What’s next for Book of Demons and Return 2 Games

It’s been a whole month since Book of Demons went out of Early Access and the launch dust has settled a bit, so we feel it’s the right moment to talk about the future. Also, it’s the beginning of a new year, so what better time to make new and bold plans? But before we jump to the point, let’s take a step back and look at what we’ve accomplished so far (and why getting here took us so long).

The road so far

When we launched Book of Demons into Early Access in July 2016, we’ve been already developing the game for more than 3 years in a team oscillating between 3 and 6 members. Back then we felt the game was already pretty solid, and we were planning to stay in Early Access for about six months. After all, it shouldn’t take long to balance 2 more classes, add some cards and some sounds, right?

The ever-abundant feedback from the Early Access community steered our development into territories that we never anticipated. Book of Demons was supposed to be a midcore take on a hardcore genre, but soon it became apparent that catering to a diverse and enthusiastic Steam audience would mean much more than doing a few bug and balance fixes. It was something we weren’t really prepared for, but we were keen on fixing the biggest limitations coming from our original design.

This is the main culprit of why it took two and a half years. The game was already a huge undertaking for a small team, but rebuilding and adding major systems on a living game proved to be much more time consuming than we anticipated. Having known it back then, we’d probably try to be better prepared and we’d have scheduled things more cautiously.

A successful launch

Despite it took so long, our hard work seems to have paid off, as the launch of the full game was a success! We launched on December 13th and before 2018 was over, we sold two times more copies than we did during the entire two and a half years of Early Access. Even though most of the copies sold were discounted due to various promotions, it’s still a huge thing for our small team. As of today, Book of Demons development costs have paid off and we can start planning for the new shiny things to come.

The road ahead

Our internal goal is to grow our team and invest so that we can build things faster and do more things simultaneously. This is easier said than done, but we see no other choice – we see the successful launch as an obligation, especially to our R2G supporters. This is a scenario in which so many gamedev companies fail, so we need to be extra careful about the decisions we now make.

The next few months will be the most critical and probably chaotic, as every transition period is. Therefore, the plans outlined below must be treated as a rough sketch and they are subject to change. We’re also not giving any exact timeframes, as there are simply too many unknowns at this point and as usual, we don’t want to overpromise. We’d love to tick off all those things in 2019, but history teaches us this might be… well, challenging.

Book of Demons is coming to more platforms

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. We already announced Book of Demons would be coming to Xbox One, but it would be silly of us not to port it to other platforms as well. The Xbox port is almost complete, but we haven’t decided yet if we’ll be self-publishing it, or if we’ll go with an external publisher. There are pros and cons to both options. Either way, we hope to have the Xbox port out in the first half of 2019. As for other platforms, we also have a working iPad version of the game, but we haven’t yet figured out a good way to do controls. Hopefully, we’ll figure it out soon and we’ll have the game out shortly as well. PS4 and Switch are two consoles that we’d love to add to the mix, but this is something we can’t produce internally. The good news is that we are already talking to a few publishers interested in publishing and porting to these platforms, so hopefully, we’ll have some good news to announce soon.

Book of Demons is getting new features

As promised, going out of Early Access does not mean the end of development for Book of Demons. We’ll keep serving the usual bugfix and balance updates, but we also envision a few bigger features that we’d like to squeeze in during 2019. Here they are, not necessarily in the order of development:

  • Online battles – a prototype timed event (more on that below)
  • Speedrun to cook – a new leaderboard measuring who can slay the Cook fastest
  • Challenge mode – a new mode where you can compete via leaderboards with other gamers and your friends in special short challenge scenarios. There will be both daily challenges and custom scenarios.
  • Music update – the game could use a bit more variation when it comes to ambient music in the dungeons, and this is exactly what we intend to fix.

We have a lot more ideas (quick-swap cards? roguelike quick restart?), but let’s start with the ones described above and see how it goes. We can’t promise everything listed above will be launched in 2019, but we’ll definitely try our best.

What about DLC’s?

We do have plans for a small DLC that will add a new mode centered around a more strategic way to play Book of Demons and we already have a prototype for that. Unfortunately, we still need to figure out a good way to mix that into the main game, without fragmenting the leaderboards and the overall experience too much. We’d love to launch it this year, but that’s a big maybe.

We know many of you have been asking for a content packed DLC, featuring new monsters, levels, quest, and even towns, but realistically speaking this is not possible for us at this point. What we might do instead in the future is add a DLC with a whole new playable character class with new cards, but this won’t happen in 2019.   

Book of Demons experiments in multiplayer

If there is one thing we regret not being able to do, is adding multiplayer support to Book of Demons. This is something we didn’t plan for from the very beginning, and the number of things we would need to rebuild from scratch to support it was simply too big. But we did try. During early access we made a few attempts at adding multiplayer features. Sadly, it only proved that it wasn’t feasible for us.  

But one of those attempts, while not a true multiplayer mode, showed some promise, and we’d like to show you how it worked. Treat this like an experimental indirect PvP mode, a prototype of sorts that we plan to enable as a timed event. We’re not sure if it’ll work as expected and things might yet go south. But if it works, and if there is enough interest among Book of Demons players, we might consider developing it further or making it a periodic event.

This feature is codenamed Book of Demons: Online Battles, and we plan to enable it as a timed event in February.  

The first Book of Demons prototype

On a similar note, we’d like to give you more insight into our process of game development by showing the original Book of Demons prototype. This is one of the four Return 2 Games prototypes that we did back in 2013, and one that we picked as the best blueprint for the first game in the series.  

We haven’t decided yet on the form of this demonstration – we can add it to the Collector’s Content DLC, launch as a free app on Steam, or any other setup. The priority of this depends on your interest, so if this something you would like to see please let us know in the comments below.

The next book in the series

As much as we’d like to, Book of Aliens (since some of you already found the name in Book of Demons data let’s make it official, the next game is in fact called Book of Aliens) will NOT be released in 2019. For the past three years, we’ve been totally invested in Book of Demons, so the second game in the series has been somewhat left out. But now, with the release of Book of Demons, this will need to change, and Book of Demons production has to ramp up.

First, we’ll need to revisit the designs and the prototypes we did in 2013. Five years is a lot in game development, and the bar keeps getting higher and higher. This is a good thing, but we’ll need to step up our game. Things that we thought were cool or good enough in 2013 now might not be anymore. Also, this time, we’ll want multiplayer to be part of the game right from the start (and we’re certainly not abandoning single player either).

If this sounds like going back to drawing board, that’s because it mostly is. If everything goes well, by the end of 2019 we’ll have closed the pre-production phase of the game. This means having a working proof of concept, finalized designs and full production plan that we’ll be able to announce.  

Book of Demons might get a new flavor

There is one more crazy idea that we are actively debating inside the team, and we haven’t decided yet if we actually want to pursue it. You see, during the development of the Book of Demons, we made a lot of designs and prototypes that were scrapped. Some of them were really good on their own, but they just didn’t within the game. We’re thinking about taking one of the best of those designs and developing it into a separate game.

This might sound crazy at first, but when you think about it, there are some big pros to such an approach. Book of Aliens is still a few years away and we really don’t want to rush the pre-production phase risking sacrificing game quality. Being able to develop and publish another game in the meantime with existing assets and tested mechanics should go much more smoothly. Hopefully, it would allow us to grow our team even further and build a stable foundation for quicker production of Book of Aliens. We also hope it would make the wait for Book of Aliens a little less painful.

Although technically this wouldn’t be the second book in the series, this would still be part of Return 2 Games so it would come free for R2G supporters, and we’d have some major discounts for all other Book of Demons owners. You could think of it as a new game mode DLC that is so big, that has to be a separate game. And btw, we think it’s one hell of an idea that would be really fun to play.

In other pros, this might be a good test-bed before Book of Aliens, as we’d like to try out some things that we didn’t do before, and that we’re very excited about. And, if everything goes well, we actually might have a chance to have a new game out this year.

Anyway, we haven’t decided yet if we want to pursue this project or not, but we’ll have to decide soon. This will be influenced by our luck with expanding the team so it wouldn’t impact Book of Aliens development too much and if we can actually push off all our console ports onto an external publisher. There’s no way of telling how the indie game landscape will look in a year, let alone two, so in the end, we’ll have to go with our gut feeling and do our best.

Making all this happen

Looking at all those things described above, this will be a very, very busy year. Making of all of this happen will certainly be challenging as we’ll be breaking new grounds on multiple fields. We want to transition from a company working on a single project to one working on several, and at the same time, we need to keep supporting Book of Demons with updates and with marketing to keep those sales going. We’ll also want to Bring Book of Demons to more online shops, and even publish in physical retail, and that all requires a lot of effort.

Work will have to go on all fronts – and frankly speaking – we’re a bit scared. But with your support, which we are so grateful for, we know we can push forward. Thanks, and stay tuned for more details about or our plans and progress!