Given this place is mostly very quiet, I thought the very remaining vistors/lurkers might find this post from Flarechess on the Steam forum interesting, not for its apology (not needed btw) but for its main content. Post here:
Grisemine, your English is fine. I understand your frustration.
I also want to apologize to everyone here for my combative attitude yesterday; I’m here to represent both the company’s and the community’s perspectives to each other. Much like the designers spend as much time as possible polishing up and adding in design elements to the game, my home and work is here online to facilitate these discussions.
I can address some of the questions you’ve all raised here. Note that most of this is from my own experience living through the dev cycle from late 2017 - now.
We generally have a little over a month for each Update work. It’s a coordinated effort between the OSE team and 505’s team to make decisions that can match that scope, budget, and add in any small victories we can that would alleviate parts of the player’s experience. Some updates were more challenging than others. The Save Anywhere system took nearly two entire weeks of one engineer’s time to do, and even now it is receiving updates to make sure certain player states are preserved. Likewise, linking the entire dungeon together via a Grand Staircase was surprisingly more difficult than we expected, but we placed it as a priority for Update 2. Update 3 was our time to work on performance optimization so we could give the same work to console ports, which are being developed right now.
As for the Kickstarter campaign, I can ask people on the team who have been here since the beginning for pieces of the puzzle, but much like UA’s development, not everyone had the whole picture. (For example, I know Chris’ post about DMMM-focus vs UW on quarterofthree floats around. To clarify, he was originally a Lead Producer but transitioned to a Designer who focuses primarily on combat-mechanics and occasional level-design adjustments, so his thoughts about the game were limited to his corner of the world. If you spoke to Tim (Stellmach) about what he worked on throughout most of the project, he has nearly the entire magic system to juggle along with quest setups and some recent UI adjustments. Most sections of the game are worked on individually.) The KS was not intentionally created to deceive backers; as I understand it, there were grandiose plans for the Abyss, including full-fledged Faction villages that could be stumbled upon, NPCs, etc. Many of those plans had to be reconsidered once our large investor pivoted away from the project after the Kickstarter, which also meant putting those aspects of the game on the backburner. Even putting the game itself on a backburner. We would not have been able to launch UA at all if 505 Games did not sign with us, and upper management took some large risks investing personal funds into the game to even delay launch and give us more time. The last day we could launch in 2018 was November 15, and we had to take it or else give up on the project entirely.
I’d say one of the key takeaways from UA’s development is how important having a good producer is, and having a good team that is ALL on board with the core design decisions, and of course being more honest with the community. We’ve been able to breathe since launch, and many of us are finally able to play the game as a whole without being swamped with tasks. I log every bug I find across our multiple forums to our QA team, which locally consists of 4 people. This is one of the smallest QA teams I have ever seen, and there’s only so many man hours that can be contributed to reproducing bugs. (We hired an external company to assist us with QA after Update 2, if I recall the timeline correctly, but they’re primarily focused on console bugs at the moment, whereas our core QA team handles both PC and console issues).
We know mistakes were made. I think if UA’s Kickstarter had been more reasonably scoped, if we had a clearer priority vision, if we actually KNEW about how hard it would be to port to Mac and Linux alongside PC, etc, launch would have been easier on everyone, if it still happened at all. As it is, we’re making the best with what we have and trying to prioritize our time with these updates.
I know this is a long post, so my TL;DR:
- The game had major vision and budget issues right after the KS, and I agree these should have been brought the forefront of backers’ attention. It was not.
- We are making the most out of our current scope, budget and timeline without burning out our developers. Some features were more challenging to implement than others.
- Features were worked on individually for the most part and then combined together, which explains some disconnects in the game’s progress perception.
…Firstly, as with Sam, people late to the dev team are having to answer for senior members present from the beginning. Yes it’s their job, but it’s also a headache, and doomed to fail in one obvious sense. And it’s wrong. They weren’t there when poop was departing the whirling fan and hitting the walls. And by definition they weren’t party to the decisions or thinking…only what they have been told.
The thing about Steam, once the spikes have ironed themselves out over many months, is that the core complaints remain, and are still - sadly - often valid. Any old fool can nitpick the tone, the angle, the PR people doing their jobs, the poo-flinger finger-pointers…but still, the substantial criticisms of the game, and its dev process remain. Laregly because they still haven’t been answered in a meaningful way. We know this was discussed before, with caveats that some of it can’t be discussed. The Lead Producer stuff needs fleshing out for a start.
Personally I don’t have much time for a revisionist view of the game dev, spun to fit a differet rear-view mirror. I thought/hoped that had died down. It’s silly and dishonest to blame players/backers/fans in one small way or another…or revise what the game was mean’t to be. Chris copped a lot of flack for this, rightly…though were most people aware he was Designer for much of the later process? As for transparency in general, this game has been the poster-child for flawed practice (even given the finance woes that were with-held). I know, because I often chased it at the time, amongst many two or three others loony enough to start wading through it all.
And Interestingly enough, or not, Warren’s most recent SS3 talk is hitting similarly wrong notes in my book. Forget the sugar high…the sideswipes about not trying to make a game to compete with people’s nostalgic memory of the first iteration is highly suspect; designed to side-step some of the more difficult questions arising from a successful and known game world. Difficult should not mean impossible. One again,the promise of the ‘the new’ is nice and glittery, but where have we heard that before…
One reason that Steam has such a persistent level of acrimony is because they are trying to do what this place used to do…get a meaningful account, not just of the process that led to the lack of a true UU sequel, but the thinking behind the process (both before and after the mystery plug was pulled finance-wise).
Until core questions are answered, everything else is just rearguard and fire-fighting,and can never go anywhere. Whether that’s the the latest update or console version, or whatever, doesn’t ultimately (boom boom) matter. This game cannot be slowly walked - or talked - into being something else. That’s the sad fact of the matter, whatever you make of it and the PR process,which isprofessional and conciliatory. The lessons will also echo through the ss3 dev process, whether they like it or not. It is silly to think they woudn’t, different team, budget and process, or no.
And I foud one thing staggering for a game of this nature - 4 inhouse QA people! Good to have it finally confirmed. It explains a lot.
Why raise all this again now? Well, because those who think ss3 is going to be a bright new city-on-a-hillare in for a shock if the think that lessons don’t travel.
There is useful overlap between the two game words, and they stem from the same fundamental philosophy and game-type.
For amoment I read Flarechess’s (fair) post, and Warren’s sea-to-shining-sea thing,and I thought ‘Oh god, here we go again…’. Hopefully not.