It’s already been a few weeks since our last update, and since then a lot has happened.
We’ve also received some questions regarding the upcoming Closed Alpha Release of the game for Kickstarter backers. We’re here today to address those questions in a very straightforward manner and to bring you some cool insight on what we’ve been up to, as well as giving you a detailed road map of things to come in a very near future.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Those of you who’ve been following our last updates know we sometimes have trouble keeping them short - it’s hard to stop once we start talking about the game we love so much!
We’ve so far kept ETA/Release Calendar addresses at the end of previous updates, so we thought we’d change it up today by addressing them first and THEN giving more infos about the current state of affairs. Now to the point!
So, when’s the Closed Alpha Coming?
Our current targeted release window for the first Closed Alpha Release of Epic Manager (for all Kickstarter Backers of the Veteran Adventurer Tier and above) is the first half of January 2016.
Why not now?
We’re almost there! The whole team is currently working full time (yes, even on Sundays!) to bring Epic Manager to life, and the past few weeks have been really galvanizing!
Building this kind of game is like creating a puzzle piece-by-piece, and THEN assembling them. We’re currently at a stage where all the pieces are finally coming together and we want to make sure they form a coherent, visually pleasing and above all, FUN package when we put it into your hands. We estimate this will take another 3-4 weeks of dedicated work.
We feel that releasing the game to 700+ players and then signing off for a short Christmas/New Year break would be very unwise. When we do release, we’ll want to be fully dedicated to providing support and receiving/interpreting feedback here on the Forums, hence the January release window.
Hey, you said Closed Alpha? What about Beta?
Semantics, really. We feel like starting with an “Alpha” denomination is better suited, since we plan on adding a LOT more stuff to the game in the upcoming months, as well a continuing to improve the experience as a whole.
What you’ll be getting in the Closed Alpha is not anything less than what was planned as “Beta” during our Kickstarter debut. If anything, it’s even more, considering how much the design/mechanics of the game have evolved over the past year!
How will the Closed Alpha be distributed?
The first Closed Alpha Release of Epic Manager will be released for PC through Steam. We will personally contact every backer (of the Veteran Adventurer Tier and above) to provide them with a unique Steam Key giving them access to the game.
What about Mac / Linux?
Our plan is to release the game on these platforms as soon as possible, ideally as a part of the Closed Alpha Release.
Early tests show us this should not be an issue, but we’ve only confirmed PC so far as it *might* take an extra week (following the first day of the Closed Alpha release) or so to make sure that all the plugins / file structure elements are working properly on all Operating Systems.
Why Steam? Didn’t you say DRM-Free?
Yes, we did, and we plan on keeping that promise at a later stage of Release.
Although some people have mentioned that they prefer not using Steam (don’t worry friends, we took good note of this) for their general gaming activities, there are a few good reasons why we’re focusing only on this platform for the first Closed Release Phase. He’s why :
1) Patches and Updates A-Plenty : During the Closed Alpha Stage, and especially during the first few weeks following this upcoming release, we’ll be updating the game often, very often. Installing the Closed Alpha through Steam means your game will always be up-to-date with the latest bug-fixes and improvements.
If and when we release any update that would cause your previous save game to break, we’ll do so only about once a week – except if there’s a game breaking bug that needs immediate fixing. These "Major Update days" will be announced beforehand on the Forums and quite possibly even in the game's Main Menu.
2) Native Bug-Reporting through Steam : Should you experience crashes or run-time errors, we’ll be able to collect that data automatically. This will circumvent the need for players to copy-paste their logs (crash dump files) on the forums and for us to manually collect them. Simply put, we’ll be able to monitor / fix bugs much, much faster, and time proves to be the most crucial of resources for a small team like ours.
3) Native Game Metadata Reporting through Steam : *PLAYERS WHO DON’T WANT WILL BE ABLE TO TURN THIS FEATURE OFF*. When you start the game for the first time, we’ll prompt you with a question asking you if you agree to share your Epic Manager game data with us (and only us) as you play. This will allow us to collect and interpret relevant usage data and stats (preferred classes and builds, goals achieved, quests completed, encounters met, score at certain intervals, etc.) in order to improve the game based on REAL and accurate in-game behaviors and scenarios.
In time, we plan on using this data to fine-tune the balance and randomization-values of the game. This will not replace qualitative feedback on the Forums, but it will complement it to make sure the game loop and progression elements are balanced appropriately. We’ll never collect data not relevant to the game itself, NOR WILL WE EVER sell/share this data with any other third-party.
4) Steam Achievements / Online Leaderboards : *PLAYERS WHO DON’T WANT WILL BE ABLE TO TURN THIS FEATURE OFF*. These elements may not be functional at first, but we’d like to throw them in sooner rather than later. Our mid-term goal is to make it so that if you choose to play “Online”, you’ll be able to collect a variety of Steam Achievements and compare your score with other players worldwide, straight from inside the game.
We just began scratching the surface when it comes to these features in Steam, and we have many cool ideas about event more things we could possibly introduce in the future to make Epic Manager a more “connected” experience. Don’t worry though – Epic Manager is a Single-Player game first and foremost, and every core design choice is made with this intent in mind.
Following what we’ve just said, we’d like to share some insights on what we’re working on right now. These elements can also be considered a list of some of the things we need to improve upon before going ahead with the first Closed Alpha Release.
Completing / Refining the links between all Core Game Loop elements.
Remember the clever puzzle metaphor used above? Well, it’s time for us to finish connecting the puzzle pieces! We’re basically going over the core game loop (Agency Management / Adventurer Recruitment and Contract Negociation / Quest Prospection and Completion / Combat / Random Encounters / World Events / Player Progression / Etc) and making sure all the elements present are functional, optimized and fun!
This sometimes means opening an interface panel and realizing it could be improved – only to lead to a 2-day code and visual refactoring. When it does happen tho, it’s for the best!
The Closed Alpha Release will consist of a meaty “Vertical Slice” of the game, featuring all the core Epic Manager aspects and providing us with a stable platform to add more content / features on a regular basis. We want to make sure this slice is in the best condition possible before letting you have a go at it!
Adding a few new (very) cool features!
We. Just. Can’t. Help it.
I won’t go into too much details about these right now, but we’re still adding a few new key features to the experience! These are aimed at clarifying the overall game progression as well as giving players clear short/long term goals in the world of Astraeus! Expect these to be featured in an upcoming mini-update!
More (and more) Content.
Over the past year, we’ve always worked on the design/technical aspects of the game with one thing in mind : flexibility. What we’ve done is basically to create a basic framework that allows us to keep on introducing always more content (random encounters, quests, items, enemies, world events, rewards, challenges, options and consequences) to the existing library.
Although we’re all involved in writing new material, Chris has done a tremendous job in that area and Frank has recently joined in as well. We’re working hard to make sure there’s LOTS so see and do in Epic Manager, and to provide you with a game featuring a high replay-value due to the procedural nature of many elements and to the fact that it will be impossible for a player to see all of the game’s contents in a single play through!
Simply put, we’re still creating new events, encounters, quest and lore elements that will be available straight from the first Alpha Release!
Our good friends and colleagues from GeekSound Factory have been doing an incredible job in creating the game’s Original Soundtrack and HUNDREDS of Sound Effects.
Work has already been ongoing for a while now regarding audio/music integration, and we’re currently working on making sure there’s audio feedback added to all the elements in the game that are still (and should not be) silent.
Art, Animations and Visual Flare
A bit of screen shake here, sparks there, an exploding goblin here… and voila! Seriously though, visual polish adds a lot to a colorful interactive experience such as Epic Manager. We’re currently dressing a list of all the visual elements that are still missing (or those which could be improved) and ticking them off one by one.
As it currently stands (nov. 29th), the “Art” folder of the game contains 2700+ distinct files (or sprites), all originally crafted with love by the ManaVoid Team! That’s a lot of assets, and there’s still much, much more to come!
Frank has also been creating hundreds of animations for in-game characters, and we recently began adding animated transitions to UI elements as well. All in all, there’s still work to do on the visual department, but things are going along according to plan!
Combat Visuals – New Collaboration with Comic Book Artist Olivier Carpentier
We’ve always wanted to give a distinct visual flavor to the scenic elements of Epic Manager’s combats.
For a while, this “dossier” remained in limbo – and then we came in contact with Montreal-based comic book artist Olivier Carpentier. His work on the Far Out series is really amazing, and we’re pleased to announce that he’ll be the one behind all the Scenery visuals in the game’s combat encounters!
Never heard of Far Out? Don’t worry – you can read over 110 pages of the series FOR FREE, in English or French, simply by visiting :
Both Far Out Volumes 1 and 2 (as well as other goodies) are also available for online purchase here :
You can also check out Olivier’s Website and follow him on Facebook / Twitter.
Over the coming days, we’ll be working on integrating all of Oli’s visual assets in the game and creating the animations specific to combat scenery elements. We’re eager to show you the end result very soon!
From the start, we announced that Epic Manager will be available in English and French. Although the first Closed Alpha version of the game will only feature English content, we’ve built an infrastructure that will allow us to easily translate the game at a later point in time.
The database structure we’re using will even allow us to provide the community with tools for the community to join in this localization endeavor and translate the game in an even wider range of languages! Localization systems are already in place and functional (no more work needed on that front until the Closed Alpha Release). We just thought we’d mention them here (because it’s cool) since it's also part of the things we’ve been working on recently.
Bug-fixing and Continued Optimization
We’re glad to announce that the Editor-Crashing Bug we mentioned in the last update is now a thing of the past – we came, we debugged, we conquered! We keep on squashing minor bugs when we encounter them whilst double-checking existing systems and adding new ones. Since the game is turn-based and very sequential code-wise, it’s fairly easy to do so and we feel confident that the Closed Alpha Release will provide you with a stable experience! That being said, we’re currently examining our options in terms of feedback/balance/bug reporting in order to be able to quickly analyze data once the game is live and apply swiftly corrections where needed.
On the optimization side, we’re pleased to say things are running really smoothly! The last few updates of the 2D tools native to Unity made us see a significant increase in performance. We still need to install the game on some “prehistoric” computers to see how the game is handled on (very very very) low-end / systems, but you should NOT have to worry about performance issues, even if you plan on playing on an old laptop without a graphics card. Once again, the turn-based and 2D nature of the game means it will not be a resource consuming piece of software.
Fun-Fact : The standalone build of the game it currently weighs about 600mb.
Global Readability and Text Overhaul
Last week, we discovered (and bought) a third-party plugin for Unity that made a dramatic impact on the in-game visual text fidelity. This is very good news, as we were unsatisfied with the native text compression provided in Unity which made some text element a bit blurry. Now, everything is sharp and crisp, regardless of the text size / resolution. Hurray!
The only downside to this change is that is comes a price-tag of man-hours needed to change all the text elements in the game scenes / prefabs / scripts, but it’s a fairly simple process and we feel confident that all existing text elements will be rehauled before the end of next week!
Epicopedia : Hints and Tutorials
Epic Manager features many easy-to-learn yet deep systems. We’re working on completing the in-game tools and documentation that will help you to learn all the mechanics and get help / information if and when you need it.
Basic Steam Integration
Finally, we’re currently looking into the very basics of the Steam Integration systems mentioned earlier. At the very least, we have to make sure that everything will be in place and running to receive your Game Keys on the day of the Closed Alpha launch and that you’ll be able to jump straight into the game without a hitch!
If possible, we’d also like to implement as much bug and data reporting / analysis tools as we can into the mix before going ahead with the Closed Alpha Release! We’ll keep you informed on these as we go!
Once again, this update is turning into a novel. Time to wrap things up… for now. That being said, here’s a list of what’s in store on the Forums in the coming weeks!
Weekly Mini-Update until Closed Alpha Release
From this point on, every Friday before the Alpha Release you’ll be seeing a new mini-update popping-up on the Forums. With these, we aim to feature new or revamped game elements and to keep you in the loop of what’s going on at ManaVoid HQ.
We feel like there’s been a long delay between updates lately and we want to improve on this aspect. This exercise will also prepare us for things to come, as it will become more and more important and frequent for us to communicate patch notes, bug fixes, improvements and so on once the game is live.
Closed Alpha / Day 0 Video Update
We’ve been craving to make one of these for a long time now. And that time has come (cue in dramatic music)! On the eve of the Closed Alpha game release, we also plan on releasing our first video update for Epic Manager! This will allow us to talk about the game itself and to show you most of the mechanics available in the first Alpha version. That way, you’ll be feeling right at home when the floodgates finally open!
For those of you who’ve been following the progress / release of Introversion’s Prison Architect, you probably remember that these cool guys have taken the habit of releasing a new video update every time their Alpha build reached a new version. We think this is a great formula that allows the community to discover all new features added to the game with every major patch, and we’d like to implement something similar with Epic Manager following Alpha 1.
New ChangeLog / Patch Notes section in the Forums
Finally, we also want you to know we’ll be adding a new section to the Forums right before the Closed Alpha Release. This section will hold ALL of the update patch notes from the very first version of the game, all the way until the final release, sorted in a reversed chronological order.
Expect hours of fun parsing through balance change-notes and telling us why you think rangers are OP*!
*Rangers will not be OP.
** On second thought, maybe they will. Who knows?!
As always, we’d like to express our warmest salutations to all of you who have been following us since day 1. Your continued support and feedback are the things that drive us daily, and every day we remind ourselves that YOU are the ones who made all this possible.
We’re very eager for the rest of things to come – this is only the calm before the (Epic) storm!
If you feel like there’s something that was left out from this update, if you have any question or comment, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Best regards to all of you from the whole Dev Team.
Stay tuned friends, and above all, STAY EPIC!
Simon 'OISIN' Girard