The Shroud prototype is nearly ready! We’ll have something for you very soon, and in the meantime, I wanted to take some time to talk about why we’re putting our game online so early in the development process. AAA companies don't do that, and allowing players into the refinement process early has been one of the things I was most excited about when I started Abyssal Arts.
The truth is, for making a game more fun while fixing bugs and addressing issues with playability, UI, balancing, or otherwise, player feedback is the best method - and my personal philosophy is that getting feedback and input from the players as early as possible is the most important thing we can do as game creators. We, the developers, can still determine the mechanics we want to build and the content we want to present, but we, the developers and the players, can exchange ideas and opinions to make the game better than it would ever otherwise be.
Working with the players forces us to refocus our priorities and remember where the big issues are lurking. You'd think we'd remember that, but the truth is that after working on the game for a long time, we can lose sight of what’s broken and end up focusing on minutiae that don’t matter - especially if no one can figure out how to play! (Our story designer has admitted that the same thing happens with manuscripts.) Sure, maybe it really irks us that we can't get that one asset to be exactly the correct pixel height...and maybe it's a great deal less important than making sure the players know whether they're controlling the red or blue team.
Between fun and usability, putting the game out there is already a good call for us and the players - but wait! There's more! From setting up forums to making an in-game "Leave Feedback" button, creating a prototype is helping us create a community. We want the players to feel comfortable telling us what they think - and knowing that the development team sees that feedback - and on the dev team side, we want to know what our players are thinking and what they want to see in our games. It gets us talking. Nothing is more encouraging than getting emails from people saying, “I really liked playing your game!” and nothing is more helpful than following it up with, “Except when I couldn’t figure out how to use it.” Or, “Was unable to connect to other players.” (Or even, "So, I got this REALLY weird bug..." because frankly, some of those are hilarious. We'll show screenshots of the Looming Fruit Cart of Death at some point.)
Result: motivation + destination. Players get a better game, and we’re able to connect with each other in a meaningful way. Being able to take this approach to development is one of my main goals in becoming an independent developer. We’re going to embrace the challenge head-on, and I hope you’ll join us for the ride!