Sunday, July 2, 2017

After the Long Silence: What's Going On With HJ?


Pictured: Last Known Communication from HJ Dev Team

What Happened: The Long Silence

Way back when we started this project, our somewhat tongue-in-cheek Risks and Challenges section on the Kickstarter said, "While we are absolutely committed to Hero's Journey for many years to come, someone integral on the production team could still get hit by a bus tomorrow..." What we meant was that since we're a very small team, one person getting seriously taken out of play could cause major problems for finishing the game. And, as some of you may know or have guessed from the long silence, that bus did come along. Happily, it wasn't a literal bus, but it was a bus in the form of a sudden-onset severe medical condition - and it hit our head writer and coordinator, Anne.

We're not going to go into details, because it's a private medical issue and not only do we not want to talk about it, you probably don't want to hear about it. Suffice it to say that it incapacitated her for the better part of two years, and between hospital and doctor visits and the accompanying struggle with life maintenance, the pace of work on Hero's Journey slowed, then crawled, and then had to be put on pause completely. (For those of you not aware, HJ is mostly generated by a married-couple team - I (John) am the systems and design lead for the game and Anne's my wife.) We had already been slowed way down from our original plans by the initial stages of the health problems, which we didn't recognize for what they were at the time, and once Anne was down, the game stalled as a result. Things like playtesting feedback and rewrites dragged on because we weren't able to work directly on them as much as we wanted to, and updates for the community also fell by the wayside.


Artist's Rendering of Understandable Community Feelings

The Long-Overdue Apologies

We very deeply and seriously apologize for the long break, the long silence, and the long-running pace of this project.

Anne getting knocked over by the Crosstown Episode-of-House-MD Express is an explanation for what happened, but it's not an excuse. We didn't communicate with the community about why the project went dark or what was going on behind the scenes, and we should have; the piecemeal updates and occasional answers to individual PMs didn't cut it. There were reasons for that, and the first one was that Anne didn't want to tell anyone she was sick; it's very personal and for a long time she fought it and fought mentioning it to anyone except close friends. We kept hoping the problem would get cleared up quickly so we wouldn't have to talk about personal issues, and we kept putting off doing an update because we wanted to have something to show, like a PDF or a solid time estimate or even just new previews, before we made another update that just said "hang in there" - but those reasons still don't excuse failing to communicate with all of you for so long. We should have done better, period. Plenty of you folks have let us know you're frustrated and angry here or on the Kickstarter, and you have a right to be upset with us and to let us know it. We appreciate how passionate everyone has been about the project, and how many of you have kept up with looking in on it even during the long period of silence.


Example of a Totally Comprehensible HJ Work Chart

Where We Are Now

Hero's Journey is not, as understandaby worried about by some folks online, dead. In a second quote from our Kickstarter, "We'll see this game brought to life if we have to do it from cardboard boxes while leeching off of coffeeshop wifi." Anne is (sort of, mostly, if you listen to her) back upright and able to work again and the team is settled and stable. All our previous work - which represents the vast bulk of the completed game! - is still there and waiting for its final finishing stages.

We would like - so much! desperately, in fact! - to give you all a projected date to be finished, but given how this has all played out and how unsure we are of how quickly we can get back up to pace, we don't feel like we could do so and be honest. We're also frustrated and pissed off about how long this has taken and about the fact that it isn't finished yet, and we're keenly aware that we owe you all something awesome.

In the coming weeks, we have some important doctor's visits upcoming for Anne, and we're hopeful about the results. We'll be posting another update two weeks from today to let you know where we are with everything. In the meantime, we're STILL working our butts off to finish this damn game. (Which we still love and cherish and want people to enjoy, but when we're talking about how long production has taken, it's always "this damn game".)


Pictured: Productive Team Meeting to Discuss Small Detail of System

Thanks and Acknowledgments

During the long silence, we added some additional folks who have been helping a great deal behind the scenes but who you may not have heard about yet, so here's a shout-out to Tanay, our awesome Hinduism consultant who provides invaluable context and religious information and regularly saves us from missteps that plain research does not, and to Katie and Stewart, who joined the playtesting pool for about a year and provided their additional valuable insights into the sorrow of playing magician characters and the joy of murdering the bad guys, along with all the other playtesters who have been along with us for this long ride.

And, most importantly, as always: thank you all.

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update John, I hope everything goes excellently with those doctors appointments. I'm very sorry to hear about the illness, and I hope that things return to a semblance of normal for yourselves one day soon.

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  2. Oliver Lindholm SørensenJuly 2, 2017 at 11:51 AM

    Hey, glad to hear from you again! Now that we know why, these delays totally make sense. I know that it's tough having someone so close to you suffer illness, please send our regards to Anne and do this thing in a pace that you are comfortable with.

    Now, about those spam messages on the forum-

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    1. Yeah, it's been rough. But that's how oddyssies go, we'll get there. Thanks!

      Spam cleanup commencing soon.

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  3. While, of course, having known this previously would probably have saved a lot of flag from the community, i'm happy that Ann is getting better.

    I'm sorry you've had a hard time, and can't wait to hopefully play your game in the future! :D

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    1. Hell yeah, we also can't wait!

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  4. It's great to get an update from you guys, and I'm sorry to hear about Anne's illness. I'm glad that she's feeling better at least.

    As ever, I'm looking forward to seeing this game be finished so we can sink our teeth into it.

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  5. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I did my weekly check this morning and found an update waiting! Right now, the game is less important by far than Anne's health - focus on getting better, and everything else can wait.

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    1. Thanks, that's what we're doing. News soon though!

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    2. I'm looking forward to it!

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  6. Thanks for updating us, John. I figured it had to be something extreme if it was keeping you guys from communicating with us.

    Sorry to hear about Anne's health issues, and I hope you guys are close to conquering this monster soon and getting back to your adventure with us!

    Best wishes to you and Anne!

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    1. Thank you! We hope so too, it's such a big monster. But Anne is a gladiator so.

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  7. Thanks for the update John... it feels good to finally have some communication... I will be praying for Anne.

    Here's to hoping you two beat this current nightmare and we can go back to being excited for the game (which I am definitely still excited for, but all of that is overshadowed by concerns for Anne's health, which by far comes first).

    Best of luck to both of you :)

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    1. Thank you for your prayers. We hope to be excited again soon

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  8. While I still empathize with the people that were upset at the lack of communication, I can also empathize with Anne as well. As much as don't have a problem telling my friends that I'm sick It​ still makes my communication go nuts, and I've only had to hospital jump twice!

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  9. So I was getting antsy waiting and I found out some pretty funny things about diabetes in the ancient world. Apparently Egyptians discovered in from the diabetic urine trail using bees and so Hindu physicans not having bees used ants and flies instead. Then the Greek Physicians in Memphis, Egypt named it and thought is was caused by excessive blood passing through the liver (Diabetes literally means "passing through" in Greek). So the non-hippocratic doctors started​ to think that bloodletting and removing blood from the liver was the answer instead! That's funny in a creepy kind of way as in "Yeah, I don't think having all of the blood drawn from my liver is a great idea, but then my last doctor had bees smelling my urine. Do you think could visit the Bee goddess for a 3rd option?"

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    1. I think it's important for people to know I told Anne about this comment and she said the Hittite bee goddess should be involved.

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  10. On the Topic of Anne I appreciate the update, but I still feel sorry I helped to fan the flames. The topic of Kickstarter always gets me really upset when backers care more about the money they spent then the reality of what's actually going on. I'm surprised Jason came forward with a sincere apology since that's​ not something you often see in superbackers. They usually just try to make the project about them and that's a big problem with Playtest enabled Kickstarters right now because it ends up turning a good game into a game for the rich. I'm glad Anne is feeling better now and look forward to Anne's Glorious Odyssey of Good Health ;).

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    1. Don't worry, we understand backers concerns. It was a really long silence. That sounds like the best odyssey.

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  11. Wow. Glad to hear from you, for all that I wouldn't wish the circumstances on anyone. Nothing but best wishes and high hopes for you all. Look forward to following along and hearing that it's all going better.

    Rest up and be well.

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    1. Thanks, lots of working on recovery here.

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  12. John, please give Anne our best and Renee and I will be sending good, healing thoughts her way. Anything we can do just let us know.

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  13. Hey, it wouldn't be a Hero's Journey without epic obstacles, an unexpectedly long duration, and a moment of glorious resurrection! Love you guys - really psyched you're getting back to this endeavor of awesomeness I know how much you love.

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  14. I'm really, really, rally glad that you're both okay. You had me worried for a while, but I knew that there was some reasonable explanation ... I'm pretty sure John would come back from the grave to finish this game, so I didn't doubt it'd be off the ground 'eventually.' I'm just glad for the update!

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    1. O, if I were dead this would have gone much faster. /joke

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  15. The "competition" just released an orisha preview. They have the orisha market described and the orisha god of smallpox is now included (although I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing yet. I better ask orunmila since he's included too!) ;)

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    1. If it helps don't think of it as competition, think of as the developers releasing the god of smallpox before the appointed time! I just can't help laughing at the timing of the preview though. :)

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    2. I'm a current fan of the god of smallpox. How can you resist a guy that runs around in an incredibly hair uniform and is covered in blue spots?!! Although you should totally resist him because you know, kills you. But other then that he's a great guy to party with! :)

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    3. Not too classy bringing up "the competition" here, especially given the problems HJ has been having.

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    4. I'm just trying to put things in perspective. Scion 2e was slow to progress too. The 2nd edition isn't out yet either, and people where saying that scion 2e would be out first and that money was being wasted before Anne was even upfront with saying that she was sick. I know that John was up front with saying that Anne's illness/hospitalization isn't a valid excuse but people didn't even wait to ask if Anne was sick before they started shouting "the 2nd edition is coming out right now!" and claiming that cease and desist orders from onyx path had arrived. The "fanbase" (and I'm not refer to the general backers but the trolls from a couple months back) jumped the gun and straight out claimed that onyx path took legal action without any evidence, and even though John and Anne are independent publishers, the "fans" basically treated them as a company in all but name. It's not OK to jump between those 2 positions and treat them one way and then switch to the other. Anne is a person and her health is more important; but you can't just flip that over and say that Anne is a company now because the project isn't done. Scion 2e is incomplete; so is Hero's Journey and that's OK. I'm just pointing out the fact that community overreacted and that scion is crawling along too.

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    5. Well...Scion 2nd was Kickstarted in September of 2016, and is currently working toward a release date of October of this year [though they admitted that might slip a bit]. They have previews, sample Pantheons, and so on available for preview. That isn't crawling, honestly. HJ was Kickstarted in June of 2014, and we still haven't seen anything concrete beyond some art and graphics. Granted, there are, indeed, perfectly reasonable mitigating circumstances involved in the delay. But people's frustration was [for the most part] understandable.

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    6. Here's the thing though... John and Anne totally [i]are[/i] a company, in name and all... Hero's Journey LLC. Also, people did ask if one or the other of them were sick... multiple times we noted that if there was a medical emergency we'd understand, and now that we finally have that confirmation I don't see anyone being anything less than sympathetic. Yes, the people who guessed that they had had some kind of stay order were wrong... but they had no other information to go on and that was as likely an explanation as any illness with the communication we had. Scion 2e has previewed six out of ten Pantheons and several Purviews both All Purpose and Pantheon Specific, along with general previews of the setting, and is slated to release Character Creation rules in it's next update, all within a year of being funded... we really don't have that kind of thing with HJ, and that's fine given the issues they've faced. I still am excited for this game and love the duo working on it, but the two games your trying to compare really aren't in a comparable state right now.

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    7. The Deluge of comments just kind of got to me. I try to follow a personal rule of not commenting on another person's post until a least a week has passed without angry comments but it usually doesn't work because I still tend to end up running my own mouth anyway. I recently helped kickstart a card game that said it might help with conversational etiquette so maybe I should just wait until that comes out before i start another commenting binge.

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