Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What we have been doing since releasing TPK 14 months ago

It's been a few months since we posted our last blog, and that was before we released the Japanese localization of TPK. So what have we been doing since? Specifically, what have we been up to after releasing TPK? Quite a bit actually.

September 2017 - June 2018
The Painscreek Killings was released on September 27, 2017 and right after that, we realized one of the biggest problem players faced was falling-through-the-world issue. We tried to find out the reason but could not replicate the problem. We did narrow it down to a few possibilities. Nevertheless, it was a big issue and we decided to try and fix it. In doing so, we tackled game optimization, fixed the issue, and made the file size smaller, something which we were unable to pull off prior to the game's release. The good news is that our game can now be played even on computers with decent specs. The bad news is that it took us 9 months to make it happen. By then, we were told that our game was a 'dead product' from a marketing standpoint. Dead product or not, we did not want to give up on our game.

(A player's screenshot showing falling-through-the-world issue.)

July - September 2018

As game optimization approached completion, we started doing localization. A few languages were considered but due to funding and translation costs, we were unable to go forward with it. Instead, we decided to translate to TPK into Japanese on our own. It was a slow process having to translate the 30,000 words and it took us three months to complete. Fortunately, our translator was also one of the story developer, resulting in her being able to translate not just the words but the meaning and emotions of the characters in the game. After release, many Japanese gamers really appreciated the depth of the translation.

(Japanese localization finally released in September 2018.)

October - December 2018
Towards the end of September, we took a small loan and visited Japan in search of a possible location for our next main project. We wanted to create an authentic feel to our game, something that we couldn't do with TPK. So we chose Shizuoka, Japan, hometown to one of our game designer's family. We focused mainly on finding inspiration, searching for possible locations and understanding the Japanese culture. It was a really great experience!

(Visiting Mount Fuji World Heritage Center in Shizuoka, Japan.)

(Gundam, contributing to one of Japan's biggest pop culture, is being showcased in DiverCity, Odaiba.)

(Scouting Awashima Island at dusk in Numazu for design inspiration.)

(Passing through a countryside before checking into our resting place at Yoshida, Shizuoka.)

(Hatago Inn, a really nice hotel with 10,000 manga to read for free in the lobby.)

January 2019 - present
We've learned a lot for the past fourteen months and have gained a lot of insight into game development. Our fans have also given us a lot of constructive inputs on how to improve TPK. We could not be more grateful and appreciative to them! 2019 is a new start for us. Although our next project should have been The Johnson Files, we found ourselves having to reboot it, which we'll explain the reason in a later blog. We do, however, have something brewing so not all is lost.

Stay tuned on our blog for more updates and information!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Japanese language for The Painscreek Killings is almost here

We have been hard at work localizing The Painscreek Killings (TPK) into Japanese. It took us a few months to translate approximately 30,000 words and it's almost here! We are currently making sure the game runs without a hitch and at the same time looking for Japanese gaming press who might be interested in taking a stab at it. With the inclusion of the Japanese language, we hope more mystery detective gamers can have the opportunity to play TPK!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Painscreek Devlog #7: Collaboration Tools Essential To Our Team

(In-game documents categorized inside Trello.)
Throughout our five-and-a-half years of developing The Painscreek Killings, we designed 9 custom buildings, developed 20 characters, constructed more than 100 documents (consisting of diaries, newspapers, flyers), produced more than 900 props (half of which were not used for the final build), and wrote about 26,000 words. Along the way, our team grew from two to seven members. Yuri, our one and only programmer, worked from Japan while the rest of us were stationed in the United States. Looking back, we could not have managed it without a few, essential collaboration tools. Surprisingly, most of them are free.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Painscreek 6/21/2018 Patch Notes

Hi everyone. As of today, we've finally finished optimizing the game. This includes the Mansion, which is the heaviest scene in the game, as well as all other smaller and medium-sized scenes which were not originally part of the optimization but we decided to include them as well. Improvements to the game are as follows:

1. Reduced the game's file size from 18GB to 10.6GB, a reduction of about 40%.
2. Reduced RAM usage by approximately 40% when accessing the Village scene.
3. Reduced RAM usage by approximately 30% when accessing Mansion and Hospital scenes.
4. Improved Unity's batching process by about 40%, which is the number of files needed to be read by the CPU, especially when accessing the Mansion and Hospital.
5. Improved load times when switching between scenes during gameplay.
6. Improved prop textures for some locations.
7. Lowered the system requirements to run the game (as shown below).

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Painscreek Devlog #6: Designing The Menu & UI

(An early design of the Painscreek's grading system. Background image taken from 'The Secret World'.)

When first designing the user interface, we decided to go with a minimalist design, for a number of reasons. First, we couldn't understand how to use Autodesk's Scaleform. Second, we were new to Unity and didn't want to spend a lot of time on implementing a complicated UI. Third, we thought that an immersive experience meant placing on the screen only what was mandatory. Fast forward 5 years later: Although more UI elements were added as the development progressed, our end-product embraced much of what our original design set out to be. It was rough in areas, but it got the job done.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Painscreek 5/31/2018 Patch Notes

Hi everyone. We've finished optimizing the Hospital, which is the second heaviest scene in the game, and revamped textures for a number of props. Improvements when accessing the Hospital are as follows:

  1. Reduced Hospital loading time.
  2. Reduced RAM usage.
  3. Slightly reduced GPU usage.

We are currently working on the Mansion, which is probably the heaviest scene in the game, followed by a full game optimization shortly after. Once that's done, the game should run much better. More information on that later.

Hot Fix 1:
Some users were having issues on loading into the game after the latest patch. The problem was hunted down and the game should be stable now. We're sorry for any inconveniences this may have caused.

We're going to be doing an additional fix very soon to patch another small problem.

Hot Fix 2 (June 1, 2018):
Certain UV maps had some issues. These were sorted out.
Some objects were missing their colliders, and others were accidentally made hidden. All of these have been fixed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Painscreek Devlog #5: Who Is Steven Moss?

When a game has no quest journal, no hint system, a playtime average of over 10 hours, and it requires players to trek over twelve locations, is there anyway to prevent people from getting lost? Hints are important in entertainment. A hint system is found in nearly all 'hidden object' games. In more modern games, important items either have a glowing aura around them, or the main characters have a heightened vision that makes the important items stand out from the background. Both of these are useful techniques and helps to ease the players' frustrations when they get stuck. However, we felt that the above methods would break the immersion of our game. But, even though we didn't want to break the immersion we still had to consider the following: how can we prevent players from simply getting stuck? Would the systems mentioned earlier cheapen the whole feel for everything? Would they ruin a detective game that attempts to mimic real life? What could we do that wouldn't be in-your-face? Could we use an in-game person?