Hello fellow Dog Lovers!
We wanted to start off this story by thanking everyone who has supported us this far. From our project announcement, to the conventions, to our beta tests; you've all been awesome with your support, and with your much needed feedback to make this game the best it can be! Your feedback and suggestions have allowed us to make more informed decisions and path a course for the future of Lost Paws. We want to share some of those decisions in this story, as well as what we've been working on and what we plan to do for the future, starting with the new Narrative Features.
The World and Mini-Maps
To start with, we have the new World Map. The World Map is a new panel you can toggle via the "M" key by default, which allows you to see a full screen global map. You can see your doggo represented by an arrow, points of interest represented by a question mark, dog pounds represented by a carrying cage, vets represented by a green cross, and main missions represented by a golden paw (more on that later). The map has all the features you may expect like the ability to zoom and scroll as well as dynamically update.
Sample of the world map at farthest zoom:
In addition, the Mini-Map is now on by default. It is synced with the World Map and will update as things change in the world and you explore. It also has all the icons there to help you locate important places nearby. You can toggle the Mini-Map with the "C" key by default.
The goal of these changes were to help with being able to plan in the game. By seeing various places to explore and where interesting things might be, you can utilize these features to help expose all the features Lost Paws has to offer. In our internal testing, it helped improve both the explorability of the game, as well as increased the playtimes with all the new places that seemed interesting to go to! But what actually makes these places worthwhile to begin with?
The Mission System
The Mission System is an unobtrusive attempt to provide a little direction as well as narrative into the game. The system has two parts to it, markers and prompts.
The markers are one of two kinds, either a point of interest or a mission marker. A point of interest is just a cool place that doggo can go to to find something interesting. At a minimum there will be treats that can be obtained some way, and that can go as high as some interesting challenge or a special item doggo can obtain. The other kind of marker is a mission marker. Mission markers are denoted by a gold paw and allow you to advance the main story. While there are instances of linearity for them, many of these missions can be completed in any order, allowing you to strategize how to survive as well as what missions to tackle when. After completing a mission or point of interest, the maps will update to reflect that.
The other part of the Mission System is prompts. Prompts come up on the left side of the screen when you're near a mission zone, which let's you know what needs to be done for the mission to be counted as complete. They are a dynamic system, so when the objective is completed a mission accomplished will appear and the prompt will go away.
Example of the Mission System in Action:
The system works side by side with the current design of the game. We do not want to railroad you too much or prevent you from exploring the way you want to. You can still wander as a doggo the way you want and survive in all the ways you previously could. The purpose of the Mission System is to provide that little extra oomph to help guide your adventures if you want additional goals, as well as give doggo more things to do in the world. It also allows us to add in one of the most requested features for the game, and that would be a story!
The narrative of Lost Paws starts with a car crash. Someone hits your human's car but you are able to get out of the car just in time. And so your adventure begins!
The narrative is all about you finding your missing human from your road trip. You will have to venture further into the world, explore, and survive to eventually reunite with your lost human. The Mission System is closely tied to the story, expanding what happens in the world, giving hints to why it may have happened, and expanding the lore of the world. You will end up doing things like helping repair a bridge to get further along and unlock more things to do in the world.
To support this, many new places have received additional artistic improvements. New locations have been added to the world and new NPCs are now around for you to interact with. Examples include a revamped trailer park with an ongoing party for you to explore, and new NPCs like the construction worker at the bridge to help out. These additions for the core of the new narrative are intended to help expand the world of Lost Paws even further.
Example of a new mission zone:
The main reason we added the story is because it was the most requested feature we encountered at conventions and surveys. Our beta test during the early summer cemented it in our minds to help serve as a guide for players that want one, as well as give more actions and meaning to the world as you go around surviving as a doggo. To be clear, the procedural elements of the game and the random wacky adventures you can find yourself in, as well as all the different playstyles of doggo are still in the game, and even further supported as various ways you can solve the missions. The narrative and Mission Systems are there to provide more direction at your pace, so that you can choose when and how to do these as you wish!
In addition to all the narrative elements, we have also made a few small changes and did another round of optimization. The biggest changes we made to optimization was the addition of our new Macro LoD system. In short, it takes a grouping of objects and replaces them with a 2D texture until you get within a certain distance toward the target group. This has caused a massive vertex reduction for rendering requirements, reducing it by millions of verts. It addition to that, we compressed many more scene textures and replaced various high poly count models with cheaper ones. This is especially notable in the forest, which reduced VRAM usage as well as rendering requirements. All together, these improvements made the default high settings in the graphics panel work well on any modern gaming system.
New Release Date and Other Announcements
So now we have the big announcement! Lost Paws now has a definitive planned release date September 29th this year. We know this is later then our original projected date for late August, but we have a good reason for the change in the release date--- we swear! We conducted an internal test about a week ago, which while coming back positive also revealed to us many details we really wanted to get into the game before we released. Ultimately, we decided not to rush it and make one more serious pass at polishing to make the experience as tight as possible. We want to make a game even in an early access state that we can feel proud of releasing, and that means giving it a little more time to polish it as best we can!
We will be adding many little features and new areas, as well as a new mission over the course of this month and the next. All of this is on top of our current work to get partial controller support and achievements into the game. We also hope to add a new doggo before it is all over. We are excited to share all of this with you!
To top it all off, we will run another beta to gather more feedback! We will have more details on this later on, but if you were in the playtest in June, you will be automatically enrolled in the next beta. We are hoping for this beta to run sometime later in August. if you're interested in the beta, let us know in our discord and we'd be happy to ship you out a key when we are ready!
Thanks for reading! If you liked what you saw, please consider wishlisting on Steam as it helps out a lot! Thanks again, and we'll see you in the next one!