August Studio Update
Well, we made it!
August marked a major goal in the development of All is Fair in Dust and Air. Launching our IndieGoGo campaign.
Frankly, it's been a long year for learning here at Broken Hammer. Back in January I had gotten the first steps done with setting up the company accounts to handle crowdfunding.
Back then I really was aiming for March or April to launch. Our internal build wasn't at it's best state, but we had enough content done to be able to show it off. The promo vid I shot in the prior November/December of 2016 was proof of that.
The demo was limping along and no matter what we tried, it just was looking more and more like summer would be when we could get it really done. This was mostly due to just a lot of team members graduating or just being swamped with work as the spring months rolled along.
Ryan and I got a bit of work in ourselves as his re-enacting provided some background rolls on a couple of TV shows and a commercial. Which definitely helped as it helped cover company operating expenses.
Rolling into July, we found ourselves delaying to take advantage of a better launch for the campaign. Now looking back at August and launching on the 7th, were we too early? Too late?
Our demo looks to be dropping along with this report, should we have waited? That's debatable.
August presented us with quite the rude awakening of what we needed to do to get the word out. It also presented some of the terrible realities of how hard it is to get your campaign noticed in the VN community.
When you're the designer, working away on a project, you don't really think about the same things as you would a person who is looking in from the outside. Let's face it, VNs can be a dime a dozen. What hooks a person to one, won't hook one to another. But to get people to even see your project so they can check it out, that is often a monumental task. Made worse because there are just so many small teams that release low quality VNs.
It isn't just limited to small teams. There are at least a few VN companies on Steam which have very sloppy business models. They churn out endless chapter one stories and never finish anything. Why? Because it's easy money. Cater to certain interests among customers.
Just get an artist to draw overly sexualized females, slap a different genre on it, add adult content...done. Very few see another episode or two to extend the story. Frankly because their stories are very...well, pretty terrible.
In the early stages of this project we would check into western made VNs that would make it onto Steam. To get a better idea of our competition...
Lets just say their story wasn't their strong point and unfortunately, it hasn't changed that much since. The best VNs have always been those from Japan.
Yet, all of this has really led to a very negative stigma about western VNs. Something which we're looking to change. We aren't the first to attempt this, but we're likely the largest.
Getting that word across to potential investors has been where it gets difficult. Even as I write this and get ready to go live with our demo, there are plenty in the GOIO community which have likely already labeled us as scum. Which actually, doesn't really bother me that much. We'll prove them wrong in the end and that is fine. This project has time and time again refused to just vanish and fade away. We have a lot to prove and I welcome being able to prove it.
With that out of the way, lets look at what we've been up do during the midst of all of this campaign.
The art department has been making some major headway towards content that affects the rest of the Neutral Arc. Specifically the lighting and being able to go back and apply new techniques to some of our past designs. Georgy really has outdone himself.
I'm also happy to report that the Cathedral Cityscape shot was completed and added to the game. You'll see it when you play it. Conn's attention to detail in the shot was just out of this world.
He's right now moving onto some major key images.
Then lastly wrapping up the art update, Faith has returned after a long hiatus from the project. Real life happens, we may not like it but, sometimes you just need to take time to handle it. I'll be the first to admit to losing patience over it back then. It came at a bad time. But right now, I'm very much elated to have her back at such a good time.
Faith's return was a major shakeup in terms of our concepting. Before, Georgy or Conn would have to do both concepts and final designs. Sometimes it would take time to form ideas from scratch. Faith was always excellent in creating concepts that would give you real solid ideas to build on. In fact, before her hiatus, I looked at the possibility of her being our modeler.
Unfortunately back then I really didn't understand how her style would and wouldn't work for the production planned.
She does a lot of work in more physical sketching and painting. Most of our modeling is done digitally. But that doesn't mean her work isn't useful.
When she rejoined, the first task she tackled was drawing Nakiri, our Arashi Heroine. Someone we really didn't have a lot of art on.
She's since done more than just the picture included here. In fact she's already concepted about seven or eight characters that are from the main story arcs whom had never had any concepts done before.
That alone gives us a big boost in development speed as we eventually come off development of the initial Neutral Arc.
Look for more of her art in the coming weeks!
The music department got a chance to get better feedback as we worked heavily on the demo. Songs that needed some work have gone back into active development once again.
Expect another report down the line as they finish.
Writing has been in a major grind session for most of the month.
Not only is it putting work into a Yeshan arc edit, it's also been very active in prepping the demo.
With the addition of Rebecca, who originally joined to help us with community management, she has since been promoted to an editor.
Rebecca may not get much spotlight as a moderator for the GOIO community, but she is an absolute wonder as an editor. It is thanks to her that the demo received a much needed layer of polish before going live.
As the lead writer (And really sole writer left), I've had to double as an editor for awhile now. While others have helped catch some quirks in the story, it was a major task bringing the story itself up to date with our own lore. Having a dedicated editor is a dream come true.
It isn't to sell Max short, he did an amazing job back when he took up the task to write the neutral arc off the outlines I had made. But it all had needed an overhaul from our early writings before we had gotten comfortable with VN writing. Lots of edits, reworks, and Max had moved on to other things.
Had we had Rebecca back then, the writing team would have likely finished sooner and more polished.
While the Alpha Demo should still be considered a work in progress, Rebecca's input should bring about many changes for the better. Which we hope will make Dust and Air even nicer as we move forward.
Programming has not been a major need when working with Tyrano, but the lack of staff which could address potential issues, has been noticed over time.
August saw the joining of our first programmer, Darren, who will be a major asset as the project grows.
You may not see much of him as he works for Volition in his day job, but his hand will be felt behind the scenes.
Darren has been a good online friend of mine since we met in The Old Republic. He's one of the few MMO players I can say make MMOs a better place when they play. It's wonderful to have him involved with Dust and Air.
Forward to September:
September will see the close of our crowd funding campaign, but it is likely going to be just as busy as we get physical perks ordered and start prepping to ship items.
Our team has grown by three already thanks in part to our GoGo campaign. We're excited to see what will happen next as we get the Alpha Demo out and people can better see what we're about.
Will it be enough to reach our goal? We'll see. Some may like it, some may hate it. Demos can vary in how effective they are. Some may say we should have set our goal lower, and that isn't a bad argument to make. But, our goal is not without reason.
Making games is expensive and time consuming. While we've managed to do pretty well together so far, and our choices have enabled us to shave off some of the potential extra costs, there are a lot of hidden expenses that most forget about. Even if I cover the expenses that keep Broken Hammer in business, it limits how much I could invest beyond that. Being in California means I have to cover the astronomical costs of having a business in this state. Really it is not fun. Sacramento should be fired for how bad it is hurting small business startups, but that's another argument I won't go into on this.
Our goal takes everything into account and is about the best estimate we arrived at. Especially taking into account some of our team members who have poured their heart and soul into this.
In closing I'd just like to say something that I realized as I was writing this post.
It's been ten years now since I was in a hospital with a stage four cancer mess. Six months of chemo, two operations. Then finally hearing a doctor say "It's shrinking and we don't know why."
Did I ever think back then I'd be in charge of this company? Nah.
When your in something like that, your thoughts are mostly on just surviving. You take every day one at a time. It changes your mindset on a lot of things. August ten years ago...I'd be going into oncology labs just about every week, every day. Getting poked with needles. Feeling poison being dumped into you. Hair vanishing. Parents, Grandparents there prayin you survive as that vile nasty stuff gets flooded through your veins. Every week hearing the doctor talk about cancer counts, talking about every worst case scenario.
Then when counts rise and they put you on harder chemo. The stuff which takes the life out of you. Makes the veins in your arms rock hard and feeling like they're on fire. And that isn't even as bad as it can get. Those at places like City of Hope go through much worse.
Not to mention the precious nurses who work those places who have to get to know people that don't often make it. I never will forget Lupe, the nurse who I often had. But anyway, my point is, don't ever end up there if you can do things now to help avoid it. If you have a relative going through it, speak life over them. I've been to that point where the treatment gets so bad, the mind starts to ponder just giving up. It's not fun. Speak live into them. They may not want it but don't give up. No one should have to go that way. Ten years has been a journey I almost didn't get to make. Each story written for Dust and Air, a story that may not have been told. I guess that's what makes all these stories and characters special to me on a more personal level.
Well... I'm excited to see what the next ten years will bring as Dust and Air goes from dream to reality. See you next month!