State of Play: The Dust Fleet Demo

The demo isn’t coming just yet.

You might already know that Dust Fleet is a solo project. It started as me trying out the Unity game engine for fun. Before that, I have a half-dozen prototypes written in Blitz3D, and many others trapped on 3.5″ disks from the 90s. More still are lost to time, committed to audio tapes via a BBC Micro over 30 years ago.

This is to say: I’m the kind of person who likes to have a side project to help me learn new stuff, and because I don’t know how to sit still and just read a book or something.

Eventually I realised I had been poking at Dust Fleet since 2013. Not continuously, but when I had time outside of my job, in between regular 6-month breaks and life events. And in that time it’s grown from a little demo into a functioning game and content creation toolset. I didn’t really see that coming. It just sort of happened.

That’s led to a few issues – the unplanned nature of the work means that some features have been built up and then scrapped entirely as the design evolved. That’s not a bad thing – overly complex game mechanics have been replaced with simpler, better ones, and I’m happy with how it’s gone so far. So happy, in fact, that when Steam announced Next Fest for next month, I thought I might actually be ready to show it off.

As it turns out, that was both entirely correct and way off the mark.

My plan was to let the demo act as a way for me to get initial feedback on the game, giving me 6 months to improve and polish it ahead of a release in November. This is actually a really bad idea.

I’ve received a lot of good advice over the past few days, and I’ve been led to the conclusion that I shouldn’t use a demo as an alpha test, and should instead use an alpha test as an alpha test.

So, the demo I announced for Next Fest is postponed. Instead, I’m going to launch a closed alpha, with betas to follow. I’ll provide more details of that in the next few days. The game has a little further to go before it’s a solid experience, and I’m going to need an alpha squad to help me get it there.

These days, Dust Fleet’s development is a much more tightly managed affair with weekly sprints, and I’m looking forward to incorporating feedback into that cycle. I’m absolutely certain this will lead to a better final product than continuing to build it in isolation.

I’d like to end with a huge thank you to everyone who has been patiently awaiting Dust Fleet’s release. I know it’s been a long haul, and I really do appreciate you coming with me on this journey.

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