Meraki

Meraki - Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing. It forms the core of my game design philosophy.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 10

In which we nearly kill ourselves but somehow manage to hang on through submission.

Upgrades


Much simpler, I'm sure you'll agree.
The Upgrades screen underwent a major re-design. Gone was the weird, swirly, three-arc monstrosity and in came the linear playing card thing. It was a bit of a punt, opting for a re-design this late in the day but the new screen is a lot nicer and easier to understand. It also makes more use of Leanne's neat card graphics.

Challenge Mode and Leaderboards


Game Center support - another scary prospect - wasn't anywhere near as scary as it could have been. Admittedly the implementation we've gone for in this version is very vanilla. You unlock Challenge Mode quite early in the game - after the Dragon Shrine and Great Traveller Mike - and this allows you to try an infinite runner version. Monsters get harder and harder and keep coming whilst you're not allowed to use any inventory items. You score points based on the amount of damage you inflict, so making good use of chains and reversals is key.

I had grand plans for the leaderboard stuff. Friends lists, next highest score target and the like. Real Geometry Wars 2  stuff, but we just didn't have the time. I'll probably come back to it for the next update though. Instead, we just make use of the fact that a single function call is all it takes to overlay Game Center's interface on top of your game.

Results Screen


Results. Like the name says, really.
Another screen that needed a light bit of fettling was the Results Screen. It has bee functional for ages, but it's all too easy to forget that you might need to polish it a bit. That's when it's good to have someone like Leanne there to constantly ask whether or not I'd made those changes to it that I said I would.

Now it does stuff like show you what materials you managed to gain on the quest. Actually, talking about Materials, there's another thing that got a bit tweaked.

The drop rate for Materials was changed so that it's pretty rare in normal gameplay (unless you spec in to the Upgrades that increase the drop rate) but if you go on an Adventure (rather than a Quest), the rate increases a lot. This means that it's a lot easier to grind for materials than before, or you can just mainline the story and side quests to progress as normal. Either way, you'll probably reach the end of the game with an abundance of Monster Bits.

Status Effects


In keeping with our penchant for last-minute changes, some of the Status Effects underwent some light fettling. In addition to the changes in damage model noted last time, we decided to completely re-work Blindness.

Basically, Leanne has never liked the Goblin Shaman with its Sight Steal attack. It's particularly brutal, especially if you don't happen to be paying attention. So now, Blindness only effects some of the glyphs on the board - the amount being decided by the attack strength itself. Couple that in with the fact that you can alleviate a glyph's status by using one of its neighbours and suddenly it's a lot easier to deal with. Therefore, its effects no longer have a time limit. This means that you'll either have to clear the glyph with its neighbours, use Eyedrops or take a punt on what you remember it was before you were blind.

We also added a Toxic effect. It's the same as Burn except it does Dark damage instead of Fire. Things like the Stink Toads will now cover your board in icky, toxic goop rather than just poisoning you outright.

There are more effects too - the ability to raise your attack or lower an opponent's defence, for example. It's all starting to get very Pokemon.

Deadlines


An honest-to-goodness screenshot from
the actual game. Featuring a spider and
some webs.
Remember last time I also mentioned that we wanted to be in submission before I went out to Malaysia on the 26th? Yeah, well, that didn't happen. All it meant was that, upon my return, an even more hideous daily routine was in store.

Previously, our day would look like this:

7-8am - Willow wakes up and needs attention from one of us to ensure she doesn't die or something.
12-2pm - Willow might nap, allowing mummy and daddy to get on with some work. Or eat. Or wash.
3-7pm - Willow is awake again and probably needs food or something.
7-9pm - Mummy and daddy are now allowed to feed themselves. Or do Willow's laundry. You know - whatever works.
9pm - 4am - Super Glyph Quest time.

Well, now the routine had shifted so that the 9pm - 4am slot extended out until maybe 10 or 11am, requiring some serious nap. Also, we really had to stagger the napping as Willow doesn't really respect the nap.

I've been tired before and I've had brutal crunches* before but nothing - nothing - was as utterly exhausting as this. The problem was that it wasn't a case of just slipping a deadline - you have a baby** to look after.

The End


After a couple of weeks of that particular hell, we did finish the game. There was a brief X-Code Archive Validation scare which, if you remember what happened before, was pretty terrifying, but this time around I think we were too tired to care. Of course, if it turns out that I've managed to upload a dodgy version again, I take it all back.

What happened was this: To tie in with the latest version of iOS, Apple had changed the rules on things like splash screens***. Now there have to be ones at the correct resolution for the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 has been the bane of our lives on these projects - all down to its ridiculous aspect ratio compared to the other devices we support. Well, the problem here was that the free version of Unity iOS doesn't allow you to change the splash screen and the version we had didn't support the required resolution.

I went so far as to try changing the splash screens in XCode itself, but clearly I'm not the first person to try that and it didn't fly.

So we had to update our version of the Unity editor. This, I have been told, is generally a bad thing to do in the middle of a project. So on the day of submission, it's probably Ill Advised at best.

Thankfully, it all went without a hitch and the IPA was duly verified.

Scheduling Concerns


What did this all mean for the schedule? Our Original Plan was to release in the first week of October but, as with so many of our Original Plans, this proved to be not what happened. This was obviously a concern for a number of reasons.

Firstly, we'd agreed a date with Apple as to when we would release. Thankfully, they were very considerate and even suggested a later date for us.

This is largely due to the second of our concerns, which is a bit of a biggie - It's really not a good time to be coming out about now.

Last time, we released Glyph Quest in the middle of January. This is a bit of a quiet time in the market, which meant that, in the absence of anything else, it did okay - even gaining Touch Arcade's Game Of The Week award, largely because of this.

This time, we'll be releasing right smack bang in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year. There's Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas to contend with and all of the seasonal apps that are coming out to coincide with that little lot.

To top it all, Apple's recent iOS update means that the world and his wife are hurriedly updating their games to ensure everything still works. As well as flooding the app store with updates, this means that the time it takes to get through the review process has been extended as the backlog is quite immense.

Either way you look at it, this is suboptimal but we have no choice as the money has completely run out.

Marketing


Leanne

Now our focus is on the marketing side of things. Relevant websites have been notified of our existence and plans. The social media push has also begun.

This largely consists of bugging our friends that have characters in the game to swap out their normal avatars for these instead. This should hopefully create a spot of intrigue that will tie in nicely with the release and all. It also enables them to play the 'oh hey- I didn't realise you were in the game too' game.

Update: The marketing has a life of it's own now. Our friends have duly changed their avatars and it's causing quite a stir on certain Facebook profiles.

The Button


Alex
At the time of writing, I have just pushed the button. The idea is that you do it on the afternoon the day before it's supposed to hit the store - in our case, the day of the refresh****. In iTunesConnect, Super Glyph Quest's status has gone from 'Pending Developer Release' to 'Processing For App Store' to 'Ready For Sale'. It's very exciting indeed.

I guess it means it's out now, although I don't think it'll show up on any search just yet.

Update: Okay, it's out but you have to get a bit creative about how you find it. Of course, all that will change tomorrow when our feature***** kicks in. Also, looking at the forums and such, it appears that people have already 'got a bit creative' and started downloading it. Which is nice. This may work after all...


* The inflatable mattresses under the desks during Gene Wars were a particular lowlight.
** An actual, human, baby.
*** Or 'Launch Images', to give them their full Apple nomenclature. Deffo not splash screens - no sir.
**** Or 'Thursday' as people sometimes like to call it.
***** Assuming, of course, that we do get featured. Otherwise the wheels are about to come off this whole venture.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 09



In which I realise how long it's been since the last update and I remember that we have a logo we can use on this dev diary after all.

Logo


First up - check it out! It's all heraldic and stuff. It even has a motto. In Latin. Kinda makes everything a little more legit, no? People are going to ask about the motto. Then we're going to have to explain it. But not right now - we'll let you stew a bit first.

Spells


All spells are now in the game!  That is, all regular and combo spells are now in the game. That's 32 regular spells (2,3,4 and 5 glyphs) and 24 combos. 3 of the 8 Summons are also in. Having been back and forth, we've finally decided that 5 Glyph spells are all area of effect and that you only get status effects with Combos.

Actually, speaking of Combos, we ran in to another interesting design dilemma. Thanks to the new, super-duper robust spell parser, you are able to Chain off either element in a Combo spell. For example, casting Sunstrike (Light + Fire) means that you could follow it up with Bless (Light + Air) or maybe Erupt (Fire + Earth) and either would increase your Chain. Likewise, if you were already in a Chain, you could follow Sunstrike with Crowstorm (Dark + Air) or Mudslide (Water + Earth) and you'd get a Reversal.

The issue now is... what happens if you do both? Follow up a Sunstrike with Smoke (Dark + Fire) or Regeneration (Water + Light). Both include a Chain and a Reversal, so what do we do?

There are several options here:

  1. Chain. Increase the user's Chain and ignore the Reversal.
  2. Reversal. Trigger the Reversal and ignore the Chain.
  3. Both. Increase the user's Chain whilst also triggering the Reversal.

We ruled out option 3 pretty early on. It's pretty OP* and would make an irrelevance out of one of the Upgrades later on.

The way the code was written, it followed path 2 by default. It made it trickier than normal to increase your Chain whilst using Combos. On the one hand, it meant that you really earned the larger Chain values. On the other, it wasn't particularly satisfying and somewhat cheapened the value of a well-timed Reversal as they'd happen often but at such a low Chain value.

Ultimately we've decided on Option 1. This means that you can increase your Chain with ease but if you want to pull of a Reversal, you have to think about it a bit more. It's also a bit of a 'banking' mechanic and I do love me a good banking mechanic. I've used it as an example before, but consider the scoring in Bar Billiards. You accrue points by potting balls. At least, the amount of points in your Break increases. To apply the points in your Break to your actual score, you need to finish on a shot that doesn't pot any balls or commit a foul. Sometimes, you can find yourself on a massive Break but unable to actually increase your score - or 'bank' it. The analogy holds true for Super too - the Chain is your score and the Reversal is the payoff. If you're sitting on a large Chain, are you going to be able to Reverse it before you run out of Glyphs to reverse it with? Okay, it's not quite as simple as that because increasing your Chain is a payoff in and of itself, but you get the idea.

Quests


All of the quests are in the game! Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. All of the main story quests are in with the exception of the Bad Dragon quests - but that's only because we haven't made the Bad Dragons yet.
The Dwarf. He kicks skulls.
Alongside the main story arc are a number of side quests. Most are just excuses to put friends of ours in the game as characters to meet but there are also a couple of interesting collaborations.

Our good friend, Jim Zub, is a comic book writer of some renown. He's created his own series of fantasy stories called Skullkickers. It's about a pair of mercenaries who tool around the country, kicking... well, skulls and generally causing mayhem, all in the name of a gold-ladened payday. The writing is pretty hilarious and a great match for us as most of it pokes fun at existing fantasy tropes.

When we told him that we were going to make another Glyph Quest he said that we could use his characters in a quest arc if we wanted. We jumped at the chance.

Then we got an email out of the blue from one Hato Moa. You know her as the creator of the wonderful Hatoful Boyfriend. She dropped us a line to tell us how much she enjoyed the original Glyph Quest and to see if we'd be interested in working together sometime in the future. We said that we were working on a sequel right now and suddenly the Hatoful story arc was born and our land suddenly became a bit more... pigeon-y. She even did the artwork for us.

Working on both of these was great fun and hopefully adds an interesting dimension to the game. The biggest challenge is coming up with the quest dialogue and lore in such a way that it respects the original creation.

I've been told that one of the biggest challenges for a writer is to write people in different styles. The problem I have is that I pretty much just write... well, me. What you see is generally exactly what I would say in that situation. Stepping out of that zone and trying to ape another writer's style befitting the relevant character was a very interesting exercise indeed.

Step one is research. Lots of it. As painful and tedious as it was, I had to force myself to read through the entire Skullkickers back catalogue. All of it. In one sitting. Didn't enjoy that at all. Wasn't even remotely entertaining. Not a single chuckle was to be had**.

The Dwarf was pretty simple - channel a belligerent, drunken Scot and you're most of the way there. The Big Guy was also pretty easy too as he mostly lets the Dwarf do the talking. The Hatoful characters are... well, bonkers. Exuberant and bonkers. Great fun to write for though. There's also quite a few resources around on the interwebs about how they should speak - especially Anghel.

Coming up with the dialogue and trying to present it in the character's style is key. Mostly I just used existing phrases that I've seen the characters use before and try to work them in to a coherent conversation. I suppose it's the difference between learning to play a musical instrument and using a sampler. Either way, the best part is when the dialogue is all finalised and approved by the original authors. Kinda gives you a warm glow. We really hope we've done them justice and you never know - we might try and squeeze in a few more arcs for them post launch.

Monsters


Just one of the many, many monsters,
All of the Monsters are in the game! Except for the aforementioned Bad Dragons that is. A handful are still using the graphics from the old game but Leanne is working her way through those. Either way, that's 110 monsters to discover, which sounds like more than enough for this sort of game. Hell, Pokemon had 151 and a huge team, so we're doing okay for just the two of us.

Actually, I just re-jiggered the way monsters are loaded and ordered to enable us to add more monsters on the fly without ruining the Bestiary layout too much. By that I mean things like the Bad Dragons should always appear at the bottom and Goblins should all be grouped together. It took a bit of fettling to get right as the last thing I wanted to do was start shuffling lists around whenever I added a new creature. This is all good experience really - I'll have a much better idea of how to architect this stuff next time.

Most of the Monsters are pretty adorable. But some... well, some are just nasty.

They're also just a lot more interesting to fight this time. This is largely down to a more comprehensive pass on their resistances. Instead of just being resistant to particular Elements, Monsters can also resist Status Effects. Some translate in to a higher chance of not being affected by the Status Effect whilst others are outright immune to it - you can't make a Skeleton Bleed, for example, or Petrify a Cockatrice***. You'll also find that some can even bring in friends to help them - a trick that never gets old.

Items


Item use has changed a bit since the first game. One of the main criticisms was that they were a bit pointless. At least, as soon as you've unlocked Combo spells, you never really needed the items as you could always heal yourself in combat. This was a real issue for the Asian version which had adopted a F2P model where you could buy currency for items but never really needed to spend any of it.

From a gameplay perspective, this was also lacking. I mean, why have a system in place that gets made pretty redundant early on?

As you'd expect, Super Glyph Quest does it just that little bit better than before. Firstly, there are more items. Most of these are to deal with the various Status Effects the monsters can hit you with. Blind, for example, can now be cured with Eyedrops. Burn can be fixed by applying Salve, and so on. There's still the catch-all Cure and Restore potions but they're rarer and more expensive. This means that there's more of a tactical element to loadout. What sort of monsters do you expect to meet? What kind of attacks do they have? As inventory space is limited (but expandable), you have to make some tough choices. Also, Loot Glyphs only appear if you've selected the Loot perk during your Upgrade sessions, so you can't rely on picking up lots of items during combat.

The other major change is that we no longer end your turn when you use an item. This means that you can use as many items as you like during your turn before finishing everything off with a spell. All of these tweaks make for a much higher item usage across the board - keeping them relevant right up until the end game.

For those of you with your monetisation hats on, this will make the Asian F2P version a lot more... well, functional as an F2P experience. We may even decide to add currency IAPs to the paid version for those of you who simply don't have the time to play the game for currency.

And to those who just baulked at that last paragraph - don't worry! Yes, we're going to be a paid app. No, there's not going to be an energy mechanic and we're never going to stop you playing. The game will also be balanced in such a way that you will never need to buy currency to progress. It's only there for the people who actually want to give us more money than we charged (those people do exist) or the lazy ones with a large disposable income.

Actually, we haven't even decided on a F2P model for Asia yet. There's talk of Japan being premium... It's all going to come down to timing and a gut feeling from people who know this stuff better than we do.

Bloody Harpies


I tell you what that IAP stuff did do though - it meant we needed to rethink the Harpy's Swipe move. It's all very well and good letting someone pay for an item but you'd better not have something else in the game that just removes it randomly. I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that would be Frowned Upon****.

So instead of removing the item from your inventory, the Swipe move disables your inventory for the combat. Your items are safe and sound but you can't get to them. Once you win the fight, you get them back. Actually, it may just be that once a certain number of turns have elapsed, you get them back - I might have to have another look at that code, but you get the idea.

Other Bits


The scrolling mechanic found in the Shop, Crafting, Spellbook and Bestiary has had a bit of a tweak. In has come stuff like momentum and out has gone that annoying bit where it would occasionally select whatever you happened to be over as you released your swipe. It's the little things...
The Grizzle Pig

We also did a complete overhaul of the Materials system - going over each and every monster and ensuring that it dropped relevant mats for Crafting. What with the monster indexing bit, I really hope I don't have to go through each and every monster again.

Some of the status effects didn't scale particularly well at the higher levels so we've tweaked them a bit. Now Poison damages you by a percentage of your current health, Burn damages you by a percentage of your maximum health and Regeneration gives you back a percentage of the health you are currently missing. That should help those effects to retain their relevance in the end game.

We got Testflight up and running and sent builds out to a few friends. They have been diligently***** letting us know when it all breaks and I have been pulling my hair out trying to work out why.

Auntie Saf and Uncle Ed came down to see us for a few days. This was an absolute godsend. Not only did Leanne get fresh meat for her Agricola slaughterhouse, but they took Willow off our hands during the day which meant that we got plenty of quality crunch time in. They even tidied up the kitchen******. You're welcome back any time guys!

Submission


Submission is looming large in the window. Plan A involves submitting by the end of this week as I fly to Malaysia on the 26th. It's going to be very tight unless we start pruning things but we don't really want to do that.

At least this time around we shouldn't have nearly as much trouble as we did the first time. I mean, surely we know what we're doing by now, right?

* Overpowered. The standard fallback excuse of online gamers the world over when they get their arse kicked by any given opponent's loadout or character choice.
** Somewhere in this paragraph is a subtle lie. See if you can find it.
*** Actually, at the time of writing, you can't Petrify anything. None of your spells or items have that effect. Maybe that's something we'll throw in for an expansion.
**** Frowned upon more than just the regular amount of frowning that the Harpy tends to generate in the first place.
***** No so diligently any more. It's almost as if they've got actual other things to do or something.
****** It has not remained tidy.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Godus - a review




Throughout its development, there has been a lot of attention lavished on 22 Cans' Godus. For better or worse, the internet just can't get enough of Peter and his machinations. There seems to be an ever eager pack of people following his every move, just waiting for him to slip up so they can pounce on him. I'd go so far as to say that I wouldn't be surprise if Internet Molyneux Bashing turned up at the next Olympics. This is not something I particularly want to be a part of as I owe my career to him.

I've commented on Godus before - well, okay, I've commented on an article on Godus before - but I wanted to hold fire until I'd given the thing a fair crack of the whip. I downloaded it on iOS last night and spent most of the evening messing around with it until now I feel like I've got the gist and can form an opinion.

I'll be honest though - it's not good.

Curiously, it's not good in a way I was entirely not expecting.

When you hit up the App Store, there it is in all it's Editor's Choice glory - as you'd expect, for something that has the Molyneux stamp on it. But you click on it and you're not presented with 22 Cans or Molyneux or anything like that.

It's DeNA.

That was my first worrying sign right there. Okay, it's mobile. Okay, it's F2P. I was expecting this. But I have an issue here - one that will crop up repeatedly over the course of this post. I shall enigmatically refer to it as the 'T' issue.

First Impressions


Build, my minions! Build!
Presentation - excellent. Love the art style. Brilliant audio too. But, seeing as how the guys behind both of those are two of the absolute best I've worked with, no surprises there.

The terrain is stylishly abstract. The stepped hills make a pleasant change from all of those hyper-realistic landscape engines. Oh hey - I'm as big a fan of From Dust's world as the next guy, but it's nice to see someone going a different way. The flat colours serve a purpose to denote both altitude and, subsequently, cost of modification - the sand layers are free, everything else uses resource. The lack of texture makes everything very clean.

I, like most gamers my age, probably bought in to the Godus idea as another of those 'spiritual successor' things that seem to be so popular these days*. This time it's Populous that's getting the reboot treatment and, given that Peter is one of a handful of people I'd say are qualified to give this a bash, I had high hopes. Not least of which because I kinda thought his vision on what makes Populous, was pretty well aligned with mine.

The God Game Genre


I don't think Populous has ever been done 'right' since the first one - for a variety of reasons. I say that having proudly worked on the second which, fun as it was, just wasn't quite there. Close, but it didn't quite capture the magic. Part of that was down to the more advanced technology**, but most of it was down to the inherent problems involved with balancing so many different effects.

For me, a God Game does several things a bit differently to other, similar games - something I've talked about previously. Core to this belief is the 'no direct control' rule. You are a God, not a General. You do not tell an individual person to go and do a thing. They decide to do it themselves. You influence the population. The minute you start micromanaging, you're in an RTS not a God Game.

So, Leashing is an instant black mark in my book. Thankfully, it's so wonderfully broken that it's not really something you ever use. At least, not something you ever use intentionally. More on that later.

Whilst we're on the subject of feeling like a God, Godus falls short there too. What kind of God scrabbles around in the dirt, digging up chests? Seems a bit... menial.

But back to the game.

The idea is sound. Provide flat land for your population to develop and thereby expand. Very Populous - we like that. At the start, it's all fine and dandy too. Plots are marked out and you turf Builders out of your buildings and off they go. Cool. Pretty soon, you'll have a nice little township developing. The way the map is laid out, you'll have a selection of tents then a ring of small huts then a ring of larger ones - provided, of course, you've managed to flatten out enough land.

There's part of me that misses the transient, fragile nature of the dwellings in Populous. They were always tailoring themselves to the surrounding landscape, meaning they were at risk every second from either a vengeful God, hell-bent on destruction or an errant one, over-zealously raising a new plot of land from the ocean and going just a shade too far. In Godus, once a house is built, it seems to stay built. At least it doesn't get destroyed if you modify the surrounding landscape - you have to wait until later to get effects that can blow stuff up. This means that the heart of my developing metropolis consists of ragged tents.

On the other hand, it does give the game a Settlers of the Stone Age, migratory feel to it. You can see where your tribe started and how it developed as a snapshot in time.

Gameplay Features


Each dwelling produces Belief, which is the resource used to do just about everything - landscape modification, Leashing, effects, etc. After the appropriate wait loop, a blob of Belief will appear above each house and you can tap on it to collect it. Or you can tap and hold on the first one, then drag your finger over each and every one of your houses, scooping up the pink stuff and playing out a tune. It's very compelling.

The tech tree annoyingly uses a card-based system. I say annoyingly - it's a fine system. It's just it's also thematically similar to what we've got in Super Glyph Quest... Well, to a point. Both use cards. Godus goes one step further. It's all very well to reach the point at which they give you an upgrade card but then you have to activate it. This entails sticking little resource stickers on it. Stick enough of the correct type of sticker on the card and it turns on, giving you all of its benefits. It's an interesting system, especially when you start picking up stickers with multiple resource types and values. Stickers are acquired by digging up those damn crates or sending your dudes out on a Voyage.

Voyages are like little quest arcs that see you solving a series of puzzle-based levels. It took a bit of getting in to, but these things are quite fun. It's like the Challenge levels in Populous II or, well, From Dust in micro. There's also a nice risk element there where you choose how many of your people to chance on each island. More people increases the chance of you getting the minimum number required to the target but any you lose won't be available for subsequent islands on this Voyage.

Another way of getting precious Stickers is to bite the bullet and spooge a bit of premium currency on the gacha and buy a Sticker Pack. In the name of science, I gave that a go. Half of my currency later and I've got a handful of bonus Stickers which is just enough to... not actually activate any of the cards I have. I've said before that I don't mind gachas at all. I like card packs or monster eggs or things like that. But it feels like the balancing on this is a bit out of whack. That felt like an awful lot of currency for not very much in return. 'T' issue takes another hit.

Sprogging*** people and watching them go about their business is fun enough and, despite the 'car park construction simulator' aspect of reducing the lovely terrain to a flat eyesore, makes for a cool-looking town. Especially when you get to the Settlements part where you can schmoosh together a bunch of buildings to form a single building that holds all of the same people but with a smaller footprint. These things look very cool indeed and open up farming for wheat...

So much Belief to collect.
...which is where the game grinds to a halt. New buildings now require wheat to build and wheat is very much attached to a wait loop. 6 hours or so. It's not as if this is just for new and exciting, higher tech buildings or anything. It's everything. Those tents you started with. The little huts. Everything. The rules have changed. It's like having the rug pulled out from under your feet****. Now you're thinking "What else are they going to change? Is all that stuff I've learned a complete waste of time?". 'T' issue.

Interface


You can instruct your people to go places by Leashing. Effectively you drag a path to where you want them to go, instantly making this an RTS and not a God Game. Leashing costs Belief. Lots of Belief, so it's not really something you want to play with, which, I guess, moves us back in to God Game territory?

Then there's the landscape modification itself. I was always a bit concerned about the smearing thing as I've yet to see that done well, but a touchscreen should be a wonderfully tactile way of doing it and probably represents the best chance of pulling it off. Also, the stepped landscape should really play in to this - giving you precise boundaries and avoiding the vagaries of analogue slopes.

But it doesn't.

The controls are so incredibly fuzzy it's ridiculously tricky to get the game to do what you want it to. At the very least, 1 in 10 swipes will lead to something unintentional happening. Given that these miss-swipes can easily drain your vital Belief, this borders on the criminal. It's the 'T' issue - and it's happening in the interface itself! There's almost zero feedback to inform you that whatever you're doing is draining this Belief too***** meaning you can find yourself entirely hamstrung.

This is the last thing I was expecting. I was really expecting to enjoy the minute-to-minute stuff whenever the F2P trappings would let me. Instead, I found myself in the curious position of finding the F2P stuff pretty inoffensive - even the gacha, as I think that's just the perils of early adopting a system that may well yet to be fine tuned. Well, up until the wheat thing at least, but that was a good few hours in to the game.

Ownership


The final element of the game comes back to the F2P styling of it. That is, this is supposed to feel like my tribe. My kingdom. My towns. I dictate where they go and how they look. But it doesn't feel like that at all. I know that I'm only given stuff when the game says I should be and everyone else gets it at the same time. All of our empires end up looking the same and I don't actually have any authorship over the game at all. It doesn't really matter what I do. I can't get 'good' at the game. To do so would move me outside the various formulae and spreadsheets that are carefully managed to funnel me through the 'experience'. They rely on me doing the same thing as everyone else at the same time as everyone else. It's so constrained.

Sure, there's some wriggle room - especially when you have more cards than the Stickers required to activate them - but it's nothing like a game like Civ, for example, where two people can have two very different games and approaches.

The 'T' Issue


It's Trust.

I don't Trust DeNA (or almost any F2P publisher) to produce a decent, original game and not just be in it for the money. Yes, it's a business, but it's also a craft. I've yet to see a single design decision based on increasing revenue actually improve the gameplay and I know that DeNA's view on making a game better simply equates to making more money. I want to give you money, but I want a decent game in return.

I don't Trust the game's rules. When something so fundamental as the rules for building your settlements can change in an instant, you really don't know where you stand. What's next? Buildings explode if you don't collect their Belief? Every second Tuesday, all of your people whose name begins with 'F' spontaneously combust? Who knows!

I don't Trust myself. I've got an idea in my head about what it is I want to do on the micro level. I want to flatten this bit of land so that guy can build a nice house. Brilliant plan. So all I need to do is drag that bit of land over there and we're good. So that requires a swipe. Like... no. Not like that. That's squished a tree. No, not like that either. That's moved a guy across the map and wiped out half of my resources. Nope, that's raised the land instead and formed an impassable barrier. I need to flatten that out again. Oh, but it keeps springing back because... ah yes. I've used up all my Belief in doing all of these incorrect things. I don't like not being able to trust my fingers to do the job at hand, even though it really doesn't feel like it's their fault at all. It really is like a lottery, and that's not what you want from an interface at all******.

Overall


Godus is a very frustrating experience.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in there but they all seem to fight against each other and it's like their interactions have not been properly thought out. The interface seems to actively fight against you and the paywall comes down with such a resounding thud that it actively changes the way the game plays.

I hear the PC version is a completely different beast but the iOS one is sketchy at best. Maybe I'll give that a try as I really want it to be a good game.

* Largely involving old Bullfrog IP, I've noticed.
** The ability to have more than one person on a landscape tile, for example.
*** An old, in-house term for turfing people out of houses. In Populous you had to engineer less land for the house, shrinking the house so that it was too full and had to boot out a person. In Populous II this was streamlined in to just clicking on the house itself.
**** Or removing the Creature...
***** The virtual stuff - the actual stuff you can feel leaving you in waves.
****** Unless your interface is for a lottery.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 08

In which we re-visit early ideas, meet up with some old friends and generally get excited about the future.

The Story


Who needs wallpaper?
We've finally sorted the story out. Well, okay, the main story arc has been finalised - we're still adding side quests and fleshing other bits out. Having the whole thing mapped out really helps though. In theory, we could set up the entire game now - the only thing missing are the actual quests themselves as the vast majority are place-holder things in which the player kills a test rat.

I've never been a big fan of speccing everything out beforehand. I like a spot of emergence or evolution to the production process. That said, we needed the main bit of narrative to be sorted out before we could make a move on the rest of it.

Upgrades


Speaking of evolution, remember that upgrade system that I talked about before? We've binned it off.

Not upgrades themselves, but the way we had it laid out. Thing is, there were an awful lot of upgrades you had access to at any one time and the screen looked incredibly daunting - especially for mobile and the kind of entitled gamer you get these days. Hell, just the idea of having to write a tutorial for it was enough to put us off the idea.

I still like the upgrade thing and it's never easy to get rid of something that you've already implemented, but these things have to be done. There's a phrase that gets used to describe it - 'killing your own babies'. Horrific, eh? But it's a vital skill for any designer. By all means, fight your corner and push for the vision, but you shouldn't be afraid to admit that it might be wrong and there would be a better way of doing it. There's a time and a place for it, which is ideally towards the beginning of the project, but there's no way we could ship this with that in place.

After some more judicious Post It notes, Leanne and I have come up with a slightly different system. Okay, the system itself remains largely untouched, but the player's interface to it will be changed dramatically.

Instead of having access to the entire tech tree, the player will instead be presented with three random 'cards' each representing a different upgrade whenever he levels up. The cards will be face up and the player can pick one to upgrade. This means that the player is only ever picking from 3 manageable options rather than scrolling around and choosing from anything up to about 15 different things at any one time.

Sure, you lose a bit of fidelity and player authorship, but it also encourages replaying whilst keeping everything flowing a little better. Think of it like the Arena mode in Hearthstone where you build your deck on the fly.

Once we'd come up with that as the basic idea, we spent a bit longer thrashing out the details and trying to pick holes in the design. This seems to involve moving Post It notes around.

To give you an idea of how long these posts tend to hang around before I publish them, I've finished updating the upgrade system. The cards work out very well and they all have a tarot vibe which fits very nicely with the art style. The upgrade screen is a lot cleaner. There's still some stuff to do on the icons themselves - showing you how many times one of them has been upgraded, for example, and maybe a tweak or two to the colours.

We're both a little concerned that it means your character build is in the lap of the random number gods, but that's only because we've peeked behind the curtain and know how it works and what other upgrades are possible at any given point in time. I guess the way to think about it is like a game of Agricola - sometimes Family Growth appears at the start of Stage 2 and other times it appears at the end, which can have a huge effect on the tactics but doesn't make it any less fun.

Spell progress


As with the last game, I have a spreadsheet that shows my progress on each spell in the game. Over the course of the project, I gradually colour it in as the effects are completed.

It is rather depressingly lacking much colour right now.

This somewhat daunting task is obviously made a little more concerning by the fact that it's just so much bigger than last time. In the first game there were 18 regular spells, 6 summons and 12 combos - 38 in total. This time around we have 2 extra elements and another level of regular spells. This makes for 32 regular spells, 8 summons and 24 combos - 64 in total.

The vast majority of the spells are functionally in the game. That is to say they do what it is they're supposed to do but with a generic placeholder effect. Actually, just the effect from the Ignite (Fire, 2 glyph spell). As I finish off each feature, I can devote more time to the effects and fill in the rest of the spreadsheet, but it still looks like an awful lot of work.

Now I'm just bouncing back and forth over whether or not to enable area of effect with basic spells or to save that as a feature of combos. I think we're going to end up going with 5 glyph basic spells providing an area attack.

Early game


One of the criticisms of the original was that it took too long to really get going and you had to be the other side of the paywall to really appreciate it - a paywall that people didn't really understand.

Hopefully we've already addressed these points by:

  • More front loading. You start the game with both 2 and 3 glyph spells. Matching 2 was just never really fun enough. 4 spells follow pretty soon and you should be slinging combos around the point where we would have had the paywall last time.
  • Premium. We feel the shareware model is still the best and fairest play but the extra work in entails coupled with a lack of support for the language means that premium is just simpler. I guess you can imagine that Glyph Quest remains as the 'Lite' version and you can upgrade to Super Glyph Quest if you like that particular taster.
There was talk of pulling a Metroid or Need For Speed where we give you a taster of phenomenal power early on then contriving to reset you back to basics. The problem with that is that a full board of glyphs and access to combos straight off the bat would rather overwhelm quite a few people. Or they'd have to sit through the mother of all tutorials and that's just not fun at all.

The narrative should help out though. The characters all point you in the direction of the next thing you should be tapping on in the meta game before we let you explore the map yourself. It also allows us to introduce features bit by bit - talking to people, fighting monsters, the upgrade system, exploring, shopping, crafting, etc.

Develop and charity


Also on the time table was the Develop conference - where devs from all over the world descend on Brighton for a week of talks, drinks and fish and chips. I've been to Develop many a time but, as yet, have never attended a single talk. Instead, I use it as an opportunity to catch up with old friends that I haven't seen for a very long time.

This year was also an excuse to introduce Willow to a whole bunch of people - primarily Shin from Chorus Worldwide so he can see just what's at stake with this whole venture. She handled the noise of the expo very well indeed. Also, for future reference, the giant bean-bags at the Unreal stand made for excellent breast-feeding stations.
Simon did not last long. Nor did his trousers stay dry.

Another of the features of Develop week is the charity poker event run by Mark Ward and hosted by the G Casino for GamesAid. Last year, I went out just before the final table. This year I did much better and finished in the heads up against Jon Hare. The resulting goodie bag contained all manner of nice things - most of which were duly traded to the local CEX to cover the buy-in. But, since one of the prizes was a copy of Rocksmith, it looks like I'm going to have to fork out for an electric guitar, much to my brother's amusement.

To wrap it all up, Simon Barrett of Four Door Lemon hosts his birthday party at the end of the week. Each year he takes donations for Special Effect - an incredible charity that enables disabled people to play games using some pretty innovative solutions. This year, Leanne and I stayed off the sauce and just chatted to people.

I think there's a rule somewhere that states whenever 3 or more ex-Bullfroggers get together, they must sit down and talk at length about The Good Old Days. For anyone else within earshot, this must be an incredibly boring experience. In fact, one of the things to come out of Develop this year was the feeling that we really must organise a proper reunion soon. Time to hit up Les and see if The Parrot is available...

All in all, we came out of Develop week absolutely buzzing. We're* very stoked about the next project yet terrified of the work yet to do on this one and the current state of our bank balance.

*I'm very stoked about the next project. I'm still working on Leanne.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 07

In which productivity takes a hit thanks to Pikmin 3* and the World Cup**.

Money

As well as being on my mind, it's also almost always too tight to mention. For the last few weeks, I've been steadfastly not looking at my bank account. My head was firmly in the sand and I didn't want to see how long we had left. The other day, I finally plucked up the courage to take a peek an it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Still pretty tight, but we've got a couple of months I reckon.

That is, of course, unless the Asian version goes crazy and makes us a stack of cash, in which case we can take our sweet time over this.

The Asian version ditches our 'shareware' model and goes for something a bit more F2P-ish. Also, in game ads which you can disable by purchasing one of the gold bundles. With that in mind, it's very interesting keeping an eye on Apple's current thoughts about making money on iOS. It feels like they're finally fed up with the swathes of cheap, knock-off, exploitative F2P crap that's out there and beginning a push back towards premium.

Okay, that paints a somewhat saintly slant on the situation. One of the main features that is now coming under scrutiny is the incentivised advert. That's something that the player can elect to watch in exchange for currency. As far as F2P goes, I quite like those things. The fact that they're entirely opt-in rather than rammed down your throat is pretty cool. In fact, I've taken advantage of that feature in games like Pocket Mine on a number of occasions. Apple would much rather that people bought in to the iAd system, as that's the one they make money from.

A lot of this is done under the guise of not confusing or unduly influencing the App Store - buying favourable reviews or otherwise trying to prevent people posting negative ones. An admirable intention, I'm sure you'll agree.

The thing that I like about this whole thing though is that even some of the heavy hitters might well have to re-think their approach and there may well be some space opening up at the top of the charts for something else to break through. Wouldn't that be exciting?

Project Management


There's a space above the fireplace in our living room that would normally be filled with a mirror or a picture or something. Whilst both of those would be nice, we're thinking more along the lines of getting a whiteboard instead. We would use it for task lists and stuff. In the meantime, we've also gone a bit old school.

Post It Notes.

With these Post It notes, we can take over the world!
We've begun laying out the story and game progression in Post It Note form. Each note corresponds to either a location, character, quest or conversation and is linked by a series of arrows that shows us the various dependancies. Normally, I'd use either a spreadsheet (but that's not so good for tech trees) or Visio (but I don't have a PC anymore) but this time it's back to Post Its. I had a brief look in town to see if I could find a nice big piece of foam board or mounting card or something, but to no avail. Then I remembered that I hadn't taken the box that the baby's crib came in to the dump, so I've cut the top off that and it's now our project board.

Now many evenings are spent poring over the board, occasionally re-positioning a Post It because we've had a better idea of where it should appear in the sequence or because it has just fallen on the floor.

Willow seems to like the bright colours too.

Update:

The cardboard sucks. The Post Its keep falling off. I think we're going to resort to the wall*** instead.

Quest Arcs


There's a main storyline running through the game, but there are also plenty of little side quests for the player to explore. With all of the various dependancies, it's quite easy for the distinction between Main and Side getting blurred on occasion. The board can occasionally resemble some kind of crazy maze with little arrows going everywhere to indicate things that get unlocked in a particular order. I can envisage a major re-organisation pretty soon.

But those things are fun anyway, so I'm not particularly bothered about that.

I might be getting a little bothered about the amount of story we're going to need to write for the game. Each encounter in the game can have a conversation and quest associated with it. The quests themselves can also have two conversations - one at the start and one at the end. As you'd imagine, this little lot adds up pretty quickly. Of course, it's not the case that every encounter needs all of the things, but we've certainly got a whole heap more text than we had for the first game.

There's a bit of a concern that we're drifting away from the drop-in and play, mechanic-driven gameplay of the first and getting a bit bogged down with content. But the gameplay remains the same as it was - plus tweaks to fix the issues that cropped up in the first one - so it should still be great fun. This time though you might care a bit more about the world in which everything is taking place. Get a bit more invested. That sort of thing.

In Other News

"Which began Glyph Quest - The Wizard"**** gets its Asian release this Thursday. We are all very excited by this.

* Which I have now finished, but subsequently found the leaderboards and score attack modes.
** Which has made me dislike Suarez even more.
*** You know nothing Jon Snow.
**** Google translate is a wonderful thing.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 06


The days are beginning to blur. It's all starting to get a bit crunch-y. But that also means it's all beginning to come together, feature-wise.

Glyph Types

From left to right: Light, Air, Water, Metal, Dark, Earth, Fire, Primal
Leanne did us a lovely suite of the new Glyph Icons. The old elements are still there and the new ones are called Metal and Primal. For Metal, think things like blades and for Primal, think spirit animals. Kinda mini summons really.

Aesthetically, I really like them. They're a bit of a blend between our original set and the ones Chorus did for the Japanese version. We'll probably still tweak the colour balance throughout testing as we do find people trying to blend things like Air and Earth still.

Phat Lewt


Loot glyphs are back in. They work just the same as before - you have a chance of them appearing and, when you collect them, they'll either be a nifty item or cold, hard cash. This time though, we're keeping tabs on them a bit better and capping the maximum number that can appear on the board. This number is something you can increase by Upgrading your Luck stat.

Upgrades


Oh yes, Upgrades are in. Remember that whole levelling up thing I was talking about before? Well, it has finally gone from sitting in it's own little scene in to the main game itself. You can access it from your room in the Inn. So the way character progression now works is this:
  1. Kill monsters.
  2. Get XP.
  3. Level up at prescribed XP thresholds.
  4. Gain upgrade tokens for each level you gain.
  5. Spend upgrade tokens on upgrades.
  6. Kill monsters, but more effectively this time.
The Upgrade Screen itself is functional, but requires some serious art love. The layout could use a tweak or two as well to better make use of the themes. We've broadly split Upgrades in to three different themes - Offence, Defence and Utility*. 


Offence


Offence is where you'll find things that help you do more damage - from upping base damage on a per-element basis to increasing the chance of a critical hit or the amount of damage you do from a chain. You can even throw in extra glyphs to add a bit of Aftertouch.

Defence


Defence is where you'll find things that help you stay alive for longer - normally reducing damage you take or increasing your base health. It can also help you resist harmful status effects, so things like those Goblin Shaman may start to lose their sting.

Utility


This is where all those other neat features that can't fit into straight up attack or defend fit in. These are all to do with things like the aforementioned Luck or gaining XP at a faster rate. There's also one that increases the material drop rate of monsters. "Materials?" I hear you say? Why yes. Materials.

Crafting


Oh ho! Crafting. Okay, so I haven't written this bit yet, but the idea is that you can harvest all sorts of icky items from dead creatures and turn them in to really useful bits of kit. New robes or weapons and the like.

There's a part of me that's a little concerned by the Crafting bit - if nothing else, it's just more work. It should add a bit of longevity to the game as players might want to grind to gather material for cool pieces of kit. That doesn't mean to say that we need Crafting per-see - ultimately, it's topologically similar to just awarding kit for killing enough creatures, so that's our fall-back position if it ends up too much work.

It's always a good idea to have the odd contingency plan or two. In fact, we'll often spec out two or three ways of implementing something and list them in order of difficulty. If we can't do it the first way for whatever reason**, we'll look at doing it the next way and so on.

Henchmen

Young Parker dropped by last week on a bike ride. He started talking about servers and accounts and all sorts. I nodded and smiled. This is still Plan A - piggybacking Game Centre and it's user IDs and friend lists and stuff. Need to look up the Google equivalent. We're probably going to stop short of cross-platform stuff - that is to say that iOS people will only be able to summon other iOS people and likewise for Android - otherwise we'll have to set up our own user accounts system and that's just a complete pain in the backside waiting to happen.

As a precursor to this (slightly terrifying) prospect of taking your friends' characters on quests with you, I had to hook up henchmen to the customisation stuff. It's still not finished but now you can swap yourself out for a randomly generated test mage. Next, I need to hook up the gameplay stuff so that these henchmen can have stats based on their Gear and Upgrades.

Plan B probably means we don't do the online stuff. Instead, we'll have a local repository of generated characters for you to pick from. In fact, we'll need Plan B anyway for such times as you can't connect to the ol' interwebs.

Either way, I still need to write some kind of 'recruitment' screen, where you select which character you want to take on a quest with you.

Narrative and References

In keeping with the higher narrative content of this game, we've got some really interesting things in the pipeline. Collaborations. In jokes. References. That sort of thing. I don't want to ruin any surprises (or, indeed, jump the gun) so I'll probably stop talking about that stuff now.

...

Actually, that's something to mention. Nothing dates a work quicker than throwing in a pop-culture reference or two. Pop-culture moves very fast and memes get left behind even faster***. It's generally a good idea to avoid references like that. But we don't mind. This isn't games-as-a-service. We don't expect you to be playing Super Glyph Quest in a year's time. What we'd like you to do is play it now and have fun doing so. We don't have the resources for Big or Polished so we have to go for Funny. The easiest Funny to pull off appears to be pop-culture references and in jokes. So we're loading up on them.

Along those lines, Leanne found a weird thing on Reddit**** the other day. There was a thread somewhere that accused Glyph Quest of being a rip off of Dark Souls because of the Summoning Stone item. I'm not sure the guys got far enough to summon the Sun Knight*****. Thank you internet. There are many, many references to many, many things in the first one and it's only going to get better in the next.

Well, better for us. Worse for Shin who's going to have a hell of a job translating all of those references to ensure they're still funny on the other side of the world. At least this time the text is all in a single file and not embedded in the deepest, darkest recesses of the code.

Little Things

I noticed an interesting button in Unity the other day. It lets me toggle between different aspect ratios for iDevices. Man, that would have been a good thing to know about when we were struggling with image sizing for the original game.

It's much nicer writing things the second time around. You have a much better chance of getting rid of the annoying bits. Now scrolling through things like the shop screen won't select items whenever you let go.

Burn, familiar goblin chap
Macs are pretty cool for things like screen grabs or video capture. I wanted to send a short video to Shin, showing him the Sunstrike effect and it was a work of seconds to capture a video of the relevant part of the screen. In fact, how about a screenshot of the game as it currently stands?

Willow now fits in her Creeper baby grow. It's still a bit big, but hey. Next up: the "Little Short For A Stormtrooper" one.

We have a lot of cake in the house. This is probably a Bad Thing.

* LoL and WoW have a lot to answer for...
** Normally a lack of resources.
*** Except for things involving cats. It would appear the internet has a long way to go before we get fed up with them.
**** Hardly news, I know.
***** \o/ Praise the Sun! \o/

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Super Glyph Quest Dev Diary 05


After an interesting trip up to Birmingham to introduce Willow to her great-grandparents and her great-great(!)-grandmother, it's back to sunny Worthing and work.

Character Customisation



This style requires a pillow
This style requires a lot of effort
After going back and forth on this for a while, I think I've decided to get over myself and just implement the damn thing. You buy clothes. You wear them. They can affect your stats. Simples. There might be clothes that you like the look of but are not very efficient against the types of monsters you're going to meet on your current quest, but hey.

I've written a compound sprite system to allow us to layer in the various clothing options. Not just clothing either - it will also be used for things like hairstyles and weapons. It sounds like a simple thing but, as is so often the way, starts getting a bit more complex when you think about it a little more. The main issue is making sure everything looks right and things overlap other things in the correct way. That means that robes should be drawn in front of the character's body...

... apart from the robes that you might want flowing out behind or if you needed to do the back end of a cowl or big collar. So robes are split in to two bits - front and back. The player will only ever choose a single item and everything else happens under the hood. The same is true for hair - there are times when we want it drawn in front of the robes and bits of it that might need to be drawn behind.

Japanese Feedback


Whilst the boys at Chorus Worldwide were doing the conversion, they tweaked a few things and added the odd feature or two. Some of these bits and bobs are going to find their way into Super Glyph Quest. Their version of the characters feature a couple of frames in addition to the standard pose - one for when the player attacks and another for when they take damage. It all adds to the feedback presented to the player.

It does somewhat increase the art demands on Leanne as we now have to have multiple versions of each item of Gear to cope with each pose, but it's totally worth it. Actually, we're skimping a bit by some judicious code that tilts the idle sprite when it gets hit, meaning that all we'll need to do is adjust the underlying body sprite and make them blink or wince or something.

Hang on! Where's the baby? NOBODY MOVE!
There's also an attack frame and the character leaps forward a bit. It's a lot more dynamic and even though it's a pretty simple thing, really adds to the feel of the game. Again, a simple task if one that has extra layers of complexity the further you dig in to it. Different sprite for robes? Check. Wait - two different sprites for robes given that robes themselves consist of a front and back sprite? Check. Different sprite for weapon to make it look like the character is actually pointing it? Check. Wait - different position for the weapon sprite because the character's hand has moved as part of the robe 'animation'? Okay, now male and female versions for each...

Sticking with the art, the new character designs are also taking a leaf out of the Japanese version's book. That is to say they're a weeny bit more brightly coloured than they were. In all of this, it was very exciting seeing Leanne back in front of her computer.

Work Hours


There are two* things guaranteed to mess up working from home. Daytime TV and a baby. We have both. Cake Boss is a problem. It makes us want cake**. All day. I've also got a soft spot for Fast and Loud. Pointless isn't a problem though - we have that on series link.

The rest of the time is spent looking after*** Willow.

Whilst I can normally get on with some stuff during the day, it's only after she's gone to bed and we've had dinner that we can really get down to business. We tend to get quite productive but unfortunately, it's usually around 2am.

I can see why new parents - dads in particular - might be eager to return to the office, but I can't stress enough how privileged I feel to have been here these past 4 months. Willow has changed so much in that time and, if I were back in the peace and quiet of an office, I'd have missed it all. Sure, it's not easy - we're getting it done though. We're shooting for a submission in two months as that's when the money runs out. Well, assuming, of course, that the Japanese version doesn't go all Angry Birds on us in the meantime.

Items & Shopping


The Items are back in****. You can buy them from the shop and use them in combat. They use the ever-so versatile Attack system, although for the more specialised items there's going to have to be a layer of special case stuff added. I'll probably end up adding it to the Status Effect stuff and just giving it a single turn's duration.

Remember what I was saying last time about having possibly unsuitable-for-mobile game systems in there? Well, we're thinking about that again with the shops. It would be quite simple for us to hook up multiple shops that sold different items. It makes narrative sense - here's the Hat of Cold Resistance, weaved in the frozen north and only available from the Viking Village shop, for example. Or the exotic Robe of the Sands that can only be bought from a faraway land to the south.

In other games, this would be fine. It would also encourage exploration and travel (such as the game allows) to find these places. But in a mobile game for this increasingly lazy bunch of modern gamers, I reckon most developers would tell you it was madness to fragment your storefront in such a way. Of course, that might only apply to those selling you items for actual money, but I'd hope it was okay for in-game items.

Elementary


Given that we've got two extra elements this time around, the board can get a bit crowded. This means it can be trickier to make longer Chains although that definitely becomes easier when you unlock Combo spells and utilise the features of the new spell parser.

Still, it got me thinking that maybe we'd got a bit carried away with the extra elements and they'd be more trouble than they were worth, so after I'd hooked up the Attunement***** bit, I wrote an elemental bias thing. It works alongside the Attunement to weight the randomness of the glyphs getting swapped in whenever a spell is cast. Elements used in a previous spell are given higher priorities and so are more likely to appear, therefore giving the player a better chance of maintaining a Chain. It still retains the 'at least one swapped glyph will match a neighbour' feature of the original, but the others will be decided according to this weighting.

The risk here is that the weighting is so high it's possible for the player to fill the entire board with a single element or that it's so low that it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. Thankfully, this is just a couple of numbers in the balancing file but we're still going to have to keep a close eye on it.

Leanne remains sceptical. Willow doesn't have an opinion on it one way or the other.

* Three, if you're single or the missus works elsewhere.
** A problem I have solved thanks to a judicious trip to the local cake shop.
*** Read: staring at until she goes to bed. Actually, after she's done that there's still plenty of good staring time to be had. So cute!
**** Well, the system is in place. Now it sits there, screaming for content, like so much of the rest of the project.
***** A player can adjust his Attunement to a particular element, making that element more likely to appear as well as being more effective (damaging) when it's used. This can happen either though levelling up or wearing the right Gear.