“I won’t be able to squeeze that in” – said the programmer.
“But it’s crucial it’s done. I cannot imagine the game without it.” – I replied.
This went on for a while. I really wanted – no, needed! – a certain feature in the game. In my mind, it significantly enhanced the experience. Initially, the programmer was not convinced. He came around, eventually, but it didn’t change the fact he had more than enough on his plate. Just didn’t have the time to implement the feature.
I wanted to take a look at this list of tasks and maybe kill something to make space for the new thing. But then it hit me. This is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last seven years. Designing new features, implementing them, making the game better. But on September 20th, we’re not releasing the game, are we? We’re releasing the Early Access version of the game. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
It shouldn’t be perfect.
What do I mean by that?
What is the point of Early Access? Is it to get money to keep the studio alive and keep working on the game? For some studios, maybe, sure. For ours as well, but more to keep us 100% independent.
There is a more important reason for us, though. For us, and of course to many others as well. And that reason to go with Early Access is to make the best game possible before it’s released.
We’ve done the classic development before. We’ve done that with games like Painkiller or Bulletstorm or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. But Early Access is an exciting new direction. Imagine: you make the best game you can, just as if this was the typical development process. But then, when all the core systems are in, but before the game is fully cooked and thus is still relatively easy to change, you give it to the players to toy with.
If the skeleton of your game is good, now you have a community that is full of testers and designers, critics and advisers. You have your own data and analyses, but you also get so much more.
Let me make a case for it from another perspective. All game developers worth their salt know that play-testing is crucial and should be done as many times as possible during the development of the project. What is an Early Access if not this, just on a much larger scale, and with much greater variety and overall quality of feedback?
The only way Early Access makes sense to me is if the players can make a good game even better. Looking at the history of some games that spent a year or so in the Early Access, I think it’s absolutely possible. Expected, even.
So yeah, I let go. “We’ll do it later”, I said, “Or maybe we won’t, because Early Access shows to us that it’s not needed or that it needs to be slightly different anyway”.
We have, I believe, a decent strong core to let you play with on September 20th. It’s not Witchfire as it would be if we were 100% on our own until the end. But it’s good enough for the beginning of the road that from the release day onwards, we’ll travel together.
I’m sure you have questions. So here are some answers.
It all begins September 20th 2023 with the Early Access version that is exclusive to Epic Game Store. After a year or so, we will bring the game to other PC platforms. We also hope to release the final game on consoles, of course.
$39.99 is the base US price that other local prices will be based on, most likely according Epic Games Store default recommendations. For example, currently that translates to 35,99€. Please note these local pricings might change. Since this is an Early Access game, there are no pre-orders and you will see the price for your region only when the game launches.
How is the roguelite aspect of the game?
It’s a game for people who love roguelites but, interestingly enough, it’s also a roguelite for people who hate roguelites. How is that possible?
A part of the answer is in the name: people often confuse the two, but roguelites are not roguelikes. Long story short, not everything is lost when you die. Each run can have a purpose other than learning the game. There are rewards that don’t disappear when you die. You can grow even after a failed run.
But that’s just the beginning. We’ve done …things. Our hope is to release a video explaining the gameplay loop closer to the release.
How much content is in the Early Access version?
It is a tricky question to answer. Let’s take number of weapons for example. If we say there’s seven weapons, is it a lot or is it not enough? For a game in the Borderlands series, it would be shockingly low. But for a game like Doom Eternal, the full version of which features fourteen weapons, that would be a lot. Half of the game, basically.
So let us just say the goal is to deliver enough content so you are satisfied and feel the game was worth the money even in the Early Access form.
I would love to see that screen at the end released as a nice wallpaper to make the wait more bearable ;)
Question to the development team: how are you related to Painkiller series? It would be interesting to know more about your origins.
The three owners of The Astronauts are the same three guys who founded People Can Fly in 2002. We stayed at PCF for ten years, until 2012. Our first game was, indeed, Painkiller.
Adrian (Chmielarz) was the Creative Director on Painkiller, basically designed the game. Michał (Kosieradzki) was the particle guru, soloing the entire special effects content, but he also made tons of 3D enemy models and animated them. Andrzej (Poznański) was a Lead Level Designer but he also optimized the graphics, so you can consider him our Technical Art Lead as well.
The first ever Witchfire trailer had a horror vibe atmosphere in it, has that completely been scrapped akin to the new and recent trailers or are there parts of the game that keep the horror atmosphere the first ever teaser Witchfire trailer had?
The 2017 Witchfire teaser from Game Awards was 90% walking, 10% shooting. More recent trailers are 10% walking, 90% shooting. Neither of these represented the game well.
But rest assured that nothing has changed. Witchfire is still a dark fantasy shooter, with the emphasis on dark. There will be fear. Here will be horror. There will be story. And there is a point to all this shooting, and the game is much more than this anyway.
Look at this image. This is Witchfire.
Will there be a new game plus?
A perfect thing to figure out during the Early Access. Today, we are leaning towards yes.
If it’s no longer a linear experience, how big is the map?
A single map is more or less the size of the entire world of our previous game, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. We will have two maps for the Early Access launch.
Will there be an RPG side to it? (Inventory, Lore, NPCs, Towns?)
There is an RPG side to the game, yes. Inventory, lore, unlocking powers, builds, etc. And we do have a story to tell. But I would not expect many NPCs. The witch fully controls her land, and our preyer is the only person who can survive there.
I enjoy aiming down sights occasionally, but I prefer the oldschool feel of just moving and hipfiring when possible. In general, how necessary is it to ADS if you aren’t going for a headshot on something?
ADS extends the range of your insta-hit weapons. It does not affect the projectile-based ones like the crossbow. But there is no accuracy penalty for shooting from the hip. We figured that if you can headshot the enemy from the hip, good for you. That is hard enough and a proper challenge in itself, so no need for any extra penalties.
Actually, some weapons — not the ones for the Early Access launch, though — benefit from hip-firing.
Will an Early Access roadmap be made available following the initial EA launch, and if so, in what form?
Yes, working on that. In the form of a post on this website, but we will try to put it into the store page as well.
Will there be proper controller support at launch?
How long is the game planned to be in Early Access?
About a year, maybe a couple of extra months more – but that’s it. We don’t plan on dragging it forever.
Out of run character progression? Like ability to make guns better and upgradable skills and such.
Oh yes. Yes.
What are the long term plans for supporting the game?
This is our baby. Seven years of our lives already. We’ll be doing everything we can to make it the best game possible. The post-release updates will stop only when we are all fully satisfied with the results.
Is going pistol/revolver only an option?
Absolutely not. You do start with the revolver, at least in the Early Access Launch version, but then you are able to obtain other types of guns.
EDIT: Oops, seems like we have misunderstood the question. Yes, going e.g. revolvers-only is a legit option. Your loadout is your choice.
Anything on how elemental damage will work? Like, will guns be able to do elemental damage, are there special interactions between elements, and so on?
Burning enemies receive more damage.
Shocked enemies produce a damaging bolt when we hurt them, spreading the Shock around.
Frozen enemies are, well, frozen.
Decaying enemies lose health over time.
Elements interact. Apply Decay spell onto the enemy. They start to “bleed”, losing health. Shoot them with the Shock weapon and hide. While you chill behind a wall, with each tick of damage, the enemy automatically sends out a bolt, hurting all his nearby allies and spreading Shock around.
This kind of thing.
What kind of accessibility options do you think you’ll be shipping with the EA/full game?
We think the current push for a wide range of accessibility options is fantastic. Some of these options – like Enemy Visibility Boost or the option to remap keys and buttons – are available at launch, but we will deal with more during the Early Access.
Will your game have an FOV slider?
Can I pause/quit during a run and come back later?
Yes. Actually, just when you enter the menus, the action pauses.
Quit mid-run then resume it, though? No.
Will there be any kind of co-op multiplayer, whether on launch or planned as a future update, or is this a single player experience only?
For now and possibly forever this is a single player game. There is a very slight chance we will attempt to do co-op, but please do not count on it. Witchfire works very well as a Single Player experience and we’re not sure if we want to risk destroying that feeling. Apart from all the potential technical challenges of co-op, of course.
Very curious to hear about music in support to on screen action… Wishing you the best.
We will make a separate post on the music. It’s a fascinating subject. We had serious trouble making the music work with our constantly-changing action and without making a dynamic music system. Then one day a certain big game came along and featured a unique solution we have basically copied. And it works wonders.
Give option to remove those dmg numbers!
Centered crosshair please.
Up to you, you can change it in the options.
We do believe that lowered crosshair is better, tough, especially for a PVE game. Debatable for PVP, but Witchfire is PVE. Seriously, give it a try before you switch to Centered. If Lowered is the default, that is. We’re still weighing pros and cons.
That’s all for now, folks. Expect the Gameplay Overview Video soon, and more details on the road map. If you have any other questions, you know where to find us.