Why is Courier of the Crypts taking so long

BlodyavengerArticles, Courier of the Crypts, Development4 Comments

For quite some time I’m getting bombarded with questions about release date, demo releases, game status etc. and it’s hard to say anything because one has to understand history of the project, how my life looks like and my thoughts for the future to get aproximate answer. I’ll try to cover all these topics with this blog entry. It’s going to be a long post but I’ve decided to break the whole thing into parts so you can skip something if you like.

Table of contents:

  • History of the project
  • My usual day
  • Development
  • Current state and future

 timeline_cotc

History of the Project

As you might know, Courier of the Crypts game idea was born on LudumDare48 (20) competition dated April 29th – May 2nd, 2011. If you don’t knowLD48 is about making game in 48 hours alone, single handed. Basically, the whole game idea was born in first few hours of the competition. I’ll quote myself from that LD competition post mortem:

” I fell asleep at 1:00 AM and woke up at 3:30 AM. I’ve prepared some coffee and soon after that, theme was announced! “It’s Dangerous to go alone! Take this!”…what to do now? Idea shouldn’t be too complex yet fun and I took my cup of coffee and lit a cigarete at the window. While watching trees in the dark that crazy idea got over me – Darkness, light, creepy, item, old man = Lead a character trough a dark place and let him have a torch from an old man. “

That’s my project’s humble beginning, yep.

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Ludum Dare 48 version of the game

 

 

 

 

 

After the competition I never had any plans to continue working on the game. It was my first LD48 competition and I was satisfied until the October. It was time to enter well known October Challenge. I thought about the Courier idea and all the possibilites what can I do with it. I accepted the challenge to earn that 1$ at the end of the month – in 1 month I made new graphics, doors, switches, torches on the wall and much more but at the end I knew I can do so much more! I fell in love with the whole idea.

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October challenge VS Ludum Dare 48 version

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, I failed the october challenge and continued to work on the game. We could call these early prototypes of the game although it hardly resembles what it is today. I was playing with the idea and expanding the game. I had basic idea but I never knew how far should I go – even at that time I had solid knowledge about the fact that big project ideas can fail but I just couldn’t leave all the potential behind.

Around september 2012 I’ve made a complete rewrite of the game because fundamentals didn’t allow me to do more complex stuff like events, triggers etc. I had like 6 maps at that time but I had to throw everything away and started from scratch and I’m glad I did.

More time passed and things were great until I realized art is too small (32×32 tiles). There is a lot of darkness around the player most of the time and it was weird looking at the courier in the center while 70% of the screen was black. It was hard decision but I’ve decided to go with bigger ones. I had to correct or completely redraw all the art, including player and other enemies. Once again, I’m really glad I did.

Every hard decision turned out great – at this point everything looks so much better, you can feel more ambient and maps can be more fun to play.

There were more minor and major code rewrites, map deletes but I have quite solid project at this point. I really hope fundamentals will hold the game now 🙂
I know I’ll be doing hell of a planning for the next game, except if I fall in love again with some another weekly project. Who knows 🙂

As you can see, Courier of the Crypts wasn’t planned well from the start, far from that. It was random, spontanious start. Idea grow while I was playing with it. On september 2011 I got my day job and I had many faculty exams left, so it wasn’t all about the development, I had other important stuff to attend to.

My usual day

In the week time I normally get up around 7:30am (if I don’t fail with snooze button), get some coffee, wash my teeth etc. and leave for work. I arrive at 8:30am and work for ~8 hours. When I get home, which is around 5:00pm, I prepare myself a late lunch / dinner and enjoy it next to the half an hour series. When I finish it and clean my dishes the time is already around 6:30pm. At that time I try to start my steam engines to get something done but most of the time I take extra 30 minutes for relaxation.

Rest of the evening is reserved for the Courier of the Crypts development. I check todo tasks waiting for me on the wall and pick something easy to start with. The thing is that I battle with tiredness quite usually and if I loose, I fall dead on my bed unconscious for few hours. When that happens I feel really bad because I wake up late (11:00pm) full of energy so I can’t go back to bed yet I have to wake up for the job in the morning. Days like this are the worst but I think I’m getting better and better at winning 😛

Also, I try to exercise at least twice a week be it running, workout at home or visiting trim path where I can do both. This helps me a lot to clear my mind, destroy some stress and keep my body fit to some degree.

Next to that I have few more exams left at the faculty (3 more to earn bachelor degree!) and I have weekly obligations from that side as well.

For the weekends I hit the town with friends if possible or visit my family to relax and keep social aspect of my life somewhat healthy. Of course there are also weekends that I use only for the game – weekends like that are simply awesome because I get lots of things done.

As you can see my schedule is quite full and there are times that I simply can’t work on the game and better days when I do a lot. In 2012 I started sleeping for 5 hours a day which was good for the progress but huge fail for my mind and body. Just recently (few months ago) I’ve decided that I should sleep more – I feel better but I get less things done.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain since there are developers working on their games in the afternoon next to the day job and kids. Kudos to them!

If I could only work on my game full time, this would be simply great. And I’m going for that at some point.

Development

You know, I’m the only one working on the project which means – planning, game design, level design, pixel art, programming, marketing (handling twitter, facebook, google+, reddit, forums, homepage, writing blog…) I’m glad I know nothing about music composition or I would go for that as well. Thanks to Zdravko, music and sound part is in talented hands.

One branch of development is already hard enough yet I have to find time for all. As I’ve mentioned before, I had to rewrite the whole game part (coding) because it wasn’t planned ahead. Since I’m alone that meant art production had to wait as well – I’m like single thread processor.

Now, let’s take a look at practical level design & pixel art problem. Here is the image of the recently made crypt enterance. Full image for that mater. What can you see?

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 It’s a crypt enterance from the game and around it plain grass terrain. As you might know, my game is all about ambient – it has to feel nice and I want player to immerse. That means I can’t just throw around few trees and that’s it. It has to feel nice when you progress through that part of the story. What I wanted to say it that I have to think about the scene, I have to make that ambient. Usually I take a look at the scene, see what it’s missing and start working on art or even programming if I need to correct or add something in code. And this is just a piece of a storyline map. I’ll have to fill this blank area around the enterance and I can easily loose few hours on it (which means 1 day in the week).

Then there are other programming problems or solutions that I have to do. Sometimes I start programming but I can’t do it because I can’t focus. I’ve decided to leave programming task if I’m too tired for I’m writing ugly code in that state.

I could go on and on but you should have an idea. If you are developer you know what I’m talking about and how many problems can arise on each branch.

Current state and future

Lately everything is going slow, maybe I’m burnt out but it will get better. Maybe I shouldn’t push myself so hard and take everything more easy. Anyway, at this very moment I’m working on the content so I can hand out privat builds. I want to put game on steam greenlight soon as well but once again, I need more content. I’m aiming to finish the game in late 2014 but even that can change. Working full time on the Courier of the Crypts would be perfect and healthier and I’ll soon have to make decisions which will impact the game greatly. We’ll see what decisions future brings.

This is it for this lengthy post. I hope you can understand me and development of the game a bit better now. You could say I’m trying to catch a whale, that the project is too ambitious and maybe that’s true. Actually IT IS true but I’m going to finish it 😀

If you have any questions or suggestions, you know what to do.