What is Squillamorph?
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Below is the development log for Squillamorph. It is GIF heavy and it might take a while to load them all.
Hello everyone, it's that time again! On the 25th of August, it was 2 years since I started working on the release version of the game! In this post, I will cover the last year of my development on the game. If you want to read about the first year of development, you can do so in this post.
This post contains a number of GIFs and they will take some time to load.
Some of the images may not display (showing the text "Picture" instead of the GIF). I apologise for this but sometimes it happens.
One Year Ago - August 2019
One year ago, I was getting ready to launch the game in Early Access. I had the tutorial and first region or the game at a playable point. I had just started working on the next region and the Kobold enemy. I had also experimented with a new flying enemy. I was starting to get excited but I was also hesitant. I didn't feel the game was ready to launch when I had initially planned to. This led to me delaying the launch until November so that I could work on a few more features.
New Mechanics - September 2019
After working on the Kobold's and the Kragon boss, I started to implement an ability system. At the end of each region of the game, you could unlock one of three abilities, called Mutagens. You could not unlock more than one, to make the decision more pivotal and add replay-ability. This worked well in the demo I took to EGX in October. Players enjoyed combining different Mutagens to come up with different combat strategies. I also added a secret piece of lore in the form of a holographic animation, which nobody ended up discovering. To be fair, it wasn't very obvious!
EGX - October 2019
Since EGX Rezzed in April of 2019, I had improved the game based on the feedback I received there. Now, I was taking the game to EGX, once again thanks to the University for the Creative Arts. Needless to say I was nervous about it, would the public still like the game after the changes and improvements I had made? Well, they did and it was great! I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Many players were interested in the game and I received a bunch of feedback. My motivation to launch the game into Early Access got a massive boost from EGX and I put all my effort into finalising a version to release.
Early Access Launch - November 2019
The time had come. At last I felt happy with the state of the game. On the 17th of November, I made the game available to the public on Steam in Early Access. I was extremely excited and in a great mood. I spoke to various players on the Discord server as they bought and played the game. Unfortunately, almost everyone that messaged me was having issues with the game. Be it a bug or performance issues, I began to panic. Of course, there were some positive responses from players who didn't find any issues, which was good to hear. The days after the launch were a mad rush to optimise the game and fix the bugs. I managed to fix most of the problems, but the performance was still bad.
Looking back at the launch, I handled it rather poorly. I barely marketed the game, didn't do enough testing with external players before launch, and basically rushed into everything. Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes but learnt a lot.
Santa Hats & Optimisations - December 2019
A huge focus during the month after launch was optimisation. I had many players reporting poor performance and I made it a top priority to fix this. I managed to make some major improvements during this month, and still found time to add some seasonal features like the Santa hats. I felt much better about the game after getting an update out for the Steam Winter Sale. Despite getting some new players from the sale, I also saw an increase in refunds. This was when I started to realise something about the game that I would come to accept in February.
I'd quickly like to mention that I have no issues with players refunding the game. If you end up getting performance issues, or genuinely don't enjoy the game, please feel free to refund it! However, if you do, please give a reason and be detailed if you can. It is very helpful to know what issues you had and what needs improving!
Visual Improvements - January 2020
After working so long on optimisations, I took some time to work on the visuals. This was a very fun month with lots of aesthetic upgrades for the game. I focused quite heavily on ambient and damage effects. To be honest, I felt the game had reached a new graphical milestone. I was much happier with how things looked and the atmosphere/mood of the game was clearer.
Evaluation & Change - Febuary 2020
Oh boy, this month was an interesting one. It was at this time that I accepted the state of the game and realised I could no longer work on it as much as I had been. Then the game got its first negative review on Steam, which was an eye opener for me. I know you shouldn't take one piece of negative feedback as the majority opinion but this one really hit me, and it was a good thing. The review was fairly constructive and pointed out the aspects they found bad. In it, the phrase "fundamentally unfun" was used to describe the gameplay loop. To get a better idea of what this player meant, I played through the entire Early Access version of the game. I had not played the full game from start to finish in weeks. After doing this, I realised they were right. I had been so engrossed in my vision for the game that I had forgotten to look at it from a player's point of view.
I spent the rest of the month rethinking the game and changing a few aspects. I didn't want to change the overall feel of the game, so I only partially altered the gameplay loop. I thought things were beginning to improve after these changes, and personally enjoyed playing the game. Unfortunately, everything in my life suddenly came to a head at this point.
Taking A Break - March 2020
I won't go into much detail about it, but I took a break from everything during this month. I took the time to think and sort myself out. I made some pretty big decisions and ended my break on a positive note. So, back to Squillamorph!
Reworking - April to May 2020
During my break, I had another realisation. The slight overhaul I had been working on before wasn't going to cut it. Squillamorph needed a total overhaul before it could be fundamentally fun. Core mechanics could stay, but the gameplay needed to change. Combat should become snappier and have more depth (I'll admit that this still isn't quite there yet but progress has been made!). Controls should be more responsive and various mechanics needed simplifying. I also decided to change and expand the world/level structure. To go with that change, I decided that the story would become more prominent. Most importantly of all, I ditched the whole 'kill enemies to get points to open doors' loop. With all of these ideas, I was excited to work on the game again!
The Big Update - June 2020
After months of no game updates, I finally had one ready. All of the changes I had made had reached a playable point. A new world, new boss, new mechanics, it was all new and exciting! I put the update out and waited for the inevitable performance problems and bug reports, but none came. I was not surprised at the lack of response as I had accepted this back in February. Playing through the update myself, I thought of a few things that needed improving and got to it.
Progress - July 2020
This month was about improving on the last update. I worked on a lot of different aspects, including level scenery and a new tutorial. On top of that, I began putting a new enemy into the game. Although I did not have a level for it to fit into, I did get it mostly functioning but not to the point of including it in the next update. Once all these improvements were completed, I put out another update.
Current State - August 2020
I am currently working on the game exclusively at weekends. I'm fairly certain the game is not going to be completed by next year, which was my original goal. Updates may also become less frequent. Nonetheless, many important changes and improvements are being made. For instance, the mutagen upgrade system is beginning to make a return! However, this requires another thing to be implemented; non player characters are coming together at last. I've also been hard at work on enemies. New enemies are coming and an old enemy is returning! The old enemy is the Kobold creature, which hasn't been in the game since the rework update. I am currently updating it to work with the newer gameplay systems.
What does the future of Squillamorph look like? Well, I now have an updated development plan/road-map that I'm working to. This should make it easier for me to confirm dates of upcoming updates. As for content, the next update will add some 'experimental' levels that will allow players to test new features and enemies not in the main game yet. There may also be an NPC to discover. Needless to say, I am excited for what the future will bring!
I hope you enjoyed this look back at the second year of the development of Squillamorph! Onto the next year!
Please consider getting Squillamorph on Steam and giving it a go. It is still early in development but the more feedback I get now, the more enjoyable the final game will be!
Join the official Squillamorph Discord server here:
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I'm the game developer for Squillamorph! I'll post here on the devlog as often as I can.