Is there anything to say about 2016 that hasn't been said already? Maybe this: that our community lives on and is as strong as ever. None of us can fully control what happens in the world. All we can do is watch out for each other and work as hard as we can on our chosen paths.
For us at Kronosaur Productions, that means bringing joy to people by building enduring, elaborate, and extensible games! In this annual report I want to talk about what we accomplished in 2016 and look ahead to what 2017 might bring.
No new products were released in 2016, and without something to highlight on Steam, Transcendence's revenue understandably decreased. Between Steam and the Multiverse, the game grossed a little over $10,000 last year, down by 50% from 2016.
This is about what we expected, and our financial position remains solid.
In 2017, I expect to have at least one more expansion for sale, plus re-engage the marketing push for the game in general. In the last annual report I talked about how increasing the appeal of the game would translate into greater sales. The changes in 1.7 such as mouse-support have been designed with that in mind. Once 1.7 is released in 2017, I expect to see improvements.
That effort will continue in 1.8, which I hope will be released in 2017 as well.
I had hoped that 1.7 would be released in 2016, but that proved too big a task. Nevertheless, I'm very happy with what we've accomplished. Here are the major features of 1.7:
As you can see, the heart of 1.7 is about improving the gameplay experience. Though I was skeptical of mouse controls at first, I view it now as a way to add accessibility to the game without diluting its core challenge. I think the result is a huge improvement over keyboard navigation alone, and I agree that further improvements (such as finer turning resolution) would be even better.
At the same time, accessibility alone is not enough. We need to give players a reason to keep playing. The Benedict storyline is one small way to add a compelling experience through narratives, but I expect to add many more in future versions. Some experiences will be scripted, while others will be more procedural and systemic.
I expect to release a series of betas and release candidates for 1.7, focused almost entirely on bug fixes. I plan on having a final version of 1.7 in the first quarter of 2017. After that, we'll move on to 1.8.
What is the essence of Transcendence? Why should you play it? Why should your friends play it? These are (unfortunately) tough questions to answer succinctly. Our marketing task is to come up with a good description that resonates with lots of people. But our game design task is to hone the game until the core essence shines through.
I think there are four key areas of Transcendence that we need to improve, polish, and promote:
Transcendence, first and foremost, has to be fun. It's fun to loot a new weapon that helps you blow up a station. It's fun to weave through enemy fire to land your missiles at just the right spot. It's fun to invoke Sustain at the last minute, just before your hull gets shredded by particle beams, and live to fight another day.
We need to double-down on all the fun aspects of the game while removing any and all impediments. The improvements to the galactic map, for example, help the player to stay oriented without making the game easy. And the improvements to weapon effects bring joy by making combat more fun and immersive.
In 1.8 we'll continue to polish the core experience to highlight the fun parts, while removing (as much as possible) any tiresome interactions. For example, adding finer-grained turning angles will make combat less frustrating, particularly with mouse controls. And, of course, continuing to balance items like armor and shields will increase the diversity of items the player can use.
Like other RPGs, Transcendence relies on an intricate and fascinating universe. Playing the game should feel like being inside a rich universe filled with exotic settings to explore and interesting characters to meet.
Mission arcs are a well-understood method for achieving this, and I plan on adding more in 1.8 and beyond. Plus we also need to flesh out the core sovereigns in the game. What's the Sung capital like? Why do the Xenophobes hate everyone?
Though we will shift some of the focus towards developing the myriad alien races in Part II, I expect to spend some energy to improve the narrative depth of Human Space.
When someone asks, "In Transcendence, can you do xyz?" the answer should generally be yes. Can you mine asteroids? Yes. Can you recruit wingmen? Yes. Can you volunteer for Teraton medical experiments. Yes.
But we still have a long way to go: Can you buy another ship? Can you control a capital ship and its crew? Can you own a station and profit off its trade?
Of course, we'll never be able to support every possible idea, but there are some recurring requests (like controlling capital ships) which should be possible. 1.8 should make progress on some of these mechanics.
Finally, I expect 1.8 to continue adding more and more APIs for modders to do what they do best: create brand new experiences far beyond what vanilla offers.
As in other areas, we won't be able to support every request, but one of the core tenets of Transcendence is it extensibility and I plan on continuing to improve this in 2017.
These four areas, I think, make up the core essence of Transcendence. Time spent improving any of these areas will make Transcendence better and more fun. I plan on working on each of these in 1.8, which will hopefully be released in 2017.
Though started in 2015, these sessions really got going last year. I've been having immense fun playing through a heavily modded game. Seeing the massive ships and stations of The Stars Beyond evokes the excitement of exploring the unknown. And I've been delighted to experience the wondrous items, encounters, and mechanics of Drake Technologies, SM&M++, Playership Bones, Project Renegade, and Backroads (among many others).
The highlight for me is the Q&A session at the end. Though there are often more questions than answers, I think it's a great format for the community to get together and interact.
I plan on continuing these sessions in 2017, so join us Thursdays at 4 PM Pacific Time on Twitch.
The long awaited first look at Part II finally happened in 2016. Although it's obvious that a lot of work remains, I'm very encouraged by the reception and I see great potential in it. I've already got a dozen new ideas for improvements and expansions.
My goal for 2017 is to finish and release Part II. The first few alpha versions will fill out the remaining allies and enemies, plus most of the items and side missions for the adventure. After that, I'll begin working on the core mission arc, which will finally take the Pilgrim's story all the way to the Core and beyond.
I don't yet have clear timelines, but I hope to begin working on the core storyline by the end of second quarter 2017. That should give us plenty of time to balance and debug before release.
Everyone who playtests Part II will receive a free copy of the final version. If you'd like to participate in the alpha test, please read this post: https://forums.kronosaur.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=7921
Matteson Claus is our creative developer, helping on script and character ideas.
Music Director Michael Tangent is busily composing new themes for The Vault of the Galaxy.
And introducing Ryan Moromisato, who joined our company and the world in 2016.
Thanks to everyone contributing bugs and suggestions to the Ministry of Records. I specially thank AssumedPseudonym, JohnBWatson, MNS, PM, The Shrike, and Xephyr.
And of course, thanks to all the players who have brought so much to the community.