Hey Loftians! Welcome to first edition of Loftian Skies: a comprehensive update on the state of Loftia and notable developments that have occurred lately. We’re aiming to have monthly releases of this newsletter from now on. Let us know what you enjoyed hearing about, and what else you would like to hear more about, in the comments below!
In this month’s update, we’ll be covering a more detailed history of the project, some recent technical challenges and difficult decisions we’ve had to make, changes to the team, the growth of our community, and our roadmap going forward.
Believe it or not, the origins of Loftia were humble. Born from a deep, lifelong passion for massively multiplayer games, as well as a recent discovery of cozy life-sim games such as Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, the goal was originally to develop a very minimalistic, browser-based online game that pulled inspiration from both traditional massively-multiplayer games and cozy life & farming sims. It was a part-time project, to be built over the course of a few short months, with very a low emphasis on having good graphics. In fact, the majority of the in-game art and models that have been shown so far in demo videos are assets we found online.
April 2022 is when development took a more serious turn. Up until this point, it had remained largely a part-time project that I (Mic) was working on solo, with some occasional input from Martina and a few others. During this time, the game design of Loftia was undergoing a significant shift. It started as another generic, fantasy MMO that would incorporate some select elements of cozy games. However, it was slowly undergoing its transformation to focusing on being a cozy, wholesome, solarpunk game that incorporates social elements by additionally being an MMO. And this has turned out to be a very radical shift!
It became clearer and clearer that the idea behind Loftia had some serious potential. There is no other game like it that is currently available to play, in the world. Things also changed financially at this time: we received some financial investment in the project, and additionally, decided to put in a bunch of our own funds on top of that. With this newfound dedication and financial situation, Loftia was now aspiring to be a more serious game rather than a hobby project.
Between April and June, we hired a concept artist and a 3D artist to join our team, and continued to build out the game. We continued down the path of being browser-based, and built out the vast majority of core features including combat, farming, player-owned farms, fishing, foraging, parties and party quests, items and trading, and more (with multiplayer support, obviously). Both concept art and 3D art of the city area of Loftia were also being worked on. Everything was going smoothly, or so we thought…
We will likely write a more detailed post-mortem on this in the future, so we won’t dive too deeply into it here – but ultimately, we have now decided to switch game engines, and move away from targeting the browser.
For the original goals, the browser was actually a fine candidate. We had very few resources to start, so we had decided that graphical quality was not a concern. But with the shift in direction in April, the graphical requirements had shot up, and we needed to take that into account.
Whilst browser technology has come a long way in recent years, and raw performance is no longer as big of a concern as it once was, the many years of development that have been put into game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine mean that they are still massively ahead of all browser-based 3D rendering engines currently available on the market. There may very well come a time in the future where browser engines reach a point where they are competitive for games, but that will likely be at least a few more years away. (For small-scale projects, these engines are more than enough – I’d definitely still recommend BabylonJS for anyone interested in developing a small web-based project!)
Unfortunately, we toiled for a while, until June, before we arrived at that conclusion. The month of July was largely spent weighing up the pros and cons of Unity and Unreal Engine. After balancing the pros and cons and building out prototypes of Loftia on both engines, there wasn’t a clear overall winner between the two. Ultimately, we decided to go with Unreal Engine, which has tooling and capabilities which make life easier for 3D artists. This didn’t come completely for free – Unity is generally more programmer-friendly, and that’s a tradeoff we decided we were okay with.
So, what exactly does this mean for Loftia? Is development being forced to, effectively, restart?
Well, yes and no. Whilst a large chunk of the code will need to be rewritten on the new engine, there is so much more to game development than code. The game design itself, the art and assets, as well as the outreach we’ve done and engagement and support we’ve received from you – our amazing community members 🙌 – these are all significant aspects of the development process that are unaffected.
So, what’s the moral of the story here? Unexpected change, at all levels of a project, is often unavoidable. The fact that Loftia transformed from a hobby project into something more serious is a positive thing. However, when the situation changes, it’s crucial to adapt the plan as well if necessary, and avoid falling into the traps of common biases such as the sunk cost fallacy.
Game development is hard. Whilst the game engine decision above is the most significant example that comes to mind, it’s definitely not the only mistake we’ve made and learned from. As our journey continues, we will continue to make mistakes and learn from them as well. And that’s not just an inevitable thing – it is in fact, a good thing.
The important thing to keep in mind is that as long as you’re learning from your mistakes, that’s growth. That’s real progress – knowledge and wisdom that you can take with you on the journey of the rest of your life. The growth mindset is a concept that will really help drive this point home. I’ve only come to know it in recent years, but I’m a huge proponent of it – I’d highly recommend to everyone to read about it.
So – that’s it on the game engine front. It’s a significant setback, and we’ll definitely be striving to avoid mistakes on this level of magnitude going forward. We’ve learned from it, and course-corrected and adapted our roadmap (see below). We’re as optimistic – or even more optimistic than before, rather – about the future of Loftia, and remain more committed than ever to make this world a reality 😊 Full steam ahead!
We recently have had Mat from the United States join us as our Lead 3D Artist! With his arrival, this is what our team looks like now:
Mic – Australia – engineer, designer
Martina – Australia – marketer, designer
Chris (BladeFrenzy) – Australia – engineer
Felysia – Malaysia – concept artist
Noel-Tien (Alcy) – Belgium – concept artist
Mat – United States – 3D artist
We haven’t released much about our roadmap, and the main reason for it is that we’ve been figuring it out ourselves! We’re still figuring out the finer details, but below are a couple of exciting things you can expect us to be working on:
In the last month or so, Loftia’s social media accounts were newly started, and have garnered a bunch of interest from the community. We’ve garnered nearly 2,000 followers on TikTok, over 200 on Instagram, 100+ on Twitter, and our Discord community has reached almost 400 members too!
We’re still very early on in our journey, but it’s honestly been incredibly inspirational to see the outpouring of support and engagement from all of you. Thanks so much for being such an amazing group of people, words cannot describe how much we appreciate and value y’all!
This brings us to the end of the August update for Loftia. Thanks for reading! If you’ve got any suggestions or requests for what you’d like to see more of, in future updates, please let us know in the comments below!