On true nonlinearity (Or, why is EP1 taking so long?)
It’s been a while since you’ve seen anything concrete from us lately, but I hope to change that in the coming weeks and I’ll make up for it today with some insight into what’s going on behind the scenes.
First milestone incoming!
I’ll start off with some exciting news! Our first major milestone, Alpha 1, is slated for June 9th. Alpha 1 is going to be an internal release since many of the features still aren’t in place. Here’s a look at what we hope to have done for Alpha 1:
- All main character portraits done
- All main plot enemy battlers done
- All environment art done
- Two dungeons playable (sans battles)
To put it in perspective, EP1 contains a total of four dungeons (and a fifth optional one), so most of the dungeon gameplay should be done for Alpha 1. Once all the dungeons are in place, the town areas will be added.
Five dungeons might not sound like a lot on paper, but it’s actually more than any other Vacant Sky game has had in the past. On top of that, our philosophy with Awakening is quality over quantity; the dungeons have a lot of optional content, plenty of choices, and hooks for replayability in the form of quests that are linked to other areas.
What’s taking so long?
There have been quite a number of hang ups I’ve talked about in the past that have caused us to miss the originally estimated release date, not the least of which being the sheer size of the cast (every character, major or minor, needs a portrait). This time, I’m going to talk about a more subtle and interesting timesink, as it’s something that has occupied the majority of my time lately.
Writing the content for Awakening is time-consuming. For the most part, every space on every map needs an event to be written for it and every one of those events is unique. There’s no copying and pasting. You get something new each time you step on a space.
But it’s not even the sheer volume of content that’s time consuming, it’s also that we’re not shying away from true nonlinearity.
Most areas of the game have optional spaces, and almost every area in the game can be revisited (if not immediately then eventually). This means that it’s possible to rush straight through every area in the game and save all of the optional content for the end. This means that every optional space needs to be written with the fact held firmly in mind that it could be visited at any point in the game.
Not only could a player save all the optional EP1 content for the end of EP1, the player might return to it in EP2! Or EP5! Keeping this in mind and making sure that the chronological context for every event makes sense from any point in the game is a daunting task.
On top of that, characters enter and leave the party throughout the game. And since Awakening has no superfluous characters (stop laughing, Kate, I know what you’re thinking), every one of those characters has something insightful to say or do that could totally change the way events play out.
You might be led to assume, then, that the optimal way to play if you want to experience all of the content is to save it all for the end such that you have everyone in your party for it. As it turns out, that’s not necessarily true: having someone new in your party doesn’t necessarily add to the event you would have otherwise experienced; it could change it completely. So Awakening has a lot of replayability based on how and when you tackle the optional content.
That’s all I’ve got for this week’s update. We’re working hard to make Awakening as awesome as we can and hope to have something great to share with you all soon.
Thanks for sticking with us.