Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NOWHERE Development Log, Financials and The Future™

Screenshot of recent prototype work for Nowhere. Article on that coming soon.
Three months ago I started a development log for NOWHERE and its associated tooling in a github gist. It wasn't really supposed to be read by anyone but other developers, and was more meant as a self motivation exercise, but the convenience of updating gists resulted in this blog not getting updates for five months while the devlog saw a new entry nearly every week.

If you are interested in the shall we say microscopic aspects of development, check it out.

I should also mention that we launched a separate project for the programming language developed alongside our game Nowhere, aptly titled None. The release got some attention on Hacker News and Reddit. None will allow us and mods to visually design and compile procedural generators for art and sound to machine language and shaders on player's machines, while the game is running. Liminal is the complementary project, a game engine built on None. While Liminal is not ready for use, None has matured enough for experimentation. If you would like to support the development of these two pieces of technology, please consider becoming a Patreon. Patreon money directly pays for our rent, food and coffee.

In the entry for today, I also made some remarks about our current financial situation and the future of the project.

Now on to financial matters. It appears we are running out of money again. The long waiting time for new content has eroded the number of new founders, and one of our long time patreons had to reduce his monthly support because he's also in a financial pickle right now. We also used to borrow a small complementary amount of money from my mum each month and are about to reach the cap next month, so we will also run out of that funding pot by end of October. Sylvia is still waiting on payment from one of her commissions (this was before Sylvia began to require advances), but it is very likely they screwed us and we're not going to see a cent. There are currently no new commisions in sight for her, but of course that can change any day.

That means we have to think about how to get fresh funds before September runs out. I've considered starting a Patreon for None/game engine development exclusively, so we are at least getting support for that part of the work (which is not what Nowhere players are necessarily interested in, although they damn well should ;-)), but Patreon only allows one page per account, and managing that one account is already hard work for Sylvia, so we'll have to merge the tool development part with the page and make it about more things than one. We'll have to think about how to best present this.

We also need something new to show so we can justify doing a new video and invite everyone to check out the new alpha. Sylvia has done lots of new concept art that could go into a new video, we can finally exchange that old dreadful logo, and replace "Psychedelic RPG" with a much more fitting "Alien Life Simulator". The fundraising video is nearly 2 years old. Back then we gave away the end game without mentioning many of the intermediate steps, and I believe people would be more inclined to trust us if there were a more detailed plan of action, and we would be more clearly on our game being developed as a service, not as a one trick pony.

It also becomes clear that we will not be able to deliver on our full promise by the end of 2015, but I want to do a release anyway with what we get to work by that date. We don't want anyone to feel disappointed or exploited. The plan is to ship what's there, then continue on a "sequel" (which is really just a new major version) and keep our founders on board until they get what they paid for.

I can not believe how fresh our concept for Nowhere still is. The pitch has been out for several years and no one has stolen it from us, and I guess that's because it really is that ambitious and forward thinking. We have ideas for art, sound and gameplay design as well as programming, modding and player service which are quite different from how most game development is done today, and I would love to see all our goals realized in exactly the way we envision them.

I don't mind if it takes ten years to get there, but we need to compromise on the progress on the way and reintroduce regular releases of alphas, betas and "masters" to keep the company operational without incurring additional debt.

I wanted to hold off new alphas until we had a game model we could definitely stick to, but I see now that I have to get over my perfectionism and, as the mantra goes, release early, release often.
Oh man, look at this logo. So good.