Plans for Early Access, Modding and the Future

In this post I’m going to cover some of the longer term plans for development of the game and also how I’m going to be making it available for players.

First about the demo/early access situation.

In my own game-playing experience, I find that there are quite a few indie games that are either released or in an early access state that are great but don’t offer enough real meat to the experience. To be expected from alpha/early access games, but it is a lamentable situation.

Especially with co-op games, it’s hard to get friends on board to ultimately run out of content and things to do.

One game that I think did a great job handling early access was TaleWorlds’ Mount & Blade (a game I am particularly fond of).

The initial beta release had enough gameplay to keep folks interested and to grow a vibrant community.

However, M&B didn’t really explode past the initial word-of-mouth popularity until that same passionate community figured out how to mod the game by reverse engineering how various aspects of it worked.

A frenzy of activity was spurred by the first modders, and eventually tools to mod the game more heavily were developed by the community. Finally, some months later TaleWorlds released a more feature complete way of modding the game via the module kit.

To this day M&B has a strong modding community and an active player base.

Moving off of the segue…. What does this mean for Dungeon Survival?

As with many indies, the plan for Dungeon Survival is to ultimately launch a Kickstarter to fund the game’s development out through release. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t jive with my desire to get the game into the hands of players as soon as its fun.

Right now development is focused on building out a 3-level dungeon demo which will show off gameplay in a specific way:

* Basic survival gameplay – eating, drinking, using the environment to kill or avoid enemies. This will be on the first level of the dungeon, primarily (and through the 2nd and 3rd, of course, but the 1st level will be focused on those aspects).

* More advanced inventory and environmental interaction, as well as crafting.

* Finally, the third level will focus most heavily on challenges and puzzles that require the player to use the environment to overcome them, as well as a finale boss fight to get to the exit from the third dungeon level to the fourth (which will be the end of the demo).

This demo is what will be shown as part of the Kickstarter campaign, as well as for promotion in general (screenshots, trailer etc.). The game’s art and assets will not be final, and gameplay will not be totally complete. But (hopefully) it will demonstrate what the game is about and be fun.

To that end, my plan is to get:

* Enemies and more environmental gameplay in the game.
* The first dungeon level.
* Some traps.
* More items and gameplay related to items.
* A basic save/load system.

Into the game as rapidly as possible (check out my previous post for info on the current status of the game’s features).

Once those aspects are implemented, I will be getting the first alpha of the demo out to early beta testers for feedback and bug reports.

After a thorough round of testing, the demo will be released for public beta testing. Iteration will continue on that demo, fixing bugs, adding gameplay, and building out the second and third levels of the game.

Once all three levels are in and it’s fun enough to replay for a couple of hours at a time, I’ll be starting up the Kickstarter campaign, and releasing a public demo of all three dungeon levels.

Shorter term I’ll be setting up a page on Indie DB, as well as otherwise promoting the development progress in places that makes sense (Reddit, Unreal forums etc.).

Soon to come in the next few days are video of the current gameplay and some of the first little bit of dungeon level, a sneak-peek of the dungeon level layouts and more.

A Word About Modding

I strongly believe that mods can make or break a game’s success long term, and to that end I plan on supporting both a ton of customization of the game by default, as well as mod support.

Unfortunately, this presents some interesting challenges. Namely, Unreal Engine 4.

As you can imagine, the best way to mod an Unreal Engine 4 game would be to have the engine itself, and the .uassets that make up the game. Unfortunately, there are some legality and practical issues that come into the equation because of this.

For one, as part of the Unreal Engine 4 license agreement, I am unable to ship UE4 editor tools along with my game for modders to use. Nothing unusual about that – after all, they don’t want people using mod tools from a UE4 game to make their own stuff without buying the engine.

Secondly, distributing the game’s assets. There are some issues with this, which I’m not really qualified to speak to. Suffice it to say that there are some restrictions on what can be done.

How do I plan to work around this and support mods for my game?

To start, whereever possible I am going to make the game use plain old data for configuration of items and things like that. So modders will absolutely be able to go in and change values/add new items that utilize the existing gameplay functionality that items will provide.

Most modders should be able to use that to get what they want. It’s when that isn’t enough that things become tricky.

So for those brave modding souls that want to add new interactions and gameplay that are not in the game and supported by the item system already, you’ll need to do essentially 2 things:

* Get an Unreal Engine 4 license – it’s $20, you can get it once and cancel the subscription immediately.

* Download the stuff that makes up Dungeon Survival, or at least, pieces of that stuff.

I don’t think this is too bad, but it’s also not totally ideal. I’d prefer modding tools to be free if possible. Right now I don’t think it’s possible.

However, as mentioned I will support as much modding out of the box as possible, both through in-game options as well as tweaking/adding data through the game files.

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