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Kandria is now on Steam! - December Update

2020.12.06 17:58:06
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Kandria now has a Steam page! Please visit and wishlist! It would help us a lot to get the game promoted on Steam. As a result of the Steam page and other unexpected changes, this month was pretty hectic, too, so there's a lot to talk about.

Nick - Marketing, Bugfixing, Video Editing, Artworking, Tweaking, Many-things-ing

Very early in the month, we found out that the Pro Helvetia interactive media grant was not going to happen in March of next year like we expected, but rather in September. This was some troubling news, as we had planned our production around that date, and more seriously, I had planned the funding around that as well. It's not like the grant moving would mean Kandria can't be finished – I'm determined to see that through to the end – it's more that with my initial budget allocation the grant timing would have been ideal to keep Fred and Tim on the project continuously if we got the grant.

Now that things have moved around, I'll have to scrounge up some more money to keep them employed on my own dime. It'll be fine, but it was just a bit of a shocking reveal that threw me for a loop. Alongside that revelation though was the announcement of the Swiss Games Showcase, a newer project that they have which offers mentorship from industry experts for a select number of Swiss game projects. The deadline for application to the showcase was 30th of November, which only gave us a few weeks to scrounge everything together.

The application required a press kit and a pitch video, which we got to work on almost immediately. However, in addition to this I felt it would be best if we still tried to land the new 0.0.4 demo release that had been announced, and got a Steam page published with the new material. The Steam page especially would let us start on gathering wishlists already, and garner some more visibility on another platform.

Publishing a Steam page requires quite a few things though: a trailer video and screenshots, capsule images for the store and the Steam library, and a captivating description text. While Tim started work on the press kit and Fred got going on a first enemy design, I got to work on the Steam artwork:

capsule banner library image

The style in these drawings is quite different from what I usually do, so it was really challenging work for me. All things considered though, I'm pretty happy with how they turned out! Having proper artwork like this also really helps with promotional material, which is an added bonus for sure.

Next I had to scrounge together a pitch video. The video had to include several points about the game's marketing strategy, financing, and so forth. To help with this I also spent an afternoon doing some market research into similar games on Steam and their general performance. What I found out in doing that is that the combination of platformer and hack & slash is a rather rare one, especially one that includes actual precision platforming, rather than platforming as a necessary byproduct of being side-scrolling. This indicates that we're aiming for a market niche, which is a good thing for smaller indie titles like Kandria.

The video also required narration and gameplay footage, all of which had to be recorded and cut together in a pleasing manner. I'm pretty happy with the end result, though I don't think we can use it for any public marketing material. If you're interested anyway, you can see the video here.

In between all of this there were bugs in the game and especially its tools that needed to be fixed. The tools especially have been giving me some grief. Everything being custom made is nice when it works, not so nice when it doesn't since you know it's all your fault. Being in a rush is also always a good way to make the most annoying bugs surface, because that's just how these things go. I'll probably spend some time intermittently in the next few weeks fixing the most egregious problems in the tooling.

The Swiss Games Showcase application then finally went out last week. We haven't heard back from them yet, but hopefully we should know whether we've been accepted before we go in for the holiday break. Fingers crossed!

After all that I got started on a new tileset for an area we already know is going to be important: the desert. Given the rather eccentric purple look of the tundra area, I thought it would be a good idea to keep that sort of thing up for all the remaining areas as well. Gives the game a more interesting and unique look, for sure.

desert desert-gif

The tileset barely covers the essentials at the moment, but it's already looking pretty decent, and it's really nice to get a break from the tundra environment I've had to look at for over a year now.

Since we were running out of time I re-used a lot of the footage from the mentorship video and interspersed it with new stuff from the desert environment to craft the trailer for the Steam page. This all only got done in the past week, so I've really been scrambling to get things done!

Finally, leading up to all of this I've also been trying to be more active in promoting the game and posting stuff to my Twitter. I'm not reaching any high numbers or anything yet, but I do think it'll help to do this stuff more often. After all, posting more frequently even with lower shares is still a greater amount of opportunities for other people to see it!

In any case, it's been a bunch of really stressful weeks for me and it has been taking its toll, too. I'm really glad the Steam page is finally out. It feels like a big step forward, but at the same time there's also so, so much work left to be done, it's kind of surreal for me to think about it. I'm really looking forward to being able to wind down a bit in the coming weeks, and especially to being able to take my mind off of things during the holiday break. I heard there was a game coming out soon, what was it again? Cyber… something? Might want to check that out then.

As usual, the new demo release you can get from the mailing list! If you're already subscribed, you should have gotten a reminder email with the download link as well.

Oh, and I just noticed that it's now been a full year of monthly updates! Hoorah.

Fred - Animation Tweaks, Sfx, Enemy Design

Most of the work I did this month has been on designing and implementing the new, first enemy type, adding player animations, and tweaking the combat framing.

zombie-concept zombie-concept2 player zombie

There's still a lot left to do there to get the feeling of it right. I think a large part of that is the effects and stuff though, so I also got started on that. I had a lot of fun doing explosions as its an effect I've done a bunch and it's always fun to kinda re-explore it. Next I'm trying figure out the other effects' design style for things like the hard fall, sword slashes, and so on.

explosion-16 explosion-32

Tim - Copywriting and Questing

It’s been a beneficial couple of weeks for getting a handle on the game’s marketing tone and quest tools. I’ve worked on the Steam page copy, which went through several drafts with Nick, and which I’m really happy with. I thought I knew about writing Steam pages, but I’ve learned lots from reading helpful online guides and tips from other devs, as well as studying the pages of games in a similar vein.

Some of this content has been retconned into the presskit too, so it reads its best for the Pro Helvetia application. To that end, I also fed back to Nick on the video script for the app, and I think we’ve ended up with a really cool summary of what the game is and where it’s going.

On the game side I’ve been having great fun in the level editor. I am now much more confident navigating it, and I even made a new room or “chunk” for the demo quest, mapping the basic layout and painting down the tileset. Ah, maybe one day I’ll be an artist… (No I won’t).

The quest itself is somewhat of a “my first Kandria quest” scenario, though I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out. I basically took the framework Nick had already scripted in the Markless language, and then changed the structure and content to suit the design I’d planned on paper. It generally fits within the constraints of what was already there, but there’s nothing like constraints to get you being creative! I’m finding Lisp quite an unusual syntax to get used to, so banged my head against the wall a little bit, but Nick was there to save the day.

I’m really pleased with the end result though. The characters are showing glimmers of life; I had fun writing The Stranger’s scene-investigation lines, as well as snappy back and forths with Fi. The quest even attempts an emotional punch - anyone playing the demo can let me know if that worked for you or not. The toolset is also great for rapid testing and iteration, which is vital for such a non-linear approach to questing as Kandria has. Only once you play do you go “Ahh, that line doesn’t make sense anymore if you read that other line first…”. So in short: good tools are your friend :)

The Plan

With the Pro Helvetia application out, the Steam page done, and the 0.0.4 demo released we've checked off all the points on our previous roadmap. For the remaining two work weeks of December, we're going to look at planning and conceptualising things. This means we'll work out major story beats, world building, gameplay areas, and side characters. After that there'll be a well-deserved break for two weeks, during which I'll try my best to clean out my head so that I can start fresh into the new year, ready to work on Kandria with a lot more energy.

January, February, and possibly March will be spent working on the vertical slice, so there won't be any further demo updates until that's done. Doing so will give us a lot of insight into the production process – we should have a much better idea of the scope of the game itself, and how much time it takes us to actually produce the necessary content, as well. This will be vital in shaping the future production scheduling. It should also serve as a good testing ground for all the mechanics and base features, our team work, and the testing feedback.

Until then, I hope you'll have a good holiday season, stay safe, and see you again in the new year! Or, if you're on the mailing list, in the next weekly!

If you haven't done so yet, check out our Steam page and wishlist Kandria! It would really help us out a lot.

Written by shinmera