Ratopia DevDiary #20 - Early Access Retrospective

1 Nov 2023
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Hello all, it's Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>. 

It's already 20th DevDiary of Ratopia! Time really flies.

This month was especially busy with making and updating PV, Trailers , and Demo.

Fortunately, they were all done in time and now I am just hoping that there would be no big issues.

With that, in this diary I decided to remorse the development of Ratopia.

Ratopia Development Diary

Game development was both my dream and joy. Growing up with games since childhood, I was captivated by the fun that games could provide. I admired the developers who offered this joy and chose my academic and career paths with the aspiration of becoming someone who could also provide pleasure to others through game development.

There were many trials and errors. I came to realize that game development truly requires a lot of time and passion. Creating universal enjoyment was never easy, and there were times when I faced situations where I thought I might have to give up on indie game development. However, almost miraculously, what I thought would be the last work, <Ratropolis>, garnered the interest and support of many users and streamers.

I was extremely thrilled when I heard the game was on live-streaming

Thanks to this, despite the limitations, I got another opportunity to develop a game. I deliberated a lot about what kind of game I should create with this precious chance. After much contemplation, I decided to create a game that I had wanted to make since childhood. It was a sandbox construction/management simulation game where you could create a city to your own taste.

Simulation genre is vast in its system, and it was a genre I had been hesitant to develop due to its complexity. However, I felt that if not now, when the team's morale was boosted by <Ratropolis>, the opportunity to develop such a genre might never come again. Additionally, due to COVID at the time, I became greatly interested in economics, and I believed that if I could integrate economic elements well into the game, it could lead to its success.

First concept arts of <Ratopia>

It was a significant challenge for a small team like ours, which meant we needed to develop under a clear objective and plan. So, I listed out the content and features that needed to be added to the game using mind maps and set the development schedule in line with significant milestones like prototype development, demo version release, participation in exhibitions, crowdfunding, and early access.

Excitedly, we embarked on the development journey with this roadmap. However, the first year presented numerous challenges due to the unrefined state. Delays in development progress while reviewing technology led to imbalances and confusion among team members. The extended development period and the immense workload constantly made me question if I could see this marathon through to its end.

However, these entangled thoughts began to untangle a bit as we started writing the development diary. Despite being in the early stages and the game looking very much in its infancy, I met people who wholeheartedly guided and cheered for us on our path. This support gave me the strength to keep moving forward, step by step.

You can check the details of each on the other DevDiaries.

During the course of development, we faced yet another unexpected crisis. While I had set our schedule generously, anticipating unforeseen situations, the introduction of new features led to numerous conflicts. The cascading bugs that emerged from these clashes exceeded our expectations.

Although features were developed according to the schedule, they fell short of desired level of completion. Correcting and improving upon an average of 20 items daily meant there wasn’t enough time to sufficiently test the gameplay and integrate new content that utilized these features.

Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have talented members join the team to assist with the development. Thanks to the diligent efforts of these team members, we were able to save a lot of time and accelerate the development process. Though it seemed we were close to resolving the issues, the development still did not progress to a point where we were fully satisfied. At this juncture, one might say our ambitions for perfection were too high, or perhaps we had overestimated our capabilities when setting the initial plan.

Bugs, bugs never change

I was faced with three choices amidst the crisis:

  1. Sacrifice some content to increase the volume and completeness of others.
  2. Offer a variety of content types as intended, but at the expense of their volume and completeness.
  3. Delay the release schedule to ensure a variety of content, volume, and completion.

Making a decision was tough, prompting me to introspect. Despite our lack of immense development capability and substantial funds, I had high aspirations for completeness. However, even if I felt we had perfected certain content, I wasn't entirely confident that general users would appreciate it.

Given the situation, it seemed apt to release a variety of content types promptly, even if they lacked in volume and polish. This way, we could gather feedback and refine based on what the users favored. Hence, we decided to bypass the time-consuming systems in both development and maintenance, prioritizing the speedy preparation of the diverse content we had aimed for.

Content Left Behind Due to Time Constraints

Although it's regrettable that we couldn't produce the volume of content I initially intended and even the content we did prepare was somewhat limited, we managed to lay the foundation for easy addition of future content and enhance development efficiency. After the early access release, we plan to quickly address these shortcomings, guiding our development based on user feedback and preferences. Currently, we anticipate over 20 tasks, and after the release, we intend to gather user opinions via Discord. 

Industrial Structures - Structures to boost the productions

Improved Biomes - New organisms and naturalistic spawns

Workshop support - Function to apply user mods

Improved Customization - Many more decorative items to decorate the characters

Additional leader skills - 9 more skills that the player can use

Additional mini games - Mini games on fishing, arresting, and playing cards

Additional bosses - Giant creatures that can found in Desert, Marine, and Volcanic biomes

Volcanic Biomes - New biome that can be found underground and new resources in it

Improved Invasions - Lizards invasion in the end game and improved defense mechanisms

Inflation - Value changes on supply, consumption, and Monetary supplies

Improved exploration and diplomacy - New methods and systems to get additional resources

Improved pastures - New mechanics to grow animals

Improved Events - More events with more cutscenes

Campaign mode - Original events with scenarios that the player can follow

Improved Seasons - Weather and environmental changes with new events due to season changes

Additional Languages - More langues to support

Improved QoL - Solving control malfunctions and mis-understandable features

Improved Guideline- Additional tutorials for every untold functions

Improved Start Settings- Setting a starting biome and sharing map seeds

Console porting - Support Playstation, X-Box, and Nintendo Switch

Endless Content We Wanted to Add! 

Writing this development log has given us a moment to reflect on the grace of those who provided us with the opportunity and environment for game development. The three years feel incredibly meaningful, and regardless of the game's outcome, it seems like an extremely precious time. We will consistently improve to ensure that our game becomes a part of history, just like other games that instilled the dream of becoming a game developer in us!

We have about a week left until the early access release. Apart from inspecting the game, there are scattered tasks like promotions and streamlining communication channels which make it feel like a hectic week ahead. We humbly request your continued support until the end, and we look forward to seeing you on November 6th for the early access release!

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2244130/Ratopia/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CasselGames/

X (Twitter): https://twitter.com/CasselGames

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