Polishing & kickstarter

By Ward Dehairs, April 1, 2018

The first 2 demos of Chrono Project were not received very positively. The game was perceived as being too unpolished, so I decided to do just that; polishing: spending time improving little details and upgrading the graphics troughout. No, it does not mean eating pierogi in an effort to become more Polish.

The biggest upgrade lied in the Chrono levels, which now all have terrain and proper backgrounds, to give the player a sense of where they are in the world.

The Robo levels have also received a fair bit of attention, with various props that make the factory levels feel more like actual functioning parts of a factory.

I got a little bit too excited with a robotic arm prop and decide to go all the way, implementing a grabbing action and appropriate sound effects to go with the animations.

Video was sponsored by Robo Integrated Automatons™.

I was still only getting mostly negative feedback, so I eventually gave up, scrapped the game and reused the game's code and assets to make make a promotional game for Scrap & Topheavy.

Editor's note: that joke worked a lot better when it was fresh news

No actually this was just the result of a cheat menu, that among other things allows you to swap out the main character for some novelty ones. I've received a lot of requests for including some cheat codes from players, and a few of my accomplices wanted to have a debug menu to skip to different parts of the game.

The cheat menu satisfies both requests at once. I eventually made it available to players if they had already beaten the game at a certain difficulty.

The polishing work was progressing nicely, but there were still a ton of little bugs and details. There's far too much to mention, but I can give you an excerpt of some of the changelogs:

Improved backgrounds give the player a sense of where they are in the world.

Polished background details, like cannons, ladders, towers...

More natural and detailed looking elements.

Guards and animals patrolling in the background, subject to rewinding mechanics.

More realistic and visceral damage, including blood splatters when getting shot.

Fixing various flaws, like these lighting artefacts at the crossroads scene.

Fixed millions of bugs in the timeline code, and expanded functionality. The timeline now tracks some fun statistics about your time travelling...

People sometimes ask me, what does a game developer do all day?

The answer is bugfixing, including but not limited to:

  • Fixed bug where composite ragdolls would sometimes be suspended mid air. This was due to rigidbodies prematurely falling asleep.
  • Fixed bug where activating the presentation cutscene with a sword drawn would lock the player's sword in his hand without being able to attack.
  • Fixed bug where sound would explode upon revisiting rogue AI boss room.
  • Fixed bug where first digit in the binary search puzzle would be disregarded.
  • Fixed bug where volume settings were not properly saved or loaded
  • Fixed some issues with player character animator getting stuck. Haven't got all the problems on that area just yet though.
  • Fixed bug where rotation of particles of a particle system would not rewind properly.
  • Fixed bug where post processing profiles would not be applied immediately when changing quality settings.
  • Added post processing to the camera in the first level (balcony).
  • Fixed previously broken feature of the timeline "Force rewind" which forces the player back a specific amount of time.
  • Player can now properly attempt to commit suicide in the first scene.
  • Corrected various spelling errors throughout the dialogue.
  • Fixed bug where object being held by a robotic arm would sometimes not move and suddenly snap to its intended position.
  • Fixed bug where rooks (small tank robots) would sometimes be able to track the player on an overhead platform.
  • Almost fixed bug where gunshot knockback would sometimes not be registered on the player's ragdoll. This now occurs far less often, plus there is a failsafe in case it does happen.
  • Fixed problem where player would not be able to jump when moving uphill.
  • Player will now turn to grab a grabbable ledge behind him.
  • Fixed several issues with rewinding animation states, to better handle animation transitions.
  • Tweaked thresholds for impact sounds so all levels of impact get triggered a fair amount.
  • Fixed problem where contextual music, like in a boss fight, would not play when manipulating time into the context from far off.
  • Fixed problem where persistent data was too persistent. No for real, it would persist between different save files and mess up the timeline.
  • Wind sound is now controlled by movement of the player's head and not the camera itself, preventing weird sounds when the camera quickly turns around the player.

Eventually, the third and final demo was ready and the runup to the kickstarter began. I asked for a relatively modest amount, just a few thousand euro to pay for comissions and survival.

The kickstarter ended with only 5 backers, some of which backed quite handsome amounts, but not nearly enough.

The reason for this is obvious in hindsight, a kickstarter needs a huge campaign and steady user base. Without support already there, there is no way to compete with other projects and the algorithm never picks up your game.

The marketing campaign included various posts to Facebook, Funnyjunk, Youtube and Reddit, game pages on Itch.io, Gamejolt, IndieDB and Steam, as well as featured articles on BackerCity, Orlygift and CrowdfundingPR. I spent around an hour daily making various content and posting them around trying to advertise, which in total led to 1 additional backer (from Facebook) the rest found the project on Kickstarter itself or were personal acquaintances.

This had left me severely demotivated, I had thought about quitting game development alltogether, but eventually I gritted my teeth and decided to finish the game. It would have to be severely watered down, I even cut out one of the characters I had set out at the beginning, but for what it's worth, I did finish the game in the end.

Continue reading about Chrono project on the main page or the free release page.