Shadows of Doubt DevBlog #32: Release Date Announce and Early Access Thinking
Shadows of Doubt is a detective stealth game set in a fully-simulated sci-fi metropolis! There’s been a murder and it’s up to you to solve it by any means necessary, with the condition that you keep a low profile. A unique mix of procedural generation and hand-crafted design enables every room of every building to be explored. Be sure to wishlist on Steam, join our Discord or read previous dev blog entries here!
Hello everyone! Thank you to all of you who played the demo over the course of Steam NextFest. It was a massive success, with more people playing, wishlisting, and joining the community than we could have ever hoped for. As you may have expected we received a tonne of feedback, and we’ve been processing it all over the last few weeks to help us finalize the game’s launch plans – and beyond!
Yes, as some of you have suspected by now (pun intended), we’re going to be releasing the game via Steam Early Access on… April 24th! I can’t believe I finally get to say it! Shadows of Doubt will be in your hands in just a few short weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited for everyone to step into the role of detective and explore the city streets very soon.
But of course, elephant in the room, why Early Access? As many of you know, Shadows of Doubt has been in development for many years, and so we didn’t take the decision to launch into Early Access lightly. Being open and transparent, we’ve had a lot of serious discussions about how and when to launch the game. The game is in a very advanced state of development – while there are plans for new content and further optimizations, the game is functionally complete with a full suite of features, cases, content, and a complete Sandbox Mode, beyond what you may usually expect from an Early Access title. Both I and the publisher are confident in the overall quality, breadth of content, and playability of Shadows of Doubt’s Early Access release.
However, there are some key things that launching in Early Access allows for, not least of which is more content. It was always a goal of mine to develop post-release content for the game, but launching into Early Access means I can bring that new content directly into the pre-1.0 roadmap, meaning there’ll now be even more for players to discover in the initial base game when the full version launches (and Early Access players will, of course, get this content for free as it’s added to the game). As a bonus, it also means that we get more critical and constructive feedback from players who are passionate about the game during active development, which is really useful for further improving the overall experience.
Secondly, it helps me respond to bugs and unusual edge case issues that, given the massive scope of the game and the nature of its systems, I fully expect to be unearthed for the first time at launch. Speak to any developer and they will always tell you that a game is never finished, but with the breadth and (often unpredictable!) nature of Shadows of Doubt’s layers of AI, it’s particularly true. To speak openly and honestly with you, it makes me so much more comfortable knowing that I’ll be able to identify any of these unusual issues and react to them during Early Access, rather than have players discover them in what is considered to be a ‘final’ release. I hope that makes sense.
Also for the purpose of expectations, I wanted to let you know that the game doesn’t currently feature a story thread of missions beyond those featured in the demo. The purpose of ‘The Dead of Night’ case you may have played in the demo is to teach the player the mechanics within a scripted mission, before letting them off the leash for the game’s core immersive, non-scripted, sandbox experience. Early on into development, we found that asking AI citizens to behave nicely with heavily-scripted sequences did not benefit the overall game, especially when all they really want to do is live out their lives dynamically (no matter how long they ultimately lived for), and leaning more heavily into a sandbox experience driven by the AI itself is where the game shines. That said, there may be an opportunity to expand on more bespoke narrative-based missions during the course of the Early Access roadmap, depending on your feedback. There is still progression, of course – over the course of the game you’ll take on new cases to earn cash, find new gadgets and equipment, customize your apartment, and unlock new upgrades for your character to become a better detective. And I’d definitely encourage you to experiment with different cities – the Early Access release lets you generate bigger cities than the demo allowed, and they really can make a difference to how you approach situations, depending on what you get!
Shadows of Doubt really has been a dream project of mine to make, and it’s my goal to make it the best possible game it can be for everyone who plays it. Stay tuned for more info about our Early Access updates that we’re currently working towards and, when the game launches next month, we’d love to invite you to share ideas of what you’d like to see too.
So, April 24th! I can’t wait, and if you haven’t already, please do consider wishlisting the game to be notified the moment it’s available! It really does help small developers like us. I’ve also set up a poll to find out the kind of things folks are most excited about during Early Access (see below). You can select up to 3 answers, and your choices could help us prioritize if there’s something that particularly resonates.
Thank you again, detectives! See you again soon.