Nov 30 (no updates since then)
State of the Game Address II
It seemed we were due for another big update on the overall progress of development. Now that we've hired up 4 additional full-time people and one part-time, we're making excellent progress. An amazing amount of work has occurred since the end of the KS, probably almost as much as the previous 2 years of development. Grim Dawn has grown both in terms of progress toward completion but also we've expanded content laterally and improved a lot of things.
The world redesign is one of the most obvious places where that has happened. In the map below, which only shows the first "act" you can see the green areas we intend to release for alpha are about 3x the volume of the original map from the first state of the game address. Plus, you can see the new levels look tight and represent a continuous, completed area as opposed to the chaotic mix of crap on the old map.
It is clocking at around 2-3 hours for someone who knows the levels and plays relatively straight through, skipping all the side content. Doing that you wind up finishing around level 11-13. An average play-through for someone who didn't know where they were going and explored a bit more would probably be 4-5 hours and reach level 13-16. To clear everything could probably take 6-8 hours, maybe more.
So the levels we intend to release in alpha are pretty much finished! Note that there is a lot of additional world area but that image just shows what we have ready for alpha as compared to what we previously had. I'm starting to think we may be making Grim Dawn too big! At least, bigger than we had originally intended. Instead of 10-15 hours for final release, we may end up closer to 20+.
While world development for alpha is pretty much complete, there are still a number of things we're trying to wrap up. Those include skill masteries (of which we have 5 nearly finished as opposed to the 3 we originally expected to release alpha with), story stuff, some crash bugs, finishing the act-1 boss and getting a first-pass balance on everything. Plus there are also just a bunch of little stupid things like fixing the teleport map. We also had thought we might have to release alpha without a female PC but we're well on the way to getting her in-game now - we've got female versions of all the equipment done and just need to finish skinning them so they'll animate. We're not far off now though.
Here is a detailed run-down of some of the more critical aspects of the game...
We have 2 masteries (soldier and demolition) that are about 99% done, occultist is about 90% done and nightblade and arcanist are around 75% done. We're at the point where we're just swapping skills in and out, trying to figure out how to achieve a really good feeling, cohesive gameplay style for each. Since most of the early skills are done, we don't need to do much more here for alpha.
In the last state of the game address, we only had 15 enemies in-game and 20 models. We now have 25 in-game, each with multiple variants and a total of 33 finished models.
We have 3 quest mini-bosses in and, where we had 0 hero monsters, we now have 115! custom designed heroes.
All the enemies that are going to be in the alpha are finished except for the end-boss, which we plan to complete in the next couple months.
We've significantly expanded our common loot and are currently finishing up revisions that were undertaken to create a more distinct visual progression and provide more diverse looking gear.
We have over 200 randomized affixes for common gear now including some rare and newly added epic ones that can attach unique skills to items.
We've created 63 "components", which are like relics / charms in TQ. I think they have cooler bonuses this time around, will remain useful longer and we've also introduced a higher level tier of rare legendary components. One of our artists is currently churning out all the inventory icons for these and they're looking very cool.
In the last state of the game address we had only a couple "prototype" unique items in-game. Now we have 98 unique items for levels 10-30 hooked up in-game and just awaiting art. Art is starting to roll out for those as you've seen in some of our recent updates.
Here is a little peak at the matrix-style level we use to verify all the items are working / the art is plugged in. The top is common items and the bottom is uniques. Note that some of the items don't have unique art yet even though they've been configured and hooked up in-game. The equipment art is often one of the last things to get plugged in since we can get the design done and working in-game without unique art.
Story / Quest
Last time we had no quests in-game and the new quest creation tools were lacking important functionality. We've had a designer dedicated to quest work and he's helped our programmers get the tools up to speed and is now working to wrap up the alpha quests. I think we have about 10 quests mostly in now and are just trying to refine them and work out some bugs.
A related issue we've been tackling recently is getting doors working so that we can have secret doors and also doors that are locked until you kill bosses or complete quests. For example, we have it set up now so that you begin outside the prison and the Devil's Crossing survivors won't give you access inside where most of the refugees live until you've proven yourself.
Generally the state of the game is improving. Pathing has gotten much better and a lot of annoying bugs have been squashed. Ragdoll is still acting a little funky, in terms of enemy bodies occasionally going berserk but that doesn't interfere with gameplay, just looks terrible. Often it is possible to play for an hour or more without encountering a major bug / crash. There is one new one that is occurring more frequently but we should have that resolved soon. Leading up to alpha, the programmers will be putting in more effort on big-fixing to get things to a point where players can generally play for an a couple hours or more without encountering any major issues. Of course, once we have several thousand people playing the game on different systems, I'm sure more bugs will come to light but, hey, isn't that the point of alpha?
It looks like alpha is taking a little longer than we predicted in the last state of the game address but it is still within the late 2012 / early 2013 time-frame that we've been saying for a long time - just, obviously on the 2013 side.
Creating and running the KS took more of my own time than I would have expected and that set my work back by a month or two. It was totally worth it though because the guys we hired have produced a ton of additional content that we wouldn't have now otherwise and, overall, the game has improved dramatically. More importantly, the trade-off is that it will be easier to get to the final release. Before the KS, I thought we could push out alpha by about now but I had no idea how long it was going to take to finish the game. Now I think we're in good shape for a final release in latter half of 2013.
It is pretty surreal that we're actually nearing a release. I've been working on Grim Dawn for so long now and in the first year or two it didn't even feel real that what I was doing was achievable. I felt like it could be done if some things that were uncertain at the time worked out in our favor but it was such an ambitious project for such a small group of mostly part-time people that doubts often kept me awake at night. I wondered if I was wasting precious years of my career chasing a dream that might never be realized? So now, to finally be rounding he corner to alpha, it is difficult to believe that is is really happening. I can't wait for you all to play the game but, at the same time, it is also a little terrifying.