Dev Blog #11 - Bad News & Hard Work
Alright, let's face it. This project has gone through some stuff. From its unlikely beginnings back in 2013 where I had none of the qualifiers for even a project a tenth of this scale, to the numerous crises that happened along the way, it's been a journey full of ordeals and tests.
For clarity's sake, let's repeat that in order to compensate for all the things I didn't have, as well as to diminish project risk, I basically sacrificed everything I had and anything I could scrounge up, day after day. It was my way of saying "I believe in this project enough to put every single thing on the line". And I did.
2018 was supposed to be a turning point. We had done a lot of work and were starting to go public. We were talking (unofficially) with more publishers. We were planning to wrap up and release some demos, possibly an early version of the game.
Bump into Quantic Dream's Guillaume de Fondaumière in a festival and share a conference speaker seat with him, as well as a crate of beers and see if it doesn't make you feel like things are on the rise.
I kind of got cold feet when I realized that even if we released something as we planned to, we definitely didn't have the infrastructure for the aftermath. The project was fragile, the team wasn't secure and I was overexposed.
We then had an opportunity to make the biggest mistake in the history of this project (that's saying something there was so many big ones!): partnering up with the wrong people. Things looked promising. I thought it could help secure those insecure aspects and help solidify the production, to ensure a smoother finish and safer working conditions. That never happened. As explained to me later, I had basically just made a newbie mistake and got strung along for two years.
In english: "we intend to invest 400k and fundraise for 3 million"
In reality: sweet fuck all
Pulling things back together with this project has been hard. Bad enough that you waste so much time, get shit instead of relief, and end up looking like an idiot, delivering on none of your promises and commitments. You still have to find a way forward, because you can't quit. Then the CoVID situation explodes and you're left wondering if it's all a farce and you missed some kind of cue?
So it's where I've been. Pulling things back together, continuing the work, and waiting for better days. I'll say it, we've done some pretty epic things, especially considering the circumstances. But we're still in the proverbial woods, and the expression "shoestring budget" was never truer. In the meantime, we managed to deal with the following:
pull together most of a board game, which is then used to prototype the broader game logic
make major progress on ensuring multiplayer feasibility
revamp and repair many of our classical old systems (environment personality, urges)
lay some good prototyping groundwork on the game's strategy layer
With Winterfall's board game, Tabletop Simulator sure did turn Covid lockdown into a happy opportunity
You wouldn't believe how embarrassed I've been, time and again, that it's been so long, and where other projects come up, grow up and deliver, we are still stuck in that twilight zone. Just as I have put aside my concerns for creature comforts and material well-being however, I've also firmly established to myself that my feelings for this or that are irrelevant and the only thing that matters is to safekeep the project and keep it going. So it's what I do. I'm far less than happy with anything when it comes to this situation, but I keep pushing.
In this line of action, you constantly struggle with the question of Failure, and what is failure. How does it happen, what does it look like? Would I recognize it if I looked it in the face? Is what I'm doing a disguised form of failure, or am I really moving forward?
When it comes to all this, I am grateful that I have a solid experience of mountain hiking to keep my thoughts on the straight and narrow. The same processes apply. You will struggle hard, you will come upon harsh obstacles, you will sometimes lose your way, but as long as you keep your eyes on the prize, you will make it. Failure is a decision. It's the moment where you finally throw the towel and settle for less, or decide to walk all the way back down. We can safely establish that I'm not going to be doing that.
When your whole World scene crashes horribly beyond repair or backup and it's just a flesh wound.
There are moments I'm not so sure whose life I'm living anymore, since all notions of security and long term projection have long deserted. It sure isn't my life, since in it, so little is truly mine. However, it's a meaningful ride that's offered me a lot of wisdom and empowerment. It comes with its heavy share of loneliness, even when you're among friends and loved ones, as you constantly wrestle some deep questions and complicated situations. But since I never wanted a normal life, I guess this does it, and pretty well. Also, you get to help others, a lot. I mean, isn't that why, in those tales and myths, the hero went to the underworld, looking for the elixir or the treasure? To bring it back to their people and heal the land? My younger self never thought that developing the game of his dreams would equate to navigating the dark underworld, but who ever thinks there'll be monsters along the way and a dragon at the end of the road? Would we ever go on any journey if we knew?
Funnily enough, far from deterring or truly holding things down, all those misfortunes and misadventures only strengthen resolve and determination. Or maybe there's something wrong with me. But surely, I must be doing something right: there isn't a week where I don't hear of this or that big name out there is curious about the game. There isn't a day where new people don't sign up to the website. There isn't a month without some confirmation or other that this is the right path. There isn't a year without some opportunities anybody would dream of and I would not have believed, all the way back then, I would ever encounter.
When common sense doesn't apply to you, you take these as encouragement. Hell, I do!
For the past few years I've been struggling to reform my mad ways and go about this project in a more secure way. Like I said, I talked with big names and publishers of all stripes, with moneyed people and all sorts. What I am is a craftsman, an artist and a visionary. And a rocknrolla too, I guess. What matters to me is that the work gets done, in its right time and true to what it's supposed to be, and that people are ultimately happy with it. So far, I've been blessed with the great goodwill of individual supporters who keep saying the same thing: "take your time, what matters is that the game's done right when it's done". I like that. I told Quantic Dream's Guillaume de Fondaumière, after a few beers and right before a piss stroll, that if I was born with 2 kidneys, it was so that if push comes to shove, I can give one away to fund this undertaking. I still have my two kidneys but come to think of it, maybe that's the problem!
So, until I sell off that extra kidney, for those of you keen on supporting this mad undertaking, I've just put together a Patreon, where you'll get access to various benefits, including access to our playable builds. You can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/winterfallgame
"Do you truly believe you need two of us, Fab? Fool!"
Anyways, the first build up right now on Patreon is the Character Creator prototype, with a nice little video explaining what it's about. A couple combat builds and a "playground" (don't want to give you the wrong idea by saying "sandbox" just yet) will come up next. Check the link and the description, all the proceeds will go towards funding development, obviously.
We've also put together a Trello board with the goals and tasks we are dealing with. It'll allow you to keep up with the plans & progress and know that despite all appearances, we've got a pretty clear roadmap of sorts. I'm also putting up videos on there, explaining systems and goals. There's also a "Dev Snippets" format, where I go to the Dev Scene and describe a particular system to you. You can find the Trello here: https://trello.com/b/5lp27q5s/winterfall-systems-mechanics-engineering.
Some of the current stuff on our public Trello
More is in the works of course, like the Discord and everything, but as I'm still mostly shouldering all this alone for a while, it gets kinda heavy to carry and things don't always move apace. But things are always going forward, even if by a fraction of an inch. At least as long as I'm alive haha.
Alright, I'm utterly ridiculous. What one wouldn't give up to pursue one's wildest dreams like they are the most necessary thing in the world! And in those messed up times, they kinda are, aren't they? Never thought everything would in fact get this bad. Soooo... pushing on!