OSAS Devlog #8: Demo Postmortem
If you've missed our previous devlogs, you can find them on our blog. Going forward we'll be cross-posting to this Itch page, so you won't miss a thing if you're following us here.
The initial scope for this first demo for Of Sense and Soul was quite ambitious—in January, we estimated that we could make the demo about five times as large as it is now and do it within the span of six months.
That didn't turn out to be the case, as the pressures of our individual lives and the world at large forced us to reconsider the expectations we set up for ourselves. After several scope cuts and a trying few months, we finished the demo that we released on August 1st, 2020.
This demo is intended to be the first of several iterations bringing us to the final game. It features roughly 3,600 words of Hugo's route, encompassing 3 backgrounds, 6 sprites, 3 music tracks, and one CG.
The demo was put together by our current team:
Lead Artist and Producer: ingthing
Background Artist: NiAsobu (Twitter, Itch.io, Pixiv)
GUI Programmer: Khailz
Composer: Lumengarden (Twitter, Soundcloud)
Perhaps the most concrete measure of "success" in the release of any indie game is the numbers, so here are some of them from over the past two weeks, as of the writing of this postmortem:
- On itch.io, the demo received 1,781 views, 227 downloads, 11 ratings (all five-stars), 63 collections, and 5 comments. The Forsythia Productions itch.io profile gained 67 followers.
- On Twitter, our demo announcement post earned 7,819 impressions, 74 likes, and 59 retweets, and we have gained 16 new followers since the demo's release in the beginning of August.
- Our Discord server gained 6 new members.
- The Demo Feedback Form received 11 responses.
As first time devs with no previous projects or large pre-existing audience, we're pretty happy with how the demo has been received overall! We even received a Let's Play from Cocoloucovers and a Review from VN Game Den in the first week, which we appreciate so much.
For us, the main thing was that it's incredibly satisfying to have something out in the world for you all to see! This demo is the synthesis of all our research, revisions, and reiterations for this story and its characters from the past few years. For the most part we've been working privately with little outside input.
To feel so much excitement from you all, paralleling our own, has been a huge motivator in the weeks since the demo's release.
The Demo Feedback Form (which is still open if you would like to share your thoughts with us anonymously) was one source we consulted to figure out what went well and what we could improve on. It asks more specific questions regarding individual components of the game, such as story, visuals, and music. Though only a few players responded, we were able to get an idea of the general demographic of people playing our demo and what they thought of each part, as well as the sum of them.
The feedback form results thus far have come back very positive on every element we asked about.
To give a brief rundown of our findings:
- Story: Respondents found Hugo relatable for several reasons—his introversion, investment in writing, anxiousness, and social awkwardness were all cited. Most respondents said the demo was well paced, with a few people saying it felt a bit fast. Stand-outs mentioned included strong dialogue and intrigue inspired by secondary characters like Camilla and Hugo's co-workers.
- Art: The sprite and background art were visually pleasing to all respondents. The unique art style, attention to historical detail, and character expressions all stood out, and the CG and UI felt consistent with the overall visual feel.
- Audio: The soundtracks felt fitting to the story to all respondents, and was frequently described as period-appropriate and soothing. The sound effects were seamless in the story and the default volume of audio was balanced.
- Bugs: Most respondents didn't find issues with gameplay, though some noted that transitions felt quick and some key menu features (such as the Extras menu and some preferences options) weren't yet implemented.
The main comment we received both in the form and out of it was that the demo was simply too short! Which, in our view, is a good thing at this early stage—it means that though the demo was short, it was compelling enough to make players want more.
As inexperienced game devs, this demo was a great test of our abilities in conceptualizing and putting together an interactive experience featuring multiple moving parts and a team to match them. Both leads in this project haven't written or drawn for visual novels before and it took trial and error to produce suitable content for the demo. Still, we're quite happy with our achievements thus far and will continue to take OSAS to the next level with future iterations!
What Didn't Work
The road to creating the demo was certainly not the smoothest, in part due to our inexperience. There was a lot of trial and error in altering our approach to each element of the demo, as well as the final stage of piecing it all together. These included shortening the demo's story drastically, making all assets for a 4K screen resolution, moving from a word processor script format to a script spreadsheet, and bringing in an additional background artist, musician, and GUI programmer to supplement our team.
With the current events of the past six months, it was a challenge in itself to ensure that our team could create consistent work and have it culminate in a demo.
External obligations such as school, work, family matters and self care were already factored into our initial schedule in which the demo would have been released mid-June, but the unforeseen pandemic led us to allow for more leeway at the end.
Working in an international team connected only through the internet means that, in the absence of a physical shared workplace, we'll need to set out more concrete terms for check-in meetings and deadlines (while maintaining flexibility) going forward.
Potential improvements to the music and background art commission process, which we'll also adopt into our team's overall workings, will include creating guidelines for what stages of the process check-ins will take place and the creation of a production calendar as a result.
As for improvements to the demo, it looks and feels the way we want it to—the current tasks are to fix broken menu buttons and preferences options, adjust pacing, set standards for items such as intermission screens and transitions, and continue to elevate the art and overall experience.
At the risk of engaging in cliche, we learned a tremendous amount from the process of creating this first demo, and by reflecting on both our successes and our stumbling blocks, we hope to turn all of that hard-won experience into a smoother and more productive process going forward.
We’re incredibly excited to begin working on the next phase of production, which is an extended demo featuring both routes and a deeper dive into the story. Thank you, as always, for your support!
That's it for this month's devlog and postmortem! Next month, we'll be covering our progress over the course of September.
If you've played the demo and would like to share your thoughts, the Demo Feedback Form is where you can do that! Find it here.
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