Here it is, our (almost) spoiler-free, condensed vision for Witchfire. The things we will be working on until we reach 1.0.
This vision is an amalgam of two different thoughts. One is ours, the designs we cook up and the worlds we want to bring to life. The other is yours, the players. We said it many times before that Early Access only makes sense if the players influence the development, and this is exactly what is happening.
Are you curious what is it that you’ve influenced?
You might think that maybe it’s the way the progression works in the game, because yeah, we will be changing that. Or the Calamities, our big unique battles against the worst of the witch’s undead hordes, the feature we were so proud of, and one that turned out to be a pain in the ass rather than an exciting spectacle? Because while they’re here to stay, we’re definitely changing some stuff around them.
But no, that’s not it.
I mean, that’s it, of course, we’re tweaking and updating the above and more due to your feedback – but honestly it’s also something that proper testing would have revealed as well. We’ve tested the game for bugs and hardware compatibility and such, but we didn’t really test it for the experience. If we did – and we would if we were not doing Early Access – I’m fairly certain we would have caught the issues.
So yeah, while the regular feedback is important, there’s also something else at play here, something that’s exclusive to Early Access. And that thing is the feedback that comes with dozens of hours of play experienced in the way you really experience games: without supervision.
Standard playtesting won’t give you the same results. You experience a game differently when you play it in the comfort of your own home, with sessions as short or long as you want them to be, and breaks similarly totally up to you. For example, when you don’t feel limited in any way, you might want to focus less on the main goal of the game and just enjoy slow and steady grind or half an hour of mindlessly clicking heads just before the sleep.
All my experience tells me clearly that some of the feedback we’re getting is possible only because of the Early Access, and good old regular playtesting would have not revealed these things. Such feedback will result in a better game, plain and simple. No wonder that some of the best indie studios keep using the Early Access approach even for sequels of their highly successful originals.
To give you an actual example of the feedback I’m talking about here: we always thought that what you do during the gameplay will be treated as means to an end. Meanwhile, for a lot of players it’s about the journey and not the destination. With the solid gunplay and core combat loop it’s just fun to be on an expedition and do things, ignoring the Familiar altogether. Is there anything we can do to support such approach?
Oh, for sure. And we will.
As for the roadmap itself, a couple of things to bear in mind:
One, we’ve never done this before. But we did check out some roadmaps from well known and higher profile indie projects of the past and present and did our best to be on the same level. But it’s clear that this roadmap is just the first draft, and we will be publishing updated versions with each significant update. You will recognize an update is not a regular patch when it also has a codename and not just a number.
Two, we are keeping things vague not because we don’t know the answers but because we don’t want to spoil the surprises. We literally have all guns already modelled but you wouldn’t want us to post a screenshot for every single one, would you? We have all the Familiars designed, but wouldn’t it be cooler to be surprised by them during an expedition?
Witchfire is a game of mystery, and we believe we should keep that vibe even in our development posts.
Three, a question often asked is how frequent will the bigger updates (ones that add features and content) drop. And the answer is …we don’t know. We aim for two months between the updates but if we can keep it up or maybe even speed up if the team grows, we don’t know.
You have seen and hopefully played the game, so you know that Witchfire features visuals that just cannot be done quickly. A new enemy model of the quality we demand is two months of work and cannot be sped up by having five character artists working on the same model 😉 So while the game’s graphics are something we are very proud of, they come with a price: they just take time to create.
Other than this, well, at the moment we’re twelve people. We hope to grow soon and will be looking for level artists in particular, but still. That’s half the team that made Painkiller, and that was in 2002-2004.
After each fatter update we will devote the necessary time (anything between one and two weeks is our estimation) for bugfixing and smaller updates, and then we will go back to basement and throw away the key until the next big update.
Four, and last but not least, any of the below may change. We are here to make the best game possible, and if half a year from now we will see that a thing from the roadmap needs to be killed or replaced with something else, we will do it without hesitation. Well, maybe with a little hesitation but still, we will do it.
Witch Mountain (big raid level with its own gameplay rules)
Out of all these, it’s most likely that a part of Witch Mountain will make it to the game first. Here’s a teaser (choose 4K to see anything) but please remember this is a work in progress.
At least 6 Bosses: 5 Familiars and the Witch (2 Familiars currently)
At least 46 enemy types (22 enemy types currently)
At least 31 weapons (7 currently)
At least 24 Magical Items (9 currently)
At least 20 Spells (9 currently)
TBD number of new:
NPCs (currently zero, but that will change soon)
High Priority Tasks
Our current focus is on two areas:
The first big update, codename GGU. Planned for the second half of November but may slip to December if it needs to: we’d rather delay than cut the scope. We want this update to be the reason for people who played the launch version of Witchfire inside out to rediscover the game and have some fresh fun with both new and old but re-imagined elements.
Changes to the core structure without breaking the game’s spine. Without going into details, we are redesigning and/or rebalancing three core elements of the game:
Levelling up connected to the difficulty. We’re not killing the feature, we think it makes sense that the witch reacts to the preyer’s growth. But it certainly needs both rebalancing and a new approach, where at least some of it is directly connected to the preyer’s achievements. We know how to do it and the whole thing will be a subject of a future blog post. It’s a fascinating topic and design challenge.
Calamities. As above, solved on paper but we need to “just” implement all the solutions that will make Calamities great. For one, the player will have much more control over when they happen. But there’s more to do here – working on it.
Arcana. Arcana versus the rest of the gameplay need a shot in the arm.
Long Term Goals
There is some lore in the environmental storytelling and item descriptions but there’s much more planned in the area. We know you want it, we want it, and it will be done. Witchfire is closer to an immersion sim than to an arcade shooter and its world and the story are important.
Vertical and Horizontal Updates and Features
Witchfire you’re playing now is not the final Witchfire, just smaller. What we want to add to the game is not just more levels, more enemies, and more gear. We have so much planned that we will have to kill half of it if we are to release the game in a reasonable timeframe (which is about 12-18 months from now, but again, that’s nothing but a guesstimation as it depends on many factors, like if the sales will allow us to grow the team quickly – for now we’re on track, so fingers crossed).
A list of things we’re working on includes more directed events, brain activities, unique boosters, Shadow Orbs and Shadow Cube feature, sandbox modifiers like game-changing Blessings or haunts, hidden areas and mirages, mid-run objectives, findables and collectibles, mini-quests and new resources, light metroidvania elements, much stronger investment into the “Insight” part of the mythology and its gameplay implications – and more.
Yeah… We’ll be busy.
Witchfire is a challenging game. We don’t want to change that. However, we think that the opening hours can simply be better. Not easier. Better. Why not give the new player three guns to choose from? Why not make starting subclasses that offer drastically different stat distribution? Should the player have a spell right away? We are looking for answers to these questions and more, and we will keep on improving the initial hours.
Optimizations and QoL
We are proud of how Witchfire is optimized, it can run even on GTX 660… Still, that is a task that never ends and we constantly make it easier on your CPU and GPU. Same level of support goes to Quality of Life updates. We’ve done many of these already, like ultra-widescreen support, ADS modifier, customizable postprocess effects, etc. — but we have more planned. Including Accessibility options, of course.
If you like Witchfire, we hope we’ve managed to earn a bit of your trust with the game and its features. And so we say with confidence that it will only get better with the changes we have planned.
If you were annoyed by something in the game, we heard you and are working on it, that’s the beauty of the Early Access.
Here’s our closing comment. As mentioned earlier, Early Access offers feedback that would be impossible to get from the regular playtesting. But there’s also one more benefit. Quoting Jaz, our sound designer…
Knowing people are having fun is completely different to hoping people will enjoy themselves while playing. We know we are on the right track, and that fills us with energy and excitement.
For now, please enjoy Witchfire in its current incarnation. That experience will be refreshed and changed in a few critical spots when the GGU patch arrives. So if you have the game and haven’t played it yet, consider doing so – as it will never be this way again.