The release date for People Cu3ed is rapidly approaching! Come the 2nd of November, you all can be happily adventuring in VR with Sara, Baby Suzie and friends – at least on the first tranche of platforms we are going for (that is PC-VR – Rift, Vive and Win MR - we'll be following up with a release schedule across stand-alone VR and others soon).
As you can imagine – now is a crazy busy time for us. We’ve spent the last few weeks acting on user feedback from the Demo, adding a few extra planned features ourselves, and are now busy trying to break our own game is as many ways as possible – to make sure that our players can’t on release! Our main issue is that unlike the demo, the finished product has 40 levels of game – some of them taking quite a while to play through – and some being a challenge difficulty wise even for the small team that’s been involved from the start.
However this process is progressing nicely, and we expect in a few days to get version 1.0 up to Steam and released ready for press, reviewers, streamers and other media to receive copies prior to release. If you fit this bill, haven’t already been in touch with us and are interested in this – please let us know, and we’ll make sure a key finds its way to you.
So what have been doing the last few weeks?
One of the most common areas for improvement that were reported to us from the demo was the audio quality from one or two characters in particular. It won’t come as any surprise to learn that there was a direct correlation between how early in the game’s development cycle each of the characters vocal work was done, and how low-a-quality said work was… It was fair feedback, and as a result we’ve re-recorded entirely all the games voicework for our main antagonist ‘The Gamesmaster’ and for both of the parent ‘Cu3es’ found in the game. We’ve also removed some of the effects that caused a lack of clarity in the voice over work, as coupled to our extremely British accents – they were reportedly making it a little tough for some of our friends across the pond to understand.
Speaking of audio – some of the most positive pieces of feedback was around the in-game music (and we love it too!). We’ve actually expanding and mixed up some of the ‘tunes’ you’ll encounter across the 40 levels, introducing a new ‘rock and roll’ themed set of levels (you may have seen some of in some of our preview footage over the last few weeks). Experiencing this in VR with all the things that occur in game happening around you is hard to describe – but you’ll get the chance to see yourself soon enough!
Another area we needed to improve on was the interaction with the characters. This is always a tough thing to get right – and we knew it would be from our earlier testing. Some players really have no interest in the characters or the story, and some players just can’t get into a game unless they understand the ‘reasons’ for playing. We tried to accommodate this in the demo by granting two different ‘paths’ – one with story, and one without, but this still didn’t quite get the balance right, as we found people wanted more flexibility to pick and choose which interactions with the characters they had. We also found that too much character interaction was ‘up front’, and not enough happened later in the demo. This was partly due to us having not recorded said interaction yet for the demo – but also because we front loaded a little too much at the start as well.
We’ve fixed both of these things now, by giving the ability to skip as much or as little of the interactions (except for critical elements of instruction in the tutorial), and we’ve also moved a good chunk of character introduction away from the start and into the later game – and given the players the ability to decide easily if they want to skip this altogether. We’ve also added all the comic interaction and voice work with the characters in level – who will now periodically offer ‘help’ on your journey up the ‘crystalline tower’.
Another major task for us has been balancing the difficulty, along with the learning curve for the types of mechanics our players will encounter in the game. Like many games, the difficulty level is drastically different in the final levels than the first, and the techniques you use to move around and solve puzzles will change as you progress. Making sure this was fair, ‘felt’ about right, and that there was enough gentle nudging to learn these skills has been a big job – but we feel we’ve got the balance right now. We’ve tried to make sure certain levels act as ‘gates’ for the later ones, to ensure that if our players haven’t got good enough at a given set of skills to solve one level – they aren’t flung into a much deeper puzzle that requires the previous level of understanding before they are ready. This has been tough – players ability to find new ways to solve problems that we hadn’t thought of is impressive – and we’ll never truly get rid of all exploits (where would the fun be for the speedrunners if we did?), but the balance feels right now – and we’re looking forward to seeing people get slowly more and more skilled as they progress through People Cu3ed.
In addition to all the above there are a huge load of smaller improvements around animation, optimisation, puzzle design, graphical and lighting changes, bug fixes and control scheme options (including the ability to turn snap turning on and off as it bothered some of our Rift users in the demo), that we would be writing about all day if we listed all of them… So we won’t – we’ll leave it by saying, that compared to the demo – the finished product is a much more polished and ‘whole’ feeling game. This does leave us with a problem though – what do we do with the demo?
We’ve decided to pull the demo from the store as we get closer to release. There are arguments both ways, but ultimately the demo is no longer representative of the finished product – and we don’t want people to try before they buy and get a bad impression of the game. It’s served its purpose, and in a way acted as our ‘pre-release Beta’, but now it is probably time to put it away. A fair question we’d expect you to ask is why don’t we update it with the improvements to the main game and release a ‘2.0’ demo? It’s something we thought long and hard about – but openly and honestly speaking it’s a question of time.
Switching our build from ‘demo mode’ to ‘full game mode’ wasn’t designed in from the start (we didn’t actually plan to do a demo to begin with!), and as such a lot of little programming changes needed to be made every time we wanted to build a new version of it. This, in addition to the building and testing new versions of the demo itself, took time – and that is valuable time we’d rather spend right now on adding extra polish to the finished product. If the trade-off is a shiny up to date demo – or more fun and features in the finished game for our paying customers – we have to serve those customers first, so our focus has to be on that.
We don’t have a fixed date on when the free demo will be turned off, but it will be at some point between now and the full release of People Cu3ed on the 2nd November. Those who have already downloaded a free copy of the demo will be able to continue to use it and can play whenever they like – however once the full game is released, we’d encourage that if you want a version of that game that is quantitatively better than the demo you’ve already tried – you download the full version of People Cu3ed and have some fun that way.
So that’s all for now – we are looking forward to the 2nd of November and we hope you are as well! If you have any questions, comments or just want to get in touch you can do via any of our plethora of social media (just search for Whitway Studios), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).