As we recently mentioned on our Twitter (@12minutesgame), we are aiming to release our title in 2021.
With that being said, what is left to do? Today I hope to shed some light on these last steps of a game.
On the production side, quite a few things are happening in parallel. At the end of October, like I mentioned in the last post, we wrapped up our final mocap session. We had to wait right until the last minute since the sequences were dependent on the already recorded dialogue. So after the VO (voice-over) was recorded, we had to select the best takes, edit them and export them to the game, then test the sequences to find the right tempo.
So over the last months, the focus has been on cleaning up these new animations and replace the remaining mockup versions in-game. Up until recently, every time I wanted to review an animation, I had to play the game to see it in action. For easy stuff like opening a door, its feasible, but for more complex moments, that required a set of steps to trigger (e.g. combine objects, wait for a certain time, or actor to react), it meant a LOT of wasted time just getting to the scene.
Also, the animators are only able to preview their work in the animation package (Motion Builder), rather than seeing it in context with the previous and next animation, which are crucial to know if the transitions are working.
With that in mind, and having over 400 animations left to work on, I wrote an Editor tool that would allow us to preview animation without having to play the game, seeing the transitions, scrolling slowly, change characters or add items, etc.
Also, as we import these new animations, we can start doing the Sound Effects final pass. That means creating event markers for each animation where we want certain sounds to play.
From footsteps to the movement of the body as it interacts with the environment and other characters (e.g. fighting, sitting down, etc). We had already built quite a few of these, but having the precise animations, we can create much more custom sounds to bring these interactions to life. Some samples below, can you guess what the sounds are for?
For the musical score, now that we have the voice acting and movement, our composer can work based on the rhythm of the interactions, as well as taking into account the dialogue, leaving room to breathe for the voices while still setting an emotional tone. Kinda like how you’d score a movie after the editing.
The main difference is that we don’t know what sequence of events the player will be doing, so just like the dialogue, we need to create small variations that will chain together to create the overall texture of the music. Some examples below:
On a more technical front, now that we have all the content, we can focus on optimization. We know how many lights we have, the number of textures, geometry count, audio files, etc. So we can tweak all these values to make sure the game will run as fast as possible on all different platforms. Below is an example of the couch, from the original version (right) while we were figuring out what shapes and colors we wanted, to the final version, with as little polygons as possible:
We’re also working on more platform-specific tasks, like adding gamepad support, profile switching, and other technical requirements.
Our big goal now is to get a ‘final’ build of the game, that can be played from start to end without any major bugs so we can playtest the hell out of it. For so long we’ve been focused on content and technical hurdles, that the experience has been left untouched for a while, as we waited for the voice-acting, animations, and music to be ready to implement.
Once we have this ‘final’ build, we can start answering questions like… is the pacing working? Are the puzzles understandable? The character arc? Controls?
Just like movies do reshoots, we might have to do some pick-up sessions to tweak dialogues, or slightly change some animations to better convey a plot point.
Once all this is in place and ‘locked’, we’ll then be able to wrap it all up for the last stage of development. That means localization, the console submission process as well as finding the perfect release window and share it with the world. Also during that stage, we’ll start to ramp up the marketing campaign and share as much as we can of the final product without giving away any spoilers.
On my side, I can’t wait to have this out for you all to experience, and I really appreciate all the patience you’ve had over the development period!