1st January 2017… always a date that makes me smile. Even with the blurs of NYE celebrations. A blank canvas, a clean slate, a whole 12 months / 52 weeks / 365 days / 525,600 minutes of newness.
This year is especially exciting as it means the release of Blackwood Crossing is at last ahead of us. But the last twelve months have been the most challenging but also the most rewarding we’ve had as a studio, and it feels right to take a look back and do a round up of our achievements.
The year started with us auditioning and choosing the amazing actors we’d chosen to ‘voice’ Finn and Scarlett and the rest of the game’s characters. It was a special experience, hearing them truly come to life. And the team were thrilled that the placeholder VO in the game would soon be replaced!
In March we travelled to GDC and showed the game off to a select few partners. The response was really positive. Everyone loved the story, and the art style, and we went back to the UK knowing we were on the right track. Our writer continued to refine the script, and there were several exciting ‘eureka’ moments throughout the team as all our ideas started to really come together.
In April we playtested the game for a second time with a group of players recruited by Player Research. The focus was on usability and controls, as well as testing gameplay and puzzles.
It was around this time that we took delivery of the game’s theme tune by the brilliant Ben Ottewell. You’d have thought after 9 months and endless plays we’d be over it, but hand on heart we love it still!
We announced the game in June, along with a teaser trailer. The response was brilliant and we got some great coverage and support, with people wanting to know more.
We were initially hoping to release Blackwood Crossing in the Autumn, but in the summer we decided we needed more time to realise the game’s potential. It’s fair to say that being such a hand-crafted experience, games of this nature take time to get right. Thankfully our publishers, Vision Games, were very supportive.
By August we had a full demo to take to gamescom in Cologne, for the first set of hands ons. We showed the game to over 50 journalists in 3 days! Including a live demo on the Twitch stage – after a mad ten minute dash across the mammoth conference centre. A complete whirlwind, and totally knackering, but the buzz was amazing!
We were super chuffed to be awarded UKIE’S ‘Best British Game of gamescom’ award. The acceptance speech was brief and might have contained some excited swearing!
It was all a great boost to the dev team who were working their socks off back in the studio, working on the game of course, but also supporting the production of the first reveal trailer, and the demo itself. The ramp up in Marketing a game always impacts the team more than we’d ideally like. Everyone knows it’s crucial, but it definitely adds to the pressure.
August saw another press trip to the US, including a presentation at IGN and Polygon. As a small independent studio these visits are a B I G deal. It was then off to Seattle to demo the game to hundreds of excited Xbox fans. The campus was an experience in itself!
The end of the summer saw another round of user testing, with more great feedback to incorporate in the schedule. Always a challenge, but it’s absolutely vital to do it. We had more VO recording sessions with Side UK, making tweaks to the existing script, and adding new content to aid the story and the player.
As autumn came around the focus turned to fine-tuning assets, starting to fix bugs, and work through optimisations! Plus another trip to the US for Unite LA – a chance to happily wave our #madewithunity flag.
And that’s where the year’s ended … final tweaks, buffing, bug fixing. It’s not the sexy end of any dev cycle – the last 20% – and it would be ace to say it’s all been a walk in the park…but hey this is games development and that’s rarely the case 🙂
It would be boring if it was!
The hard work’s paying off though and we can look forward to release in 2017. Previews have gone well, and also offered a couple of pointers as to where to spend our final polish efforts (thank you guys!).
Topping off the year was a brilliant nod to Blackwood Crossing in Polygon’s Best Games of 2017 list!
So, as we look ahead to 2017 and the excitements it holds for the studio and the game, it’s been good to remember what we achieved in 2016, and give a big up to the PaperSeven team.
Cheers for reading…a very Happy New Year to you all!