Kickstarter – The Details
So, with the announcement of Kickstarter in our last blog post, the next few weeks are going to be jam-packed with new information and updates. This week we’ll give a little bit (okay, a lot) of context to our choice of time (January 2014) for Kickstarter, and the reasoning behind why we need funding at all. There’ll be a bit of technical information scattered throughout, but hopefully our intentions are conveyed straightforwardly enough!
Why January 2014
Our initial, technical aim with the Sequel was to support all three major desktop operating system families (Windows, Mac OS and Linux), and to create our own, lightweight graphics engine to keep system requirements as low as possible. This approach presented us with a wealth of opportunities, but also a huge amount of work in order to ensure that not only the compatibility was there, but also that we had suitable tools available to aid development (think things like being able to rapidly prototype driving physics, or easily preview lighting/shadowing changes). Many hundreds of hours and thousands of lines of code went into this approach between early 2012 and October 2013.
What we arrived at was something that looked good (and much the same as what you saw in our Kickstarter video last time), but didn’t allow us to iterate as quickly as we’d hoped: simple changes (such as tweaking our particle emitters) were taking us far too long and becoming far too burdensome upon the development process. Changes that ideally would have taken us only a few hours were taking us days (not ideal when you only have a handful of hours each week to work on the Sequel). With this limitation in mind, we decided to explore other engine/toolkit options that would allow us to migrate the vast majority of the work we’d already done, whilst simultaneously allowing us to make the development process a lot more straightforward. Our logic was: the time we spent in porting our work would be recouped in next to no time if we picked the right solution.
After a few weeks of exploring our options, the obvious choice was the Unity game engine (which was in a far less ‘mature’ state back when we began development and, as such, wasn’t an option back then). Not only did this change allow us to utilise a large amount of code we’d already written, but it also gave us easy, straightforward prototyping tools, whilst allowing us to retain our cross-platform compatibility (and opened up options for mobile devices in the future). Porting over our hard work took far less time than we’d initially feared, and afforded us an amazing amount of flexibility in our development approach. Within only a week or two, we were back at the same stage in development, but now with a wealth of new options and a massively improved workflow. Unfortunately, this pushed us into Q4 2013, and a few of our objectives for Kickstarter were yet to be met – so we made the difficult decision to postpone until January 2014, to allow us to hit all of our objectives and to ensure that we were able to step up the level of content and information we were able to pass on to you, the community.
From the point we’re at now, we can easily revise game assets (object models, textures, etc.), particles, and even driving physics without needing to wait for compilation, and rapidly experiment with different options during gameplay. This will only have a positive effect in the long-run. Ultimately, we don’t believe this will have any real effect on you, the players, when you play the end-product, but we do believe it’ll allow us to deliver the Sequel more quickly and to a higher quality than before.
Between now and the Kickstarter, Markku and Kimmo will be working flat out on the game itself, whilst James will be focussing on preparing developer blogs, creating marketing materials and tidying up any admin work.
The problem that we encountered when looking down our “desired features” list for GeneRally v1.2, was that several of our most wanted features (like better cross-platform support, some form of multiplayer, increased numbers of cars, etc.) were going to require fundamental changes to code that had remained largely unchanged since the initial version of GR over a decade ago. Even though we had, at that point, rewritten a good 30-40% of code from v1.10 to v1.2, much of what was left was akin to a game of Jenga: we would make a change, and cross our fingers that the rest of it didn’t somehow fall apart. This was simply a symptom of the age of the code-base and the fact that GR was never really intended to be expanded and extended to the extent that we envisioned.
And so, as many of you who have followed the developer blog will know, this was when we made the choice to start afresh and begin work on the Sequel. Our belief was that GR deserved more than to simply be left to die.
And so, we have come full circle, back to the need for funding.
At this point, we have two distinct options: develop the Sequel in dribs-and-drabs, in our spare time, and eventually release something (probably several years down the line); or develop the Sequel at a much faster pace, with the help and support of the community allowing us to commit more time to development. Whilst neither option is ideal for us, we have opted for the latter option, based on the feedback people gave in the GeneRally Player Survey (where an overwhelming 80% of people said they’d contribute to some sort of funding).
Any and all monies raised during our Kickstarter funding will be used for four main purposes:
- Paying for software licenses (e.g. for Unity).
- Paying for ongoing bills (e.g. server bills, domain names, etc.).
- Allowing Markku & James to take time off from work to work on the Sequel (i.e. to allow them to pay the bills).
- Funding any rewards/perks promised as part of the Kickstarter.
With the Kickstarter campaign, we’ll be providing some extra budgetary information so that those contributing can see exactly where their money is going. Our initial aim still holds true: we simply want to make GR better, and we have no desire to benefit unduly from the development of the Sequel. The vast majority of the development will still be done in our spare time, we simply want to give the development process a boost (or, one could say, a ‘kickstart’ ) and cover the basic project costs.
Hopefully that sheds a little bit of light on our thoughts and reasoning behind both the delay to Kickstarter, and in our need for funding. Next week, we’ll have a behind-the-scenes video of Kimmo creating one of the new cars for the Sequel, and he’ll talk you through our decision-making regarding car design! There’s lots to look forward to.