Celeste Expedition Log: August Edition

Celeste box art, by Amora and Pedro
“This is it, Madeline.
 Breathe.
 Why are you so nervous?
You can do this.”

Good afternoon, climbers! It’s a sweltering day here in Vancouver, and the air flow in our apartment is… not optimal. Our cats are unfazed, but I’ve gone into hiding to write this development update from the safety of an air-conditioned coffee shop. Out the window, the peaks of the mountains are just barely visible through the smoke blown in from the Oregon wildfires, hanging over the north shore.

First thing’s first: Wheels have been put into motion and we can now announce that we’ll be launching Celeste on XBox One! Our delay into January gave our wonderful porting studio, Sickhead Games, enough breathing room to make this happen. We can also confirm that we’re launching the PC and Mac versions of Celeste on itch.io, in addition to Steam. This puts us at 5 launch platforms: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and now XBox One. Yes, we are aware that this is… ambitious for such a small team. Really, this entire project is ambitious for a team of our size, so we appreciate your patience and support as we roll with the punches here.

The punches have been formidable, but we feel calm and collected, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. We’re determined to finish this thing.

The left hook, a medical scare — a team member diagnosed, with 99% certainty, with cancer. They were quickly operated on to excise the growth, and upon closer inspection it turned out not to be cancer but an incredibly rare, and benign, tumor. Heavy exhale, and a prayer of thanks for Canada’s healthcare system.

And a sucker punch, a separate cancer diagnosis for a close feline friend of the team. Phil the cat is undergoing chemo treatment, but it’s not clear yet whether it’s working. He remains happy and playful, and we’re all rooting for him.

Phil the cat ❤

Through everything, Celeste has been a constant and our outlet. It is fundamentally a transition piece, a game about surviving, overcoming, and growing into yourself. Filling up the space within you like inflating a balloon.

Despite these and other personal setbacks, development itself has been smooth and steady. We’re hopeful we can still hit our January 2018 release target. If we start to feel like we can’t make it, we’ll let you know. Looking back on the last few months, it sounds insane to say that we’re still on schedule. And yet it appears that we are. Maybe our last delay actually did give us enough time in spite of it all. Shout outs to past us.

My primary task this week has been writing dialog. Or rather, rewriting dialog. We’re all new to this (well, Lena is a published author, but funnily enough she’s not heavily involved in Celeste’s writing), so it’s been a learning experience. These rewrites are part of a larger initiative to solidify the story arc into a cohesive whole, so it’s an exciting and satisfying part of the process. We’re beginning to see the shape and texture of Celeste as it will actually be, after existing for so long as an abstract idea in our heads.

I’ve been thinking about my role in our process. Celeste is made by a team of generalists, who each have jurisdiction over individual disciplines in a huge project. Pedro is our pixel wizard, and Amora brings our characters to life. Noel is the architect of the internal, technical foundation of Celeste, and our toy box of graphical effects. Lena‘s score sets the tone, and Kevin fleshes out the world with sound. My interests lie in design, feel, narrative, and “direction”.

Direction for me means making sure it all clicks together like a jigsaw puzzle to reveal something beautiful. Done well, it allows me to lose sight of the individual pieces and experience a game as something indivisible. On a team like this, it mostly boils down to figuring out what our goals are. The team is amazing at blending their work together to cover the seams, and are always reaching across disciplines to collaborate on details, so I don’t do much there aside from ask questions. I try to give everyone clear goals, provide whatever scaffolding I can, and listen. The best part of working with people you love and respect is that you learn so much.

We have a few shows coming up this week!

On Wednesday night (August 30th), if you’re in Vancouver, we’ll be demoing Celeste alongside Ikenfell and Wandersong at Overflow #002, a chiptune show at Fox Cabaret featuring Mega Ran and Sammus. Come check it out!

And then on Thursday we’re driving down to Seattle to set up our booth at PAX West. We were selected for the PAX 10, so you’ll find us along with 9 other lovely indie titles on Level 6, anytime the exhibition hall is open. I’ll also be on The PAX 10 Panel: Part 1, Friday at 7:30 PM in the Wyvern Theater.

Additionally, there’s an official PAX TowerFall tournament on Friday at 4:00 PM in the console tournament room. I’m hoping I have time to show up with some prizes for the winners.

As always, thanks for all your patience and support.

See you on the mountain!
-Matt

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