Daily Update #28: Open Season

Hello there. Happy to see you. Welcome to another Daily Update, a fun-filled daily devlog where our introductions are normal, both in length and in content. Please, enjoy the passage that you are about to read, safe with the knowledge that the act of you reading this post as been acknowledged and welcomed.

4444 days. That's 4 4 times. Wow! In 4 days, the game will release. Are you excited? I am. Well, that's one word for it. Perhaps not the best word for it, but we'll get into that later. For now though, we should just get back into the last part of the 'game creation' saga of these posts. 

When we last left off, the first version of the game was finished. A major milestone. An impressive feat, to be sure. But to end it there would leave things half-finished. It would waste all the work that had gone into things up until now. So began the laborious process of editing. You know, I can't imagine editing is ever generally enjoyable, but going through such a long game with so many different possibilities and critical plot points to keep track of in the back of my head, well, it was a daunting challenge. Still, I tread over the whole story, determined to polish it all up.

Of course, I knew I couldn't just do it all on my own. That's where the play testers came in. I sent an alpha version to a number of people, from close friends to people I knew well online, and asked for all the unfiltered feedback I could get. And lucky for me, people were more than willing to accommodate. Luckily, the feedback was mostly positive, which was a relief. I had been stuck in my own head for so long, fears that it had all for naught had begun to creep up on me. It was nice getting some validation that there was at least something to all this. Still, they didn't hesitate to make their issues known.

I am truly grateful for all the feedback I received from my play testers. I'm confident that they helped make the game a better experience than I could have created on my own. However, taking a bunch of feedback and converting it to meaningful changes is a difficult task. For one, it's hard to separate objective issues with personal preferences. I would often get conflicting opinions on certain writing choices, and both the characters and routes were consistently ranked all over the place. 

Another issue I ran into was figuring out how to address the problems raised. People have a tendency to offer solutions instead of identifying problems. Reading between the lines to get to the heart of the matter was a tricky prospect. Still, I collected the feedback and responded to the best of my ability. If a section felt too rushed, I tried to add some more emotion to it. If a character's arc didn't feel properly resolved, I altered it some. I don't think any part of the game drastically changed in this process, but in many minor but important ways, I think the experience was made much better.

With a final version beginning to take shape, I looked towards what to actually do with the game. That meant selling it. I had some considerations - about where to sell it, how much, et cetera, but I quickly settled on my plans. I also began to foray into marketing, a field I was woefully inexperienced with and unenthusiastic about, as readers of this can likely tell. Still, I gave it a shot, knowing it was a necessary step before the game went live on Steam. Speaking of.

I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me, buuuuut... I feel it's my duty to warn developers - try getting your steam page set up a good month before you actually want to release the game. Trust me, you'll need it. Well, maybe if you're an experienced developer, you won't run into all the issues I had. But for a novice, the experience of getting everything set up was pretty painful. Not only were several steps of the process unclear, muddled by documentation that hasn't been updated in years, but I encountered several bugs that needed to be resolved by the Steam Moderators, who were very communicative and helpful to be fair. Regardless, it's a pretty messy process, with took me far longer than I expected just to get things set up. Okay, I just had to say that somewhere. Rant over.

And that brings us pretty much up to present. As I stated at the top of things, there's only four more days until the game is released to the world at large. And if I can be vulnerable with you, my most dearest reader, it's a little nerve-wracking. True, I got very positive feedback during playtesting, but those all came from people I knew, at least to a certain degree. Now, if they thought it was trash, I'm sure some would have spoken up. But they knew me, they knew I wasn't some big game developer, and they judged it with that in mind. Now it's going out before the world, to stand on its own. My game is going to be sold next to every other platformer or shooter made my teams of experienced developers, and it'll be asked to stand on its own. To put my work out there, this project I've worked really hard on, cared a lot about... If I'm being completely honest, it's somewhat uncomfortable.

Really, all I'm hoping is that some people are able to get some fun out of the game. If that's accomplished, I'll be content. Because personally, as conceited as this might sound, I really do think 'The Zodiac Trial' offers a really special experience, with a lot of enjoyment to be found. And I hope others might see that to. Writing these past four blog posts has been something of a trip. It's cathartic, really, it's reminded me how far I've come. Being honest, I don't know how I'm going to one up these for the next 3 posts. I'm gonna guess that I just won't. 

Until then,