Several fans asked for an update on Bangkok timings. I planned to post this report on Wednesday, but my draft of it sparked a lively discussion in the dev channels.
That discussion made me realise that I haven't been clear enough about how the MFAGA plan impacts Bangkok. It’s critical that patrons understand the situation so they can make fully informed decisions about their continued support of the game.
This project isn’t entitled to your money, and I want you to always know the truth about where the development is at.
The obvious bit
The MFAGA plan aims to streamline the game’s structure and design so that we can add new story content (i.e. Bangkok) faster.
We are currently working on MFAGA – not Bangkok – and the longer MFAGA takes, the longer it will be before we get started on Bangkok.
The not-so-obvious implications
(These were obvious to me, but I think about this project all the time and in detail. I now realise I didn’t lay this part out clearly enough.)
Making big changes to a critical system (like the avatar) breaks any existing scenes that use it.
It’s not possible to make the existing scenes work with the new system, without going through those scenes and adapting them one-by-one (which takes time).
This means that we have a decision to make about every scene currently in the game:
Either update it (so it stays playable)
or cut it (to speed up MFAGA)
Here’s the dilemma:
- The more we update, the longer MFAGA will take (because more work takes more time).
- The more we cut, the more generic Bangkok will be (because if we cut decisions you’ve made about your character from the game, they can’t affect the story in Bangkok).
As part of MFAGA, my plan is to cut some scenes, and update others.
I want to cut scenes for two reasons:
- This is how we streamline the story and streamline the backstory, two of the key MFAGA objectives. Cutting the flabby scenes that confuse the plot will speed up the writing overall (because coherent, well-plotted scenes are faster and easier to write)
- Every scene that’s cut shortens MFAGA and lets us start implementing Bangkok sooner
But I want to update scenes that meet certain criteria:
- Scenes we really like (e.g. Miss Wet T-Shirt) should stay in the game
- Scenes that are critical to the main plot (e.g. the mission briefing) should stay in the game
- Scenes that let the player establish backstory facts about your heroine we can use later (e.g. if she was a rock chick or a nerd in her teens) should stay in the game
My expectation is that these updates should be fast (because we’re editing, not rebooting, and lots of the existing scenes are fine – Miss Wet T-Shirt is fine, the briefing is fine, the university graduation scene is fine – a lot of scenes just need a quick technical pass to make them run in the new low-maintenance code).
But each scene we adapt will take time and I’m not exactly sure of how much time yet. (That should become clearer to everyone over the next few weeks.)
Here's broadly how I’m balancing the update/cut decisions in my mind:
- Character creation: update. (Not optional, the game doesn’t work without a character)
- Lifepath (upbringing): update. It’s only a few screens, and it lets the player set some important backstory flags. But: temporarily cut this to one nationality (UK) for speed, the other nationalities to be restored by team/community writers later
- Lifepath (university): update. Important backstory, and the Kink Vignettes are hot
- Lifepath (agency career): update. Without this it feels like she’s not really a spy. But: fix the heroine’s age, so this section becomes less a “career sim” and more a few passages describing her training and selected postings
- Mission briefing: update, it's crucial to the plot. But: cut the boring green screen session, and cut the flab generally to make this section pacier and tighter
- Operation Lioness: update. Keep Miss Wet T-Shirt (the best scene in the game so far). But: cut the boring stuff (like waiting around in the clubs for the contest to start). Consider cutting Corinthian and/or Cathouse for speed.
- Dubai: cut, there’s no plot reason for Kate to be here, and shoehorning it into the story causes a lot of the flab and delay in the mission briefing/LIONESS parts
- Bangkok: now starts immediately after Operation Lioness.
Several team members said they’d prefer to update the character creation, then next create a standalone version of Bangkok (with no backstory – i.e. you’d create a character, then immediately jump to the audition scene in Bangkok).
Then we could later reinstate the missing scenes, then join everything together.
We’ve been discussing this back and forth since Wednesday, and – while I see the logic and the attraction of this (and also how popular announcing this would make me) – I don’t think it’s best for the project.
I think that a major cause of slow development was my reluctance to grasp the nettle because I didn’t want to disappoint everyone by announcing a delay. (Ironically, this meant we didn't address the strategic problems causing the delays, so by trying to avoid disappointment I ultimately caused more disappointment. I was working hard when the project desperately needed me to work smart).
This isn't the kind of thing I can throw out to a team or community vote – the decision's got to be on my head and I've got to do what I think is right.
And I'm sure we're on the right path now, and that the next few weeks are going to transform the project. We're close to establishing a steady release cycle, created by a team and a community empowered to work together in a completely new way.
And that's why I've got to stick to MFAGA as I imagined it. The first two tasks I wrote in the MFAGA plan [page 3] were (1) update the lifepath and (2) update LIONESS and make it run into Bangkok. That was always a critical part of my plan (although I now feel I didn't draw enough attention to it) and I intend to see it through if that's possible.
But you don't have to support the plan. I've always faithfully done my best, but I've made many mistakes along the way, and if MFAGA is too much for you to take on faith, I'll completely understand.
Okay, that's it – sorry this post was so long, but I wanted to be totally clear with everybody. Please discuss here and on Discord – I'm going to get some R&R over the weekend (that fucking eye twitch thing from last week still hasn't gone away so I've got to get away from the screen for a while), but I'll join in on the comments here and in Discord to answer questions this post raises.