Why we stopped selling ‘The Last Door’ browser version

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following changes in our website, applies only to people who are considering buying the game for the first time. Existing paying customers are and will always be able to play and enjoy the game as they used to. If you already own the game (and you purchased it it in our website) these changes do not affect you much. Please use this link to access the episodic browser version of the game:

link to access the website for existing customers

The motivation behind those changes

The original, episodic, browser version of the episodes of ‘The Last Door’ series was getting more and more difficult to support for several reasons:

– Support for both Flash and Unity plugins are being removed / discontinued in all major internet browsers. We’re getting more and more support request from people who are struggling to get the game running on their browsers.

– We really want people to play the best version of the game, which are the Collector’s Editions. The original episodes feel a bit dull compared to the ones in the CE, which makes it a bit pointless to keep them updated.

– Originally, each new episode of the game was introduced along with a new iteration of the engine, which in the end has made updating those a bit of a technical nightmare, since they are a bit like 8 different projects, technically speaking.

In order to have enough resources to move forward into new projects, we need to simplify the ongoing support of ‘The Last Door’ a little bit, which in the end has made us take the decision of stop selling the episodic version of the game through the website.  So from now, we will only sell copies to the most curated version of the game: Season One and Two Collector’s Editions, which you may know, are available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

One clear benefit from this move is that we’re finally going to have the resources to issue an update to the First Season (for PC and Mobile) which includes a couple of highly anticipated features, specially the added official support for a few more languages and the ability to use community generated translations.

This is planned to happen soon, to coincide with the release of Season Two on iOS and Android.

Finally, I would like to thanks our incredible community of players for bearing with us through difficult times we’ve had during the development of ‘The Last Door’, you guys rock!

cheers.

Some thoughts on the final episode

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
-Ursula K. Le Guin

Almost three years has past since the first episode of The Last Door came out. In such time, the series’ characters and ourselves the developers have gone through a lot of change. One could say that we’ve evolved as developers, as a studio and of course as individuals, while witnessing how the series managed to grow into a big, caring and supporting, community. It’s because of that, despite all the issues we’ve faced in the past, we kept going on, going forward. But as with everything that ever starts, there must be an end to this little journey.

Because all of this, this final episode is probably the hardest to make. Since we’ve started the series, we we’re committed to give it a meaningful ending. As we know from games and TV shows we love, good endings are remarkably important to achieve a global satisfaction. That’s why we want all The Last Door’s fans to have the ending they deserve.

Final Episode Screenshot
Wondering what kind of lessons took place here…

At the moment, the story has reached a turning point where all (most) of the truth should be revealed. There’re going to be many answers in this final episode, and so, players will have to deal with a lot. Story development for this episode is getting complex, wide and meticulous, so there’s no loose end when the curtain falls.

I won’t get into much detail about the story, but suffice to know that the journey will continue where the last episode finished. There’s going to be plenty of unexpected situations and horrific setting, making this episode the most intense of the series.

New Episode Screenshot
Fancy a bath in this out-of-this-world beach?

Answering one the most frequently asked question about the story of The Last Door, the plot of this final episode has been wandering in my mind since the beginning of the series. It has obviously suffered some changes as new episodes were being released, but essentially it has been always there. As always, even more so this time being the last one, we’re putting all our love and energies in the making of this final episode. We truly can’t wait until we put this baby into your hands 😉

We hope you guys are as excited about we are about the Season Two finale as we are.

-Videte ne quis sciat.

The Last Door Season Two, now available in Steam Early Access

We’ve teamed once again with our friends at Phoenix Online Publishing to bring The Last Door: Season Two to Steam Early Access. Check out the new announcement trailer:

Why Early Access you’d ask? Well, for us is the the perfect opportunity to work all the technicalities (and QA) of releasing the game in Steam simulteneously to the creatives being working hard in the newest episode, the much anticipated Season Two’s finale. This is part of our commitment to bring the all platforms much sooner than we did for Season One, where it took us almost 4 month to release on Steam, two months for iOS, and two more for Android. This time around, we’re hopeing to release in all other platform in 1-2 month after the availability of the final episode.

If you’d follow the development of The Last Door series, you’d proabbly know how much we enjoy working with the community to make the game as awesime as it can get. For all of the game’s fans who prefer to play in Steam, this release in Early Access would open this process to them for the first time. The first episode of the new Season, “The Playwright” is near final state, but still we’ll be listening to player’s feedback on the Steam forums and working with players to make the game standout.

Finally, if you’re one of those who know for sure you want to play the final game, still you can benefit from the Early Access reduced price, if you buy the game now you’ll save 20% of the release price!

This is our first time on Early Access, please let us know what you think in the comments below 😉

Love.

What’s next for ‘The Last Door’?

As you probably know, we just recently published another astonishing instalment of ‘The Last Door’ series, Season Two, Episode Three “The Reunion”. I figured that maybe there’s a few players wondering what’s next for the series. Keep reading, and I’ll try to lay out our immediate plans for you, as a I answer some of the most popular question we’ve been asked recently.

How many more episodes are going to be?

Now, our main focus is in finishing the second season of the series with one more episode. This would make a total of 4 episodes, as they were in the first season. Pre-production of the final episode of the season will start soon, in September, as soon as everybody is back from a short holiday leave.

Will S02E04 be the last episode ever?

For now, all we know is that we want to give something else a try. We’ve been working in ‘The Last Door’ for more than two years, and it’s increasingly evident for us that we, as artists, need to give something else a try. This doesn’t mean there won’t be a third season at some point, but for now, we’ll be granting us the chance to take some risks with a new game.

Regarding the story, is going to have and ending?

Yes. The next episode will provide a satisfactory ending: Many question will be answered at last, but also expect a few of them to remain, for you to provide your own theories or for us to address in the future.

Are you bringing ‘Season Two’ to [Steam/GoG/iOS/Android/etc.]?

Yes! We’re in conversation with Phoenix Online Publishing to release the new season on all of major platforms. For season one, we didn’t start working on releasing the Collector’s Edition until all four episodes were done and released in the website. For Season Two, on the contrary, work has already started, and it’s coming along very nicely. Our plan is to make at least Steam happen as soon as possible.

If it’s humanly possible, and mostly because you guys have asked for it in numerous occasions, we’ll be releasing Season Two in some of those platforms before the final episode is finished and available in the website. Later, shortly after it hits the website, release it on all other platforms via update, so it’s in you hand as soon as possible, regardless of your platform of choice.

We never had a release so big before, so please bear with us. Many things could go wrong and have our plans frustrated, but we believe even in the worst case scenario, we’ll still be able to release all platforms in a much shorter time span than Season One. Finger crossed 😉

Our friends at Phoenix Online are going to help us through, and like in the previous occasion, they’ll be sharing all the details with you along the process.

More languages for Steam/GoG/iOS/Android

We’re happy to announce that, close to the release of the new season, we’re planning to issue an update for ‘The Last Door – Collector’s Edition’ that:

  • Will add official support for some languages.
  • In the case of the Steam/Gog version, will add support for user created translations.

What about Windows Phone?

The first season of The Last Door it’s coming to Windows Phone really soon, published by our friends at GameTroopers. Exact dates are to be announced soon, we’ll keep you posted!

What’s the next project going to be about?

Honestly, at the moment, we don’t have a clue! We still have one entirely new episode ahead of us, and that’s all that occupies our mind right now. For now, all that we know about our future game is that we want it to be as personal and unique as ‘The Last Door’ is. Maybe it won’t be horror, nor point and click, but it’s still be something any ‘The Last Door’ player could relate to.

Have more questions?

I would love to have your questions answered, so if you have anything to say or to ask for, just leave a comment and I will happily address them.

cheers!

Productivity tricks for Community Management

A programmer doing the Community Management?

I’m one of the main programmers here in ‘The Game Kitchen’, working in the point and click horror series ‘The Last Door’. But my roles in the company doesn’t end there, unfortunately! I’m also in charge of the management of the company, and recently, I’m also becoming the part-time community manager of the team.

In the past we used to a have a dedicated CM in the team, but had to leave for personal reasons, and since we are not really making what you’d call a lot of money, we can’t afford to hire one at this time. Being independently funded comes with a lot of challenges, and most of the time, for us, means to operate as cheaply as possible.

So even it’s not specially my cup of tea I’ve taken the responsibility of managing our community, social media presence,  press relations, online marketing, and a lot of stuff that has very few to do with programming.

‘The Last Door’ looks like a simple game, but it’s actually a really big IP that involves handling a complex social media presence, several forums, multiple platforms each one with their separated way to provide support, and like every other indie title out there, a constant need to be present in the media.

Since I took these responsibilities, it wasn’t so unusual to reach the end of the day without having typed a single line of code. That was causing me a lot of frustration, because for starters I love coding, like a lot. And it’s easy to perceive a day without progress in the actual ‘product’ as a waste of time, even though it probably wasn’t. So I know I needed a system to make this new situation work for me.

A daily schedule

My first approach was to split the day into two time zones. First zone, it’s only coding and work exclusively related to making the actual ‘game’. The second zone is about everything else. I usually take a pause for a coffee to help ease the transition between the two mental states.

This was an immediate improvement. Soon enough, I significantly reduced the frustration sensation, since now, everyday I was able to advance the production of the game at least a few steps, every single day.

At this point another issue becomes evident: I’m not as good as planning tasks when they are not development related. So I was often forgetting about approving post for new users in one of the forums, or maybe answering too late to a particular support request. I needed ‘something’ that remembered me of each one of the task that needed to be done, so I don’t forget about a particular one for too much time.

Putting the cloud to work for you

My first take on the subject was to make a huge list of all the things that required attention. Once I had the list, I needed a system that allowed me to secure the appropriate amount of time for each of those things.

I needed a couple of tricks:

  • I wanted a single point to look for tasks that needed to be taken care of each day. This would be my ‘What needs to be done today’ list. This would allow me a method: Everyday, at the beginning of my second ‘time zone’ I would check this list, and execute each of these tasks.
  • Then I needed something that would allow me to schedule the tasks of the big list of things to be done, into the daily task list.

After researching some options, I ended up with a combination of online tools: Trello (which is a well known task manager) and IFTTT (acronym for ‘If This Then That’) which is a nearly magical thing that enables you to integrate many different cloud services to work together. NOTE: Both of this tools has a free plan that’s sufficient enough for our pourpose here.

I created a ‘recipe’ in IFTTT for each of the things on my big list of things that I should care about, they looked like this:

IFTTT recipe

This particular rule triggers every Friday at 5.00 in the morning, and injects a task into my Trello’s Community Management’ board, with the text “Check metrics in Google Analytics”. This way, everything Friday I would check Trello, just like every other day, I would know that this particular day I must not forget about checking what’s going on in the website through Google Analytics. For me, the exact time when the rule executes, it’s not really important, as long as they happen before I come to Trello to check for what’s need to be done. In the end, I guess I’m just using the time as a way to control the order the tasks would appear in my board.

To create these type of rules in IFTTT you must choose a type of trigger called ‘Date & Time’ (first step) and ‘Every day of the week at’ (second step). Then you’ll program which days of week and at what time you want it to execute. Then, just choose Trello as the action channel, and ‘Create a card’ as the particular action to be performed. Fill in the name of the board, and the content of the tasks (tasks are called ‘cards’ in Trello).

Hope you guys find this trick useful. To me has been like night and day, makes me a lot more satisfied with the amoun of work I make every day, and improves a lot the time it takes me to respond to players!

cheers.

What’s so special about ‘The Last Door’ betas?

Don’t you hate when you buy a product and it turns to be nothing you were told it would be? I certainly do, that’s why I feel like I should explain in detail how the episode’s betas are in The Last Door for those of you who have not yet taken part in one.

Most people think of a “beta” version as a nearly finished product, where you should be open to experience some bugs here and there, but, overall, it will be very close to the final experience. This is not the case of The Last Door.

This game has always been all about creating a community. Since the very conception of the idea we knew that, in order to make an excellent game, we would need to assess the power of the collective creativity and imagination of the game’s players.

Letting you guys participate in the development has always been one of our main priorities. And The Last Door’s betas are possibly the most powerful way there is for you to leave your mark in the game.

A proposal open for changes

Our betas are not close to final gameplay. You have to think about it as a draft, for you to build upon. We reserve about 25% of the development time between beta and final, to be able to perform countless changes, based in your suggestions. Some will be shallow, details, but some other will be deep. Entire areas or characters could be cut or added during this process, and all will be done according to your feedback.

Blank descriptions for you to fill

Another thing we do in the beta is we leave ten to twelve objects in the game without description. Beta testers can then suggest a description during their playthrough using a simple form. The best descriptions will make it to the final version, and their authors will be featured in the final game’s credits!

Will playing the beta ruin the final game for me?

No, it will not. There are some measures we take to protect the final experience:

  • We make sure the beta gameplay is enjoyable by itself.
  • We avoid including any major spoilers in the beta: the opening and ending sequences won’t be present, and some important scenes will be cut out too. You will still have to play the final release to see what happens in this episode!
  • The overall gameplay of the final release usually feels very different from the beta version so it will be still thrilling to play through!

Most players enjoy playing both the beta and the final release:

  • You get to play two different versions of the game.
  • You get to discuss changes with us and other players.
  • You get to see those changes come together in the final version.
  • If you send us good feedback, you will get your name featured in the credits!

Sounds great, but does it work?

We’ve collected some feedback provided by players in the past about participating in the betas, hope this help get a better picture:

“I was kinda interested if you really put the changes community mentioned into your Final Version. Well..you did. And i think this fits just great. Everybody who played and finished the Beta knows what i mean and i as a player and a follower of your work (art) want to say thank you.” – Meatknife (forum post)

“I love how you guys altered the puzzles from the beta, and I really noticed how much you listened to your fans. This has truly been a fun adventure to be apart of with you guys and I would love to see this story reach the point to which it deserves.” – Jiveturkey (forum post)

“I too noticed how you took many of the forum comments and incorporated those changes into the game. I really liked the changes to some of the puzzles and surprises (you know which ones I’m talking about!) and the community input on some of the items (the teacups for example) really added an extra element of depth and imagination to everything.” – Mike1141 (forum post)

Creating seamless looping ambience tracks

Hello! I’m Carlos Viola, in my first blog post I want to talk about how we do the loops of the ambient sounds in TLD 😉

Composing a song that loops correctly is just a matter of making the end of the song go nice next to the beginning. In the other hand, for an ambience track, where there’s no structure or notes but noises, it can get a little bit tricky.

I’ll show how we do it using Cubase, but you can do pretty much the same with any software following the same tips.

First, we need to create an ambient track with some sounds, like wind, water, city noises, etc..  We mix this noises or sounds in a single track to create the correct sensation of a soundscape. You’d want to make it a little bit longer than what’s strictly required, since a small portion of it will be discarded during the process of making it loop.

making-loops-step1

Then, we import the track into our audio software and duplicate it

making-loops-step2

Now we need to join the tracks making a crossfade between them, is important to do this with mathematical coherence, you need to have a beat grid and snap the second track in a time event, for example 16 beats into the first track.

making-loops-step3

Then select a zone between the two tracks starting from 16 beats into the first track and ending from 16 beats of the second one.

And that’s it, now you have a perfect loop zone to export into a single track. Simply discard what’s out the “perfect loop zone” and you’re done!

The Last Door Season One’s Assets released under Creative Commons

Great news!

Today we’re releasing all of Season One assets under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license! What does it mean? That you can now use the original sprites of the first Season of the game to make your own content: decorate Youtube videos, animated Gifs, remixes or even your own games if you want!

The license only entitles you to mention where did you get the assets from: ‘The Last Door’ alongside this url www.thelastdoor.com somewhere in your content (in the video description, in a readme.txt file or a credits sequence maybe?).

What’s in the package?

You’ll find a zip file containing all graphical assets (scenery, animated sprites for characters and much more) from the first four episodes of The Last Door! That’s about 2,500 PNG files you can use for anything you can come up with 😉

Download link

Licensing details

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Read the license summary.
Read the full license.

Seventh episode’s preproduction is now closed!

For the first  week we had this clear idea for the new episode, something we had been thinking in doing for a long time: the whole episode would take place on board of a big screw ship. We liked this setting for several reasons. It was constrained, which is a powerful tool for creativity, and the number of different rooms was quite limited, which would lighten production load in favor of more iteration. There was also the ominous atmosphere of something going wrong in the middle of the sea, the darkness of the engine rooms, the mystery of exploring the depths of the ship… and its name, too: SS Unknown, so the episode could be called The Unknown.

But already in the middle of the season we couldn’t afford an episode so separated from the rest. The idea certainly is juicy for a self-contained story, but it is very difficult to join with the other episodes. As we worked on it, more questions whose answers we didn’t know kept appearing. Where was the ship heading to? What would happen when it got there? How had we got on board? What could be the meaningful contributions to the main arc or to the series’ lore? Because this third episode needs to prepare the players and the story for a satisfactory, thrilling, and terrifying season finale.

Gladly, Enrique had had an alternative idea during this first. After talking about it for a while with José Antonio and me, we all soon realized it could create a really interesting, strange and deep atmosphere. Our heads started boiling with scenes, characters and puzzle elements, fragments of plot and new elements for enriching the lore. This was at the start of the second week, so we took the decision to abandon the previous work and commit to this thrilling new idea!

I know, I wanted like the most an episode of The Last Door set in an enclosed, limited space. Maybe in a future project…

We cannot disclose much yet, because things are still fresh and can (and should) change quite a bit during production, when we see exactly how everything works together. And the last thing we want is to spoil anything. But we can safely tell it will take place in an Irish island, where we will come across a peculiar celebration, and that we will discover a new perspective on the series’ lore, drawing mainly from elements suggested during the fourth episode.

With this new, fertile idea, connections with the rest of the season emerged naturally. From here on, we looked for other people’s work that related somehow with the atmosphere, to use for reference. We always do this, since the beginning of the series: in the first episode they would be Poe’s The Raven and The Black Cat, Maupassant’s The Horla, and the typically Lovecraftian story of the scientific research gone wrong. In the second one there were elements of Lynch’s Inland Empire, Machen’s The Great God Pan, and Poe’s The Telltale Heart, among others. Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and  Borges’ The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim would be two of the references for the third.

For this episode  –at least at this point — there is a main influence we cannot tell yet, but others are Lovecraft’s The Ceremony and some seductive stories from  Yeat’s The Celtic Twilight, which has been recently re-published in Spain.

This time around we took less time pre-producing the episode, because last time we realized we tend to advance and enhance the experience way more efficiently while building the game. So we are two weeks intro production already: most of the core gameplay of the beta is implemented at this point, as are many of the dialogues. The first backgrounds are ready too, but the game is still lacking content,  enough for another two weeks at least. Then we need to iterate the experience a couple of times, and run the translation-proofreading process, until it is ready for beta testing.

Designing Characters

Pub scene in “My Dearest Visitor” episode of The Last Door game by The Game Kitchen

Hi people! In this post I’ll talk a bit about our process for designing the game’s characters, from the original idea to their final form in a finished episode.

Brainstorming

So this is the first step in every episode: we write whatever comes into our minds. When we like something, we stop and write a bit more about it, then we show it to our mates in the design team. If they don’t see it interesting, we ditch it and keep brainstorming. But if the idea manages to spark something in the others’ imagination, then we know we have something.

Now, this idea will quickly stop being something you could say it’s yours and clearly becomes something with its own entity, something new and exciting.  This is what we are always looking for, because if an idea doesn’t surprise you, how can you expect it will surprise your audience?

At this point, feedback starts to jump from one’s imagination to the other’s. Sometimes the idea fades out –maybe when thought about properly it just sounds stupid, or maybe we can’t give it a proper shape yet and it stays aside, waiting for the time. But sometimes it manages to make perfect sense and then flourishes into something amazing and unexpected. Then we have a nice scene, location or atmosphere. Or a cool character.

Google Images

Women and Fishermen of Hornbaek by Kroyer
In the Store During a Pause from Fishing by Kroyer

This is a very useful technique we use as a help to the brainstorming. We take a topic and google it –just like that, then we pay attention at whatever the images results are. Some very unexpected mental connections can happen this way, and we can discover entirely new interesting topics to include in the game.

When researching for characters, the most useful pictures are nineteenth century photographs, prints and paintings. Photos are tricky, because at the time, most of them were heavily prepared portraits, were attitudes, character and clothing appear quite artificially.  Some more casual (and therefore more accurate for our purposes) can be found though, and they make for great reference.

Sea Beach – Norfolk Fisherman on the Look Out (The Fisherman) by Frederick Bacon Barwell. Source: Published by Day & Son, London, for Passages from Modern English Poets Illustrated by the Junior Etching Club, 1862.

Prints from historical newspapers, and the works of realist artists like Gustave Dore are very helpful to suggest new ideas.

A Couple of Words

When we have a long ideas list, we have to start growing them into developed characters. We have come up with a simple technique for doing this quite fast, and so it is easy to share with our mates. We write a short sentence:

 “A”, who “B”. 

“A” would be a short introduction to the character (for example “a butcher”, “a priest”, “An old woman”).

“B” is a second layer of characterization that must have a noticeable contrast with the first. Think of it as a narrative turn. This is the part of the character that conveys the atmosphere, and expresses why he or she is so interesting.  The contrast must suggest a lot by itself, or this character will not make it to the production phase.

When developing characters, we like them to have their own stories apart to the episode’s main arc. They need to be really interesting by themselves, make you want to know more about them, and they must bring life to the locations where the episode takes place.

Let them talk

Backyard scene in “My Dearest Visitor” episode of The Last Door game by The Game Kitchen

At this point, characters that have not been discarded (only a handful of them) are painted and animated, and the first draft of dialogues is written.

It is important to note that characters are not completely defined when we start writing dialogues. They are just the simple idea we wrote in the previous section, plus they play some role in the high-level gameplay structure we have devised so far (that means the overall progression of the game from the beginning to the end – a character may act as a door to a new area, or give you an item needed to solve a puzzle).

Dialogue is a tool for us to know our characters. By trial and error, we will realize certain aspects of their personalities don’t match with the general atmosphere –or their own, so we will have to discard entire branches of text. We are always discarding big chunks of material, but it is fine, because we want just the best for the game!

Community interaction

Character’s dialogues and personalities are not yet complete until the last part of the narrative development process: beta testing.

When we share the episode’s beta version with our community of players, we gather a huge amount of feedback. And important part of it has to do with how the game’s narrative has worked out, and gives us a good idea of how well the characters are understood by players. That way we can clean up inconsistencies, and modify the game so the focus stays in the most remarkable parts of the experience.

There is another part for this phase that has great importance: the proofreading process. We export all the in-game text and share it with a very dedicated group of fans. They will re-write most of the game, giving it a unique feeling and style, and taking care that the characters’ use of language and tone is appropriate to their personalities. In fact, during this process, new personality traits arise for the characters, as the fans think about them in new and unexpected ways.

Pub scene in “My Dearest Visitor” episode of The Last Door game by The Game Kitchen. Proofread dialogue example.

When putting all this text back in the game, we are always amazed at how the depth and richness of the narrative, and of the whole experience, has improved!