slices that are identified as soon as possible whenever they do happen (those tend to be game-breaking), and he’s also still internalizing and reporting on the cumulative feedback from mantis, the forums, and so on.  That way nothing that’s too huge an issue completely escapes our notice, and that way we have a solid work-list in hand for after the January sprint is over.

Where We’re Headed – February
As Keith puts it, “there are two phases to coding: bugging and debugging.”  My goal is to get as much of the bugging as possible, and all of the broad balance and design, implemented and done in January.  Once we transition to February, the focus will be on polish, finalizing balance, getting everything tuned up and fun, and so on.  Also getting the last of the art in place, and getting all of that finalized by mid-February, when our 1.0 is going to be ready.

So that’s pretty well the plan — I thought you might like to know the schedule, and where our focus is at each point.  Right now we’re busily “bugging” as fast as we can, and if we’re not responding to all bugs as fast as we often do, it’s because of the two-tier structure that we decided to go through this go-round.  Come February, if we hit our January goals properly, we’ll be doing nothing BUT debugging and balancing.  On this game and Shattered Haven, actually (though with Shattered Haven, there will still be some story bits, and some later overworld bits, that are being implemented; but that’s level design, not code; and largely Zack is the one doing that).

Everyone Else!
Oh, and not that I’m ignoring Pablo, Erik, Zack, or all the fine folks at Heavy Cat — they’re all working like mad as well. 

Pablo has only one remaining track for Valley 2, but it has some choral vocal bits that he’s still waiting on one voice recording from a colleague for.  Beyond that he’s working away on the soundtrack for Shattered Haven. 

Zack has been working steadily on level design and story integration for Shattered Haven since September, and he’s done an amazing job. 

Erik did a lot of writing for Valley 2, but we’re all set on that now; he and Zack and I were also coordinating on the story and writing for Shattered Haven, and now he and Zack have taken up the mantle of finishing that without quite as much input from me since I’m stretched so thin.  He’s also been coordinating with Kevin about trailers for both games, doing all his usual PR and marketing work, and so on and so forth.

Heavy Cat has a core of around sixish artists finishing up the art for Valley 2, and I’m really excited about how that’s going.  At one point there were 23 artists working on the game, but having a smaller core to do the finishing touches makes it feel more cohesive and consistent all around.  A couple of their artists are solely focused on polishing existing pieces at this point, while the rest are focused on getting the remaining art assets in place largely by the start of February as well.  Then they’ll have a little more breathing room to do any final polish in Feb as well. 

Heavy Cat also has a talented team of pixel artists working on finishing up the last 380 or so sprite frames for Shattered Haven; I believe it’s three or four people working on that at the moment.  For the comic panels, we have all that we’re going to need for now with that game, although post-release (or in an expansion) we might do more.  Work on this pixelart is going to extend into February some, but in plenty of time for Shattered Haven’s 1.0 to release about a week after Valley 2’s 1.0 version comes out.

Both games are really coming along super well, and our schedule for both seems very attainable (if hurried this month in particular), but with 2-3 weeks remaining after the main schedule for us to just focus on polish for both of the games.  It’s really important, and really nice, for us to have that breathing room.  It’s something we didn’t do with AVWW1, to my regret.  Anyway, there’s a sense of high excitement both at Heavy Cat and Arcen about both of these games, as they each close in on the end of quite long journeys.  Shattered Haven goes all the way back to January 2008 for me!

That’s the news.  Cheers!

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