Archive for the ‘Current Games’ Category

Side Projects

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

So while I’ve been working away on Iron Tides this past year and a bit, I’ve still managed to sneak away with a few spare moments to work on a couple small Flash games. It’s not really something I want to go back to, as it’s undeniably a huge step back from making Unity games for Steam. But sometimes it is a nice change of pace to push out something small and different. I think it can also be a helpful reminder that simple design can still be effective.

A few months ago I took part in a Flash game contest. It challenged devs to develop a game in a single week, incorporating 1 or more out of 3 given themes: time travel, portals and easter. Now I’d never made a game in a week by myself. The closest thing I’d gotten around to was weekend game jams, but those always had a team of at least three. I made Rise of the Castle 2 in about two weeks, but that was a sequel so I had very little design to do and could reuse much of the code. This would be a different beast altogether.

With only 7 days to spare I knew I had to figure out pretty much exactly what I was making by the end of the first day. All the art and UI in the game also had to be finished in a day. That would leave about 5 days for the bulk of the coding, testing, balancing, level design and audio work. I decided to ignore the easter theme, as it was the obvious outlier. For a few moments I considered doing time manipulation mechanics, but then thought it would get far too complicated. Anything physics based was also out the window. And I knew I didn’t have time to do any extensive level design, so I would have to ramp difficulty algorithmically. What I wound up making was a simple split-screen defense shooter. The two sides represented different eras in time, and were connected by a pair of portals. You controlled a spaceship and had to defend two bases, one on each side of the time divide. Every time you passed through the portal it would shut down for a while, so you couldn’t just go through whenever. You could fire bullets through the portal into the other timespace, but naturally these shots were a lot harder to aim.

I also came up with a few different behaviors for the enemy aliens, and some tricks they could use to screw around with the portals. Given the time limit I didn’t manage to implement all of them though, despite skipping sleep here and there during that week. But all in all I think it was a pretty successful little exercise, this tiny little speck of a game that it is.

Unfortunately I didn’t end up winning anything in the contest itself (there were about a hundred entries and only the top 5 got anything), but I did get offered a decent licensing deal afterwards, so not such a bad end result.

I’ve also done a little bit of work on a post-apocalyptic defense game that shares a lot of mechanics with Rise of the Colony. The big changes to the formula are new ways to gather and manage survivors (the rough equivalent of colonists), and a new power system that requires weapons to be connected to a generator. I’m pretty happy with the look of that game and it wouldn’t take more than a couple weeks to finish, but at the moment I can’t spare even that. I do want to finish it at some point though. I can share a few screens from it when I find the time.

If you’re interested, take a look at my itty bitty portal game, Time Splicers:


– Peace and good splicing


Posted in Current Games, Project Previews | Comments Off on Side Projects

Those Dang Druids

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

I’ve lately started watching a lot of TotalBiscuit’s videos. Mostly his Hearthstone series, but also some of his well known WTF game reviews. And one of these recently caught my eye. A turn-based tactics game in fact, which may or may not come as a surprise. A tactics game featuring druids of all things. And going by the name of ‘A Druid’s Duel’. As luck would have it, my tactics game also had a rather druidic theme for the longest time. Although mine was not about shapeshifting, but rather about summoning golems. And for a long time I called this game concept ‘Iron, Root and Stone,’ or IRAS for short, handily combining the IRA and the IRS into a single super-acronym. Naturally, there were three types of shapers, as I called them, each specialized in summoning golems and obstacles based on their particular domain.

I’ve actually thought about keeping the title, despite my shift to a gladiator theme. There are ways to make it work, though they seem a little ham-fisted. And there are some other issues with this name too. It is a bit wordy, obscure sounding, and commas are not so good for SEO. They also makes the name awkward to mention in a list of game titles. I have another name in mind right now, but I’d rather not draw attention to it until I’ve made up my mind. Branding is absolutely vital in this business, and is absolutely something I have to solidify over the next few months. For starters I’m going to need a name, a logo and preferably some sort of poster boy character, like the big daddies in Bioshock or the raider dude from Borderlands. Ideally, I would start outputting a lot of concept art and screenshots after that, all with consistent presentation and a logo in the corner. That is plenty of work though, so I’m not entirely sure how well I’ll be able to follow best practices. Although concept art is obviously something I have to do anyway. I need some method of figuring out what these gladiators will look like, and drawing is pretty much the only possible starting point. However, my concepts do tend to be fairly quick things. Lighting and color are something I don’t really need to figure out until I go 3D, and the plain grayscale drawings are not necessarily that much to look at. But I think I’ll get around to making a few more rendered concepts even if they’re not obviously useful. Photoshop coloring is a skill I definitely want to improve on in any case.

Anyway, back on to this druid game I was talking about. It’s fairly interesting really, but mechanically pretty distinct from what I have in mind. Very chess-like, where my game is a lot closer to a tabletop war game. Druid’s Duel is also a smaller game, especially with regard to unit types, which is something I always seem to focus my efforts on. I think Arkeia has over fifty unit types, and Scrap Metal Heroes has about 200 different parts. Of course this sort of scope has always come with its own cost, mainly in polish and balance testing.

And by the way, the game looks a little something like this:

— Peace and druidic victories


Posted in Current Games, Interesting Games | Comments Off on Those Dang Druids

Fully Free

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Finally got around to making Scrap Metal Heroes fully free, which is the only natural solution now that Mochi doesn’t exist anymore. Wasn’t all that much work, really, and I should have gotten to it sooner. But it took a few e-mails from fans to get the ball rolling. I’ve definitely come a long way as a programmer since those days. I can’t fathom now how I ever managed to use Flash Pro as my IDE. It just doesn’t do anything code-wise other displaying it. Countless headaches might have been avoided back in the day if I’d taken the time to learn FlashDevelop, for example. But oh well.

Looking at this game now, almost five years later, it does look rather clunky and amateurish. Though, on the other hand, I can’t claim to have made anything better since. But a better thing is definitely in the pipes, slowly working its way towards the firing chamber. There’s still a lot to learn about Unity and a new workflow to master, but I’m not seeing any major obstacles at the moment. On top of my greater programming experience, I think I’ve also managed to develop a better awareness for good design over these past couple years. Both in terms of visuals and game mechanics. Admittedly there is a limit to how much one guy can do. I can’t claim to be a superb artist, a great designer, or a genius programmer. I’m undoubtedly a jack of all trades, a master of none. And to make something as complex as a game with those limits in mind, there are a few essential keys to keep in mind.

The first key is to find a project that fits into that skill set as smoothly as possible. Within each of those roles it is possible to find a particular slice where I do in fact excel. I would be hopeless at 2D animation, for instance, and also pretty useless at making triple-A shooter character models. But stylized 3D characters that strive to take full advantage of the lifetime I’ve spent drawing various warrior dudes? That is something I think I can do pretty damn well.

The second key is to find good references. There’s a lot of people out there who are better than me at various things, and much of what I want to make has already been done in different forms. So you have to be open to those influences, find what works for you, and break down how other people have done similar things.

The final key would be scope and feedback. Technically that’s more like two keys, but it’s my post and my rules, so bite it. Scope has definitely gotten away from me before, especially on Empires of Arkeia. I really don’t need to have fifty gladiator classes in this thing. In fact it’ll probably be a much stronger game with twenty, or even fifteen, sparing enough time to make sure they all play amazingly. And feedback is another area where I’ve been lacking. It’s easy to believe you know your own game best, but it’s often amazing how that closeness can also make you miss some really obvious things.

Well, it is getting mighty late right about now, so I believe I’ll just awkwardly cut it off right there and bid you all a gentle night.

— Peace and a good set of keys


Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on Fully Free

Mecanim is the Bomb

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Jesus, it’s been a long day. Full day at work, followed by an evening of tweaking vertices and exploring Unity’s Mecanim animation system. But it’s been worth it. I have to say this system is rather mind-blowing compared to what I’ve been doing before. You can just download animations from Unity’s asset store and apply them to any humanoid character! It’s ridiculous. I still don’t entirely understand how to edit these animation clip files, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. Like tomorrow, most likely.

I’ll have something to show off soon, but in the meantime check out this game: LINK

If there’s anything that might get me back into miniatures that would be these things. They are hands down the finest miniatures I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the best of Warmachine is on the same level. But of course the Arena Rex ones represent gladiators, so they’re inherently better. That’s just common sense.

Now for a little bit of Hearthstone before I lay my weary head to rest…

— Peace and sweet dreams


Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on Mecanim is the Bomb


Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Came up with a pantheon today! Enjoy:

The Pantheon of Imperia has five gods, all female. They are often referred to as the five sisters, and are typically represented in the form of a five-pointed star. Each point of the star has a shape particular to the goddess it represents.


Fortuna – Goddess of Luck and Fate

Description: Fortuna weaves the threads of life that bind mortal souls, and swings the odds of life and death in favor of those she likes. She appears as a blind woman, her eyes wrapped by white cloth, carrying the great scale that balances the forces of the universe.

Symbol: Scale


Minerva – Goddess of Wisdom and Secrets

Description: Minerva brings the wisdom of the gods to the mortal realm, whispering her mighty secrets into the ears of those she favors. By her word great inventions are crafted, brilliant creeds written, and vast empires torn asunder. Above it all she watches patiently, clad in a cowl of blue and black, with the all-knowing owl perched on her shoulder.

Symbol: Owl


Aurora – Goddess of Order and Renewal

Description: Aurora is master of the air and the great cycles of nature. She rides across the sky on the back of a great golden eagle, keeping company with her brother, the sun. She wears streaming robes of yellow and green.

Symbol: Eagle


Bellona – Goddess of War and Strength

Description: Bellona rides a chariot pulled by four bulls, or else she sweeps over the battlefield on her flaming wings. She drives the feral tempers of humankind, gives courage where it is most needed, and brings great victory to the worthy.

Symbol: Bull


Morgana – Goddess of Death and Sacrifice

Description: Morgana is the gatekeeper between mortal life and the great beyond. She sits in judgment of the fallen, and manipulates mortal affairs to the benefit of the underworld. Her skin appears ashen, and serpents writhe within her hair.

Symbol: Serpent

Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on Goddesses

Every Spare Minute

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Okay, so making games is hard. Pong clones maybe not so much, but anything that’s truly something new and worthwhile is really bloody hard. And for one guy, working in his spare time? You’d think it’s impossible, and it very nearly is. The only way I’m going to make this work is by being smart. By using the best tools for the job, by buying resources whenever it makes sense, and by streamlining every part of the production pipeline. And of course, most importantly, I have to want it. I have to want it about as much as I want air. The main problem last year was treating this project as a chore. For the most part anyway. And lo and behold, somehow I never seemed to have any time. There was always something else that really needed doing. And that pattern is never ever going to get this thing made.

But my mindset this week has shifted massively. The pieces are all falling into place, and every day I seem to arrive at a new epiphany about the mechanics, the story, or the art pipeline. Every spare minute is harnessed for the purposes of creation, is something I might say if I was feeling especially poetic about it all. Even on the bus I’m jotting notes on my phone, or sketching out characters. And this is the only way forward. Now all I have to do is sustain it, without falling unconscious in the process.

I’m going full 3D on this beast, and 3D is an unholy bitch, but it has always been my bread and butter. I have at least arrived at a style that allows textures to be produced very quickly. Modeling, UV mapping and animation, however, remain enormous time sinks that I’ll just have to live with. Fortunately I’m dealing with a theme that calls only for humanoid characters (the theme is gladiators, by the way). If I also had to animate dragons, horses and gibbering piles of goo, I would just quit right now. But humanoids I can deal with. I have a pretty decent idea of how they move, partly due to being a humanoid my entire life thus far. And I have some experience animating them. There’s also a lot of resources out there for human animation, and much less so for the poor goo piles. Thank god we’re such a self-absorbed species.

Without further ado, below you will find the character I’ve been working on this week. Definitely a bit rough around the edges; further tweaks are certain to come. But I am pretty happy with the base model and the rig. In game this would appear pretty small, and most likely get rendered with a toon shader. So there’s enough detail to get by, though I’m definitely doing another pass on the texture map and the sword.



Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on Every Spare Minute

Facebook Farming and Robots in Japan

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

It’s been a little while again since the last post, so I figured I might as well say a few words about where I’m currently headed. First of all, I took a full time job two and a half months ago at a local mobile/social game studio. The place goes by the name of East Side Games and is best known for the Facebook game Pot Farm. Yeah, you can like totally grow weed on Facebook. What a crazy world we live in.

But wait, all is not lost! I’m still continuing to work on my own crazy ideas on evenings and weekends. The first and foremost of these is the Japanese localization of Scrap Metal Heroes, which just launched yesterday on Yahoo Mobage. It is all in Japanese, so it probably won’t be of much benefit to anyone reading this post. It’s also a two year old game with many inherent flaws, so this is not necessarily the most exciting of news. But it just might give me some much needed independence. For all its flaws, it’s still probably the best game I’ve made and Japan is a strong market, especially where robots are involved. With its new monetization model and a China launch on the horizon, there’s a decent chance of it making me a basic living. If I could manage that, I’d be free to dispense with both the 9-5 grind and the quickie tower defence games. Leaving me time to focus on some ‘serious’ strategy, which I’ll readily admit I haven’t successfully pulled off yet.

Swordfall and Scrap Metal Heroes might have come close, but neither was polished enough and both were saddled with the incredibly restrictive lane mechanism. I got a little something out of it, at least with SMH, but the lack of control over movement and targeting is just too great of a void to fill. So when I started working on Scrap Titans, I began to develop full RTS-style controls. However, I soon became convinced that doing RTS mechanics well was not only beyond my resources, but was also not the most interesting design space to explore. So now that sequel sits untouched on the back shelf, while my ideas have taken a strong shift towards turn-based games. This change is due in no small part to my recent return to Magic: the Gathering, my brief foray into Warmachine, and the board game design interests of some friends.

I currently have two turn-based ideas churning around in my head. One is grid-based and the other is a more abstract card-like affair. I’m feeling pretty confident in both ideas, and one day I’ll go run for the gold with one or both of them. And it won’t be through Mochi or any other flash game portal. I want to finally make a move towards a fully fledged PC game with an honest, up front sticker price on it. It’s not the easiest of goals for a one-man team, but I’ll get there.

– Peace and good strategizing



Posted in Current Games, Random Musings | Comments Off on Facebook Farming and Robots in Japan

The Rise and Fall of a Game, Pt. 2

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

So now that I’ve covered some of the key problems I see with Swordfall, I’ll just take a moment and cover some of the hard-won lessons I’ve gained in the process.

Lesson 1: Don’t Make Games For Yourself

Now, I’ve definitely heard this one several times before, and I always thought it a rather stupid rule. I mean, if you love to make games, obviously you’ll want to make something that lines up with your interests. And yes, I absolutely agree that you should. You’re likely to do much better work if you deeply care about what you’re making. But here’s the kicker: don’t imagine you’ll actually end up playing the thing in the end. Whatever connection you have to the game’s idea, art or mechanics gets pretty thoroughly explored during development, especially if you’re working solo. By the time you’re ready to launch, you’ll know every nut and bolt so well that the very idea of playing it fills you with absolute boredom, or perhaps even loathing. The only exception, I think, might be a highly procedural game, like Minecraft or Civilization, where generative algorithms can still throw surprises at you on the umpteenth playthrough.

So what exactly is the harm in making games for yourself? Well, for one thing it’s terribly difficult making a living out of an audience of one. Or ten. Or a hundred, or however many people there might be out there who happen to be just like you. Early playtesting can help here, especially if you can get a variety of people to sit down in front of the game. Preferably people who aren’t afraid of hurting your feelings. Also, don’t rely on enthusiastic fans as an accurate representation of the audience. Fans that actually go to the trouble of contacting you are only the tiniest sliver of a minority among the potential player base. And if you make a game just for them, you’ll once again end up with an awfully small audience. To be fair, this may work with some types of games. If you’re involved in crafting an intricately detailed simulation of medieval banking, you know you’ll have a small audience to begin with, so you’ll need a hefty price tag that only the most enthusiastic fans will swallow. But small audiences don’t really work in the flash world. This market is all about quantity. If you want to make serious money in flash, you need to reach millions of people and put out games at a brisk pace. Which, of course, nicely segues into my next point…

Lesson 2: Don’t Make Five Month Games

The simple fact is that flash games tend not to make much money. Most of them make next to nothing, the decent ones make a grand, the good ones make $5000, and the truly exceptional ones might reach $25,000. And then, of course, you have Fantastic Contraption, which made over a million. But Fantastic Contraption doesn’t really count; even though it was made in flash, it really is more of a traditional pay-to-play indie game. That is naturally a much stronger market for those games that can attract a dedicated paying audience, but it’s not an easy place to break into.

As far as the flash sponsorship & ad market goes, 25-30 grand is pretty much the best you can hope for. And that kind of money only goes to the absolute cream of the crop. Unless you’re making a sequel to a highly popular game, you really have no right to expect anything like it. No matter how brilliant your idea might be or how gorgeous your graphics, it’s still incredibly difficult to predict whether your game is worth 3,000 or 20,000. Naturally, a fair bit of the equation depends on your reputation, how well your vision aligns with the tastes of high-budget sponsors, and on whether you have established sponsor relationships. And regardless of your business skills, the audience itself is a fickle beast, out looking for a quick bit of fun amidst an endless torrent of content. In that choked up jungle some straightforward production quality will raise you above the the herd, but the thing that takes you from good to great isn’t always so obvious. The point of it all is this: hedge your bets. Don’t sink all your time into an elaborate tree that may not bear sufficient fruit. Spending five months on a game and expecting to make a living means all the stars need to align perfectly. Even if you manage to pull off that trick once, can you really make a consistent show of it? Oftentimes, popular games come about through dumb luck more so than brilliance. Novelty is a big part of this business, and the Next Big Thing can land in your head almost by accident, never to be repeated again. Case in point: Alexey Pajitnov, the developer of Tetris, has now worked some fifteen years in the US games industry without coming up with another breakthrough hit. Chances are that Tetris will be all he’s ultimately remembered for.

So, the secret ingredient in the flash sauce is to find a happy medium. One to two months is about ideal in my book, perhaps going down to as little as two weeks if you’re working with a fair number of existing assets. If you’re incredibly brave or don’t need sleep, you might try out a one week game, as long as you don’t make a habit of it. It may just work for something with a very simple core concept that’s playable after a day’s worth of coding. But you need a strong sense of fun and novelty to back it up; at least something that’s likely to fetch a couple grand for your efforts. You will not be able to live on $1000 games, at least not in the developed world. Trying to make fifty games a year that anyone will actually notice is a fool’s errand.

Lesson 3: Depth is Overrated

Sure, most of us like a bit of depth to our games. Variety in level design, different kinds of enemies, lots of meaningful choices, and perhaps a large serving of elaborate upgrade trees. Ultimately, what exactly is depth? It can be a few different things, really. Lots of novel things to discover, plenty of variety in gameplay, and perhaps most importantly a sense of gaining mastery of a difficult but rewarding set of skills. Depth is generally bought at the cost of complexity, an especially important point to keep in mind when developing strategy games or RPGs. You want a system complex enough to support a range of meaningful choices, sufficient variety and a multi-pronged sense of progress. You’ve got to have your leveling, quest completion and your gear drops. You’ll also want some strategic building construction, marching armies and advancing technologies.

At the same time any system you build has to be easy to learn and make some kind of intuitive sense. So using what your players already know, both from other games and the real world, will make your rules much easier to swallow. Naturally, it goes down much easier still if you lead people in gently, taking care to point out all the individual actions that make up the basics of your game. A few might be frustrated enough by this hand-holding to seek fun elsewhere, but that’s a small price to pay.

If you happen to be a new developer and a fan of AAA strategy/RPG games, you might want to scale back on your initial plans for scope and complexity, perhaps by an order of magnitude at least. No flash indie team can go head-to-head with the big boys, and there really isn’t much of a middle ground in this industry anymore. There are small games and big games, but very little in between. Small teams make casual games, and casual games are a very different beast from the giants of the industry. Your players will not have spent months or years reading through all the hype generated by your marketing department. They will not have invested a day’s paycheck in order to play it. They will come in as blank slates, attracted by little more than pretty colors, googly eyes and a catchy title. The moment they encounter frustration or confusion is the moment they’ll go find pretty colors elsewhere.

Angry Birds. Plants vs Zombies. Fruit Ninja. Cut the Rope. These wild success stories did not come about because there’s a lot of meat on the bones. They happened through a touch of novelty, cute characters, a good deal of polish, and a title that instantly reveals the game’s entire premise. In this arena, a pretty surface is worth more than all the deep dark depths in the world. The trick here is to have a strong core, both mechanically and thematically, one that’s easy to both build and communicate. For a month-long project the mechanics should take less than a week to implement. The rest is all polish and testing, with some extra polish on top.

Lesson 4: The Last 10% Will Take Half Your Time

Put another way, you’ll first make 90% of your game, and then still have the other 90% to look forward to. To be fair, I haven’t found this to be true with all my games. With some simple projects and reusable code assets, I have managed to come in at just slightly over schedule. But with anything a little more complex, perhaps something with a synopsis that doesn’t quite seem to fit into a single sentence, all bets are out the window. Two months can just as easily turn into five. There are just too many features and interacting systems to really grasp all the little knobs and widgets you’ll have to make. And the more complex your creation becomes, the more potential there is for things to break, more hidden corners for game-killing bugs to hide. On a five month project the last two may be spent making sure everything still works. You will play your game a lot, you will have to tweak, adjust, fix, and rejigger every little thing. Approximately once every hour you will curse yourself for being an idiot. You’ll remove the evidence of your idiocy, and then compile the game yet again. And again. And then again. So make small games, people. Spend more time with ideas, less time with bugs. Both you and the bugs will be much happier in the end.

And now I believe it’s time to head out to today’s life drawing session, over at the local university. I’ll reveal more about my future plans soon.

– Peace and fair winds

Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on The Rise and Fall of a Game, Pt. 2

The Rise and Fall of a Game, Pt. 1

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Swordfall has now been out for about two months, and it’s been something of a hard lesson on what not to do in this market. For reasons that seem obvious in retrospect, the game has been a pretty complete flop. While Swordfall has a small core of enthusiastic fans, it hasn’t come even close to Alexander: DoE’s performance. The possibility of this outcome was at one point inconceivable to my limited imagination. Swordfall was after all essentially the same game, but with lots more stuff. Lots and lots of maps, provinces, factions and units. Proper strategic AI, battlefield generals, province-specific recruitment, and all sorts of other fun. How could it not be better when it was so much bigger?

So why did it end up being less popular? I suspect a significant part of the reason is simply lack of novelty. I’m sure there were a fair number of people who had already played ADoE and weren’t impressed by what appeared to be more of the same. But it seems equally clear that the bulk of the issue lies with the structure and complexity brought about by all those new features.

Problem 1: Too Many Options

Swordfall has seven campaign maps to choose from, and on average each map has about seven playable factions. So a fair number of options, but small potatoes compared to a Civilization game. This all made sense to me, as I figured I was making something about halfway between Risk and Civ/Total War. Naturally enough, I’m something of a devotee of both of those grand series. Sure, I love my epic, open-ended strategy games and RPGs. There’s nothing quite like opening up a brand new simulation of a world and tinkering with it to your heart’s content. So this is where I was coming from. But of course, to anyone used to the linear, goal-oriented experience of your standard flash game, this is all very confusing. Where does the game start, exactly? Am I supposed to finish the top map first? Do I ‘finish’ the game by going through all the maps? Surely I don’t have to play with all those factions too?

Now, I’ve probably played Rome: Total War about as much as all other games combined, and yet I’ve never actually finished a single campaign. The same is also true of my experience with the Civilization series. Although I do think I once, entirely by accident, won some kind of point victory, back when Civ 3 was still the hot new thing. At which point I must have said something like this: “WTF, the game made me stop playing! That’s so stupid. I’m sure as hell not having that condition on next time.” So I think you can guess how much value I put on finishing strategy game campaigns, and why more goal-oriented players might have caught me by surprise.

Problem 2: No Permanent Progress

Really just a subset of the same sandbox-vs-linearity issue, and equally alien to the standard flash paradigm. In a match-based, sandboxy game like Swordfall you might play an hour or two before finishing a campaign. And afterwards you have nothing to show for your efforts. No new levels, loot or unlocked uber units anywhere to be seen. Perhaps not a problem for civ-junkies, but they’re all likely too busy playing Civ 5 to bother with flash games.

Problem 3: Too Serious, Too Historical

Not too much of a change from ADoE here, except in that I just had to pick medieval Europe as my setting, easily the most overused, cliched and grim of all possible eras. All the text descriptions and graphics took this torch and ran with it to an awfully serious, bloody, grim, somewhat plodding place. Now, I’m fairly convinced that most flash gamers are either bored kids or bored office workers, and a large helping of medieval military history is not likely to make their days go by any faster. So yes, there is that. Again, seems fairly obvious in retrospect. Lesson learned: add wizards. And maybe birds. If all else fails, go for zombies and vampires.

Problem 4: Information Overload

To be sure, Swordfall dumps a lot of things in the player’s lap from the get-go. The big campaign tosses nine different AI factions your way, all listed in a map key with details on income and victory points. The map itself has 67 provinces, each with name, income, food resources, and details on the occupying army. There are generals to recruit with two dozen possible abilities, regular military units, province-specific mercenaries, a substantial tech tree, and battles involving rock-paper-scissors mechanics coupled with general ability management. Yes, there is a tutorial with some text in a box explaining how all this works, but even so it does seem like a bit much, doesn’t it? More linear gameplay might help here once again, with its ability to introduce features gradually and all that jazz.

I’ll try and follow up soon with some of the key take-aways from all this, and what I’m planning to go onto next. But right now I do believe it’s about shut-eye time. 5:40  does seem like a mighty good time to head for bed, doesn’t it?

– Peace and good tidings

Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on The Rise and Fall of a Game, Pt. 1

The Sword Has Fallen

Friday, June 17th, 2011

This is likely a bit of a superfluous announcement for anyone reading, as anyone who’s come this far has likely also been to the main site already, and seen the game in question. But regardless, my latest game Swordfall: Kingdoms is officially done and on the site. Only about two months behind my early February-set schedule; I must be getting better at this game thing. Now, to be sure, my initial time estimate back in December called for just two months, but I’m perfectly willing to forget about that.

Yes, it was a stupidly grueling project once again, and there are no millions to look forward to as a reward. It won’t be a Scrap Metal Heroes style flop, judging from the first 2.5 days on Mochi, but I’m not expecting a quick fortune either. I would expect it to somewhat exceed ADoE’s traffic performance, in which case it should make a decent sum in the long term. Maybe fifteen thousand in the first year would be my woefully premature and wild-assed guess. I’m now debating what version of the game I should put up on kongregate. What few fans I have won’t care for a crippled, one-map edition. But I also can’t give out the same content on kong as I have in the mochi ad-supprted version; that would leave no reason for anyone to watch the ads. Kongregate itself isn’t too bad actually (as they pay developers for traffic) but if the ad-free version spreads beyond kong, then there’ll be plenty of traffic sources that will give me next to nothing. I might try a site-locked version to start; I’ll look into it in a couple of days, once I have more of an idea of how the current traffic is doing.

Despite the remaining potential of a long revenue tail, there’s little doubt that my time would have been better spent on smaller games. Somehow I’ve managed to fixate myself on these grandiose strategy games, and I think it’s time to finally let go, at least for the foreseeable future. Trying to make this pseudo-Total War thing happen just isn’t worth the effort. Swordfall may still be a pretty good game, but the equal of five good smaller games it is not.

I’m now working on bit of a spin-off from Rise of the Tower, with a lot more freedom to build and plenty of different levels. The main mechanics are already working after four days of work, and I’ll probably finish in 3-4 weeks. No, let’s just make that definitely finish. I am making a small game for once, goddamnit, and it’s gonna be awesome. Just you wait and see.

Posted in Current Games | Comments Off on The Sword Has Fallen