First, a heads up about the truly awful situation with Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. At least one member of our team, themselves based in the west, has family in Ukraine now threatened by this. This whole ordeal has been extremely disruptive for them and we're doing everything we can to be a source of support and comfort in this awful time.
It feels weird to talk about anything else at a time like this but the whole team feels like the game is a good distraction from doomscrolling, so let's do that. We have two things to talk about – new additions to the team, and streamlining the game.
Bottom line, I want to speed up development of this game. As the saying goes, "If you want to change what you're doing, you need to change how you're doing it." Let's be real: I've been trying to do too much stuff myself. So I'm getting some help! Specifically, we have recruited two new staff members, a production specialist, and a level designer/coder, to help me out. (I've taken special care with the budget, so don't worry about that – now is exactly the right time to do this and we can afford it). It's taken me about three months to finish this reorganization which has taken away a little time from monthly production, but it will pay dividends soon.
The path from here is to stop messing around and just lock as much stuff down as possible and charge forward, get the game fully playable start to finish, and then iterate through and put flesh on the bones. To that end I took a good hard look at every system, existing and planned, and made some calls about what wasn't pulling its weight.
For instance – the minion system has forever been left nebulous, and in the cold light of morning is another example of me letting myself design something that's fun on paper but annoying in practice. Machines with tons of health and no regeneration that explode on death, and life-linked parasites that serve as extensions of their hosts just haven't been standing up to the scrutiny of playtesting. There's too much cognitive overhead.
So you know what? Poof, minions are simpler now. Their original purpose was to give you something to fill out your ranks with, and I'm going back to that guiding light. They'll be exactly like defenders, but simpler, both in terms of art (fewer animations, being effectively "towers"), as well as skills/customization/equipment. You'll still be able to do interesting things with them, but the point is you shouldn't have to mess around with their skill trees and be confused about how they have some special system that only applies to them. Meanwhile our new level designer (who will be formally introduced at a latter time should they desire the public visibility) has been hard at work onboarding onto the game. We're getting close to having our 8 main characters' identities locked in terms of story and design.
I'm keeping our schedule internal for now, but I feel a lot better about the future of this project now that I've taken some time to step back, identify what is and isn't working, and get some help from people I know and trust.