It's strange. We're only three weeks in to this whole "working with a team" thing, but in that time, we've made huge strides. It's not just that we've laid a lot of groundwork before hiring anyone - though obviously, that's been a huge help so far. Having worked together before really helps. It's easy to move fast. We don't need to spend so much time learning how we all work together, and we know we're starting from a lot of the same shared experience & assumptions.
So the last three weeks have been incredibly productive. We've laid a lot of the groundwork for the game's "lore", and I'm actually really excited by how well it all works together. There are times when authors talk about how their characters just "do things" on their own, and I think that a big part of that is that if you set up good ground rules and create a consistent world, a lot of the rest of the narrative just falls logically out of that. For us, we're starting with the idea that you're interacting with an alternate reality that was identical to our world until fairly recently, but one thing caused a significant divergence from our reality. Everything else from there is "consistent", but that one change leads in a lot of interesting directions.
We've also been playing a lot of the prototype. As you play your own game, it's easy to lose sight of its weaknesses, and its problems become more and more difficult to see. Fortunately, with new eyes on it, we got some new perspective on a long-running problem, and after trying a few different optiosn, we settled on a change that's made the game a lot more dynamic. It's not that different, but it is quite a bit better. The awesome thing is that we made the change in the card-based prototype, played a few rounds, decided we liked it, and it was only a matter of a day or so before it was in the code prototype where we could play it a lot.
We're getting close to the point where we're going to have a "friends and family" release. We're not close to releasing (there's a huge amount of extra stuff - tutorials, animation, polish - before it meets the criteria for even a minimal version of something that the public would "understand"). That's still a little ways off - but there's enough there that it's feeling like a game and not a prototype. On Friday evening as we were wrapping things up for the week, we were just sitting around playing the current build. It's got maybe four frames of animation, total. The button that submits your turn ends up mostly covered (sometimes) by the cards that you play. About one in ten cards doesn't work correctly. But for the first time, it felt like the thing we see in our heads, and while playing it we lost track of the time.
We're getting there. I can't wait until you can play this, too.