As we get ready to launch the Cosmic Star Heroine kickstarter, I thought it would be useful to go back and look at the development timeline for our previous games.
The Early Years
Xbox Live Community Games Program introduced – November 19, 2008
Epiphany in Spaaace! released on XBLIG – October 20, 2009
Molly the Were-Zompire released on XBLIG – December 10, 2009
When Microsoft announced that anyone would be able to create and release games on the Xbox 360, I was ecstatic. I looked into the program immediately although my first released game wouldn’t come out until nearly a year later. Surprisingly enough, the first game I worked on for XBLIG actually ended up being my second release – Molly got failed out of peer review several times (often for IMO ridiculous reasons like Guitar controller problems – it’s a text-based game!) so while I was waiting to put it back in peer review, I made Epiphany in Spaaace! using the same engine. Then after Epiphany in Spaaace! came out, I went back and made a few minor improvements to Molly before releasing it a few weeks later.
Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
Teamed up with Bill Stiernberg – Sometime in January 2010 (no longer have the original PM)
Extremely rough design document – January 26, 2010
First In-Game Art Asset Finished – January 26, 2010
Released on XBLIG – April 22, 2010
Total Time in Development (Part-Time) – 3 months
Even today, I’m shocked that we were able to finish Breath of Death VII so quickly. Here we were, never having made anything of this scope before & never having worked together before, with no clue if we were even capable of finishing an RPG, and we did it in the space of about 12 weeks.
Cthulhu Saves the World
Original idea pitched to Bill – April 22, 2010
Design Document Finished – May 18, 2010
First In-Game Art Asset Finished – May 30, 2010
Released on XBLIG – December 30, 2010
Enhanced version released on Steam – July 13, 2011
Total Time in Development (Part-Time) – 8 months (Doesn’t count enhancements or PC port)
Cthulhu Saves the World was a much more ambitious project than Breath of Death VII – drastically longer with more playable characters, better visuals, more enemies (each of which required a second sprite for their insane version), frequent cutscenes and more. And so it ended up taking a lot longer to make!
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3
First contacted by Penny Arcade – July 14, 2010
First Art Asset Finished – October 7, 2010
Design Document – November 20, 2010
Early Battle Prototype – July 6, 2011
Released on Steam – June 25, 2012
Total Time in Development (Full-Time) – 11 months
Precipice of Darkness 3 has the most convoluted development timeline of all of our games. We were first contacted about doing it when we were still in the middle of making Cthulhu Saves the World. At the time, we thought we were almost done with Cthulhu Saves the World but the game just kept taking more and more time to make and then once it was finished, we decided to make some enhancements and port it to the PC; since Penny Arcade wanted Precipice 3 to come out on PC, we figured we might as well figure out how to get our games working on the PC early on so that we could use money from the PC versions to help develop Precipice 3. This turned out to be the right call since Cthulhu Saves the World on PC has turned out to be our biggest seller to-date and marked the moment when we were able to turn game development into a full-time job.
Precipice of Darkness 3’s development was probably the most difficult out of all of our games. We had never collaborated with another group before and with Precipice 3, we were working with TWO groups – Penny Arcade & Tinkerhouse Games (they handled the mobile versions). This ended up slowing things down, especially since they requested that we make some major changes to our engine to make it more user-friendly for Tinkerhouse (as a self-taught programmer who works alone, my code wasn’t exactly the easiest or optimal for others). Plus, we made the big mistake of planning on some innovative gameplay ideas and not bothering to test them until late in development – turns out that many of the ideas didn’t actually work well in practice so we had to make some major changes at the last minute. If we had tested those ideas early on, we could have realized that they weren’t going to work (or spend a lot of time fine-tuning them until they DID work) which would have resulted in a much smoother development.
Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4
First art asset done – September 27, 2012
Released on Steam – June 7, 2013
Total time in development (Full-Time) – 8 months
Note, there was a bit of a gap between Precipice of Darkness 3’s release and starting on 4 since we took some time off and spent some time working on the Precipice of Darkness 3 free DLC.
Precipice of Darkness 4 was probably the smoother development cycle we’ve had other than Breath of Death VII. Since it was a direct sequel to an existing game; we didn’t spend too much time reinventing the wheel (with the switch from classes to playable monsters and a traditional world map being the biggest changes). Instead, we focused on content creation – the game is our biggest game to date with our best visuals & music despite only taking about 2/3rds of a year to complete.
Cosmic Star Heroine
First art asset – July 2, 2013
Estimated release date – August- December, 2014
Estimated time in development – 14-18 months
We started really working on Cosmic Star Heroine in July, although we’ve been planning the game out since 2012 (I don’t remember exactly when). It’s scheduled for release in the second half of 2014. We’re planning on spending significantly longer on Cosmic Star Heroine than any of our other games. The exact amount of time is still flexible to give us some elbow room for unforseen circumstances AND also to allow us to spend a little extra time on polishing up the game if we get substantially more money than our initial kickstarter goal of $100k. I really hate it when kickstarter projects get drastically overfunded and then decide to push the release date way back – if we state that the game will come out by December 2014, aim for an August release with the initial $100k goal and then push the goal back a month or two if we get a lot more funds than expected (with an extra month or two for safety), we should be fine. If we do get additional funding, those extra funds can be used for that extra month or two of development, hiring additional art/programming help, more music & sound effects, and maybe even a post-release free DLC scenario (since I think that’s a good way to use extra funds without delaying the launch of the game).