Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Scenery and a good old hog roast

Quite a lot of progress since the last update here! I decided to move hosting and back again due to being an idiot and that meant I lost a couple of updates. The main 2 thing completed (other than some behind the scenes or UI items) are:

Lots of edge scenery 

It's pretty much completed now for the first level. Here's a nice little boat at a dock in a millpond.



There are a few little hidden items in the surrounding woodland that give what is otherwise essentially just a field, more of a feeling that it is set in a larger world.

A hog roast outlet 

You can now get the visitors to fill their bellies!





Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Tourney: Apothecaries, stands and more

Wow 3 months since the last update? That is pretty dismal. Sorry folks. Well I guess that does mean it's high time that I correct this oversight :)

New tourney buildings!

First off is the simple "peasent" stand. It was on my todo list from the previous post, here is a picture of it in action.

medieval peasents watching a tournament joust from a stand


Visitors will want to spectate on the various tournament events if there is a stand like this to watch from. The stand has one upgrade at the moment - to add a canopy. At some stage weather will become a factor in how much a visitor enjoys watching the event, so this will become important. Even medieval folks didn't like getting wet!

More recently than that I completed a new apothecary outlet. This wheeled wagon will sell all kinds of tinctures and potions which will aid the knights in their bid to win the tourney. Once fully implemented it will be up to the player to kit out their knights with upgrades like this to give them the edge in jousting, melee and archery events. AI characters will also frequent outlets like this, so they are the main way to earn gold.



Apart from that, a fair bit of scenery at the edge of the level 1 tourney ground has been completed. For example a watermill, signs, a road and a selection of trees.

Tourney edge scenery trees

User interface

Not quite as intersting but I've made a lot of custom UI elements. You can see one in the apothecary image above, but also there is a rustic, wooden looking context menu for the buildings, and a leaderboard which remain docked to the view, so if you want you can track the progress of the competitors. I tried to tie everything in with the feel of a medieval tournament, hence the abundant wood.

Tourney medieval tournament simulation game context menu


Well that's a whistlestop tour of the features that have been completed since the last time. Here's what I am targetting next:

  • The remaining level 1 "edge" scenery is going to be rolled out this month: a fence object and some ruins, meaning I can share some close to final looking screenshots.
  • I also want to implement the system by which visitors are happy and sad about things. This will then lead on to making them want to leave, and adding a wagon which brings in new visitors.
  • Finally I might finally have a nice medieval sounding music track that I can reveal a bit of by the next update too.

So again apologies in the lack of updates. I'll adopt a better posting strategy from now on: Make a single post that I share to various outlets, because I am actully posting updates - just indiscriminately. e.g. twitter (at least every few days) a forum devlog that get updated every couple of weeks. Well I should just post that here too!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Tourney: first knights and jousting tilt

Lots to report on the new game since the last post - I write phenominally few blog posts given the amount I'm working on this tournament simulator. As I mentioned before there are 2 places that enjoy far more frequent posts from me those are My Exilian Dev Log and obviously Tusky games on twitter

Anyway in the last post I needed to create a knight model, which I did. Actually I made 2 but the first I hated so started over. So those along with the horse are done:

medieval knights arriving for a tourney

I've also created a tilt barrier and list - which will be one whole building that the player can build. Then went on to build the mechanics for 2 AI knights to Joust against each other. There are also various rules and tactics in place. For example you can attempt to the best speed before each charge. Getting the timing right means tour knight rears up on the horse and goes straight into a gallop. It gives you a huge force boost to the clash.

Horse rearing before a Tourney Joust

There are a few outcomes possible depending on what you target. You can get unhorsed and disarmed so the lance is dropped - negating any damage at all. It was fun testing this out and getting the bots to keep unhorsing eachother!

Knights clash in tourney medieval tournament simulator game
I'll be moving on to setting up some more of the 3d models. One being a tournament stand in which the medieval peasents can spectate on the tourney jousting fun!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Tourney: Houses and setting

Good morrow!

Time for an update from the fledgling project! I've fleshed out more of what the mechanics will be, setting, theme and so on. So without further ado:

Theme and Name


The project I am working on is going to be a medieval tournament sim game, which I am going to call "Tourney".

Setting


I have been applying lots of time and thought into establishing the setting for the game. I didn't know whether to make it exist in the real world or a fantasy one. Each has it's benefits. For example if it's complete fantasy then the world can be populated with any monsters, potions or lore I feel like. I decided not to do that since this game will be concerned specifically with the medieval tournament. I felt it would make sense that it existed in the real world a little.
That being said I thought I would cheat a tiny bit, and use a fantasy setting that is thought to be on Earth, such as Avalon or Atlantis. Visitors can then come from real places or made up ones. The player will know that at least to some extent it is not supposed to be completely historically accurate.

Houses


Along with (and completely dependent on) the musings about settings was the consideration about where the tourney visitors would come from. Medieval knights were often affiliated with a house. As a result I decided to come up with 13 playable houses.



Each house is based on or references something in some way. For example some are based on real historical houses. Some are from Arthurian legend and a couple from pop culture. Each house will have a selection of knights you can summon to the tourney, and if you get the reference then you will know who your "star players" will be without having to experiment.

Textures


Now that is done, I need to make 13 varieties of textures for any knight related model (shield / horse / tent / armour) so that they all display the house heraldry. I am hoping that in doing this it will serve the same purpose in the game as it used to on the medieval battlefield, allowing commanders to be easily recognised amongst large armies.

Exilian


I have also got a dev log thread over here on the Exilian forums, so if you'd like to comment or ask questions about this then please head over there and get involved. You'll also find a wealth of other creative game / art / writing content there so feel free to just go have a bit of a browse!

Anyway that's all for now. I'll cover a specific knight I've completed in more detail in a post next week.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

New Project: Pezzies

The last few weeks I've been moving forward on a few different "tracks" for the new project.

One main track is the creation of 3d models. Specifically, I'm working on making peasants to be part of a dynamically generated medieval crowd. Here is a big image showing the creation of the latest lady pezzy. Starting with the initial sketch a profile is drawn. That forms the basis of the model. After that it is textured. You can see that initially the pallette is only black & white, which allows me to then create a few different colour schemes for the same model.



It's not fine detail, and a little stylised. The reason for this is that the game will be "top down" (in the vein of most sim games, I think). You can't get very close to the models, so they don't actually need to be that detailed. It matters more what the overall effect will be once there are a few of them. Below is a demontration of this. The fourth lady pezzy joins in with the others having a good time drinking in a field.




Tuesday, 20 March 2018

New project

Greetings update fans!

Well Escape From BioStation is released to the wild, and I've not really provided any update since, which is awfully rude, isn't it?

It would be untrue to say I've not done anything in the interim. On the contrary - I have been beavering away behind the scenes on the next project. However I wish to not reveal too much about it just yet. Even though I am absolutely dying to because I think it's going to be a whole truckload of fun.

The reason I'm "keeping a lid" on things would be clear if you have read my previous post. However to summarise:

  • I released my last game far too early, it looked like crap hardly anyone was interested.
  • Those crappy images became the first thing people saw since I'd smeared them far and wide around the net, meaning they were frequently the first thing people ever saw even when there were far better looking images and footage later on
  • Those (few) people that were interested had to wait an awfully long time before the release to actually see anything.
  • There is also a small silly paranoid part of me that is scared that someone might steal my idea

So for now the only people I've told are my nearest and dearest. I think that when there is a sufficient cohesive thing to demonstrate I'll say what the game is because I am very excited about it. It really draws on the lessons I learned from biostation, and builds on them hugely - yet at the same time is a complete departure in terms of game style and theme.

I don't mind saying it will be a top down game set in medieval times. In the coming couple of months I will share shorter, more frequent posts just about the parts of the project I can demonstrate, for example 3d modelling or the top level framework of mechanics - and hopefully that may be of interest until there is some context to attach what I'm posting about to.

So for now, inbetween posts, I will be frequenting twitter droning on about abstract & contextless dev I'm doing and retweeting stuff of interest. So please feel free to say hi on there!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Escape From BioStation PostMortem

Howdy y'all!

It's been such a long time, hasn't it? I haven't really done an update since the release for Escape From BioStation so I thought maybe it was an appropriate time to take a look back and write a post mortem of the game's development.

So sit back, and listen ye to the turbulent tale of how it came to exist!

Planning Issues

Escape from BioStation had 2 very distinct incarnations, which essentially became 2 completely different games, only one of which wasn't terrible.

When I started on the first version of the game I was a green nooby game dev. I only had experience in making silly tiny stuff for friends in game maker. I wanted to use a new engine (Unity) for this, since I wanted it to be 3d. Therefore my initial planning was somewhat limited by what I could do in it. I had a key idea, which was small robot in a vast mysterious space station, to evoke the need to explore. The first concept was summed up as follows:

"An adventure platformer (with fps elements). setting: space and shit"

There was a little more planning that that. But those words are literally lifted from the initial planning document.

I went through what I thought was a very robust and thorough design process. I created a rough draft on what the finished game would be: Little levels which each had a physics puzzle. Each puzzle would be solved by getting a squirrel or other random key object.

So there were already two big mistakes:
  • I only had a rough plan, and even that was flawed. I hadn't really thought about what the puzzles were, why you were there, or even what the environments would look or sound like.
  • I was using a new engine and had no experience in what it was capable of, or the means by which I would realise any of the mechanics I was loosely designing

Early Development

So oblivious to the issues that already underpinned the project, I began designing these self contained puzzle levels.

Very early shot of how the game looked


An example of lack of direction was where I created the first level. I wanted it to just be flat out platforms and obstacles, nothing fancy, leaning on super retro feels. The next level then had a puzzle where there was a gate that would open when you tipped a scale that was just out of reach. This would be solved by finding a random squirrel, and using it to lob acorns onto the scale.
I hadn't planned on any acorn lobbing mechanics. I thought it would be fun, so in it went. At the time I was designing it I made a note to myself: Don't make it a shooter, this is only for a puzzle - otherwise people will compare it to other shooters and that's not what this is.
As soon as it was done though I made another puzzle using the squirrel that was basically shooting barrels that would otherwise prevent you getting past. I'd feature creeped a gun into my not-shooter despite my sternest warnings to myself.

Oblivious to this I went ahead and built a level that covered all of the core mechanics, moving, jumping, picking up stuff and lobbing acorns. This, I thought, would serve as a proof of concept.

Making it public

I was excited to finish and ship a thing - just like proper people - so I decided to make the classic error of putting the "game" up on greenlight and kickstarter as soon as I had something I could show. At this point I had only completed a few rooms. There was no polish and looked like utter garbage.  Unsurprisingly it got very little traction. Greenlight votes were few and far between and there were only a handful of kickstarter backers (excluding my kind friends and family, that is).

After a few months of this I asked around for advice on how to boost interest. One suggestion was to get the demo in a bundle. I didn't really understand what I was doing, but I did it anyway.

So a small number of the public got a playable copy of this thing. Someone then did a lets play of it on the youtubes here.



You can see it looks like crap and I'm surprised that this patient soul played it for as long as he did! (I have given him a free copy of the finished article by way of apology). But when I saw his video I was thoroughly ashamed of myself, and realised that I simply had to make this thing better. much better.

Back to the Drawing Board

The above was all completed in about 3 or 4 months, and I was intending to complete in about another 6.

I didn't carry on.

I'm sure if I finished the project as it was, the game would have been an embarrassing failure in every respect.
So instead what I did was discard the old work. I went back to the drawing board and revised fundamentally what the game was, determined to create something that was... well... better. This is where the second incarnation of Escape From BioStation was born.

So step 1 was that I wanted to spec out everything that would be in the game, what the rough story was, the environments, the mechanics and the sound. Essentially do a game design document. Based on this I could create a new rough plan.

The first key step in the plan was writing a good script. I had a rough idea of a story, so I drafted in a talented writer friend of mine and we co-wrote a good quality script. The plot points of the scripts were hung loosely on the main thematic locations I knew would exist, and a couple of the puzzles I had which were serviceable from the old project. But we still had to tackle the fundamental questions: Why is this robot on a space station? What is he doing? Why on earth does he need a squirrel? Who is the antagonist? I had a title at this point already so.... what is this robot escaping from?



Having covered those points I could "join the dots" as it were, from the key plot points, and all the design decisions subsequently revolved around the script. As such it then became possible to write a plan which was detailed enough for me to stick to and end up with a decent product. This plan covered 18 months, but ended up taking over 30.

Here's my list of what went wrong and what went right:

Wrong
  • Publishing too early
    • The game was made public about 2 years before it should have. This was a disaster for a couple of reasons. The first is that most people assumed the game was utter shit. The second is that those few that didn't had to wait for 2 and a half years till they got to play the game. This meant that had no chance of building any interest.
  • 2 Incarnations
    • In a way this was a bit of a good and a bad thing. Following the feedback I received, I revised what the game would be quite fundamentally. This meant that I wasted time planning and building something that went nowhere, but on the other hand the fruits of that labour would probably have been a disaster anyway - so maybe I dodged a bullet.
  • Scale 
    • The new version of the game was very ambitious. I had been made aware it was a common mistake for inexperienced developers to bite off more than they can chew, but I went for it anyway. At the time I didn't know it was too ambitious, having not done such a thing before. But I now know that in a way I should have stuck to my first idea since I could have completed it far more quickly. However I ended up having to prune vast amounts of content. For example there were going to be another 6 playable levels toward the end, aboard the "verybigship" (the main villain's frigate). It was going to have a climax where you fight him in a giant robot suit. Instead since I came to realise that due to time and fund related constraints I would not be able to have this - so you just fight the ship itself and don't go aboard.

Not the original "David vs Goliath" moment I had in mind, but one that worked 


Right
  • Creating a core premise I found interesting
    • At it's heart the game never deviated from one idea: A childlike robot who explores a unknowable and vast space station accompanied by a friendly squirrel. It meant that 1) I never once lost interest during development and 2) one of the key environmental style choices always remained consistent (even if few others did)
  • Writing
    • The game in it's current incarnation is very story driven, so coming up with the script at an early stage defined everything that followed in terms of level design and pacing. It's also a decent enough story with funnies which made it enjoyable to work with.
  • Consistent art
    • Being a solo dev I didn't have time to create all of the environmental assets so had to use a small number of 3rd party ones from the store. This could have very easily have been a mistake, as in the game would look cobbled together. However I really didn't want to have been responsible for just another asset flip. So I was careful to make all of the models feel as if they belonged in the same world. I built a large amount of models myself, hired a artists, and made sure I worked on all of the textures (both mine and the 3rd party ones) to achieve a single look.
  • Testing
    • I was adamant that I would not release "early access". The game went into closed alpha in February 2017, and then had the ever living bejeezus tested out of it. It continued in this fashion for numerous months since I wanted it perfect before release (following my previous false start). On lots of occasions I sat with people in the same room to play the game so I could spot not only bugs but also where they were having trouble. That allowed me to ensure that the finished product was stable, worked well and did not frustrate the player (any more than necessary!).

Combat got several overhauls during development thanks to testing


Launch

Escape From BioStation was officially released on the 2nd of July 2017.

It went without a hitch! There were only 2 bugs that needed fixing after launch thanks to all the testing. I was half expecting there to be more but very happy there weren't.

The reception it got was good. Here's a nice review it got:
http://indiewatch.net/2017/07/09/escape-biostation-offers-nostalgic-platforming-cheeky-story-atomic-nuts/

It hasn't exactly flown off the shelves in terms of sales.  I could speculate that the reason for this was a number of things, maybe marketing budget that was too lean. Maybe I could have made the text on the steam storefront more sales-y sounding. Maybe it was something else about the page like the screen shots not being appealing or the video not showing off the game as well as it could. Maybe my distribution channel has been too limited. I think that the real cause is these things:

  • I don't think there is mass appeal for a game like this being developed with the budget & staff I had. It's a little old fashioned, and lacks a strong art style. 
  • Going back to what I said before, I went public far too early. This meant that by the time I released it, anyone who was interested has long since forgotten about the game. 
  • Bad timing. Literally a few weeks before I was going to release steam decided to retire greenlight. This meant that they went through every game that had not been greenlit yet and as I understand the majority got approved. As a result my little title was competing with a lot, I think there were 15 new titles on the "new releases" that day.

Summary

One of the best things in the process was that I was seeing people play the game from very early in the life cycle and it really made me concentrate on how people would interact with the game, and make sure that it flowed well, that the story made sense, and that it looked presentable.

A lot of the other challenges, such as the scope being too big or fumbling the release and building 2 games really came from inexperience, and not having released anything big before. I am sure that there will always be something to learn in any game development project, but some of my main hurdles with this project could have been easily overcome by not rushing as much and a good round of prototying.

If you liked the sound of that then Escape From BioStation is available to buy on Steam here:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/391650/Escape_From_BioStation/