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Our third monthly report and I feel like we’re finally getting into the swing of things here. We did do a little company game jam this month but there’s no games to share from it sadly. Our focus this time was to get some outsiders in and help them work on making their own games. We made some good progress on the first two days and then we all went drinking and no-one was in any state to do any work on the final day. Hindsight is 20/20. Still it was a good weekend and I was glad to spend some time helping new people get into game development.

We also had the really great news this month that Journal was chosen as an official selection for IndieCade, so we flew out to LA this week to take part in the event. Which is why this post is a little late. I can also tease we’ve been selected for another show where the lineup has not been announced yet. I’m not really into award ceremonies as a thing, however being picked for these kind of shows is a good confidence boost and reassurance that we’re going in a good direction with the game.

Perrin (@perrinashcroft)

Work on still unannounced contract project is mostly done and I’m finally back working full time on Journal. Which is good because we’re getting towards the end of the year and I’m determined to have it finished this year, even if release itself gets pushed into early next year.

A lot of my time has been spent on our new dialogue engine and although I know it’s hubris to say so I feel like this will be the last time I have to write a new dialogue system. Journal has been through at least four or five dialogue systems now, however they’ve always mostly been place holders for something more easily edited. Our new system works with a lovely visual dialogue tool called ChatMapper. This allows anyone (without coding knowledge) to build our game dialogue trees and the game just reads an XML export from ChatMapper. This means it’s a lot easier for all of us to work together on the dialogue and make changes quickly and easily. The hope is that this engine can also be transposed into our future projects. We shall see how well reality lines up.



I’ve also been spending time polishing up a lot of more minor aspects of Journal. It might be a bit early for the polish phase but as we’re showing it to more and more people it’s something I wanted to spend a little time on. As the game has looked pretty much the same for quite a while now I wanted it to look fresh for IndieCade.


Melissa (@naukhel)

So I don’t want to get too specific about what Melissa has been working on art wise as she’s been doing the climax of the game. For the most part Journal isn’t a game that would be ruined by spoilers as the game is largely about personal interactions rather than a grand narrative. However the ending is something very big and very personally important to me and the whole last day of the game is that being played out. As always she’s done a great job so I’ll include one image (with a couple of mosaics added) that shouldn’t give too much away.



Now the core game art is done she’s begun working on the shadow puppet dream theatre sequences that compromise the remaining artwork for the game.

Suze (@suzewithey)

The decision was made to refocus Suze this month on our accounts. Since she started she’s got a lot of our finances in order but there’s been this backlog task to get everything we’ve done this year logged into Sage and all set up like a proper company. So she’s been going though our bank statements asking me what every random thing I bought was and where the receipt is. Weird being held accountable, hard to know if we’re playing at business or doing it properly.

She’s also been working more on her small (but feature creeping) game project that internally we’re calling Coal Bastard. That name is not going to stick, but I’ve got a habit of calling projects “[theme] bastard” until they get a real name. However now Stealth Bastard has gone to market it would cause far too much confusion if we stayed with that name. I’ve included some more art below but we’re still not far along enough to talk about how it plays.

Summary

With both Journal and “unannounced contract project” barreling towards completion it’s all starting to feel like everything is coming together nicely at Locked Door Puzzle. I don’t yet have a real sense when Coal Bastard is going to be done (and we’re looking at scheduling that better next month) but with Suze also getting our accounts in a neat order it finally feels like we’re all pulling towards the same goal.

Our second monthly roundup sadly comes without a free game jam download this time. Towards the end of the month when we would have liked to do our monthly jam all three of us took a few days holiday and so couldn’t fit it in. Still progress is going well on all our projects and here’s a run down of what each of us has been up to.

Perrin (@perrinashcroft)

Still not back on Journal full time yet as much as I’d have liked to have been. Much of my time has been on a project that I still can’t discuss because it’s not been announced yet. As it’s contract work I can’t even really tease what it is but I assure you it’s pretty cool.

However on a more noticeable level I finally released Kairo on the Google Play store for Android. An Android port has been available as an APK download for a while now if you bought through the Humble Store however I struggled to get the Google Play version working for technical reasons. I finally found the time to sit down with the new version of Unity and have another go at putting it out and this time I succeeded.

The downside of this has exposed me to how difficult the fragmentation problem is with Android, as many users were unable to get the game running. As a micro sized team I don’t have the time to even work out which devices the game does or doesn’t run on never mind debugging it. I’m currently on the fence about supporting Android in future just because I can’t guarantee players our games will work and I’m not comfortable with that.

Melissa (@naukhel)

The seemingly never ending march of Journal content continues for Melissa with her working through the environments for Day 4 of 5 this month. From here on out the world of Journal is going to become increasingly bleak as we get towards the end game.

Melissa has also continued to be all over the Kairo community hub on steam answering questions and helping people get the game working.

Suze (@suzewithey)

This month Suze has begun working on the art for a small game project. The idea was to make something relatively small as a test project to get her used to the workflow and challenges involved. I’ll leave the actual game details for another month when it’s finally started to come together, and right now we still don’t even have a name. So instead here’s some samples of the artwork devoid of context.

Suze has also been training up in C# with the hopes that she will eventually be involved in the programming side of things here.

Summary

Another month of us all working on different projects, probably not the most efficient way to run a three man indie studio but everything we’re working on is progressing so I’m more than happy with that and it’s only month two. With a bit of luck by next month’s update I’ll be done with my contract work and actually coding on our two real projects.

I’ve always been guilty of not talking enough about what I’m up to. During development of Kairo the supporters could be waiting months between any word from me on where things stood. This is largely because I tend to focus most of my time on my work, and telling everyone about it seems like a distraction. Now that there’s three of us I’d feel guilty if I didn’t keep you all informed of the great work they’ve been doing. So once a month I’m going to writing up what everyone’s been working on, and each report will even come with a free jam game.

Perrin (@perrinashcroft)

The romantic dream of indie development would be working on cool games all the time. Sadly that’s not always the case and this month I have essentially done zero work on our main project Journal. Instead I’ve spent a lot of time wrapping up contract work projects, which I’ll no longer be accepting. There’s also a very cool game project I’m working on that I can’t talk about yet.

What I can talk about is a big update to Kairo, that’s now available via Steam and Humble Store. This includes an FOV slider and resolves a major incompatibility with Avast virus scanner. However the main addition is Oculus Rift support. I’m still calling this experimental support as there’s some issues still to resolve however I know a lot of people wanted to try this out so here it is.



As of this week I should finally be back to Journal development, so expect to see some cool things about Journal in next month’s update.

Melissa (@naukhel)

While I’ve not had any time for Journal this month, that’s mostly what Melissa has been doing. She’s been doing amazing work on background and character art for Days 3 and 4, and has made great progress on the dialogue for Day 3. Even though the core engine hasn’t progressed this month the amount of content being produced is staggering.

She’s also been taking charge of answering your questions on the Steam Community Hub so I’m glad people are finally getting help with Kairo when they need it, as opposed to the previous situation where it was “when I could find time”.

Suze (@suzewithey)

Suze’s main job in her first month has been to do something that has been needed for a long time. She’s taken control of the studio’s finances and begun a process of getting it all into some kind of neat order. This is good as it ensures that the studio has a guaranteed future and that we all get paid.

However that’s not so fun to talk about finance in a blog post so thankfully she’s also been doing artwork for Kairo’s new Steam badges and trading cards. She brought her own style to these and they’re more than just recycled promo images like a lot of other Steam trading cards. Annoyingly we can’t even gift these to ourselves, as I really want a full set.



I originally announced Suze would be doing music for Journal, however after some work on this we agreed it wasn’t right. So we’re in the process of bringing another composer on board. Instead Suze has begun art and design work on a small game project to ease her into the company. If that goes well you’ll be hearing more in next month’s report.

Game Jam

We’ve decided to take two days off a month to work on a company game jam. This is a great chance for all three of us to put aside our current work load on do something new and cool together. I’ve always been a big supporter of game jams as a way to help people level up their game development skills, but also as a new team it helps us smooth out our working practices.

Our jam theme this month was local co-op. There’s been a huge push in the indie scene lately for local competitive games but I’m a bigger fan of co-op play so I wanted to see what we could do. We’ve made a game called Sandpit Empire, that’s for 1-4 players to work together to build a little beach resort. This involves building things like changing rooms, sun loungers, food stands, boats. Along with cleaning, maintaining and monetising your little beach space.

Sandpit Empire - Windows
Sandpit Empire - Mac OSX

In all honesty the project was too ambitious for two days and while Melissa and Suze completed all the artwork I had to spend another couple of days on all the mechanics. Lesson learned for next month. Also while I’m not convinced what we’ve made is particularly fun, it was a chance to play around with these concept of local co-op simulation/construction. It’s definitely something I’m keen to revisit with a bigger project based on what we learned from this.

Summary

So this month has not exactly been a single unifying vision of us all working towards the same thing, but it’s our first month and we’re still finding our feet and clearing off old responsibilities. We’re also using things like the game jam to try and getting into a good working groove together. We’ll be back next month with hopefully a lot more to share with you all and another new jam game.

I tend to be quite wordy so I’ll start with a quick summary of what’s happening. As of July 1st 2013 Locked Door Puzzle went from being just me making games to three of us. The new team consists of Richard Perrin (me), Melissa Royall and Suzanne Withey. I’ve also moved from London to Bristol and so we’ve setup our own little micro indie studio out here.

I’ve always liked collaborating with other people, my first game “the white chamber” was a three person team with an artist and musician contributing where my skills were lacking. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time on failed collaborations and the design for Kairo came out of that frustration. I wanted a game I could make entirely on my own so its success or failure was in my own hands. In many ways I succeeded in proving to myself I could do it, but the process of working alone took its toll on me and it’s not something I want to do again.

Making games is a very personal thing for me so joining a proper games company has never appealed to me. I’m also not interested in hiring another 10-20 people so I can make big ambitious stuff to compete with the main industry. However I have been running into the limits of what I can do on my own, in both talent and sheer quantity of workload. My hope is that working with a small team will take a lot of work off my back but still allow the work I put out to have a very personal feel to it.

Melissa Royall (@naukhel) has been collaborating with me on Journal for some time but now she’s a full time member of the team. Her primary role is do artwork and writing but she’s also begun to take over some of community management stuff I’ve been totally neglecting.

Suzanne Withey (@SuzeWithey) will be contributing art and music to our games and much to my relief she’s also taking over the company’s financials. I do hate all the time I lose to handling my business affairs and now that’ll all be mine again.

I’m going to continue handling most of the design and programming of our games. However I’m hoping to get Suze and Melissa involved in design as much as possible so that they can bring some of their own personality to the games. Making games has allowed me to express myself to an audience and I’m hoping that’s an opportunity they’ll now have too. Thankfully they’re both interested the same kind of story focused games I love so I think we’re a very like minded team.

In practical terms this isn’t going to change anything for the rest of you. Journal is still on track for completion by the end of the year. The art and writing in it will continue to be produced by Melissa and Suze is composing music to replace the current temp tracks used in the demo. I really should talk about Journal more on here, it’s coming along so nicely.

What we’ll be doing next is still up in the air, there’s a whole load of possibilities and ideas being thrown around at the moment but I don’t want to talk about them more until I actually know we’re going to work on them. However one thing is for certain, this is not the beginning of a process of “staffing up” as I don’t want to be manager of a big company, I want you to the know the people who’re making our games. So feel free to follow them on Twitter and say hello.

I’ve sort of half heartedly announced on twitter that I’m working on a new game called Journal. You can check out a trailer and screenshots below or over at the game’s microsite. If you’ve followed me for a while you might be aware this has been a sort of off and on again project for me for a long long time, since at least 2008. It’s been ditched multiple times but now it’s finally on track.

The game lies on the other end of the adventure gaming spectrum to Kairo. Journal is about the difficulties of responsibilities of childhood and has no puzzles relying instead entirely on character interaction and dialogue. The focus of the game will be how you choose to deal with the problems faced by a young girl and how your choices affect your relationships with the people in her life.

The art and writing is being provided by Melissa Royall, who I’ve worked with before on a some unreleased jam games. She’s doing a fantastic job as you can see from the trailer. We showed an early alpha on the PAX East 2013 show floor last week and to be honest the response blew us away. I know people say that to be humble but I was totally prepared for people to be bored or disinterested in the game and so couldn’t believe how excited people seemed to be.

I’m also super pleased to announce Kairo is coming to Steam on April 24th. The journey of Kairo is now beginning to come to a close and I think doing so on Steam is only natural, as it’s the biggest platform out there for PC games. If you’ve bought directly from me I will be doing my best to make sure you all get complimentary Steam keys. If you’ve bought through 3rd party sites (other than FastSpring and Humble Store) I may not be able to do the same I’m afraid, will see what I can do. The Steam release will include cloud saving, achievements and a bunch of small improvements based on feedback I’ve had. I’m also trying to get Occulus Rift support in for launch if possible. Basically it will be the definitive edition of the game.

There’s a lot more cool things going on in the background I can’t talk about yet. I don’t fully know everything I’m going to be doing this year apart from Journal but as soon as I have some clearer plans I’ll share them with you guys.

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Welcome to the home of Locked Door Puzzle, the independent game development studio of Richard Perrin located in Bristol.

My primary focus is on creating expressive games that explore different forms of interactive storytelling.

For contact details check the about page.