2019 In review
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had an excellent holiday season, and are ready for an amazing 2020.
We thought we'd start the new year off with a quick review of The Wild at Hearts's 2019. Let's just run through month by month and pick one or two highlights from each. Here we go!
The beginning of 2019 was an exciting and scary time for us. After a good first showing at Day of the Devs, we were pretty confident we had something cool. But now it was time to make a full game, and to do that we needed help. We began splitting our time pretty heavily between development work and shopping the game around to publishers.
We had successfully demo'ed the herd-based strategy aspects of the game, but we had lots of other ideas we needed to prove out, both to ourselves and to potential partners. Ideas like Wake's vacuum, crafting and resource collecting, additional environments, and bunches of new puzzle mechanics that would tie all these things together. With GDC right around the corner and the need for a publishing partner becoming more and more pressing, this month was a whirlwind of features, content, emails, phone calls and pitch decks.
One of the earliest vacuum puzzles we made after implementing the Gustbuster
During the week of March 18-22 we took a brand new demo to the annual Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco. There we showed with ID@Xbox and Indie MEGABOOTH, both wonderful teams of amazing people who have been critical to the game's success so far. This week was a major step for us in both showing new aspects of the game and meeting with new people.
Showing with our ID@Xbox friends
A group of folks gather around at our Indie MEGABOOTH station
The month we locked in our partnership with Humble! 🎉🎊🎉🎊 There's no way we could have continued to make the game on our own forever, and joining the "Presented by Humble Bundle" indie family locked in the support we needed to ensure The Wild at Heart was actually going to definitely for-real be made. Now, with a rockstar publishing team behind us, we were able to devote our full attention to development. We could not ask for better partners!
Things started to move very quickly in late spring. Part of it was kinda boring and doesn't make for very interesting blog reading, things like shoring up our code architecture, implementing an actual sound engine, creating new internal dev tools that would help our productivity. But we also began to see more systems and features start to go in. One such feature was the first pass of the game's Day/Night Cycle, complete with an ever-ticking game clock, dynamic coloring based on time of day, phases of the moon, and new nighttime dangers.
The dark is bad!
In June we took the game on the road again, this time to E3, one of the biggest press events of the year in gaming. There we showed with Xbox at the Microsoft Theater, and took part in The MIX indie games showcase. We were excited and humbled to be included with both exhibitions, had a total blast sharing our game with press and gamers alike.
Work, work. As the summer wore on, we continued to push more features and content into Wild. We could also list hundreds of tiny little bug fixes, balance tweaks, and touches of polish that were happening rapidly around this time, as we continuously implemented changes based on tester feedback. But we'll just focus on one thing: our Dialogue Scripting Tool. Ankit will likely do a full post on this in the future, cuz it's pretty rad. But in summary, it's an internal bit of software we created (using the excellent NodeCanvas as a foundation) that allows us to quickly import the game's writing into the engine, then visually script out all the dialogue and cutscenes. This even includes things like animation changes, camera movements, etc. The end result is a fast and efficient way of creating the many narrative moments we want to have.
The dialogue tree from one of the earlier scenes of the game
For this month let's just punch through a handful of items at random:
Our own lighting solution, to support a proper day/night cycle in our wacky part-2D-part-3D setup
"Construction" system, for building camps and other structures with spritelings
A handful of purdy new environments
Localization architecture, to support lots of languages when the time comes
Support for mouse/keyboard controls
Custom water shader that takes advantage of some of the game's 3D-ness, while still matching a 2D look and feel
In-game screenshot of Wake's bedroom
Tons of new baddies! We posted about some of them here, and tweeted another here. We're gonna hold on to the rest for the time being, but know that the Deep Woods are really starting to fill out with dangerous wildlife!
We also turned attention to a bunch of new level design this month, essentially filling out all of the game's first chapter. We of course don't want to spoil any story or puzzles, but here's a small peek behind the curtain at our level design process:
Very early idea for a transition area
Also in September, we took The Wild at Heart to XOXO in Portland! This was a hometown show for a bunch of us, which was a ton of heart-warming fun. We had a blast engaging with our local community and watching them smile at our silly game.
Around October we took the time to focus on lots of little important side systems: stamina/energy for the vacuum, how to handle spriteling "death" and reviving, the ability to issue auxiliary commands to spritelings (e.g. "Return to Camp", "Drop Resources"), and unique active abilities per spriteling type (also how these tie into environmental puzzles). It feels a little incredible that it took us so long to get around to a few of these, but there's always something else to work on it seems! It was great to finally have some time for these though. Since the larger progression of the game was starting to come together, we saw bigger-picture items like this finally fall to the top of the priority list.
Happy Thanksgiving! Oh also we did bunches of content: new environments (the Undergrowth!), new hazards, new areas, new puzzles!
November also housed our fourth and final show of the year: Dreamhack Atlanta. Another hometown show, this time for the other half of our team.
The setup at Dreamhack Atlanta, with our shiny new portable banner
As 2019 drew to a close we continued to chug away at the game, finalizing the story, implementing more mechanics, designing new areas of the world. More art was also rolling in, including the filling out of Wake's family home, and the design of a brand new character: Crow's Nest.
Art and layout for Wake's house
Visit Crow's Nest and Worms for all your alchemical and potion-making needs
So that's it! What a year. We are overwhelmed at the support Wild has received so far, both from our partners and from YOU. Every blogpost read, every retweet, every random mention of the game - it all goes a long long way in helping us get the word out. So THANK YOU SO MUCH, we seriously couldn't be here without all your help. We are absolutely stoked for what's to come in 2020 and beyond.
The Moonlight Kids