An update on the indie SEGA Dreamcast game SLaVE – why is it taking so long?

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Back in September of 2014 SLaVE, a Dreamcast game by indie developer Isotope and GOAT Store Publishing, was announced. The game was to combine the game design sensibilities and aesthetics of 80s arcade shooters with old school first person shooters like Doom and Wolfenstein. At the time of the games announcement, it looked as though the release was just around the corner with Goat Store taking pre-orders for a Limited Edition and a Limited Limited Edition. Since then, however, little has been said about the game aside from a mention in April 2015 of a “final bug test” and the cover art reveal.

And then? Nothing, at least until this week when Isotope developer Coraline released the following statement.

It was not so much the game, that part was finished. What mostly killed our ambitions of a quick port was KallistiOS and KallistiGL completely changing (as it happens with software evolution, nowhere near their fault), and our own engine changing over the past few years.

If you remember, Chui and myself, many years ago, got EDGE running on the Dreamcast with no issues. SLaVE was developed with a newer version of my engine, but it wasn’t so new that we didn’t expect the time to take to port would be so long.Rather, it has evolved into us submitting patches to KOS, and several work-arounds to get the hardware and toolchain “talking” to an extent. There were many things that we had to reduce and completely refactor (it was not as easy as we had initially hoped) and, finally, we are on the last leg — flushing out Video RAM; which also changed with KOS 2.0.

Combine that with an army of programmers, myself included, getting the thing to run without overflowing became a nightmare. We are finally at the point where we just need to handle VRAM auto-flushing, and the game will be ready.It was either that, or ship it in a very unreliable state. We are sorry to have stayed silent for so long, but with many of us encountering life-changing situations the last two years, it seemed we could only work on it here-and-there while real life took utmost priority. Luckily, things have became a bit more sane, and now we are hoping to get it done with the level of quality you would expect for a commercial release.

We could have done this much sooner, sure, but we wanted to do what we could to prevent random (sometimes, it wouldn’t even happen) video RAM overflows and other potential issues our customers could have faced.So please, be patient — we are gearing up to get it done, and once it does our engine will surely become a viable platform for other DC developers, and SLaVE itself will be more than worth the wait.

So, we hope that clears up the confusion about SLaVE’s prolonged porting time. It has indeed taken much longer than anticipated. I will be more forthcoming to issues that plague us in the future.

The “army of programmers” I speak of was the regular 3DGE team (which permanently and prominently features Chilly Willy), but Josh “PH3NOM” Pearson, who was also part of the crew tasked to port it, before he left and started his great-looking project “In the Line of Fire“. So, with people coming and going, especially since we relied so heavily on PH3NOM to help fix-up our KGL issues, things just naturally took much longer. But he’s still our buddy, and I hope he brings that project to my team after SLaVE is finished and gone Gold so we can help him finish it up, without the hassles of a Kickstarter! 😉

For now, check out our Facebook here really soon for a collection of new Hypertension development shots, as well as an eventual video of SLaVE running on real hardware, on a VHS TV combo. I lost my AV cables and can’t find my VGA one either (my daughter probably ran off with it), so just stay tuned!

We also have an interview coming soon that is more of a “Tell-All” — you won’t want to miss it, and we’ll post it here first when it comes up! xD

Take care, love you all! <3 p=””>

Read the original blog post here containing the above statement.

While the statement doesn’t assuage fears that the game is going to take even longer, it is nice to finally hear from Isotope. Hopefully they stick to their promise of continuing updates and that the wait is shorter than it has been between the game’s announcement and now.

Indie Dreamcast developers are some of the most inventive and ambitious members of the development scene. We’ve seen some great games, such as Sturmwind, Wind & Water Puzzle Battles and Pier Solar. However, we have seen an increasing trend of teams biting off more than they can chew and over promising. Games like SLaVE and Elysian Shadows have taken far longer than expected, and with pre-order customers and Kickstarter backers getting restless I can only imagine future indie Dreamcast projects will be met with much more hesitation. I’ll admit, I’ve stopped backing indie Dreamcast projects on the basis that I still have a backlog of incomplete projects and simply cannot justify another $30-$60 towards something that may or may not happen.

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10 responses to “An update on the indie SEGA Dreamcast game SLaVE – why is it taking so long?

  1. Centrale says:

    Unfortunately, many (not all, but indisputably many) indie developers have a real communication problem. From their perspective they may see themselves as being head-down, hard at work, and that’s the best use of their time. From the consumer perspective, resentment builds up over time and eventually comes across as very disrespectful, ultimately undermining trust – not only in one particular project, but in all indie projects.

    What’s also unfortunate is that I’ve seen projects like this that go silent for an unacceptable amount of time, then start communicating again briefly, then resume total silence again soon after. I’m not trying to pile on to this team. I know they’ve successfully released games in the past. But over the course of years, this resembles a pattern that we’ve seen with many projects. Hopefully this won’t end up like that.

    I think moving forward, developers who seek to use crowdfunding should be expected to present a plan for community relations. If they go silent for any amount of time exceeding the agreed-upon intervals for updates, there should be an automated mechanism that returns funds to backers.

  2. DCGX says:

    This post isn’t entirely fair. Goat Store and the devs send out email updates to those that preordered (including myself) every couple of months. There just hasn’t been much to say outside of bug squashing and updating the game engine. Yes, more communication would be great, but they’ve hardly been silent.

    Also, Centrale, to clarify, SLaVE didn’t crowdfund. They did preorders and that’s it.

    • Centrale says:

      Thanks for clarifying that, DCGX. It’s good to hear that they’ve been sending out updates. Also, I can totally understand that people have major life events that have to take priority. I would say that pre-ordering is akin to crowdfunding and personally I’ll look for communication plans to be clearly outlined before supporting projects in either way. I also think the loss of a key programmer due to whatever reason (it sounds like they became bored of SLaVE and/or more excited about a newer project) should be considered in the “risks” category. All in all it makes me reluctant to back ambitious indie projects , which is unfortunate.

    • cube_b3 says:

      Also note that SLaVE is an exclusive Limited and Limited Limited Edition game. Cumulatively only 484 Units are to be produced ironically 484 is synonymous with Error. SlaVE originally sold out, but people who grew tired of waiting cancelled orders. Hence the limited edition is back on sale.

    • Speaking from my own experiences with GOAT, I had ordered the LE and was never receiving updates. I logged in and found that there was no order associated with my account, I contacted the owner and was told “Yes we do have an order for you on the date you specified. The order was made using a different e-mail address than your current address. — Gary Heil The GOAT Store, LLC”. He then simply closed the ticket and never notified me as to what that different email address was.

      I reopened the ticket and asked what address had been used (I had placed the order when I had been well established with my current email, so I cannot imagine why I would use any other email address) and requested to have to order assigned to my existing account. No reply, and the ticket has been open since. I have left additional messages and have heard nothing.

      So you can imagine why I have a sour opinion of GOAT specifically, and why email only updates arent always the best idea.

    • Cube_b3 says:

      Well that sucks, I’ll try and have someone contact you.

  3. Eccles says:

    Its good to see the Sega logo on another game box that is actually going on an actual Sega hardware console, but seeing as Sega have no involvement with this project, is that legitimate? For it to be a legit Sega licensed game, they would by supplied Sega’s own GD-Rom proprietary software format, but they stopped issuing them just a few years ago didn’t they, with the release of G.Revs Under Defeat?

    • Barry the Nomad says:

      Yeah, they really should not use the official logos. Check out other indie games, they simply use a font like Basilea or Tahoma, or any old font, and write Dreamcast so you know the console it is for. Typically they will put the publisher name where the dreamcast or SEGA logo usually is.

    • Dan Loosen says:

      Oh, missed this in my reply below, I’ll toss it here because it’s short…

      The SEGA logo wasn’t actually meant to go on that. We use the same “curve” to the front of the games to ensure that people recognize it as a Dreamcast game, but worked very diligently to make sure our games are never confused with actual releases. SLaVE will have the same spine and curve as our other five releases have had.

      Having said that, our artist borrowed the curve and the Dreamcast logo from an actual release when he did the cover art and forgot to strip it out. I then stupidly posted it with that on it and…

      Yeah, none of that will be there. If you’d like to see what the case will look like, look at the “Available Projects” here: http://www.goatstorepublishing.com/

      The Developer Name goes on that curve in the actual product.

  4. Dan Loosen says:

    Hey everyone, just got alerted to this, so dropped in to share a few things… this is Dan from the GOAT Store 🙂

    Anyway, first off, Centrale, like Coraline stated in the statement above and we have said since the beginning, we thought the game was basically done when we announced it and started taking pre-orders. To be quite honest, the situation sucks and has made us as GOAT Store Publishing slow other things down because we hate the delay and feel like we need to make SLaVE right before we do much of anything else. To that point, the game was running in hardware emulation when it was announced, and we have not had issues with games after that point in time in the past. When it was converted to real hardware was when the video RAM overflow issues would occur.

    Unfortunately, something we (and they) thought was an easy bug to correct was not, and it ended up with us chasing our tails for a while until the decision was made to rebuild the engine from the ground up.

    Equally unfortunately, because the delay has nothing to do with the game, it’s not like I have much to update on. Coding and fixing an engine is pretty boring when the announced game is what the announced game is, and we’re not adding new features or announcing new stuff. Additionally, there is this weird thing where when I announce things like, “Hey! New SLaVE music track!” we get emails back that are like, “Just work on the darn game, don’t tell us about this stuff!” It seems like there is no winning.

    The game has been actively worked on for a long time. No one wants this to be over more than us. Trust me.

    Barry – Saw your comments. Sorry about the communication issue, to be frank, our ticket system sucks and we have been trying to find the time to upgrade it, but personal issues have zapped both Gary and my’s time like crazy this year. I did some digging in our system, and because there was a pretty lengthy delay between Gary’s reply and your re-opening the ticket, your ticket got sort of buried, and, again because our ticket system sucks, still appears to be closed. That obviously isn’t your issue, and I greatly apologize for the problem. I’ll give Gary a call and he will get back to you hopefully within 24 hours of me posting this.

    I fully expect that SLaVE is coming. Gary and I earlier this week had a discussion about how to manage shipping for it when the time comes, so we do too. And I hope and believe that everyone will find it well worth the really long, really annoying delay. And once that happens, I hope that we can get things ramped up again to do a bunch more fun stuff.

    Finally, Gary and I both hate crowdfunding and projects like Kickstarter. Our goal has always been to work with completed projects for something like this to not happen. Unfortunately, game publishing in the small indie world like what we do is very difficult. Counting SLaVE, of the 6 games we have done, three went through major unexpected delays. None of them are what we want, but again – crowd funding was NOT what we were looking for. If anyone at any point wants their money back, we are more than happy to refund.

    I’ll have more to say on the delays at some point soon in another email update, we’re just trying to have something more substantial to say than “more engine bug updates” again. :-/

    For those of you continuing to support us, thank you – we really do appreciate it.

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