April 16th, 2014
Writing this update I'm reminded of the "Bring out your dead!" scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," wherein an old man, not wanting to go on the dead-cart, protests, "I'm not dead!" "I'm getting better!" "I feel happy!" Meanwhile, John Cleese insists, "You'll be stone dead in a moment."
Well, we're not dead.
Based on the silence around here since our last mega-news generating update, you might have got that impression. I wouldn't blame you. Truth is, when the BS gets that deep, it's best to ignore it and just plow forward. The "failed Kickstarter," "Spicy Horse in debt," "we can't report facts, so let's just make up shit," headlines now seem like a distant, laughable hallucination.
In the meantime our "little Akaneiro team," which mainly consists of one guy (thank you, Muhammad), has continued development on Akaneiro. Everyone else at Spicy Horse has been focused on "The Gate," our 3D Action-CCG game. Thankfully, for Akaneiro and our studio in general, that title's doing very, very well. Yay!
So, here we are today with proof of life: An updated version of Akaneiro and news on continued development. First, the patch notes for the version being posted to Steam, Kongregate, and SpicyWorld:
* Fixed the assignment of Skills at Level Up
* Fixed bug that allows bypassing of a fence in town.
* Fixed bug to prevent accidental purchasing of items.
* Invisible wall removed from Reap as you Sow mission as well as other major bugs that prevent level from being complete-able.
* Invisible enemies and stages with invisible items in should now be fixed. (Still appears on some items and certain video cards).
* Skill training exploit patched.
* Fixed 3D model to display worn armor correctly.
* Map hotkey 'M' should now be functional
* Fixed bug with mini-map opening settings
* Plum wine and Red tea items should now be usable.
Going forward, development on Akaneiro will continue. There's a long list of bugs that still need to be squashed and improvements to be made. If you have anything you'd like to report, please submit a ticket to us via our ZenDesk Support Channel. Beyond bug fixing, efforts are also being made to bring Akaneiro to tablets - that's the next big goal on our list. Longer term, we need to make significant adjustments to Akaneiro in recognition of its failure as a F2P game - either improving the F2P systems or removing them completely. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome and can be shared with us here in the Steam community.
With that out of the way...
I posted (a version of) this note regarding transparency in the games industry with a recent update to the Alice: Otherlands KS project. Copying it here because it touches on issues that were brought to light by my transparency with the Akaneiro campaign.
After the most recent major announcement about our Akaneiro project - specifically the fact that we were "in the hole 1.7 million dollars" - a lot of people speculated on the stability of our finances and ability to deliver on campaign promises. So much of what was being reported was so outlandish that I felt it better to ignore the BS, move forward, and provide proof of our health with tangible results. I hope this update answers your concerns about this campaign.
To be clear, Spicy Horse was in a tight spot financially during January of this year. The studio was only weeks away from certain death. Not a fun spot, but also not an unusual spot for an indie developer. It's also not unusual for a developer to spend their own money towards making a game - and then be "out" that money - but the way it was reported... Perhaps the oddest part was that I was (and am still) willing to reveal these facts about our business to the public. Thankfully, our investors saved the day with another infusion of capital. Since then our latest game, The Gate, has found significant success, and things are better than ever.
None of this was ever about our inability to manage our budgets or schedules. Yes, we spent 1.7 million USD on development of Akaneiro. At the peak of development we burned around 60kUSD per month on salaries for the development staff. Our spending and development pace followed preset budgets and schedules - and, for the most part, we kept spending and/or scheduling on track throughout development. Given the amount of content was that produced and the scope of the game upon launch, most industry insiders would label Akaneiro a success in terms of its efficiency in converting dollars into content and features. That it failed to generate income post-launch is another, oft repeated, story.
Lots* of games get made, then fail to turn of profit. (*I think "lots" could truthfully be replaced with "most"). A lot of development studios go under as a result of investment into games that ultimately fail to deliver expected financial results. It seems beyond odd to me that this concept would need to be explained to the press (and audience) who consume the industry's products. It's not a bizarre model unique to the game industry either...
To any person or "reporter" wanting to snipe at me from the anonymity and security of their Internet sofa: Please take a moment to ask yourself why companies don't normally reveal detailed information about their operations and struggles. Consider your reaction when privileged information is shared; and your power to shape the relationship that exists between gamers, press, and publisher/developers.
Do you like secretive publishing entities that operate like black boxes: taking your money, vanishing it into canceled projects nobody's ever heard of, and treating you like you can't handle the truth of how the industry functions? Based on my read of your internet chatter, you'd prefer a more transparent system in which your opinions mattered and development happened in collaboration with the audience. Then again, based on your reaction to the truth of my studio's struggles, honesty should be answered with pitchforks and torches.
You create your own monsters.
For the more rational and supportive of you, once again, many thanks for your continued kindness and support.
I'll post more Akaneiro news as it happens. And I expect the next news will be regarding another patch - then, hopefully, a tablet version. Difficult to estimate when (if ever) we might get multi-player into the game, as that will require effort by our network team (who are currently 100% occupied with The Gate). As I said before, the success of The Gate will largely determine our ability to devote resources to Akaneiro. The good news today is that The Gate is doing really well, so the future is looking much brighter for Akaneiro and Spicy Horse.
From "The Hole" in Shanghai,