And another year of development whooshes by! Okay, so no surprise there, Cogmind has now been in continuous development for over seven years, and it's once again time for the usual end-of-year annual review.
Building Cogmind is still very much my full-time job at the moment, though as we'll see in the review, this year saw a slight reallocation of time to other roguelike-related endeavors.
First, the annual image collage, version 2020:
Selection of images from the past year of Cogmind-related development as posted on this blog, forums, and Twitter (full mega size here).
As always, I'm recording daily development stats in order to maintain a collection of pretty graphs over here. The main graph has been extended by another 12 months to include 2020
Every time I look at this thing it brings back memories of the summer of 2013, starting on Cogmind's design doc and background story, and how I had absolutely no idea this would lead to a new long-term job, and what we have today :P
The cumulative hour count is now 13,221, having added 1,400 hours this year. January hours are especially low since I was out of the country for a few weeks at the time, and November low because I had been putting off a lot of personal stuff for a while that I could finally address last month with releases out of the way, then I unexpectedly also had to get a new laptop (setting one up takes forever...).
2020's hour count was 16.5% less than last year, for a number of reasons:
- With fewer general topics to expand upon outside the usual release announcements and Patreon posts, I ended up writing fewer articles on the blog this year--those are always major time sinks (though we have a new pair of big ones coming very soon :D).
- I also took a decent chunk of time out to build and release updates to my free dev/art tool REXPaint, one of which was responsible for an explosion of ASCII art for CDDA (example). The last release was back in 2018, so it was about time to do more of that, and it now supports bitmap fonts with more than 256 characters :D
- Also this year a lot of my Cogmind streaming time (technically work!) was reallocated to trying out other roguelikes, which by contrast are not tallied as work even though I stream them during work hours (my boss can't fire me for doing this, so it's all cool). In all I spent 73 hours streaming 7DRLs by dev request, top 2020 7DRLs, Armoured Commander II, Approaching Infinity and Prospector (writeup for those two). Over the next year I plan to stream a lot of other roguelikes, too (but mixed in with more Cogmind runs, of course!).
I'm happy to report that my average number of work hours in recent years is definitely much more sustainable than in the early years of development, which could get quite unhealthy!
Like last year, we can see that I maintained the new trend of putting more time into the game itself rather than community-related work:
Comparing the amount of hours directly spent working on Cogmind vs. community-related work (excludes hours that belong to neither category).
This would be a natural side effect of less writing and less Cogmind streaming but certainly not wanting to work less on the game :). Honestly I would prefer to be working on the game much more than I currently do--it's so tempting, but at this point it's probably a good idea to do a better job balancing life for the long term.
This year's release lineup was another odd one with more events than regular releases, and featured by far the longest string of expansions on a single major version--Beta 9 went all the way to 9.6 xD.
This year's events included:
- The well-received RPGLIKE mode created for the winter holiday season gave Cogmind more typical RPG-ish mechanics and character progression by adding healing, raising levels, and XP to buy upgrades. (I wrote about its design here.)
- Our traditional April fools joke-turned-real made Cogmind "multiplayer" in the sense of giving you a permanent ally, Player 2, who shares your ability to attach any parts they find or salvage. They're also rather talkative ;) (This event was born out of AI work originally built for a Battle Royale mode, but that idea didn't pan out and a playable test version was only released to patrons instead; I wrote about its design here.)
- Most recently I put together an ARG dubbed "Forbidden Lore" that challenges players to use hints about in-game content to hunt for clues that help solve puzzles on the internet to unlock special lore on the event website. (Articles about this event will be available soon, including a complete walkthrough for those who want some extra help, or to just read through the puzzles :P)
But the flagship release was of course Beta 10 "Warlord Forever," adding not only two new endings but also completing Cogmind's entire ambient soundscape! I wrote about that process in detail, as well as related audio accessibility features. So glad to have that behind us now, as it was the only required pre-1.0 feature left on the roadmap, which now basically consists of "YAY FUN STUFF!!!"
Beta 10 comes with a ton of stuff, including a new set of RIF abilities, like Command Fork, seen here as applied to overload_power and streamctrl_high.
Many thanks to all you players for leaving reviews, helping spread the word about Cogmind, and generally just being a friendly bunch.
And additional thanks goes out to all you supporters on Patreon, where we're even finally closing in on the next fundraising milestone. There are currently a few references to The Unchained, but no details, although their origins have finally been revealed in one of the new Forbidden Lore ARG entries.
Also something you can do now real quick to help out: It’s that time of year again when IndieDB does its Game of the Year voting, and although Cogmind is too niche to pull the numbers necessary to compete against mainstream titles for the Top 10 in the second round, for the past six years in a row we’ve made it through the first round of voting to take a spot in the Top 100 list, which is pretty neat and could help more people to find the game.
So if you have a chance give us a vote there, along with all your other favorite roguelikes/indie games that have a page on the site. (Registration isn’t required, but if you do have an IndieDB account you can maybe win a key for one of many different games if interested.)
One thing I hope 2021 will be known for (aside from less death and disease) is fewer Cogmind events. Next year I'll mostly be focusing on the base game, because even though it's "done," there sure are still a lot of other things I want to do with it. I do have one really cool event I want to hold, yet again very much unlike anything we've done before, and something that I think long-time players will love, but it's likely more than a year out.
Instead, the upcoming Beta 11 is going to be 1) huge, and 2) full of content adjustments (especially parts), and Beta 12 after that is looking like it might even feasibly be time to implement the next review milestone project if it's reached by then! The faction in question is actually one of those described in the Forbidden Lore ARG ;)
(As a reminder: The Merchants Guild is definitely happening, but more likely as a free post-1.0 expansion--that's a much bigger project.)
While we technically have a roadmap on the FAQ, for a while now it has been much less of a true roadmap and more of a record of what's been completed and when, seeing as I keep inserting new items as appropriate with each new release cycle. Beta 10, however, was when I finally set the Progress meter to 100% (it sat around 95-98% for years :P), because while updates will continue, the beta plans are complete.
This is where most games would exit Early Access and release 1.0 (well okay, probably long before this :P), but I'm not planning to do that yet. One day it will happen, but today is not that day, and 2021 is not the year :)