After three years of development, and over 50 levels mapped, we realized that there was a problem. Unclear/unset goals which lead to disorganization, which lead to a lack of productivity. Over the course of the years we've gone through a few different writers, and plenty of dev team members, and this also contributed to the disorganization.
We had a rough story, which was great. It was a fun story and we knew the players would love enjoy it. It traversed many styles the player was used to and introduced new ones. New testing elements and techniques were abundant. Of the 50+ maps we had, they all fit well into a section of the mod based on allowed elements and style.
We had some huge issues though, beginning with our design philosophy. We simply designed puzzles we thought were interesting and shoved them into some random place in the mod. We tried to move certain more difficult tests towards the middle of the game, and made sure to alternate between tough tests and some easier ones. Sometimes we would notice a void of certain types of tests and try to fill it. As a whole though, Backstock was very bulky, a mixed bag, just a hodge podge of game-play.
It's funny when you think about it, because when I started this mod it was just going to be a map-pack of GLaDOS' backstocked chambers, which the player, after waking up, worked their way through until they escaped. So that mentality I guess had permeated through to our design process, which is silly, even though these chambers were supposed to be random, that doesn't mean they actually are, as designers we still need to control the game-play in very specific ways, even when what we are presenting to the player may seem random. Anyway, enough of this tangent. The story I just described was abandoned about three years ago anyhow.
Another problem we had was the actual storage of the mod. For a while it was in Dropbox, and people could just copy the latest version to their sourcemods directory. This didn't work out well in-case of people accidentally changing this folder and (basically) permanently losing files. So then for a while I would just maintain the final build on my computer and upload it to our webserver and place a link to it on a private page on our website for members to download. Eventually though I simply just maintained it, and occasionally placed the build of the mod in Dropbox and linked it through Skype to team members who needed it. In the end I spilt chocolate milk all over my laptop and we were set back a few months on development.
This is turning into a long post. Suffice to say, no-one knew what parts of the mod needed to be worked on, no-one knew what was really finished, no-one knew where to put their files, no-one knew when we'd find a writer and get some dialog, no-one knew when we would be done, no-one knew if we would finish.
So, we took a Mulligan. We are started over (sorta/basically). We learned so much over the last three years working on this project. We know what we want, what we need, what not to do, what to do, and where to start.
I'm here telling you this, because in the past we've tried to keep most of our progress private as to not just be developing maps to take screen-shots of, but instead work on the tasks at hand, and we know you've noticed our lack of updates. This is a message to let you all know, that are not dead, and in fact are more alive than ever before.
For your information, we actually took this Mulligan on July 2nd 2014. We started started over, with a fresh build of Backstock. We keep everything in a private GitHub repository. We got a story writer. We laid out a game-play ramp, for introducing new items and relative difficulty as we go. The whole team has been working diligently under this new age of organization quite well. We've put a heavy concentration on drafting puzzles and testing to a fault before putting it into production.
With this new area of organization, I promise we'll go against our private mindset and continue to keep you the public informed about our progress in the coming months.
Thank you for reading this update, and I hope this announcement makes you as excited as we are!