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.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Thank You

There's a hashtag on Twitter - #ThankACreator. The idea is that you use it to call out someone who is responsible for making something that had an impact on you or your career. What with other items currently doing the rounds in the games press, now seems like as good a time as any to turn my hand to something along those lines.

So here I present to you a few people that I would like to publicly thank for what they have done.

Peter Molyneux


That's a canal boat. We pushed him in. It was hilarious.
I'll start with a real doozy. Almost a quarter of a century ago, this man gave me my break in the industry. With him, I worked on some truly amazing projects and learned a hell of a lot about how to design a game*. Was he the easiest person to work with? No. One of the most creative? Charismatic? Passionate? Exciting? Yes.

During my tenure, the biggest compliment he gave me was that he trusted me to talk to the press in his stead and demo games to other people. Consider this - the only other person he trusted to do that was Cathy Campos and we all know what happened as soon as she wasn't around to be his guide.

The current situation with the press is really messed up. A lot has been said - things like how he lied to so many people and is clearly a bad person. It should be understood that the man doesn't possess a malicious bone in his body.

Peter's single biggest problem is that he never says 'No'.

If someone asks if a game contains a feature that they would like, he doesn't want to disappoint them. So he says 'yes'. He can also have those "Wouldn't it be cool if..." conversations in his own head on the spot. This means that, sometimes, he'll just be getting excited about a potential new feature on the fly and his brain doesn't filter out that information before it gets to his mouth. Also, if someone attributes a particular design or mechanic to him, he doesn't correct them. Note that he doesn't go out of his way to claim responsibility for it, but he doesn't say 'no' and explain who actually came up with it.

It's never said with malice. The intent is never to deceive. He believes what he says when he says it. Like so many creatives, he occasionally lacks the resources to come true on his intentions and can be easily sidetracked by the next new idea. But it's never malice.

So yeah. Thank you Peter for giving me a chance and keep your head down until this all blows over.

Markus Persson


The man known simply as Notch, father of Minecraft and owner of a ridiculous LA home. You, sir, gain my thanks - not just for the many, many hours I sank into that game of yours, but for the way that, in spite of huge levels of both attention and money, you never let your ego get in the way.

If ever there was an example of how to pay it forward, I'd argue that Notch is right there. Made a stink load of money? Why don't I re-invest it in people trying to do the same thing that I did? None of this pulling-the-ladder-up-afterwards crap that others try.

Unless it's all an elaborate act for the public, he's never seemed to let it all go to his head. I can imagine he still has trouble believing what it is that happened.

Thank you Markus, for being incredibly level-headed, well-grounded and putting the other egos** to shame. Oh, and for Minecraft - that was pretty cool too.

Hidetaka Miyazaki


No other game in recent times has resonated more completely with me than Dark Souls. There are many facets to it, some of which I covered in an earlier post. Dark Souls conversations only come in too flavours. There are those who say "It's too hard - I don't like it" and then there are those who see beyond the difficulty and fully embrace the wonderfully engineered mechanics, tortuously intertwined level design and incredibly deep lore.

No-one is ever ambivalent about it - it's either not for them or it's the only thing they can think about.

I'm in the latter camp. Which is why I was so disappointed in Dark Souls II - a hard act to follow, but it wasn't a patch on the original. The reason? Certainly Miyazaki leaving midway through development to work on Bloodborne didn't help, but it felt like DSII made too many concessions and watered down the formula that made the first one such a success.

I know await Bloodborne with renewed fervour and can only hope that it doesn't let me down.

Either way, Thank you Miyazaki-san for bringing me back to console gaming and giving me plenty of material to talk about at conferences.

David Braben


When I was at school, all everyone could talk about was Elite. There were endless discussions about particularly lucrative trade routes, engineering failed jumps that landed you in Witch Space, which version was superior and, of course, what everyone's rating was.

I can also remember the guy in Esdevium Games over in Aldershot asking me what my ultimate game would be. I simply said Elite with multiplayer.

By all accounts, that's what Elite Dangerous is. I have a copy. A digital copy. It sits there, waiting for me to download it and play...

...but I have no PC - I'm now a fully paid up Mac owner. The only way I can sate my desire for space exploration, trade and piracy is to live vicariously through the various Let's Play videos on YouTube. Each one tears at me - taunting me with their icing stockings*** - and yet I cannot stop watching.

But still - Thank you David for making this game a reality. And thank you even more for making it in such a blatant fan-service way. Docking's too hard? Docking is supposed to be hard! This is Elite!

Gabrielle Kent


Gabby, chilling with the Aliens, post Develop 2013
"What genre-defining, addictive, life-stealing title has she worked on?" I hear you ask. Or perhaps "Who?"

For the uninformed, Gabby is a lecturer in game design at Teesside University. Actually, she's a bit more than that. She's also the person behind the Animex festival and, as you should all know by now, I do like me a bit of Animex each year.

I have been known to get in a bit of a downer with game design and academia. Mostly this stems from them being woefully out of date and out of touch. It's also the fact that most courses just seem to teach modelling, characters, story and level design with scant regard for mechanics and systems.

Gabby's lot don't do this. They learn proper, applicable gameplay stuff.

Thank you Gabby, for ensuring the next generation of game designers don't just fall into the same trap as an awful lot of the current crop. And a big thank you for putting up with me year on year at Animex****. 

The Old Guard


At the risk of getting all nostalgic and Old Boys Club, I'd also like to make a special mention to a couple of the chaps who were at Bullfrog when I first started.

Gary Carr, already a veteran back then, took me under his wing and explained how the industry worked. Sure, he did this with a can of Special Brew in one hand, but I learned plenty of things and he always had my back if things started getting twitchy.

Over the years of my career, I've probably worked with Glenn Corpes for about twenty of them in a variety of different studios. Peter aside, without Glenn there would be no Populous, Magic Carpet or Dungeon Keeper. Without Glenn there would be no Battle Engine Aquila and Weirdwood would not have even gotten off the ground. In short, without Glenn, my CV starts to look pretty damn empty.

So Thank you Gary and Glenn, for looking after me at the start and not disowning me once I became long in the tooth and a pain to work with.

Richard Reed


During my time at Bullfrog, I was very fortunate to be paired with one Richard Alan Reed. The Big Kahuna. Crusherfred. Our token septic, he was brought to task on a regular basis for everything that went wrong with that curious country. He took it with his usual, laid back, chilled out aplomb. In return, we taught him how to drink like an Englishman.

He was working on a game called Biosphere which he thought would make an excellent Bullfrog game. He was right - it would have. Sadly, it got kinda butchered along the way, but we still managed to release Gene Wars in its wake.

He was a brilliant coder and took it upon himself to try and teach me - not an easy task by any means. Somehow he managed to keep his patience with me even though all I ever seemed to do was break the build. He was a brilliant strategy gamer and was always tinkering with interesting ideas for new games. He was an amazing man who was loved by all who worked with him.

His final, unfinished project was incredible. Innovative and supremely playable - the people at Lost ToysMucky Foot and Lionhead at the time can attest to that.

Sadly, he was taken from us by cancer before he could finish it.



I never got a chance to thank him when he was alive but if, somehow, he is able to read this, I'd just like to say Thank You and I miss you buddy. If I get my way, your legacy will live on and I promise to do it the justice it deserves.

Myself, Shin and Rich - post E3 2005
*And how not to run a project.
** Mine included
*** Which makes no sense unless you happen to have been a Viz reader for one specific issue.
**** I suppose I should also thank Rhianna Pratchett for introducing us in the first place.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Game That You Should Play #5

It's been a while that I've done one of these, so why not kick off with a biggie. Welcome to the farming world of...

Agricola


Complete with terrible box art.
If you do a spot of research, you'll find that this game can regularly be found in the top ten of just about any best board game list. That means it must be pretty good right? Well, yes it is. I'd go so far as to say it's the Shawshank Redemption of board games - something so good that it makes you regret not going for it before because you didn't like the premise.

Which is building a farm.

At least, that's the way I thought. I wasn't particularly interested in a game about building a farm. It just doesn't sound nearly as exciting as taking over the world or battling mythological beasts.

How wrong I was.

Structure


When you look at a fresh Agricola board for the first time, it's a very daunting experience. There are so many cards and game spaces that it's very easy to be overwhelmed. Minute to minute, it's actually very simple though as the number of options you have for each turn is strictly controlled.

That's a lot of stuff to take in at the start.
Each player starts out with an empty farm board and two family members. Their rather modest Wooden House occupies two spaces of farm and a family member goes in each of those spaces.

As well as those individual boards there are 4 community boards that everyone will get to use over the course of the game. One of these houses 10 Major Improvements that players will be able to build for their farms. Things like Fireplaces, Cooking Hearths or Ovens. As becomes quite a theme for the game, these Major Improvements are available strictly on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning that, if you want one of the Ovens, you'd better get a swivel on.

The remaining 3 boards house the various Action spaces used to play the game. Each one of these spaces describes a particular Action that each Family Member will be able to use each Round. Most of these Action Spaces are present through the entire game and contain things like being able to Plough A Field or gather common resources.

In addition to these are various Stages - actions that may only be performed from a particular time in the game onwards. These actions are randomly determined within each Stage, meaning that, for example, you might be able to build Fences in Round 1 in one game yet be unable to do so until Round 4 in another. This random factor keeps everyone on their toes - especially when you consider that players aren't allowed to perform an Action if someone else has already chosen it that Round. Games will often turn on the tactical selection of the First Player space - ensuring that you get first pick of the board from the next turn onwards.

There are a grand total of 14 Rounds that constitute a game of Agricola. These are distributed amongst 6 Stages. Once the final Stage has been played, the game is over and scores are totted up to determine the winner. Interestingly, the early Stages have more Rounds in them than the later ones. This is crucial because, at the end of each Stage is the Harvest.

Don't Starve


The Harvest can be a daunting experience. Sure, you get to do cool stuff like harvest the fields for resources and get your farm animals to breed, but you also have to ensure that you have enough food to feed your family.

This is easily one of the most important elements of the game - ensuring that your family doesn't starve. Whilst it doesn't affect the playing of each Round, for every unit of food you are shy of the amount you need, a whopping -3 points is scored. This can and will cripple you come the end of the game.

Expanding The Farm


Building more Rooms expands your house. This allows you to expand your family.

Larger families require more food. This is somewhat offset by the fact that each Family Member gets to perform one Action per Round, meaning that the larger families will get to do more things on the board - something that usually enables them to gather up the required resources to keep everything ticking along nicely. Larger families also score lots of points at the end of the game.

You can also build Fences to enclose areas of pasture and allow you to keep and breed one of the three animal types in the game - Sheep, Wild Boar and Cattle. Each of these is beautifully represented by small wooden "animeeples".

Building up your farm is critical as leaving empty board spaces at the end of the game results in negative points. In fact, being short of things at the end of the game also results in negative points. It's therefore a good idea to have a good spread of things in your farm to at least outweigh the negatives.

Renovating your house so that it's made out of either Clay or Stone is also a good idea as these buildings score higher. Of course it means that you'll have to chase after different resources if you still need to increase the number of rooms it has.

Growing Food


Ploughing fields allows more Grain or, later on, Vegetables to be planted. Whilst growing resources in this fashion takes a little to get set up, it can prove vital in the long run. Each Grain sowed, for example, will return threefold. But this only occurs during each Harvest and it will take a full three Harvests to deplete a field and make it ready for sowing again.

Grain can also be turned in to Bread, which is easily one of the most efficient methods of feeding your family. Sadly, many things have to fall into place to enable you to do this. Firstly. you need an Oven*. Then you need some Grain. Then you need to get to the Sow And Bake Bread Action space on the board before someone else does. Then and only then will you have some delicious Bread.

You can also cook animals for food - provided you have something to cook them on of course. Larger animals and more effective cooking Improvements increase the amount of food you get. This method is also useful as it can be done at any time.

There are also dedicated Action spaces on the board which provide you with food - either by something like Fishing or performing with the Travelling Players. If you're having to rely on these spaces for your food, I put it to you that your farm just isn't doing very well.

Improvements And Occupations


Acting as rule tweaks and modifiers, we have the Improvements and Occupation cards. Each player gets dealt a handful of these at the start and, through the relevant Action, they can be brought into play over the course of the game.

A nice touch is the fact that they are arranged into 3 different deck types. To start with we have the Basic Deck which, as the name implies, is perfect for beginners and holds the simpler cards. Note 'simpler' not 'weaker' - they're just easier to understand and exploit.

Next we have the Interactive Deck which focusses on cards that only do things when other people do certain things. For example, cards which enable you to call dibs on certain resources when other players gain them.**

Finally we have the Complex Deck which is... er... a bit more Complex. Nothing to worry about though. You can, of course, just mix all of them up together and have at it should you so choose.

Why You Should Play


There are a host of really neat mechanics at work here. Each Round you will be asked to make weighty decisions. 

Normally this centres around gaining particular Resources which build up over time. Not picking them up this Round could result in you being able to pick up even more with the same, single Action next Round. Of course that means that someone else may well swoop in and take the bounty before you, but hey - classic Risk vs Reward. Sometimes a stack will reach such a high value that people will go out of their way to take it - even at the expense of forgoing whatever strategy they were originally intending.

Then there's the fact that someone else might nab that vital Action space that you need to complete your grand plan. Is it worth using a family member to grab that First Player Action to ensure you get first dibs at the board next time? Possibly.

Many Action spaces also contain more than one thing on them. For example, the first space that allows you to Sow a field also enables you to Bake Bread immediately afterwards. Quite a few Action spaces allow you to play a Minor Improvement as well. Efficiently using your family members in this way feels like it's key to getting the most out of your turns.

Whilst there's normally no explicit conflict between players, there is certainly an element of this as denying them the use of Actions you know they want is most entertaining. Of course, care must be taken not to take this too far as this tends to just mess up your strategy as well.

Mobile Version


It's practically the backdrop to Leanne's phone.
I feel I must also point you in the direction of the tablet version of the game. It is an excellent conversion with everything you need for a game as well as a really neat addition in Solo Series.

Solo Series lets you play a solo game and challenges you to make a points total by the end. Then you can restart the game but retain one of your played Occupations who automatically appears from the start of the next game, making things considerably easier. Well, easier except for the fact that the points total you need to reach increases too.

It's an interesting take on the game and one that requires a completely different strategy to the regular game. Resources can be safely left well alone until they've built up to the required level, for example.

Perfect Game


When you start really getting into the game, you can even strive for the Perfect Game. This utilises the tabletop version in a Solo Series game where you set the board and decks up how you want. You can start with the seven Occupations you want as if you'd already played the previous Solo Series games. You can engineer your Minor Improvements hand how you want as well as lay out the Stage cards in your preferred order.

Then you run through the game in an effort to maximise your score.

Leanne's current high score is 184 using this method***. To put that in perspective, a regular game with friends will probably see scores in the 30-45 range.

Conclusion


It's an excellent game. Daunting at first, certainly. In fact, in my experience, people tend to be able to work out what's going on by about Stage 4... which is pretty close to the end of the game.

It's playable in so many different ways too. You can try to get a bit of everything or min-max particular elements. My step-mother plays it in such a way that means she never kills any animals on her farm. All of these different tactics mean I often find myself flip-flopping between them and never really getting anywhere.

Which is only one of the reasons why Leanne resolutely kicks my arse at this game every time.

* It's worth noting that there are only 2 Ovens in the game. If you're playing with 3 or more players, one of you is out of luck...
** We refer to these as the [resourceName] Bastard cards. They do not make you popular.
*** She has also memorised every card in the deck. She may have a problem.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Living In The Past

Leanne is getting worked up about a Kotaku article. Normally I just let her rant for a bit, but this got me thinking and, in the spirit of lovely Top Ten lists, I present to you my...

Top 10 Playstation Era Games I'd Like To See Remade With Modern Tech.

The astute amongst you will also note that this also ties in with the noble PS1's 20th birthday. It's nice when things work out like that.

Rules:
  • Can feature on any console platform available during the PS1's time.
  • Doesn't matter if they were already remade - perhaps they could be done even better now.
So, in no particular order...

Carnage Heart, PS1

Build and program robots, then let them fight each other in an arena. Talk about niche... It subsequently found a home on Sony's various handhelds in Japan but never really caught on anywhere else. I'd love to see one with a very comprehensive damage model - robots limping around, still trying to unleash death. Or taking hits to the core and having its program corrupted in a Core War style. Maybe even introducing EMP-style weapons to do just that.

Jumping Flash, PS1

A platformer... in first person. It shouldn't be possible, but it was. It worked because during the descent of each jump, the camera looked down at Flash's feet so you can see where you were going to land. Now imagine that with VR and try not to throw up.

Blast Corps, N64

Boom! Such destruction! Much carnage! So explode! Super contrived story involving a nuclear missile that had to have a path cleared for it which ultimately ended up with the player flattening everything around it. Somehow this is better than letting it explode even though the end result looks pretty much the same. Never mind - give me this in whatever guise the next Frostbite engine takes.

Guardian Heroes, Saturn

Co-op, side-on brawler. Think Final Fight with swords. So many characters to unlock and level up. Graphics were pretty primitive, even by the Saturn's standards, so I'd love to see something nice and crisp - although still 2D and traditionally animated.

Bushido Blade, PS1

A fighting game with genuine peril. No health bars. One mistake; one slip, and you were dead. Duels were a dance - a deadly ballet of poise and patience, culminating in one furious maelstrom of slashes, lunges, parries and thrusts. Nick an artery and it's all over.  It even had a bonkers first-person mode where you could link two consoles together and fight each other that way. Now imagine this with updated characters and an even more comprehensive damage model. Tear clothes. Lose limbs. I want that feeling I had the first time my brother beheaded me in Barbarian.

Wipeout 2097, PS1

I know it's been done - several times. But that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be a new one, right? I mean if Gran Turismo can keep churning the same thing out, year on year, why can't we have something for futuristic hover-racers? Since everyone's getting all het up about the new Star Wars, let's have some Pod Racing or Speeder Bikes. Oh, and no guns - let's make it all about the racing. I'd love to see a proper modern take on Power Drome*.

...

Can't Count

And that's where I ran out of games. It's not that there aren't enough to chose from - there are plenty that haven't made the list - it's just that the ones that I really enjoyed playing wouldn't really benefit from the latest technology. In fact, many would be actively hampered by it. 

There were plenty of games that we used to play to death in the office. Some examples:

Bomberman, Saturn

4 (or, indeed 10) player carnage. The ultimate party game? Remember what happened when someone thought it would be a good idea to throw some polygons at it?

Micro Machines, PS1


Cheating a little here as by the time the series reached the PS1 it had already fallen foul of an extra D which really didn't help the game at all. Let's be clear - the originals weren't without their problems, but the move to 3D just added more of them.

Any Puzzle Game, PS1, Saturn, SNES

You could include just about any puzzler here - Super Puzzle FighterPuzzle Bobble, Puyo Puyo, Tetris - none of these games would benefit by any fancy tech that wasn't available at the time. Just make the graphics sharper and leave everything else well alone please. Kinda like Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix really. While you're at it, give Rainbow Islands a bash as well.

Nostalgic Wave

It's very easy for me to get a bit misty about games-gone-by. Just writing this post made me think about a simpler, happier time. It's also very easy to snap out of it when you find footage of said games and realise just how primitive they seem.

I might try this again but with a broader base to choose from. That would mean I could include things like Ico or Lotus Turbo Esprit. But then, in theory, we've got The Last Guardian and GTAV covering us there.

Constraints

Games thrive on constraints. When designers are forced to come up with gameplay solutions to cover up technical constraints is when the magic happens. Give them a blank canvas and they tend to get carried away. Or people spend so long focussing on the marvellous technology that they forget to put a game in there at all.

Look at Minecraft. Okay, despite it's pretty simple aesthetic, there is some hard-core tech there, but the point is that it's not a very good game until you start introducing constraints. As soon as you move in to Survival mode, it's the restrictions that make it fun. You can't build this thing until you have the resources. Don't fall off high ledges. You shouldn't go out at night. Sure, things like the Better Than Wolves mod may take it a step too far for some people, but you get the idea.

That's one hell of an engine if it's true.
Now how about Star Citizen? Or even Elite Dangerous. Two titles with substantial budgets that seem to be on the verge of letting the player do anything and everything he wants to in a simulated Entire Galaxy. Star Citizen, in particular, looks like a directionless mess with multiple teams working on completely disjointed feature sets. Then again, with the amount of money at their disposal they might just pull it off. Either that or they'll keep raking it in from the sales of virtual spaceships** and continue to speculatively add features whilst never actually releasing the game so as not to break this vision of ultimate fantasy that everyone has for it.

Of course there are some notable exceptions - GTAV springs immediately to mind with its "let's do anything and everything" approach whilst simulations like Gran Turismo and Forza will always benefit from extra polygons or faster physics calculations - but the general rule is that good gameplay doesn't require technology. Note 'general'. But the key thing that binds all of those titles together is that the underlying gameplay was pretty damn solid before the introduction of the technology.

Or No Man's Sky which looks amazing but is born out of a pretty serious resource restriction*** so has to get around that with some very cunning use of the technology**** they have.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that technology should enable gameplay, not just be an end in and of itself.

* The Amiga one, not the XBox one.
** In many cases, potential virtual spaceships.
*** Small team.
**** Procedural Generation*****.
***** Literally making shit up on the fly.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Talking A Good Game

Update: We have a (slim) chance of making the top 100 games on Indie DB and thereby qualifying for their Game Of The Year award. You can help us get there by clicking this button and voting for us. But only if you actually like the game - wouldn't want to rile any internetrolls with our particular brand of corruption.

Super Glyph Quest

With Super Glyph Quest done, dusted and dead in the water, it's about time I distract myself from our current state of financial meltdown and talk about something fun for a change.

Games Conferences.

When I'm not playing games or making games I can often be found talking about games. Or making games. Next to Willow* it is my favourite subject to talk about.

Sometimes I'm even allowed to talk about games and making games to members of the public at Conferences. Sometimes they even pay me to do so. How cool is that?

So to kick things off, here's an example of one of my talks. It's taken from Konsoll in Bergen, Norway, from 2013.



Looking back on it now, the thing that really strikes me is how much of my own advice we didn't take whilst developing Super - specifically to do with the marketing side of things. In our defence, we just didn't have the time (also, money) to do all of that whilst finishing the game and ensuring that Willow didn't die a horrific, neglected death. But it does serve to prove the point - it doesn't matter how good the game is (and, by all accounts, Super Glyph Quest is pretty damn good), if no-one has heard of it, you're not going to make any money.

You'll also notice how I've spectacularly failed to distract myself from the aforementioned state of financial meltdown. Oh well.

Presentation


I've been to a fair few of these conferences now and most presentation's follow a pretty similar format. Namely, Powerpoint.

I feel that, in a creative industry such as this, that's a bit of a missed opportunity.

All of this started off at Animex** a few years ago. The first year I attended, I had no presentation at all - just flash cards with my notes on it. It was the first time I'd ever given such a talk and I was kinda finding my feet a bit. Don't get me wrong - there was still plenty of wild gesticulation and ranting - but there was nothing to show.

The second year I made a presentation in XNA. It had text and little cute characters (drawn by the awesome Damo) that would slide in when I needed them to. It also had a neat little sin scroller like the demos of yore in which I could throw in things like 'greets' and even take the time to try and torpedo Zub's talk, which followed immediately afterwards.

After that, I moved over to Unity.

I was tinkering with a dungeon crawler game around the time of the following Animex and I simply re-purposed the engine into my talk. Now, instead of just moving on to the next point, I actually had to drive my character around the environment, pausing only to 'talk' to the other characters who would then put across particular points.

One advantage of that method was that I could also slay them with my sword if I didn't agree with said points.

On stage at the ExPlay festival. Hand Waving is important!
It allows me to present stuff in a more original and, in some cases, interactive way. I reprised the talk for The Gathering in 2012 as well - which is a truly crazy place to be.  That particular event predates my attempts at semi-regular blogging, but probably deserves a post of its own. The short version though is if ever you get the chance to go, I heartily recommend it.

The version shown in the video above has also been re-purposed and the content altered for a number of other occasions. I've used it at ExPlay in Bath for the last couple of years as well as the much more recent Press Fire To Win in Brighton. That also enabled me to try something a bit new - tag-teaming with Leanne to deliver our presentation on how we made Super Glyph Quest.

We had a chance to tart up the presentation and give it another go in a return to Konsoll for this year. A new talk engine was made to take advantage of the fact that I actually had an art resource this time and I was free to wander around the stage and wave my arms whilst Leanne drove. Other than her microphone volume, I think this worked out rather well as you can see here:





Pros and Cons


I think the biggest plus point about this type of presentation is that you stand out a bit***. It's just something a little bit different from everyone else.

Don't get me wrong - I've seen some truly amazing presentations all done in Powerpoint - Scott C's BrĂ¼tal Legend at Animex springs immediately to mind. Also, there are some epic ones that merely use Powerpoint as the backdrop - playing second fiddle**** to Austin Wintory's live musical presentation, for example. There are also alternatives out there. I'm not sure what Vaggelis Livaditis used on his talk about how he learned to be less precious about his own, individual ideas, but it was pretty funky.

But I also wonder what would happen if you took those super creative people and let them make something bespoke? Sadly, more often than not, these super creative people are also incredibly busy - nominally finishing off the actual project they've been invited to talk about - and so would never have the time to put in to a project like this.

In fact, perhaps that's a thing? Given that all Powerpoint really is is a method of displaying text or images, perhaps I should offer my services as a presentation creation dude or package up Dungeon Crawler Presentation on the Unity Asset store and let people tinker with it themselves. Sure, you'd lose the 'bespoke' bit, but it would be interesting to see if something like this took off*****.

But let's say you've made a game and there's some part of it that you could re-purpose for your presentation. A demo level, perhaps, with posters or paintings on the walls. Or maybe a new conversation arc with one of the characters. That'd look pretty cool.

There's an irony in that Valve already do something similar with their embedded director's commentary stuff in Half Life 2 and things. Yet all of their presentations use exactly the same Valve boilerplate Powerpoint format.

Talking The Talk


Actually, all of this pales into insignificance compared to the most important thing - the talk itself.

Having a flashy presentation running on a giant screen behind you is one thing.

Actually delivering a decent presentation is something else entirely.

There are those that have to read from scripts. There are those that eschew scripts in favour of simply reading the information off the slide for you.

But then there are those for whom the slides are merely bullet points. Punctuation. A sideshow for the main event. They glide across the stage with purpose. Their words have meaning. Their passion for their subject matter sweeps you along to such an extent that even though you started off without an interest in their topic, you'll end up a devoted believer in whatever it is they are selling you.

I've said it before but one of the finest examples of this, I think, is Benjamin Zander. His subject is classical music - something I have little to no interest in. But I would happily listen to him talk about it because he does it with such passion and enthusiasm. He doesn't use Powerpoint - merely a keyboard - very much like Austin, in fact.

Being at Austin's talk and watching Benjamin's makes me rather jealous. As a designer, I don't have a 'live' skill. At least, not one that readily translates to an auditorium containing a couple of hundred people. It would be very hard for me to 'perform' my talk as it rather relies on a level of interaction that's just not practical.

Or is it?

I suppose the next step would be to democratise the process a bit. Give the audience a stake in the presentation somehow. Perhaps via a website or downloadable app. Somehow they'd get an avatar right there in my presentation and play it themselves. Altogether. On the big screen. Which way does the Party go? Do they want to enter the Dungeon of Level Design or are them more interested in the Arena of Industry Anecdotes? What is the next topic of conversation? And will they make it to the end of the talk alive or will the final Boss fight overwhelm whoever is left?

Either way, I think people would remember that.

Or it would be chaos.

Total, bloody chaos.

Now, go and download Super Glyph Quest if you haven't already done so.



* Or, well, me.
** As I've mentioned before - easily my most favourite of conferences for a wide variety of reasons.
*** Likewise, indulging in a spot of karaoke for the attendees. If in doubt, don't let me near a microphone (although Rob Dressel does a mean "Don't You Forget About Me")
**** Actually, a keyboard, although I wouldn't put it past him to rock up next year with a fricking lute or something.
***** In the tiniest market sector known to man.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Super Glyph Quest - The Aftermath


In which the game comes out and the rollercoaster starts.

Reviews


In the interests of me not losing my mind, let's start off on a positive note shall we?

The game has been reviews in a few places and absolutely all of them have been positive. Here are some snippets from the big players:

"Bigger and better than before." - Touch Arcade, 4.5/5 stars.
"Super Glyph Quest really does offer that ‘just one more go’ factor" - 148Apps, 4/5 stars.
"Super Glyph Quest has a foot in both the puzzle and role playing game worlds and delivers on both fronts." - Arcade Sushi, 8/10 sushis.

Annoyingly, this still leaves us one review shy of a Metacritic score. I know Metacritic is irrelevant in the self-publishing / mobile space, but it's still a good metric of how well your game is received. It's another thing you can use when you do eventually start hitting up publishers or investors for funding for other projects. A "this is what we did and how well we did it" thing.

We also had to spend a few days post-launch fielding a whole bunch of "Can Haz Codez?" emails. Some were from people with websites or YouTube channels. Some were just chancers trying for a freebie. We'd do a spot of research on each one and that would decide whether or not we'd send them a code. FYI - the ones who only said "Please send me a promo code" in their emails were the ones who didn't get a code.

Again, the ones that reviewed us seemed to like us a lot*.

Do you speak Polish? If so, check out the AntyApps review where I think we got a 5, which I'm assuming is a good score.

How's your French? iPhonesoft have got you covered and have given us 4.5/5.

But this also means that there are a few that haven't actually reviewed us yet. Perhaps it's worth us pinging them a mail inquiring as to what the point of asking us for codes actually was.

There were plenty more emails too, from marketing people offering their services. By services I mean stuff like we'd give them money (which we don't have) in exchange for favourable reviews and 5 star ratings on the App Store. You know - exactly the kind of stuff that GamerGate is really**, really*** about.

Never Smooth


I know it's a small sample size, but so far we've never managed what could be termed a Smooth Launch.

This time we fell foul of a rule change from Apple. While rushing to make our submission date, we had filled the screenshot portion of our storefront profile with only 2 images per format**** as opposed to the allowed 5. The idea being that we'd fill the rest in while we were in submission and prior to the game's launch.

It turns out that you can't do this anymore.

Now, you're not allowed to swap screenshots unless you submit a whole new binary. Everything else it appears you can change - but not screenshots. One assumes the reason for this is to include the screenshots in the review process so that it's harder for unscrupulous developers to pull something, but this would hurt us.

Featureless


Top of the league!
Not as much as the fact that we weren't featured though.

All of our confidence around being featured was for nothing as after the Thursday refresh, we were no-where to be found - in the UK store at least. In fact it was the 29th before we turned up on the storefront. Front page, admittedly, but 5 days post launch and only 2 before the next store refresh...

...which promptly removed us again.

Thankfully, that feature was enough to get us in to and on top of the charts. Some very specific charts, but we're definitely counting that.

On the way, we even managed to get in some lighthearted banter with the chaps over at Bossa Studios as we briefly managed to overtake their excellent Surgeon Simulator, which was somehow in the Role Playing Charts.

Of course, before you get all excited and assume that's that and we can now swan off to the nearest Lamborghini dealership, it's really quite depressing just how few copies you actually need to shift to get in to the Paid charts.

Wait For The Drop


With our feature gone, 'hefty' price tag of £1.99 / $2.99 and a number of people baulking at our lack of screenshots, it was no surprise to see us start to slide out of the charts.

The way the App Store works is pretty simple - if you're one of the hundreds of thousands of apps that aren't Featured or in the charts or if you haven't got a huge marketing budget, you are nowhere. You will not sell.

The original Glyph Quest was downloaded over 200,000***** times - all within the first couple of weeks. Once its feature had run out, the tail started and it continues to be downloaded by a handful of people every day. Only a handful, mind - about 20 or 30.

Whilst featured, Super was being downloaded by about 400 people per day. This is hardly stratospheric. With no feature, there was no reason to suspect that this figure would drop to nothing.

So we decided to give it one last hurrah and drop the price.

The Backlash


This is when the wheels kinda fell off.

Some of the people who had already bought our game at the full price were most upset that we'd gone on sale so soon. We were accused of shitting on our fanbase and otherwise pulling a bit of a pre-meditated dick move. 

All over $2 that they feel we cheated them out of.

How about this for an example review on the US App Store:

"It was a decent 4 star game at first, but after a week I'm discounting it to a 1 star game."

(It's worth noting that our rating on the UK App Store is still holding fast at 5 stars)

Then there were people on the forums who got the hump and started demanding an apology.

You can find my response here.

After this, the rest of the forum seemed to rally behind us. Some said that they were going to wait until the price went back up so that they could give us more money. Some offered to buy extra copies for anyone else who wanted them. Some even offered to pay us money directly.

More publicity was to follow as people like Innkeeper Barry Barry Meade from Fireproof and Eli Hodapp started commenting on this. Whether it was the sale itself or the rustling of the Twitterverse because of the backlash we don't know, but we started moving back up the charts again.

Is that going to be enough to enable us to carry on or are we going to have to admit defeat and start brushing up on our CVs?

* This is an assumption based purely on what Google Translate tells us.
** Not really.
*** Really, not really.
**** 5 different formats - iPad, iPhones 3 & 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
***** Of those 200,000 people, only around 5% decided to actually pay us for the privilege.

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.