With Sunless Skies now officially available for Early Access / Games in Development, the MALMQUIST BIAS sprint was focused on analysing feedback and bug fixing. A few departments such as art have also begun to explore our next region: Albion.
Quality Assurance, or QA, is a very important role in the games industry, especially during Early Access, where there are bound to be plenty of bugs about. QA testers are responsible for all things to do with bugs: finding, tracking, reporting, and being the relay between our community and our developers, not only for bugs but also for more general feedback.
Even before launch, our QA Lesleyann was in charge of setting up the bug reporting pipeline for players, which you may have seen on our How to Report a Bug and Known Issues pages. Since launch, she has tackled over 300 bug report emails as well as scanning the Steam, GOG and FBG forums for community feedback.
From there she has designed a lovely feedback grid spreadsheet (you know how much game developers love a good spreadsheet) to share with the development team so that we know generally how players feel about certain features, game balance etc. As we upload new builds of the game with bug fixes and feature additions or adjustments, Lesleyann will update the spreadsheet. From there, other members of the team can stay up to date with the players’ thoughts.
Each region of the game will feature a distinct mood and ecosystem and thus one of the first steps for creating our next region, Albion, is deciding on its art direction. Paul and Tobias began the design and discussion by creating a colour journey. Colour journeys are quite common for things like film and television—it’s basically mapping out the colour palette for the region, in this case via outer ring, inner ring, and core. Below you can see a purposefully pixelated version:
From there, Albion’s ports can be conceptually sketched out, combining the writers’ descriptions and the decided colouring/mood. After it’s concepted, they check back with the writers to make sure that they’ve met the descriptions but also to make sure that the actual design of the part will work logically with the content they’ve created.
This also helps Paul and Tobias refine the art pipeline, so that they are designing the ports in the most efficient way possible. We wouldn’t want to have an artist fully map out, define, and polish a port only to find out a small detail about its construction that won’t work in-game alongside content.
Tobias has also been continuing asset creation, such as the hefty cargo ship the Pellinore, as well as the devilishly handsome Kickstarter stretch goal, the Moloch.
Meanwhile, the Moloch is a beast of brass and steam! A midnight miracle of hydraulics! Furnished in the most indulgent luxury, with carpet so thick you’ll lose your toes in it, and mahogany as dark as the inside of a confessional.
Manufactured by refugees from Hell, the Moloch is an experimental engine available only at the Royal Society.
Tobias explains a bit about the influences on the Moloch: “With the Moloch, aside from the existing description created for the Kickstarter, my notes from our Narrative Director, Chris, were simply ‘luxury and brass.’
I wanted to avoid any immediate Hell Train cliches—no skulls and spikes—and instead looked at luxury cars from the early part of the 20th century, since there’s something innately devilish to me about those sinuous cars that seem like 90% bonnet. They’re a little ahead of our time period in Sunless Skies, but given how special this vehicle is, and that it was manufactured by devils, I felt alright about giving it an unusual twist.
I also took inspiration from brass coated instruments such as saxophones for the pipework on the body, and added fins to give the silhouette a bit of extra character.”
Along with these locomotive models, Tobias also created a future Discovery.
The writers have spent most of their time this sprint designing the foundations for Albion and its ports. Chris and James has been tackling the art briefs, while our freelance partners like Meg Jayanth and Richard Cobbett have been busy pitching their ports.
The Tech team have devoted quite a bit of this sprint towards working with Lesleyann to iron out the bugs being reported from Early Access. When we update the game on Steam / GOG with new builds that include bug fixes, we will be posting Patch Notes so players can see exactly which bugs have been fixed and which new features have been added.
NOTE FOR BACKERS: Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org along with your pledge tier level if you have not yet received your Early Access keys – thank you! It appears spam filters may have eaten quite a few of our key emails.
Join us on Friday at 16:00 BST for the FBG Podcast! We’ll be there to take your questions and delve into the creation of Sunless Skies.