We’re struggling to get the game done. We’re not going to bother pushing the release date back, but it is the case that we won’t be making our August 15 release date, I’m sorry to say.
The Good News: Everything is done! Everything we want to implement is there. The game saves/loads, Story Mode is complete, Play Mode is all there and balanced, and all of the polish that we planned to go into version 1.0 is there.
The Bad News: We have a bunch of bugs to fix before we can launch. Mike, our main coder, is also held up with a saving issue (arguably, a bug) which he has to fix before he can get to all our other bugs. I’m rolling up my sleeves and doing my part to try to fix bugs too, but I tell ya, some of these bugs are WILY! But we’ll get ‘em all, don’t you worry.
I’ll keep this post short because I have very little time, but you should know that we still plan to have the game out this month, probably around the end of the month if everything goes to plan.
Getting right to the point, wasting no time! At the time of this writing, we’ve got just around 12 days to get all implementation finished; namely, that’s everything except for bug-fixing. Here are the things!
Saving and loading. This is mostly done; as far as I understand Mike just has a few story-mode related things left to do. I’m pretty sure those should be done this week.
Device-specifics. Different devices have different aspect ratios, and we need to make sure the game looks good at every resolution. We’re not exactly sure how much of a pain this will be, but we expect it to go somewhat smoothly.
Fixing the Walls. Arguably a bug fix, although our system is so messed up that I believe Mike wants to just re-write the code for this system.
Some Story Mode & Tutorial details. Story Mode has been coming along, and I should definitely have it totally cleaned up by the end of the week.
Wiggle-Code. The game needs to be able to bounce, shake and hover actors in a variety of conditions.
Shadows. Weirdly enough, adding shadows to actors has been a bit of a pain; more than this non-programmer has been able to handle, so hopefully one of our programmers can do this for me.
And actually, that’s it! Kinda crazy. Beyond that there are bugs, but we have another 2-week period for bug-fixes. Overall, I’m feeling OK about the August 15th release date. It can happen, just as long as we all hunker down and don’t hit any huge snags.
With that said, the game is also still constantly getting massive gameplay improvements. Every week, we’re making it better and better. I’ve said it before, but I really just can’t wait for people to get their hands on this game.
With the release date coming up, it might be interesting to hear about what we plan on doing after Auro is released. We have two top priorities that come first: making sure the game is bug-free and awesome for those who have bought our game, and getting our Kickstarter supporters their rewards. We’ll have more details on the rewards in the next couple of weeks, but we haven’t forgotten you guys.
Once the game is super-bug-free and the Kickstarter people have gotten their rewards, we’ll begin on some other stuff:
More Tutorial Stuff – We have a “long-press to get information” feature that we have all the assets and design for, but couldn’t get implemented in time for launch. So this is a super high priority; making sure that our game is easy for everyone to learn.
Expanding our Gamecenter/Google Play functionality – at launch, we’ll have minimal stuff like high scores, achievements, sharing, but we’d love to really expand on these as soon as we can to help players compete with each other. It would also be fantastic to get some analytics going.
More Visual/Audio Effects – We’d also love to make the game look prettier, of course.
Expansion content – There is a possibility of adding some more spells to the game (Earth!), and possibly another monster or two.
A bit later on, we’d love to do these things:
Cross Platform! - we’d really like to get a PC version on Steam and such. We also want our game on Windows phones, on Linux, OSX, Kindles… you name it. We want Auro to be like the new Tetris!
Puzzle Mode! – Auro’s tactical abilities makes it great for a puzzle game. We’d love to make a bunch of puzzles in a Puzzle Mode that players can solve. We could even potentially make a puzzle creator that allows you to build and share your own puzzles.
Replays – It would be super awesome if you could save replays and share them with friends.
On our forum, there’s a ton of other ideas, and I plan on supporting Auro for years to come, in any way I possibly can. For now, though, we just have to get this thing out the door! Wish us luck.
Hi everyone! I am sad to have to report that our previous estimate was a little bit on the too-ambitious side, and we’re not going to be able to make our previously announced launch date of July 1. We’re really sorry about that! We’ve had a few things come up which have both created new work for us and also slowed development in parts. Which, of course, happens all the time, and you try to factor it into your estimations, but… well, it’s hard.
Anyway, the TL;DR is that Auro’s new release date is August 15, 2014.
This isn’t all bad news, by the way. The things that are holding us up are mostly technical programmy things (more detail below), which means that art and gameplay have been finished (actually, gameplay has been finished for a long time now). So, this extra delay actually means that you’re going to get an even more awesome game than you would have otherwise. At the end of the article I’ll run through a couple visual upgrades that Blake has given the game recently.
I’ll now run everyone through exactly where we are and what still needs to get done.
Where We Are
There are two significant bottlenecks keeping us from releasing the game right now, those being saving and device support.
Saving/loading is mostly done; serialization has been done for awhile and Mike now has levels consistently saving, but there’s still a bit more work that has to be done on that (probably about a week’s worth).
Device support is making sure that the game looks great and has no black bars on any devices that we sell the game on. We think this will only be a week or so of work, plus time for testing.
Beyond those two things, there are a number of small things that still need to get done. The good news is, the polish phase is basically done. We have about 5 small items that still need to be put in, like shadows, some actor-shake effects, and maybe one colored overlay, but that’s really it.
Story Mode also has a bunch of little tweaks that are still needed, partially ones that have always been needed, and a few new ones that are a result of some significant art upgrades that Blake took this extra time to make. Anyway, I can actually do 99% of that on my own time, since I’m now a low-grade programmer myself.
But yeah – other than saving/loading, cleaning up story mode, making sure it looks good on devices, and a few small tweaks, there’s nothing left to do. Our plan is to have all of that done 3 weeks from now, on July 15. Then that leaves us 2 weeks just to do bug fixes and nothing else on the gold version. Then, on Aug 1 we’ll send the game out to the App Store and Google Play.
I am so excited to get this game out to everyone. Believe me, no one is more frustrated than I am that this game is taking so long. I was the first person working on this game, which started almost 3 years ago, late 2011. At the time the project was just myself and a prototype programmer who I only worked with for a short time, so there is literally no one who has been waiting as long for Auro as I have (although I guess that’s usually the case when you’re the lead designer and project manager).
Oh, another thing – we’ve been struggling with trying to figure out what to name our game for awhile. Of course, the name Auro is not going to change; the question is only over what the subtitle should be. The only reason, by the way, that we even need a subtitle is so that our game is searchable on various app stores.
What we’ve come up with is Auro: A Monster-Bumping Adventure. “Bumping” is the core mechanism of this game, and I also think of it as kind of a icon for the game’s tone or spirit. “Adventure” is also fun, and fits with our Story Mode, which definitely is an adventure. So, while this will be the full, official title of the game, when you see the logo you will usually just see “Auro”, by itself, without the subtitle. We think this is the best way to go.
The good news about the delay is more beautiful Blake Reynolds pixel art has been infused into our game. The opening cutscene, for example, is the first time that the player really sees “the game”, so we really want it to be impressive. The throne room also gets re-used two times during the Story Mode, so it’s really important that it looks good. So, Blake created some new assets and slightly changed the arrangement of it to make sure it looks great. What do you think?
Also, as you saw at the top of this article, the title screen image has been re-done. Blake wanted to do something more dynamic, more ominous. I think that this image does a better job at suggesting the possibilities and meaning of the game, whereas maybe the old one showed too much, and was perhaps a little awkward.
This also includes a massive upgrade to the logo, which now reduces way better and just frankly looks better overall. Blake got rid of the texture and made the shapes of the letters look more fun and solid. Also the old icon had these tiny, tiny little shapes in the middle that didn’t reduce well at all. The new icon has been bolded up, and we also got rid of the bright highlights on it which also contributed to it not reducing well. We’re really happy with the new logo, and we hope you are too.
Thanks for following our blog, and Kickstarterers, thank you guys again so much for contributing to help make this game happen.
I thought that the polish phase was going to be way more of a problem, but in the past couple weeks I have put a major dent in it. Probably 98% of the final art is now in the game, just about. All that’s really missing is a few feedback things like actors shaking when they get hit, shadows, and a few other things. I can definitely get the polish phase completely release-able in another week.
We’re now on about the 3rd draft of the metagame, and we’re making huge strides towards it working properly. I expect that in the next week or two, we’ll get the metagame to be good enough for release, but I’ll probably want to continue tweaking it post-release.
- Gameplay (Huge workload, 99.9% Complete)
Blake and I have been playing the game a lot recently, and we both feel so confident with it. It’s just really working now. It’s fun, it’s tense, it’s hard, it’s interesting, and it’s surprising. Every time we sit down to play, we see something new. Of course, about 5% of those “something news” involve some bug that has to be fixed or some crazy edge case that has to be decided upon, but that’s all just part of having super-deep gameplay… which brings me to the next section.
- Bug Fixing (Huge workload, 95% Complete)
Bugs can be hard to quantify, since new ones get discovered (and even made) from time to time, but in general we’re doing pretty good on bugs due to my involvement and being on a constant bug-watch. Also thanks to our testers for doing an awesome job of sniffing them out!
- Story Mode (Medium workload, 80-90% Complete)
Basically story mode has been done for a long time, but we want to spruce a couple of things up as well as fix some chunky issues that are currently in the game. Depending on how things go, we may have to save some of our additions to this mode for post-release. A high priority is adding in an initial “first room” area that shows Auro getting chased by the Head Royal Guard, Chaunko. This part teaches the player about movement. It won’t be much work – in fact, by the time you read this post I might have already finished it!
- Tutorial (Small workload, 90% Complete)
The tutorial is actually almost 100% complete. For the remaining 10%, we need to get a bunch of NEW beta testers who have never played, and watch them play with the tutorial on and see what happens. We need to make sure the tutorial really teaches people the game. Other than that, it’s good to go.
- Saving and Loading (?? Workload, 20-50% Complete)
This is one issue that does cause us some concern. Mike has been trying to work on this but between his actual real life events going crazy and also my needing him to help me with some of our messy conversations system, he has been a bit backed up on it. Hopefully things will go smooth in the next few days and we can be done with this in a week or maybe two.
This is another issue of some concern, just because we really don’t know how much trouble this will give us. I actually assume that it won’t be too bad. We’re actually mostly Android users here, and we all have the same phones – Samsung Galaxy S4s. So, we’ll be doing a lot of testing on that. I also have an old Droid 3, which will be good at testing a lower end phone. On the Apple side, I’ve got an iPad 2 and I just ordered a refurbished iPod Touch 5th gen, which I’m told is basically equivalent to an iPhone 5. So if we get these devices all looking good, plus some feedback from our playtesters, hopefully we’ll be in an OK position. Also, it should be mentioned that between June 1 and June 15 – when we submit – we’re allowed to work on something like this.
- Art Asset Creation (Huge Workload, 99% Complete)
I could really write this number as 100% complete – we could easily launch with what we have now. But Blake is pouring some extra gravy on top of the game, basically, making sure it looks amazing.
- Walls System Recode/Fix (Small Workload (hopefully), 0% Complete)
The walls system, as it is now, is kind of broken and weird. Mike intends to re-write it, but if we don’t have time we might just have to patch it up to be ready for prime time, and then re-write it for version 1.1.
So that’s where we are now. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about our status. I think that if we have a couple of really good weeks, we should be fine. It’s definitely going to be tight though. The good thing is, the game totally rules. Even if we had to release it today, it’d be one of the best mobile games out there, I think.
We’ve also had some tumult recently about the title of our game. We’re not 100% sure what we want to go with yet; we’ll have news on that in the next week or so. And by the way, we should be posting more often now that things are in super-crunch mode.
On a totally unrelated note, the Dinofarm Games forums I must again remind everyone to come to. If you’re interested in talking about game design, check out this great thread. Come on by!
It’s official: Auro’s release date is July 1st, 2014! That’s exactly 1.5 months, 6 weeks, or 45 days from today. And July 1st isn’t “the day we’ll be finished working on it” or even “the day we submit it to Apple/Google. July 1st is the day that you’ll actually be able to purchase and play Auro!
For this reason, we plan to have the game completely finished by June 1st, then a couple of weeks with the “gold version” for final testing, and then submission to Apple/Google on the 15th. Let me break down what exactly there is left to do with these 6 or 7 remaining weeks. This is maybe more for our use than it is for yours, readers.
Also, it goes without saying that in addition to everything written here, all of us are of course doing a million other small tasks for the game – especially me. I’m the guy who mostly tends to the forums, deals with game balance, does ALL our web stuff, most of our marketing, and probably 10 other things I’m not even thinking of right now.
Note: I might make some edits to this in the next few days, but they’ll be light re-arranging mostly. Also these are, of course, estimates.
Week 0 (Now – April 18)
Keith: finishing up Story Mode. It should be completely functional by the end of this week (although still needing polish).
Oren: Away this week!
Blake: Recolor some necessary sprites and portraits for Story Mode, make an overlay for Blast. Continue on remaining music.
Week 1 (April 18 to April 26)
Keith: Fix bugs, polish. Balance for Play Mode should be basically finished. Start importing all the new graphics to the spritesheet and implementing them into the game.
Mike: Finish Saving/loading. Implement basic functionality of “long-press for info”.
Oren: Make a new build for the testers. Work with Keith on spritesheet business.
Blake: Finish Argo’s Chamber artwork, music.
Week 2 (April 27 to May 3)
Keith: Implement Argo’s improved chamber (his current one is pretty lame, and it’s kind of the climax of the game). Implement/polish HUD graphics or other graphics.
Mike: Re-code walls system. Fix bugs.
Oren: Make a build. Fix bugs.
Blake: Any VERY minor art tweaks / SMALL detail assets, music.
Time for an Auro update! This past month has been incredibly huge for this game – probably one of the most productive months on record, largely because I reached a threshold in learning to program that has allowed me to really start contributing on the code side (not just the game design, music, sound, writing, and web stuff sides). I’ll put this one in sort of a list-like format, just to spice stuff up. Here we go!
First of all, you can go check out the new Beta Updates thread over here to find out exactly what’s been going on, down to the nitty-gritty detail. In this post, I’ll just mention some of the big stuff.
I single handedly, with my own two hands programmed the entirety of the PLAY MODE metagame. You can now win and lose games which add or subtract from a big green XP bar. If you win more games, you level up. As you level up, the game gets harder. If you’re up to the Hard Mode levels, losing makes you lose XP. Even cooler: there’s a placement match when you first start, so that if you’re already good when the game comes out (as many of our beta testers already are), the game will automatically advance you to a higher skill level so that you don’t have to grind through the easier modes.
There’s also a Custom Games screen which allows players to “free play” an un-ranked game on any difficulty mode.
In the Custom Games screen you can also play MADNESS MODE, which has crazy, unfair and outrageous monster generation. You might face a level full of a dozen Slimes, or 3Yetis and 3 Troggles, or 20 rats. It’s unfair, unranked, and unpredictable!
The game now keeps track of all kinds of records, like wins and losses, highest scores on various modes, and more.
I mostly implemented a system of NOTES that will appear throughout the game. Think of notes as kinda like “loading screen texts” – little 2-3 sentence long ditties that give you some bit of lore, a tip, or some other strange thing. You can collect these, and the game keeps track of how many you’ve found.
Tons of balancing on the Easy, Normal and Hard modes. Can’t wait to get a new version out to testers to see what they think.
Yes, I’ve switched from the all-caps AURO to Auro. I think it’s better that way; AURO looks like it’s an acronym for something. Also we have a subtitle now – “Auro: A Tactical Bumping Game”is the full title. What do you think?
So them’s the updates. Things are generally happening on-schedule and I’m feeling good about getting this game out before the summer comes. With PLAY MODE basically 100% done, all that’s left to do is some story mode tweaks, bug fixes, and polish. Experienced developers are probably going, “oh is that ALL?!” sarcastically. I know that’s a lot, but we’ve now got three programmers on the job, so I’m pretty optimistic.
Dinofarm Games Forums
The other thing I wanted to talk about briefly is our forums, which can be accessed at http://www.dinofarmgames.com/forum/. The forums have been active since Auro began around two years ago, but in the last few months they’ve really taken off. What I really want for the forums is to create a place where somewhat like-minded people can get together to talk about game design and other topics, and recently that has become a reality. Some very high quality conversations have been taking place in the last few months, and if you like to talk about game design or anything in a very critical, clinical and not-personal way, you should consider coming by. Here are some of the best threads:
Is it really February 2014 and this game still isn’t out?! Pretty crazy. We’re doing everything we can to get this thing out the door, and things are progressing smoothly. Bugs are being fixed, long-standing structural issues are being ironed out. Lots of old code is being cleaned up.
The bigger thing that’s exciting that I want to talk about is that recently, we’ve been making huge strides on the gameplay. Despite the fact that this game has already been super awesome to play for… probably over a year now, we’re continuing to make it better and better. I should note that this isn’t a Duke Nukem Forever style “polish the game eternally!!!” madness sort of thing. Our lead programmer Mike just has a ton of technical stuff that he has to do, and alongside him I’ve been making these changes – so it isn’t pushing anything back.
Besides, most of these gameplay changes I’m making are sprouting out still from the loss of Match Mode. Dropping Match Mode is a decision that I’m increasingly happy with. It just wasn’t even close to worth the amount of effort and resources it was going to take to do it right. And once I dropped it I realized that I can achieve almost all of what I wanted without all the multiplayer stuff anyway.
The thing that satisfies me most is that AURO is now not a toy, but a game – at least by my own prescriptive (and I think super useful) definitions for those terms. What I mean by that is that AURO now has a clear, achievable goal at all levels of play. The gameplay modes we have now are Story Mode – where the objective is simply to beat the final boss, and three difficulty levels of Normal Game, with increasing point thresholds to beat. When you reach those thresholds, you win. The game tracks wins and losses, and you gain and lose experience in a meta-game for them, so there isn’t any “oh, I don’t like how this game is going, RESTART!” business. Also, the player actually has something to be shooting for, instead of the classic solitaire videogame problem of “you decide what you’re trying to do, at whatever point, and at the end you decide if you achieved that or not!” To me, games that do this feel very incomplete, forcing the player to play designer when he should be free to just play. So overall I’m really excited about this feature.
This is definitely a delicate issue, however. If it’s not framed and balanced properly, it could feel like “the game was abruptly ended at some sort of random point”. Logically I don’t think there is any reason that this should have to be the case, though – plenty of games have a “target amount of points” you have to reach to win, particularly European board games. You could also say that a fighting game like Street Fighter is a “first to deal 100 Points of damage wins” contest, but I don’t think anyone thinks of that as like, “oh what the hell, I was playing and having fun and suddenly my opponent reached 0 HP and the game ended?! LAME!”
So I think that just by making sure the difficulty is right, the metagame is there to support it, and the feedback for scoring is clear (like there should be indicators showing how close you are, when you’re 10% away, 5% away, etc), we should be fine. But, if we’re not fine, we can start looking at other thematic answers.
The Brashness Bar
To go back to the Street Fighter example, people are OK with that because they get that “HP” is like “life” and when it runs out, that’s that. So what if we did score in a way somewhat similar to that?
For example, right now the target score for Hard difficulty is 150 points. So what if we do some thing where some “boss creature” or something has a “bar” of some kind, and it is depleting as you go? It’s still just points out of 150, but it’s subtracting rather than adding and when it reaches 0, you win.
Perhaps in Normal Game, it’s not Quillsh who talks to you, but instead Argo. And maybe Argo has a CONFIDENCE METER, or BRASHNESS BAR or something like that, and every time you do something awesome – like kill a bunch of monsters – this meter goes down. He talks to you frequently throughout the game, and when his BRASHNESS BAR is full, he’s like a full on jerk to you, trash-talking you, intimidating you, and saying that he’s coming to attack the castle again today to break all of your toys! Then as it reaches half-ish, he’s kinda like… less confidently making fun of you. When it approaches 10%, he starts getting worried, and at 0% he’s like “OK you know what this is stupid, LEAVE ME ALONE!”
To make it even more videogame-acceptable, we could even have it be that once you reach 0 on the BRASHNESS BAR, Argo freaks out and teleports in to attack you, and then you have a little “boss fight” against him (nothing particularly hard, he’s just a little harder than a Lich) – then killing him wins you the game. Because videogames end with someone dying, that much I know for sure!
What do you think? Work wise, this amounts to “creating a little bar graphic”, implementing it, and then me writing a ton of lines of dialogue for Argo, which I would love to do. I think this would also make the game more generally charming and help characterize Argo, who you don’t really see much of anywhere else anyway.
Recently, I’ve come to some realizations about Trials mode, our sort of “meat and potatoes” single-player mode for the game. Namely, that it should, like Match Mode, be played on a win/loss basis – not on a “get a high score, whatever that means” basis. You can read a bit more about that here and here. (Keep in mind, on that first link to Dinofarm, some details have changed, but the thrust of Trials changes are the same).
For the past 3 weeks or so, we’ve been diving into the nitty gritty details of what implementing Match Mode would really mean for our team. What back-end would we use to host all our multiplayer interactions? How would our league system work? What’s the structure of a match? How much would all this cost? And most importantly, how long is this feature going to take?
After tons of research, which itself took a lot of time, we have a very rough ball-park answer, and… it isn’t what we had hoped. It’s hard to nail it down exactly, but what we’re certain of is that doing Match Mode right is going to take us at least an additional 3-4 months. And we’ve been doing this long enough to know that that probably means more like 6-8.
Further, we’ve also looked into just how much non-match-mode-related work there is left to do on AURO – just on Story Mode, finishing Trials, basic social features, metagame, polish, bug fixing, and cross-platform support – and it’s also a freaking ton of work. We hope we’ll surprise ourselves, but I personally find it believable that even if we were to drop Match Mode as a launch feature, we still might be looking at 5 more months until release.
So with that in mind, I regretfully have to announce that we are shelving Match Mode as a feature. Considering how much work it will be, we also might even prioritize other cool features before Match Mode, such as a puzzle mode, a new, longer story campaign, replay functionality, or more. So in general, I wouldn’t hold your breath on Match Mode. I’m happy to have reviewed our Kickstarter campaign and noticed that there was no mention of Match Mode made at all on it, so we won’t be betraying our wonderful Kickstarter supporters by dropping the mode.
At this point, we just really want to get this game out, and dropping Match Mode is going to give us a huge boost towards getting there. I’m sure you feel the same way after so very long.
Since we’re losing Match Mode, we need to spend extra time and energy on coming up with great ways to make sure that Trials mode has a lot of good social features. We don’t have a definite list yet, but some things we’re considering are things like: you can still send your result of a Trials mode game to a friend somehow, like perhaps it can still send them the random seed. Or maybe you can post scores or even screenshots to Facebook and Twitter. Maybe somehow you can “capture a moment” and share it with someone. We’d love to hear your ideas, but the bottom line is, we want to make sure AURO is a thing that can build a community around it. Let us know what you think over at the forums.
But also, Match Mode is actually less necessary now due to the Trials mode changes we’re making. Trials can now function largely the way that Match Mode was going to, just, without the “multiplayer” aspect. So yeah – Match Mode was going to be way more work, for actually, way less benefit.
Blake’s New Promo Image
Okay, now time for something nice and awesome. Blake has been working on this promo image for probably 80 hours. We’re considering trying to use it for a new title screen, but either way it will definitely get used as a banner, PC version title screen, or any time we need a horizontal image. We think this image captures the dynamism and excitement of AURO a lot better than our original one. What do you think?
Click to enlarge!
Anyway, the beta goes on. Stay tuned here, because I’m gonna post soon about what final features Trials will have. We’re looking forward to getting this game out to you guys, hopefully in as few as 3 months. Somewhere in the 3-5 month range feels safe to me. Thanks for your patience everyone.