All posts by J. Kyle Pittman


I’m writing this on January 31, twenty-eight months since I penned the inaugural entry in this dev blog. Gunmetal Arcadia launches in a week! This is probably the last blog post I’m ever gonna write anywhere ever yaaayy!! :D

As I mentioned in my last post at the start of this month, my goal was to have the game 99% done by the start of the year, with only non-gameplay elements like cutscenes and soundtrack left. I knocked all of those out in the first two weeks, with the goal of having my first release candidate (“RC0”) locked down by mid-month.

As often happens, the soundtrack coalesced at the last possible minute, but I’m pretty happy with it. As I indicated previously, I’m reusing nearly all the music from Zero in Gunmetal Arcadia, and I’ve added the same amount of music on top of that, which has given me a ton of material to pick from at runtime. In fact, each type of room (Vanguard outposts, Seeker outposts, shops, challenge rooms, etc.) gets its own unique music in each level of Gunmetal Arcadia.

You can find the Gunmetal Arcadia soundtrack on Bandcamp here:

Then I took a week off.

In this case, “a week off” meant “building a framework for an editor for NextGame,” so that was fun. Learning C# and expanding the scope of my tools has been a huge part of making Super Win the Game and both Gunmetal Arcadias a reality, so I’m trying to make it a point to not cut any corners there. That means supporting undo/redo for everything, as opposed to only some things (YHtWtG) or nothing at all (Super Win, Gunmetal Arcadia).

My expectation was that I’d come back after a week, play through the game again, find some new bugs or polish issues that absolutely demanded my attention, get those fixed, and repeat until launch day. As it turned out, I’m happy with the build as it is. There are one or two minor things I might address post-launch, but otherwise, I think RC0 might actually be my shipping build and not the known-bad first-pancake-off-the-griddle that it usually is. So that’s interesting.

Unrelated to anything, it’s been a secret goal of mine to hit one hundred thousand words on this blog before shipping, and I just did in that last paragraph. I guess I can stop now.

Buy Gunmetal Arcadia! Available February 7, 2017, for Windows, Mac, and Linux! 👍

Status Report

Happy New Year! It’s been a month since my last blog, so now feels like a good time for an update on the state of Gunmetal Arcadia.

My goal, as I’ve stated several times over the last few months, was to author all the legacy event/reward pairs in December. But beyond that, I was really hoping to have the entire game (minus some superficial content) done by the end of the year, and it pretty much is. It’s not shippable yet; there are still no intro and ending cutscenes, and I’ve only finished a small handful of new pieces of music, but the core gameplay is, for all intents and purposes, done. I’ll probably continue to tune and balance all the way to launch and beyond, but I don’t anticipate adding any more content.

As it’s turned out, legacy events and rewards have only been a part of my workload this month. I’ve also spent a while playing through the game, capturing footage for a trailer, recording data on each playthrough, and getting a subjective sense of the feel of balance. I’ve also fixed an embarrassing number of longstanding bugs and polish issues that I’d been sitting on for way too long.

There’s just over five weeks until the game launches, so this month is going to be…interesting. My highest priority tasks (assuming they aren’t already done by the time this blog goes up) will be to get all the requisite storefront assets together: cover art, screenshots, and a trailer. (Update: These are all done now and some of the storefronts have gone up already.)

Next up is that “superficial” stuff I mentioned earlier: cutscenes and music. I don’t yet know whether there will be multiple endings; it sort of depends on how long it takes me to get back into the rhythm of drawing art for cutscenes and whether there’s enough interesting conditions to warrant more than one. I’ve also been wanting some sort of end-of-game status report between the cutscene and the credits roll, where legacy events from the preceding mission would be detailed. (Currently, the only way to view the results of the previous mission is to start another, which can be frustrating if you’re not intending to immediately replay the game.)

Assuming I can knock cutscenes and any other ending-related materials out quickly, I’ll hopefully have a couple weeks to focus exclusively on music. I have dozens of compositions in progress in various states of usability. Two tracks were 100% finished in time for Zero but omitted from that game because there simply wasn’t anywhere to put them. Others are only a few seconds long but have a hook that I’m excited to develop. My plan is to frame the Gunmetal Arcadia soundtrack as a “Disc Two” to the Zero soundtrack. All (or very nearly all) of the music from Zero is also present in Gunmetal Arcadia, and it feels redundant to include these tunes on both soundtracks. Instead, I’ll probably eliminate all overlap and release it as a companion to the Zero soundtrack, the two of them together forming the complete Gunmetal Arcadia soundtrack.

I feel like there are a few sort of obligatory blog posts on the horizon. I’ve been wondering when the right time for a postmortem on this whole Gunmetal Arcadia cycle would be. Immediately after launch feels too soon, although it would certainly be worth privately recording my thoughts for later reference. I might sit on that one for a few months. But I’ve also been itching to start talking about my next game, that one I’ve been cryptically calling “NextGame” or “Oaks” or “Banon” or whatever. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt as strongly, personally connected to a concept as I do to that one, maybe not since I began developing You Have to Win the Game at the end of 2011. But I haven’t yet decided when or how I want to announce that game, and writing about lofty, high-level goals before anything substantial exists might not be the right idea. Or maybe it is. Who knows? I guess that’ll be part of the postmortem whenever I have enough information to answer that question.

Ramping Down

This is the complete set of upgrade items, which apply permanent stat boosts and account for about half of all the items in Gunmetal Arcadia.

Items are done. I wrapped that whole thing up with three hours to spare before December, when I officially can’t do any more work on items at all ever. Or something like that.

It’s unfortunate that so much of November was spent on the functional aspects of item development, because these last two days that I’ve spent making up names, descriptions, and icon art for all the items have been super fun. It’s a cheap way to embed lore that goes way back to one of my earliest posts on this blog, and I’ve enjoyed it despite the looming deadline. I’ve built in a few interesting hooks that I may choose to leverage for the legacy system as well.

There are a few critical tasks related to the legacy system that I’ll be tackling first. Although this system is working correctly in limited fashion, I’ll need a few more bits of framework to support all my goals. On death or at the end of a session, I’ll need a way to analyze various bits of data collected throughout the session and trigger legacy events when the appropriate conditions are met. I’ll also need some persistent serialized data for maintaining legacy rewards beyond the scope of a single session, as in the case of unlockable characters, who must always be available once unlocked. I’m also tentatively planning to assign end bosses based on persistent state changes, but it’s too soon to details exactly how this will work.

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s video, I’m going to start ramping down this blog and the video series pretty much now-ish. I have two months left to finish this game, and between Christmas activities in December, PAX South in January, and anything else that might crop up, I need all the work days I can get.

I’m not going to go completely radio silent; I’ll still post things on Twitter as they come up, and if I have the opportunity to produce any more videos or write any blogs, I’ll take it. But the weekly schedule has become costly to the point of feeling irresponsible to maintain.


As I mentioned in Tuesday’s video, post-launch work on Gunmetal Arcadia Zero has been keeping me busy, and I haven’t made as much progress on items as I would have liked. This week is getting cut a little bit short by Thanksgiving as well (oh hey I guess that’s today, happy Thanksgiving!), and sometime this week or next, I need to do some dev streaming.

The last couple of weeks have largely involved prototyping whatever remaining features I’ve needed for items, and now I’m finally getting around to the easy tasks that I’ve been sitting on. This includes producing a variety of general-purpose stat upgrade items, creating art for all items missing it, writing descriptions of all items, and setting prices. A majority of this will probably be a single day of work, but I know there are also a few item-related bugs I need to track down, and I have a few more ideas for last-minute feature adds that I might try to sneak in. (Last-minute update before I hit publish: the item count is now up to 76, comfortably above my minimum target of 60.) I’m way overdue for a full playthrough of Gunmetal Arcadia as well, so I’ll probably try to get at least one of those in this week and see how the distribution of items across a whole session is feeling.

Overall, I’m optimistic about the state of the game. I know December is going to be full of distractions, but I’m hopeful that scheduling an entire month to figure out legacy events and rewards will be sufficient to turn that system into something uniquely cool.

I’m down to like ten or eleven work weeks left on this game before its launch on February 7, 2017, which is…whatever it is. Scary? Maybe. Mostly I just can’t wait to be done with it. All told, it’ll have been about 28 months between these two games, and that’s way too long to spend on one thing. (Well, two things, kind of, but it feels like like one long project from where I’m sitting.) Each game I’ve made has been a reaction to the last in some way, and my next game is necessarily going to have a shorter turnaround time. I’m excited to start making that one and to start talking about it, but right now is the time to focus on finishing this one.

Breadth First

I would be remiss not to mention once again that Gunmetal Arcadia Zero is now on Steam. I’m curious to see how the recent Steam visibility changes will affect its launch. It has not appeared as a “Popular New Release,” which is a pretty severe blow to visibility (and yet another unfortunately opaque part of the system), but I won’t really know for sure whether these changes are beneficial for another week or two. Initial sales have been low, but some of this is due to having been released through other sites previously. Key activations currently account for 90% of Steam owners, so this data is not apples to apples. Furthermore, recent data suggests that the launch visibility round could last as long as two weeks, as opposed to the roughly five hours that it used to last. Assuming that the new targeted visibility changes put the game in front of players who would actually be interested in playing it, the clickthrough rate should be higher than what we’ve seen previously. Assuming too that interest is not harmed by visibility occurring after day one, and that the lack of reviews from Steam buyers doesn’t hurt it too much, it’s possible that even though sales are slow, they could be more consistent over the next couple of weeks, as opposed to the steep dropoff we’ve seen in the past.

That’s a lot of assumptions.

This week has been and continues to be all about items. I’m zeroing in on the last few absolutely critical can’t-ship-without-it features that I need to get out of the way before I can move out to the sort of fun content creation I talked about in this week’s video. This includes assigning items to NPC vendors, making sure faction sigil effects stack properly, and generalizing a few player stats which haven’t historically been modified, such as foot speed.

As shown in a previous video, I’ve added a new type of item that goes in the subweapon slot and provides stat boosts for a limited duration. A variation of this type also exists for effects that occur instantaneously rather than over a duration.

In testing how effects from various items will stack with each other, I put together a silly test in which I made foot speed and jump height ridiculously large. This is probably way faster and higher than you’ll ever be able to reach in the actual game, but I was happy to see the game still holds up technically in this extreme case.

I’ve been wanting to add some bomb variants for literal years, and while I probably won’t end up supporting the breadth of content I may have envisioned in the early days of this project, I have at least prototyped an upgrade to increase bomb blast radius and damage. This is accompanied by a color palette swap and a larger explosion sprite. Although pixelated 2x scale art like this would never have actually been seen on the NES on account of its lacking sprite scaling hardware, I’m probably going to leave it this way because I like the sort of kitschy faux-retro look it has. And importantly, it still respects the pixel grid.

Taking Inventory

When I drafted this blog last weekend, I wrote that with the Gunmetal Arcadia Zero launch out of the way, I could sit back and let it percolate through Greenlight for a few days or week. But thanks to your votes, by the time I’m publishing this, Zero has already been greenlit and approved for release, and it will be launching on Steam next Tuesday, November 15. Here’s the store page where you can (and should!) add it to your wishlist.

With that out of the way, I’m getting back to my previously scheduled course of action. November is Items Months, and I’m off to a pretty good start, having converted all the existing upgrades from Zero over to in-world items that can be found in chests.


The next step is going to be converting melee weapons to this form, which should be a fairly straightforward process. From there, I can start moving into the uncharted waters of new things items can do. Some of these are obvious, like “stat boost” sort of items to increase damage output, foot speed, jump height, and so on. Others, not so much. Like I mentioned in Tuesday’s video, I’d like to have more types of activable items besides subweapons. These could apply affects to the player themself, allowing for temporary boosts to damage, a chance to suppress incoming damage, a conversion of ammo to health, or any number of other actions that might be useful in a pinch. I’d also like to prototype more abilities along the lines of the vertical stab attacks facilitated by the combat bracers, but these are the riskiest sort of addition and necessarily the most likely to fall off the table. Not only is it very late in development to be adding new player abilities that could potentially introduce new bugs, but any new action would likely require new animations for all five existing playable characters. With only about three weeks left to work on items, I feel like it might be wiser to prioritize other work. But if I find myself with spare time at the end of the month, it could be worth a shot.

I almost certainly won’t have time to address it this week, but NPC vendor stock is also slated for refactoring soon. Ordinary shopkeeper NPCs currently offer every item in the game, while faction NPCs offer a subset. In the future, each NPC will have a small selection of randomly assigned gear, chosen from the same pool that can appear in treasure chests. I’ll also need to rebalance item cost at this time, as the values I chose for Zero are not applicable in the context of this game.