2017 was a busy year for Woodsy Studio. Development started on our latest and biggest game. We ventured into the free-to-play market in two different ways. We released our first console titles and we (unsuccessfully) dipped our toes into crowdfunding. Here’s a quick look at the year in review for Woodsy Studio.
February – Echoes of the Fey Episode 0: The Immolation
Woodsy Studio’s first release of 2017 was an experiment on two fronts. To start, it was our first game developed in Unreal Engine 4 and, as a result, our first game to utilize 3d environments. We also decided to release it as a free, stand-alone chapter to help promote the series in general.
Even though we had to build a visual novel display system from the ground up, we quickly took to UE4. Resource management (especially related to sounds and music) was much simpler than in GameMaker Studio. Building 3d environments instead of drawing 2d backgrounds also allowed us to incorporate camera angles and increase the number of settings and CGs featured in the game.Using UE4, however, had a downside. For the first time, we had to worry about the performance of our games. On low-end machines–specifically older computers and laptops without a dedicated GPU–The Immolation ran poorly. We coded in a low graphics mode (which, quite frankly, made the game look rough) but we’re not sure how many people knew to take advantage of it. Visual novel fans aren’t used to worrying about performance or graphics settings, and some of our initial reviews likely reflected that. For future (not free) episodes, we’ll likely look into a way to default to low settings when the user doesn’t have a graphics card.
Overall, we’re very happy with The Immolation as an introduction to the series and as a functional performance test for our future VNs in Unreal Engine 4.
2017 marked Woodsy Studio’s first release on console platforms, with our 2016 PC game Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail coming out on both PS4 and Xbox One. We were still on GameMaker Studio for this project and we did all of the porting work ourselves, so we’re incredibly proud at how the game turned out on consoles and the fact we were able to release both ports within (almost) a month of one another. Xbox One was especially groundbreaking for us, as (I believe) we’re the first traditional visual novel on the platform and one of only a few GameMaker ports to appear on the system. We’re hoping that with future releases, using UE4, we’ll be able to put our console versions out much closer to our PC version.
This October, Woodsy Studio made its second venture into the free-to-play market with the mobile title, miraclr: Divine Dating Sim. Developed in under two months, miraclr is a novel-length (75,000+ words) VN that takes place in real-time over a single week. You chat and collaborate with the archangels of heaven to plan and enact the first true miracle in over 400 years.
miraclr was a unique project for us, in no small part because it was our first mobile-focused game. We had released games on Android before (Serafina’s Crown and Quantum Conscience) but those had been developed with PC in mind first and ported over to the mobile platform. miraclr, by its nature as a game that required real-time interaction, only really works if you have the game with you at work or school or wherever you spend most of the day. There are in-app purchases that allow players to skip around the real-time elements of the game, but we wanted to be sure it was completely playable for free players.
We’re hoping to have some new miraclr announcements soon, so stay tuned if you’re a fan!
November – The Last Sacrament Kickstarter
Not all of our news in 2017 was good. For the first time, we tried crowdfunding one of our games, the upcoming Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament on Kickstarter and fell significantly short of our goal. This certainly wasn’t out of lack of support from our current fans, who contributed and sent us plenty of messages of support. Unfortunately, despite various attempts to reach out to media and promote the campaign, as well as being designated a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter we simply weren’t able to get any press coverage or amplification.
Unfortunately, the reality of crowdfunding is that there’s only so much an independent studio can do to get the word out. We released a demo, still available here, and did what we could to try and drum up support. But ultimately we learned that we’ll likely have to take a different approach to getting press coverage when we release (which we still intend to do; more on that later!)
December – Echoes of the Fey: The Fox’s Trail on Jump
Finally this year, we expanded our reach to another platform–the online game subscription service, Jump!
Porting to Jump was a bit difficult, mostly because of the size of our game. On PC/Consoles, The Fox’s Trail is an installation a little over 700 MB. To make it work and playable via browser, we had to tweak our texture compression and sound streaming. This led to a few bugs we hurriedly fixed during release, but now the game is fully playable on the service. So if you’re a Jump subscriber but haven’t checked out our games yet, make sure you try out The Fox’s Trail!
Upcoming – Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament
Of course, the year in review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of our biggest project this year, Echoes of the Fey: The Last Sacrament. We started production on our biggest, most intricate game yet back in March of 2017 and have worked on it throughout the year. Even with all the other releases in 2017, we always kept up work on The Last Sacrament and we hope to have it released in early spring of 2018 on PC, with a console version either concurrently available or out shortly afterwards.
Thanks to all our fans for your support! Hopefully we released something in 2017 that you enjoyed. We’re looking forward to more updates and releases in 2018 so make sure to follow us or sign up for the newsletter to know when we have something new for you!