(Brief paragraph of business: the newest public version is now available on the blog and Steam. This will also be your weekly update, as I won't have anything particularly notable to say in just a couple days.)
Five years ago today, I posted the first version of TLS (though at that time it was TLF). That's a long time. It isn't hyperbolic to say that this game changed my life, so I'm going to share some discursive thoughts for the occasion.
Quitting Your Day Job
It's cheesy to say you've always wanted to make games, but I have spike-filled level designs scribbled on homework to back it up. I went through phases where I wanted to write books, make games, and other specifics, but I've always wanted to have a creative career. Given the way the world works, that's a rough dream.
Prior to and during the early development of TLS, I was making a lot of attempts. I had a job and a half, but both of those had periods of time where I was stuck in an office with a computer. I aggressively tried some of everything, hoping that something would take off so that I could forge a creative career for myself.
One alternate path I attempted was writing romance novels. You're not going to get the pseudonym for those from me, because I didn't do much work I was proud of. I put very little effort into them and didn't really believe in the final product... and yet they found success. Much more success than other games and projects that I cared about much more. As you can imagine, this made me pretty cynical.
Fortunately, TLS started to gain momentum in a way that other projects hadn't. Those of you who have been around for a long time remember that it was a very slow build, not overnight success, but I found it encouraging to have people respond to something I cared about. This little RPG has grown until I could build a career on it, including being able to explore some other creative paths. The alternate reality version of me that unhappily churned out romance novels has grown fainter and fainter, though I have to say that I was relieved when Street Cultivation finally broke my sales records in romance.
I'm extremely grateful to all of you for this. I assure you, I'm not wasting your investment in me. The number of events that could prevent me from completing TLS is growing smaller and I believe that I've built a foundation for a creative career.
Thoughts on Long Games
I've always been fascinated by long games, if you'll allow me a tangent. When I was younger, I remember hearing that White Knight Chronicles was supposed to have 100 hours of gameplay. Now, if you played it, you know that WKC was a bog standard 20 hour jRPG with 80 hours of optional MMO grind at the end. But before it came out, I didn't know that, and I found myself trying to think about what kind of story would actually require 100 hours.
TLS is one answer to that. The exact gametime will vary from person to person, but I've done my best to create a satisfying lengthy experience. One of the strengths of RPGs is that they can sustain long gametimes better, due to switching between combat/social/administrative elements. I hope the final product gives the player the sense that they've participated in a massive story and decided the fate of nations (beyond defeating World Destroyer Guy).
Way back at the beginning, I wasn't sure that could be sustained. Some old fans will remember that the early releases didn't have the first chapter title - I didn't want to come off as naively overambitious.
Five years later, the overall shape of the story is clear. There's still a substantial amount of content remaining, but we're much closer to the end than the beginning. As I've always promised, TLS will have a definitive ending that I intend to make satisfying for all those who have invested so much time in the game. I might revisit the world/characters in the future, but TLS will be a comprehensive experience.
Please look forward to The Last Sovereign 2: Sovereign Harder.
Enthusiasm for the Future
You probably know of creators who grew tired of their own work or lost their enthusiasm, from Arthur Conan Doyle to recent examples on Patreon. There are those who draw near the end of a project and are sick of it.
That's never happened for me with TLS. Now, no job is constant puppies and rainbows. A lot of days my work involves discipline and sometimes I just need to sit down and do some element I don't like. Sometimes it takes a little while for me to get all my TLS thoughts loaded up and make effective progress.
Enthusiasm does change over the course of a project, of course. At the beginning I had five entire chapters of plot to think about and plot points or characters I was still nailing down. The closer we get toward the end, the smaller the remaining creative space is for me. If TLS was a shorter project I might push hard to flesh out the final moments, but since there's still substantial work remaining, I need to pace myself. I appreciate your patience as I've explored books, visual novels, and other projects to keep my creative energies high.
But even considering all that, in the end I always reach a state where I love working on TLS, whether it's writing character interactions or balancing another section's mechanics. I've done my best to create the type of game/story I enjoy, and I enjoy working on it as well. This career continues to be a pleasure, so once again, thank you.