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A year ago I made an announcement. "Stay tuned" for news of revival and changes that I prayed would be for the better. A new path and focus that would bring our game to you, our steadfast fans, within a practical timeframe and produce it with the capabilities and resources available to us. I even went so far as to say, "You will walk the decks of Titanic by the end of the year."
You might have walked the decks of Titanic in our extensive Demo 401, and how magical an experience that is. But I didn't promise that. My team and I promised to give you an Alpha – a slice of Titanic: Honor and Glory built as a final product, however rough, to be added to as time goes on which one could call a near-finished product with interactive features and optimized for a larger range of PCs. We may all love Demo 401, but it is not the Alpha, no matter how glorious it looks and how much of Titanic we stick in it.
After reading this please remember – our goal has not changed: we want to create the world’s most extensive, detailed, accurate, and interactive Titanic experience/anything. A video game and repository of information that Titanic fans, researchers, and those who are experiencing the Titanic itch for the first time can dive into and explore from home. A learning and teaching tool that’s also fun and smooth to play. It’s our Alpha which will begin to tell the story of Titanic's tragic voyage and from that Alpha Titanic: Honor and Glory will emerge with all the bells and whistles that we feel are absolutely necessary to proudly and finally call this project complete.
Yet our history as a game company is perhaps as marred as the game's very subject matter. But the patience you show us as we start the pumps after facing each iceberg is never unappreciated.
After nearly a year of a different direction, it was time to reflect and see what works and what doesn't. Many changes were made with the best intentions to deliver a quality product. Some turned out to be unobtainable, unnecessary, and unfortunate. I want to focus on them.
Upon our revival, the always present American LLC was joined by a new German GmbH. The GmbH was effectively the Art Department and spearheaded Alpha development. The LLC controlled all other game concerns. But, eventually, the GmbH took on far more responsibilities than it should have (with the LLC’s blessings) leading to less time for its vital team members (and eventually the LLC Core) to work on the Alpha and focus on THG the game.
Simultaneously the Art Department set its visual, modeling, and technical standards too high. Some of our most senior pre-revival modelers could not use their talents to the fullest to meet this standard. The process of finding, training, and utilizing new volunteers became more difficult. This new “Gold Standard” also required a near-complete redoing of our existing finished assets, well beyond what we had initially expected. Rather than a few technical updates and polishing of otherwise finished assets (as seen in Demos 3 or 401) most of these would have needed to be totally remade. Visual storytelling elements (Belfast/construction) were given priority when the priority needed to be the world (Titanic). Our minimal viable product, or MVP, was set at unreasonable levels and unaligned with the makeup and abilities of our team.
The LLC and Core Team were burdened with more responsibilities than initially expected from the result of various business decisions and structural changes. Though intended to aid the project most of these did not come to fruition nor were beneficial. Sadly their fallout forced us away from what we needed to focus on: the Alpha. To relieve ourselves of this pressure and refocus on the game, we are implementing several changes to the business side of THG. Again you can say we're cutting the fat. One example of this includes the removal of many superfluous items in the THG store – which has already been done.
Unexpected issues arose siphoning our time. Several leaks of our research materials and Alpha progress forced us to limit team communication and cooperation. Problems with models required more attention than thought at first to fix. Due to finances, 99% of the team had to move from being partially paid to full-volunteer.
Finally, it didn't help that 6 out of 13 members of the THG Core Team caught Covid-19 – including two of the most vital Core members directly affecting and delaying Alpha progress.
The THG Alpha's first levels were finally delivered, after several weeks of delays, from the Art Department to the rest of the team on January 26. After an in-depth inspection by the Technical team there was broad disappointment as we discovered a wide range of issues.
Issues that we expected resolved during the Alpha's development but were still present after several delays. Issues that should be resolved for a 1.0 launch and not dealt with by a 1.01 patch. Issues that shouldn't be written off as something "every video game Alpha has."
And not after so much time (delays) and resources (money) were spent.
The Core Team needs to inform you of the status of your Alpha. We want to share this with you. Without going too in depth, I will lay out generally what the problems are that we face. THG Patrons will have the chance to hear about the issues more in-depth soon. Our primary desire is to be open with what will further delay us – so we will answer questions that we can. But these problems all are going to lead to a further delay of the THG Alpha.
-Minor and major accuracy errors of some models: A number of historical errors. Some major parts don't fit correctly due to the workflow used to make them. Things cut into each other. There are multiple issues with materials and textures.
-Numerous technical issues prevented us from releasing the Alpha with interactive features as we'd intended: Bad pivots, with almost no potentially interactable objects actually having correct pivots. Bad/missing collision. Errors in meshes, errors in UVs, problems with blueprints, problematic decals. Inadequate optimization, including inadequate object instancing. Naming convention issues, little to no organization of scene assets.
-General issues with the Art Department's priorities and unalignment with the Core Team's vision for the Alpha: Over-emphasis on construction elements, bad and mixed priorities with more important aspects left for last, unaligned vision/priority for construction aspects and storytelling.
Many of these issues will require work and time to fix. Many, like pivots, will need models to be re-imported to fix, and the scene reassembled from scratch with the fixed models. Fixing these issues will take us time – possibly months – and we've already been forced to postpone since late last year.
I know it’s a lot to digest. It was a gut-punch for us. But the team wants and needs to be as forthright and honest about what is happening as possible – this is part of our promise to ensure more communication with you to rebuild any lost trust with the project.
Like last year, our team will need to reign in the project's direction, alter course, and try to thwart any more water from flooding our ship. To do so the team will be fixing the errors discovered with the Alpha before finally working on the aspects that will bring it in line with our creative vision and make it unique from past demos (interactivity and learning.)
We sadly don’t have an exact timeline nor idea yet for how long the delay is likely to be. We’re updating you on what is happening almost in real time – as we figure things out and fix the issues we’ll tell you. It might seem like yet another THG delay that so many (including us) are used to at this point. I can unfortunately guarantee it has affected us much more in so many ways than just setting us back with our timeframe.
We will elaborate more on all of this, particularly in detail with our Patrons, as we work on things. We will try to give more updates and streams, as we have realized those have fallen off lately. However, we hope you understand that certain social media measures, while important to you and us, do take a great deal of focus off our work. Now more than ever it is important for the Core Team to maintain focus on the Alpha.
In the meantime, as our new Engine and Tech Lead Derek will have more time while the assets are being fixed, we will also be updating Demo 401 for you all to enjoy and play through again. Our team has been floored by the response of this demo, and we sincerely hope that you will find these updates as exciting as we do. V1.5 is on its way, with a few surprises! Please look forward to it.
As stated from the start, while the Demo is extensive, the lack of interactive features and optimization (both of which we promised for the Alpha) are not enough for some. We also fully understand and accept if anyone wishes to abandon their financial support during this delay. If you see us making real strides again, we only ask you to consider returning once more. James made sure to say this back in April last year, and we mean it – don't support us unless you think we can do it. We take responsibility for what we put out there, and right now, we have no Alpha, only Demos.
Responsibility is important. And as the head of this project, it is my responsibility to make sure the game survives. I have decided to let go of the Art Department head responsible for the Alpha's development to ensure team alignment and vision. We are also cutting ties with VDR GmbH (which will be rebranding in the future.)
Please stay tuned for updates – some will be much more optimistic and exciting than this one! We will hold a Patreon exclusive stream soon in which we will go further in-depth into what happened to explain to our current financial backers of the project, along with more streams in general (even with James away on a boat for his IRL job.)
Our team is confident this iceberg won't sink the ship (I’ve already sunk my life into this project.) Thanks to all of you that have kept us afloat for years, we know it’s just a thrown propeller blade. Your demo downloads, questions, super chats, patronage, emails, posts, enthusiasm, video views, likes, and subscriptions, has carried our story – Titanic's story – all this time.
THG Executive Producer