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Fallarnon's Web Development Blog


Houston, we have Separation...

Posted by Fallarnon , 22 June 2015 · 14,238 views

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Here we are again!

It seems like just the other day that I wrote my Launch Control blog, and just yesterday that we kicked the site live. (Without a corresponding Lift-Off blog, oops!) Since then, we've come a long way and just like a Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo missions to the moon, our website has stages. We have now entered the second stage.

When we launched the site back in March our needs were very specific, drive traffic to the Kickstarter and get our project funded. To this end there were a bunch of calls-to-action designed to drive traffic to the campaign. Happily, as you all know, we were successful in this and production of Descent: Underground is rolling along nicely.

Today, our community has different needs than it had when the campaign began and the changes we rolled out this week, along with the future changes we are working on, are designed to meet the needs of our growing community. Our entire Web Team has been hard at work developing an improved user experience for our community with John (elfindreams), Josh (Stealthguy), and Jarred (VoidSpider) developing out the back end functionality while I get to hog all the glory by making their work look pretty on the front end, all under the guidance of the one and only Jason 'Stormwind' Spangler. It's a real team effort every time we push new features to the site so if you see these guys around be sure to let them know what you think! This week's update focused on two key areas of our site, the Home page, and the Pledge Store.

The Home Page

The Home page is the portal to everything our site offers, and it was our goal in this redesign to make it easy for our users to find the content that most interests them. Over the weeks since our Kickstarter campaign closed, video has become a big part of our outreach. Unfortunately, before this update, the only way for users to find these videos was for them to subscribe to our YouTube channel, manually check each day for new videos, or for us to blog about each video as we put it up. Thankfully, this will no longer be necessary. The new Recent Updates carousel on our Home page provides easy access to the latest official news feeding from both our Development Blogs and our YouTube channel.

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Immediately below the Recent Updates section is the new Featured Rewards section which we think will help propel us toward unlocking stretch goals like the Torch. One thing we noticed after we pushed the Pledge Store live toward the end of the campaign was that users were having trouble finding things like add-ons and how to upgrade in the store (more on that later!) and some didn't even realize we had things like T-Shirts for sale! No more! With this new carousel users will be able to see a featured selection of products from our store. Stay tuned to this section if you're interested in new reward packages, add-ons, special offers, and more!

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Finally, at the bottom of the Home page we've made some further improvements to help users find the content that interests them. Previously we had a really big section of the front page dedicated to the latest blog post which, while useful, was somewhat redundant and overbearing. We've replaced it, and the now-redundant Recent Blog Posts module on the front page with a section we like to call the Mini Blog, a short snapshot of a blog post with navigation options to help users find additional content. Additionally, for reasons I can't seem to wrap my head around, members seem to take an inordinate amount of interest in the forum posts of developers, so we thought it would be nice to expand the Developer Tracker to feature more posts.

The Pledge Store

There have been a myriad of changes to the pledge store, many of which won't be readily apparent at this point in time, things like mini-descriptions (still in progress for some items) when you hover your mouse over an item. These are nice but the biggest change, and the one I am going to talk about here is the Upgrades section. We've received a myriad of tickets from users who couldn't find their packages when they wanted to upgrade them, or simply to see what they owned. We've taken the first major step toward improving this situation, now, when you visit the Pledge Store, Backers should see a new tab for Upgrades. On this page you can see all of your game packages, view the details of each package you own, and view the available upgrades for these packages. We hope that all of our members will find this page helpful!

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The Future

We're not done yet. We're hard at work on a variety of additional changes to help improve the user experience for our community. Stay tuned for future updates! If you've got ideas for things we're not doing that we should be, shouldn't be doing that we are, or things you'd just plain like to see, please let us know, we've got a special forum dedicated just to Site Feedback!

Until next time, this is Jon 'Fallarnon' Bartus - Signing Out!


Launch Control, this is Houston...

Posted by Fallarnon , 20 January 2015 · 4,365 views
Development, Website, Store and 2 more...

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We are (NEARLY) Go for Launch!

Yeah, that definitely sounded less corny in my head, sorry guys! I'm not used to being in the limelight and having to compose my thoughts on paper, digital as it may be, for public consumption. Please bear with me here as I work my way through my first blog post, I promise things will improve with time!

First things first, I suppose I should introduce myself and my role here at Descendent Studios.

My name is Jon Bartus, though most know me by my handle 'Fallarnon'. I'm a 25 year old IT consultant and web developer based in Massachusetts. I've been with the team for around two months and I am the principle front-end and user experience developer for the Descendent Studios website. I'm positively pumped to be here working on this project and have been toiling away with my teammates on the Web Admin team to mold the systems we've chosen to launch this project with into a cohesive and user friendly experience for all visitors here.

While a lot of our work isn't ready just yet, indeed we have many things in the works that won't be released for a bit longer, it will not be too long until we are ready to publicly implement phase one of our website development plan for you all to enjoy.

As I sit here writing this we've just finished a team meeting with Eric 'Wingman' Peterson wherein we reached a crucial decision on which platform fits the best for our front end user experience. After much healthy debating we think everyone will be happy with their ability to engage on our website. In addition, it will allow us to meet our internal deadline for our upcoming crowd funding campaign. (Not saying when, but SOON)

I'm sure you're all deeply interested in the inner workings of our web team, I'd like to talk about something perhaps as interesting. Eric's expressed to the team, and publicly as well, that his hopes and intentions for Descendent Studios go far beyond simply starting another development company and producing STFU as a game, He also wants to develop Descendent Studios into a company that fosters and helps aspiring developers around the world in their efforts to learn the trade, develop their own ideas, and become successful in their own right. That's right, this game could be your way into the video game development industry.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fitting for me to showcase another game that just went Early Access on Steam that's captured my heart and has already provided hours of enjoyment. This game is 'The Escapists' by Moldy Touf Studios.

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In 'The Escapists' you take on the role of a prisoner going about his day-to-day life in a prison doing the usual prison things. You sleep, eat, recreate, labor, exercise, do favors for other inmates.... oh yeah, and plot your grand escape! 'The Escapists' provides a light-hearted pixel-art setting for what is, in fact, an incredibly deep and diverse gameplay experience. There are a myriad of different items you can craft, steal, or buy to aid your escape, a selection of different prison jobs you can take to earn money and gain access to different tools and material you may require for your grand escape plan, and a set of stats you'll need to work on to improve your fighting or crafting abilities. You can take the brute force approach of incapacitating the guards until the warden finally caves and unlocks the front gate for you, or tunnel your way out in the dead of night to steal away unmolested, but be careful! The guards and warden are always vigilant and you'll have to be crafty if you want to elude a discovery that might ruin your plans and get you thrown in the clink.

Beyond the gameplay, which is superb, the thing that most impresses me about 'The Escapists' is that the developers have done Early Access right. The game plays very smoothly, I haven't run into a single bug in the hours I've played and have only seen mention of one bug in things I've read about the game. Clearly Mouldy Toof Studios has paid attention to other games and seen what not to do resulting in a release that is truly a pleasure to behold. I heartily recommend that if what I've described here catches your interest, you pick it up for a very reasonable $15 on Steam.

Get 'The Escapists' on Steam

In the meantime, I need to get back to work on making everyone's website experience a fun and engaging one. It is awesome to be working in the new "Verse" and we hope you will enjoy being a part of it too.

Fallarnon - signing out!

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