March Update

the Manual and Help buttonsThe game is still missing a bunch of assets (both art and music), but the user interface is basically complete. There’s a first draft manual, and the game has been winnable for some time. So we’re starting to look at tuning and polish.

QA is still rigorously testing every scene. 89% are completely tested, and most of the rest have at least some coverage.

We’re still finding plenty of bugs, though usually you can keep playing (that is, they’re not severe enough to crash or prevent progress).

Part of the tuning process has been figuring out what the game still needs. I just added a new scene this week, which is one of the reasons it’s still hard to talk about a release date.

October Progress Update

troll warrior leans on a spearI’ve been working full time on Six Ages for over two years, but it’s still not done. How far along is it?

Answering that question is a little hard, partly because I haven’t devoted as much time to managing the status as I have on creating the game. I am pretty sure of one thing: it will not be released this year, as I had originally hoped.

Other than that, I’m pleased with the progress. One important reason is that the budget needed to be significantly less than King of Dragon Pass, and even as development continues longer than I had planned, we’re still OK on costs. And game play is complete enough that you can play a complete game, so we can start improving that. And complete enough that we can tell a lot of things are working pretty well.

One reason that things are taking longer than my original plan is that as we developed the game, it became obvious that it would need more scenes and accompanying art than I had first thought. We now have 40% more scenes, and 59% more scene art, in fact!

More scenes means not only more art, but more time needed to write them, more time needed to code them in our scripting language, and more time needed to make sure that all branches are tested. As I’ve written before, we are done with the writing. We’ve also completed script coding. Testing is harder to measure (since some branches depend on external conditions or chance), but over 3/4 of scenes have had all branches exercised. (Our automated testing isn’t as thorough, though it adds another level of confidence.)

Children cheer, dressed for winterIf the art needs hadn’t grown, we would be completing the scene art this month. But there are more scenes. And on top of that, since it’s a different game than King of Dragon Pass, we can’t reuse some art in the same fashion. So there’s still a bunch to go. On the other hand, we have a lot of really good art.

The game is certainly far enough along to start its tutorial. The first draft is nearly complete. Thanks to those who gave input!

Besides finishing the art, a few big tasks remain: music, manual, user interface polish, and a lot of game tuning. That will clearly take us past the December holidays and into next year.

So It Is Written

Rune of writingThe game just hit an important milestone: our writer/designer Robin D. Laws has completed his work. All of the interactive scenes and myths are written.

This doesn’t mean the game is almost done. If I recall correctly, Robin also finished his work on King of Dragon Pass well before anyone else. But it does shift gameplay development into a refinement phase.

Other aspects of the game have only barely started, such as music and a tutorial. And there’s still a lot of art to draw.

And it’s possible we’ll need a few new scenes, though someone else will likely write them.

A very approximate guess as to how much Robin has written is 400,000 words. (The scene compiler outputs a text file with all the strings, which we will be spell checking. This file contains 402,293 words, though some of these are names of music or other aspects of implementation.) That’s as much as ten short novels!

While you’re waiting to read Robin’s work in Six Ages, you can check out some of his other recent work, which has been nominated for ENnies Awards.

April Progress Update

One big change since the last update: the development blog has moved. That’s the first step in improving the game’s web site.

A recent development focus has been combat, and what King of Dragon Pass called “heroic combat” is now in the game. These are 27 situations where the normal combat flow is interrupted by an opportunity for an individual hero. (King of Dragon Pass had only 16, though one was called “Ten Path Battle” so it’s about the same.) There are also additional opportunities that may occur, which players choose instead of another combat option. (I still need to write “A Chance for Slaughter.”) So while the game still takes a fairly abstract approach to combat that favors narrative, players will get to make more choices during battle.

The Otherworld was another recent focus. We have an artist creating the illustrations, and all but one of the Otherworld travels is written and in the game. This hasn’t been a major focus of testing yet, but they do seem playable.

We continue to test as we go. The game is not complete, but it’s possible to winTrying to lead a clan of 675 people is impossible (thanks to liberal applications of cows from the Debug dialog, Liana has twice won the game). This has given us some feel for what the game still needs, and Robin has been adding scenes to flesh things out or adapt to certain play styles.

There are now 272 scenes coded and 224 that Liana has fully tested. We’re not done creating them, but this is almost as many in the game as were written a month ago.

It’s not technically a scene, but we’re using a script to show a page on the Lore screen that reflects your choices in the initial questionnaire. I’ve probably said it before, but we’re making a lot more use of scripts (compared to King of Dragon Pass).

jewelry designWhile we completed the basic concept art for the game a while ago, we’ve been working on some more specifics (both individuals and Gloranthan cultures). The shared Dropbox folder of sketches and reference material is now 864 MB…

Big tasks coming up soon: starting to think about a tutorial, and music.