Friday Dev Update: Why Early Access?

11:50 AM willsterling23 1 Comments

Early access is a relatively new business model that has swept over the gaming industry in recent years. With the term "early access," comes lots of thoughts and questions about what that means for gaming. Is early access just a way for developers and publishers to get players to pay to test their game? Is it an appropriate way for independent companies to fund their development? Should every game be released as early access?

With all these questions and emotions surrounding the business model of early access we wanted to let you in on our thought process behind this model and why we decided to go the route of early access.

Funding

The primary reason we chose to release our game in early access was to fund the development of Salt. We worked on Salt for quite a while before releasing in early access, but at some point knew we would run out of money. We originally tossed around the idea of a kickstarter, but we quickly decided against that. We wanted to ensure that players got something for their money and not just a promise. And so we planned on getting our game to a playable state with a decent initial spread of content, and then we would release in early access.


The Demo

We knew going into it that players were hesitant to buy into early access games, and rightly so. There's no shortage of players getting burned from buying into games that never finish their development cycle. We knew that wasn't going to happen with our game, but how do you convince players of that? We love our game and would finish it no matter what, just because we are passionate about what we do. But we knew we needed a way to alleviate the fears that players have about early access.

This is the main reason we have a demo available for the game. We weren't trying to trick anyone or deceive players into thinking Salt was something it wasn't. So we decided to make a free demo that exposes players to some different aspects of the game and gives them an idea of what Salt is about. We always encourage players to try out the demo before they buy to see if Salt is the game for them.

Communication and Transparency

In addition to having a demo available, we also knew that constant communication and transparency with the player base was very important in relieving some of the early access fears. This is why we try to respond to players regarding every topic and we are open about our plans with Salt. We are active on social media, the Salt subreddit, and the Steam discussion forums. We want our players to know what is going on at Lavaboots Studios, what we plan on working on, and be able to ask any question they want and receive an answer.


Frequent Updates

We knew early on that Salt was going to be a game with updates. We want to constantly add content and features to Salt, and the idea of frequent updates is integral to this process. Different updates take different amounts of time depending on the content, but we try to push them out frequently and consistently. In addition to releasing the updates in a timely manner, we also try to communicate during the process of working on the updates, letting the players know how the progress is going and how close we are to completion.



So far early access has been a great model for Salt and we are happy that we chose that route. We will be consistently communicating with players and updating the demo and game through the development cycle. We are very thankful for all the players who have supported Salt with their money, suggestions, and feedback about the game.


- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)



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Friday Dev Update: Progress on the Boat Upgrade Update

2:26 PM Unknown 8 Comments

I've been looking forward to being able to make my ship my home in Salt. Finally you will be able to do just that after the next major update. We've been working hard the past few weeks coding new systems and creating new items for use in customizing your ship. Along the way, we've also made a few other optimizations and fixes. I want to take a moment to give a brief overview of the upcoming update.

Boat Customization Items

Customizing your ship will use very similar mechanics to those that are used to place ships in the water. To place an upgrade you activate (right-click) it from your inventory and it will activate the placement preview. Once you position and rotate the preview as you see fit, left click to place the upgrade.

Some upgrades you will be free to place it almost anywhere on your ship. Torch holders are one of these items. Other upgrades -- such as a new mast and sail -- will have specific spots or aspects of the ship that they upgrade.

These items will be crafted or found/looted/quested for throughout the world.

New 'Retrieve' Button

In conjunction with the upgrade system, we have added a new button to retrieve upgrades. This button will be set to 'F' by default. To retrieve an upgrade from a ship, look at it so that you see the interaction hand, then hold 'F' for just a moment, and the upgrade will be removed from the boat and returned to your inventory. We decided to make a whole new button for this action so that the normal interact button remained free to interact with the upgrade you placed. For instance, resting in a bed, raising a sail, or placing a torch in a torch holder.

Boat Stability Improvements

Any of you who have gotten a larger ship already know how bouncy they can get, especially in larger waves. We've done some adjustments on these ships that will help with their stability so that they will be actually useful in deep ocean, which is where the larger ships are intended to shine. We are also doing some re-balancing of boat speeds.

Performance Improvements At Far Distances

With a large world, we have to have large numbers to keep up with all of the positions of objects in the world. However, the numbers we use only take up a certain amount of memory. This has an effect where the larger the numbers become, the less precise they are. Less precision results in some strange things in the game such as all moving objects and some visual effects appearing to stutter or lag badly. We have largely mitigated this by implementing a system that periodically resets the positions of the objects in the world back to low numbers while keeping up with an offset so that we know where things really are.

However boats and player physics were still experiencing issues when far away from the home island, which primarily manifested as strange movement while riding boats. This will be fixed in the upcoming update.

Also, previously the position reset would only occur when the game was saved. The position reset now occurs on the fly as needed, separate from saving.



You can expect this update to roll out within the next couple of weeks. Also, thanks to all of you great players who constantly offer your great feedback and ideas. We look forward to hearing more from you all regarding this update!



- John Gamble (Lead Developer)

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Friday Dev Update: Going Forward

8:55 AM willsterling23 6 Comments

We think transparency is one of the most important features a business can have. This is especially true when it comes to independent developers and early access games. For that reason, we place a lot of importance on our communication with the player base and try our best to be clear about the decisions we've made, are making, and are going to make.

Today I want to talk about some of the updates we'll be working on going forward into 2015. It's going to be a great year, and we are excited to bring more content to Salt.

A New GUI

One of the updates we are excited most to implement in 2015 is the GUI overhaul. The system and interface we have in place now is really more of a placeholder than anything. Not only will we be completely redesigning how the interface looks and feels, but we'll also be adding in new screens such as a character screen for you to view your player stats. This will be particularly fun for players who love stats and numbers. You'll be able to see stats such as damage, defense, sneak stats, health numbers, and more. 

Controller, Mac, and Linux Support

Another feature we can't wait to fully implement is controller support. While you can play with a controller currently, it isn't fully fleshed out and some things still don't work. Full controller support will come and will allow you do everything you need with a controller. We will also be ensuring that it works well with the new redesigned interface once the GUI gets an overhaul. In addition to controller support, we'll also be bringing Salt to Mac and Linux machines! 

New Islands and Wildlife

We've got some really fun ideas for adding new island types and varieties to Salt. One idea we've had is to have snow islands start spawning as you get farther north. These new island types will not only be a nice visual change, but will also feature new resources and wildlife for you to encounter. We've even tossed around the idea of having some super rare islands as you get really far out into the sea. There are a lot of possibilities, and we'd love to hear your feedback regarding new islands and what you'd like to see! 

Weather, Clouds, and Stars

Weather is going to be a great addition to Salt and it will really add to the feeling of a dynamic world. We want to ensure that weather is randomized, dangerous, and fun. You'll never know when a huge storm is going to pop up and you're out in the deep sea on a dinky boat. In addition to new weather, we're also going to be adding in clouds and stars. We've got some interesting ideas for how we'd like to use these to be more than just a skybox, such as actual constellations and things of that nature. 

Settling

I can't tell you how many times I've been exploring an island in Salt and thought, "This would be a great place to build a home." Well, we want to make sure you can actually do that. During 2015 we'll be adding in a settling update that will allow you to build your own home on an island. We'll also be working hard to ensure that settling actually benefits you. We want a reason for you to build your home and a reason to leave. 

Graphical Improvements

As we've said before, Salt will not be receiving a 'graphical overhaul' in the sense that we'll be keeping the stylized graphics and working within that vein. However, we do want to improve where we can. One way we'll be doing this is improving the grass and improving the models, particularly the pirate models. We want the graphical style of Salt to enhance your experience and not take away from it. We'll be working hard to ensure that all the graphic elements of Salt are cohesive and help to immerse you into the world. 

Overarching Story and Quest Line

There is a back story to Salt and a reason for the mysteries you find in the world.  Over the course of 2015 we'll be adding in ways for you to discover that overarching story and progress along it as well. We want the story to be there for you to find, but not forced upon you. Should you choose to search for it, you will be able to progress and discover the story behind the world of Salt, but you will also be free to ignore it and simply explore.

Multiplayer

Last but most certainly not least, multiplayer. If you haven't already read it, we've written an entire blog post about our thoughts on multiplayer, answering player questions, and giving some insight into that process. In short, multiplayer is something that will come to Salt. First, we want to make sure we get the above mentioned elements in. We don't want Salt to be dependent on multiplayer to be fun, but rather to enhance an already complete game for those who wish to adventure with friends. 



These are just some of the things we'll be working on in 2015. You can also look forward to updates to combat, AI behavior, and new enemies, bosses, and items. We hope this clarifies our directions and ideas for 2015, and we would love to get your feedback on the process!


- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)




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