Rainfall: The Sojourn - 2D Action-(J)RPG + Kickstarter

8 Sep 2006
On Ocuk

The Sojourn is a 2D action RPG which pretty much takes us back to the days of the SNES JRPGS and damn this one looks a beaut!.

Man of Honour
16 May 2005
Bad news :/

Project Update #18: The Status Of The Rainfall Project
Backer_white For backers only Posted by Karim H ♥ Like
To the Kickstarter Backers,

I'd like to first off formally apologize for the lack of updates as of late. It seems this project had it's ups and downs, but mostly downs. I'm not really expecting people to accept a formal apology at this point in time as my lack of communication has done more harm then good. But I cannot in good conscious leave people in the dark.

I'd like to first talk about how the project started. I think these details are important as it highlights what went wrong.

I'd like to talk about the project and how it ultimately came to this state. I've been planned out the direction of this project since 2012. However, prior to that I've worked on test projects and one large epic RPG game in (which I knew would never come to fruition because of the size of the project). These games were traditional JRPG like games with an emphasis on story and good scenario writing. I mostly used whatever engine fit best be it RPG Maker or Game Maker. Psy_Wombats was interested in working on a game with me but didn't want to use any pre-existing engine. This worked out well for me because I found the engines available were kind of limiting (I tested several).

This is turn expanded the scope of what was once a small game. With Rainfall, I took on the challenge of making an action battle system that I felt had sound game design concepts. I was never into 2d action rpgs in general because of how seemingly random the battles were and how the input felt like button smashing.

It meant a lot to me and it was really an attempt to put myself out there and my ideas. I felt like a lot of my ideas and game concepts had potential to be something special. Admittedly, I was out of my comfort zone with regards to creating an Action RPG. However, this was my prime motivator for me at the time and it was what interested me most about the project.

I started making the project on my own, all of the assets! Unfortunately, I'm more of the jack of all trades. Writing is my favorite thing to do. Game design and writing seems to take a background role when it comes to game development for some reason. It fits my personality so I didn't mind, in fact for Rainfall that's exactly what I wanted.

When I contacted the lead pixel artist he took my art and produced art that not only complemented the game, it stayed true to most of what I imagined the game would visually look like. I worked along side him and still helped produce art. What made me most excited was how professional he was and how fast he finished products. The fact that had such amazing skills with regards to art direction was a huge bonus. He just "got" it.

He also had his own motivation to explore the art form and referenced many mediums. I didn't want just an artist for hire, I wanted someone who not only believed in the concept but also had their own artistic endeavors, ideas, a team member who I could bounce ideas off of. I gave him a lot of creative freedom to explore his ideas at the same time. This was the best feeling as he is an individual who has produced assets for professional studios. He told me his art for Rainfall was some of the best art he has ever produced. That liberating feeling of doing what you want is the best thing ever.

I approached Alex our composer after we had a general look and he was humbled and honored to join the team. He came from a project that died after years of development and explained to me how much he wanted his music to be part of a good game. I linked him music he produced had recently made at the time using SNES sound fonts created by a friend of his. I wanted music like that and I realized he was very talented and his music showed a lot of heart.

However, when he signed on to Rainfall team he wanted to make music that differed from what I had outlined would fit the project more. At times I felt his music sounded too high quality with the reverb and so on and that we should stick to creating music that fit the game project setting more (rather then good standalone music). We originally agreed on more of a playstation one type of soundtrack in terms of sound quality.

He submitted his first track and it was all over the place. It sounded like an orchestral for a movie soundtrack. Though it had some amazing ideas. Nonetheless, He seem to have taken this personally and didn't want to be told how to make music.

I backed off, and he continued to produce for the project. Alex is the type of person who needs guidance and direction, starkly different than the lead artist Matt. He's a timid individual and I guess even with LOTS OF REASSURANCE from me he didn't feel valued. Though he never told me this. He kept taking LONG breaks between producing songs. He was hardly around (chat, skype, etc) and was having personal life issues. I mostly spoke to him through email which I found to be too formal. I wanted to work with everyone closely. He never let me in.

I tried my best, I gave both critical feedback and provided details to what the next "sound" should be like, or the direction I felt matched the game. The best entries to me were Sol E Chuva and Seasonal Dew which we talked about the most. I felt that "Into the Fray" had a similar vibe to "The Opened Way" (Shadows of Colossus) and he admitted that influenced it a lot. We laughed, it seemed things were good.

In all honesty, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to compose the album myself originally. I was doing it on my own at first anyways. Composing is something I want to become better at and I dream about producing my own full soundtrack in the future. I found a direction, the type of sound I wanted to hear for Rainfall. It's what actually influenced my writing a lot. Music and writing became some sort of spiritual high for me, a journey...

I put all that on the back-burner to produce a cool indie game I could be proud of. Rainfall is a pretty niche. There isn't many games out there like Secret of Mana series anymore. I was willing to get a team and share the experience.

Kickstarter was one of the prime motivators for me because it was a great way to not only get exposure, get financial help, but to also to convince the team members I recruit that the project was worth working on. If it failed, so be it I would have walked away and work on another project and released it myself.

I produce music very slowly so I wanted someone dedicated to the job. Alex was technically more experienced too, there's no argument there. I could see the difference in our level of skill. He was the better composer and thus I was comfortable with him taking over the role. I wasn't comfortable producing music publicly anyways. I do not call myself a composer, that's a heavy title!

If you ever composed music yourself, you may relate to the pressure of not feeling like you're not good enough. Besides, it felt weird to share the job anyways. I felt it would be best if we divided up the tasks. He was the man for the job. That's how all the greats like Hironobu Sakaguchi made those classical retro games we will probably never ever forget.

I knew developing a game with a team could be fickle. I knew it was one of those things that if you really wanted to make things work as a team, you had to find the right people, let people do their assigned work, and give them some room to breathe as well. Alex wanted control of the soundtrack so I gave up that role entirely. It was also agreed that he'd also do the sound effects as well.

Jdarnel was the original graphical artist for Rainfall who adapted my Talyssa's and Aile's designs. She never seemed that interested in project, was just making ends meet. She took ages to produce anything and eventually left due to her health. As much as I liked her art (some backers did too), it was best to find a replacement. Though in this case I had no other options.

Yuko Rabbit is someone who was recommended to me. Indie game scene is a small community and it was the lead designer of Americana Dawn who recommended her to me as we have been friends for a long time. I helped her find her current graphical artist for her game project, it worked out perfectly for both of us!

Yuko I can say has honestly been the best addition. She's so professional and humble and just an all around great person to work with. She normally does professional work for bigger fish but she actually liked my ideas and we complemented each other well. Overall, great rapport!

She was also kind of enough to forward any messages backers sent her my way. Really, please don't give her a hard time she's a really kind of soul :(.

Things were looking great with our full team. Psy worked on the engine and has always been quick to implement features once things were working. Yuko gave good timelines and honored her word.

The Lead Pixel Artist and Composer who ultimately left the project.

Despite the good rapport I had with both our lead composer and lead pixel artist. They did not honor timelines. In fact, they seemingly worked at their own pace which spells disaster for game development as you may know. Once the tasks were divided up and I posted their work - My hands were tied. I couldn't just take over their jobs! I couldn't just replace them!

A lot of the backers admitted that they loved the soundtrack. I didn't want to replace the any art or music with someone else's work. You backers backed this game to hear that music and play the game I presented in the Kickstarter Advertisement. I mentioned how I wanted to scale back the project (as it was originally designed) but stuck with the current iteration regardless.

I really hate changing things around. In hindsight, it was probably the best course of action but I felt like I could make it work.

My job is to take assets and implement them. This includes level design, implementing the characters and ultimately implementing ALL of the gameplay. Psy_wombats was the one that made sure they worked. Besides this, I am in charge of the direction of the story and the asset creation. I felt my role was big but it felt small because of how slow things were going. These type of things is like cancer for game development.

I gave out tasks to create assets which were NEEDED to progress the game development. Assets were made but at a SLOW pace.

Alex apologized to me several times for taking long with things, remember he was ultimately also responsible for sound effects as well. But honestly, to me I felt like when it came to game development... A soundtrack isn't something that has to be finished as soon as possible.

Though, over time I realized that he literally stop producing work all together. I could have found a solution if he was upfront instead of the runaround.

Matt (as professional and TALENTED as he was) was working on too many other projects. He gave me hints that he was overwhelmed but he has never openly said that he was. If he was, I would have replaced him because it was necessary. You can't make a game without assets. I asked him if he was ready before I posted the Kickstarter ad, he said that he was.

Contractual work was obviously needed here but I didn't feel like I wanted to hold my teammates hostage. I actually trusted them. They were more than teammates, they were people helping me achieve a childhood dream. This was clearly my mistake, one of several I made.

I never wanted to replace anyone, I felt like the project would be made with these people who I considered friends or it would die. Deep down my gut feeling back in February / March, when the lead Pixel artist seemingly disappeared for quite some time, was that I should have replaced him.

I was charmed by his work and I did not believe he would quit the project. He's a really nice guy and we worked so well together especially bouncing ideas off each other and splitting jobs. He seem too good to do something like that considered he agreed to stay. We worked so well together as well and produced good products when he was working. He also promised he'd produce things several times and kept delaying things. Stuff came, but really late. That's what just kept taking this project down, slow progression and empty promises.

Still, what was I to do? Blame a team member in public? I would not do that ever, even if I took the blame. I thought he would recognize what I was doing. As lead, this is just the burden of responsibility you assume. You can't blame a team member publicly then expect them to stick around and work. Close friends I knew told me to just immediately replace people who didn't produce, it was a tough call regardless.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't cycle through a bunch of artists, I just couldn't bear that. I knew someone in that scenario and I didn't really help much doing that either.

Nonetheless, I honestly felt like I had no power over the project anymore, this was also when Kickstarter backers were asking for more updates. I would have loved to update more! I'm not really that anti-social.

From about mid February and beyond things went downhill. I wasn't getting enough assets, or at least fast enough. He said he needed help so I told him lets change how we go about things until we got help. Animations was something that took him too long so I told him not to animate just create static assets.

This in theory should have sped up things but the problem wasn't that it was too hard. Although I am not as talented as him with regards to pixel art, I knew that the ONLY thing that he should have produced more assets in a timely fashion. He produced quite a bit but the project needed more. He wanted to raise his prices yet still produced things in a slow fashion. He was working on THREE other projects! I never knew how busy he was he just told me he had less time and kept, no matter what I said, doing work slower and slower.

Seriously, why sign up to a project and kill all the motivation of the project? I had wished he walked away then and there. I took the blame for this for lack of updates but all I cared about was progressing past the hard times. No project is without problems, perseverance is necessary. I hated it but I felt it was a necessary evil and would help convince him how I much I believed in him. I was naive of course.

I looked for people that complemented his art style but none of the artist could convincingly produce similar products. The ones that did charged absurd rates knowing full well what was in the budget.

Firas (a friend of mine) and the Leader of Octopus City Blues was the one who help me find a new animator. I asked him to ask around and his lead artist MarinaNT knew someone in her circle that was looking for a project to work on. I outlined some of the requirements and that was that.

She recommended Sabrina. Sabrina was PERFECT for the project. It took her some tries but she finally fit in. Our lead pixel artist was particularly fond of her work. She handled animations like it was nothing.

It was officially time to kick things into high gear. We wasted a lot of time, it was August 2013, less than 2 months to our Kickstarter release date. I asked our lead how things were going and he provided a long list of tasks he would complete and gave a timeline. He was so very detailed, it was reassuring.

After confirming team member statuses, I promised bi-weekly updates. Things were looking great. Then two people just bailed the project...

Alex previously wanted out in mid June, closer to July. I asked him to think about it, it was a little too late to just bail in my opinion. He said he felt bad for leading me along. He said he would stay on one condition, that he was not responsible for sound effects.

In September he emailed me said he's basically very close to being ready to work on the project again. This is what I thought was best. Why replace a member who has produced good music that all of us enjoyed?

In October, BOTH Alex and Matt told me that they no longer work on the project. Matt wanted to work on his own projects and free himself from any burdens. Alex said he was too busy and was trying to get a real job, employed elsewhere. No way I convince them to stay. They were gone.

I can't say I'm was not angry. I felt betrayed but really it makes sense, they aren't obligated to stick around. What's stopping them from bailing?

I was severely depressed, I stop looking at the Kickstarter all together. I hadn't realized I promised to post "Tomorrow" in the comment section which set off a lot of people. Again, I'm sorry for igniting you guys, you deserve much better.

I kept looking for replacements over and over since those two members left. I couldn't find a single soul that could replace the lead pixel artist. He was too good at his conceptual work. It was one of the reason what convinced me to proceed with the Kickstarter campaign in the first place.

I could have replaced Alex's music with some random internet composer. I hand selected him and he just gave me the run around and quit, it's really effected me. It really bothered me that team members who knew how deep we were in development could just quit like that. Why not just quit earlier?

I couldn't find a replacement for Matt back in February, I tried now but it was equally as hard. I don't know if you guys know but most freelance pixel artist charge A LOT OF MONEY for basic things. I'm not an idiot when it comes to assets, I know when I'm being overcharged. Some of them weren't even remotely worth it considering what they offering. But you either comply or walk away. I chose to walk away.

Rainfall requires quite a bit of assets. If I couldn't duplicate the work the Lead did I was screwed.All I wanted was Matt to stay on to provide base designs.

Sabrina could have picked up the slack from there and I could have helped as well. Matt was too important to leave, but he did.

I am man who prides himself on providing solutions.

After a lot of effort I came up with no solution for this scenario. Checkmate, I lost. The game that I so eagerly wanted to complete was sucked dried. I may sound overly dramatic but I was totally drained. I had a feeling it was coming but didn't act quickly enough to address key issues.

That was definitely my fault.

I've made several and thinking back I can easily identify them. The weight of burden has 100% left me in a state of depression. I couldn't even look at this Kickstarter page.

It was 6e6e6e the creator of Radio the Universe and Firas (Octopus City Blues) who implored me to speak with the backers. We argue a lot and diss each other for gags but I could tell they were honestly concerned for me and the backers. They didn't want to see things end like this. That helped a ton, I couldn't thank them enough.

I didn't want to blame people for I know I am at fault as well. I really didn't know how to communicate that some team members were holding the entire project back.

I was okay with being vilified. It was easier for me to cope with this failure as I was more afraid to say that I had no solution for this project than taking the blame.

This project has ultimately is died.

I'm usually a confident and crafty person but this failure has totally crushed me. I've since just been writing nonstop, a new game concept, book two of three of a sci fi trilogy I put on hold, and more.

Will I ever make another game? I don't know, but I have been writing feverishly. I still have an Engine to make more games.

If I ever do complete a project everyone of the backers will get the game for free.

Writing is my favorite thing to do besides playing games. Writing music or literature, it doesn't matter. It's one of those liberating tasks I can do just about anywhere and it has got me through harder times in life.

I'm currently looking forward to publishing a book I had wrote in the past.

I'm looking for a second job. I have student debt, familial costs, living costs, and more and do not have the means to pay back all the backers right now but I'd like to at least try.

I'm sorry for riling up you Kickstarter backers.

Final Note:

Please don't let me be the reason why you do not back other projects. There are several other Kickstarter projects such as the ones I've linked above and more that benefited from your generosity and your love for games.

These indie game designers are paving the future for our gaming industry. If there's one thing I do not regret is how much hope I have for the gaming industry with people like you backers supporting the underdogs.

~ Karim
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