What’s Taking So Long?

As most people who’ve been following LitA for a while know, development is dragging. It’s been in a murky status of “in development” and “in super secret closed beta” for a long time.

And yeah, arguably it was stuck in development hell for a while.

Progress To Date

There’s been a wealth of progression in everything to date. Everything from assets to animation to procedural dialogue, world terrain, and quests is in a late stage of completion. In other words, most things are somewhere between 60% and 90% done.

The key is iteration. Systems have been iterated on again and again to improve them and keep improving them. Sometimes it’s because of a critical bug. Sometimes it has been a “back to the drawing board” moment where I’ve looked at everything in a grander context and tried to piece it together differently.

The more you read these posts, the more you’ll understand why.

To date, progress in numbers looks like this:

  • 75+ ambient life animations
  • 15 “special” animations
  • 225,000+ words of dialogue*
  • 60 combat animations
  • 100+ armour pieces
  • 2 new weapon categories
  • 50+ melee weapons
  • 13 musket weapons
  • 50+ new items
  • 75+ new icons
  • 100+ new books
  • 200+ unique bounty characters with posters
  • 250+ unique adversaries
  • 125+ minor buildings
  • 50+ major buildings
  • 100+ PBR materials
  • 45 new factions
  • 20 major dynamic questlines
  • 100+ minor dynamic quests
  • 100s of randomised events
  • 1,500+ town overrides
  • A whole new world to explore
  • In other words, a metric fuckton of new content

*This is an estimate based on averages. Most of the procedural dialogue is broken down into individual phrases and sentence fragments, with some events (e.g. “Come at me, bro!”) consisting of more than 10,000 words each. I average a few dozen long & short events and make estimates of the total amount of dialogue written based on that, cross-referenced with the total number of hours spent writing.

The Big Stuff Left

The most important “big thing” to finish is the new world.

It’s in a “completed state”. All that’s left are minor tweaks and touches – as well as shunting a few things around and running some weathering simulations again. It’s efficient and striking with massive variety in biomes and terrain layout.

The most important step left is optimising and smoothing out the terrain in places.

The above terrain is an example.

It looks great, but it’s too bumpy for the navmesh to handle. As-is, it’s almost acceptable. You can walk around and navigate fine, but there are still too many holes in the navmesh.

The second most important step is finishing a lot of things that are around 80% done. Weapons, armours, buildings, animations. The majority is completed – again, it’s about tweaks and fixes. Ultimately, it’s tedious to do and only a matter of time.

Putting it Together

Once assets are largely complete, everything needs to be put together again. Mostly, that means systems, reputation, quests, and adversary logic that was taken apart prior to designing a new world.

The thing about game design is… Everything’s looks crap until it doesn’t.

Factions and lore are an ongoing process, but there are multiple writers and worldbuilders behind that. They’re great and having a team of people with different perspectives has helped massively in making the lore of the new world layered and complex.

Because the narrative structures – quests, reputation, dialogue – were designed from the ground-up to be modular, migrating them to the new world isn’t as daunting as it sounds. The first big dynamic questline, a three-tiered beast that scales up from minor conflicts to engulf an entire region of the map, can just be slotted in with only a few dozen dialogue tweaks and reference changes. Unofficially titled The Scarlet Rebellion, that quest centred around the Rebels in their struggle against tyranny and served as a blueprint for many other questlines: What works, what doesn’t, and how best to leave choice and agency in the player’s hands.

The Testing Phase

You know what a beta is. With LitA, it’s split into three phases.

The First Phase

Phase I involves a lot of boring tests. That includes endlessly triggering dialogue events and asinine activities like opening and closing your inventory a hundred times before importing and doing it again.

It’s boring as hell, but necessary to keep LitA from breaking the game or encountering critical bugs later on. Most of it I’ve already handled myself – but several dozen new tests will need to be run when stuff is put together.

The Second Phase

Phase II testing is testing everything together in “dev mode”. It’s mostly around the big quests and unfolding global events like faction wars. It means stripping away fluff and complexity and testing in a linear fashion.

For instance, a quest spanning a huge region is pared down. Complex dialogue is replaced with simple choices, “special” NPCs to hunt down and kill or save stand around at pre-determined points (and die in a single hit). Sieges and wars are minor battles that resolve in under a minute.

The point of this phase isn’t glamorous. Mostly, it’s about making sure I haven’t buggered something up in a sea of if/else statements. Explore every possible pathway without needing to sit down for a dozen hours at a time.

The Final Phase

This is the open beta phase. The third testing phase is where LitA opens up and full features are available for testing.

It’s gonna be a wild time.


How long’s left on the docket until release?

As always, it depends.

One of the more frustrating elements of a project like this is that the systems are built on top of each other. I can’t finish thing A until thing B is done, and I can’t release until (virtually) everything is done.

I have a history of scrapping releases for various reasons, often due to iterating on ideas and re-evaluating with a new perspective. Sometimes that’s because of a critical bug. Once, it was because of a long-term memory leak issue.

The good news is that time is over.

Now I’m ploughing through. Features are locked-in. I’ve got a long list of things to finish, and in general I estimate by hours.

At present, estimates are around 800 to 1,000 hours left until it’s finished. That’s finishing dialogue, terrain, quests, gear, buildings, reputation, adversaries, and more. The 200-hour buffer is mostly around designing the new towns. Many exist on paper (or in the worldbuilding channel) and I do have volunteers willing to handle some of the in-game town design.

I work fast. It’s a reasonable estimate that adds buffers to everything. In the end, the number of hours I can put in each month depends on other stuff going on in my life. There are no guarantees and I won’t make any, because I’m not going to rush a release.

Maybe it’ll be half a year. Maybe it’ll be a full year.

This website will keep you in the know.

Want to Sign Up For Beta Testing?

Around 50 people are on the beta waiting list and you can sign up here.

Thinking of Getting Involved?

We always need new ideas for adversaries and unique bounties, and you can submit ideas here.

We have room for more 3D artists and writers on the team. If you’re interested, head over here. At some point, we may bring some level designers on, as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s