Gadzooks, true believers! You don’t need to whip out your decoder rings to figure out that, in mere days, we’ll officially be in the autumn season. And I know what you’re thinking: “But Nick, you said Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection was coming this summer, and as of right now, you’re just about out of summer!”
Alas, it’s true. You’re not going to see Zwei pop up on Steam without warning – both because there’s more I want to share before the game finally comes out, and because…well, letting you know in advance so you can plan/budget/spend accordingly is good policy. But most importantly, you’re not going to see it pop up because it’s not ready for release yet.
I’m not great at math and even I can tell there’s something iffy about those fractions.
At this moment, Zwei: II is in the middle of QA testing. We’ve got the game up and running: internally, Danielle, Nate, and I have played it through from beginning to end, and I’ve been busily making many tweaks and edits to the first-pass localization thanks to the helpful ability to see lines appearing in context. So on the “overall progress” front, we’re looking pretty good, actually.
And yet, to put it simply, there are some issues remaining that we wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing the game with and just patching later. Let me run down a couple of these with you to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
1. If you watched our XSEED Livestream where I played Zwei, you might remember the unfortunate instance where I crashed out of the game because I got poisoned. Back then, we thought we’d gotten that one fixed, but it reared its head then, and is still crashing our games now. I found that this can be prevented by keeping the anti-poison accessory equipped whenever you’re in an area where there’s the possibility of being poisoned, but…you shouldn’t have to do that. It’s not supposed to be an anti-crashing accessory.
2. My top bugbear is that, within the game, there are places where the Japanese text for a line will display instead of the English. The first time I played through our English build, it happened almost never, but has since cropped up in other places – even in areas where I knew that text had been localized and easily located it in the files. We eventually had Sara do a game rip for the full text and Tom converted that to a file format similar to what I’d been working on all this time and inserting my localization back into it. In doing this, we found that some of the content – the bonus material in the “Zwei 2 Plus” Japanese release – wasn’t in our original script. That’s all been translated and localized now, and hopefully the new, easier-to-work-with file format will be a blanket fix for the Japanese text that was appearing.
3. Since the game is releasing on Steam, I made achievements for it, because that’s something you do on Steam. It wasn’t originally designed with achievements in mind, though (it has its own internal “achievement system” in the form of gaining ranks in the Hunter’s Guild), so testing and making sure the achievements work as per their description is important, and also very time-consuming.
Because this is the first time I’ve actually had to create achievements from scratch (rather than just localize the Japanese achievements, as I did for the Trails of Cold Steel games), let me pause for a moment to expound on achievement design philosophy. In deciding what I wanted as achievements in Zwei: II, I wanted to cover a couple bases. I wanted several achievements that charted story progress, since the game is story-centric and people finishing the games they start is not a foregone conclusion and should be encouraged. Secondly, I wanted some achievements for collecting things, which involves more active exploration – like getting all the pets, or collecting every accessory. Third, I wanted a couple that were “hard,” in the sense that you had to do optional post-game stuff to get them, or that would be the result of more than one playthrough.
Feast your eyes on this cute achievement icon!
The tricky part here is that in this game, most of the things in a category will be fairly straightforward to obtain via progress, exploration, or money, but capstone things like the last pet, the very strongest armors (which also change Ragna and Alwen’s looks!), and the final Arcanum combo skill are gated behind doing optional content that’s a solid step up in difficulty from the base game. So what would ordinarily be a fun, reachable achievement like “Collect all the armors for Alwen” just becomes “do the optional dungeon” if we include those last “costume” armors, because you’ll get them as rewards for clearing different branches of that dungeon. And it’s redundant, too, because we already have an achievement for clearing all the branches of the bonus dungeon.
So the question is: do we treat those armors from the optional dungeon as…well, optional and make them not count for the purpose of the achievement? It’s a tough call, though I lean toward “yes, treat that stuff as optional” because there are already a couple achievements designed intentionally for players who want to be very thorough in their coverage and mastery of the game.
For a while, this floor just…wouldn’t load. You could jump off and you’d get stuck in an infinite loop of falling, taking damage each time your position “reset,” until you died and had to load from a save. Thankfully, we got the ground back under our feet.
But, to get back to the point, testing achievements is something we have to do for every game that has them, and adding them to a game that didn’t already have them adds an additional layer of complication to that. For example, let’s consider the game’s big bonus dungeon, the Illusory Labyrinth. It has four “branches,” each 20 floors long (but unconnected to the other branches), and there’s an achievement for clearing all branches. But when I cleared floor 20 of the first branch I ventured into, the achievement popped. So now, what we need to have the achievement do is clear, but then Sara, our programmer, has to decide whether it’s easier to have the achievement trigger off the completion of each floor, check your enemy log for the profiles of all the floor 20 bosses (probably the way I’d lean), or proc it based off the collection of all the final-floor rewards.
The good news is that we know what problems remain and, for the most part, they’re the kind of normal QA issues one would expect. The bad news is that we’re pushing Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection’s release back into fall.
Summer just doesn’t seem to have worked out for us, does it?
Believe me, we’re not fond of game delays any more than you are. They’re disappointing, they let you down, and they’re awkward to announce. But, speaking personally, I’d rather wait for a game and have it work well from the get-go than play a game in a state where my immersion is interrupted by weird graphical or textual hiccups, or achievements popping at the wrong times. So that’s what we’re doing our best to deliver. Remember, every cake is gonna taste funny if it wasn’t baked long enough.
So…yeah. Kick back as the summer heat abates, grab yourself a pumpkin spice beverage, and wait warmly as we prepare for you a mighty fine video game that I think will prove worth the (additional) wait.