Development Updates: Arcana Kira (Alpha 12 vs Alpha 11)

It’s been a few long weeks with no new Arcana Kira build since Alpha 11.  What gives?  Well, we’ve switched the development model a bit, moved to SVN for source code management, and as such, we’ve moved away from regular weekly builds so that we can tackle some problems that will take longer than a week or two to fix or implement.  You can learn more about that in our last blog post.  The last word we gave was that when the new menu HUDs were fully implemented, we would be ready to release Alpha 12.  That’s still the current status, so we appreciate your patience while we work on completing Alpha 12.  Here is how the revised HUDs look currently:

Alpha 12:

HUD_redesign_Aug_2015_2

HUD_redesign_Aug_2015_3 HUD_redesign_Aug_2015_4 HUD_redesign_Aug_2015_5

Functionally, all interactive items on a menu can be clicked with the mouse, or can be jumped to with the left analog stick on most controllers (for the rest of the paragraph I’ll talk as if we’re using a XBox 360 controller.)  Left clicking the mouse or pressing A on the controller interacts with the currently highlighted selection, the escape key or B backs out of the menu and gets you right back into action.  Left bumper/L1 and right bumper/R1 server to quickly cycle between your important menus.  You can also click on the tab’s header with your mouse to change between menus.   Arcana Kira needed this overhaul to feel at home on a console like the PlayStation 4, and on PC platforms with controllers such as SteamOS/Big Picture Mode, which were barely functional for controllers in Alpha 11 and before.  Let’s contrast the new GUI/HUD to the old:

Alpha 11:

So you can see the pictures of Alpha 12 above and you might be thinking “what’s the big deal?”  Well, in Arcana Kira alpha 11 and below, this is what these same menus looked like:

old_hud01 old_hud02 old_hud03 old_hud04

and to make matters MUCH MUCH worse, in Alpha 11 and below, when you entered these menus, the controller took over the mouse arrow (not exclusively, but still it was basically just a virtual mouse mapped to your controller requiring you to manually move everywhere and click every button.)  You used the left thumbstick to move the arrow and on an XBox 360 controller you used the A button to left click.  This made the entire game playable from a controller, but I personally can’t stand it when games do this and think it is acceptable.  I did it as a temporary stop-gap to quickly get full controller usability during Alpha development, but I cannot ship out a beta with that interface and sleep good at night.

Is This the Final Revision?

From my implementations and early testing, the new menu is better in both aesthetics and usability, but it is not perfect in either and hopefully I get to spend another pass or 3 revising it to make it even better.  Priorities will dictate how that works out, but even if this is the last major revision to the menus, it will be long supported with new controller types, new functionality, and performance/bug patches for the life of the game.  Because of that, I can say with confidence that I will be tweaking this codebase for awhile and so the answer is technically no, this is not the final revision.  It is a big step in the right direction.

Other News: More Progress Towards a Steam Release

I’m happy to say that most of the work and even more importantly, most of the hard work needed to get ready for a release on Steam is done.  In fact, there are only two major things that need to be finished before we can launch on Steam Early Access:

  1. We need to create all the Steam Achievements and then tie in hooks in the game’s code to trigger them.
  2. We need to finish Arcana Kira so that it can enter the Beta phase of development.

So, as you can see, there’s not much left to be done other than actually finishing the first attempt at a final draft of the game.  That’s no easy task, but that’s the last real barrier for us to get Arcana Kira live on Steam. Thanks to Groupees and IndieGameStand, over 8,000 people already own a key and will receive a Steam key when the game is first released on the Steam platform.  We will only enter Steam Early Access when the game is feature complete, or in other words, when it reaches the beta phase of development.  When all the intended content and gameplay are done, and most known bugs are squashed, that’s when it’s time to get as many real players as possible playing the game and providing feedback.  Beta is a crucial time for a game, so we’re looking to make the most of the occasion and to provide a complete game experience from the first beta/Steam Early Access release.

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