The demo(s) are as done as they can be for right now.
It all started two days ago. When the first bug popped onto the screen shortly after making changes to code about the same age as a small child. Whatever glimmer of optimism left remaining had been snuffed out in seconds. I stood up and figured I’d cook before I forgot to eat again. This is how it starts. Just another day with no sleep!
Today’s blog is a collage of ideas I had for previous entries. Most importantly I wanted to take on the task of compiling the various ups and downs of our development cycle over the past few years into something formatted and easier to read than the older devblogs (2015ish). I can’t be bothered to go back and edit those, with all this better shit to do and all.
But seriously, it’s my pleasure. And while I imagine you’d rather be playing the game than reading about it. I try and at least give these my best effort.
So anyway, the clue is in the title. Have you ever heard of a video game post-mortem? They’re usually either highly entertaining or depressing and will almost always make you rethink your current or future career in game development. Well today, regardless of the takeaway ( and although I can’t say we’re “done” with this mountain of bugs) I’d like to try my hand at what one for Triple X Tycoon might look like.
I’m also hoping that this will give some of you who haven’t been keeping up since the beginning, a better idea for how we operate, where we are now and where we’ve been. Enjoy.
A Fun House Today, Outhouz Tomorrow
I gathered the most hard-headed people I knew and made sure they barely knew each other. No echo chambers over here, plenty of good ideas over there, but there was little experience outside of my own in making games. But to be clear I don’t miss being a vaguely titled “Writer” editing foreign scripts, or using Unity or the older Visual Basic engines, but it was insight. Still, you can imagine how most of the brainstorming sessions began with the new crew. And how actually, they still begin.
To be fair, we also didn’t start out making games. You ever see those shitty websites that have weird content and it’s hard to make out how they make money or stick around? Ever heard of Fugly.com? Remember Newgrounds back in the day? It was kind of like that. But worse. Depending on how you look at it.
Fun fact, we almost developed for Nintendo. Not my idea. But it was an idea. And then the games thing started and right away, the majority of us said no to making kids games. That was a thing.
Nobody objected to going in the complete opposite direction though. And then you got this.
And we only thought we knew what we were getting into.
What Went Wrong
Simulation > Graphics
The simulation engine was always a lot further along than the graphics engine. The problem with that is there’s only so much you can keep hidden before you need some kind of visual representation. This painfully caused us to cut a lot of features out at the last minute for lack of assets and the cash to commission them. A problem that has persisted since.
This was also the byproduct of having a tech-oriented company from jump. We don’t have a single artist on deck to really pull any weight in-house. So that left me as the only person on the team with any pixel art experience as well.
For use in case of emergency.
This came in handy later as I had to backtrack to finish some incomplete work very recently. In fact I’m still doing so. But that ultimately put the nail in the coffin on how much time there was left to pull everything together in a way that was relatively bug free. Delays and bugs are a perfect storm together.
Money < Ambitions
I found out that quite a few people had no idea we had crowdfunded at all. Well we did, twice! With one minor but critical success on IndieGoGo after stumbling around in the dark for months. The initial failure was one of those things that in hind sight seemed to have done us a favor. I remember absolutely clawing to get us onto that platform (OffBeatr) in a meaningful way since it seemed like the only chance we had at the time.
I reached out and even got them to put whatever clout they still had behind us but only managed about 30% of our goal. Ultimately OffBeatr went under. Shouts out to them! And R.I.P.
In 2014 I remember this guy hit me up on Skype and bashed Triple X Tycoon because it wasn’t furry enough. To each their own but I remember that this was the first time I ever gave the whole thing any real thought. That encounter had me take a good look at what we were doing and what everyone else was doing. Way different. And the thing about business is that it’s hard to say what’s too different in an untested market.
We didn’t start to see more games in the space until 2015 and the only notable other games dated back to the 90s and were hardly hits. Not because of the quality (you judge) but because who the hell was backing that kind of thing? Sex and guns rule in their own related dimensions. Go too far in either direction and you get highly niche or highly polished products. Take what happened to strategy, RTS, Turn-based etc and look at how the landscape has changed, especially on PC.
The idea was seen as overly risky and unproven to publishers who we tried to bend the knee for. Did I mention there’s porn in this game and OMG (that’s bad). We had to take a machete to the bush on our own indefinitely.
Too Much Too Soon
It also didn’t help that what we were trying to do was huge. A lot bigger than even what we know better than to try now and there’s much better footing in terms of design. Fun fact, the game used to be turned-based and would spit out real world adult industry facts on a little interval screen. I have a screenshot of that somewhere..
This is a big one and we only ever gave out art contracts. While it was much cheaper for us to contract out the excess artwork rather than trying to literally find or hire somebody, it also left us open to otherwise trivial external factors having a profound effect on our own schedules and ability to pace our output. You can’t put a price on reliability. And we’ve had great experiences here, but also really, really bad ones.
This ultimately is what led to a recent decision to make announcements based on internal schedules only. Whereas prior to this, we had a very effective method of merging our partners’ deadlines and schedules with our own. This is great and leads to a better relationship with those outside the immediate team. But when there’s a major fuck up it is major. All we can do is step back and apologize before getting back to work.
What Went Right
I’ve said this before but the best decision we ever made was to just run with our own tech. And to be honest it’s something I had always wanted to do and is arguably a primary reason I decided to switch from creative writing to programming in the first place.
One thing I want to note that typically comes up when discussing this topic is that no, writing an engine had no effect on how long it would have taken us to develop the game had we not. What the opposite camp tends to do is apply that “Don’t DIY” logic to small teams which doesn’t always make sense.
It literally just depends on what you’re making.
I could even use our contracting as an example of it simply being faster to give our artists a lot of flexibility. Rather than have someone who’s job it is to coordinate every bit of correspondence and so on. As the guy who’s programming, I don’t have the overhead that comes with managing a team of programmers or the responsibility of having to keep up with and learn third-party documentation to do something potentially, mostly, unrelated to those documents.
But I never liked group assignments in high school either so..
Talking to You
Since the beginning we had always sought to reach out to the people who are helping us make something interesting. One thing I can say that is unique about crowdfunded or community-based projects is the amount of feedback and the effect this kind of thing can have on a project.
Of course there’s a time and place where it applies best, but for the most part this is by far my favorite aspect of game development and is how I really got started in the very first place. But that’s a different story.
Most developers have the same problems, game development is hard and most people are alright.
This Month (TxT v2.2b)
August was a real shitshow. I don’t even want to talk about it.
A short tech demo, Triple X Tycoon v2.2b, is currently available for Windows and Linux natively with workarounds by using Wine via Mac. Experiment. Any bugs or crashes you find I’d bet we’re working on it. Like right now. But send those bug reports anyway! (to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Back to that Mac thing. I’ve got a guy. We’re on top of that shit.
Still not giving out a new release date until we can agree on one strictly based on Steam’s processes and our internal schedule. We’re also still chipping away at a bottleneck in art. We’ve been busy bringing everything back to the center so to speak.
Oh, don’t forget to read the ReadME!
Also, for awhile now we’ve gotten requests to enable pre-ordering. This idea came up after discussing our price breakdown with Steam in the equation. On top of a few other fun factors I mentioned over in the chat room. And some folks simply just want to bypass Steam altogether.
So I wanted to wait until things got a bit more linear in terms of progress before making a move in that direction. We also had to make sure there would be a straight forward and easy way for us to sell direct at all!
In addition to the new pre-order keys being laced with a dozen of our own in-game currency Titcoin, all current backers and Steam Key holders will receive the same guarantee. We won’t be running that forever, but being able to control our own keys gives us a lot more flexibility in the long run when it comes to perks!
The coins themselves be redeemable in-game for research points that earn you new positions, items (blowup dolls and costumes) etc and will be included as both an exchangeable and as an asset you can earn once we get around to multiplayer. So you can just as easily work that corner for a hot tip.
There’s also already been some work done on the main site to provide some sort of interconnection between the game client and the web. More on that later, but here’s a peek:
Like backer rewards though, these early bird “vouchers” that’ll be bundled with pre-purchases will be limited for now, so once they’re gone they’re gone! Let’s not crash Port Pleasant’s economy before it gets off the ground.
As always, spread the love.