I’ve been trying to write a post about our impressions from the alpha launch for quite some time now, but it’s proving pretty difficult as my thoughts go running all over the place, so in the meantime here’s a rundown on what we’re working on:
Alpha 2 brings a remade inventory, world generation and culling systems. As cool as it may sound, these changes are unfortunately (apart from the world generation, which is detailed below) only visible in the back-end, namely in better stability, memory management, removed stuttering and framerate drops, and faster world generation.
Pacing, difficulty curve
While Darkwood is supposed to be a constant struggle for survival, we’ve seen too many players confused about what to do at two moments in the game: at the very beginning after the prologue, and sometime later when advancing through the storyline means a visit to the dark, more dangerous parts of the woods.
Darkwood’s world is currently totally open, with fluid borders between the different biomes, meaning you can find yourself in a mutated forest totally by accident, which is a VERY bad idea at the start of the game (resulting in a confusing, painful death).
We hope to address these issues with a new way of generating the world, making the biomes more distinct, forcing you to work to advance to the harder (but more rewarding) ones, giving you a better sense of progression.
We’re working on adding more content to the parts of the world between the locations, so that they’re more varied. Loot gathering will also be less reliant on pure chance to find chests, bodies or whatnot.
Fighting in Darkwood is made to be slow and tactical, but lethal. Given it’s perspective, the combat system is unintuitive for a lot of people and takes time to get used to, to the point where we’ve seen quite a few posts on the forums stating that combat is “broken”. We have no problems with it and can defeat any enemy in the current version of the game with the weakest weapon, but we had a lot of time to get accustomed to it (we designed it, duh), unlike the first time players, which get torn to shreds by a wild dog because they haven’t familiarised themselves with how fighting works in the game. Alpha 2 will have gentler enemy pacing and improvements to responsiveness and balance.
That about sums it up! Sadly we don’t have a ETA yet on the update, so stay tuned.
This is it! We finally have a launch date for Early Access: July 24th! Darkwood will be available for PC, Mac and Linux and will be priced at $14.99.
Along with the announcement, there’s a interactive trailer for you to enjoy:
We’re really sorry we didn’t make it for early July… Hope this trailer makes up for it!
I wish I could say “phew, now we can rest a bit after all the weeks of crunching!”, but nope. We have a few days left for polishing and we’re going to make the best of it. So keep your fingers crossed!
I’m afraid we have a bit of bad news for you. Something is happening in June (sadly, we’re not allowed to reveal any info about it) at the time we planned our early access launch, which makes it impossible for us to release Darkwood as we originally planned, so we have to push back the launch to the beginning of July.
I know some of you are VERY anxious about the launch and I’m sorry I can’t say anything more about this situation, but in a few weeks you’ll understand why we made this decision.
But we also have some good news! I can confirm that Mac and Linux versions are working nicely and will be supported from day 1 of early access, with a few minor issues that can be fixed thanks to the few extra days we will have to spare.
But the best part? The reactions from the players, and especially our backers! We were pretty sure that playing Darkwood in a crowded, noisy room with little time to spare was pretty pointless, but we were proven wrong!
The feedback was very positive, even from people who don’t consider themselves hardcore players. Again, this was a surprise for us. We’ve designed Darkwood to be a deep, complex and very challenging game that requires all of your attention and at least an hour of playtime to simply start to get the hang of it.
Seeing a 11 year old kid playing Darkwood for well over an hour (with a line behind him, at a event with TONS of other awesome stuff to do), and being forcibly removed by his parent was something that really made it up for all the sleepless nights we invested into this game.
Photo by Adela “Mawrr” Sznajder
One thing we were very afraid of was the reactions from our backers. Is it the game they imagined it to be? Did we meet their expectations? We’re very pleased to say that every backer who visited us was very happy with how the game is turning out, which was a huge relief for us.
To recap, PH2014 was pretty awesome for us, and we can’t wait for the next edition!
I’m happy to announce that you will get to play Darkwood on Steam early access in June!
There have been rumours circulating that this might happen in May… Which actually was our plan (and kudos to whoever found out the previously intended launch date!), but due to the recent not-so-cool things happening around early access on Steam, we want to polish it up a bit more.
The precise date is still unknown, but we’ll let you know as soon as we’re 100% sure!
In the meantime, we’re finishing up the build for the Indie Basement competition, which will be held during Pixel Heaven in Warsaw at the end of May. If we get accepted to the finals, you will be able to play Darkwood at the event!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We’re more than happy to announce that a year after our crowdfunding campaign, Darkwood is coming to Steam Early Access! To celebrate, we’ve prepared a teaser showing a glimpse of what’s to come in the near future.
If you have any questions, check out the FAQ section! The Steam store page also has a lot of new info!
You better prepare your old sleeping bag, tent and 12 gauge sawed off shotgun… because the trip to Darkwood is very very near !
Phew! The last month was probably the hardest part of Darkwood’s development to date.
A few days ago we completed the documentation of Darkwood’s world. It was not only a hard task, but a necessary one to continue the project. Now we know more than ever about the world, characters, religion and lore, and our world begins to live… and kill with more style than ever. Some things took longer than they normally would have – partly because we are a young team, partly because of our democratic creative process.
Darkwood is changing. Not drastically, but it is changing, and we believe we should inform you about this. After many prototypes, gazillion hours of talking, and plenty of tests, we had to change Darkwood’s direction a bit. We went back to the drawing board with features like permadeath, skills and the overall pacing of the game, did some prototyping – and voila! Darkwood is now better than ever.
The devil is in the details – and the details make or break the game. The features that we hold very dear: meaningful choices and consequences and storytelling collided with roguelike elements, so we decided to minimize them. We resigned from permadeath and our previous skills and perks system, in favour of other consequences upon your character’s death. This lets us put much more focus on the story, characters and unique encounters. Random generation is still in though, so you can expect a different world to explore each time you start a new game.
UPDATE: To clarify, permadeath will most probably be left in as an option for the most hardcore of players. The fact that your character’s death is not permanent, doesn’t mean that your choices can’t be! Every decision you make during gameplay is final, there are no savegames you can load to undo a “bad” decision (only continuing from where you left off).
UPDATE 2: Skills and perks are left untouched (although balanced differently). The way you gain them is simply different than the previous way, where you were forced to choose from a few skills which were randomized for you. Now you have full control over them.
These changes ignited very long and heated debates among us and required a ton of work to be done, but we’re positive that Darkwood is now a better game for it!
Darkwood is coming, and it’s coming fast. All shall be revealed this month.
PS Kuba, one of the Acid Wizards, has a birthday today!
Today we’re gonna talk about a question that was on our minds for a long time: how do we combine permadeath with a strong narrative in Darkwood? I mean, won’t it be boring when you die for the 312th time and have to talk with the same characters, listen to their stories again and again and do the same old fetch quests? Won’t it be frustrating to lose all your progress after dying and to have to do everything all over again?
After long discussions, brainstorms and hours of talks, we found a solution:
First, implement organic choices that have meaningful consequences.
What do I mean by “organic”, you ask? Let’s say you meet a madman, who explains to you that he is building a rocket in which he intends to travel to the moon. But he needs rare, hard to find parts to do so. You can choose to help him out and bring him the parts, sabotage his creation and give him faulty parts… or simply kill him. Not choosing is also a choice by itself – ignoring his request might also have consequences.
These choices might not present themselves as simply A B C D dialogue options, but can also manifest themselves in the gameplay itself. Some of them will be well hidden and require knowledge you did not possess in a previous playthrough. Sometimes, you might even unknowingly do something that will dramatically alter someone else’s life.
The other choices you make relate to the gameplay itself. Should you, or should not, go to that creepy old house? Will you have enough fuel to keep the lights on for the night? Should you try to survive the night outside or inside the house? Should you kill a man on sight, or take a chance and see who he is?
Almost every risk earns you a reward. Almost every reward comes with a risk. It is a natural system that many of us fell in love with while playing games like Dark Souls.
Just know one thing. Your choices will matter. Some of the consequences of these choices will be visible almost immediately, while others will be relevant throughout the entire game.
Second, add multiple layers of complexity to the narrative, puzzles and characters, who have their own, sometimes very different version of truth than you or the other inhabitants of Darkwood. Think of a movie you saw that made your jaw drop, but you didn’t fully understand it. You go online, check some forums, read reviews, maybe post some stuff yourself. You watch it again, and armed with new knowledge, you begin to discover things that you weren’t able to see before, making watching the movie a whole new experience. This is what we’re aiming for in Darkwood.
Third, divide Darkwood into chapters. When you die, you can start over from the same chapter, instead of the whole game. The choices you made in the previous chapters are saved. There is something you have to be careful of, though – you have a limited number of “lives” at your disposal. If you lose all of them… Then it’s game over for you.
However death is not the end in Darkwood. It’s an opportunity to discover something new about it’s world.
About it’s characters, tragedies, secrets.
Fear the man of one truth. Don’t let yourself become one.
And as a new guy I would like to tell you about my experiences so far.
I came to Warsaw a week ago.
It was a long journey – I’m from Lower Silesia, in the west of Poland, but I’ve left everything behind to work for and with Wizards. To work on Darkwood.
I must say I’m pretty impressed. The game is ambitious, hard and unforgiving, but it gives you an enormous amount of satisfaction. The plot and the atmosphere are really dark with vibes of Stalker (movie) and Roadside Picnic. I really like the core mechanics – they are simple to learn but hard to master, as it should be.
So let me take you for a short tour:
My dog, Jera.
Nidhogg, that we are currently playing. (I’m the best of wizards).
Also it’s the first time when I see a truly democratic game design – a clash of personalities is sometimes unbelievable. We discuss, and discuss and discuss about every element, every tweak, and every little choice in this game. The atmosphere inside the studio is great – we have open work hours, heated debates about video games and literature, and sometimes we even play together.
But mostly, we just work.
They come early and stay late. They are paranoid about spoilers, and details. This game is their life. It’s becoming mine too. Acid Wizards (my mind is still referring to “them” and “me”) are very talented and skillful people. Artur and Jakub took part in many Video Game Jams, Gustaw was a graphic designer, all of them were working in media. I myself have a background in comics and journalism.
It’s kind of an explosive mixture. I like it.
So one journey is over, and another one is just beginning for me. It was harder and more expensive that I supposed it would be, but in the end – it was worth it.
Oh, and to give you something more interesting than my babbling:
Let’s start off 2014 by introducing the newest Acid Wizard – Piotr Rusewicz! After a long initiation process (which of all the candidates, only he survived), we welcome him into our ranks! He will be starting work full time from February, but he’s already doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. Here’s what he has to say about himself:
Hi, my name is Piotr and I’m proud to be the newest member of Acid Wizard Studio. I knew I had to join the team the first time I saw Darkwood. Here I am, so I suppose you can call it a success. In AWS, I will be working as a copywriter, community manager, screenwriter and additional designer.
Writing about yourself is a little bit like trying to make a whole game in one night. It doesn’t work. So, to make a long story short – I have a background in independent comic books (which you can see in this post), video game journalism and literature. Fortunately, my mind is still functional and fully operative, but video games have had a great influence on my life.
I grew up with the PlayStation generation, and have always been in love with RPGs and fighting games. On the other side – as a kid from a small town I’ve always loved books. So games and books have been my passion as long as I can remember. I have an Master of Arts in therapy/pedagogy and I’m a sad idealist. It’s probably because I have played too much Yasumi Matsuno’s games. I believe narrative is the most crucial part of a successful video game. A well-lead narrative – or a lack of it – is what influences the game’s reception the most, especially in the horror genre. When it comes to risk/reward ratio and gameplay difficulty, it is narrative that makes you play in spite of everything. And believe me, Darkwood will try to stop you at every step.
The list of one’s most beloved works can tell you much about that person. Below are my favorite games. These titles have affected all of my previous works profoundly.
Dark Souls, King’s Field, Demon’s Souls, Wizardry, Shiren the Wanderer, ADOM, Planescape, Yasumi Matsuno’s games, SNK fighters, Silent Hill 2, Fatal Frame 2, The Binding of Isaac, Platinum Games works, Max Payne 2, Nier, Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, OutRun 2006, Dragon’s Crown, Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, Persona 2, Persona 4, Shin Megami Tensei I-III, Deus Ex…
So there you have it! Piotr will be starting work in about a month, so expect more frequent Darkwood related news starting in February!