Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The Future of Dead Frontier

First of all I want to apologise for being silent this past month or so. I will try to explain as best I can why I fell off the radar, and what my plans are going forward.

What Happened
When Dead Frontier 2 first launched I was incredibly happy. We had over 10,000 players online which I feel is a massive achievement for such a low budget game. Just to put it in perspective, due to differences in the way concurrent players are counted, this was probably 4x more players online than DF1 ever had at it's peak. To date over 700,000 people have played the game, and I expect that will eventually reach over 1 million. Our early review score was pretty good too so there was a lot to be proud of back then. I was super tired from working on so many fixes/updates, but things felt good.

However despite those impressive early numbers, it was clear to me that there were definite problems. It felt like every week that passed, we lost a significant number of active players. At first I managed to stay upbeat, thinking that within a month or so the game would settle to a decent number of players, perhaps 2-3k online and that would then give us a solid enough base to ensure that the game would have a strong long term future. However those numbers came and went, and as of right now we seem to only have around 400 online, and it feels like it's still dropping quite fast.

Financially the game has not done well beyond the first two weeks. If you exclude any salary for my time spent, then DF2 just about covered it's development costs during that early period. As of now though, it's only just bringing in enough to cover it's running costs and not much else. To put it into perspective, the 10 year old DF1, that hasn't been updated or had new items released for a long time, is earning 3x more and that ratio is probably just going to increase over time. Of course, with a more aggressive business model, DF2 would be earning more per player, but I'm guessing it would also have even less players than it does now.

The review score has also been dropping. Most early players were DF1 fans and were nice enough to give me the benefit of the doubt, but the newer people coming in now simply don't have that nostalgia so have a lower opinion of the game.

All of the above combined with me being generally tired/stressed/burnt out from development, and a fair number of complaints/insults directed at me created a perfect storm which basically led to me becoming pretty depressed. I basically stopped looking at everything; discord, forums, social media. I even stopped looking at the financial reports and player counts because it was just making me feel like crap. Of course this also slowed down my work speed.

What Now?
I still feel like DF2 has a chance of succeeding once it's finished, so I will definitely be continuing my work on it. Even if it doesn't end up as a success, I still want to finish it for personal reasons.

However DF1 is currently the only game that is actually keeping the lights on at Creaky Corpse HQ, so the only practical course of action is for me to put some more energy into updating it again. Therefore I'll soon be announcing a whole array of new things for the older game.

Although this post looks grim, please don't worry about either game being shut down. As I have mentioned a few times previously, the tech DF1 and DF2 run under means that it would be very easy for me to scale down our servers and keep both games running on a shoestring budget, one which I will happily fund from my own pocket if necessary. Despite the ups and downs, I am incredibly proud of both of these games, and I want people to enjoy them for as long as possible; even if they don't make any money.

Personal Note
Writing this post hasn't been easy, I actually started it over a week ago but I just couldn't find the right words. I really poured everything I had into DF2 and it feels horrible to admit that it hasn't worked out so far. I know that I am letting down a lot of people, and it's something that I will feel guilty about for a long time to come.

Sorry everyone :(








Monday, 17 September 2018

Dead Frontier 2: My Early Plans

Dead Frontier 2 was released into EA 12 days ago, and now that I've had some time to reflect and recover, I think it's safe to say that the game is a success so far. Perhaps not the mega hit some of us were hoping for, but it's definitely done well.

The review score is better than I expected it to be this early on, and even though our peak concurrent players has dropped a bit since launch, the total number of people logging in each day (DAU) is actually going up over time. Essentially more people are playing in total, they just aren't playing 24/7 like they were in the first 3 days.

One of my main reasons for launching into Early Access was so that I would be able to get your feedback earlier, and using that go on to make a much better game. That is exactly what has happened, and I now have a much clearer picture of what exactly you guys would like to see.

In this post, I am going to write down what I feel are your main issues with the game, and then I post my thoughts on this, and how I am planning to solve or improve it.

I want to say that at this stage I am not planning to publish a proper roadmap, with exact timescales etc. For example, I could probably promise to implement Outpost Attacks by the end of the month. It would actually be possible to do that, but only by rushing and completely ignoring anything new that crops up as we go; which would probably be a mistake. This doesn't mean I'll be slacking off, it just means that I won't be making any promises unless I know for sure I can keep them.

Generally speaking my aim is to first focus on the small improvements which make the biggest impact. Only once we have the core game working nicely will I then turn my attention on big new features and content.


Melee Combat is too clunky/hard to use
I agree that there is a significant learning curve with the melee combat, and that it was incredibly hard to use against groups of zombies. In the last patch I made some changes which I believe makes melee *a lot* more usable, namely: ability to stun up to 3 enemies in one hit, directional stuns, and directional dodge. With those changes I think melee combat with zombies is now a lot more forgiving and far less annoying.

A lot of people have suggested that melee swings should not cause the character to step forward, and/or that you should be able to move during swinging. I actually tried a test version of this melee combat before making the above changes, and I must say I didn't like it. In my opinion it was far to easy to stay out of range of the enemies and just wack them before they got anywhere near you. From an animation perspective, I also felt it looked far less realistic since there was no weight behind the character's attacks. I have sneaking suspicion that if I actually implemented this, there would be a lot of players who would want me to just revert back to the old system.

So, if it becomes clear that the community *really* wants a big rework, then I will probably do it. But for the moment at least, melee will stay roughly as it is and I will move on to other things.


It's too hard to find things/NPCs
I think the best solution to this would be an automap that fills in as your explore, adds names of NPCs, and provides other info which can be hard to remember. I see this as a high priority item, but it will be a fair amount of work to complete so it may not appear for a little while yet.


Missions are too hard/confusing/weird
Missions do definitely have a lot of weird quirks, and other issues that make them difficult to complete. Some are bugs, others are just design oversights. I will definitely be working on these soon. Some people have suggested having a notice board instead of random NPCs as they can be hard to find. I personally think that the automap will solve this problem, and I do like the little extra bit of immersion you get with finding random NPCs in the game world; so I'd prefer not to add a noticeboard if we can avoid it.


Too many loading screens/it should be open world etc
I personally like the loading screens, and it gives the game that nostalgic Resident Evil vibe. They allow people with older PCs to enjoy the game, and they help to make even slow zombies feel challenging. They have also made development *a lot* easier for me, especially when it comes to multiplayer logic.

A criticism I hear a lot for open world games is that the zombies aren't a threat, and that you spend too much time wandering around empty landscapes. This is because it's technically very hard to have enough zombies running around (and other interesting stuff) at once to even remotely fill a large area like this. If DF2 were to go open world, then we'd have the same problems. I also feel we'd lose a lot of our uniqueness and become "yet another zombie survival game".

To turn DF2 into an open world game would mean completely rewriting half of the game. That could mean an entire year with no other updates, and the final result could end up being worse than what we have now. It would undoubtedly introduce a lot of new bugs and performance issues. Therefore I think making the game open world is simply not realistic any time soon. Maybe it's something I could look into a few years down the line, but to attempt it now I think would be a big mistake.

Having said all of that, I do understand that the loading screens can get annoying after a long play session. I think the most reasonable solution here is to simply skew future content towards more & larger outdoor areas with smaller building interiors. For example, a fairly large (but not huge) farm area with just a few buildings to visit, a forest with some shacks etc. Outpost attacks, world bosses and PvP zones will also happen outdoors, so I think that will help a lot to break up the door loading.


Too repetitive
I think this is just a side effect of me releasing such a small chunk of the game and will certainly improve over time. Once OAs, world bosses, barricading, competitions, PvP modes, crafting, clans etc are added I think the game will be bursting with variety. Content updates which not only expand the size of the world, but add completely new location types which again make the game feel a lot nicer too. Unfortunately all of this will take me some time to complete.

So in the short term, I plan to add some random events in the streets (such as bosses and mini-hordes). I will also be adding a dedicated outdoor PvP area. These updates should be quite quick and easy to add, and should make the game a little more interesting while you wait for the bigger updates.


Not enough content
The game does need more content, and it will definitely be added. Personally I'd like to see at least triple the number of weapons/armour/clothing, double the number of enemy types, lots more outdoor & indoor location types, a much higer level cap etc. All of these will be coming, but as with the bigger features, it will take me some time to complete. Instead of doing one big content drop, most likely I'll break them up into smaller sections and release them in between the bigger feature updates.


Inflation/market chaos
This is the zombie apocalypse, not shopping at Walmart! Total chaos is what we want! :)

However, inflation does need to reined in a little and so I will definitely be adding more cash sinks. One idea I quite like the idea of is an NPC that allows players to donate cash. When enough cash has been donated in a certain time period, everyone in the game will receive some kind of bonus (like more EXP). I will also add some more "normal" sinks like dying clothes, buying vehicles etc.


Market UI is annoying
Yes, it is a real pain to use currently, and so I will attempt to rework things to keep it all in one screen rather than flipping between constantly. I quite like this design posted on our subreddit:
https://i.redd.it/91k88ob2k6m11.png (by LilManticore)

This is a high priority since the market plays a huge part in the game. It also shouldn't take *too* long to complete.


UI Ugly/Needs Icons
Yes our UI is rather basic and not super fun to look at when compared to other modern games. I would definitely like to improve this at some point. However much like the door loading, this setup has made development much quicker and easier. Having such a simple text based system will allow me to add new features/content at a much faster pace. Therefore I think it would be unwise to move towards prettier, but harder to update system too early. This will be sorted, but right now it is at a low priority level.


Other UI Issues
Other than how it looks, the UI has a lot of other like quirks and can be quite fiddly at times. You guys have suggested a lot of little quality of life improvements (such as use/consume on loot, easier refuelling, sorting, stacking etc)  and luckily most of these will not be especially hard to add in. Therefore I will be looking to apply as many of these as I can in the very near future.


Updates Coming Soon
To sum everything above up, here is what I'm planning to add in the very near future:
  • Mini random outdoor events like bosses and hordes
  • A dedicated outdoor pvp zone
  • An automap
  • Market redesign
  • Small UI qol improvements
  • Small mission improvements
  • Cash sink(s)
  • Bug fixes! (as always)

Updates Coming Not Quite So Soon
After the above are complete, I will mostly like move on to Outpost Attacks and the first content update :)


Conclusion
Sorry for this huge wall of text guys. I hope all of that communicates what's going on in my brain currently, and should at least give you a vague idea of how the game in going to progress in the coming weeks/months. No doubt this will disappoint some of you who were hoping for bigger things. Please do remember that I'm only one guy, with a wife and 4 young kids to look after, so there are limits to what I can realistically achieve.

Still, I really do think that the final version of DF2 will be pretty damn amazing, and I'm really excited about the future :)

Thanks for reading,
Neil

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

DF1 > DF2 Rewards and Name Reservations are live!

Please follow these steps to reserve your username, clan name (if you own one) and claim your DF2 rewards:
  1. Go to deadfrontier.com and login to your DF1 account

  2. Put any items you wish to claim (VC, WC, Dusk etc) into your inventory. Items in storage or trading won't count.

  3. Go to the following link:
    https://fairview.deadfrontier.com/onlinezombiemmo/index.php?page=58

  4. Read all of the information on screen and then enter your main email address (the one you plan to use with DF2) into the two boxes and click submit.

    NOTE: Once you have entered an email, you cannot change it. Make sure you get it right the first time!

  5. You should then receive a confirmation of your name reservation(s) and DF2 rewards.

  6. If you have any other DF1 accounts, return to step 1 and repeat. You can apply rewards from multiple accounts to a single email address.

  7. When DF2 launches, create an account with the same email address and complete the
    confirmation process. Once that is done, log out and back in again, and you should then have access to your credits and cosmetic rewards. In addition, only you will be able to make a character or a clan with the reserved names.

  8. Enjoy all your free stuff!

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Once you have linked a DF1 account to an email, you cannot link it to any other email.

  • You can claim rewards multiple times. So for example you can claim at level 200, then claim again at level 325 and get the extra rewards.

  • Multiple DF1 accounts can be linked to the same email.

  • The email you choose does NOT have to be the same as the email entered for that DF1 account.

  • Wraith Cannons and Gau-19s (non unlimited ammo versions) will get permanently marked once they have been claimed. That means they cannot be claimed again.

  • The name that gets reserved is your DF1 username (not the character name, which is not unique).

  • Reserving a name does not mean that you *have* to use it in DF2.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Raw gameplay footage & other news before launch

Gameplay Video
As of today we have just over 42k wishlists on Steam. Even though this isn't quite the 50k target I previously set, I've decided that it's close enough (we'll probably get there by launch day anyway). So I've gone ahead and made an unedited 10 minute video of Dead Frontier 2 gameplay. Of course it's still not 100% done, but I think it's good enough to show at this point. Unlike bigger developers I didn't have time to pre-plan this, or setup anything special to show off; we literally just launched the game and recorded whatever we happened to come across. Hopefully you guys will like what you see :)

See the video here:
https://youtu.be/2yH_3jzJhNY

Alpha Testing
We began the alpha testing process with just over 20 people a few weeks ago and I'm pleased to say that things have gone very well. The feedback from the testers has been incredibly positive. Whilst there were some issues, they were all fairly minor and I've managed to iron pretty much all of them out already. With just a handful of bugs left to fix I am now very confident that the game will be both stable and fun to play on launch day.

Only 26 days to go!
I can't believe there is less than a month to go until launch day. The time has just whizzed by (for me at least!). I've still got a lot to get done in that time and that unfortunately means that this will probably be my last blog post before EA begins. For those who are interested, this is what I still have to get done (in order of priority):

  • DF1 > DF2 Reward system
  • Final bug fixes/tweaks
  • Books/journals
  • Basic main storyline
  • Server upgrades
  • Final load test
  • Premium cosmetics system
  • Storage upgrades
  • Marketing/Advertising 

That is a lot to get done in such a short period of time, but I think I can do it (just about). Regardless of if I get it all in or not, the game will launch on August 31st (10am BST).

Name Reservation and DF1 Rewards
This is currently the highest priority item on my todo list, and I'm hoping to have this system ready within the next few days. Once it's done I'll be posting in all the normal locations (Discord, Reddit, Forums etc) with instructions on how to claim these.

If you haven't already, please do add DF2 to your Steam wishlist, that way you'll be notified the moment the game is launched:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/744900/Dead_Frontier_2/

Thanks for reading!
Neil

https://deadfrontier2.com

Friday, 6 July 2018

Official Trailer, New Screenshots and More

Offical Trailer Released
I'm happy to report that the trailer for Dead Frontier 2 is now complete and can be seen here:
https://youtu.be/pBr2Mt-fbtE

Hope you like it!

Development News
To be perfectly honest there hasn't been a whole lot more to report from the past month or so. I've basically had my head down, fixing bugs and polishing like crazy for the last few weeks. It's not very exciting, but it's very necessary!

I still have a few features left to complete for the EA release, but these are all non-essential items to the core gameplay, such as payments, support system, DF1 reward system, name reservation, achievements etc. Therefore I intend to start closed alpha testing without these implemented. This should be in just a few days time, and I plan to start contacting people tomorrow. 

Overall I think the game is shaping up REALLY nicely, and I'm now pretty confident that most of you will like it (if not love it) =D

Marketing Time
Originally I had planned that by now the EA version of the game would be totally finished, and I'd be able to focus 100% of my attention on to marketing and hyping up the game. Unfortunately I still have a fair bit left to do including: last minute features, bug fixes, balancing & responding to alpha testing feedback. This means that my marketing efforts are going to take a bit of a hit. I'll still do my best, but it's not quite the ideal situation.

Luckily there is something you guys can do to help. There are a lot of places on the internet with people who might be interested in DF2, such as discords, sub-reddits, forums etc. Unfortunately it's normally not allowed for developers to self-promote in these locations, but in most cases fans posting about upcoming games is fine as long as they are real members of that community (not just dropping in to post a link).

If just 10% of you posted the DF2 trailer link in one location each, that would probably result in a huge number of new Steam wishlists, and would get us over that 50k threshold in no time at all. And as I promised before, once we hit that target I'll post a full 20 minute long video of unedited gameplay footage (which should then boost wishlists 100k =D )

For the record I am not suggesting you all become a bunch of spammers. The last thing I want is for anyone to get into to trouble. So please make sure  that you only post in places where people might actually be interested in DF2 (places dedicated to gaming, zombies, horror etc), follow the rules of your community and (where necessary) get permission from the moderators first.

Thanks a ton in advance for any of you that do decide to do this. And remember sharing on facebook or even just telling your friends directly about the game will also be a massive help.

New Screenshots
In addition to the trailer I've also updated our screenshots and Steam page. 














If you haven't already, please do add DF2 to your Steam wishlist, that way you'll be notified the moment the game is launched:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/744900/Dead_Frontier_2/

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Gameplay Footage, Rewards, Release Day & More!

Gameplay Footage
Right now the number of people who have added Dead Frontier 2 to their Steam wishlist stands at just under 20,000. A Steam employee recently said that in order to receive front page promotion from them, games would generally need around 50,000 wishlists just prior to their launch. I would of course *really* like to hit this target but we're going to need some serious help in order to hit that before the end of August. We really need everyone to tell their friends (both IRL and social media) about the game, and try to convince them to add it to their wishlist.

As a small incentive, I have decided to release a raw, 20 minute long, unedited video of DF2 gameplay footage for you all as soon as we reach 50,000 wishlists. The sooner we hit the goal, the sooner I'll release the video. So if you haven't already, please tell all your friends about DF2 and encourage them to add it to their wishlists :-)

Our Steam page:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/744900/Dead_Frontier_2/

Honestly this is not something I'd ideally like to do, as I don't think the game is quite ready show yet. However if it helps us get to 50k wishlists I think it'll be worth it.

Don't worry though, even if we don't hit the target there will still be a trailer and some shorter gameplay clips released once we get closer to the release date.


Release Date
After a lot of contemplation I have decided that now is the time to announce the final, fixed release date for Dead Frontier 2 EA. That date is (drumroll please)...

10am GMT on August 31st 2018

I know a lot of you were hoping for July or even June, but unfortunately that is just not possible. I strongly feel that if I were to release the game in the middle of summer that it would be a bit of a disaster. It still needs a lot of polish, balancing and most importantly bug fixing before I would consider it ready for launch.

For those of you who are hoping to beat me with the "neil time" stick, remember that August 31st is still summer so this is not *technically* a delay! =D


Alpha Testing

Previously I said that I would be accepting applications for people who'd like to be alpha testers soon. The plan was that everyone would fill out a questionnaire and I'd review them and pick the best. Unfortunately I've come to realise that this method would just not be practical.

The writing competition had over 1,000 entries and it took Ian and I a long time to go through them all and pick the best. Alpha Testing applications would likely have 10x the amount of entrants and the amount of time we'd need to pick people would be simply unmanageable. So we have decided to scrap the idea of accepting applications all-together.

The new plan is simply that I will be picking people semi-randomly from those active on our discord server when the time comes. If you haven't already you can join our discord server here:
https://discordapp.com/invite/deadfrontier2

I now expect that the alpha testing will begin in mid to late June (yes I know, *another* delay!)


DF1 > DF2 Cosmetic Rewards
As you may already know we are offering rewards in DF2 for people who play DF1. Basically any credits you bought (including via GM) in DF1 from 2017 onwards, until the EA release of DF2 will be duplicated in DF2 for you to spend there. In addition we are offering cosmetic rewards for reaching certain milestones in DF1. I am please to say that we can finally show you exactly what you'll be getting for each:


Nomad Armour Set



Level 20 or higher:
Nomad Boots
Nomad Gloves

Level 50 or higher:
Nomad Legs

Level 100 or higher:
Nomad Body

Level 200 or higher:
Nomad Mask







Level 325:


Dusk Enforcer

Owning any of the Dusk items:
Dusk Mesh Set

Owning a UWC or UGAU:
(all of the following)

Hammerhead

Painshot

Longshot
Doubleshot


Nine Cutter


Owning a WC or GAU: (both of the following)

Desert Rat
Uziel


Owning a Vengeance Guard:

Vengeance Guard Set


Owning Ghost Ammo: (both of the following)
Corpse Shooter

Ironsight

Owning an Ultra Boost:
Pumpkin Mask

Hope you like them! =D

If you'd like to stay up to date with DF2 developments, please sign up to the mailing list, like/follow/subscribe/wishlist us on social media (especially Steam!). All those lovely links can be found here:
https://deadfrontier2.com

Thanks for reading!
-Neil

Friday, 11 May 2018

Writing Competition Winners

As you may remember we held a writing competition last month. We had a huge number of entries (well over 1,000) so it took us a bit longer than we had planned to go through them all.

The vast majority of the entries were really good and it was incredibly tough deciding on the winners.  However Ian (Xaelath) and I have finally managed to decide on the winning submissions.

The winners and their entries are:

Armand H,  Police Transcript & DOD Letter

Tsvetoslav S, Horologist

Oliver C, Diary of Tim Newman 1-3

Jesus K, To Maria Santos

Joule P C, Newborn Baby

Vincent N, I told Bill not to bring the .22. 1-4

"Lucian", Flight Transcript & An Essay on the Degree of Consciousness

"BrightsideGuy", Necrophilliac's Note

"Jack", 3 Entries: Notes from Jack/Elizabeth

Abel O, Chili Con Canine

Nadera M, The Stew

Jordan B, Filth outside my door again

Stephanie H, Photographer's Diary

T.S. Eleanore, My Sweet Little Child

"ClockworkCookie", The Beasts 1-4

S. D. Kang, Because she was Penny to me

Jessica N, Mary-Ann


Well done to you all! I really can't wait to put these pieces into the game.

If you are one of the winners you should already have received an email from us detailing the next steps. Unfortunately, if your name doesn't appear above, and you haven't already received an email then that means you were unsuccessful. Even so, thank you very much for taking part and don't give up on the writing! We may very well hold another one of these competitions soon :)