The Path —— Status Report December 2008

December 1st, 2008 by Michael

In November we have focussed on responding to issues that came up during playtests. We found a few major technical problems that have been resolved in the mean time. And tweaked the gameplay here and there in response to different play styles we observed. We were often simply working on things that came up during one test to get them ready for the next. To see if the changes worked. We have added some things to the game that we would not have dreamed of adding when working in isolation. But knowing that people were coming by for testing, gave us an opportunity to experiment.

I’m still in doubt about whether the choices we are making are the right ones. But we’re too close to the game now to decide. So we’re going with the flow and relying on our observation of the testers.

It’s been a very interesting experience. To some extent, I wish we could have tested like this much earlier in the production. But, as some of the still unfinished elements in the game clearly show, this kind of test is only reliable when the game is done. So it’s a Catch-22. One that we could have solved if we had been able to stick to our schedule that included several months for “authoring”, i.e. designing the interaction with all the game’s assets and systems finished.

But now, we’re offially behind on that schedule and this authoring phase is acting as a buffer -because we cannot afford to extend production time. There’s still a lot of assets to be created and tweaked. It never seems to stop. Which is frustrating. At this point, it’s become a matter of just continuing the work until it’s done. There’s no margins anymore. And cancelling the production now would be ridiculous.

The storm in a teacup that surrounded The Graveyard (postmortem) this month did not contribute to a calm working atmosphere. On the one hand, we’re pleased that people care enough to discuss our ideas at length and we’re pleased that our work gets noticed in the little blogosphere. But some of the things that came up during the discussion cast a lot of doubt on the desirability and the feasibility of what we are doing here. The Path will probably be a much easier game to accept (or dismiss) for a lot of the critics of The Graveyard. But we know that they are not our audience. We are working for a much gentler group of people who don’t participate in discussions like this. But they are so silent. We don’t know what they are thinking. Do they even exist? Are we chasing a phantom?

We are very close to finishing the game. On our schedule December and January are defined as “Finalizing Stage”. And I guess that is correct. In our idealist dreams, we wanted to have a real beta-version of the game now. But it looks like that will take another month. The things that remain to be done are fairly simple and don’t require a lot of testing. There’s just a very long list of them. So December will be another very busy month for us.

But it should be the last month of crunching! Which is very exciting. I still love working on The Path, but I would also like my life back at some point. If only for a little while. ;)