Monthly Archives: August 2013

Interviews + Progress Report

Hey everyone, Kent here with your regularly scheduled Saturday update. It was a good week for The Novelist, despite being cut a bit short by a family visit. First off, here are a few interviews:

  • Paper Droids: I really enjoyed doing this one. Tracy asked great questions, and you’ll probably learn some new stuff about the game in this interview.
  • Weeaboos with Controllers: Check this one out to learn about the consequences for being caught during stealth gameplay, as well as some general thoughts about the AAA and indie scenes.

As for the game itself, I got a bunch done this week and am really happy with where the game is now. I still don’t have an exact release date, but I feel like I’ve turned the corner and know what the end product is going to look like and how I’ll get to the finish line.

As a recap, I sent out an alpha build to friends and family on August 2nd, and they sent me some great feedback about the flow and core loop. There were a number of things that left players confused about how to progress in the game, and some features were so buried that they were giving a really skewed perception of what the game was about and what kind of stories the player could tell. It’s always disheartening as a designer when you’ve put a lot of work into features, and you know that what your players are asking for is already in the game if only they could find it. But that’s also your fault as a designer: if players can’t find a feature, it doesn’t count as a feature. It basically doesn’t exist.

There’s a silver lining when this happens, though. While you might get super bummed that people are missing things that would make the game much more enjoyable, the fact that the features at least exist in the first place gives you confidence that you’re close to having something special. Training players on existing features and making them more visible is a much better problem to have than needing to invent new features from scratch late in a project.

So I made a bunch of changes to the writing and the chapter flow and sent out an updated build last week, and the response was way better than to the alpha build. There were still a few comprehension issues, though, so I worked this week to update the build again with additional tweaks to the flow. I sent that build out to friends on Wednesday night, and the response has been super positive.

It’s not 100% perfect yet, but of course the game isn’t finished either. I’ve already made 3 or 4 changes in the last two days that have only improved things more, and at this point I’m getting really excited about finishing the game. As I said, I can see the finish line and am really confident about what the finished product will look like. I actually spent yesterday putting in some polish features, and the game is to the point where the small things are starting making a big difference. More sound effects in the house, characters talking to themselves as they go about their days, Dan’s typewriter actually making typewriter sounds while he works … they’re all little touches, but together they’re really bringing the game to life.

Anyway, that’s where the game is right now. As soon as I publish this post I’m gonna dive in and start working on more cool new stuff. I can’t wait for you guys to play the game!

A Quick Update

Hey everyone, this week’s update will be a short one. I’m on a family visit and have had to take a few days off from working on the game (bad timing, I know), but before leaving for the trip I was able to finish a build demonstrating the revised gameplay loop and the results are promising. There are still some communication and clarity issues to work out, but I’m very happy with the improvements and most of the playtesters have responded positively as well. It’s getting close!

There are no new interviews to share this week, although there are a few in the can that should be coming out within a week or two, and as always I’ll share the links here when they’re posted.

In the last bit of news, I’ve found a voice actor for Dan Kaplan, the novelist of the game’s name! His name is David Pinion, and he’s friends with the actress who does Linda’s voice in the game, Kelilyn McKeever. They’re both based in LA, so sometime soon I’ll be driving down to do full recording sessions with both of them. I’ve rewritten much of the game since Kelilyn did her first round of voice in February, so we’ll be going pretty much from scratch with both her and David.

Anyway, that’s about it for this week’s update. There’s a lot in motion, but it’s a very exciting time and the game is really taking shape. More details coming soon!

Alpha Update + Press Links

Hey everyone, here’s an update on the game and some press activity. I’ll start off with the press stuff.

  • The Novelist was written up in the LA Times, which is definitely the biggest non-gaming site to do a story on the game so far. Very exciting!
  • I was also the guest on this week’s Core Elements podcast, which is a full show that’s not just about my game. If you want to hear the Novelist bits they’re closer to the end of the show, though if you listen to the whole thing you get to hear me talk about my favorite game of all time and mention three games I’ve really enjoyed recently.
  • And how could I forget my friends over at I met Landon at Indie Press Day back in May, and we immediately hit it off. They produce a great show at BigSushi, and I had a lot of fun as their guest. You guys should definitely add their podcast to your feed; they’re doing interesting stuff over there.

As for the game itself, I’m in the midst of a big push to revamp the gameplay loop. I got a lot of great feedback on the recent alpha build that I sent out to friends and family, and for the last few days I’ve been implementing a new plan for how the flow of a chapter works. Without getting into too many low-level details, there were some parts of the game that were overly confusing and restrictive, and I’m making some changes to open the game up and make it more organic and exploratory. More environmental storytelling, different types of writing, different types of memories to discover, and so on.

When you’ve worked on something for a long time you inevitably lose your objectivity, which is why getting outside feedback is so essential to making a great game. I’ve had some of the smartest designers in the industry give me feedback and suggestions for the game, and it’s been a huge help. Luckily the main features in the game are in a finished enough state that solving the clarity issues isn’t a case of inventing new features from whole cloth or dramatically changing the game, but are instead about reorganizing and reconfiguring what’s already there. The goal is to take the game from “Hey, this is really cool, but it’s sorta confusing at times” to “Wow, I totally know how to play this game and I’m having a great time.”

The last few milestones on a project are always filled with excitement and change, and so far things are going well. And with that, I gotta get back to work!

Thanks again to everyone who’s shown such incredible support for the project. You guys are proof that the internet can be a positive, supportive place. I can’t wait to get the game into your hands.



In case you missed it on the official Twitter account, The Novelist was Greenlit this week! I couldn’t be happier that the game will be launching on Steam in addition to the Humble Store. Having the game on Steam will make it easier for a much larger group of people to find out about the game, which is a really big deal for a small independent developer like me.

And just to be clear, all preorders and purchases using the Humble Store will receive a Steam key as well, so the Humble Store is really the best of all worlds: you get a DRM-free copy of the game, but can also unlock it on Steam for convenience. I haven’t gotten the game set up on Steam yet, but I hope to do it soon.

There’s also a new interview up on Kotaku, and I’m really happy with how it came out. It does a good job of explaining the ways in which The Novelist’s dynamic narrative differs from a traditional branching story, and it also goes into the mindset of taking the indie leap. Make sure to check it out!

Finally, as for the game itself, things are moving along really well. I sent out an alpha build to friends and family last weekend and have been getting a ton of good feedback. The response is much more positive than it was for the last playtest (which was all the way back in April), so it’s good to know that the hard work was worth it. I’ve found out about a whole slew of new bugs, but so far I’ve been able to stay on top of them and fix them almost as fast as the playtesters are finding them. I’ve also put in a couple of new features in response to the feedback, and I’ll keep tweaking  and iterating on things for the next month or so.

That’s about it from Novelist land. It was a really great week for the game, between getting through Greenlight and having a high-profile interview (it was even cross-posted to Jezebel, which boosted the exposure as well), but it’s also been really exhausting. I’m just trying to keep my head down and keep pushing toward the finish line.

Thanks again for all of your support. The game never would have made it onto Steam without you guys spreading the word, and all of the gracious comments and emails you sent kept my spirits up even when things got tough. You guys are the best, and I hope that when the game’s finished it will have been worth your wait.

Until next week!


Today’s blog post is short and sweet. There are no new interviews to share, though I did hear a rumor that a feature on a very big gaming site will be hitting next week, so stay tuned for that.

The other big news is that I just wrapped up an alpha build for the game! It’s not content complete, and there are certainly plenty of bugs to fix and polish features to implement, but the major features are all there. I’ve sent the build to a group of friends and family for playtesting, feedback, and bug-finding, and I’m eager to see what they have to say.

This is the 4th playtest, and the first since April, so a lot has changed since the last time I got feedback on the game. The playtesters (who are all thanked in the credits) have been amazing, and have made the game much better than it ever would have been in a vacuum. Their feedback on early playtests was instrumental in shaping some of the core features in the game, and I’m sure they’ll find a ton of things to comment on in this build as well.

The build isn’t perfect, but when you work on something a long time you lose all perspective. With every playtest, I’m surprised to hear people say they like features that I was never too hot on, and that they dislike ones I was sure would be popular. It’s a nerve-wracking process to send something out knowing that you’ll get criticism in return, but it’s absolutely the only way to move forward.

Anyway, that’s about all from Novelist land. We’re slowing climbing in the top 25 on Greenlight, and as the game gets closer and closer to launch (still no exact date yet) your continued efforts to get votes are appreciated. I’d love nothing more than to have the game on Steam when it ships, so please continue to spread the word.