Vita Status Update

For months now, I’ve been saying that the long-promised Vita version of Axiom Verge is just around the corner and apologizing for the delays. My hope was that I would be able to get it out to everyone and not need to bore everyone with a lot of technical details as to why the port has been taking so long. But as we come within a month of the 1-year anniversary of the PS4 launch, I felt I owed the community a more detailed look at the issues we’re struggling with, where we are in the process, and how much further we have to go. The tl;dr version is this: we have a list of mostly known issues that we are working through and we really, really are getting quite close.

Since you’ve heard me say that we’re getting very close before, though, let me go into more detail about why I think that’s the case. For people who already paid for the PS4 version with the expectation that the Vita version was right around the corner, this isn’t meant to serve as an excuse for the delays. As a consumer, you shouldn’t have to care about what’s going on in behind the scenes. All you should have to know is that you’ve paid for something that included a promise for a Vita version, and you still haven’t gotten it yet. Many of you are upset about that, and that feeling is 100% justified.

So here’s the good news: the game is ported. It runs and is playable! Anyone who has worked on a porting project can tell you that that represents the biggest hurdle. Going from ported game to polished and shippable ported game is much easier than going from non-ported game to ported game. In fact, one of the reasons I couldn’t give a status update on the port before was that there was nothing to show. It was all plumbing and wiring. It’s only when you get everything hooked up and hit the switch that it goes from 0-100 pretty much overnight.

So from here on out, our focus is on cleanup, polish, and bug fixing. Here is the current list of known issues with the game. Some of these sound like major issues, but in most cases, it’s just a question of going down the list and implementing each feature or isolating a few bugs. For the most part, this list is not necessarily in the order of which these issues will be tackled; rather, it’s primarily in the order of ease of understanding. Any feature listed as critical is something we feel we cannot ship without.

The proper way to read this is not to add up all of the different timeframes to come up with the total time. Many of these things will happen in parallel. For example, fixing the graphics glitches is part of general QA. Fixing the memory issues will also help with load times. And so on. In fact, when I first started drafting this update, the list was quite a bit longer. In the time it took me to record the video, the to do list had shrunk by about a third.

I am extremely tempted to share our internal target dates for completion, but I am going to restrain myself from doing so, since I don’t want to fail to meet expectations and continue to disappoint those of you who have been so patient and supportive. However, I am very comfortable in announcing that we’re in the home stretch. It’s everyone’s top priority, and we’re getting closer every day. Thank you all for your continued patience and support.

 

Axiom Verge Going on Sale!

 

Sale season!

When Dan (the business side of Axiom Verge) and I discussed our pricing strategy, we decided that come hell or high water, we were going to keep the price as is for at least 6 months. Although this flies in the face of conventional wisdom (and we may have lost out on some sales as a result) we felt it was important to do for 2 main reasons:

  1. Respect for early adopters – I don’t want our customers to feel like suckers. We’ve all felt that sting of buyer’s remorse when we buy something at full price and then find it on sale (or free!) just a couple days later. I really appreciate everyone who believed enough in Axiom Verge to buy it in the beginning and didn’t want anyone to feel like a sucker for not waiting a couple weeks for a major discount. I want to be as transparent about pricing as possible so that anyone interested in Axiom Verge can make an informed decision about when to buy and for how much.
     
  2. Combating the race to the bottom – As you may know, times are tough for indie developers. There’s incredible pressure to slash prices right out of the gate, and the race to the bottom has been making indie game development unsustainable. There have been several extremely talented game developers who have had no choice but to leave game development as a career and instead do it as a hobby. Many developers slave away for years to make great games only to have people demand that they be sold at a 70% discount. As a professional indie developer I think it’s important to apply the brakes to this race to the bottom. In the long run, this will mean a healthier sustainable marketplace where great games will continue to be made.

Given all of that preamble, I’d like to announce that the 6-month window has passed, and I will be putting Axiom Verge on sale off and on throughout the holidays. In fact, the first sale – 30% off in the EU PSN Store – is going on right now! The other places where Axiom Verge is sold, Steam and the NA PSN Store, will be getting similar discounts later this month. If you have friends who have been holding off on getting Axiom Verge, you can let them know that now is a good time to get it!

T-shirts!

Thanks to everyone who voted in the Axiom Verge t-shirt design contest we did with We Love Fine! We got a bunch of amazing entries, and it was really tough to narrow it down to our favorite 3 designs. But we did, and now they’re all available for purchase. Here are the designs:

  

All of the shirts are available in both men’s and women’s cuts and have a variety of color choices. Also, I’m a big fan of creative people being compensated for their work, so you should know that those fans who designed these shirts will all be receiving a portion of the proceeds.

In addition to these 3 designs, I still have some of the original t-shirt design available on my website. Here’s me, Dan, and Iga (yes, THAT Iga) showing it off:

 

I am talking with another t-shirt manufacturer about producing and distributing this design, so in the next month or so I expect to take this down from my site and direct people to buy it elsewhere. The specifics of that will be announced soon.

Vita update

I often feel like if I don’t mention Vita, people will assume that it’s not always on my mind. It is, and I can report that significant progress has been and is being made! I will be giving some more detailed updates on this in the next month or so, but for now let’s just say that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Keep in mind that it is retroactively cross-buy, so if you bought Axiom Verge on PS4 already, you will get the Vita version for free when it launches. Also, if any of your friends have a Vita, they can take advantage of the aforementioned upcoming sale and get both for the price of one!

Thanks again for everyone’s support and patience. It was a lot more complicated than any of us expected it to be, but we’re getting there.

Baby Alastair, Paternity Leave, and Vita

We had a baby.

We Had a Baby

So back on August 3rd, we had a baby.  Technically I shouldn't be writing anything until November as I promised Chloe I'd take 3 months of paternity leave - but if I'm writing about baby Alastair, the lines are a bit blurred, no?

It has been, basically, insane.  Before you have a baby, everyone deluges you with warnings about how hard it will be to feed and change diapers every three hours, etc.  But since both my wife and I are home all day, that isn't really a big issue.  The thing nobody prepared us for was a little thing called juandice, which common wisdom says isn't a big deal, but in actuality can kill your child or leave it with lifelong disabilities.

The fluorescent blue lights break down bilirubin.

They measure jaundice by the amount of bilirubin a newborn's bloodstream.  A level of 5 or more makes the baby turn yellowish.  A level of 20-25 or higher causes brain damage or even death, so when it gets to 12 or so, they treat it with special blue lights that break it down.    This was the case for Alastair, so they put him under lights for about 2 days until his level went down to 9.  They had us watch a special precautionary video about Kernicterus, where children with high bilirubin amounts are left with cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and other maladies.  Since he was still in the yellow range, they warned us to take him to a pediatrician at the earliest possible time - this was a Friday, so that meant Monday at 8 am - then discharged us.

Having a baby at home for two days was awesome.  Unfortunately his bilirubin rise over the weekend, unbeknownst to us.   The pediatrician, noticing that he was still yellow, took another bilirubin test.  It had risen to 42.

You can't see every wire but there are at least 5 of them.

So the next two weeks were spent in the ER and the ICU.  A bilirubin of 42 was  higher than they'd ever seen, so they retested to make sure - and it came out 41.7.  We were told to his brain was being damaged as we waited and to expect severe neurological problems; he might never again be able to move, eat, hear, or talk.  They ordered a full exchange transfusion to cleanse out as much of the bilirubin as possible.  He needed to be transferred to another hospital with more advanced facilities, transfused, then transferred back as it wasn't covered by Health Plan of Nevada.  He went under the blue bili-lights. They tested his kidneys and did an ultrasound on his liver.  He was treated with antibiotics, since infection was the only way they could explain such high bilirubin values.  He had an EEG showing non-clinical seizures.  He failed the hearing ABR - where they test whether the brain can still receive signals from the ears.   He had cords coming out of every limb for monitoring, IV, transfusion, etc.  By the end his veins were so damaged from continued testing that they had to switch to oral medications.  

All he wants now is a Vita.

We were surprised, then, when his MRI came out clean - a bilirubin this high is supposed to cause visible lesions to the parts of the brain responsible for hearing and motor control, but nothing was apparent.

Even more interesting, he appears able to eat, control his limbs, respond to our voices, and basically do normal baby stuff.  We've taken him to a hematologist, a GI specialist, a neurologist, an ear/nose/throat doctor, a urologist, and a physical therapist, and all seem to think he's basically normal.  He's still taking a small amount of anti-seizure medication as a precaution, but the neurologist says he should be weaned off of it soon.

The Deal With Vita

In the absence of any updates to the contrary, many people have said that the Vita version is canned.  Not true!  Honestly, though, it's kinda hairy how it all unfolded - the original plan was that Mono would come out for Vita and I would just port over the same code I used for PS4, but I think something happened with Xamarin, and the Mono port never materialized (perhaps they wanted more money from Sony than the Vita games could reasonably return?  I don't know the details, this is just a guess).  But then a small miracle happened and the folks at Sickhead (who also develop Monogame) started developing a C# to C++ cross compiler, and Sony asked them to do the Vita ports for both AV and Towerfall.

The really great thing about a C#/C++ cross-compiler is it makes it possible to port XNA/FNA/Monogame stuff to all kinds of platforms without having to involve Xamarin in the picture.  So when PS5 and XBox Two or whatever come out, I won't have to switch over to a whole other engine just to support them.  And bypassing the virtual machine should also yield some performance benefits.

The downside is that this work is really, really hard.  Originally they were thinking the tech would be ready in June, but it's obviously slipped.  C# does a great job of shielding users from complex native underpinnings, and this is what Tom Spilman and folks need to replicate in full. From what I gather they have Towerfall running to some degree but AV is a more difficult beast in terms of things like executable size, memory usage, graphical complexity, etc.  My personal prediction would be it'll be ready late this year, but it's hard to know for sure.

But it is coming.

Axiom Verge OUT NOW on Steam and Humble Store!

Steam:  http://store.steampowered.com/app/332200/
Humble: https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/axiomverge_storefront

 

Here's the press release:

LAS VEGAS – May 14, 2015 – Tom Happ is proud to announce that Axiom Verge is now available for purchase on Steam and the Humble Store for PC, OSX, and Linux. Axiom Verge is an action-platform-exploration game that's not only created in intricate detail in the style of classics such as Metroid, Contra, and Master Blaster, but uses old-school "glitches" as a gameplay feature. You'll use them to scramble enemies, corrupt environments, and pass through walls into hidden areas in a massive alien world.

New features include Steam Cloud saves, Achievements, Trading Cards, Leaderboards (Global Leaderboards at launch, in-game Leaderboards shortly after), and in-game map reminders. Map reminders will be coming to PlayStation 4 version in an upcoming update.

Watch the Axiom Verge Trailer

With over 900 unique rooms to explore, Axiom Verge is the culmination of five years of art, code, music, and game design all from sole developer Tom Happ. In Axiom Verge, you play as Trace, a scientist who awakes in an alien world after a lab explosion. A voice calls to Trace telepathically for help, his only clue to the strange world in which he finds himself. As Trace works his way toward the voice and beyond, he explores an expansive world of monstrous enemies, power-ups, weapons, bosses, and loads of hidden items.

Axiom Verge is priced at $19.99 / €17.99 and debuted on PlayStation®4 to near universal acclaim. It received 24 separate reviews from major outlets giving it a 9 out of 10 or higher, including Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann’s first perfect 5 out of 5 score in two years. 

Features: 

  • Explore an expansive non-linear alien world with more than 900 unique, interlocking rooms.
  • Gobs of unique tools and abilities, loads of weapons, and tons of health/power/attribute upgrades.
  • Battle with nearly 70 unique creatures and gigantic screen-filling bosses.
  • "Glitches" now allow you to break past the boundaries of normal gameplay.
  • Speedrun Mode – Play with a streamlined interface and additional features to facilitate speedrunning.
  • Supports Steam Cloud saves, Achievements, Trading Cards, Leaderboards (Global Leaderboards at launch, in-game Leaderboards shortly after), and in-game map reminders.
  • Available now for PC, OSX, Linux, and PlayStation 4. Planned PlayStation Vita release (cross-buy supported with PlayStation 4).

 

Axiom Verge Releases for Steam on May 14th!!

"After achieving top marks on the PlayStation 4, the PC release will be available on Steam and the Humble Store on Thursday, May 14th. Axiom Verge is an action-platform-exploration game in the tradition of classics like Metroid, Contra, and Blaster Master. In addition to new PC features like Steam Cloud saves and Trading Cards, it boasts over 900 screens in a massive alien world, monstrous enemies, bosses, and power-ups."

Here's the full press release: 

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/pressreleases/241675/Axiom_Verge_Announces_May_14th_Release_on_PC_Steam_Humble_Bundle__PlayStation_Vita_to_Follow.php