Dev Blog #130 – Flipping The DIP

Greetings everyone!

Any of you who were able to guess what we’re going to be talking about today based on the post title alone just outed themselves as an old nerd… also we should be friends. Let’s talk about Free Play!

The Biggest Little Update

The Company is a game comprised of far-too-many knobs and switches. Any time a change is made to one dial, there’s a chance that a dozen other dials that have up until now been happily performing their job will need to be recalibrated lest things, as we say in the biz, go wonky. The amount of potential interactions and overlaps has led to some interesting inconsistencies over time, as our Discord would be more than happy to attest to, and corrective measures aren’t always as simple flipping a switch to fix the problem.

All of this is to add some weight when I say we’re about to flip a switch that will most likely break “all the things”. Of course I’m talking about Free Play.

Free Play is something that I’ve been both incredibly excited and terrified to introduce. Effectively, it’s a mode of play that will allow the player to eschew all story content in favor of leisurely taking their time getting to play with all the mechanics and characters The Company has introduced over time. There are no chapters, no deadlines, and no sidequests!

What Free Play Is and Isn’t

So this should all be as easy as disabling story events, right? Well… What about the trip to Company HQ and the new options that brings? What about Julia, or Lauren? Elsa? Unlocking The Pit? There are a number of factors that will need to be considered and adapted in ways that both make sense mechanically, while also not diverging “too” much from established content. I can’t have Free Play becoming its own separate entity that will then require its own, significant, resource allocation, but then I can’t devote an entire development cycle to a tacked on feature, either. So, what to do?

First of all, this update is still in its infancy and, despite the first dev build already making the rounds, things are subject to change at a rapid pace. That being said, let’s bring on the bullet points!

  • Free Play isn’t a glorified debug menu. You’re still going to have to play the game
  • Free Play isn’t an inconsequential simulation. Major events will still have irreparable outcomes, just as they do in Story Mode
  • Free Play won’t necessitate [many] new systems that wouldn’t also be used in Story Mode
  • Free Play won’t have exclusive content you wouldn’t be able to see in Story Mode, however…
  • Free Play won’t have 100% of the content you’d get in Story Mode, either
  • Free Play content “shouldn’t” ever fall out of line with Story Mode in terms of what’s available

So that’s a lot of is nots, would nots, and should nots, but I think it’s necessary to set expectations and, in my opinion, alleviate some concerns over the new system. Essentially, Free Play is just as much of a game as Story Mode is, only it veers closer to simulation territory than visual novel. It’s not meant as a way for the player to “pop the hood” and see all the things, rather, to add new context to the already established setting. The goal is that we won’t add any significant content or features to Free Play that won’t also appear in Story Mode, and that Story Mode will continue to be the focus after this update has been released. Finally, as a disclaimer, Free Play won’t always get 100% of the content available in Story Mode since much of it is, well, story content! So with that out of the way, let’s get a bit more positive!

Some Free Play changes include…

  • Free Play is going to introduce a whole new, permanent, character to the game! (Yes, she’ll be in Story Mode as well!)
  • Free Play is going to allow you to swap between Diana and Lauren as your records clerk
  • Free Play is going to allow you to schedule your own dates with Sophie to trigger serum events
  • Free Play is going to allow you to use BMB-1 on Julia whenever you’d like to trigger that event
  • Free Play is going to change how new serums are unlocked, moving them to lab upgrades instead
  • Free Play is going to put Ava and Dakota on their weekend schedules permanently
  • Free Play is going to allow you to skip work without skipping to Evening, if that’s what you want to do
  • Free Play is going to fix the trash problem, and make the crops grow!

There’s plenty that I haven’t mentioned as I don’t have the details locked in enough to really talk about it, but rest assured that large systems like The Pit will be fully available in Free Play mode. And on a broader scale, Update 4.1 itself will be affecting existing content as well…

  • You’ll be able to text additional characters, starting with Diana
  • We’re adding some new content to the Thanksgiving Event to help with pacing, and give Futa Ava more to do…
  • We’re looking to add a third ending option for Elsa
  • We’ll be fixing lots of bugs
  • We’ll be adding lots of new bugs
  • Some existing media will be updated for quality
  • Existing content will be reviewed and updated for consistency where appropriate. Yes, Westane does read #general-discussion!
  • Something about shower content…

I hope everyone’s looking forward to Update 4.1 after this little preview! There will be more to say on it as development continues, I’m going to be looking to get dev builds out early and often as I expect the initial wave of issues to be heavier than normal with this one. Additionally, expect news of upcoming community events sooner rather than later, starting with a live AMA this fall!

That’s it for this devblog. As always, thank you all for your continued feedback and support!

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