Dove | Saturday, February 26, 2022
Hey there, heroes!
With the disappearances of yet more students, Edelia is facing closure! It's up to you and your remaining friends to solve the mystery and save the school!
AdventureFriends 2 concludes with Day ???! Will you succeed and save Edelia and your friends? Or will you drown in the light? Will you find... an AdventureFriend?
There's only one way to find out!
You can play AdventureFriends 2: Edelia from the Book of Lore!
It's been an interesting few weeks with the AdventureFriends 2 project taking up longer than expected to finish. I think most people can understand why we're not exactly enthused by the amount of time it's taken to get these releases out. It's been stressful, and difficult, and we've learned a lot from this experience.
First, a comparison between last year's AdventureFriends, and this year's.
For Aspenvale Academy, we decided to go with something more humorous, leaning more on tropes and a completely separate world. While we had more characters, and had to build the system for AdventureFriends, it was still relatively easy to write, since there was a clear goal that we would then subvert.
With Edelia, however, we knew we wanted a more grounded mystery and story, with more meaningful connections to the world of DragonFable. This resulted in a lengthier story, to better establish the setting and characters, as well as a necessity for a solid plan of direction.
In anticipation of the increase of the writing burden, we decided very early on to reduce the number of students compared to last year, with four proposed at the start, as a sort of investigation club type story planned. However, this was increased to six students, as we felt more variety in students would be welcomed by players eager to see their favorites. This then necessitated splitting into groups, as six other students at all times would mean that some would invariably get left out.
As a result, the workload snowballed. What was originally going to be a single group, had to be split into multiple paths and options, and as we knew beforehand (and this project greatly emphasized), branching paths multiply dev time by a lot- and while there are players who enjoy having multiple paths to follow and replay, others may only stick to one, and then wonder why everything took so long.
I underestimated the sheer amount of writing that would be required, regardless. Trying to more strongly establish the setting and characters resulted in a much lengthier and stressful writing process than the previous year. Having the release split from the original release plan of Days 1, 2, 3 in week one and Days 4 and ??? in week two into Day 1 in week one, 2, 3, 4 in week two, and then ??? in week three also ended up adding some additional stress. By the end of week one, we had the scripts finished for Days 1, 2, and 3, but didn't have time to flesh them out. We had a dilemma. Do we scrap days 2 and 3 and try to finish the story in a much quicker, truncated fashion (total of 2 days, for example), or do we push on and potentially see three weeks of release instead of hte planned two?
We knew taking up three weeks would not be an entirely popular choice, and it was a last resort, even then. It was not something we planned to do, or wanted to do, but we'd rather finish a release as intended than cut it short and dismiss it.
Were we to attempt another AdventureFriends, the script would most certainly have to be outlined, established, finalized, and even written, earlier. To use our usual workflow would not be sustainable in this case. We simply cannot do this and maintain the quality that we, and you, expect.
They say you're your own worst critic, and looking back, there's so much I feel I could have written better, or outlined or paced better. Between rushing to try to get the script done to try to limit the release to two weeks, the stress and pressure of trying to make it as good as possible, and it being more ambitious than AdventureFriends 1, I've learned a lot about my limits as a writer. I've also learned that I need more practice with descriptive writing! I'm proud of my dialogue (and even that can always be improved), but painting scenes with words is a skill that I need to work on, especially in AdventureFriends, where I can't always lean on Dove's incredible animations and backgrounds.
That said, overall, thanks to Dove's awesome art, expression work, and animations, as well as Dracelix and Darkon's help, I'm satisfied with how AdventureFriends 2 turned out. I wish we could have managed to bring it down to two weeks, rather than three, but to do so would have forced us to work and crunch longer hours than acceptable. Health comes first!
We do have plans to try to squeeze in a double main story month in the upcoming months to make up for the missing month here. I'm also disappointed in the loss of a Reimagined release, as I'm very eager to get the Book 3 Reimagined project finished. But we've definitely learned our lessons. We're most likely going to be taking a break from AdventureFriends next year.
Earlier this week, I asked on Twitter if anyone had questions about AF2, and I'd like to respond to them here!
From @T_JiaLe98: There's obviously a lot more mixed reviews for AF2 as compared to AF1 which was mostly positive. Where do you think went wrong?
As stated above, an underestimation of the amount of planning required, as well as being stressed and pressured for time when writing led to some pacing and quality issues. Having only Day 1 release on the first week, instead of Days 1, 2, and 3, also probably disappointed some people due to the short length. A number of players were also disapoointed that the seasonal releases would take up all of February, which is completely understandable, as it meant sidelining other things that players were looking forward to, which again immediately tarnishes their view of these releases. It was a difficult decision to make, but forcing it into two weeks would have been too much for us to handle.
From @italotobler: How does the player activity compare with the numbers after a regular release? I saw other people from AE talking about the release, does that bring in more people to the game than usual?
I'm not a fan of metrics, and we always prioritize doing things we're passionate about or have fun with over projects that have better "numbers". That said, it's always interesting to look at metrics with context. The AdventureFriends releases saw an increase in social media and community interaction, which is always fun, and brings the community closer together, as well as spreading the word about DragonFable. As for the releases themselves, AF2 was played by about the normal number of players who do side content. Regardless of if it brought people into the game or not, the experience was worth it for us to learn lessons and practice!
From @TFSthegreat: Do you pick the DF characters first and then write character archetypes that would fit them, or vice versa? Was the popularity of AF1 last year a factor in dedicating a month to AF2? Why does Secundus only wear one pair of glasses?
A little bit of both! We have a good idea of who players may want to see, so for AF2 we made a shortlist of characters that I then chose from. The shortlist was trimmed, first, though, since not all characters would be appropriate for whatever reason. From there, I think about the characters and how they may have acted in another world/time. For example, Valen, if spoilers didn't happen, or things happened differently. Or I would sketch out a personality that I felt would fit the character design- such as Fae's, in this case.
I think it would be dishonest to say that AF1's popularity didn't affect this year's ambitious development. However, we really wanted this to be two weeks, rather than three. Moving to three weeks was more of us wanting to see this through to a satisfying conclusion, mistakes or no.
Dr. Secundus has only one pair of glasses because it's funny.
From @CatsAhoy2847: What are some of your favourite character designs from AF2? What were some of the hardest things to implement in recent releases? What's your favourite type of Interaction or mechanic to code?
I think most people love Fae's design! She's definitely my favorite. But Dove did an awesome job designing all of the characters to fit the adjectives and descriptions I gave him.
If it wasn't obvious yet, the hardest thing to do was writing the script. These past few weeks have been way more stressful than I'd like, and have brought to the fore the deficiencies in our breakneck release pace.
Hmm. I like coding anything that catches my interest, as silly as it sounds. Some days, that's boss mechanics, other days, it's behind the scenes engine stuff. And yet other days, it's new systems, like the sailing minigame!
From @codex_astral: How much work was AF2 versus normal releases? How does it compare to the four normal types of releases: Inn/Main Story/Side Story/Reimagined?
An interesting question. Week 1 was definitely on the high side in terms of workload due to the number of art assets required. After that, writing was the biggest bottleneck. These scripts are multiple times longer than our usual, with branching paths and other coding needing to be done as well. Comparing it to the four normal release types isn't entirely possible. It's a different kind of art/animation, and while there's much more emphasis from me on writing compared to the others, there's also relatively less coding required. I'd say these are definitely among the more demanding releases in a while, though.
From @ValothDissidia: Did you guys ever consider of adding any kind of "boss fight" or anything to this? Because this one, if anything, seemed like it could've even fit the usual DragonFable-style good old boss fight to this. Also... will this trend be continuing?
That was actually something we strongly considered, but given the amount of work needed to just finish the story, we didn't have time for it. It was more of a "stretch goal", but we were already stretched too far. As for if this uh, trend will be continuing? I don't think we ever want to do another (nor did we want to this time) three week seasonal event. And we always try to fit in combat and such when we can, even perhaps to our detriment sometimes (hence why I asked a while ago if people would be okay with cutscene only quests). But I definitely think we should fit in combat where we can.
From @hanlobosrokan: I enjoy the absurd narrative of Adventure Friends (both 1 and 2) compared to boss designs in Dreamscape because they like short but nice return to form for Dragonfable. What do you feel about including more stories like these in seasonal/side content in the future?
I think we can definitely explore these sorts of outlandish themes more for sure. However, the visual novel format will need us to reassess how we approach and plan for it. We can't do another one on this scale without first changing up how we plan and assess these projects.
From @Xeroxyx1: would you ever consider making a small game if another AF was to be made? (like how there was the smaller projects like pony vs pony from the game challenge) would you ever consider making the endings from AF/2 a canon, changable choice (a la notha/uaanta choice from Reckoning)?
We were kind of pushed to our limits as is with these AF releases. Unfortunately, we don't quite have the time to do separate projects, since our releases take a lot from us each week.
Regarding the canonicity of AF, I personally don't want to make anything in seasonal events too necessary to the main story/canon. Otherwise, players will be forced to wait up to a year, or shell out for a storybook collection in order to get the whole story. Which really isn't that great, and something I'd rather avoid (hence why the Lock & Key quests were made un-seasonal when they became relevant to the Maleurous storyline).
Phew, and that's the questions answered. I hope it wasn't too bad of a read, and provided some insight into "what happened" with AdventureFriends 2: Edelia.
Also this week, we have a number of special AdventureFriends 2 themed cosmetic items for sale for Dragon Coins and gold!
Check them out by completing AdventureFriends 2!
Also, it's the final week for the February Dragon Coin specials! Make sure to check them out in the Book of Lore before they leave!
And that's all for now! As always, we look forward to reading your feedback, and thank you for playing DragonFable!
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