If this year has been a whirlwind, then next year promises to be a maelstrom.
That is how I summarized everything that has happened so far. At some point during last year’s November, I became confident enough in SparkLine that I decided to quit my full-time job. It wasn’t until this July that I am actually off, though, for multiple reasons. But I did leave on good terms, that’s for sure. Worked for almost a full 4 years… and while it started as a gamble, it was the right choice to be there.
Before we proceed, I’d like to wish you a (belated) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The Chinese New Year will also come about 3 weeks after the New Year. I really don’t envy the job retail store clerks have at the moment. 2 consecutive months of seasonal music may make you go insane.
To close off this year, we have reached a very important milestone by conducting our first closed beta test! As of the time this post is made, we have 85 signups, which is more than the 50 we’d have liked at the beginning. Thank you so much for being here with us and participating in it. Your experience and feedback has been most valuable for us.
If you haven’t signed up yet and want to participate, here’s the form! I will close this sign-up by the end of this year, so hurry up!
Amongst the most important feedbacks are, as far as I know:
I will need a graphic designer to help with the first one, but the rest should be doable on my own end. Currently, the slide notes will always give a Max Perfect (the purple perfect). It also means I can make crazier slide charts, so we may be opening a Pandora’s Box with these… 😉
The first two days aside, it appears that we are smooth sailing and this is a very very good thing. We had an issue with crashes on Android, which turned out to be a Unity problem.
Beside this, the other major issue was in certain device regions where the charts are not parsed correctly. This is due to certain regions reading commas and dots differently. For example, 2100 (two thousand and one hundred) would be
This particular issue caused a headache in my previous job, and we only stumbled through the consistent bug reproduction method randomly. So thankfully, I was able to be aware of this issue quickly enough for the beta test.
I do hear a lot of comments that the game has a steep learning curve and… I think it is a good thing. From my recent observations, many recent rhythm games are already “conquered” on day 1. Yes, I believe rhythm games should be easier as time goes on, but I think that’s a bit extreme. We already see APs of level 12s so I think the difficulty itself is not so much the issue, but rather – how approachable it is.
This is where the feedbacks we got from the beta test and from Gamescom diverge. Most of the Gamescom players play in Normal (and thus not exposed to mines and even slides), while the beta testers likely play from Hard. I hope that the changes we make may make the game (even) more approachable in the future!
Tentatively, I would like to end the beta test on 6 January 2023. At some point between now and that time, I will give out another form for your detailed feedback. We really appreciate your feedback, so please fill it out for us when it’s available!
It is early to say this, but yes, we will have another beta test. My estimation is that it will be conducted next year in April. This time, the test should be more open. I guess like an Early Access sort of thing? We would like to invite as many people as possible (which we didn’t for the CBT), so hopefully it will bang.
Aside from the CBT songlist (which arguably is already a lot) we’ll probably add like 2-3 songs to it, if we do so. We will also address the issues that we couldn’t address in the current test, along with the story, map, unlocks, etc ready for you.
My biggest concern is probably in the maps as I want to make the story not so linear, especially with 6 main characters here. A “saga map” implementation would be the easiest to do – A to B, B to C, and so on. However, if we do it that way, the story might end up a jumbled mess as the players will struggle to understand what is going on in one particular cutscene.
But okay, I think we have talked about the beta test long enough, so it’s time to look towards the future!
We realized that in this year, we really didn’t tell you much of our story. As a result, what we show you through our media has been mostly the songs and the gameplay. We have the blogs to help “equalize” the situation, but as you can see in the screenshots above, we will be putting in a lot more work on the story from now.
Perhaps you may have noticed that some of the story artworks have similarities to certain song artworks. Many of the songs, whether original or not, are linked to the story. I think I have talked about this before in a post regarding our artworks. As time goes on, the song artworks become more and more consistently themed with the story.
The blogs here indirectly contribute towards the more consistent theming. You may notice that in some posts, I veer off from the main topic needlessly. It was a good experience to keep myself focused. Beyond that,
I always feel that while the songs and artworks are good by themselves, we must amplify them in the various ways we can as a game. The story, the animations, everything… even the charts, are done for this purpose. The parts themselves are great, but I am confident that when combined together, the sum is greater than the parts!
That said, we do like to experiment with “abstract” concepts. Such concepts will mostly be used for songs that don’t need story links.
To further elaborate on the point that the sum is greater than the parts, we will making blog posts on the behind-the-scenes for our original songs. Starting from the song drafts, right down to the charts. With these posts, I hope we can “humanize” the people behind each of the parts (not that they are not human already, mind). It should also be easy to make as we can repeat the formula for every song to write about.
Aside from that, I am also looking to interview composers so that you get to know of them even better! There will be no videos as I’d look to conduct them using messages, but I hope it should be good nonetheless.
While I’m sure that the first mini-album was great for you, we’ll have a second one available… for FREE again next year! Just like before, you will have to be subbed to our newsletter to get it. We intend to have it ready somewhere slightly before launch in order to build up the hype. But beyond this, I don’t know about more free albums. Maybe if we are feeling generous, haha.
Lastly, I am also considering to make certain posts as timed exclusives for our subscribers. I feel there should be more perks for those putting in the effort to sign up to the newsletter. At the same time, I want as many people as possible to read the blogs, so this will be a decision that requires careful consideration.
Making rhythm games all the time will bore you eventually. As a game developer, you should try out making different genres of games to broaden your horizons. It is also a shame if we end up making only a single game. We have gained a lot of experience making SparkLine, and we didn’t use it for anything else.
Whether it’s to support or even replace (oh no…) SparkLine depends on how well the latter does. The “replace” part only happens in the worst case scenario but it’s best to keep our eyes open to that possibility.
Whatever game this is should be completed within 3-6 months and on relatively low budget as we definitely don’t have the resource to commit to two games yet. I already have an idea what to make and in fact, already commissioned some stuff for this. This is definitely something I’d have liked to do since this November, but as it turns out we still have a lot of work to do in SparkLine.
As we target SparkLine to release by Q2 2023, hopefully we have enough time to get this other game out as well.
We will need all the luck we can get in order to get through next year. That much is certain. You can have all the talent, hard work and money in the world, but without that 2% of luck… you won’t get there.
That luck includes You, the readers of this blog! I will be counting on each and every one of you to help make SparkLine a success.
A lot of people would like to eliminate the factor of luck in their success. After all, you don’t like to feel that your success is due to winning a lottery, isn’t it. However, you need all of the above in order to get to the top. To be fair, I feel that I have been on the good side of luck for this year. There are a few people who are in the right place in the right place, without whom the project simply wouldn’t run smooth enough.
Sometimes I think that had I pursued another type of game, especially the 3-6 months dev cycle sort, it’s the more realistic route. But I know this for sure – without making a rhythm game there are some people whom I perhaps would never have met otherwise.
Count your blessings, do your prayers, do good deeds and perhaps that luck will come. But remember the trick – do these because you feel it’s the right thing, and NOT to expect something in return!
To close off this post, I would like to give shoutouts to those that have uploaded videos of SparkLine here – Hikigaya Takeshi, MusicFracturer and MichikoIku! You can check their videos below.
If you are uploading your own videos of our game, don’t hesitate to let us know. We really appreciate the effort put into the videos.
And to everyone reading this – may your next year be better than this year’s, filled with blessing!