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It's around 11:00PM on Sunday December 9th when I feel kind of relaxed for the first time in weeks.

Why we delayed Toki Tori 2

An hour before, I had an amazing idea for a new puzzle. I put it in and it felt really good. It made me think about the game as a whole… if I was still having fun adding puzzles, then why were we going to send the game off to Nintendo in two days?

This realization got me thinking. Why were we so focused on getting the game out before Christmas? Why in the world would we put so much pressure on ourselves, when we do not have a publisher or investor pushing us? Is this something we inherited from our days as a work-for-hire developer? I decided to talk it through with Martijn during our morning commute, and by the time we reached the office we had agreed to delay the game.

Now we only had to let the others know, and inform Nintendo that one of their Christmas games would not meet its deadline. Nintendo was amazing and said:“That’s tough for you guys, let us know when it’s good enough!’ So we told the rest of the natives at Two Tribes and decided to play through the game to get a feel for where we stood…

It wasn’t pretty. It was very ugly actually. There was no way in hell we would have been able to ship the game the next day. Not because I could still think up new puzzles, but because we had fooled ourselves into thinking it could be possible, ignoring the obvious truth.

Which brings me to the informative part of this post. What were the major points we wanted, no, needed, to improve before we could send the game off to Nintendo and feel good about it? In retrospect it’s easy to compile this list, but in the weeks after our delay we only slowly started to realize what the problems were.

Toki Tori 2 Gets Better, Later!

Where to go?

When we decided to ditch the standard level structure most puzzle games use, we moved to a more open design. All the levels in the game are connected, and you can determine your own route through it if you so desire.

Sounds great, and it certainly has its benefits, but it turned out to be a design nightmare. We had to find a way to accommodate novice players, as well as experienced puzzle game players. In the end it resulted in many question marks above the heads of our testers.

We are now addressing this by catering a bit more to the tastes of the novice players. It’s still as open as before, but we don’t advertise it as much anymore.

Toki Tori 2 Gets Better, Later!

Graphics

I’ll let the animated GIF do the talking here. One frame is from before the delay and the other is taken from today’s version, pretty sure you’ll be able to spot the differences.

You could argue that we could’ve shipped the game with the lesser graphics in place,but in this case they also improve the player’s sense of place. The goal of this scene is to show you path to the city isn’t available, which we visualize by showing a broken bridge.

Performance

Toki Tori 2 may look like a simple game because of its 2D nature, but the code behind it is managing things like realtime shadows, behavior simulations for the creatures, dynamic fluids, etc. We did not give ourselves time to optimize the game, which resulted in us accepting a 30 frames per second screen update. This broke my designer heart, but it was something that was acceptable given the time constraints.

Fortunately the design was more behind than the code, so we had some programming time to spare. The result is that the game now runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second and it’s a much better experience for it.

Testing

Simply put, the game was not tested properly. Up until that Sunday when I regained my sanity, I was the only one who had played all the content in the game. Now I pride myself in being a pretty decent designer, but my ego isn’t big enough to think I’d do a perfect job without the need for some serious testing.

So since the delay we’ve had day-long play sessions with several people, providing us with a massive amount of feedback on how the game flows from start to finish. We’re taking our time to ensure everyone will have a great experience, which is what we should have been doing all along.

And now?

Now I’m off, back to polishing the heck out of Toki Tori 2, together with everyone else at Two Tribes, except for Hessel who’s gone for the week, but he says hi!

Collin, Friday February 1 2013

There is a lot of games out there that were released 2-3 months before they should have ("we can patch it later"). I'm really glad this is not going to be one of them.

I really loved the sentence: "but my ego isn’t big enough to think I’d do a perfect job without the need for some serious testing." :)

Vic Thor, Friday February 1 2013, 17:32

It's very nice of you guys explaining your reasons. Please, take your time and deliver the game only when you feel it's ready! Cheers!

Shidomurdok, Friday February 1 2013, 17:33

Great to see quality ruling over deadlines. My 4 year old daughter loves "that little yellow bird game" and is always trying to play it. (btw, Login with facebook isn't working in Chrome nor IE for me)

Matt Hussey, Friday February 1 2013, 17:38

With this delay, will the game be released at the same time on Wii U and on PC?

Akbalder, Friday February 1 2013, 17:49

@Matt You're right

I am glad for you and I am happy to see that there are coders and designers in the world who are honest to themselves and can admit when something is working and when something is not working and needs to be improved.

I wish you many MANY sales for creating Toki Tori 2 the way you did!

Rade Martinović, Friday February 1 2013, 17:50

Excellent news, Collin! Your game has had promise and potential from
the very beginning. So glad to hear you are giving yourselves a chance
to see it all realized fully.

Just after the Wii U launched, my daughter would say, "There's one game
that I'm really looking forward to: Toki Tori 2." This was a major pronouncement
because she's a real big LoZ fan (so am I). But since I didn't know anything about
the previous or current game, it was a big leap to process what motivated
such great expectations. But you will be happy to know that having followed
your tweets and having seen your in-progress material, I can understand why now.

You have a high bar to pass, following up a game (i.e., "Toki Tori") so "oozing
with charm and held together with love" (N-Europe).

We can hardly wait.

Jay Kizzar, Friday February 1 2013, 18:04

@akbalder no the WiiU will be released first. Our main priority at this point is releasing on the WiiU. Once it's been released, we'll shift focus toward Steam.

Martijn, Friday February 1 2013, 18:23

Hi Two Tribes,

Thanks for the enlightening blog post. It's refreshing to hear a developer stepping back and refusing to release something early just because they can patch it later. Stick to your guns!

Morgan, Friday February 1 2013, 19:02

After all the progress and changes made to the game, the delay is well worth it. Now, about that release date...

EdEN, Friday February 1 2013, 19:16

It's really good to hear of the passion, dedication and re-evaluation of software so dear being adjusted in this way. Convinced me to get this day 1. Look forward to playing it!

Kriv, Friday February 1 2013, 20:38

It looks very nice, please take your time to deliver it. When it's ready it's ready, and Thanks for explaining the reason of delay. Good luck!

Petr Bartusek, Friday February 1 2013, 23:51

Sometimes people talk about release date to demonstrate passion for the game or its creators work; but being sincere - as someone who followed the release of many games -, take the time you need to make this game the best it can be. Even a masterpiece will not be on the first page forever, but certainly it will stick into its public's heart.

henrique, Saturday February 2 2013, 0:08

This moves the gray matter of the chicken. I love it!

Jon Graun, Saturday February 2 2013, 1:25

Thanks a lot for explaining, just from this blogpost it already feels like it was a good idea of you to delay the game. :) Hopefully the game will be great in the end and a huge success!

One weird question, will players that do all the levels get a special reward? This is just something important for me, as I like to complete my favorite games. :)

Daniel, Saturday February 2 2013, 23:54

Thank you for being frank. Thank you for caring about delivering a quality game. I look forward to play this on my Wii U!

--- best wishes from Norway!

NNID: BornInNorway81, Sunday February 3 2013, 4:23

It looks like a good choice to polish the game, because this is your game TT and everyone will remember it :)

mxtomek aka mxT3, Monday February 4 2013, 11:01

Im all for delays if it improves the quality of a game. And you improved Toki Tori 2 tremendously. Continue to take your time and release an excellent product!

ColdBlooder, Thursday February 7 2013, 19:56

Seems I've been waiting forever for Toki Tori 2. But having read your explanation I'm content to wait for the final polished version. Just hope the release isn't too long away :)
Keep up the great work, Two Tribes.

Ray Norris , Thursday February 7 2013, 21:34

Thanks for the kind comments everyone! We're super excited to be close to shipping the game. Not much longer now! :)

Collin, Thursday February 7 2013, 23:10

Honesty and transparency go a long way. That, plus the cute little gem your game is shaping up to be, have helped me make my decision of getting Toki Tori 2 on day 1.

You guys have my sincere appreciation.

Pedro Biscaia (from Portugal), Thursday February 14 2013, 7:44

Next time, don`t waste your time on relase date.
Then just put 1.January 2015, so everybody can understand it, when it will be relased.
Regards from eastern Europa.

Letālais, Monday April 1 2013, 22:32

I have now played through Toki Tori 2, missing just just a few items, maybe even just one, and want the world to know:

This game is a blast! It was worth its price, and more! I would have paid €20, and that's before the level editor is added!

People need to try this! It's a rare gem amongst the grey rocks of today's gaming industry!

(Looking forward to Toki Tori 3...)

NNID: BornInNorway81, Monday May 13 2013, 22:33

 
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