How Cathedral is built, and why we are postponing the release

TL;DR, Cathedral is still being released, but we’re aiming for Q2 2018 instead.

 

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of weeks, but frankly haven’t had time to find the time and mental energy for it.

As the title states, we’re moving the release up for Cathedral. Currently, we’ll aim for a Q2 2018 release instead. In this post, I figured I’d talk a bit about why we’re doing this, but also *how* we’re building Cathedral.

Why am I writing this on my personal blog, instead of the one at decemberborn.com? Basically, the thought was to keep the Decemberborn site for announcements, and this blog for personal musings around the game (and development in general).

Well. This is an announcement of course (so I’ll put links in from the main Decemberborn page), but for me, it’s also a personal matter and I’ll express a lot of personal reflections and opinions in this blog post. Over the last 3 years Cathedral has been built, I’ve met a lot of people, had a lot of fun and learned a hell of a lot about game design. On the other hand, it has also taken its toll in various ways.

 

The making of Cathedral, so far

As of 8th of December, 2017, it’s been 3 years since I committed the first lines of code on Cathedral. The idea was to build a game, running on a custom-made engine in C++. This was purely an exercise in fun for me, and at that point, I had no plans on making it a commercial game. I mean, I had a job that I loved, working as a developer/software architect.

I still have that job, and I still love that job. Cathedral has been the passionate side project that I’ve wanted to build for so long. It has had a very tiny budget so far (compared to what games have in general), in the ballpark of 25K Euro (roughly a bit under 30k USD at the time of writing). Everyone involved so far has either been hired as a freelancer, or been a founder and/or worked for equity. All of us who founded Decemberborn Interactive are still working full time for other companies.

Today, we’ve produced a game that have a main quest, a large world, side quests, collectibles, and tons of fun. We’re quite proud of what we’ve built so far, but we’ve also noticed the problem with trying to set a deadline on something that you’re trying to build in your spare time.

For me, the last year or so, has been an endless cycle of either working at my dayjob, or spending every minute when I get back in front of the computer, hacking on code, coordinating team members and building things. I haven’t slept enough, I haven’t thought about anything but what I wanted to build next in the game for a long time. Cathedral has been on my mind when I went to sleep. I’ve dreamt about it, and I’ve had ideas popping up in my head as soon as I woke up.

It’s been a fun ride, but it’s also been a very, very stressful and unhealthy one. Personally, I’ve noticed some less-than-desirable stress reactions, and have started thinking more about my mental health lately. Other people in the team has expressed similar concerns regarding stress, and I’ve had a feeling that morale is not always on top due to us putting all of our energy into stressing to our previous release date (Q4, 2017). We’ve all had tunnel vision, aiming towards this date (or well, quarter).

When the thing you love to do becomes one of your greater sources of negative stress, I think it’s time to take a step back, evaluate, and come back with a new plan. We still have a ton of user-testing we don’t want to skimp on. We still have known bugs that we want to fix, and while it honestly sucks to not be able to release this year, I still feel like I want to make my vision of Cathedral come as close as possible to being as good as it deserves to be. And I don’t mean good just in terms of gameplay. I mean good in terms of craftsmanship. I don’t want to release a incomplete game. I don’t want to release a buggy game either. I want to release something I can feel proud of, and that my team members feel equally proud of.

Most importantly, I want to release Cathedral without burning myself or my team members out in the process. We’re kind of hoping that we have more games in us after this one.

So, finally…

I have awesome team members at Decemberborn, and Cathedral would not exist if it wasn’t because I’ve teamed up with people I fully trust and love to work with.

I consider these people my friends, and I don’t want to burn their energy out anymore than my own. We have each other’s back, and everyone always try to come through and help each other out. At some point though, when everyone is feeling tired and out of energy, there’s only two options left in my opinion:

  1. Finish the game by more insane crunching and risk actual health issues.
  2. Realize that it’s counter-productive and harmful, and move the release up.

I choose option 2.

We will be taking a couple of weeks of break during Christmas and new year’s eve. See you all for a bright 2018. My new year’s resolution will be to make sure we record and release more gameplay footage, and as many details as possible, leading up to the release of the game.

Thanks for understanding, and happy holidays to everyone.

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