Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights TSoSD: FULL-ON BETA, BABY!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 14, 2011

It’s time for a long-overdue update on Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon:

We.

Are.

Beta.

Yes, that’s a new title screen. The previous one is somewhat more appropriate for game #2, so that’s where it’s going.

Now how about a really good question: What the heck does “Beta” mean?

First of all, it’s a game status thing. It means that at this point, there are no more big changes. There are no known game-crippling bugs. The game is fully playable from start to finish. All the features are working. There are still bugs, balance issues, a couple of places where we’re still using stand-in art, and room to fix things and change things.  We’re down to only about 100 issues, and only half of them are serious (the others are “suggestions” or “nice to have if we can slip it in” changes). We’re down to the small things – small but important. And not always easy. Things like combat feats not always being available for unknown reasons.  Or whether dual-wielding needs bigger penalties on attacks or damage to be balanced. Or renaming the “Balls!” spell to “Boot to the Head!” to match the visuals better (the boots come in a little high) and beefing it up a little more.  Fixing some weapon visuals that don’t have their mount point quite right (as you can see in the pic to the right). Placing a few more hidden caches of goodies, and placing some last remaining magical gear as loot. Improving some of the spell visuals. Adding some missing sound effects. Making sure the story – and game – as a whole holds together.

And playing the game, start-to-finish. A Lot.

I’ve not been able to do enough of that last, I’m afraid. I do a lot of skipping around. And cheating. The game is a little too big to just blitz through, and changes have happened so quickly that have invalidated my games halfway through (especially saved-game changes). In my current, cheat-free playthrough, it’s taken me over four hours just to get to what I consider the first-quarter mark. That’s hitting all the major features I can at my level, so I’m not leaving much loot (or experience points) behind. But I also know exactly where everything is, which speeds things a little bit from someone’s first playthrough. So I think the game is going to provide players with many, many hours of entertainment.

It’s been an awesome experience.  So often, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when you are addressing bugs. I know my opinion is biased, and I have a natural inclination to like my game. But the thrill of gaining a new level, and deciding where to spend my character points, is as magical to me in this game as any other RPG. Pushing forward, gauging the risk of One More Fight with my current resources. Sometimes barely getting through a fight by the skin of my teeth. Pulling off a win by remembering to use a particular spell or magic item (or Drama Star ability) at the last moment.

This is what an RPG is supposed to feel like. It feels right. While I worry I’m looking at it through rose-tinted Goggles of My Baby Ain’t Ugly, I think I’m going to be really, really happy and proud of what I’m delivering to you.

I’ve had to do this (picture to the right) a couple of times, too: Limp back to town with the party one nasty encounter away from wipe-out.  Benjamin is incapacitated – able to mumble in dialog, but not much else.  Chloe is near death, and Dirk isn’t that far away himself. I’ve returned to the safety of town and a stay at the inn. One nasty encounter on our hurried flight from the tower, and it would have been a real challenge. I could have revived Benjamin with drama stars in combat, or pre-combat with a potion (and removed most of his exhaustion with drama stars or potions), but it was really time to return to town and sleep and trade equipment anyway. The whole party is pretty exhausted. And I’m only halfway through the dungeon.

The humor of the game – well, I’ve lived with these jokes so long that they don’t amuse me much anymore.  I still keep my eye out for some additional sources of humor – or at least a little bit of wryness. But part of the reason I’ve worked so hard to make this a real, hard-core RPG is that I want a game that I can enjoy playing. That means giving it the heart and soul of a good ol’ fashioned hard-core RPG that is still fun even when I know the jokes and storyline and maps like the back of my hand. I feel like I’ve achieved that.

And now we are fer sher in the home stretch. Finally. It’s been a long time coming. Another part of “going beta” is psychological, for me. It’s a threshold where we can stick a stake in the ground and say, “This is it – this is progress, and we’re almost done.” And seriously,  compared to about every other beta I’ve participated in, Frayed Knights seems to be in the best shape of all. Much of this is due to the incredible efforts of the testing team. I’m going to single out DGM again, ‘cuz he’s done an amazing job. (Now we just need to find out why he’s got a problem with his new computer / video card / driver combo…)  I don’t think that this means we have a lot less work to do – Frayed Knights is by far the biggest and most complex game I’ve ever worked on (including several hit and not-so-hit “mainstream” games).  There’s a lot of little moving parts to check, fix, and polish. But I hope this means things can progress quickly.

As a side not: one noteworthy change that you may notice from these screenshots (if you view them full size) is that they are in 1280 x 960 mode. Thanks to some efforts from Kevin (Xenovore), most of the UIs are all working in different resolutions. 1024 x 768 was barely acceptable for an indie title when I first started this project, but now with widescreen monitors becoming the norm, I really can’t get away with it anymore. Well, okay, sure, lots of indie games still are, but I can’t.

A third part of this final stretch – the flip side of “going Beta” –  is that it is a threshold that means it is time to do an awful lot of stuff that has nothing to do with finishing the game, but important stuff for releasing it. Marketing stuff.  Preparation for sales. Making it visible. Dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on all the licensing requirements I need to fulfill, as I’ve licensed a bit of content (and the underlying engine) for this game. I’m not complaining – it’s all fun in its own way (well, maybe not the licensing requirement part), and all part of the biz of being an indie.  While some of this has been part of the ongoing process, for me “going beta” means the light has turned green and the meter is running on all this other stuff.

An example: the Big Deal with this release is that I’ve now submitted Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon to Indiecade.  Just under the wire for the late submission deadline. I guess if we find anything too horrible in this build in the next 24 hours, I can resubmit with changes. There are plenty of things I wish I could have fixed before I sent it, but what I thought would only take me six hours managed to consume closer to twenty over the last weekend, so I had to go with what I had.

It’s all exciting stuff. I can’t wait to let you play it!


Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 37 Comments to Read



  • Crazyness66 said,

    Good job!
    I can barely wait to play your game, I have played the demo 4 months ago and it was awesome!
    I like when rpgs are funny, but impredictable funny. And that’s what attracts me towards your game.
    BTW, how much will it cost?

  • UDM said,

    And I can’t wait to play it too! Good luck for Indiecade dude.

  • Greg said,

    Congratulations! I’ve been following your blog for ages because your topics are interesting/entertaining and I’m looking forward to taking a swing at S’makh-Daon. Is it too late to volunteer to help with Beta?

  • getter77 said,

    Congrats, it is surely a title on my “To Buy” list that continues to spiral further into madness and the far flung future.

  • Ruber Eaglenest said,

    So when we could bring money to you to play it?
    And how much it will cost?
    What about preorders to get access to the beta?

    XD Man this is really good news.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I haven’t committed to the pre-order / early access thing. It doesn’t work quite as well with single-player / single-story RPGs. But I’ve definitely been considering it.

    We’re gonna have to see how beta goes over the next couple of weeks and see where we stand.

  • Corwin said,

    Great news. Can’t wait to play and review this for the Watch. Be sure we’ll help publicize your little gem.

  • McTeddy said,

    You can’t wait for us to play it huh…

    Well, good news! You don’t have to suffer through the wait… I think we are all happy to play it now in free downloadable form… you know… for research purposes and marketing… and… stuff.

    *Sigh*… it was worth a shot.

    Anyways, congratulations on making it to beta. It’s really shaping up and I’m looking forward to getting the chance to play it.

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Great news to hear! Congrats on reaching this milestone.

    Playing the pilot was what got me started following your blog in the first place, so it is exciting that the game is now this close to release!

    Good luck, we’re rooting for you!

  • Shaf said,

    Who did the title screen? Dirk looks different from his ingame portrait. Looking forward to this it’s been a long time since the last alpha.

  • Shaf said,

    Sorry ,

    Where are the Message Icons from? They remind me of “Awful Green things from Outer Space” from an old issue of Steve Jackson’s “Space Gamer” Magazine.

  • Xian said,

    OMG!!! Duke Nukem Forever released and Frayed Knights hits beta on the same day. Coincidence or sign of the end times?

    Congrats Jay. I hope you can get the rest of the issues worked out soon, though 100 is still a pretty big list to work on when it is a part time project. I still hope to buy my copy by year’s end :)

  • Mart said,

    Any chance of a pre-order?? :D

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Shaf – he’s scowling, but it’s the same artist who did the portraits. Shawn Boyles. Not sure what message icons you are talking about, but I do remember the board game of the Awful Green Things from Outer Space. TSR published it after it’s debut in Space Gamer.

    @Xian – I’m still 90% certain it’ll be out by years’ end. I just hope I get in before the November rush.

    @Mart – Maybe. But there are a few decisions to be made between then and now for that to happen.

    @LWR – I’m embarrassed by the pilot now, though if you play through the demo version of Frayed Knights (or the first part of the full version), it’s going to be hard to tell the difference unless you compare them back-to-back.

    @Others – as soon as I can. I’m starting to crash right now from lack of sleep, though. Ugh.

  • Bad Sector said,

    Congratulations for the beta :-).

    I can’t wait to play the game. And the new title screen clearly shows the characters :-)

  • Felix Pleșoianu said,

    Ah, a game isn’t a game unless the developers themselves can enjoy playing it, even after months of toiling.

    I ab-so-lute-ly love those screenshots. Thumbs up!

  • Braindead said,

    congrats man. like everyone above me I can’t wait to play the game :D
    love the new titlescreen btw, I really like the cartoony art direction you took.

  • Robert said,

    Congratulations.

    Can’t wait to play it. Good luck in the last stretch.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Glad some folks like the cartoony look. I know some folks really hate it and refuse to play it because of that… :P I think it helps set the expectation for the game – this game isn’t “playing it straight.”

  • Modran said,

    Wooohooo, glad to read that.

    Last stretch, go, go, go !!

  • Menigal said,

    Looks good. Can’t wait to play it!

    Congrats on your betahood.

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    Congrats!:) And… when will you be looking for new external beta testers? ;)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I already am, though we are adding them slowly – only one or two with each release. But if you are interested, email me. I’ve got a couple of *AWESOME* testers right now, who don’t seem close to running dry on issues to find yet, but it’s always useful to get a fresh perspective with each new build.

  • Shaf said,

    Jay Sorry not Message Icon, I mean graphics that appear in the blog comments.

    I thought the cover was the same artist , it’s just I’m used to seeing Dirk’s smile. I also love Benjamins Hair its so big.

  • name_here said,

    BETA!

  • Ed Maurina said,

    Modran already got in an woohoo, so let me dig for a sec…

    Ah, “Awesome Cakes!” Congratultions on this milestone. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy when it is finally available.

    The game looks and reads (your articles about design decisions, features, etc.) great. I’m looking forward to seeing how it has changed since I last played it (long ago when you did a test release of an early dungeon.)

    Again, Congrats!

  • Kimari said,

    Small recomendation: You might want to polish that title screen. The image is awesome, but the title and especially the menues look like they need some touching up.
    Yes, it’s in beta, I know, I just wanted to point it out, sheesh :P

    Other than that, congratulations on reaching beta!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Ah, nifty! Those were the parts I did that suck. The menu is fairly obvious, but what would you tweak about the titles?

  • Kimari said,

    Mmmmmhhh, well, there’s a dissonance between the background image and the titles….. that is, the titles look like they were done in less than 10 minutes while the image took more than a few hours.
    I mean, the first thought that comes to my head when I see the first screenshot is: If the artist was willing to draw such a detailed background image, then why did he spend what looks like less than 10 minutes tunning the title itself?
    It’s … devoid of detail, made with a not particularly embelished font and just filled with solid color or a gradient. Yes, it has shadows but I don’t think it helps matters much.
    Yes, I’m nitpicking, it’s not like it’s the most important part of the game per se, but when I see a not particularly well done title screen my hopes for a good game lower quite a bit. The presentation matters is what I’m saying, after all, many people judge the book by the cover :P

    If you have an artist at hand, then there you have your solution: Ask the artist to draw the title, chances are it’s going to look a hell of a lot nicer than the current incarnation.

    I’m just giving my two cents, mind you. I’m still going to buy this game even if the title screen was just a crude MS Paint drawing.

  • BM said,

    Yea, seriously, you artist is a good cartonist, but the tittle text looks horrible, just making the subheader (“The skull…” part) straight instead of angled and centering the whole thing would look 10X better. I am graphic designer so if you have just that tittle image without header text I’d be willing to mock something up for you in my down time to give you an idea of what can be done with it. Looking forward to the game though, have been since pilot, and it looks to be shaping up great.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Sure, if you want to send me something, please do… with permission to use it without restrictions. Email me at jayb at this website.

    I did the titles, and yeah, I admit to sucking, it just usually doesn’t contrast so bad against really good art I guess. :)

  • Indie RPG News Round-Up, June 2011 said,

    […] CommentsRampant Coyote on Frayed Knights TSoSD: FULL-ON BETA, BABY!Tesh on Shocker! Retail Game Sales Decrease, Digital Game Sales Increase!BM on Frayed Knights TSoSD: […]

  • Rubes said,

    Wow, awesome news! Very excited that you were able to submit to Indiecade, too. I always dreamed of submitting to that one day, but alas, there has always been something blocking progress. Great to see that you have stuck with this so well over the years.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    It’s the “years” part that embarrasses the hell out of me.

  • Rubes said,

    Don’t worry, man. I’ll always be there to make you look better.

  • Daniel King said,

    Well I hadn’t heard of this game till I read the “Rolling Your Own” article which briefly mentioned Frayed Knights for a party based game, after looking further into it this game looks great can’t wait to play! I’m currently replaying IWD in fact as I love party based games. :-)

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Woot! Something worked! I think this is called “marketing” or something! I’m glad you’ve now heard of my little game. Hope you like it! That was my feeling too – not enough party-based games out there anymore!

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