First off, let's have a note before the wall of text:
Release not delayed. Still happening February 22. With some minor adjustments. Read below for details.
Well guys, we have good news and bad news.
The bad news: We have encountered some rather large, unforeseen issues with Story Mode. In addition, key people required to handle these issues haven't been much available in this last month or so, and will continue to be unavailable for the time being due to some rather heavy "Real Life" issues. As much as we absolutely loathe to do this, we're going to have to postpone the release of Story Mode for a bit. Couple weeks?, A month?, bit more?, We do not know, at the moment, as it really depends on said key people being available, and the aforementioned large issues getting dissected and shot down. Probably not in that order.
While we -could- in theory retask people to handle these issues immediately, we do not think this to be the best option, as we'd be delivering a suddenly rushed, lower quality version of the story which wouldn't live up to our standards and which would also tarnish the experience we want to craft for it... Not to mention take these people away from their current tasks and risk creating issues in other modes and features of the game.
The good news is: Every other feature we intended to come with first public release (Namely, local and online PvP multiplayer, quick matches, the first iterations of pixel lobby, arcade mode, target challenges and combo trials, with fully animated and voiced characters) is on track to release with the Public Build; the only major thing that'd be kaput for now, then, would be the story.
We do not feel that taking back an announced release date two days before its arrival is the way to go, but, at the same time, we also do not feel that we're delivering you guys the promised "1.0" experience we were aiming for with this release having the story missing from it. Combined, those two situations put us in a bit of a conundrum, which is a polite way of saying that we're drifting up in places without a paddle at hand.
We've had emergency meetings, we've looked at the cards, and we think the best solution we can go for at this stage is switching the release of the game from a "1.0" finished build and "regular" release to a slightly rolled back "0.95" Steam Early Access version, which will exist for a short period of time before switching to the full release. This 0.95 version will include all of the aforementioned content and features with the exception of the Story Mode (because of the reasons already explained), and achievements, because part of the implementation of those is/will be tied to Story mode actions. We might also need to rollback/reintroduce a couple minor and middle changes made between the currently existing version of Backers' Beta and the Release build candidate, but if or what's not quite clear yet. Since we’re already there, we'll also be taking the opportunity during Early Access to take feebdack on further improving the pixel lobby + Salt Mine gameplay, as Story Mode and Pixel Lobby are partially intertwined and very important to the unique experience we're aiming to provide.
We have just been in contact with Valve, to let them know we want/need to make the switch to Early Access, so the store page might briefly disappear as those changes happen. It's not a reason to panic, just part of the procedure.
In this Early Access build, you will be able to play against other people in local multiplayer, and online in quick match and the pixel lobbies, which also contain the first iteration of the Salt Mines PvE dungeon, as well as against the AI in arcade mode. You will be able to use all six main characters, complete the first batch of target challenges and test yourself in the combo trials. It is, for most intents and purposes, pretty close to the 1.0 iteration we intended to launch, only missing those features associated with the story mode that we're now planning to rollback in the schedule slightly, and a couple other minor things that were placed in close proximity to the underside of the bus at the moment of impact.
As the (next) first step for this, we're making a patch to Backers' Beta available later today introducing most of the changes to come in the Feb 22 release. Then as the step after that we'll be working our collective behind for the next two days to close the gap between the 0.95 and 1.0 versions as much as we can, to hopefully make it a 0.97 or 0.98 just missing the story mode.
Thank you all for understanding, for supporting our project and for continuing to believe and sticking around despite of our screw-ups. We promise we're not narfing up on purpose.
We love you.