Nearing Release

Sent out this newsletter just now:


Hey Defender's Quest Fans!

We've got some news!

The game is basically finished - while we clean up a few things on the technical side, we're waiting on our lawyer to finish the paperwork that will allow us to legally sell the game. The minute that's done, we can put the game up for sale. We don't know exactly when that will be, but from the looks of it'll probably be a week or so, pushing release back to January.

On the development side, we've been having a REALLY successful pre-release test, and fixing lots of bugs and balance issues. The game is very nearly ready.  All that's left is to fix a few remaining bugs and tie up some loose ends, and then verify that the build is stable.

To that end, we have the goal of producing a "release candidate" build of the game before the end of this week.

A "release candidate" is a special build of the game that we release to our testers and REFUSE TO TOUCH while testers do their best to break it.  That's because every time we fix a bug or add a feature, we might accidentally introduce a new bug, so we can't release a build to the public that's been modified recently.  So, after several days of solid testing, if our release candidate survives, we can be reasonably sure that it's ready to present to the public at large.

Seeing as most of our team members are going to visit their parents for the holidays, we'll be unable to work on the game for a period of about 3 or 4 days. This is the perfect time for any testers looking for something to do over the break to have a crack at our release candidate. When we come back, we'll check the bug reports, and if there's no significant problems, we will have officially "gone gold," as they say in the indstury.

Hopefully our lawyer will be done with our paperwork by then and we can open our doors for business!

As we said before, this initial release will be a "beta" release at the discounted price of $6.99, but all you newsletter subscribers will be able to buy it for $4.99 with the coupon code I'll send you.

We'll be checking in again real soon!

Lars Doucet
Level Up Labs

News! Facebook and Google+ Pages!

Just sent out this newsletter:

Hey there Defender's quest fans!

First of all, a huge thank-you goes out to everyone who signed up for the pre-release test. We've gotten some really great feedback and have uncovered (and eliminated!) many crucial bugs. If you haven't signed up for the test but are still interested, we're still taking volunteers:

As a reminder, if you want to see the game in its best state, I'd recommend waiting until it comes out :) Sign up for testing if you don't mind braving bugs and unfinished content.

NEXT, we've set up a facebook page and google+ page! We'll be updating them as time goes on (just bare bones for now), so please "like" / "+1" us and tell all your friends about the game!

Speaking of the game's release, we're very nearly there!  Only a few minor things are left to do - here's what we're working on:

-Proof-reading grammar and spelling
-Finishing up some cutscenes
-Adding some missing art
-Balancing the last batch of levels
-Adding sound effects
-Fixing as many bugs as testers can uncover

All three builds (Mac/Windows/Linux) seem to be installing and running smoothly, but we could always use some more Mac and Linux testers to make sure, as the majority of our testers are running Windows. So if you run Mac or Linux and haven't signed up for the test, we'd love to have you!

We are very close to release - we're in the process of setting up our online store and contacting distribution partners like Steam/Desura/Impulse, etc.

We can't announce the official release date yet, but it should be soon! We will let you know as soon as the game goes Gold.

Thanks for everything!

News! Calling for Testers!

Just sent this newsletter out today:


Hey Defender's Quest fans!

First, thanks so much for being patient with us as we prepare for our preliminary "Beta Launch" this month, at a special discounted price of $6.99 ($4.99 for you newsletter subscribers!)

(We're getting very close - things are coming together and as we approach release we will send out frequent updates.)

Second, thanks to everyone who sent in their save files. We have waaaaaay more than we need at this point! You guys are awesome.

Third, thanks to everyone who sent us e-mails of encouragement and support. It's really great to hear from you, and nothing motivates us quite like hearing that you guys can't wait until our game comes out! Our only hope is to meet (and hopefully exceed) your expectations :)

Fourth, some people were wondering why they hadn't received a coupon code yet. We haven't sent them out yet :) Those will be sent over the newsletter at the same time as the Beta Launch.

Fifth, on to other business:

We don't have a specific date to announce just yet, but we can say that we're veeeery close. All that's left right now is bug-fixing, balancing, and plugging in art for a few cutscenes. To that end, we'd like to recruit some of you to help us test the game before we launch. If you want to VOLUNTEER to be a tester, send an email to and put "TEST VOLUNTEER" in the subject line and we'll hook you up with the latest builds of the full version of the game.


Now, let me explain real quick - if you volunteer to test the game, you'll be seeing an incomplete version of it. If your motivation for testing is just to play the game sooner, I STRONGLY recommend just waiting until it comes out - testing games is not always fun. The final version will be much better than any unfinished test version we can provide you with right now.

If your motivation is to help us make the game better, and you don't mind braving bugs, unbalanced levels, and a few rough, unfinished, cutscenes, then by all means sign up! We appreciate anyone who volunteers their time and effort to help us make the game better.

So, here are some basic guidelines for being a tester. If we provide you with a test copy, you agree to:

1) NOT re-post it anywhere or otherwise share it with people
2) Thoroughly test the game and look for bugs, glitches, balance issues, etc.
3) Provide us with useful and detailed written test reports (we'll give you templates and instructions)
4) Give us complete permission to use any information, ideas, data, or anything else you share with us

The main things we're looking to discover through testing:

1) Obscure technical details -
Does the game work on old computers? Does it crash on Linux? Does it run slow on Mac? Does it fullscreen properly on a netbook? Does it break on dual monitor set-ups?

2) Bugs - when and where does it crash, break, or otherwise screw up?

3) Balance - let us know when and where the game throws you up against an insane difficulty wall or suddenly becomes way too easy.

Here's some things we're NOT looking for in testing, because it's way too late in the game to address now:

1) Cool ideas for new features
2) Revisions to the story
3) Art style changes

Thanks for everything! We'll be sending out more updates as we get closer to launch, so stay tuned! And of course, if you don't like getting these newsletters, feel free to unsubscribe using the link at the bottom.

Lars Doucet
Level Up Labs, LLC

New Art Style

Let's talk a bit about the new art style we've been trying out.  The biggest weakness we have right now is that the team doesn't have a dedicated artist.  I (Lars) consider myself a half-decent artist, but I've been so busy programming, blogging, running around putting out fires, etc, that I have very little time to dedicate to art at this stage of the project.  

We initially assumed that we could just get away with using me for both jobs, but that's something we won't be doing again.  Next project - dedicated artist for sure.  

So, a few weeks ago we took a good look at our art style and decided to make some changes.  Our goals:

1. Make something we're happy with
2. Create backgrounds that don't look like barf
3. Make the characters more expressive

Nothing good needs to be said about the old backgrounds. They're hideous, and they're all being replaced:

The old art style just clashed and was honestly something really thrown together while we focused on other parts of the game. The new style is simple, clean, and works well with the new character style.

As for the characters, the old art style was a collaboration between myself and our writer, James - he designed the characters and then I did some cleanup work, shading, etc. In the end, this not only took too much time, but had mediocre results (which I'll take the blame for).  Although I'm partial to the comic-book style with outlines and shading, it takes way too long, and is prone to errors when I'm rushing (if you look closesly, you'll find places where shadows are going in two different directions).  With a dedicated artist this wouldn't be a problem, but given our situation we decided a style without outlines and hard shading would be faster, mesh better with backgrounds, and easier to revise.

NOTE: We're not looking for an artist right now (at least not for this version of the game).  We've already had people offer to work for free - we appreciate the sentiment, but we won't hire someone without compensation, and right now we can't afford more team members.  If the game is successful, and we plan on a sequel or porting it to a new platform - then, definitely, send us your portfolios :)

For now, James is doing all the new art, with only a little bit of help from me, freeing me up to do a lot more programming and systems work.  So, let's take a look at some of the new stuff:

I wasn't really happy with Azra's proportions, hair-style, and expressions.  She also looked like a cross between an 8-year old and Kim Possible. We want good expressions to really sell the story, and the new art style frees us to do that.  The lack of outlines and hard shadows makes it easier to just get in there and change things in a few minutes without getting caught up in detail.  The previous style was very difficult to revise - so if we had a mediocre pose, we were more likely to stick with it rather than throw it away and start over.  That, and we can crank out a lot more unique poses for specific lines of dialogue, rather than just re-using the same three or four over and over again. 

Here's another cutscene from early in the game - I like the new background and characters a lot better. The textured paper makes it feel more like a story-book and meshes better with the character art than the old style.

All the characters have way more poses now, and the expressions are really great, the story feels like it's coming to life in a way that it didn't before.  

For those who complained about the scene with Ketta from before - that was the first scene we did in the new style, so we'll definitely be giving it another pass before shipping :)  Also, Ketta's new character design was inevitable regardless of art style, because a disturbingly large amount of testers didn't realize she was a woman, and in battle players had a hard time distinguishing her head icon from Slak's because they both had big red afro's. We'll post an updated version of that cutscene as soon as we polish it up, and hopefully it will address people's concerns that it wasn't expressive enough.  If not, oh well - we can't please everyone :)

We've also updated in-game dialogue, which looks way better and conveys a lot more emotion:

Anytime you change an art style this drastically, it comes with risk. I've already gotten a few negative comments by people who preferred the old style, for instance.  All I can really say about that is that I do appreciate any feedback we get, negative or positive, and I hope you guys understand that we'll do our best to address everyone's concerns, but ultimately we have to go with what we think is best for the game.  Also, the little snap-shots I put out aren't always going to be indicative of what you see in the final version of the game, so we'll keep changing/polishing right up to the end.

We WILL be releasing a new version of the demo to coincide with our "Beta" launch, so you'll be able to see how it looks AND plays before deciding to buy.

We hope you like it! And if not, we hope you at least still like the game :)  I'll be posting shortly about all the super cool amazing awesome stuff we've been up to.

I think you're really going to like Acts III-VII, and if I may say so myself, the final battle is pretty cool. We've been giving it a lot of special attention.