Just what it sounds like. I have a lot going on in my life and it's hard for me to focus on making this game. Check out my other blog to see what's going on instead.
School continues to be tough. I'm trying to take three Japanese classes and two English classes all at once. If I didn't have people supporting me from everywhere that would probably be too much already.
Luckily, I did have enough time, with a little to spare. The main programmer and I have managed to tackle the data problem--that is, the ability to stick information about all the monsters, skills and items into a few convenient files and have the game read that when necessary. I thought that would be a huge task, but it was deceptively easy.
Besides helping me, said programmer is also working on the basics of the battle screen, so you'll be able to actually make the choices and eventually see them function. There's a lot to do with that, but it is the core of the game, after all. Once battling works, most of the work will be building on that. Considering we had no plans to put a lot of time in this month, I'm pretty pleased that we got this much done.
In other news, we're working on another major character, to reveal in more detail in the future. Check out some of the concept art below.
As you may know by now, I decided to put Dungeon University on the backburner until this May. Like the characters in the game, I too have a tough college education to go through, and it's going to take nearly all of my energy to keep up with it this semester.
While that is the main reason for this little break, there's also the matter of the depression that haunted me over the holiday season. It turns out that a lot of game developers go through this--there's no established way to get through the process, and expectations feel really high. As a result, I sometimes feel (like many others probably do at times) that there is no way I can make a finished product that is as good as I have made it out to be. So, sometimes it is easier to just do nothing than to do work that might not be good enough.
Worse still, I tried to hide my depression from the world for a long time. Finally, I admitted to it on Facebook a while back. From now on, it's going to be relatively public information. Why? Just for honesty's sake, really. If you're thinking about supporting my game, you should know what kind of developer I am, after all.
Therefore, even though there will be less work going on during these next few months, I have decided to do these monthly updates in the meantime, talking about how things are going. By admitting these things and taking the pressure off for a while, I've made myself feel a lot better already, so when May comes around, hopefully the fire will be all the way back. In the meantime, the artist and sound designer are still doing some work on their own.
On that note, I want to thank you all for reading this far. Below is a new piece of music, meant for some of the bigger boss battles in Dungeon University. Enjoy!
Technically, the very first one is done: it's possible to have a very simple battle against some predetermined enemies. There aren't a lot of commands, but you do have choices to make. I could have people test this and they'd see if the most basic principles of my game are sound.
Right now, I'm setting up simple dungeon floors where a player can walk around, go after the most basic goals, and trigger the battles above. It's not a groundbreaking change, but it does add something beyond simply fighting a single battle, since now players have a little more to think about and may even have to fight multiple battles sometimes.
I'll reveal the future steps as I approach them, but here's a basic road map to my game's development: the Kickstarter will likely launch while working on the fourth release, and the game will head into an exclusive alpha phase shortly after that. Around the eighth version on my list, I hope to start getting my game onto Steam's Early Access program. The full release is actually marked as #17--the rest consist of early patching, extras and other support. It would only be after I was fully happy with it that I'd be willing to move to another project.
So does this give us a timeline, then? Well, sort of. Current work has suggested that some of these easier phases take only about 2 weeks to get working. I suspect the other ones will be much more complicated, though, so it's probably safer to expect some of them to take closer to a month or even a bit more. The math, then, suggests 1-2 years total, with the Kickstarter right smack at the beginning of 2016. Even as I type that, it doesn't seem quite right, but the numbers don't lie!
One is the dungeon floor generator. Originally, I wanted to make really large maps, with spread-out rooms, similar to, say, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. They would have required a tile engine to make the pieces all fit together properly, and players would spend quite a bit of time on each floor. Now, though, each floor will have only one or two locations of interest, perhaps only a single enemy, and a time limit that keeps players rushing around. That way, even the smallest obstacles may be interesting challenges. This also makes the purely turn-based battle system more exciting.
Speaking of time, the original plan was to have these dungeon dives as only one part of a larger time management scheme. As time passed, events would be scheduled on the fly, including special character conversations, class sessions, and main story points. They could happen in different orders due to player choices, sometimes multiple in a single time frame. However, I've now thought of ways to untie the character conversations and skill learning system (classes) from the schedule. Only the story events will still be part of the schedule, and since those were at specific points in the first place, it won't be so messy.
These are the main things I've seen fit to change about the game design itself. Next time, I'll talk a bit about changing the way I work on development.
I've mentioned this elsewhere, but I basically had to take down the site for The Third Face and replace it with the Dungeon University content. That doesn't bother me at the moment--I haven't been promoting The Third Face for a while now.
Still, this whole thing is only beginning: mentioning this game online while I work towards playable prototypes. I hope to get interest in Dungeon University going from here on out, and this is the first step. After all, it is possible that within a month I'll have a few people testing the game. (More on the prototypes another time.)
Once I get some form of income, I'd like to invest in some other domains besides the rather vague ephixmedia.com. Obviously, once this game gets up off the ground, it'll make sense to have dungeonuniversity.com, and in case of future projects, I'd like to eventually set up an ephixgames.com as a hotspot for my game development ventures. As writing books becomes relevant again, there will probably be an ephixbooks.com and perhaps even a specific thethirdface.com.
All of that, though, is way in the future. This website is still going to be the central hub for all of my various projects, regardless. It's a good umbrella for all of it. (Though I might still grab philnschipper.com some day as a redirect...)