"If I had to summarise 2023 in a single sentence, it would be "Heads down, bums up", which in Aussie/Kiwi slang means "working very hard" ... ‍I feel like 2024 will be much like last year"

Hello! New year, new Monkey; I’m Lia, and I’m excited to introduce myself as Balancing Monkey Games’ new Community Manager. I’m inheriting the role from Emily, but don’t worry! She’s still around, just now with the capacity to focus wholly on narrative design for Beyond These Stars - and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as things are really heating up in 2024.

I’m already in love with my new role at BMG, having just wrapped up my first month here, working remotely from Melbourne. After poring over piles of documentation, hours of meetings, and crafting endless strategies, I have a few key observations:

💭 Beyond These Stars is in very good hands! These are a talented and passionate lot who approach every decision with deep thought and care; no element of the game feels like it’s being sidelined or half-baked.

💭 This is a place that commits to an ethical and welcoming studio environment not just in words alone. BMG truly ‘walks the talk’ and, to be honest, the vibes are immaculate. Everyone is thoroughly amazing and cool.

💭 The airhorn soundboard gets a surprising amount of mileage in team meetings.

Already scored some of that sweet sweet merch.

‘Year in review’ posts seem to be in vogue, but since I wasn’t around for 2023, I yanked Emily away from her design duties (sorry Emily) and asked her to share a summary:

If I had to summarise 2023 in a single sentence, it would be "Heads down, bums up", which in Aussie/Kiwi slang means "working very hard". 

2023 feels like the year Beyond These Stars went from being a solid prototype to an actual game - our first trailers premiered, our store pages went live, we demo'ed the game in person at PAXAus in Melbourne. We implemented loads of art, sound, dialogue, and many other things we can't tell you about yet. We saw the very first semi-public tests of the game happen, and got feedback from people outside of our inner circle. 

The studio grew again, and we re-evaluated how the business is run, and what our values as a team and company are. Specific to little old me, I feel like I found my footing as a narrative designer and overcame some pretty serious imposter syndrome! 

I feel like 2024 will be much like last year, but I'll leave lovely Lia to tell you all about that..

(you hear that? she thinks I’m lovely)

Casting our gaze toward the year ahead: even as someone coming in fresh, it’s obvious that 2024 is going to be a huge one. Early access will be massive, and the broader player base it brings will be essential in taking BTS to greater heights. Community input & player support - and the way that these are handled - will be more crucial than ever. Not only will you finally be able to experience the game for yourselves, but the early access period will draw us ever closer to the beloved community that’s grown around BMG. Expect to see us doing much, much more in the community - we’ve got big plans!

Checking out the goods

The great thing about coming on board to a project at this stage in its life cycle is that while it’s so close to spreading its wings and leaving the nest, I’m still able to observe it in that state from a very fresh perspective. Having minimal existing sentiment is so invaluable in understanding the player onboarding experience. How does it feel to start the game for the very first time? What expectations do I find swirling around in my head, and how are they met or subverted? Does this make the dopamine flow? I’m tapping into that “new player” POV as much as I can in my spare time, peeling away the layers while the rest of the team works hard at building them up. 

Bless Isaac for the incredible shader work

I will admit, though, that when I launched the game for the very first time, I spent a good ten or so minutes just zooming the camera around, admiring how pretty everything is. How the light streams through the trees, or diffuses through the atmosphere - the sheer scale of everything. Although Before We Leave starts you off on a planet, Kewa is even bigger, and everything feels much grander.

Also, Terraforming is so much fun:

I was also struck by just how smooth everything feels. The game is quite polished and well optimised, even when it comes to simulating the behaviour of hundreds of peeps on my tragic potato computer from 2015. I’ve also yet to encounter any major bugs which, to be honest, is getting me down a bit. All I want is the excitement of running to Nina with some kind of grand discovery, like a kid that’s found a cool-looking shell on the beach.

As it stands, the game is shaping up wonderfully, and despite my new-ness I feel I can confidently speak for everyone on the team when I say that we can’t wait for people to dig into it (dig into the gameplay, that is. It was made very clear to me on day one that Kewa is NOT edible, despite the community’s assertions). BTS is a real labour of love, which I think shines through as you play it, and if we pop the hood and take a quick look underneath –

…you know what, never mind.

What's next from us?

There’s a lot more brewing behind the scenes that I’ve been privy to, with one particularly big addition on the horizon. Seriously big. Like…out of this world big. (no I’m definitely not hinting at anything here.)

You’ll be hearing all about it when the time is right - until then, watch this space! We’ll be spending a lot of time on Discord in the coming months, so we invite you to join us there. I strongly recommend joining the Discord for frequent updates and weekly tidbits, since now there is a lot more than we are ready to share with you. And don’t forget to wishlist Beyond These Stars, if you haven’t already!

Here’s to an excellent year. :)

- Lia