Just posted this on Steam, feel like I owe you all an update on the subject too.
To be clear, I have been enormously impressed by our fanbase's patience. I know DQII has been taking a good long while to come out, but aside from a few (nearly universally polite) emails or comments once in a while, nobody has really been beating down our door or anything.
Anywho, some thoughts on DQII, delays, etc. Welcome to gamedev.
To confirm a few things:
1) Yes, DQII is still in development. The latest milesone was a revamp of the engine which was released a few months ago as DQDX (HD remake of the original DQ). We're now working on content. I don't have a release date, sorry. But it's not dead by any means.
2) Our automated progress tracker was apparently broken because of a PHP upgrade on my website that went unnoticed. I just fixed it week or so ago, and it should now update the progress bars daily:
I tend to keep my head down and just try to keep working every day so I suck at posting manual updates, this was intended to be my daily "heartbeat" counter of what I've been doing. If you click through to the http://www.github.com/larsiusprime/tdrpg-bugs repository that powers the progress bars you can see the actual day to day issues I'm working on.
3) It is correct that having two kids has slowed my progress a bit, but we're still working hard on this.
4) Losing Dean Dodrill wasn't a huge setback (though it would have been awesome to have him) -- we found a new artist who is quite good and works fast. Art isn't actually a huge bottleneck for us and we're intentionally saving the bulk of it for when nearly everything else is done, based on what we learned from DQ1.
5) If I had to do everything over again, I would have waited longer before announcing DQII and opening pre-orders. Live and learn I guess, hindsight is 20/20.
Since I now have the benefit of retrospect, I'd like to share something unintuitive with you:
The #1 cause of DQ2's delays, if I'm being 100% super honest, is DQ1's continued success.
Let me explain -- most indie game studios, even fairly successful ones, are not able to earn enough money just off of one game's success to fully fund development of the next game -- even with crowdfunding money.
So what most developers do -- and they RARELY talk about this -- is pick up contract jobs to keep themselves solvent while they effectively work part time on their next game. They make advertising games. They make kid's web games for cartoon network. They work on someone's mobile app. They port someone else's game to Playstation or whatever. And if they're not careful, they can get trapped in a death spiral where they're barely making ends meet anyway and scarcely have enough time to keep working on their "real game."
We opted not to do this.
DQ1 not only did well, but continued to do well, enough for us to squeak by with a small team, so long as we kept it updated and learned how to play the steam promotion game. So Level Up Labs' "pay the bills" strategy has been to simply keep improving DQ1. We release an update, we get a spike of new sales, and a small trickle of DQ2 preorders, and we have a bit more runway to finish DQ2.
Since DQ2 is based off of DQ1, there's a lot of overlap. Any engine upgrades to DQ1 feed straight over to DQ2. And releasing an updated DQ1 in the new engine has let me stress-test the engine with real game content and lets me work out all the bugs.
As an alternative I could have rushed out a DQ2 sequel that was much more minimal. Re-use a lot of the same graphics, keep the old flash Adobe AIR engine (locked to 800x600 resolution, etc), and most importantly, make no updates whatsoever to the original game. However, it's been precisely the updates to DQ1 that have kept us alive, so I'm not sure if that would have been the smarter choice. We're committed to our path now though so that's kind of moot.
As for pre-orders -- running a lengthy project like this has colored my experience of it somewhat. I initially liked the idea because I could leave it on as a steady drip and people could wait and see how the project was doing before jumping on board, which strikes me as more fair than running a hyped up kickstarter for 30 days and then hunkering down. Looking back on things now, I'm not sure whether I would do it again for my next project -- I personally don't like the pressure, and I'm sure certain fans are sick of waiting. At the very least, I wouldn't ever do another crowdfunding campaign until I have a lot more finished work ready to show, if I do it at all.
TL;DR -- DQII is still happening, it's still on track, I update my progress via the (now actually fixed) automated progress tracker daily, I totally suck at manual updates on this forum, my own forum, everything, and if you're not happy with your pre-order for any reason, feel free to email me at email@example.com and we'll work something out.
Thanks for your patience and support, everybody.