Archive for March, 2012
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Just thought I’d post a few screens of the new and revised ‘Empires of Arkeia.’ Getting really close to having a testable build. If I manage to get in some solid working days I may get there within a week.
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Friday, March 16th, 2012
I’ve just done a bit of a spring clean up of sorts on my ongoing projects. More specifically, I’ve gone from three unfinished games to just one. My latest castle-building defense game, Fortify the Border, has been laid to rest, and I’ve merged my other two games, Swordfall: Rome and Empires of Arkeia. About a week ago I took a hard look at these three games, and concluded that in terms of mechanics, polish and ease-of-production my new iPhone game, Swordfall:Rome, was by far the strongest of the three. My initial idea at first was to make a mad rush to finish off Arkeia and FTB before putting my main focus on the iPhone game. But there were a couple issues with that. While Arkeia and FTB were both near-complete mechanics-wise, there was still plenty of work to do in terms of level content, story, balancing, testing and so forth. Rushing through those critical steps, just so I could get these games over with as soon as possible, just didn’t sit right with me.
The final decision to abolish the old version of Arkeia came when I was grappling with one particular design decision. Originally, I allowed the player to attack and move an unlimited number of times per turn, in an effort to simplify army movement. But this of course allowed the player to bring all his forces to bear in every battle, making the map layout all but irrelevant. The system I used in Swordfall: Kingdoms, where each region could attack and move only once, was easily exploited by moving an army to another friendly region after attacking, so that it could attack again. The feedback in this system also left a little something to be desired. And I very much wanted to avoid the clunkiness and complexity of the original Swordfall, so something else had to be done. The only solution I came up with was breaking up movement and attacking into separate phases, as in Risk. But multi-phase turns ran exactly in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go. I realized I was firmly headed down the same road to over-ambitious complexity that doomed Swordfall. Quickly, I started to question many of the other choices I’d made as well. The deployment system, in which the player sets up his army on a grid before battle, wasn’t really working out as intended. It made the battles slow to start, and I found myself making the same deployment setup time and again. My plan to de-emphasize rock-paper-scissors countering in favor of inter-unit synergies also left a lot to be desired. It was too complicated and too difficult to balance. Ditto with unit special abilities. Then there was all the damn maps. Sixteen of them, but with only four different enemy races to fight. There just wasn’t enough variety to fill up all that space, and I couldn’t see myself putting in the time to add 3 or 4 new races. Or into vastly expanding the existing ones.
In the meantime, my new iOS game beckoned. To make it, I had pared down my lane combat mechanics, maps and upgrading into their most basic forms. And the result was fun. It was simple, quick, linear and easy to make. No moving and recruitment of armies on a grand strategic map, just a straight-line sequence of battles. Each one pre-designed with just the right level of challenge and variety. No deployment phase and no abilities, just click on the arrows and watch dudes fight. Yet there was some skill involved. In getting counter units to match up with the enemies they were intended to counter, and in achieving the right mix of front line and support units. Clearly, this was the right game for a casual audience. This was a game I could make without tearing my hair out. But I couldn’t turn my back on Arkeia entirely. I couldn’t simply abandon all that art I’d worked on for more than a month. So eventually the natural solution came: take the iPhone game and combine it with Arkeia’s art and setting. The result: a new and revised Empires of Arkeia. One that I’ll first release for Flash and then later port to the iPhone. With the engine already iOS-tested, this won’t require anything more than a bit of rescaling. Truly the best of both worlds. And while I remain a little disappointed that I couldn’t make the more complex Swordfall mechanics work out, I do believe this new iteration is a much stronger game that many more people will get some fun out of.
Also, it’ll be much easier to make this way. While my time estimates should always be taken with a grain of salt, I do think I can get the beta out within a month. I’d expect the final release no later than May, though the iPhone version will likely be a bit longer, as I have no idea how long the Apple approval process might take.
– When in doubt, keep it simple
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Just a quick preview screen of my upcoming iPhone game, Swordfall: Rome.
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Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Okay, I’ll try and keep it brief this time. My theory is that if I can put posts out nice and quick then I just might get around to it more than once every couple months.
Anyway, let’s get on to some business. Arkeia is still on the backburner and will be out eventually, but a number of smaller projects have intervened. I made one quick little shooter called ShatterBot, which in all honesty would have greatly benefited from some more polish. It’s out now on a bunch of sites, and I’ll make sure to upload it to mine as well. Then, I’ve got another defense game on the way, similar to rise of the colony. That one shouldn’t take more than another two weeks or so. Then, in the middle of all this I’ve started dabbling on an iPhone game, a casual addition to my Swordfall/ADoE series of games. Right now I’d like to get the flash games wrapped up before I return to it, so it won’t be out for quite some time. Especially since the approval process might take a bit of a while as well.
I’ve also spent some time pondering distant plans beyond both flash and iPhone. Plans involving both grand strategy and even some sandboxy MMOiness. So lots of scatterbrained game-thoughts are happening, but for the near future I’m expecting to focus my efforts on the iPhone (and probably Android ports as well). Not sure yet whether I want to do flash versions of these mobile games, but it might be worthwhile. Only time will tell how all of this works out.
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