When I announced The Novelist in May, I set a release window of summer 2013. When asked in interviews, I always made it a point to say that summer lasts until September 22nd and that I didn’t know enough about the final game to set an exact date yet.
What I know now is that when the autumnal equinox occurs on September 22nd at 1:44 P.M. Pacific Standard Time and summer turns to fall, The Novelist will still be in development. It won’t be in development for too much longer, but once I became 100% certain that I would miss the summer window I wanted to let everyone know.
Now, the game isn’t going to slip too far. I’m adding finished content every day and completing features that I won’t ever touch again. Large parts of the game are 100% locked down. The game is close, it’s just not done.
When I sent out my alpha build on August 2nd, I had a game that I could have finished in 6 weeks and shipped in the middle of September. The problem was that the game wouldn’t have been good enough (see this post for more details). It was a really disappointing and difficult moment, but I’ve spent the last 19 months of my life on this game and the worst thing I could do would be getting it this close to completion only to release something I’m not happy with. I don’t want it to be a near miss. I want it to be something special. I want it to be the game I see when I close my eyes at night.
And I don’t want to be the thousandth game developer to break out the Miyamoto quote about how “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad” … but I guess I just became the thousandth developer to break out that quote.
And since I’m sharing quotes, here’s another personal favorite: “Once you finish the first 90%, all that’s left is the last 90%.” I don’t know who said that originally, but I learned it back at Ion Storm Austin and I’ve always found it to be true.
I know a lot of people will be disappointed that the game is missing its original release window, but rest assured that this is only a mild slip. I haven’t rebooted the game. I’m not junking it and starting over. I just had to take an extra month to refine what I had and get it into a form that really delivers on the core promise. I believe it was time well spent, and I’ve even considered releasing the alpha build for free down the road as a curiosity, so that people can contrast it with the finished version of the game.
As for where the game stands right now, I have a schedule and a release date I think I can hit, but I don’t want to announce a date until I’m 100% positive that I can make it. I’m working 7 days a week, and I’m also getting help from a friend of mine named Tynan Wales, a really talented designer/artist who made the excellent Ryan Amusements level in BioShock 2. He’s building some really cool content, and though he’s only been on the game a week it’s already been amazing. He’s doing great work, and it’s a huge load off my mind to have a big chunk of content that I just don’t have to worry about.
Starting Monday, I’m going to take the changes I made during the alpha revamp and propagate them across the rest of the game. I’ll then send out another build to friends and family, and unless there are any major surprises I’ll shift into bug-fix mode and start shutting the game down.
I apologize to anyone who’s disappointed by this news, but the wait will only be a little longer and I think the quality improvement will be worth it.
Thanks, as always, to everyone who’s taken the time to leave a comment or send a supportive email. You guys are amazing, and I really hope the game meets your expectations.