We're starting something new -- Defender's Quest 2 monthly infodump progress reports.

Some context:
Despite a contract gig every now and then to pay the bills, I'm working on Defender's Quest 2 full time. It's taking a bit to finish, but I make steady progress every day. The eternal struggle, however, is letting people know what I'm doing without a) being too spammy about it or b) disappearing into a deep dark cave of utter silence or c) getting in a weird and place where I keep awkwardly apologizing for not giving enough updates about current progress without ever offering a solution I'm able to commit to.

The best solution is one that actually works for my personality and that I can actually commit to long term. I've made some progress in this regard : My public issue tracker on Github, and my Automated Progress Tracking on the DQ2 website (see here. We have a forum (that this blog auto-posts to), and I also have a Discord channel that contains a bot that post's changes to the github issue tracker so people can get a regular pulse of what I'm up to.

But I still get lots of pings from people wondering what's going on with DQ2 and if it's even still in development. (Answer: yes it is.)

Let's be honest: I'm pretty bad at checking in regularly in person, for reasons I can't quite articulate. It's just easier to keep my head down and work on stuff rather than jump into a forum or chat room. I guess I'm regularly on twitter, that doesn't really count.

I have a newsletter whose precise purpose is letting people know what I'm up to with DQ2, but I'm always terrified if I don't have "enough" to show people will get annoyed and unsubscribe. And we do have a private early build up on Steam for our alpha/beta backers, and the next one's almost done and I'll get the next one out "soon", but I keep finding reasons it's not quite ready yet and before you know it another month has gone by and aaaaargh.

And yeah, this is all down to irrational low-key social anxiety and is pretty dumb.

But nevertheless -- let's commit to something that will actually help and that I'm actually able to consistently do.

So from now on, I'm setting a google calendar invite for myself to make a monthly post that just summarizes all of my latest commits since the last month. Kinda like Dolphin Emulator's famous progress reports, just way crappier.

Since the last time I wrote this style of post is never ago, please find below a quick and dirty summary of every issues I've closed since February.

A few caveats:

Spoiler Alert:
You're about to read a commit log fire hose. That's definitely going to mention at least some stuff that might spoil the final version of the game.

Unspoiler Alert:
Everything is still somewhat subject to change so if you see XYZ in the log, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be in the final game.

Line Item Illusion:
The number of line items is a really rough indicator for how much actual work was done that month, as sometimes a really hard thing that takes tons of time can be explained in one line, whereas a dozen easy things that can be knocked out in a day each take up a whole line. Also, sometimes I work on stuff and forget to file an issue for it and forget I did it entirely so there's no written record I ever did it. And also sometimes I opened a giant issue in one month and didn't close it until another. Generally I put all the content from one issue in only one month, generally the one I closed it in. This is a super rough log.

No Context:
Also, a lot of these might make absolutely no sense without clarifying context. Those who have played the early build or who hang out regularly in the Discord will be less confused. I should probably write a more thorough explanation of all the context here, but if I'm being honest with myself, if I delay writing posts like this so I can add all that detail I'll be less likely to actually do them in the first place. I won't let perfect be the enemy of good.

As usual, if anyone is unhappy with their pre-order for any reason, contact leveluplabs@gmail.com with the email address you originally ordered form (or any other info to track down your order) and we will cheerfully refund your money. For everyone else who is patiently bearing with us, you have our sincere thanks. We think DQ2 is going to be an awesome game and well worth the wait. Thanks for pardoning our dust.

EDIT: Okay, some context:
Right now I have been working through some ambiguous milestones called "Phase 1", "Phase 2" and "Phase 3." Phases 1 and 2 are done -- Phase 1 is the first string of missions where you SPOILER ALERT...

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... follow along with an initial party of characters we've code-named the "White Hats" for now. This includes the early tutorial phase for the game. The "White Hats" are designed to be very conventional, easy-to-understand characters without a lot of weird subtleties. Phase 1 was just to get these levels done in a bare minimum way.

Phase 2 is where you MORE SPOILERS FYI switch to the perspective of a second group called the "Black Hats." These characters are intended to be unconventional and weird, and do a lot of subtle and interesting interactions. Phase 2 was just to get these levels done in a bare minimum way.

Phase 3 is where I go back and clean up the giant mess I made ploughing all that territory before I move on to the next strings of levels. Things like: fix up item drops, overhaul skill trees, fix the reward schedule, balance everything at least a little bit, put in all the advanced challenges, clean up the tutorials, fix a bajillion bugs and so on and so forth. Phase 3 should be done fairly soon and honestly I should probably just cut scope sooner rather than later and push it out the door to our early backers and testers.

After Phase 3 we'll do Phase 4, which will probably just be the next string of levels, but also start to branch into some art pipeline decisions. Then the next phases will be putting in more levels until the game is playable start to finish. At some point we'll start to put in real art and story and music and all that too.

The 1.0 version of the game will probably ship as soon as it feels stable and complete, rather than waiting for us to finish any endgame add-ons such as a New Game+ mod or a randomizer. If the game does well, those will probably be our next steps after initial release.

February:

  • Rebalanced Phases 1 & 2
    • Basic Gold / XP reward schedule
    • Pace out item and minion drops
    • "Star coin" reward schedule
    • Misc. other things
  • Added cannon type items (replace DQ1 spells/books)
  • Work on Phase 1 tutorials
  • Add ice bomb cannon/ability to Black Hats phase
  • Fix store bugs
  • Reorganize skill trees to be less misleading about dependencies
  • Calculate and show DPS on skills
  • Improve information provided in skill previews

March:

  • Reproduce/fix Jumper bug
  • Skill tree previews: Show bonus text value on first point
  • Redesign skill menu
    • Fix tons of broken descriptions
    • Make better use of space
    • Remove redundant or irrelevant information
    • Use ? on locked skills
    • Fix damage over time readouts
    • Fix description on point-blank, extra shot, heal, armor break, etc
    • Fix description that appears in battle on boost bar skill tooltip
    • Fix issues with inspire
    • Fix "not_self" flavor status
    • Use more plain english where possible
    • Show required level on locked skills
  • Add "Ghost Strike" ability for Jumper class
    • This ability is a "cheeseburger" option for those who don't want to have to "babysit" the Jumper class as much, allowing that unit to auto-split their attack between a local and remote target by summoning a hologram clone at the remote location, and dealing X% and Y% damage at each location, balanced so that this option gives you less overall DPS throughput than manually jumping and putting those points elsewhere, but requires way less hands on attention and is less prone to mistakes.

April:

  • New/better placeholder icons for generic item types
  • Empty item slots now display some "default" generic item instead of a blank/empty box, because even when you have "nothing" equipped the character is still visibily swinging e.g. a sword rather than being unarmed.
  • Move ghost strike from a skill to an item effect
  • Create an item that only Jumper can equip
  • Tweak item pacing for each town
  • Tweak tutorials in towns
  • Stores should have a notification tab for how many items are available in each tab
  • Revise special ability / stat display
  • Show special ability / stat on You Got screen for item
  • Need a better item name than "accessories" (we went with "Gear")
  • Make item tooltip specials formatted the same way as everywhere else
  • Show tooltips on equipped item in top of party screen
  • Show tooltips on equipped item in equip menu of party screen
  • Fix some item/shop bugs

May:

  • Items with character restrictions (e.g. Jumper can use it but Eliminator can't)
  • "Do the math for me" with Armor break / disarm (show exact # of points instead of a %, where possible)
  • Make long shot's dual range system / damage attenuation easier to understand
  • Make white splash a dual range character
  • Add new item drops to White Hat Phase
  • Add placeholder graphics/names for all item types (Swords, Guns, Armor, Talismans, Collars, Gizmos)
  • Design starter values for all of James' named items
  • Reformat party equip menu to show useful details about the weapon
    • Item tooltips: Status/Flavor name + Chance + description of the effect
    • Equip menu: Status/Flavor name + chance + icon
    • Show cannon effects
    • Show status icons next to equip icons on the level up gem
  • Fix map previews:
    • put star coins before items
    • Show tooltip on item reward
    • Make it bigger
  • Lots of shop stuff
    • Fix some bugs
    • Code for different flavors/statuses
    • Center things better
    • Add "undo purchase" in quick equip
    • Show exact final stat readout in quick equip popup where possible
  • Even more shop stuff:
    • Fix thorns/strong/resist tooltips
    • Fix armor upgrades not showing up
    • Ensure all upgrade previews work
    • Ensure all downgrade previews work
    • Ensure all buy previews work
    • Ensure all party equip previews work
    • Ensure all quick equip previews work
    • For all the above ensures, ensure for each category:
      • ADD FLAVOR
      • STRONG/RESIST
      • STAT
      • THORNS
      • THORNS w/FLAVOR
  • Hey it's more shop stuff
    • Fix tooltip gunkiness
    • Find proper text colors/weights for subordinate text
    • Add border to injected icons if necessary
    • Fix item icon text/box/etc
  • I Can't Believe It's More Shop Stuff™
    • Fix missing % chance on ADD FLAVOR specials
    • Fix poison DMG/sec when DMG/sec < 1.0
    • In tooltip, remove "+0 to attack" if stat is 0
    • Add reward screen bars for money/xp/star coins
  • Fix clunky armor pierce description
  • Fix arrows/greentext with upgrade for armor pierce
  • Fix Battle bug: white splash buff isn't firing
  • Fix YouGot screen
  • Various UI Fixes
  • Add targetting preview outline for spells
  • Outline shader for the above
  • Remove failure penalty by default
  • Visual feedback: Extra harvested PSI/JUICE needs to look visibly different (it's blue now)
  • Fix "floating status indicator" bug
  • Address phase 1 balance issues
  • Add placeholder damage notification visual/sound when a defender is getting hurt
  • Tutorial stuff
  • More UI Fixes
  • Various display bugs
  • Throns/poison description bugs

June:

  • Make sure DPS calculations take # hits into account
    • Display "per shot" / "all shots" for projectile attacks
    • Display "per hit" / "all hits" for melee attacks
    • Display "per friend" / "per foe" for AOE attacks
  • Skill trees: Fix leading plus sign on first point
  • 2-point skills should have visual feedback when you don't have enough points
  • Gate the second column of skill bonuses, such that when you level up the first time you only have 3 bonuses to pick between instead of six
  • Better placeholder art for art pipeline evaluation
    • Mcguffin silhouettes --> Turtle tank silhouettes
    • Deal with sorting offset
    • Make enemies make good visual contact at end of map
    • Move HP bar to proper place
    • Put dead space above mcguffin(s) in every level
    • Ensure double mcguffin levels look ok
    • Better clicking on the mcguffin
    • Fix overworld size of mcguffin icons
    • Space overworld pearls out better
  • Test Defenders in 3/4 orientation
    • Change one character to new pipeline style (silhouette only)
    • Fix orientation (left/right/up/down) stuff
    • Create new spritesheets
    • Create new icons/portraits
    • Fix animations

July:

  • Long shot
    • Reframe long shot damage variation as a bonus, not a penalty
    • Swap linear attenuation for a flat 2x difference
  • General battle stuff:
    • Critical damage should visually "shake" enemies
    • Differentiate visually between critical and "super critical" (stackedc critical) number effects
  • Bugs:
    • Fix NaN in skill previews
    • Center skill description with 2 columns
  • White hats:
    • Bouncer: swap taunt & slow
    • Bouncer: slow & harvest should go on 1st attack
    • Long shot: switch spread shot for shrapnel shot
    • White splash: life drain aura --> vampire wasps
  • Black hats:
    • Jumper: lightning to and from jump zones, not the Mcguffin
    • Eliminator: tutorial should indicate dual purpose usage
  • Items: make some final decisions on class sharing
    • Jumper/Eliminator --> melee --> Axes
    • Zerk/Bouncer --> melee --> Swords
    • Long shot --> ranged --> Guns
    • White splash & Collector --> Hives
    • Ultimate --> 3 items --> melee + ranged
  • Skills/UI
    • Make the "skill requires 2 pts" text shake too
    • Change "increases damage" text to "increases damage (for this skill)"
    • Change text to e.g. "FAST foes take extra damage (FROM e.g. SLASH)"
    • "Dangerous" should be "attacker"
  • Tutorials:
    • Don't show shinies/star coins if there's nothing to upgrade yet
    • Don't show just one arrow if both shinies/money are both showing
  • Shop:
    • Say something obvious when there's no more items of a given type
    • Regen armor should give a linear bonus
    • Bump weapon/gear to the visual top of the hierarachy
  • Skills/UI
    • Vampire aura: Specify friends IN ATTACK RANGE
    • Make sure to showcase both FAST and ATTACKER types in battle before we ask the player to choose between skills that target them
  • Items:
    • Give special from melee weapon to melee attacks
    • Give special from ranged weapon to ranged attacks
  • Flow/pacing:
    • Split up Black hat minion gains, 1 battle for each
    • Design proper intro levels for each minion
    • Frontload the minion bonuses
    • Figure out new backloaded minion bonuses
  • Burst status: when an attack with this flavor kills something, launch X projectiles that do Y damage each
    • Visual effect & basic logic
    • Give it to the black splash
    • Test that it works
  • Phase 2 cleanup
    • Fix missing tutorial texts
    • Fix missing minion skill names
    • Lock phase 3 battles
    • Fix double export dialog bug on save slot screen