Voice Recordings, Further Performance Optimization, Burning Questions, Love Letter To CDPR

Greetings, Pilots!

Another clickbait update some might wonder? Yes and no! I’ll get back to this question further below in this quite unusual update. First off, let me say that our entire team is very-much relieved that our decision to push back the EVERSPACE 2 Early Access release to January 2021 to get out of the way of Cyberpunk 2077 was overwhelmingly positively received by all you die-hard fans who committed with your wallets to help our dream game become a reality.

However, being passionate PC and console gamers ourselves, we know how much of a bummer it is when a much-anticipated title is being delayed, especially when you were looking forward to playing it over the holidays. So, you guys are truly awesome, and thanks for your understanding. Seriously, we mean it!

Over the weekend, I read through a couple of hundred comments on social media and big gaming sites that covered our announcement. While the overall sentiment outside of the EVERSPACE community about our move is mostly positive, there are a few false assumptions as well as some legit questions that should be addressed. So here we go:

“Original Beta Backers getting shafted a little”

We saw a backer with Beta access posting on Steam about getting shafted by losing sixish weeks of exclusivity, which sparked quite a discussion. There surely is some logic behind this even though we believe that there is not too much value after having played the Beta for four weeks and everyone should expect some wiggle room for things to change in a crowdfunded project, but we’re happy to refund the €10 price difference for Beta access on request via PayPal to eligible backers who feel our move ruined their Beta access privilege (adding extra goodies like the suggested ship skin would be just opening up another can of worms).

What if Cyberpunk 2077 will be delayed to January? Will you push back the EVERSPACE 2 Early Access release yet again or go back to the initial plan of launching in mid-December?

Following our logic why we delayed the EVERSPACE 2 Early Access release in the first place, that’s more than a fair question. Before answering, let me share my personal thoughts on CDPR’s situation.

I think it is quite unlikely that CD Project Red will delay Cyberpunk 2077 again. Without any AAA development experience under our belts, I’ll go out on a limb to say: After they reached Gold, three more weeks for the final polish of any single-player AAA title on two technically quite similar console platforms sounds reasonable, especially for an experienced and massive team like CDPR.

However, as said in our previous update, last-gen consoles’ CPU and memory limitations were our biggest challenges when porting the original EVERSPACE to Xbox One and PS4, so getting a massive AAA open-world RPG like Cyberpunk 2077 running smoothly on seven-year-old console hardware must be no joke.

Given the exceptional track record of CDPR of delivering top-notch open-world RPGs and their general pro-consumer attitude, I would be surprised if they launched a game that does not live up to their high-quality standards, no matter how heavily investors might be breathing down their neck to release Cyberpunk 2077 this holiday season (on a much, much smaller scale, we know from own experience how unpleasant these conversations can be).

Just imagine how much pressure there must have been not to delay the title again. I can’t think of a bolder pro-consumer move than pushing back a widely-anticipated game for a needed final polish pass (no pun intended) last-minute even though a multi-million-dollar marketing machine had already started firing on all cylinders with all-yellow double-decker busses driving through London and ads with Keanu Reeves promoting the former November 19th release on all channels.

Now, for the answer, you’re looking for. In the unlikely event that Cyberpunk 2077 is pushed back to January, we will NOT flip-flop back to releasing EVERSPACE 2 in December, NOR will we push it back one more time. The former wouldn’t work because if CDPR decided to delay again, it probably would be too short notice for us to change directions for a proper Early Access launch in December (the minimum lead time for a change of heart would be four weeks). The latter is not an option either because we simply wouldn’t have the runway to postpone the release any further.

EVERSPACE 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are two completely different games – You are pulling this PR stunt just to make some headlines and to cover that you’re not ready to release in December :angry_face_emoji:

While I haven’t seen any such comment from within our Kickstarter community, there are quite a few complaints in that direction on the EVERSPACE 2 Steam Community Hub as well as on major gaming sites covering our announcement. Ok, anyone out there riding that train, calm down! 🙂 Any news related to Cyberpunk 2077 is clickbait per se, and we’re fully aware of that.

However, there was no point in beating around the bush about why we decided to push back the EVERSPACE 2 Early Access release, and I firmly stand by every word I wrote in our previous update. To double-down on the decision to postpone our release, it was primarily a marketing decision to avoid the inevitable media storm about the Cyberpunk 2077 release. And, just for kicks & giggles and all those doubters out there, we know from performance marketing on our Facebook and YouTube channel that there IS a remarkably high audience overlap between the two games even though there are no spaceships in Cyberpunk 2077 – as much as we know, though.

Also, we’re excited about the overwhelmingly positive feedback received so far on the closed Alpha/Beta from some thousand backers, gaming media, and top content creators.

Were it our only option, we could feel comfortable about releasing the current closed Beta version with some final fixes and call it a day with an Early Access launch in late November – which would still be a commercially terrible idea because of some AAA open-world RPGs and looter shooters launching around that time window. Heck, even excellent AAA games can severely suffer commercially from a purely chosen release date as we have seen with Titanfall 2 – super-awesome game, BTW, so all sci-fi shooter fans go get it if you haven’t already!

Voice Recordings, Further Performance Optimization

But most importantly, we didn’t even consider releasing early because we want the initial Early Access build to feel like a big step up from the Beta for ALL backers: Featuring a big chunk of the all-new Union star system, more and fully voice-acted story missions, a higher player level cap, introducing you to at least one new player ship class as well as better overall game performance, especially when managing items – some of you already noticed a while ago that Thies, one of our veteran devs who joined us back in the day in 2005, recently dropped the news on our discord about him overhauling the entire item management system.

Spoiler: look forward to a significant UI performance boost when EVERSPACE 2 launches in Early Access this January – and yes, fully-revamped HOTAS/HOSAS support including pre-sets for most common setups as well as the option to disable inertia dampeners for all you floaty space flight sim fans, too.
Remote voice recording due to COVID-19 working better than expected. SPOILER ALERT: You might recognize the voice actor in this recording from the predecessor – you have been warned! 🙂

Long story short, you only get one chance to make a great first impression which of course is crucial for a successful games launch. There are rare exceptions of games that only finally lived up to their promise years after their initial release which are NOT a great example of what we believe a studio should do – aka overpromising and hyping a game like there is no tomorrow and fixing an incomplete, buggy mess post-launch. Maybe having demos should be a mandatory thing on every digital games platform? Steam is already leading the way with their seasonal game festivals promoting hundreds of demos from indie devs.

Anyway, at least for us as a 100% independent, self-publishing studio once again putting all our eggs in one basket without any big publisher safety net if things go sideways, knowingly underdelivering to save our butts and “fix it later” has never been an option, never will be.

Sounds Like There Is A Grudge Between CDPR and RFG

To be absolutely clear, we have absolutely no grudge against CDPR for “messing” with our planned EVERSPACE 2 Early Access “twice”. Even if Cyberpunk 2077 was pushed back yet again, we would absolutely respect and support CDPR in their decision. Nobody wants to have a poor game experience on their preferred platform, and a staggered release must be close to impossible for any AAA game for obvious commercial reasons as hard as this might be to accept for PC gamers in this case. Because even they would lose from a botched release making it less likely to enjoy future DLC – something that especially CDPR is famous and rightfully loved for.

In fact, I strongly believe CDPR has been and is still doing a great service for the entire video games industry – and especially for independent developers – reestablishing gamers’ trust in developers by living up to their promises even if this might require making some unpopular calls pre-release. Since their smash announcement when Keanu Reeves surprised the audience at this year’s Xbox briefing, I have been following the events around CDPR and Cyberpunk 2077 as well as the reaction from fans, content creators, and the gaming press more closely. And I gotta say, even though we’ve seen a number of controversies over the last year, I think they are doing a splendid job in their communication with their fans, the media, even with their investors.

Let me explain – if our PR friends haven’t pulled out their hair already, this is probably them finally losing it over me further rambling, but I think we really are onto something here (I’m genuinely curious how many are still reading this).

Having read through CDPR’s recent investors call transcript (definitely worth a read to really understand what’s going on), I think their management team has responded to every single investor question in a very informative and professional way and with a humble and respectful tone. Disclaimer: Even though we’re running a studio much, much smaller, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of going through plenty of unpleasant investors meetings myself in the past—questions from investors are always the same, especially when things are not going 100% perfect, no matter how big your business is.

As much as I can tell, every single response in that investor call showed confidence from the CDPR management team that Cyberpunk 2077 will be ready for release on nine platforms without compromising product quality on December 10. Of course, nothing is 100% certain, so in case CDPR’s masterpiece needs a bit more time in the oven, more power to CDPR for not bowing to the suits and putting their fans first, and from self-publishing developer CEO to self-publishing developer CEO and with the utmost respect for all your hard work and for sticking to your cyber guns of not sacrificing product quality and long-term success over pleasing short-term investors goals and not bending to media pressure: Go Adam & team, keep playing the infinite game!

Even if you are not running a video games studio or are any sort of entrepreneur, I can only highly recommend watching any of Sinek’s talks. He’s unpacking some truly great stuff that can be beneficial in anyone’s life in many ways.

I know, I digressed a lot, so final words for today: We hope that everyone is enjoying the Beta and lots of new pilots will be joining our weekly streams every Friday on Twitch and YouTube, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm CEST / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm EDT / 11:00 am to 1:00 pm PDT. 🚀👀💥🙌

Michael &
your dedicated ROCKFISH Games Team

PS: For what it’s worth, here’s an excellent video, which had a substantial influence on our decision making, basically covering most of the topics above and then some: