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Hello everyone!

We've said it before, and we say it again today: Day 1 of Luckless Seven is finished. I’m writing today to provide a recap of what we’ve been working towards, our accomplishments, and what’s next in the development of the game! 

So, what do we mean when we say that Day 1 is done? If you’ve been following our progress over the last months, you’re largely privy to the changes taking place to Luckless Seven’s opening sequence, the Ekosi tutorials, the writing, the start menu, and more. If you haven’t been tuned in, however, you’ve come back at a great time. Here’s what we’ve been up to. 
Opening sequence. Feedback from our own playtesting and last year’s Ohio Game Developer Expo (OGDE) suggested that we work on the very opening of the game. Some players felt confused about Mark, who he is, and what his goals are. Upon review, we agreed that the story’s introduction may have been too cryptic, so establishing more narrative context in the opening scene became an important mission for us. 
So, one of the desires shared by players was to gain more narrative context early in the game. Another group of players, however, expressed interest in experiencing Ekosi as quickly as possible. We saw the merit in both ideas, so we decided to launch the game with a battle that would communicate quickly and strongly who Mark was. But who would this first match be against? We didn’t want to overhaul the story and quest design that we were largely pleased with, so that meant finding an Ekosi opponent for Mark that was in his apartment. While Mark’s father and the Ekosi tutorial instructor were compelling options, we wanted something more exciting. 
We decided on a dream sequence, and the doors of opportunity swung open. As the game’s writer, I was eager to seize a great opportunity to investigate Mark’s unconscious feelings about his friends and family. How does Mark interpret his relationship with his parents? Who are his friends? What are his insecurities? And what better nightmare companion to embody Mark’s worries than this supernatural beast?

Has the supernatural invaded the world of Luckless Seven?

Teaching Ekosi. OGDE taught us a lot about the game and where we had to go with it, but the primary feedback we received was about Ekosi and our tutorials. In the expo setting, we found a wide sampling of video game players with different ages, backgrounds, and preferences. Feedback about Ekosi was diverse, but largely fell into two categories: some players felt lost and needed more information, while others felt burdened with text and handholding. 
Solving the binary conundrum stumped us for a while. How do you take care of two player groups on seemingly opposite sides of the spectrum? Ultimately, the Werewolf/Nightmare battle led the way to an answer. While we wanted the player to be thrust into the turn-based action immediately, we had to concede that the player needs some information before asking them to make decisions in Ekosi. To offer the absolute minimal information necessary in the least visually obstructive manner, we identified tooltips (written in Mark’s dream state) as a great solution. 
When we finished writing those, we thought, “Hey, these are pretty handy,” and we created a coherent set of tooltips for early gameplay. For those who didn’t need the tooltips, we made them toggleable. For those who needed more information, we drafted an Ekosi guide complete with basic rules and strategic advice.
Much of the original tutorial information has also been distilled into small tooltips that you can refer to during battle.

Writing. Ahh, writing: my subject. I’ll try to be brief! A year ago, we had virtually no story for Day 1. Then we made it, and we were happy with it. And then we stared at it for a year as we worked on the next two “days” of gameplay. No matter how much you like something, if you spend too much time with it, you start to see its flaws. While this can be a difficult lesson for friends that become roommates, it was a very important experience for us as we work to cultivate an interesting story. 
Looking back on the plot of Day 1, I found it hard to answer a lot of important questions about my writing. Why should we care about Mark? How does Mark feel about his family? If Mark is unhappy, why? My inability to answer was the result of multiple problems, but perhaps none greater than shallow characterization. 
And so resolving that problem has been my emphasis for the last months. In the new demo of the game, you’ll find a more passionate Mark burdened by a harshly critical mother. You’ll find a father looking to live vicariously through his son. You’ll find the seeds of sibling conflict and friendship jealousy. All of Luckless Seven’s story can’t be told on Day 1, but we’re glad we’ve made the effort to launch the game with more interesting characters and conflicts. 
Wisdom or vanity?

Start Menu. When I came onboard the project last year, our start menu’s camera held a distant shot of Mark standing alone outside. Since that time, however, the characters have grown in depth a lot. Rather than just being Mark’s coming of age story, we wanted to emphasize the importance of every Luckless Seven character, even in the start menu. So we did! The new menu shows all of the seven main characters, their personalities, and their relationships. We also think it’s just plain prettier.
A world of card games and adventure awaits!

Little Things. Finally, it wouldn’t be a blogpost without mentioning the little things that our team has been laboring away on to refine and perfect the user experience in Luckless Seven. Among them are the recent inclusion of new “talking” portraits which have immensely improved visual diversity during dialogue, a new fade-in effect that’s been applied to the Ekosi interface, and other quality-of-life improvements like zoom and autorun features. These changes may be small, but we think the constant little improvements add up to create a massively improved player experience.
It's only a dream... or is it?
With our latest alpha build, we've added many new portrait expressions for the main characters.

Needless to say, it’s been a productive time at Deckpoint Studio! But to what end? I’m sure it’s obvious, but all of these changes have been in service of polishing the game’s opening. We think we have a great game and story to share, and we think that the changes to Day 1 have brought it to match the quality of writing and design for Days 2 and 3. We’re extremely happy about what we’ve accomplished during this period in development, and we’re looking forward to beginning a new one as we turn our attention to Day 4 and beyond. Up next are new locations, characters, and quests in the Luckless Seven adventure. 
If you haven’t played in a while, give the new demo a download and let us know what you think. You can download Demo 0.660 at our IndieDB page.
The improvements we’ve been working on are a direct result of comments and suggestions from backers and generous playtesters like you. Your contribution is more than just welcome: it’s an essential part of development! 
As always, keep an eye on our IndieDB page for updated demos, as we’ll only be announcing major releases in our Kickstarter/blog posts. 
Until next time! 
Tyler

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m writing to share the news about changes we’re making to the beginning of Luckless Seven’s story and improvements to how we teach Ekosi.

If you’ve played any of the demos since the beginning of our Kickstarter campaign, you’ll know that Luckless Seven’s story mode sets in on our hero, Mark, sleeping well into the afternoon. Upon receiving a phone call from his old friend Krista, Mark wakes up and attends to his everyday life: a mandatory family outing and a work obligation.
Even Mark can't resist a few Ekosi matches.
Even Mark can't resist a few Ekosi matches.
Over the course of the Day 1, we become familiar with Mark and the friends and family that define his social life. We see Mark’s frustration with the obligations of his daily life. We see his rusty, somewhat uncomfortable relationships with old friends. We see a potentially contentious relationship between Mark and his parents. The scenes from Day 1 sow the seeds of character development for Mark and the whole cast of characters over the course of the game.
The library scene has gone through several different designs, but it's purpose was always to serve as an introduction to some of the main characters.
The library scene has gone through several different designs, but it's purpose was always to serve as an introduction to some of the main characters.
I think there’s a lot to be said for patience when it comes to character development, but after writing the opening of the game, I was eager for something catchier. I wanted something that could provide a snapshot of Mark and his relationships in the first ten minutes of gameplay. And we wanted it to be fun. To meet this ambitious goal, we went back to the drawing board.

We considered several options, but we ultimately arrived at the idea of a dream sequence. While it would only necessitate minor narrative changes, such a scene had the potential to give insight into Mark’s subconscious feelings about the people in his life. And unlike some of the other ideas we bounced around, it could really be fun.

So, I got to writing. We wanted the dream to include several of Mark’s friends and family members, but what was the context? We knew when we had the answer: a dream-state Ekosi match!
If you die in the dream, do you die in real life?
If you die in the dream, do you die in real life?
Narratively, we adored the idea that Mark would dream about Ekosi--it’s just so in line with his passions. And, of course, we were excited to see what Mark’s unconscious ideas about his friends were. But then we considered the potential that this scene had for improving the Ekosi learning experience, and we think that’s pretty great too.

As mentioned in the previous update, player feedback since the Kickstarter has indicated two primary feelings towards the Ekosi learning experience. Players either felt overly coddled, or they felt like they had less information than they needed. So, we decided to loosen the reins on early-game Ekosi matches and provided a permanent guide for players to review rules and strategies.
We're always refining the guide to deliver quicker and easier ways for players to learn the game.
We're always refining the guide to deliver quicker and easier ways for players to learn the game.
The dream battle presented some interesting challenges and opportunities. We really wanted to drop the player into the game and let them learn on their own. However, we also knew that players weren’t going to have much success or fun without being given some minimal information to guide them. To satisfy both needs, we decided on tooltips.
Our new tooltip system should help players more intuitively learn basic game mechanics.
Our new tooltip system should help players more intuitively learn basic game mechanics.
For the dream sequence, we wrote them in Mark’s groggy, uncertain voice. But then we realized the powerful tool we had, and wrote a second, full set of tooltips written in coherent English. Now we have both: a funny, stripped-down set with the absolute basics, and a serious, full set of on-screen descriptions for developing players.
One of the most important changes we wanted to focus on after OGDE was refining the learning experience for Ekosi.
One of the most important changes we wanted to focus on after OGDE was refining the learning experience for Ekosi.
Those “standard” tooltips are toggleable after the first round of formal tutorials with the handsome, curiously familiar Ekosi instructor.

To try these changes out for yourself, you can download Demo 0.655 at our IndieDB page.

As always, we’re excited to share the development of the game. And it’s only better when you’re involved, so we welcome your feedback. Keep an eye on our IndieDB page for updated demos, as we’ll only be announcing major releases in our Kickstarter posts.

Until next time!

Tyler 



Hello everyone!

Today, I’m writing to share the news about a lot of positive changes we’re making to the every-session and early-game experience of playing Luckless Seven.

Let’s talk about the every-session experience of playing Luckless Seven. There are certain things that you’ll encounter every time you boot up the game. Interactive dialogue. Open world movement. Ekosi.

Ekosi’s a big one. It’s at the center of gameplay, so we want incorporate player feedback as much as possible in improving it. We learned two contrasting things from demoing the game at OGDE. On one hand, several players felt that the Ekosi tutorials at the beginning of the game were overbearing and too text-heavy. On the other hand, some players had trouble understanding the game and had questions after the tutorial was finished.

To address the concerns of both player groups, we’ve decided to make information--a lot of it--optional. We’re planning to reduce the Instructor’s dialogue in Day 1’s mandatory tutorials, so we've embedded a permanent guide in the Ekosi interface. We think this change will positively affect players who don’t need a wordy tutorial and those who can use a refresher now and then.


Several subtopics in our new Ekosi guide.

The "Card Types" topic, color coded for comprehension.
Another segment of the game you’ll encounter every time you play Luckless Seven is the start menu. It’s easy to overlook, but this is both your introduction to the game and every play session. So, we want to get it right! Functionally, the menu should allow players to start or resume a playthrough of Story Mode, jump into Arcade Mode for instant Ekosi action, or modify game settings.

The cinematic new start menu complete with all of its options.
Visually, we wanted to move towards something even more cinematic than our old start menu. We wanted something that was visually engaging, but more importantly something that communicated the characters and relationships within Luckless Seven’s ensemble cast. So, we’ve taken the time to give extra attention to and update the 3D models of all the main characters. With higher quality models and a new scene to survey, we think we’re pretty close to our vision.

Enjoy the view of the city with Jamie and Bertrand in our new start menu.
Since we’re on the subject of character, it wouldn’t be a Luckless Seven update without discussing new portraits. My job as the game’s writer is to create characters through story design and dialogue. And dialogue can do a lot, but the right portrait can do so much to express the emotions and thoughts of our characters. So it’s important that we have the right portraits for every moment. Accordingly, our amazing artist Emma is currently working to expand the range of portraits for our main cast members.

With Emma's exceptional talent, Maria can be upset in so many unique ways.

But she’s not just treading over old territory. In addition to creating main cast portraits, she’s working on entirely new portraits like the exciting one below.

An important new face or a far-too-late April Fool's Day prank? Find out when Day 1 is re-released!

You’ll get to see this character come to life when we’re finished revising Day 1 of gameplay. For now, you can look forward to the new start menu, the Ekosi guide, more portraits, and a handful of improvements to user experience. We’ve added two new cursors: a semi-transparent magnifying glass and a chat bubble mouse cursors that show if Mark is too far away to talk to a person or activate a door. Along with that change, we’ve introduced a feature that will initiate auto run when players click on door buttons that are too far away to enter.

To try these changes out for yourself, you can download Demo 0.654 at our IndieDB page: http://www.indiedb.com/games/luckless-seven/downloads.

As always, we welcome your feedback, fresh ideas, and general enthusiasm. They’ve brought the project this far, and we have no intention of stopping now. Keep an eye on our IndieDB page for updated demos, as we’ll only be announcing major releases in our Kickstarter posts.

Until next time!

Tyler

Hello everyone!
Today, we’re happy to announce the release of a new demo that allows you to take control of Day 3 in the Luckless Seven adventure!
The drama begins early on Day 3.

Managing relationships is tricky.
In Day 3, the story continues with the first tournament matches for Jamie, Jacob, Bertrand, and Mark. Upon arriving at the casino, Mark learns it will be a long day of balancing his own competitive goals with the constant drama of his friends’ reunion.
Day 3 offers upwards of 45 minutes of new gameplay--unless you rush past all of my dialogue, of course! New quests will introduce you to both the seedier and goofier characters orbiting around Arithia’s competitive gambling scene, but that’s not all you can expect.
Not everyone plays by the rules.
Musical rearrangements have been made to strike the exact moods we’re looking for in each area. As always, we’ve got new characters and portraits to flesh out the social world of Arithia. And, beyond that, we’ve added additional portraits of some of the Luckless Seven crew to better reflect their diverse personalities and moods.
Expect new opponents on Day 3.
This dawdling dad takes part in one of Day 3’s lighthearted side quests.
Bertrand’s wide array of negative emotions shines through in his new portraits.
Additionally, a number of user interface changes have been introduced to improve your experience in play. We’ve added a typewriter effect to text to make our dialogue system as smooth as possible. We’ve made small improvements to Mark’s pathfinding. There were also many bug fixes to make the world more coherent and the gameplay more refined.
You can download Demo 0.650 at our IndieDB page.
As always, we welcome your feedback. We’ll continue to refine Day 3 as we begin work on revisions to Day 1 and we turn our attention to Day 4. Keep an eye on our IndieDB page for updated demos, as we’ll only be announcing major releases (new days) in our Kickstarter posts.

Until next time,
-Tyler

Hello all,
We’re writing to provide an update regarding the expected release date for Luckless Seven. We were excited to release the game in Q2 2016, and we know that you were too.
Based on the feedback we’ve received since our Kickstarter, both from backers and attendees of OGDE, we’ve decided that we wanted to devote additional time and resources to remaking the beginning segments of the game. We believe that we can make the introduction area an amazing experience, but for that we need to spend additional time redesigning some systems and quest structures.
We’ve recognized that this would make the pace of our production not on track for the expected date. We want to be as transparent as possible about our expectations for release, so today we are announcing a new anticipated release date of Summer 2017. The changes we make could potentially get completed sooner, but we want to make sure we give ourselves enough time to implement it correctly. We are still working on the project full time and will be until its release.
New characters to battle!
We plan to release a game with a full, rewarding story and world. And to do that, we want to release a Luckless Seven with an average campaign length of six hours. We believe in this goal, so we’re working hard to create the new content that will make up the game we’re aspiring towards. But we’ve been working on other things too, and these other things have impacted the pace at which we’re able to finish new segments of gameplay.
New portraits of the main characters to better convey their feelings and thoughts.
So, what have we been working on? A lot of my work has been dedicated to improving the user experience for our players. We’ve worked on changes to make music and scene transitions smoother. We’ve added UI components to the battle board to better display different game states. We’ve implemented a new camera-zoom feature that will allow players to zoom out and appreciate large, open environments or zoom in to get closer to the characters. (We’re really excited about this feature.) We’re now taking a look at what we’ve written already and have a plan to release changes in response to some of the awesome feedback we’ve received.
Now zoom in and out to better view the surroundings.

New marker to better convey when new cards will and will not be dealt.
We think these changes are critical to refining the experience of Luckless Seven. We think they’ll improve gameplay from start to finish. However, they do take time to troubleshoot and implement, and they have impacted our release timeline.
Here’s what you can expect from us: the fully-realized Luckless Seven that we want to release in 2017. Between now and release, you can continue to expect consistent, transparent communication from us on our website, the Kickstarter page, and IndieDB. In fact, there’s a lot of exciting news coming up a lot sooner than 2017. We’re keeping a few things under wraps for now, but we expect to announce the release of a new demo that will include “Day 3” of gameplay. Other announcements will follow!
The story progresses!

Tournament matches await!
We don’t take pleasure in announcing a setback like this, but we are happy to announce that we’re maintaining the pursuit of our goal: the release of the best possible Luckless Seven. It matters to us, and we think you deserve it too.
If you wish to withdraw your support of Luckless Seven due to the delay, you can request a refund by sending us a message on Kickstarter or sending us an email at jesse@deckpointstudio.com.
For us, it’s back to work! You’ll hear from us again when Day 3 is ready to go. If you have any questions, you can e-mail the above address or post in the Comments sections below.
Until next time,

Jesse

Hello, everyone!

Today, we’re happy to announce the release of a new demo that opens up new areas and allows you to experience Day 2 of Mark’s adventure. 

Full cast of main characters from Luckless Seven
In Day 2, Mark’s story continues with his first step into the competitive Ekosi world. After committing to join Krista and company on the competitive tour, Mark is finally reunited with the full Luckless Seven crew. After a tumultuous reunion, the group departs for the casino, where Mark prepares himself for the tournament.

New areas to explore
Day 2 offers approximately 45 minutes of new gameplay, depending on your skill and luck. You’ll get to see plenty of new dialogue that fleshes out the main cast. You can explore new environments, battle new opponents, and make meaningful story choices.

New characters and quests
We’re very excited about Day 2 because it introduces several design standards that will continue throughout the entirety of Luckless Seven. We’re progressing towards larger, more open environments. We’re introducing Casino and Card Shop interiors, which will become familiar settings as the player journeys across Arithia. Day 2’s design balances competitive, Ekosi-intensive quests with more dialogue-rich ones, a balance we plan to maintain throughout the game.

Goodbye Old Bertrand!
In addition to setting a course for many of Luckless Seven’s design standards, Day 2 also introduces a few smaller tricks. We’ve implemented a “follower” system that allows the player to spend one-on-one quest time with various characters and learn who they are. The new demo set up the ability for players to select between story days for testing purposes. Finally, we’re revealing an updated Bertrand, who recently received a makeover.


Hello New Bertrand!

You can download Demo 0.641 at our IndieDB page.


Day 2 Released!
As always, we welcome your feedback. We’ll continue to refine Day 2 as we begin work on Day 3 and beyond. Keep an eye on our IndieDB page for updated demos, as we’ll only be announcing major releases (new days) in our Kickstarter posts.


Until next time!

Tyler

Hi everyone!


My name is Tyler, and I’m the story writer for Luckless Seven. I wrote the story and dialogue for the demo we released with our Kickstarter in June 2015, and I became a permanent fixture on the Deckpoint Studio team in August. I’m responsible for constructing the Luckless Seven story, which importantly includes writing all of the dialogue and dialogue choices.


Before accepting my position on the Deckpoint Studio team, I studied English at the Ohio State University. Though my English coursework covered extensive territory, I concluded my studies with an undergraduate thesis on video game narratives and rhetoric, which united my formal education in English studies with my passion for video games.


When I began working on the game in June, the Luckless Seven dialogue system offered players choices fitting into five categories: Control, Dismissive, Empathetic, Intimidate, and Charming. Over the course of the game, the player’s choices would be tracked, and, ultimately, dialogue choices in each category would have point thresholds that meant that players could only select options in the categories they had heavily invested in.

The multiple categories of our original dialogue system
When I was working on the story and dialogue for the Kickstarter demo, I ran into a number of problems with this system. As someone with a Bachelor’s degree in English, I objected to the grammatical inconsistency of the system. (Seriously, are we using nouns, adjectives, or verbs for these categories? Let’s be consistent!) But this was a surface-level problem.


More serious issues existed. In various situations, one of my intended dialogue options easily could have fit into multiple personality categories. In various other situations, an intended dialogue option didn’t fit appropriately into any of the five personality categories!

An emotional dialogue scene from the Luckless Seven Kickstarter Demo
A mock-up of a player's potential choice distribution
But the most serious problems with the established system arose when we asked ourselves two questions. First, what was the outcome of the player’s participation in our dialogue choice system? Because our system rewarded investing into only one or two personality types, all of the player’s choices culminated in fewer options later on in the game. Second, what are we trying to incentivize with this system that intends to act as the player’s interaction with a realistic coming-of-age story? Rewarding the player for primarily choosing one or two categories was, in story terms, incentivizing the creation of a one-dimensional Mark.


In our original system, players might have chosen dialogue options that rewarded their statistical goals over a more honest role-playing experience.
We decided that we didn’t like either of these answers. We didn’t think that choices should lead to fewer choices, and we wanted players to choose how Mark would approach situations on a case-by-case basis. If we were to fulfill our promise of “an interactive coming of age story for you to control,” we knew we would have to make changes.


So, I moved ahead with a plan to alter the system. I drafted and iterated on different ideas that would resolve the system’s grammatical inconsistency and emphasis on methods of persuasion. But, no matter which combination of five dialogue/personality categories I tried, I continued to run into the core issue: our system enforced a one-dimensional player character.


In response to this stubborn problem, we took decisive action: we removed the personality scoring system. Instead of the player’s dialogue choices being coded as one of five categories which accrued points and indicated the type of character the player had made out of Mark, we decided to work in a more open system. No more classifying Mark’s choices into a handful of set categories. No more reducing our protagonist to a one-dimensional character.

Our dialogue system reaches its full potential with the entire cast of Luckless Seven's main characters.
No longer are Mark's choices classified into five personality types.
Now, I’m working outside of those categories. Dialogue options are only restricted by the narrative situation and my creativity. We’re creating specific data points and checks to track and enforce consequences for decisions from the beginning to the end of Mark's journey.


The benefits of our decision to update the dialogue system are numerous. By allowing me to work outside of the restrictive five categories, I can make sure that all of our dialogue options are appropriate, natural responses to the scenario, rather than awkward categorizations meant to support the personality scoring system. This freedom has allowed me to focus on creating non-coded, difficult narrative situations. Now, players will be approached with multiple ethically-complicated choices where no one answer is the “right” one.


I hope I’ve made the problems of our prior system and the benefits of our decision to make a change clear. I look forward to bringing you an exciting, fun story filled with engaging and difficult choices, small and large.


Thank you for reading, and let us know what you think! Our experience at OGDE brought us a wealth of insightful feedback, and we’re always eager to receive more. Feel encouraged to leave your thoughts on Luckless Seven’s new dialogue system in a comment below!


Until next time,

Tyler

Hey everyone!
We wanted to thank all of you who attended our booth at the Ohio Game Developer Expo! It was exhilarating to see so many people play our game and give us their feedback. It was also great to meet many of the Ohio developers and other people in the indie game scene.


The Luckless Seven booth!
The Luckless Seven booth!

Some of the game art we had on display.
Some of the game art we had on display.

OGDE exhibitors play our game!
OGDE exhibitors play our game!
We have been working on fixing some of the common bugs players encountered during the expo. And updated version of the demo that has the bug fixes can be downloaded from our Indiedb page.
After fixing some other technical issues, we'll work on implementing some of the suggestions you guys made.
Thanks again for everyone who attended and made OGDE an awesome experience!

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