Hello and welcome back, Adventurers!
Well, time flies (those things are incredibly pesky), and we're now in the middle of April. April 39th or so, that's how calendars work, right? What did we get done, what slipped through the cracks, and what is coming next?
First off, we definitely consider ourselves still in an Early-Access-like state. Building an MMO with a small team is a lot of work, and we're going to have a "soft relaunch" at some point in the next few months. This will only happen once we're happy with the overall state of the game.
Our New Philosophy
Multiple players have asked us what we see as the core design of Genfanad, and how we expect players to interact with the game. We first thought about what players liked and disliked about the game, and what types of mechanics work well. And now, we have a very clear answer:
The type of gameplay we're structuring the game around is "preparation gameplay". Figuring out what resources to use, how to most optimally utilize them, how to reduce travel time and increase survivability, and decisions like that.
To be clear with this philosophy, we are making a game that is accessible, that does not require a lot of clicking, but one where thinking about what you're doing and choosing the right tool for the job brings you more success than trying to click as fast as possible.
First off, the exploration mechanics! We launched the blooms as the first of our exploration systems and players have been pretty happy clicking the little guys and gals whenever they see them. The extra XP potions have been generally well-received, if underwhelming. We plan to expand the benefits that players can earn from hunting Blooms, including but not limited to potion upgrades for more xp!
Next up, CLicHe story/gameplay integration. This is the big update we're still working on, and will touch every skill in game, giving players more reasons to play and more (smaller) goals to reach!
This is a behemoth of a change, and we're burning the midnight oil to try and expand it as much as we can. It's proven to be a massive undertaking, and we want to try to make sure they launch feeling good, even if we need more time to tweak the balance afterwards.
(Look out for some other behind-the-scenes glances in the near future!)
Rework-wise, we've made some progress on some things, but definitely not enough. Combat is in a better place than before (and there's more changes coming), the quests have been improved (although we still have a few bugs in our QA process), and butchery, cooking, and botany have received some improvements. The two magic skills and ranged are running a bit further behind.
What comes next!
Paraphrasing Douglas Adams' famous quote, we love deadlines. We love the whooshing sound they make as they go by. So, in that vein, here's a brief behind-the-scenes look at some of the things we're working on (and have yet to start)!
Right now, our team is working hard on getting the game to a point where we can start marketing with confidence that players will stick around. This work is divided up into two major parts -- attracting new players and retaining existing players.
New User Experience
We get a lot of feedback, and we make sure to read all of it. A lot of it has many common trends, and the one that keeps coming up is that we need to improve how players actually get into the game.
This section includes quite a lot of work, but our goal is to make the tutorial much shorter and feel like we're trapping the player less. There's quite a list of goals we're going through, but we'll be making an extensive change to allow tutorial players to mingle with regular players, as well as making the overall tutorial shorter, and making a lot of the mechanics that new players want to learn compelling, but optional.
The new user experience is not limited to the tutorial, however. We are overhauling the early game in terms of content as well -- rebalancing the map so that enemies are better spread out and players have multiple compelling choices at every level that they are playing at. This includes adding more variety to weapons and monsters -- giving monsters weaknesses and resistances to different weapon types, rebalancing drops so players can choose whether to prioritize money or xp, and adding more optional guide rails to give players more goals.
As a more minor thing, we know players get lost in the world and their goals. We are currently developing a way for players to see their location in game and potentially track where they've been and what they're doing.
There's a lot of minor Quality of Life changes that we're slowly releasing and improving as well, to sand off some of the rough edges. We've recently improved the crafting menus to allow players to craft more efficiently, and we've got a long way to go.
The second category of work is giving our existing players more reasons to stick around. This is a combination of developing more compelling content, reworking existing mechanics, and adding frameworks for players to cooperate and compete with each other.
The first of these mechanics is not quite ready but will be coming this month, which is a way for players to compete with each other by playing the game. A few hints have been given out so far and we're trying to keep the surprise, but it's a brand new mechanic where CLicHe is more tightly integrated into the world and players can help out different departments of the Corporation, getting rewards in return.
Secondly, the base gameplay of clicking trees or rocks, while relaxing, is not quite up to par when you compare it to combat or the crafting systems. We have some ideas to fix it, and we want to make the system deeper while not actually losing the simplicity that players love. We're planning to do this by separating the act of "gathering" from the reward of "receiving an item". Right now, because every single time you click a rock, you get a chance to get an ore, means we do not have a lot of flexibility with building or balancing that content. After this feature is released, players will still be able to mine rocks, but ores would need multiple mining "successes" before an item is received. We also have some ideas where players can choose when to receive the item, and the higher progress they've made, the more likely they are to get a higher quality item, letting players trade-off number of bank trips versus quality -- definitely in vein with the prepration gameplay!
Note: We do have some concerns if we will want to make all ore rarer in game and what we want to do with all the stockpiles players have. If we do end up making ore rarer, we would likely reduce the ore in players' banks to match the new gathering rates. This is still under discussion and not a final decision. Let us know what you think.
As part of this rework we also want to add a cooperative sub-game to gathering skills, which will reward players for paying attention, exploring the map, and cooperating with their friends to find and upgrade different gathering nodes.
Currently, our combat system is very simple. This makes it difficult to design a large variety of interesting monsters. One of the ways we're tackling that is with damage types. Similar to other games, we want to make the damage that players give (and take!) to feel more different, while still retaining that simple combat. Some NPCs will be weak or strong to different attacks, and different weapons will have different types of damage in addition to their current stats.
And of course, Magic and Ranged are definitely still on the plan, even if they didn't quite get completed as we'd expected.
Additionally, we do want to create loadout-based abilities for players to use. Things like "you have 5 critical hit abilities, but they only refresh when you're at a bank", or "entangle an enemy to prevent them from moving" are some of the things we're thinking about. This is definitely quite further off, as we do want to get these features right.
Finally, we're working on a few more large-scale changes that will enable more interesting content to be built. The biggest, but furthest-away mechanic is item upgrading. We want players to be able to take their favorite hatchet and customize it in a way that matters to *them*. One player might want better xp rates, another might want to make sure trees don't fall down as often, and a third might want to have a chance to get more logs at once. Each of those should be doable, and we need engine work to implement it in a way that we don't have to create dozens of different variations of the same item!
New Coat of Paint
While we love the cartoony style of the images in our concept art, there is still quite a lot that can be improved in game itself. The performance update for the characters worked well, and the next part is some more performance tweaks, a more cartoony appearance for the game, and a bunch of particle effects to really make your achievements worthwhile!
The combination of a few small things are currently under development to greatly improve how the game looks and to bring it closer to our vision. The thicker outlines give it a more cartoony feel, while the new water effects and textured ground make the game feel a bit more cohesive.
If you look closely, there are still hints of the original art style and the tile-based world in the textured ground itself. Our vision is to be a game that reminds players of their childhoods -- retro, but with rose tinted glasses -- and this is a step in that direction.
While we have gotten a lot of things done since the start of 2023, this is only the beginning! Many systems are still in need of a rework, and that’s not even mentioning all of the other changes, improvements, and content that we’d like to add to Genfanad!
With our Steam launch slowly inching closer and closer, we’re more than excited to start giving you guys glimpses into what we’ve been working on. So if you haven’t, be sure to shoot us a quick wishlist on Steam! It’s totally free and it really helps out a ton. We're trying to reach 10,000 wishlists before we launch there, so spread the word.
If you’d like more updates and announcements, be sure to join our Discord! And if you’d like to support us monetarily, we have a Patreon where we share exclusive behind-the-scenes content (and you get a cute cosmetic in-game!)
Thank you all so much for all of the support. See you all again next time!