Finally! A Steam Update!
As I mentioned before, this blog post will simply be a copy of that which can be found on the Steam community page for Mythlink...
After neglecting the Steam news page since the release of the original demo I’ve decided it’s finally time to put out an update so that players can see that this project is still quite active! In fact, those who want to follow the development more closely can find those tidbits at www.homepointgames.com/blog. I try to post there at least monthly with the latest developments and happenings related to Mythlink. In the meantime, this post will detail a bit of roadmap, planning, and thoughts on this project. I hope you can use this (and perhaps provide feedback) to give you a better idea of what exactly is going on behind the scenes. Let’s first look at some past and future due dates.
May 12, 2017: The first demo is released. This demo contains complete functionality for the “Puzzle” training room where you will play for a high score by clearing layers of square bricks. In the final version of the game, your score in the Puzzle room will be translated to intelligence experience points for your mythlink.
August 25, 2017: The first update for the demo is released. This update contains complete functionality for the “Gym” training room. This training room contains three different ways to play, each of which is designed to get you pumped up and moving. In the final version of the game, your scores in the Gym room will be translated to strength experience points for your mythlink.
December 2017/January 2018: The second update for the demo will be released. This update will contain complete functionality for the “Speed” training room. This training room will contain two to four different ways to play, each of which is designed to test your reflexes and speed. In the final version of the game, your scores in the Speed room will be translated to dexterity experience points for your mythlink.
Beginning of Q3 2018: The final update for the demo will be released. This update will contain a test mythlink that you can battle against a stationary dummy with. There will be no leveling up your mythlink and the customization options will be limited. As this is the single most important part of Mythlink, this stage (and, as a result, the following benchmarks) could be pushed back heavily to ensure the battle system is fun.
Q3 2018: Polish. Polish. Polish. I want to ensure that Mythlink provides a seamless and fun experience from beginning to end. I will spend as much time as necessary (3 months in my current time frame) doing nothing but polishing this game. This means anything from minor control quips, to improving sound design/graphics, and of course making the game as bug free as possible.
Q4 2018: Closed beta testing for the final version of Mythlink. This will test the network code of online battles and overall balance of the game. Note that this anticipated release date is heavily tentative and I will not hesitate to push back as needed in order to deliver a final product I am proud of.
Q1-2 2019: Full version release (1.0) of Mythlink. This will be a complete and final version of the game. Those who purchase the full version will be able to select one of three mythlinks, use the training rooms to enhance their mythlink, and battle online against other player’s mythlinks. Again, this release timeframe is heavily tentative and I will push back as needed to ensure quality.
Full release and beyond: Every game developer has a metric ton of ideas for their game that need to be trimmed out due to various reasons and I am no exception. If the game is successful, I would like to continue supporting it with additional features such as- increasing the number of mythlinks available, increasing the abilities available, adding mythlink customization, mythlink evolutions and more! I would also like to release all of this content for free and have no plans to do any paid DLC.
This section will cover some of my thoughts on the overall game design, style, and so on.
Gameplay is king in Mythlink. I have already cut some parts of the game which were designed and upon implementation, found that they just weren’t very much fun. I want to hold this belief firm as the development of the game continues. I want Mythlink to stand as a pure virtual reality title that could not be experienced any other way. At the same time, I hope to avoid the “arcade/carnival” style games that are heavily trending in the virtual reality world. I know what you’re thinking “But, doesn’t the minigame room style you currently have lend itself to that?!” and you would be somewhat correct, but I believe the monster raising aspect adds a lot to distance Mythlink from that parlor game feel. I am also taking extra care to try and make each room unique and fully featured to the point where you could rip out each individual training room and make a brand new VR game using the basic game concepts already created as a base.
Virtual reality is still a young form of media. This means many of the current video game tropes and genres must be rethought and sometimes completely abandoned. Being unable to use traditional game design ideas makes the overall process more risky but I feel is important. Mythlink should offer a fun experience that is unlike any other virtual reality game, keeps players coming back and is accessible for all players. Afterall, at the end of the day Mythlink is all about the monster raising and battling…which would fall apart completely if there is nobody online for you to play against!
One aspect of VR that sets it apart from other forms of media is the intense immersion factor. While this is a huge benefit of VR, it also presents a huge challenge. Every part of a VR title must be cohesive and unified be it controls, graphics, or sound. If even one small implementation falls behind or is lacking, the entire experience can be damped or ruined. That being said, I am very well aware that the sound is currently the weakest part of Mythlink. Unfortunately, the composer who was working with me had to step away from the project so I have been left to use commercial free sound effects and music.
Rest assured that I recognize the importance of good music and sound. This is something I will not hold back on and will be continuously worked until the full release of the game. I’m committed to holding back the games full release until the sound design has met my personal expectations (this includes finding a new composer and a minor overhaul to the current sound design).
I am no artist. That much is evident from the screenshots and current design of the game. Much like I mentioned in the sound design section above, keeping a cohesive graphic style is important to immersion. I do fully intend to keep the “low-poly” style of the game (as it helps the game be more accessible to those with weaker hardware), but would like to make some tweaks so that everything flows together a bit better. That being said I do plan to hire a 3d modeler/animator who can help replace some of the models in game and will also be fully responsible for creating and animating the mythlink models. These are vital to the game- Mythlink would not be a very appropriate title of the mythlinks themselves were not well done!
Also, some may have noticed that the image quality dropped when updating to the current patch for the demo. Unfortunately, I had to remove the forward rendering for the time being so the game looks worse overall. I plan to keep the forward rendering out of the game until closer to release. I touch upon this a bit in the dev blog but the short version of the reason is this- Unity is undergoing a bit of a rendering pipleline upgrade which broke the lab renderer from Valve I used for the forward rendering. Rather than waste time fixing what could be broken in any number of future Unity upgrades, I will wait until closer to release in order to re-implement forward rendering (probably during the 3 months of polish time I have set aside). I do fully expect this feature to be included in the final version.
Last but not least is the lighting. Lighting is pretty poorly handled right now. This is something I would like to improve as development goes on and will be an ongoing battle. I doubt the lighting in the final version will be perfect (in order to keep specs and load times low), but it’s something I plan to tweak and work on continuously until full release.
The short of the graphics can be summarized to this: The low-poly style isn’t going anywhere, but the game should still look nice and keep a certain happy tone throughout.
As with most small developers, tutorials and help documentation are one of the first things to go when starting a new project. I do realize that some of the rooms and the overall flow of the game may not be immediately intuitive on how exactly they work. This is something I would like to improve on and hope to include in the final version. At the very least I expect to have some brief instructions to help guide users through each activity. In the meantime, the rooms aren’t all too complicated, so have fun exploring and learning exactly how each part works!
Both virtual reality players and developers are in a unique situation where this amazing new tech has come forward and it is up to us to explore the best uses instead of copying ideas from past games or playing it too safe. It may be a bit of a dream, but I hope Mythlink can help show what designing a game from the ground up for virtual reality can create. Some of the ideas in Mythlink may fall flat and some may turn out stellar, but at the end of the day if people have fun playing then I have succeeded.
Questions, Comments, and Concerns all welcome!