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Release date: May 27th

I dunno about you, but I think it's time to finally put a bow on this 7 year development saga. So it's time to move on with the final stage of development: the release phase. With all that's left to do, I believe May 27th is an appropriate date for release.

You can find the game on Steam here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1878350/Prayer_of_the_Faithless/

and itch.io here: https://vermillionnova.itch.io/prayer-of-the-faithless

If you could wishlist it on Steam, follow on itch.io, and/or share it with your friends if this game interests you, I'd be incredibly grateful.

The actual development work on the game is 99% finished, barring a few minor polishes that will matter to no one but myself. This month long gap between now and release date is for me to knock out that minor polish, focus more on marketing, and give me time to fight off anxiety and mentally prepare myself get the old demo up to snuff and distributing it to Steam/Itch.

As for the price, I decided to go for $10 as the asking price. The only experience I have with selling games commercially is Remnants of Isolation, which ran for the same price at launch. Of course, I don't want to attribute a game's value solely to its length, but I do know that the biggest criticism of RoI was the relatively short length for the asking price. I happen to agree, and so I settled on the same launch price as RoI with the understanding that there is a lot more content here with PotF to justify it.

In case anyone was wondering, completion times I've taken from tester's save files range from 12-14 hours. And if you want to get all 4 endings, that's 4 different playthroughs of the game. So yeah, I think you'll get your money's worth here.

Anyway, if you have any questions, please let me know. Otherwise, thanks so much for supporting this game now and over all these years of development. It means the world to me.


Prayer of the Faithless Steam Page

Check out the store page here!

I spent a good hour hovering over the Publish button because I wasn't sure if I had everything set up the way I wanted. After checking and rechecking everything at least a million times, I think I'm good to go. So, here we are!

Of course, this is just the Steam page. The game isn't quite ready for release yet. But at the rate I'm going, I'm confident in a Spring 2022 release window. Once I've ironed out a more concrete date, I'll update you guys here and on the Steam page.

Anyway, more relevant info will come in a future update. For now, the page is live! If you could wishlist it if you're interested in picking it up, I'd be very grateful. As always, thanks so much for sticking around during this whole development cycle. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.


Game's Done, BTW. Who Wants to Test?

So I just finished testing the last route of the game, and as the credits rolled, I checked my task list and saw that there weren't any other major tasks left before sending it off to testers. So, uh, I guess that means all the major features are done and the full game is ready for testers. Um... surprise?

So who wants to test? I've got a few minor debug events and such to clean up, so it'll probably be ready in about a week. Based on previous tester data, I imagine it'd take about 15-20 hours to complete. If anyone is interested, please leave a comment here or in a PM. Thanks!


Demo is Live!

After all these years of running my mouth about the game, I finally have something to show for it! The PotF prologue demo is now live: You can pick it up here or via the download link above.

A few things to note:

- You do not need RPGMaker VX Ace RTP to run this game. Just download, extract, and play!

- This demo is the prologue of PotF, but you can transfer your save files to the full game once it is released. Because of this, I have to make sure I'm still able to tweak the character's learnable skills without screwing up your save file progression. As such, I have placed a level cap on the characters so you can't power level them while I work on the rest of the game. The cap is different for each character, but it is right before the level that they would learn their first Burst Drive that was intended to be used after the prologue. When the full game is released, this level cap will be reverted to its normal value even during the prologue. With the EXP decay mechanic in place, I think the chances of you actually reaching this cap are pretty slim unless you're trying to hit it, but I wanted to be absolutely sure.

Aside from that, I hope you enjoy the prologue! Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts with me. I welcome all feedback, positive or negative.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go take a short nap...


Progress Report

I'm Ending 2020 on a High Note and You Can't Stop Me (Demo Incoming)

As development wraps up for Prayer of the Faithless, it's about time to start making the game more public. Therefore, this month will see the final demo for the game released. I've asked a few people in private to give it a runthrough just to make sure everything is working, but I want to go back to the good old days where I'd talk about this game almost constantly, and I think getting you all directly involved with a public demo is the best way to do that.

I don't know WHEN exactly it'll happen, but the demo will be out this month for sure. Then I'll take the rest of the year off of development to recharge my batteries so I can go into 2021 in full rampage mode to get this thing done. Maybe get some sleep for the first time since the pandemic hit? Sleep sounds nice.

So yeah. I know this is on the short side of a year-end blog, but I think the demo will do a better job wrapping up 2020 than a wall of text ever could. Thanks, as always, for sticking around!

Progress Report

Game Mode: Nova Must Die

Remember when I posted monthly updates on this game? Those were the days, huh?

Like many others, development slowed down when the pandemic hit back in February, but I also had the added weight of changing jobs and relocating to a place that almost immediately became the hottest hot spot for coronavirus in the entire state (which is in the top 5 for cases in the whole US). This is normally the kind of timing for a low budget dark sitcom, but here I am, trying to maintain my sanity while keeping myself from dying whenever I go out to get food.

Which, y'know, is a REALLY GREAT place to be in during the exhausting, soul-draining phase of polishing and testing a game about trying to maintain humanity at the end of the world.

But enough about me. Let's talk about PotF. Even though I haven't posted any updates about the game for a long time, that doesn't mean development stopped! I snuck in a few hours here and there whenever I could find the energy, but I had to adjust my approach thanks to the aforementioned events.

Remember back in December when I said I'd go through a final death march, fixing only the problems that would take less than a day's work to fix? Well, that's still kinda happening, but I didn't anticipate the sheer amount of items that needed fixing, so I was quickly overwhelmed about halfway through the death march. In order to keep my brain from frying while still making visible progress, I broke the death march down into two endeavors: A technical death march and an artistic death march.

The technical death march was where I would focus only on the gameplay side of PotF, including adjusting parameters, equipment and item stats and placement, ability, and enemy balance. This playthrough has been completed, and so the gameplay side of PotF is more or less locked down barring final tuning based on tester feedback. This is also why I haven't been posting screenshots lately. Pictures of code changes me slowly losing my soul debugging skill problems isn't exactly appealing to see.

The artistic playthrough is where I'll be focusing on anything and everything that doesn't have to do with gameplay. So writing, art, audio, etc. While there is still a lot of work to do here, it won't be as mind-numbing as before, so I anticipate I can burn through these tasks a bit quicker. I'll even be able to post some screens of finalized areas now! Isn't that great?

Anyway, I'll try to be more active from here one. I appreciate the patience, everyone!

Game Design

A Thousand Ways to Die

Since Prayer of the Faithless has a more free-form battle system that allows you to distribute turns among your party, special care needed to be taken to ensure that no one single action overshadows the others. As I progress through the death march, I do the best I can to observe how I act as a player and catch certain behaviors that I don't want to encourage. For example, if I notice that I'm mashing attack for more than three consecutive rounds, then I make the necessary changes to encourage more variety of actions during a player's turn without requiring me to go back to the very beginning and test all over again.

A behavior I caught myself doing early on was, upon equipping a magical relic, I would almost exclusively use magic attacks for quick and easy victories. Because magic attacks ignore SP damage reduction and enemy Psyche stat was usually lower than Armor, that was always the ticket to doing big damage with little cost. I had thought that the massive SP cost was enough to discourage overuse of magic attacks, but apparently I was wrong. In a battle system that offers many solutions to the enemy problem, having one solution greatly overpower all others detracted from the idea of free form fighting.

Thankfully, though, the solution turned out to be a very quick and easy change: magic attacks will also be affected by enemy SP reduction. So, just like physical attacks, damage from a magical attack will be reduced by up to half the higher the target's stamina.

All it takes is a quick glance at the examine screen to see which defensive stat is lower, and you'll know whether to attack with physical or magical attacks

Sometimes, enemies will have the exact same Psyche and Armor stat. When fighting enemies like this, you are free to employ whatever measures you want to take them out.

Not only did this mean I was using every party member's skills more evenly, but there was also the extra bonus of making defensive options a bit more fair. For those that are not aware, you have some degree of control over which of your party members will be targeted by enemy attacks: Enemies are more likely to target the party member with the highest SP. If one of your allies is low on health and you have few healing items, then have that party member act enough times to reduce their SP, and enemies will likely target someone else.

It's not an absolute guarantee, and this tactic doesn't hold up if the enemy uses AOE attacks, but learning to control aggro is an important skill to learn in a game with limited health supplies.

In this example, Trill will take most of the hits during the enemy's turn. Since her Skill stat is higher than Aeyr's and Luke's, attacks are more likely to graze her and inflict minimal damage. Of course, Aeyr has more Armor and HP, so maybe he'll be a better choice depending on the situation.

And that's all I have this month. Death march is coming along slowly because of real life, but I try to put in a little bit each day. As always, thanks so much for sticking with me throughout all these years of development!

Progress Report

The Final Death March

So I bought a Switch the other day with Fire Emblem Three Houses as my first game. I'm pretty excited to see what I've been missing all this time. HOWEVER, I will not be opening it up for a while, at least for the whole month of December. Not only will this be a Christmas present for myself, but one I will hold over my head until I achieve a certain milestone with Prayer of the Faithless.

First step towards that milestone: Figuring out what that milestone is. Should it be when I send the last build to playtesters? When I finish my own testing? Or sometime before then? I'll know it when I reach it, so I just gotta keep working.

I mentioned this in an earlier blog, but I made the choice to leave all visual/battle polish to the side in favor of events and cutscenes to get the alpha phase completed. With that done, it's time to go back and spit shine as many rough patches as I can. To that end, I'm doing a sort of "Death March" run through the game, where I play through the whole thing and stop only to fix issues that greatly detract from the feel that I'm going for. In the spirit of the Death March title, any non-critical issue that would take over a day's worth of work to fix will be left to the mercy of any playtester who considers it a serious issue (apologies in advance, playtesters!).

Reworking the shading for some of the tiles I made years ago with a style I should have done a looong time ago: Stuff you can walk over, like the scattered papers, no longer has a hard black outline.

Thanks to the cutting of various item and skill types, the tool sets of party members needed an update. Luke, for example, is now geared more opening up enemy defenses. Since weaknesses/resistances are now hidden and require the player to use various elemental attacks before they are known, the process of finding these weaknesses shouldn't be tedious. To facilitate this process, Luke has skills that fire off random elements, flip buffs and debuffs, and other such abilities that I'll leave unspoiled for now. Suffice to say that most of the party members got a similar treatment to help accent individual personality traits and roles in battle.

And you will need them, because common enemies are objectively stronger than you. I played pretty poorly just to get this screenshot, but these guys are quite beatable!

That's all for this update! 2019 threw a lot of crap at me that made me want to give up more than once, so while I couldn't complete the whole game like I said I would back in January, I was able to finish the alpha. So if you want to be technical, I did finish the game.

And I'll take technically correct over anxiety attacks any day of the week!

Progress Report

The Story is Complete

Last night, I finally implemented the last main cutscene of the last route. From a story perspective, Prayer of the Faithless is done.

...Okay, I won't lie: I've been sitting here staring at those first two sentences for a good twenty minutes now without writing anything else because I just... can't believe it. I wrote the sentences, and I still can't believe it. I keep doubting myself, going back through my notes and the build just to make sure I'm not forgetting something. But nope. The scenes are done. They're actually, really, honestly done. The game can be played from the prologue all the way to the end credits.

That's not to say that there isn't much left to do, of course. After finishing up my little slash and burn campaign, my first priority was to get the story complete before seriously tackling the other components. The story of Prayer of the Faithless was the last big obstacle slowing me down, and the biggest reason why the game has been taking so long to get done. As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, getting this story written down and done was the longest and toughest things I've ever had to do since I started developing games. And now, here it is. Complete and playable.

I won't lie and say that I don't have reservations on how this story concludes. Maybe there's a theme that wasn't thoroughly explored, or maybe one or more characters could have been fleshed out more. However, the main aspect of the story, the resolution of Aeyr's and Mia's stories and their conflict with each other and their situations, has been wrapped up nicely. Everything else can be polished out with a little extra work. For the sake of keeping my anxiety to a minimum, I'll save my thoughts and feelings on the story's conclusion until after the game releases and just focus on the fact that the story of PotF is done after five long and brutal years of work.

Trill's dialogue will always put a smile on my face.

So, uh, what IS left to do? Well, like I said, there are still quite a few components of the game that were left by the wayside while I focused on the story. My slash and burn campaign did a lot of slashing and burning, but not much regrowing, so now I'm going to focus on that. Enemy stats have been reworked, but that caused troop balance to get thrown out of whack. Excess item types have been cut, but that left a lot of empty item events scattered across the world. Remixing enemy and item placements is not a lot of extra work overall, but work that needs to be done all the same.

And then there are the tilesets. If there's one thing that this game has taught me, it's that I need to really practice my pixel art before I attempt something large scale again. Half the game's dungeons are unfinished visually because my lacking sense of aesthetics could barely encompass anything beyond "point A to point B," so ramping up the tileset is the next big item on the list.

Finally, there are skits. Despite them being some of my favorite things to work on (I'm a sucker for relaxed party banter), they also haven't gotten much attention from me. Luckily, now that the main story is done, I know what themes and plot threads can be fleshed out and explored with a skit. I've jotted down plenty of skit ideas, but they need to be implemented.

So... where does this leave the game? Well, remember back in January* when I said PotF would be completed in 2019? ...Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen. I've learned a lot of painful lessons in time management and personal pacing that will undoubtedly make future projects better, but they don't really help to bring this project to a close. I'm gonna focus the rest of the year on polishing everything I can, and will get back to you when I feel confident enough to start the next round of testing.

Anyway, I know I say this a lot, but progress (slow as it is) is still being made. The implementation of the last cutscene is done, and so with it the hardest, most brutal challenge I have ever faced not just with PotF, but my entire game development history, has been conquered.

For now, though, I'm gonna go get some rest.

*: Christ, I actually went back and reread my January blog and am cringing so hard at how I let all this time go by. Let me reiterate my earlier statement that I'm more critical of myself than anyone else could be and, anxiety or no, I am frankly embarrassed at the promises I make and consistently botch. Someone slam a pie in my face, because I feel like such a clown.

Progress Report

Amputation is the Best Medicine

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I've had more fun working on Prayer of the Faithless this last month than I have since the year began. The cutting and streamlining process forced many components of the game to snap into place, and I've been able to put a bow on some some design choices that I've been on the fence about for months, if not YEARS.

It's been rightfully pointed out to me that this is not the first time I've made serious changes to the characters and enemies, and I need to bring this vicious cycle to an end once and for all. To that end, I've tested all of my changes on enemies in chapter 1 and chapter 5 to get a sense of how well these new mechanics scale over the course of the game. Only when I'm satisfied testing on both early and late game enemies will I update the rest of the game's enemies with the change. I can say with certainty that whatever changes I make here will NOT have to be reworked again. If I ever have to rework the game to this level again, I will eat my own socks.

Inspired by the tense feeling I wanted to invoke in players meeting a new enemy, I've been playing around with hiding enemy elemental and state resistances and requiring players to attempt to hit enemies with them in order to find out what they are. You'll still be able to see their stats, but everything else will have to be found out by actually fighting them.

I understand that, for many players, this can be seen as arbitrarily adding an extra step to an already difficult game. However, please consider the following: If you have access to ALL the information about an enemy, there's a good change that you will start to formulate a strategy to take them down before even understanding what the enemy is capable of. Being blindsided by a new ability that you didn't take into account isn't ideal for what I want to put players through. Instead, I want them to start off slowly, prepare their party for any scenario, and be able to adapt to whatever the enemies throw at you.

Enemy count for troops have been reduced significantly. Outside of special battles like Black Spouts or bosses, you should expect to fight about 1-3 enemies per troop (and fighting 3 at once is a rarity outside of the aforementioned Black Spout and boss fight). This gives me the freedom to give each enemy more depth, such as using a specific debilitating move at the start of the fight, and some will react to being hit with specific states or when they are the last enemy left in a troop.

If you've played the demo, you may have noticed the state list is slightly different now. The biggest change is that limb injuries that block different ability types do not exist anymore. Not to say that they are gone completely, though! In fact, the effects themselves have been absorbed into specific emotional ailments. I did this because I wanted to place more emphasis on emotional ailments with this new system. Not only because fewer states are easier for me to manage, but because emotional ailments now tie into the story quite a bit more. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, that's all I'll say about it for now.

So... the Merchant was another component of the game I was seriously debating on cutting completely. The Merchant was originally designed as a way to load up on healing supplies as well as provide an alternative way to get Black Spout weapons players found to be too difficult to get. However, I didn't want to encourage players to grind the same spot to save up cash to buy out the Merchant's inventory. Now, their role has been downplayed to provide players a pit stop to restock on items while they continue their journey and NOT as an excuse to stop forward progress and grind to buy out their entire inventory. If I decide later that the Merchant should also sell Black Spout weapons, they will NOT be sold in the same chapter as that Black Spout appears.

In addition, the Merchant's inventory is going to be different for each campaign. For example: since Aeyr's party has healing abilities, the Merchant will not sell healing items to him. Instead, the Merchant will sell certain attack items that Mia's party would not be able to get.

There are a lot of other changes as well, but I hope these two should give you an idea of the new goals of the game. Of course, I'll still happily listen to any feedback you may have about these ideas. If I decide to walk back some of these design choices, I've balanced the rest of the game so as not to be greatly impacted by such changes.

As of this writing, I have enacted these changes across the entire game, meaning that all allies,enemies, and components have been given this new treatment. From here, making adjustments is as simple as raising/lowering enemy levels and updating a handful of common events. For the first time in a long while, I get home from work and think, "Alright! Time to get some work done on PotF!"

I have absolutely no regrets about the decision to rework this game. Thank you so much for your patience with my shenanigans.