I have stated on a few occasions that I hoped to have a 1.3 Update complete and released by the end of this year. My apologies, I will fail to reach that goal. The plan is still to create another content update, and it will still be called version 1.3, but it will not be complete by the end of this year. I now hope to have it finished and ready by March 2018. However, that depends on whether the situation preventing me finishing this year continues. The main issue is my “day job” for a London startup, which has also become a “most evenings and some weekends too” job. This job is taking so much of my time, there is almost none for the prolonged periods of game coding that is how I best produce. I believe it is likely that the effort the startup job requires will begin to drop to more manageable levels in the new year (fingers crossed).
Again, my apologies. I have not forgotten Concealed Intent - it is just that the 1.3 Update will be delayed a little.
Delays, delays, delays. It has been three months since my last posting, and five months since I did any work on Concealed Intent (with the 1.2 release). Since then I have moved continent and started a very busy day job at a London startup.
I have also previously said there will be a 1.3 release by the end of the year. Given current events, how is that going? It is still possible, but only if I start work soon. This weekend I downloaded the most recent version of Unity3D. Hopefully by now they have fixed most of the bugs. If I can start finding time to make some progress over the next couple of weekends then a 1.3 release by December is achievable.
There has been some discussion on the Steam Forums about what the next version should contain. It seems the most regular players want the ability to replay entire games after they are complete. So that will be the main focus of the update. I will publish a list of goals for the update once work has started and I have an idea of how much can be done. If there is something you particularly want, speak now, because 1.3 will probably be the last notable update for the game.
Sales of Concealed Intent have continued at a steady, but slow, pace since the last financial posting. Below is the update sales vs costs graph. There is a nice little bump every time a Steam Sale comes around, but in-between only a handful of copies are sold. I have covered my costs now, but nowhere close to being able to live on the profits and develop a second game full-time (at least while living in London). Thus the time consuming day job.
Finally, for those with long memories, it was promised that Concealed Intent would not bundled until at least the 3rd August 2017 (a full year after release). Well that date has passed and the game has not yet been bundled. I have not been contacted by bundlers since that date, but also I’m not keen to bundle anyway. Looking at expected bundle sales, it would not make much difference to the graph above. Also now I have a job, I do not need the small amount of money bundling would bring. So, while I am not renewing the non-bundling pledge (because if Humble Bundle come knocking, I’m answering!), it is also probably unlikely that Concealed Intent will be bundled in the near future.
TLDR; moved country and got a day job, so gamedev work will slow; but still aiming for a small Concealed Intent 1.3 update before end of the year.
It has been a while since my last update on the happenings and plans for Concealed Intent and Jarrah Technology - time to rectify that.
As some of you may be aware, just this week I moved from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to London, UK for my partner’s work (as was the original move to Malaysia). I am writing this while looking out on a surprisingly pleasant English summer day. Preparing for the move has meant I have not managed any significant time for gamedev work on Concealed Intent or my next game over the last couple of months.
Now I’m set up in London, it’s time for gamedev, right? Unfortunately not. London is an extremely expensive city, and indie gamedev will not pay the bills, so I will need a day job. In fact I already have one (not in games) and start tomorrow. This means my available time for my own projects will greatly diminish. However, I do not intend to completely stop, instead dropping down to probably just a few hours per week on average.
I am now a hobbyist gamedev rather than a professional indie gamedev.
The plan is still to release a 1.3 update to Concealed Intent by the end of the year. The aim is to have this include about 2 weeks of development work (plus testing). Only now that work will be spread out over several months rather than in a single block. This means that there probably will not be time to work on another game until at least next year. The first task on the 1.3 list is to update the game to the latest Unity 5 release to help ensure future compatibility and performance. Then work will focus on the items left out of the 1.2 release - mainly small UX improvements. After that I’ll reassess the time available and the scope of previously suggested “nice to have” features to see what can be realistically achieved.
My next update will give more information on the Concealed Intent 1.3 plan and features.
The Concealed Intent 1.2 release is out now! You may remember I said it would be out before the end of March. My apologies for being a week late, but on the bright side I now know a great deal about password hashing and HTTPS.
Tell me about the 1.2 Update
Among the bug fixes and minor improvements there are a few niceties added. Truly randomly generated skirmish maps (the 3 ‘?’ options when configuring a skirmish). The Skirmish configuration page will now remember the last settings and return to it on restart or just after a scenario. Also, there are two new types of drone: the Stealth Drone, an underpowered laser drone with some countermeasures; and the Detonation Drone, a heavy drone mounting an improved multi-pulse laser that unfortunately has a 95% chance of exploding when fired. Have fun!
The biggest change is a new version of the game without Steam’s DRM. This will go up on other online stores like Humble and Itch.io. However, that does not seem fair to Steam purchasers. Thus if you send me a message from your Steam account (so I can confirm you have a copy of the game in your Steam account) I will send you a link to a a non-DRM version download. Personally, I would not recommend this, the Steam DRM version is the best version as it handles online logins, challenges and turn notifications automatically for the player, but if you have a philosophical problem with DRM (then why are you using Steam?) there is the non-DRM version available.
What is next?
As always any bug fixes will take priority over other tasks. Assuming I am not busy fixing issues, I will be completing all the tasks required to move to a country/continent in May (which have been delayed a week while finishing this update). Afterwards there will hopefully be time for some work on my next game.
So, the plan is I will get back to the Concealed Intent towards the end of this year with work on a 1.3 update. That will start with the items left out of this 1.2 release due to running out of time. Then back to working down the list of suggestions (I read them all). As I get closer to starting, there will be a post here with more details.
A few events have recently occurred, with a few more on the horizon. Thus it is time to replan work for the next couple months. First the important stuff - what I’ll be doing. Then I’ll explain why.
Concealed Intent 1.2 Update
It has been too long since touching the Concealed Intent codebase. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. Over the next month or so I will start work on an update to Concealed Intent. Aiming for around 3 weeks worth of work, plus testing. Assuming I haven’t forgotten too much, it should be out by the end of March.
The first and main task of this update will be producing a version of the game without Steam DRM. Then a couple of new gameplay features will be added (a truly random map option in skirmishes, new drones). I have collected a few good suggestions to improve the UI, and I hope to get them done too. If there is still time after that I’ll just keep going through my list.
What is Steam DRM doing in Concealed Intent?
Concealed Intent uses Steam DRM to identify and authenticate players. This information allows the game to automatically login players into the online system without the need for a username or password. This is why you can start Concealed Intent and immediately play online. The problem with Steam DRM is that it locks the game to the Steam platform, which is not a bad thing for people playing the game on Steam, but means I can’t sell the game on other platforms.
Considering the potential impact of Steam Direct (see below), I think it is important to loosen this restriction on myself. Players on Steam will not notice any difference, but it will mean I can sell non-Steam versions of the game. These non-Steam versions will have online registration, logon and password recovery screens (and players will need to login before playing online), but will otherwise be the same.
Steam Direct will be Valve’s replacement for Steam Greenlight as the method to get a game onto Steam. Coming in a few months, it will require a flat fee be paid to Valve in return for each game added to the Steam platform. Estimates of this fee range from US$100 to US$5000. At the bottom of this range I fail to see how the fee will have desired effect (preventing exploitative games). At the high end of the range some small devs, like me, will struggle.
I should point out that I know Valve has every right to organise their platform how they want, and their stated goal is laudable. However, as a small indie dev it would be very easy to be crushed by any changes as an unfortunate, unintended and unnoticed side effect. Although I think it likely that the fee will fall towards the low end of Valve’s range and I will probably be ok, it is still a wake up call. At the moment I am completely dependent on the Steam ecosystem and Valve’s benevolence. To protect myself, I am going to start looking towards other platforms. Thus the non-Steam DRM version of Concealed Intent as an initial learning exercise and start upon this path.
So what have you been doing the last couple of months?
After taking a break over the holiday season, I have started work on a new game. I don’t have a name yet and it is still all developer artwork (amazingly ugly!). So I am not ready to show people or talk much about it yet, although I am happy with the way it is progressing. Right now it has reached a natural pause point. After finishing the CI update I will get back to it with some refactoring, prettifying and expanding out of the already completed vertical slice of gameplay. Oh, and decide upon a name. Then it was supposed to be time for Greenlight… not sure what will happen now.
I have also been playing games again! While developing CI, there was little time to play games, but now I set aside a couple of hours per week to play games of interest or just from my backlog. To help keep this up I record my sessions and put them up at A Gamedev Plays… on YouTube
What happens after Concealed Intent 1.2?
First, I will fix any bugs that appear. Otherwise I will get back to work on my next game and look to start promoting it. However, this will be affected by the fact I will be moving country around May. This is likely to also require me to find a new job as developing games will not pay the bills in the vastly more expensive country I will soon reside. I cannot make any guarantees as to what I can achieve in the the second half of the year. However, I hope to finish my second game and release another small Concealed Intent update.
With a new year, it is time to evaluate how Jarrah Technology is progressing and determine a plan for the future.
My first game, Concealed Intent, was fully released on Steam at the beginning of August. Since then there have been a few minor bugfix releases and one major (1.1) update which included Linux support. Reviews are generally positive, players on the forums are great, although sales have been slow. Below is an updated graph of revenue vs costs from my postmortem. Revenue will probably stagnate over the next few months as the effect of numerous platform sales subside. Valuing my time at zero (never a good idea), the game should be profitable before mid-year. Not awful, but not a great result.
It has been a while, so perhaps time for an update on what is happening and what is planned for the near future.
Right now I am working through ideas and mechanics for Project Blockade Runner. That is not its real name, but I haven’t thought of anything better yet. It is still at a very early stage, and the basic concept is still mutating (the blockade part is decreasing in prominence), so I don’t want to share screenshots yet. Although for people who regularly read this blog, it was one of the paper prototypes from this post, shown again below. This one seemed the most interesting to me. Also, I think the basic game mechanic can be reused as an engine in a couple of different games. So this one scored best on interest, ease and business. You can be confident there will be more info about this game in the near future.
Unfortunately, the game seems to be more Blocked Runner at the moment. My personal log says I have managed just 17 hours work on the project so far - and it shows. What has been happening instead over the last five weeks since the Concealed Intent 1.1 update? Well, I went away for a week to recharge. Very nice break it was too. Many admin tasks that were “left for later” as Concealed Intent headed towards release back in August are now completed. According to my log that has taken 42 hours of effort in recent weeks. There was quite a backlog, but they are all done now. I have also been playing games. Of course this is work, really it is! I have put some videos up on my personal YouTube channel and associated blog.
Also there has been a dribble of work on Concealed Intent. Two small bug fix updates have been released. If there are more bugs discovered I will fix them ASAP. Otherwise, I will be taking a break from the game until the new year. At this stage I’m fairly determined to make at least a 1.2 release before the middle of 2017. After that it will depend on sales and time. I have started compiling a list of “must-have” items for a 1.2 version. Currently there are 8 items on it comprising about a week’s work. That means there is another fortnight or “nice-to-have” items that I could do, plus maybe another week of experimental/exploratory items. That would make for a decent solid release. I have a good list of possibles improvements. Anyone who contacts me with a suggestion also gets it added to the list for consideration.
I had better get back to work!
After way too long in development Concealed Intent was fully released on the 2nd August following 9 months in Steam’s Early Access program. This post details some useful stats I collected between starting EA, through to the end of September. The kind of information I would have found interesting, at least for comparison purposes. Hope someone else finds it useful.
Concealed Intent is a simultaneous turn-based game of 3D tactical space combat. It is probably a niche game (turn-based tactics), with a crowded theme (space games seem very common right now). It was created by a solo dev (with some outsourced 2D art), and thus it was hard to manage both development and marketing. Mainly the marketing suffered, especially considering my inexperience. Raising awareness of Concealed Intent and the release campaign could have been managed much better - I will know for next time! For my lessons learnt see this Gamasutra post.
September is over and the scheduled month of dev work for Concealed Intent 1.1 complete. The amount achieved was about as much as expected, although not as much as hoped. Since the last update Steam turn notifications are working, but it was a little harder than anticipated. Then came a new skirmish objective (Gather) and a bunch of bug fixes (mainly for Linux). Unfortunately that means there was not time for extra work on campaign missions or online. Still, the update is a large body of work and I’m glad to get it done, the game will be better for it. Now I just need to test it extensively before release! The plan is to give myself a fortnight of testing, so look for the update in mid-October (barring major issues).
Looking at my Concealed Intent todo list I am amazed by how short it is - the shortest it has been since starting! It contains probably about a fortnight of online server improvements (not visible to players) and another fortnight of campaign/skirmish/cosmetic improvements. There are also a half-dozen “nice-to-haves”. Given this list, I am inclined to do a month’s work for a 1.2 update. However, it will not be until next year - hopefully earlier rather than later. After Concealed Intent 1.1 is released I will start work on a much smaller space-themed game codenamed “Blockade Runner” (because I haven’t thought of anything better yet).
Here are the final notes on the original (and intentionally overly ambitious) update plan:
It has been a little while since my last update, so I thought I should let people know what is happening with Concealed Intent. Previously I wrote about creating some prototypes and having time off. Both those achievements have been unlocked! If you would like to see my thoughts on prototypes, look here. After that I said there would be a month’s work on a 1.1 release, trying to get as far down this list as possible:
Work began on this list at the start of September. Thus I will stop developing and start testing at the end of this month. Assuming no big issues are found, I’m still on track for an October release.
So how am I progressing with the list? Firstly, there were a couple of things not considered. On the positive side, there was a 1.0.1 release that contained many of the Cosmetic and control improvements, so much of that task was done before I began. On the downside, my hard drive crashed the day I planned to start work, costing me a couple of days productivity (keep your backups up to date!). Also, I forgot to add bugfixes into that todo list. Thanks to more testing and the good work of a couple of players (obliviondoll and FridayBiology were particularly helpful) a few extra bugs were discovered and have (or will be) fixed as a priority.
So how is that list actually looking as of today?
There it is. I would say progress so far is better than expected (especially considering the hard drive crash), but who knows how things will go for the remainder of the month. In any case, be assured I am working hard trying to improve the game!