The Midnight Society Approach to Game Development

Midnight Society was founded on a vision for making games with the gamers in mind from before day one – day zero. So what does that mean, exactly? Let’s dive into how and why we do things differently.

How Games Are Currently Developed

Video games are currently developed according to publisher milestones. That means that specific goals have to be met by certain days in the year to meet an established launch date to maximize sales. These dates are designed around marketing and not the development process.

When players gain access to a traditional AAA “beta” game build, they are more or less playing the release version. These traditional game development and marketing models come off as stunts to say the company is listening to fans, but the organization has pretty much already decided what will ship.

Once a game has been announced, it will receive a high-end trailer that takes months to plan and produce. Development takes years behind closed doors, and players have no idea how the game will actually look and feel until launch day. On-stage demos at E3 and the like are highly scripted.

Since developers are beholden to their publishers, it is common to work long hours to meet deadlines and ship a game with bugs. After a series of hotfixes and patches, the game is finally complete… just in time for DLC and an announcement for the next title in their lineup.

“The entire reason we built this company and this development model is because we are sick – as developers and players – of shipping games that we feel are not finished,” said Midnight Society co-founder and Studio Head Robert Bowling in a community AMA.

We understand that not everyone can change their development model from the ground up and don’t fault companies who are “stuck” in the old ways. When Midnight Society was born, our founders laid the groundwork so we can avoid these issues altogether.

DEADROP Hideout game development
The DEADROP Player Hideout – built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 5.

How Snapshots are Different from Early Access/Beta

Midnight Society is a collective of developers and players – the “society” in our name is purposeful. Our studio does not have a publisher, and so we decided early on that meaningful progress would always be more important than pre-determined deadlines. Every six weeks, our team will release a “Snapshot” of DEADROP for our community to digest and discuss.

Each Snapshot includes a new feature and incorporates feedback from our Founders. In between, we may also push hotfixes to address issues or feature requests brought to our attention, as we did with Snapshot CL 1859.1.

Our process has never been done before, which has proved confusing for media outlets and skeptics. The closest anyone has come to a Snapshot before was beta or early access. In truth, they are neither. Access Passes are not pre-orders or “early access.” DEADROP will be free to play. Neither are our Founders bug testers – they are consultants held in the highest esteem. 

So, if we’re not following traditional publisher milestones, how long will it take to develop our game? DEADROP is being built openly alongside our community, one Snapshot at a time until our community decides it’s done. Full stop.

Right now, it’s all about the journey.

A Founder plays the first Snapshot of DEADROP at the L.A. Founders event.

Why We Believe this Process is Better

Our team is comprised of experienced AAA and indie game developers who are well versed in the “old way” of doing things. We’re taking the best parts of that process and throwing out what doesn’t work. We’re making something new and very special.

The result is a game that is designed by a highly experienced development team, with complete transparency with our community, and built for the players. We will not hide behind a fancy trailer for years and make promises we can’t keep. Our Founders have full permission to create as much content as they want around anything they have access to, from Snapshot builds to the Variant Guide and more. No NDAs required. We welcome feedback – positive, negative, or constructive – preferably.

We selected a wide range of Founders from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and professions so we could openly create based on a symphony of voices… not just our own. We’re going to test a lot of ideas and decide as a community what feels right. 

The first Snapshot was released in July, and we’re hard at work on the next. Building DEADROP is history in the making. It’s going to be a wild ride.