In the mad rush to launch our first commercially released game, we realized we forgot to actually post about it on our blog! There are only a couple days left to get the game at our launch discount of 15% off.
This past month has been hectic, but we are finally back with a focus on Lacuna Passage.
Some of you had concerns about TIMEframe being a distraction for us last month so this month we want to talk about all the tangible ways that it has positively impacted our continued development of Lacuna Passage.
First and foremost has been the refinement of our dynamic music system, Song Seed. We have been building Song Seed over several iterations in the last year or so specifically for use in Lacuna Passage. The demo we previewed at PAX East was the first public implementation of our dynamic soundtrack and it worked really well for us, but there was still a lot that needed to be done. We realized a long time ago that this system would be very beneficial for other developers as well, so after PAX East we began working harder on the public version which worked well with the timing of our updated release of TIMEframe. Music is a huge part of TIMEframe so we were able to use it as a real-world test of the system. In fact, in addition to our own implementation in TIMEframe, we have just opened up a beta test of the Song Seed Unity plugin. So if you are a Unity developer interested in helping us improve this tech that will be a big part of Lacuna Passage please let us know (and check out the example video above). Soon after testing we will be releasing the plugin on the Unity Asset Store at a modest price. The proceeds from this will all be funneled straight into Lacuna Passage development as well.
Another benefit of working on TIMEframe that cannot be stressed enough has been learning the ins and outs of Steam integration. Lacuna Passage has always been our priority, but it has also been our first foray into commercial game development. We had no experience with integrating with Steam until now. After working on TIMEframe we now have a much firmer grasp on what that integration requires. Store page setup, game package installation, authentication, achievements, trading cards, cloud saves, DLC… the list goes on and on. We have used TIMEframe as our test bed for these features and this has given us invaluable experience as we now implement many of these features in Lacuna Passage. We are now looking forward to a tentative release date of June 30th for TIMEframe which will give us even more experience in running an active product and managing customer relations. Once again, all the proceeds will directly benefit Lacuna Passage development. (And as a reminder, all Lacuna Passage Kickstarter backers will be receiving a free copy of the game and the original soundtrack).
Last but not least, we have been experimenting with new features that have been added to Unity in versions 4.6 through 5.0. We have not updated Lacuna Passage past 4.6.2, but with our work on TIMEframe we have had a chance to see how these more recent updates might affect Lacuna Passage. The new user interface features in Unity might drastically improve the way that we handle the rendering of the datapad for example. There have also been several performance enhancing changes that could positively impact our open-world memory management. We have been able to evaluate these new features in TIMEframe on a smaller scale without any disruption to our Lacuna Passage project management. It would have taken us orders of magnitude more time to even test these options in Lacuna Passage itself.
These are only a few of the most direct benefits we have experienced while working on TIMEframe, and as we move forward into this next chapter of Lacuna Passage development we feel much more confident in our ability to deliver on our original promises. Game development is not a straight path. There will always be bumps and detours, but we work extremely hard to ensure that every decision we make benefits our ultimate goal of delivering the best Mars exploration narrative experience that we possibly can. Over the next few weeks we will have more regular updates with the art and design of Lacuna Passage.
We have taken time to explain many details about TIMEframe over the last few months, but most of that information is spread over several blog posts and Kickstarter updates. So today we are going to recap all the details and hopefully answer any questions you have.
Why is this update more than a week late?
My wife just recently got a new full time job that required us to move to Burlington, Iowa. After we got here our internet connection was spotty for a while and it took us time to settle in. Things are back up and running and we should be in a normal update schedule from now on.
Wait… what is TIMEframe again? I thought you were working on a Mars game?
TIMEframe is a simple exploration game set in a world where time is massively slowed down. It started as a Ludum Dare game which was made in a single weekend. It got the attention of several gaming websites and YouTube gamers who all had very positive things to say about. We eventually decided to put it up on Steam Greenlight to see if anyone had an interest in an updated version. TIMEframe was Greenlit in less than two weeks thanks in no small part to our Kickstarter backers from Lacuna Passage. However, we then had to put the updated version of TIMEframe on hold after we received the news that Lacuna Passage was accepted into the PAX East 2015 Indie MEGABOOTH. After we got back from Boston we transitioned back to the updated version of TIMEframe once again and we are now getting close to a release.
Why are you taking time off from development of Lacuna Passage to work on TIMEframe?
Making games costs money. Our Kickstarter for Lacuna Passage is still managing to fund a large part of development, but we don’t have much room for error in our budget. If we have more setbacks or unforeseen costs then Lacuna Passage may have difficulties getting finished.
TIMEframe is a much smaller project that we knew we could take to market is a much shorter time span. We will also effectively get to use TIMEframe as a learning experience for launching a product on Steam. We are getting practice with integrating Steam achievements, trading cards, and other elements of their API that we can apply later in Lacuna Passage. We will also get to learn more about the marketing side of launching a game on Steam. We would much rather learn the stumbling blocks now with TIMEframe than later with a larger title like Lacuna Passage. By the time that TIMEframe is finished and available on Steam we will only have lost about 2 months of development time, but we also potentially have a lot to gain.
Our hope is that the sales of TIMEframe will make our studio more financially stable and make the continued development of Lacuna Passage less stressful. Since my brother Spencer joined the team last year he has effectively been donating his time. Both of us would love to be able to afford more than ramen noodles and pop tarts. There is no guarantee that TIMEframe will provide any meaningful income, but we think that it is worth trying.
The updated version of TIMEframe is also our first official test run of our Unity music plugin Song Seed. We will also be using it for Lacuna Passage, but more importantly we are planning to release the plugin commercially on the Unity Asset Store. Hopefully this will be another source of supporting revenue for our studio.
So if this is an “updated” version of the old TIMEframe then what is new about it?
Here’s a pretty good list of everything that you have to look forward to in the new version:
New polygonal terrain
Better matches our updated art style
New foliage models and textures
Vertex manipulation for wind animation
Improved water effects
Vertex manipulation for wind and waves
14 total explorable locations
8 completely new locations
Old locations also have updated models and textures
Better slow-motion effects
Previously listed vertex manipulation effects for foliage and water
New particle effects
New slow-motion physics objects
New story content
Unlockable historical texts
20+ minutes of music in an updated soundtrack
Live recorded string instruments
Uses our Song Seed Unity plugin for dynamic transitioning of tracks
New settings screen
No default Unity launcher window (all options are in-game)
Quality level options
Resolution and full screen settings
Look sensitivity, smoothing, and Field of View sliders
Xbox controller support
That sounds pretty cool. When will it be available?
We should be finished with the game in the next two weeks. At that time we will transition back to about 90% development time for Lacuna Passage. The other 10% we will spend on TIMEframe doing playtesting, fixing bugs, creating marketing images and trailers, sending review copies to press and YouTubers, etc. It’s uncertain right now exactly what the release date for TIMEframe will be, but early June is a good bet with a price between $5-10. If you are a Kickstarter backer for Lacuna Passage however, you will be getting a free copy of TIMEframe and the game’s soundtrack as a thank you for your patience with us.
If you have any more questions please feel free to ask in the comments.
Random Seed Games
This past month we have been hard at work revisiting our old Ludum Dare entry, TIMEframe, which was recently Greenlit on Steam. Our goal is to have a finished version of the game by the end of the month to put on Steam. Here are a few progress shots showing off some of the new art assets in the game:
You might have noticed some new text elements that were not present in the original prototype. We are introducing a simple history and story to the world of TIMEframe that you will be able to uncover during your exploration.
Much of our focus in these last few weeks however has been on trying to improve upon the atmosphere and lighting of the original version. We really want the game to feel as if you are walking through a painting with all kinds of slow-motion elements.
The soundtrack for the game will be equally stunning. We are currently in the process of recording live string instruments. Here’s a preview of the updated ambient music you will hear as you explore the world of TIMEframe:
The finished game will have nearly 20 minutes of music just like this.
We really hope this side project demonstrates the level of quality work we intend to uphold. For reference, here is the old web player demo of TIMEframe. We will be sure to update everyone on the release of TIMEframe, and with it our return to Lacuna Passage development next month. As a reminder, all Kickstarter backers of Lacuna Passage will be getting a free copy of TIMEframe as a thank you for your patience and support.
December was a crazy month for Random Seed Games. Demo releases, holidays, Ludum Dare, Greenlight campaigns, and more. So let’s dive right in.
Lacuna Passage Prologue on Mac
First off, some of you may have noticed already if you tried to access your Lacuna Passage download pages in the last couple days, but we have just added a Mac version of the Prologue demo. If you still haven’t claimed your download page then follow our directions found here. The Mac version is not nearly as well tested on our end as the PC version, so if you find any bugs please report them here. Some of you have contacted us about testing a Linux version eventually. We are compiling a list of Linux testers so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you haven’t yet.
So, now that 95% of our backers have access to the Prologue demo, we would like to announce a small contest. Between now and January 31st at 11:59PM CST we will be accepting submissions of photos you have taken in the demo with the photography mechanic (photos you take during the demo can be found in the “Lacuna Passage Prologue_Data” folder under “Screenshots”).
Please send your photo submission to email@example.com via the email address that is associated with your Humble download page. Only one photo will be accepted per entry. Emails received with more than one photo attached will be disqualified. Our top 3 favorite photos will receive a free “upgrade” to the $75 Kickstarter backer level (if you are already a $75 level backer you will get another Collector’s Edition and poster to give to a friend or family member).
Show us your Mars photography skills!
I feel like we have been saying this for a couple months now, but we are getting closer to a beta test for our dynamic music plugin for Unity. If you are interested in helping us test Song Seed please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TIMEframe on Steam
Recently we reached out to our fans for their support in voting for our side project, TIMEframe, on Steam Greenlight. Well, after less than 2 weeks we have officially been accepted onto Steam! This has really taken us by surprise. We were not expecting to get through this quickly, if at all. We want to thank all of you who voted for us.
As we mentioned in our previous call-to-action, we will be putting a priority on releasing TIMEframe. Our goal is to have it completed and on Steam sometime in early February. We will still be working on Lacuna Passage in the mean time, but just not as much as we are right now. When TIMEframe is released we will hopefully have some extra revenue to help finance the remaining development of Lacuna Passage, which we will return to full-time. And as we mentioned previously, all of our backers will also be receiving a free copy of TIMEframe when it is released! We are very excited for the upcoming releases of both TIMEframe and Song Seed and what they mean for our young studio.
Ludum Dare 31
Earlier this month we took part in 31st Ludum Dare weekend game jam competition. This being our third entry after the original TIMEframe (in Ludum Dare 27) and Dodgy Ball (Ludum Dare 28). The theme this time was “Entire game on one screen” and our entry was SUPER FUN FAMILY PRIMETIME TELEVISION SIMULATOR. The results are in and we placed #41 in the Humor category, #74 in innovation, and #98 in Theme out of 1,270 jam entries. We placed in the 200s and 300s in all other categories. We are very happy with these results for such a bizarre game. If you would like to read more about the game you can check out a post-mortem here and you can play the game in your browser here.
Thanks for following our blog and we will be back with another art progress post on the 15th.
Oh, and Happy New Year!
We have returned from Steam Dev Days and boy did we learn a lot. We met some great people, attended some insightful sessions, and we have a new perspective on the remaining development for Lacuna Passage.
So, what did we take away from the experience? (Besides the amazing complimentary breakfasts and free Steam Machines...) More than anything else, we came away with a sense of reassurance. A sense that we are going in the right direction and that many of our fears are mostly unfounded. Here are some of the key points that we gained from attending Steam Dev Days:
- Integrating Steamworks features like cloud saving, Steam trading cards, and more, should not be an issue.
- This is something we already assumed, but as with many other things related to development, we wanted to make sure we talked to others who had experience with these features to give us reassurance.
- We are going to focus on the basics first, and then we will look to our Kickstarter backers and other supporters to find out what features they value most and work on integrating those as well.
- Polishing our VR integration will be very important as we look ahead to better VR technologies and consumer adoption of those technologies.
- It's no surprise that VR was a huge focus for the entire conference. Valve is extensively supporting VR and we want to be there when it hits critical mass.
- Some of the specifics that were shared about making optimal VR experiences are causing us to think back on some of our design decisions and perhaps make some critical changes that will ensure an enjoyable experience with Lacuna Passage.
- Though it may feel like a free-for-all right now, Steam Greenlight has proved very successful for those developers who have managed to get through approval and sell their games via Steam.
- This one might sound a bit obvious (get on Steam and you will sell games, duh), but since we are investing in Lacuna Passage as a product and the beginning of a business, we were looking for reassurances of success.
- We have modest estimates for sales numbers that we feel would be necessary to fund development of another title in the future (obviously that is a ways off yet) and everyone we talked to seemed to think that our sales estimates were very conservative.
- Gabe Newell made comments during the conference that he would like to see Steam Greenlight disappear and to open the flood gates to all developers to publish on Steam. We hope that this will enable more developers to make money doing what they love, but there is always the possibility that it may dilute the marketplace. If we are unable to launch Lacuna Passage prior to the demise of Greenlight then we may miss out on the higher exposure that Greenlight has given us. Ultimately, we trust that Valve has plans to make sure that this does not happen. We think that giving more developers access to the Steam store will have a positive effect overall.
- We are interested in reaching out to more Greenlight developers to gather sales data and any other information they are willing to share. If you are a developer willing to be a part of this please contact us at <contact [at] randomseedgames.com>.
- Enabling our fans to contribute to development can be a positive for both us and them.
- We have already made extensive use of volunteer contributors for the development of Lacuna Passage (not to mention the financial contributions of our Kickstarter backers), but Valve's experiments with user generated content (DOTA 2, TF2, Steam Workshop, etc) has inspired us to expand our current efforts.
- Right now we are not planning for mod support or Steam Workshop support. We just don't think it's feasible for the scale of game we are creating; however, we are willing to work with almost anyone who can demonstrate a certain skill level with content creation.
- For example, almost all of our artists are volunteers. We just haven't heavily advertised this fact. Well, now we are. If you are interested in contributing content - not just additional content, but content that will be part of the primary experience of Lacuna Passage - please contact us at <contact [at] randomseedgames.com>. Right now we are most interested in 3D artists and texture artists, but later in development we will have need of voice actors, graphic designers, and many others. If you really want to help make Lacuna Passage the best game it can be then we want to enable you to do so.
Steam Dev Days was an incredible experience and we can't wait to take what we've learned and apply it in the months to come. Right now our next planned conference stop will be GDC where we will hopefully have a playable portion of the game. If anyone else is planning on attending, please let us know and we would love to meet up with you!
Hi there! My name is Tyler Owen and I'm the lead developer for Lacuna Passage. I normally write these posts anyway, but I wanted to make this one a little more personal while discussing some of our plans for the coming weeks and months ahead of us.
Steam Dev Days
This Wednesday and Thursday I will be attending the first Steam Dev Days event in Seattle with my father Jeff Owen (who has been kindly assisting with many of the financial and business-related elements of Random Seed Games). The conference is an invite-only event for approved Steam partners, which, thanks to the support of our followers on Steam Greenlight, we are.
Our goals in attending the event are threefold. 1) To learn more about the specifics of Steam publishing and SDK integration, 2) To explore the future possibilities related to VR and Steam Machines, and 3) To meet up with other indie developers.
This will be our first real conference visit since starting development of Lacuna Passage. Unfortunately we will not have a proper demo along with us, but it seems that will not be the focus of the conference anyways. The announced sessions and the fact that this is invite only for developers indicate that this conference will not be about promoting or demoing games. It will be about learning the Steam infrastructure directly from Valve and networking with other developers to learn from their experiences. That's what we intend to do. Our acceptance onto Steam through the Greenlight process might arguably be more important to the future of our company than even the funding support we received via Kickstarter so we don't want to waste this opportunity.
The Months Ahead
It is becoming apparent that we may not be able to provide as many behind-the-scenes details over the coming months as we have since the Kickstarter. This is due to many factors, but most importantly, we don't want to spoil things for our players. Since so much of Lacuna Passage revolves around the story we want to tell, we need to be careful that those story details are not revealed too early. We want many of our art assets and locations in the game to be a genuine surprise. What that means is that as we continue development there may be periods of time where we are unable to share what we are working on. A lack of updates will NOT mean a lack of progress. We will try to continue discussing our work as best as we can, but our visual updates may be fewer and farther between. We hope you all understand.
With that being said, we do have just a small visual preview of a large asset from our lead artist Cameron. Above is the nearly finished high poly render of the mobile drilling rig.
In preparation for our Kickstarter launch we have just created a Steam Greenlight page. We know that many of you have been following us for a long time so we would love to see an early rush of votes. Click the image below to check out our Greenlight page now (and see a couple new videos)!