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2021 and the next chapter in 2022

2021 is over! What a journey it was!

Welcome to the year end report for Broken Hammer Games and All is Fair in Dust and Air! For the vlog, please click the video thumbnail below!

There was a lot of milestones in 2021. Dust and Air not only hit Early Access on Steam but, it also exited Early Access all within the same year. While our time table shifted a little for that, we accomplished what we set out to do. We even had to contend with some unforeseen events when it came to the game engine being updated, as well as life events.

Team members transitioned from one country to another, one job to another, got new day jobs, and experienced many new life events. They dealt with both success and defeats. Some grew more active while others got lost in a sea of real life responsibilities. This caused us to shift some out of active member roles and then shift new ones in.

Within a year we've seen a visual novel no one knew about or ever expected to reach this point, start looking towards the larger story arcs. The first of which being Gwynevere's: "A Raven's Prayer."

The month of December wrapped up production on the first internal city shot of Ettingscove. A major piece that will help determine the design of the coming cityscape. While this is only one time of day shot we're sharing right now, there will be more later.

We'd also like to share more of our vision for Gwynevere's little town:

Imagine if you will, approaching a fjord from upon the clouds. Below you can see farmland and forests. Then roads connecting them and leading deeper up the fjord. It is not long till you see the outlines of a city rising up from a quiet cove, terracing up a hillside that climbs beyond that into the Eastern Ridge Mountains.

Like two wings coming out from the central city are two hill sides which part along the side of the cove and fjord. There, to one side, is defensive batteries and airship hangars. To the other, are industry and craftsmen with their fires lit and the smoke of progress rising into the clouds.

Ettingscove is set to borrow ideas from terraced cities in both real life and fantasy. It is a quieter city of the Fjordlands, farther away from the conflicts in Firnfeld or Anglea. It is a place where the wars have not touched much. Which is very much thanks to it gaining even more defensive protection from having it's back to the mountain ridge behind it.

While it doesn't boast the richness of Lord's Leap or the industriousness of Blackcliff, it is a key town that supplies the Fjordlands with it's farmlands and local resources that other parts simply do not have.

In total there will be four cityscapes within the Ravens Prayer story. One of them will be a multi story cityscape that will be seen in other stories. The other three will be only appearing in Raven's Prayer.

2022 we'll be targeting the first story release of Raven's Prayer. We're estimating two options depending on asset production. Either summer or Q4 2022. Much of the start of 2022 will be dominated by getting our current Dust and Air released on Android and iOS/Mac OS.

The Android release will be coming first. We actually wanted to get it out before the end of 2021 but ran into some delay getting the 1.2 patch done due to holiday schedules and some quirks getting the build generated.

iOS will follow, hopefully not long after. We managed to snag a base M1 Mac thanks to a 36 month deal at Best Buy in December. It'll be our primary dev machine for iOS and MacOS. With it, we'll be setup for long term support of the Apple platform for when Apple eventually phases out Intel Macs. The only caveat right now is, Apple Bootcamp support on M1 is simply not there. Tyrano also doesn't work on MacOS Monterrey yet. It can export 64bit but the software on the Mac side hasn't been updated for it. So we'll be utilizing some community workarounds to build the Dust and Air iOS and Mac apps.

Releases on mobile seem to not be super hindered once we figure things out. Given the larger market, we're hoping it provides the project a nice boost in funding that we can redirect right into development.

To the left is just a sample idea of our mobile version's main screen. We're still tweaking a few things while we work on getting the port generated.

However, for the future, there is that elephant in the room...the DLC story arcs and how those will release and play into all the different platforms.

When we started our IndieGoGo, we had an understanding back then that DLC was the route we would have to go and that, at most, there would need to be some programming done to get it all to work. Our research back then all pointed to that.

So what changed since then? Well, releasing on Steam was probably the biggest factor that contributed to us having to have a second look at how we'd roll out the story arcs. If we released a standalone game that had an installer, the DLC route would work just fine. However, there are limitations to the Steam DLC system that made us question it being the optimal way to roll out.

The next factor was: Tyrano. Back when we did our research, there was not enough information available on the problems that had to be resolved for DLC to work. It was proved it could be done, but beyond that, not many had done it. There just wasn't big projects like ours that existed.

The greatest problem to all of it, ended up being the save system. With time and more people building upon the platform, the issues began to crop up and the save system Tyrano uses would be a detriment to any DLC plans because it would simply not accept new DLC story content being added without developing game ending bugs.

While some issues have been resolved with Tyrano 2.0 and there are other developers developing ways to get around it, there is still enough concern to give pause. What is worse, no ETA has been given regarding a fix or a redo of the save system. Some have simply just moved over to VN Maker or Renpy to get around it. And given how VN Maker is just a blatant rip off from Tyrano on the backend, that one is for sure, out of our consideration.

Our project is large enough that doing a rework would take some time but, isn't impossible. Michael would likely be the one we'd turn to for it and he would be more than capable of making it happen. However, currently, the frontrunner option we are looking at is simply forgoing DLC and doing a price increase over time with each new story addition. Then we add some components that will help players skip around to avoid needing to replay. This would be the least impactful upon both development and players.

The long term plan was to offer a Dust and Air complete edition at a $50 or $60 price point. Each DLC being double to triple the story content of the initial story would cause their prices to be in the $20-$30 range. Those who backed for the complete story, would get the best value. Currently, if we did switch to a roll out/price up plan, the GoGo backers would still be getting a good deal. Just, those who got the basic edition now effectively would have the full game. That is a problem.

Which is the sole reason why we haven't solidified our DLC plans just yet. We're looking for options and looking as deep as we can at being able to still do the DLC plan. Before we release Raven's Prayer, we will be deciding on the best option for the future of the project and the best option which would honor our backer's investments. We want to do what will be right by those who have invested in us.

A lot could change between now and then, especially if Tyrano runs another update that resolves all of this.

Lastly, as we close up the year, Project 2 has been quiet but is going to be entering a more serious production period in 2022. It is our first standalone title that is not based on another work like Dust and Air. The management here formally introduced it months back for the company meeting and we're targeting it for the 2023 holiday season. Which makes sense especially because it is a Christmas story visual novel.

How this will impact Dust and Air is expected to be negligible as we'll have a different team working on it. Specifically, Ingrid is currently going to lead the charge on final asset development. She was originally brought on to work on the project so, going back to it isn't a problem. The size of the story currently is comparable more to the Cathedral Arc of Dust and Air, if not a little smaller. The cast is also smaller and sits at around forty characters so we don't expect asset development to be as lengthy or heavy as Dust and Air.

Will we do a crowd funding for it? Likely not. We'd like this title to go straight to release on completion. We're even doubtful if we'll go Early Access again. At most we will likely have the page up for the game up to a year in advance to build interest.

2022 is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year. Dust and Air will be advancing into Raven's Prayer and Project 2 will be getting it's first non-concept assets. Platforms will be expanded onto Android, iOS, and MacOS. We may even add Linux to that list while we're at it! Yes, we see you Linux fans on the wishlists!

Thank you for sticking with us on this journey, we hope you'll continue to follow along. So till next time, Happy New Year and we'll see you in the skies!

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