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Hi everyone,
Tyler again from the Deckpoint Studio team. I’m writing today to provide an update on a couple of action-packed months for Luckless Seven.
We’re well into what has unofficially become expo season for Luckless Seven. Late in August, we attended our first Matsuricon, a Columbus, OH anime convention. Then, last weekend, we attended GDEX, a regional game development expo, for the third consecutive year.
The new start menu better showcases Luckless Seven's gameplay and better hides Mark's freaky fingers.
The approaching expos made a good occasion to review feedback from last year’s GDEX and measure today’s game against the Luckless Seven of a year ago. We’re thrilled about our progress over the last year, but we still wanted to make sure we’d adequately responded to the player feedback. A common theme amongst players was a desire for context and clarity in the game’s introduction. Who’s this werewolf? Who are these characters? And, even more generally, what kind of game is this?
Colorful lights and sounds filled the arcade room at Matsuricon.
These concerns melded with our team’s recent desire to make the start menu more representative of the in-game world. So, we’ve taken the first-person, moving/rotating camera, and replaced it with a perspective just like that of the overworld. Throw in a few particle effects, and we think it looks pretty nice! With the start menu adjusted to look just like a scene from gameplay, we got the idea to make it act like a scene from gameplay. Now, when you click to start the story, a short dialogue scene between Krista and Mark plays. We showcase some of the characters and foreshadow some of the story as a way of lending context to new players. And then, after this scene, the werewolf Ekosi battle ensues as normal.
The old start menu truly reveals Mark's monstrous hands.
The story begins in medias res.
Between Matsuricon and GDEX, we had plenty of player help to identify areas for improvement. A number of players experienced difficulty navigating Krista’s house on Day 1. The Mystery Girl at the Library presented a number of Ekosi AI issues. Then, a number of players expressed confusion or disinterest in the post-battle report. Additionally, many players reported a lack of connection between Ekosi matches and the overworld.
From this feedback, we’ve worked (and are currently working!) on some changes:
  • Clarifying route to the back of Krista’s house
    • Closed garage door (a common player misstep).
    • Added signage and observation icon to guide the player.
    • Made a wall transparent to better reveal the walkway.
  • Retooling Mystery Girl with a better-behaving deck
  • Changing post-battle report to de-emphasize Ekosi scoring and focus on player rewards
    • The report now shows currency reward.Players can now receive Ekosi cards upon victory.
  • Added collectible items to the overworld.
  • Adding additional story details to the overworld. [Ongoing]
Some new decor guides players around Krista's house. Pool party in the back!

We were even able to get some feedback on the new opening dialogue. Accordingly, we have plans to make the dialogue more robust to provide additional narrative context. This time of year is a pleasant reminder of the value of playtesting.
If you haven’t played the game in a while, now is a great time to revisit Luckless Seven. We’d love to hear what you think! We’re continuing to work on enhancements to the game, and we’re eager to show it off at other opportunities in the coming months.

Download the demo on Steam or IndieDB.
See you next year, Matsuricon!

Thanks to everyone that joined us at GDEX this year!
Thanks as always,
Tyler

Hi everyone,
Tyler here from the Deckpoint Studio team. I’m writing today to provide our regular update on the development of Luckless Seven.
A preview of what's to come in Luckless Seven!
The last time I wrote was to announce the work on and release of the game’s manual save/load system. In June, the framework was established, and Jesse has spent the last month refining the feature. We’ve resolved an issue with player currency not saving, so now all data is being recorded and displaying successfully. Some upcoming cosmetic changes will also improve the interface so you can quickly distinguish one file from another.
In addition to the save/load system changes, we’ve also fixed some bugs with the Ekosi inventory system and the arcade mode. Card sales are now crediting the player appropriately, and the arcade mode is playable again, so all is right in Ekosi land!
Perhaps the most exciting news is the development of a new city to explore. In the previous “Making Arithia” update, I discussed the working relationships on the Deckpoint Studio team and our upcoming goals. I alluded to the Mediterranean inspirations behind our plans for the second city in the Luckless Seven journey. And after a lot of hard work, we’re happy to share a preview of what Neropolis will look like.
Neropolis's architecture was heavily inspired by Venice, Italy.

Mark and the crew will be competing in a coastal paradise.
Finally, I would be remiss to neglect my end of development: the story! Without saying too much, Day 5 has quickly become one of my favorite segments of the story to write. It’s a narratively important moment as the gang checks in for the next stage in the tournament and receives their opponent assignments. Further, I’ve found that the backdrop of the new city is perfect for the unveiling of age-old conflicts. In Neropolis, the battles won’t involve just cards.
When everything goes according to plan.
As I always say, we never would’ve gotten this far without your support. Our most recent demo is always available via Steam. Play a few matches, engage in the dialogue, and let us know what you’re looking forward to!
Thanks as always,
Tyler
Download the demo on Steam or IndieDB.

Hi everyone,
Tyler here again from the Deckpoint Studio team. This week, I’m writing to give the good news about the release of a very important game feature: manual saves!
Now, I don’t have to sell anyone on the virtues of a medium standard. But if I did, it would go something like this:
  • Uncertain about the next story decision and want to secure a place you can jump back to if things go awry? Now you can!
  • Want to go wild with a deck with only negative-7 cards while also being able to jump back to your more traditional strategy? Now you can!
New load menu
But again, you already know the benefits of manual saving and loading! Of course, autosaving will carry on in the background when you load a new area. But now you can set your own anchors in the past. Players will be able to interact with all their manual saves and, by default, the three most recent autosaves. For players that want to reach further back, all autosaves are available with the check of a box.
Literally hundreds of autosaves. We got you covered.
Here’s how it works. Click on the phone icon in the bottom right of the screen to bring up Mark’s phone (the menu). In the bottom-left corner, select the “Save & Load” option. This brings up a screen with two tabs, predictably “Save” and “Load.” From the Save tab, you can create new save files and overwrite others. From the Load tab, you can load from your previous saves.
"Save" screen. Create new manual saves or overwrite previous ones.


"Load" screen
Saves are labelled with the current “Day,” a timestamp from the last save, Mark’s location, and Mark’s current currency. Of course, all Ekosi deck and story data is included in your save file too. Who says you can’t repeat the past?
In addition to preparing this important feature, we’ve made some fixes to Day 4’s Campfire dialogue, eliminated some bugs along the Day 4 trail, and upgraded and added more dialogue to Day 1.
Never lose with the ability to return to your saves from a simpler time!

Our changes to Day 1's dialogue emphasized sharing new information about the world and entertaining the player.
Going forward, the release of the manual save feature allows us to transfer focus to developing the new areas and storylines for Neropolis, the second of three main hubs in Luckless Seven. For more details on what we’ll be building, you can review our last update on Making Arithia.
I always say it, and this time’s no different: we couldn’t have gotten this far without your support. The updated demo with our new manual save feature is now available via Steam. Give it a spin, and let us know how you’ve used it -- and especially if you encounter any bugs!
Thanks as always,
Tyler

Download the demo on IndieDB.
Download the demo on Steam.


Hi everyone,
Tyler here from the Deckpoint Studio team! I’m writing this week to give a nod to what’s ahead for Mark and the rest of the Luckless Seven. As the writer, I’m usually focused on the next narrative frontier for our band of misfits, but this time I’m looking forward to what’s next physically: the levels players will traverse in the next segment of the game!
As a teaser, here’s what to expect for the next tournament venue:
Design document for the next casino along the way in Arithia's Ekosi tournament.
When I came aboard the project during our Summer ‘15 Kickstarter, a few, important spaces were already designed: Mark’s apartment, Krista’s house, the hospital, and library. Jesse invited me to partake in the level design process, and I eagerly did so with the least impressive Photoshop work in history.
An early design document for the first casino in Mark's hometown of Patrida. Note my uncertainty regarding the "VIP Area."
Look familiar?

The finished product: Patrida's Casino.
Obviously, a lot of work takes place between my brainstorming and your playing. When reviewing my plans for the story, Jesse and I discuss the levels required to accommodate every event. I prepare a list of desired areas & design documents. Jesse makes suggestions from his perspective as developer before undergoing the Herculean work of bringing our ideas to fruition. In anywhere between a few days and two weeks, Jesse has a functional model for us to improve as we go.
Our design priorities are efficiency, story fit, and style fit.
  • Efficiency: There are no superfluous levels.
  • Story fit: All levels are made to fit their definitions and roles in the story. Our spaces are built with realism and important thematic/story information in mind.
  • Style fit: All levels should complement the isometric art style. We avoid placing surfaces perpendicular with the camera, and we always avoid obstructing the camera’s view of traversable terrain.
Take Day 4 for example. We’ve long known we needed just two levels: one large, mostly-open trail level between the cities, and one level dedicated to the reflective campfire dialogue. I knew I wanted Mark and Krista to encounter diverse personalities along a sprawling route that really made Mark feel his size. Here’s the first design document I presented and the finished level below:
Design document for Day 4's trail between Patrida and Neropolis.
The finished product: the behemoth Day 4 trail.
Big, just like I’d hoped. We eagerly wanted to communicate that Mark and company were traveling a huge distance across Arithia, and I think were successful in delivering that message.
For Mark’s next steps, we have functionally similar spaces in mind: a casino interior and exterior, a living area, card shops, etc. However, they’ll all come with Neropolis’s new visual theme. Neropolis, host to the next stage in the Ekosi tournament, is a quaint coastal city set upon by new development. To build it, we’re drawing inspiration from the Mediterranean peninsulas and islands. Here’s a peek at what’s to come:
The beat goes on with more rudimentary design documents!
We’re working to bring you a fully-realized coastal paradise that will meet all of your Ekosi and vacation needs. In our next update, we also look forward to bringing you the long-awaited and much-requested save/load system.
We couldn’t have gotten this far without your support. Thank you as always, and we look forward to your thoughts!
Download the demo on IndieDB.
Download the demo on Steam.

Hello everyone!

Tyler here from the Luckless Seven crew. I’m writing today to announce another playable release: a campfire conversation on the trail between Mark’s hometown of Patrida and his tournament destination of Neropolis.

Mark and company sit down to discuss the adventure so far.

Not every day in Luckless Seven has a night, but Day 4 long has; since outlining the game’s narrative, we have planned to include this reflective conversation between Mark and his companions. Our team has internally referred to it as Day 4.5, and it’s the first of two campfire conversations that the Luckless Seven cast will partake in on their competitive journey across Arithia.

It's been a long journey to reach this point.

A lot has happened at this point in the game. Mark has been surprised with the opportunity to forego his obligations at home and reclaim his repressed passion for Ekosi. He’s connected with friends old and new. Importantly, he’s already made a number of choices along the way. For our team, the campfire dialogues present an important opportunity to reap what the player has sown. Dialogue with the cast of Luckless Seven will provide alternate perspectives on Mark’s choices both within and outside the group.

Mark's companions will reflect on his previous choices.

After Day 4, a relatively grand and Ekosi-filled segment of the game, we think the campfire dialogue will present players with an opportunity to pause and reflect. Although we’re emphasizing reflection and calm, don’t think that this dialogue will be without new choices or variety. Having written it, I can assure you: it’s a complex beast.

A behind-the-scenes look at the branching campfire dialogue.

As always, the new gameplay experience is not alone. Jesse has reliably improved and updated many of the technical aspects of the game since the initial release of Day 4. Here are some of the changes:
  • Improved animations for most characters.
  • Improved pathfinding and increased Krista run speed along Day 4’s trail.
  • Removed a game fail state that could occur if the player exited the game mid-dialogue after an Ekosi battle.
  • Major fixes to the mini-map. Removed false quest arrows that wouldn’t disappear.
  • Made loading screens smoother and added a fade-in effect to Day 4.
  • Added environmental, ambient sound effects to Day 4.
Jamie: Yeah, I thought it was nice too.

Krista: Well, we'll find out tomorrow who our opponents are. Hopefully nothing too dramatic so soon.

This update provides our most ambitious dialogue scene to date, so we’re excited to hear your thoughts. Day 4.5 marks the end of the open/public alpha. We’ll still update the public demo, but Day 5 and future gameplay segments will be released via Steam only to our Kickstarter backers. Thanks for reading, and let us know your thoughts!

Download the demo on IndieDB

Download the demo on Steam


Hello everyone!
Tyler here from the Luckless Seven crew. I’m writing today to announce that today is the day we’ve been awaiting for a long time. It’s Day 4.
We’ve had our eyes set on Day 4 of the Luckless Seven journey since finishing Day 3 last year. We took some detours to improve various other areas of the game, including an overhaul of the game’s opening and significant enhancements to the Ekosi experience. Finally, in the last few months, we’ve returned our attention to creating the next little step of the way on Mark and the gang’s journey for competitive glory. And it’s anything but little.
Day 4 is, without doubt, big. The trail that takes the Luckless Seven crew from their hometown of Patrida to the next tournament city, Neropolis, is by far the largest level that we’ve designed for the game to date. Our first foray into the great outdoors offers a whole new environment: tall grasses and taller trees, man-made bridges over beautiful waterways, and sandy shores that give way to ocean vistas. On a narrative level, Day 4 will offer players a chance to declare their goals for the tournament, spend a lot of one-on-one time with Krista, and meet the diverse passersby on the trail. Not all, but many of the characters on the trail have a background with Ekosi, and there’s no shortage of matches to be played.
In addition to the all-new environment, story, and gameplay offerings, this update includes several enhancements to existing game systems. Here are some of the changes:
  • Fixed problems with the Journal (quest log), adjusted the Inventory to no longer punish card reselling, and improved pathfinding to help Krista and other characters along their way.
  • Tweaked Ekosi interface colors, added “Tiebreaker” icon, and made visual enhancements to the start menu.
  • Added trophy and question mark icons above character heads to more clearly identify interesting opportunities and added a system for altering lighting over time to create gradual time shifts in levels.
We could say plenty more about all the new experiences packed into Day 4, but we’d rather let you find out for yourself. After all, we’ve had it for long enough; it’s yours now!
We wouldn’t have gotten this far without your help, so please feel encouraged to give the new demo a spin and give us your thoughts! Have really bad luck in Ekosi? Fall in the river? Collapse from a heap of driftwood on your back? We want to know! The new demo is available live on Steam and IndieDB, and you can give us your feedback on the Steam forums, the comments here, or via email at deckpointstudio (at) gmail.com.
Thanks for reading, and have fun!

Hello everyone!

Tyler here from the Luckless Seven crew. We’ve been working through the holidays on the newest gameplay release, and it’s coming soon. We couldn’t wait to touch base with our backers, however, so we’re christening the new year with a bit of a different post.

Instead of an update on tweaks to the game and new content, we wanted to take you into the studio to learn about the music of Luckless Seven. To do so, I sat down with composer Brandon Ledbetter to discuss his background as an artist, the game at large, and his process in creating its music.
Our composer, Brandon, speaks with players at GDEX 2016.

The process doesn’t start with Brandon. It starts with Jesse and I reviewing our plans for new environments in the game or new moments in the story and contemplating the rough ideas or moods that we’d like to communicate to the player. We’ll then take those ideas and share them with Brandon. For example, when we changed Day 1 to open with an Ekosi battle taking place within a nightmare, we simply told Brandon that we were looking for a “spooky battle theme.” He did the rest.
A visitor plays through the Ekosi nightmare sequence at GDEX 2016.

“For me, it’s always really important to start with the sound of the track,” Brandon says. He’s been producing music of all kinds for six years, and his roots in music production are appropriately enmeshed in his history with games: “Back in high school, I got really into the chiptune music scene. I really liked the whole DIY thing of taking your old toys and breaking them to make stuff. I started with music [from] the Gameboy, the original Gameboy.” The discombobulated Gameboy that gave Brandon his start in music production still rests in pieces on his shelf at home.

With the “spooky battle theme” and other requests, Brandon will identify existing songs that have some attractive attributes. “Really, when you’re doing horror, you just want dark. You want low, sub-heavy kind of stuff.” Recognizing that key feature, Brandon set to work building instruments to use on the track.

“For what became ‘In The Dark’ … I actually built every single instrument in there from scratch. … I started with the bass line. I brought in my Monark synth, the minimoog [emulator], because that thing does really smooth baselines. And I just lowered everything down, got a really heavy sub, and put an LFO [low-frequency oscillation] tool on it to give it that wobble.”

For me, the final product perfectly captures both a wistfulness that defines Mark’s attitude at the story’s outset and the psychological terror of a wolfman taunting him with all of his innermost worries.
Of course, “In The Dark” isn’t the first nor the last piece that Brandon has composed or will compose for the Luckless Seven soundtrack. He’s been involved in the project for about three years now, and there are several more environments, dialogue scenes, and battles to score before his work is done. When I asked him what he was looking forward to for the project, he mentioned two things.
First, work. “I know we’re going to be working on the [unreleased] third zone, which is going to mean another shift in the music,” Brandon says, looking ahead to Mark and the Luckless Seven cast advancing from Patrida to Neropolis to Antipolis. (His songs for the second city, “What Kind Of Beach Resort Doesn't Have A Palm Tree” and “Beachfront” show off a tropical flare, a departure from the sounds that define life in Mark’s hometown.)

The second thing? Conclusion. “I’m looking forward to finishing [Luckless Seven] and then it being released to the public. … I’m really ready to see what everyone else thinks of it.”
I and the rest of the team agree, and we know you do too. With that in mind, stay tuned to the Kickstarter, website, or Steam community hub for updates on development. I highly encourage you listen to Brandon’s music on his SoundCloud. There you’ll find his music for the Luckless Seven soundtrack as well as his other projects and the appropriately-labeled Beat of the Week.

Thanks for reading!

GDEX 2016 POSTMORTEM

Hello everyone!

Last year around this time, my colleague Jonathan delivered an update titled “Thank you for a great OGDE!” OGDE, the Ohio Game Developer Expo, was reloaded and rebranded this year as GDEX. The event brings together regional game developers, players, and the general public to show off works-in-progress, discuss game design, and celebrate the medium we love.

As developers, this event is particularly good for a couple of reasons. First, the event’s popularity means that we have the rare pleasure of watching hundreds of players experience Luckless Seven right in front of us. The second, connected virtue is that these players offer awesome feedback: both generous compliments and insightful recommendations. As I often say in these posts, that feedback is invaluable.

A student game developer stops by to check out Luckless Seven.
At last year’s event, we demonstrated a very different-looking version of the game. The start menu looked different. The opening to the game distinctly lacked any supernatural beasts. The Ekosi tutorial was only recently designed, and it was a wordy beast that ultimately missed a few spots. Players recognized this, and they gave us diverse recommendations: some requested clarification on the card game’s finer details, and others rightly pointed out that our explanatory wall of text was overwhelming.
A GDEX attendee waits for our protagonist to wake up following the intro match. Wake up, Mark!
If you’ve been following development in the last year, you’ll know we’ve put a lot of attention into that opening segment of gameplay. It’s important to teach players how to play the card game clearly and concisely, and we’ve taken as much time as needed in pursuit of that goal. Exhibiting the game at GDEX 2016 was an exciting opportunity to measure our success in making the game both accessible and fun.
A player faces off with Krista in the game's opening match.
The results were encouraging. Like last year, we got to watch hundreds of people partake in the game we’ve invested so much care into. This time, however, we got to see these curious new players learning Ekosi much more quickly and easily than ever before. But it wasn’t just the anecdotal experience of watching players thriving: our player surveys were also overwhelmingly more positive than those from last year.
An attendee fills out the player survey after spending some time with the game.
We collected roughly fifty survey responses this year. All of the questions were optional, but a strong majority of respondents answered all questions. On average, players this year played for longer before hanging up their headphones, and more players elected to fill out the survey. Here are some of our favorite results:
  • Survey respondents ranked the game’s easiness to learn much more highly than last year.
  • Players indicated that there were far fewer points of confusion throughout the game’s tutorial.
  • The majority of respondents indicated that the game was visually impressive, fun to play, and original.
For much of the day, our booth was surrounded by play and conversation.
It’s important in any feedback context to be aware of potential biases, and that’s especially true at a big, public exhibition like GDEX. While the general public is invited to enter, a large portion of players are video game enthusiasts or developers themselves. In short, they’re people that support games. Not just that, but people can be overly polite when offering feedback about a project with the creators present. (People are nice like that.) All of this amounts to a potential positivity bias in survey results.

Even with that positivity bias in mind, we were very happy about the results of our survey. In comparing this year’s results to last’s, we see that attendees played longer, learned more easily, and enjoyed the game more overall. These results offer our team positive reinforcement for our time and energy spent to revamp the game’s opening. We feel that we’re on the right track to making Luckless Seven the game we want it to be.
Our composer, Brandon, explains the action to a spectator.
That confidence doesn’t mean that we’re content, though. If anything, just the opposite. The positive reception we received at GDEX 2016 is a direct result of player criticism and feedback, and we intend to continue implementing changes. Survey results, observations, and conversations with the players have indicated a few more areas for improvement. Some points of confusion included how replenishment cards work and how to navigate the opening areas. In the coming months, we’ll look to follow through on your constructive feedback!

That’s all from us for now! As always, you can find our public demos on Steam and IndieDB. We have some exciting news ahead as we continue production on Day 4 of gameplay. Thanks again for your support and your feedback.

Until next time,

Tyler

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