11th Dream Leaves Early Access

Hi! With today’s game update, 11th Dream leaves Early Access and transitions to full release! We’ve added the last promised feature – support of Steam Workshop, place to share and download custom maps.

Let us share our journey from the early development up to this point.

Development

First Lines of Code, Triangles and Pixels

In summer 2017 we started experimenting with retro shooter game. By that time, pixelart retro was very popular (and in our opinion still is up to this day) but we wanted to create a game which resembles 90s 3D graphics limited by poor performance and also a one which captures the common extreme difficulty to win.

For better or worse, we chose to build our own technology. 11th Dream ows it for its unique look and overall the creative process was quite refreshing. On the other hand, we spent lot of time developing core engine features which we take for granted in well-established engines. Seemingly simple import process and management of models, textures and animations robbed us of valuable development time and we still had to write file management, renderer, custom physics and many other subsystems.

First maps we created were skirmishes – intended for short single-player deathmatches against AI. We were designing a game which you could play while you render your video or wait for a meeting.

Game Developers Session 2018

In summer 2018 we founded a company to be able to distribute 11th Dream on Steam store.

We planned to show demo on Czech conference Game Developers Session, allowing us to meet players and get their feedback. We had to finish several things to have a presentable demo. Entire skirmish mode had to be finished and we also had to develop well-behaving artificial intelligence for skirmish bots (which we later described in article on indiedb).

Fortunately, we were able to prepare the demo on time. And it was definitely worth it – players and other developers at GDS feeded our enthusiasm and gave us good feedback. For example, we added light beams above pickable bonuses to make them easier to spot from distance or when they are obstructed.

Early Access

In the beginning of 2019 we started creating campaign maps, slowly incorporating story into the game. Unfortunately, progression was slowed down by missing technology – we had to add support for scripted missions. Even though we decided to use existing language (Lua) and its official library, we still had to create bindings between script and native code. On the other hand, we could focus on the map environment before the scripts were ready.

We realized that terrains felt empty and flat, so it was decided to add „shruberries“ – as we have kept calling ground clutter like that ever since. Grass and small stones helped with perception of distance.

In June 2019, 11th Dream was released to public on Steam in early access.

Multiplayer

As we kept adding new skirmish maps, maintaining campaign maps, we were joking about implementing multiplayer in two weeks. The problem is that any joke can backfire and so 11th Dream ended up having multiplayer mode. It took six months instead of alleged two weeks but the development time was definitely worth it! Finally we could play with (and against) each other and drag our community on Discord to betatesting.

In the end, multiplayer enriched 11th Dream a lot. It was not just about technology – lag compensation, jitter compensation, full server authority, history snapshots – you name it, with 11th Dream’s speed, we needed all. The impact was deeper, we had to change fundamental things in the game design. Let us share one example. The projectiles were quite slow which led to frustrating endless dodging during fights. Funnily enough, slow projectiles had worked nicely in single-player mode since player could have dodged and still predict motion of bots.

Workshop and Final Release

Finally we could come back to last promised feature – Steam Workshop. We had been already using our in-game editor to create all skirmish and campaign maps, but it had to be polished before offering it as an usable creation tool.

Map creation was automated, creating a procedurally generated landscape with various effects. This was probably one of the most entertaining chapters in the entire development of 11th Dream. Actually, it is quite sad that „procgen“ entered the development so lately, otherwise we can imagine the fun we would have with generated skirmish maps.

Steam Workshop itself was not hard to implement. If you are a game developer, we can recommend going for it, documentation from Valve is clear and implementation scope is small.

Well, here we are after four years of development! Building a game from scratch is quite an experience. These old screenshots from development bring to us nostalgic feeling. We know that it is impossible to reach perfection, there will always be something we could possibly improve, and that we have to call our work finished one day.

Today we are releasing version 1.0 and our 11th Dream comes true.

Development setbacks

To be frank, 11th Dream was done with a low budget, low time and only few people, which brought many setbacks. Hundreds of games were released the same day as 11th Dream, launch visibility dissipated in a blink of an eye. We have been dealing with lower number of players. We had to gradually improve steam page of the game and capsule image to attract them better.

We would like to share our experience with marketing, too. Press is flooded with hundreds of game announcements. Viral sharing on social media is long over. Advertisment requires huge investments to have measurable impact. We tried twitter ads without any significant success. On the other hand, youtube ads actually met our expectations and brought viewers to our trailer, some even followed to the store page.

Lastly, let us repeat that custom technology affected length of development. Every studio should reconsider if in‑house engine is worth the time investment.

Full changelog

We are leaving early access with following changes.

  • Steam Workshop
  • Maps
    • New map: Station
    • Zoe gets voiceover in Force
    • Minor fixes on campaign maps: all Bridges, Rapture
    • Minor fixes on skirmish maps: Invalid, The Dam
  • Editor: Editing area type (trigger/death zone)
  • Editor: Improved editor UI
  • Engine: Support for high DPI displays
  • Engine: Improved rendering of shadows
  • Engine: Filesystem fixes
  • Improvements to ID MASTER’s AI
  • Improved readability of voting
  • New difficulty parameter in map vote: aieasy, aihard, aiextreme

We would like to thank you for all your support during development!

See you in the arena!

Best,
Filip, Michal, Vojta
11thdreamgame.bluepulsar.cz

Follow us on twitter or instagram and ask us anything on our discord server. We are also happy to invite you to join our mailing list, so you stop missing all those 11th updates!

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