Archive for category: Project Updates

#screenshotsaturday

11 Oct
October 11, 2014

Been a long, tiring week at the day job, and burning hard during the week means I need down time on the weekend to recuperate. It’s always a bit frustrating when another week passes and I feel like I didn’t get what I’d hoped to done. But that’s life.

Anyway, so after spending some time relaxing with Michelle this morning, I’m back at it. I don’t know if I’ll make my end of October deadline for SC completion, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

What’s on the task list?

– Finishing testing and mission balance (the big one).
– Creating a few UI icons that are currently using placeholders.
– Adding in objective prompts for all the missions.
– Adding in a few missing pieces of art. They’re complete but not added to the project yet, because I haven’t got round to it yet.
– Finishing the artwork on the ‘Lewis’ card. It’s not quite polished enough.
– Create a “GNN news reporter Special Report” background illustration. For when the player’s actions make the 9 ‘o clock news. 😉
– Getting the final 5 pieces of background art from Klaus and putting them in-game. I’ve got one so far and it’s exceptional. I can’t wait to show you guys.
– Fixing the fact that the victory music in story missions can overlap.
– Replacing the placeholder “buy now!” screen with something a bit more polished and juicy.
– Updating the game credits screen with the final list of contributors.
– Collision detection on the dialogue choice options doesn’t scale properly if the text is more than 2 lines high.
– Add a special music track to play during the campaign victory sequence, for a greater sense of accomplishment.

It’s tantalizingly close to finished, but that’s still a lot of work for 3 weeks after work hours. o_o

I don’t know if I can do it, honestly. But at this point, I don’t want to give myself permission to slip another month on release. So I’m just going to push hard for that finish line see what happens.

So here’s a screenshot for screenshot saturday, of a one of the dialogues I’m adding more player responses to. Even if the outcome is the same, giving the player more responses, instead of just a “next, next, next”, makes it feel more engaging.

Writing

I really need to create some visual editor UIs for this kind of content for my next game. Painful editing raw XML. 😛

Rolling the Dice

06 Oct
October 6, 2014

I should probably not be adding any more features to System Crash at this point. 😛

My only defense is that, well, my gut says I should. There’s a sense you have, of something being done or half-baked that is, at least in part, instinctual. I’m certainly aware of the dangers of scope creep, absolutely, but at the same time, if something deep inside says “this really needs to be better”, well, I can’t ignore that voice.

So I added random rewards and loot tables to the game. Only took a few days.

Previously, missions had set rewards. You knew, going in, what you were going to get for a win. Now, the game presents you with a mix of set and randomly selected rewards. After winning, you’ll see something like this screen.

RandRewards1

Clicking the rewards will reveal what you’ve won, which may include bonus credits, rares, or multiple copies of a card.

RandRewards2

The game is just that bit more satisfying now, what with the post-game anticipation of opening your loot. 🙂

the campaign will also be a little bit more varied now on replay, since the cards each player will have unlocked at any stage of the game will vary. I’ll make sure that players have unlocked at least one copy of each distinct card in the core set by game’s end, but beyond that, it’s down to luck. 😉

Hopefully that works out. We’ll see!

Discarding Discard Mechanics

11 Sep
September 11, 2014

Please excuse the silence of late.

I took a brief, 2 week hiatus from game development while I was up in Joburg for my day job. With the commute and change of daily schedule, it was just too exhausting to really get much work done up there. But I’m back now, and I’m head-down focused on the final push toward release. Besides waiting on some final game art, I’m playtesting the heck out of the campaign and the various deck builds. Hours and hours a day, playtesting duels.

It’s late in the day to be making anything other than minor changes, I know, but what can I say, I’m going with my gut here and changing stuff if it doesn’t feel quite right. Seeing if I can make it better. And so far, so good!

The first major change, that I’ll talk about in this post, is that I’ve mostly done away with the discard and resource destruction cards. And, by “done away with”, I mean “re-purposed the cards to use different mechanics”.

The reason is simple. I read a post a while back from one of the designers of Hearthstone, where he’d said that they’d purposefully chosen not to include discard and resource destruction effects, because they aren’t fun to play against. A good card duel is a back-and-forth, and that’s a lot of the fun. But a well-constructed discard or resource destruction deck centers around denying an opponent any moves, or significantly limiting their moves. Of limiting their ability to actually play, essentially.

And the point resonated with me, in the way things that you subconsciously know to be true do, when you hear them put into words. Sitting there with an empty hand isn’t really a fun experience, and it’s not the most fun way to win, either. Sure, you can revel in your success, but it’s kinda like chucking a weighted net over your opponent and then stabbing them through the net while they’re tangled up. It’s not really much of a combat.

To make it worse, those effects are REALLY hard to balance, I found. The problem is that there is more of a sliding scale of victory/loss with other cards. Your Agent might be slightly weaker than the opposing Agent, but you still get off a shot or two before going down, leaving the enemy weakened.

Discard and resource destruction mechanics straddle a razor’s edge, balance wise. Because they either deny your opponent the ability to play a card or not, they’re very binary. If you can play them early enough, you completely strangle your opponent. Play them too late, and you can’t apply the lock-down you need to control the game. They’re also essentially hard counters to ANY strategy, if done right. Because the easiest card to defeat is one that’s never played.

So it’s an incredibly difficult thing, to balance them properly.

Anyway, I tried it out on a test branch, removing the handful of cards that applied discard or resource destruction effects to your opponent, repurposing them with other mechanics. And so far, I like it. Not only does it remove a problematic mechanic, it gives me a few more cards to flesh out other strategies with.

But I didn’t completely remove discard. Like in Hearthstone, some cards have an extra cost to play them, forcing you to discard a card at random from your hand, or lose some other resource. That, I’m ok with. Because that’s not about strangling your opponent’s ability to perform actions during their turn, that’s just adding a kind of gambling mechanic to your deck building, where you play a card and hope it doesn’t cost you too much to do so. High risk for potentially high reward.

I’ve mostly added the effect to the Yakuza cards, where it makes sense with the theme. It’s always dangerous to have dealings with the Yakuza, after all.

Yakuza Soldier, for example, has better than average stats for his cost, but he comes at a price.

YakSoldier

I’ll discuss the rest of the repurposed cards in later blog posts. For now, have fun guessing what they’ve become! 😉 And they’re not the only cards that have been rebalanced and rejigged. I’m constantly tweaking. So I think my beta testers will have fun with the next round of testing, seeing what’s changed, trying out new strategies!

Stay tuned!

Indiegraph Interview

10 Jun
June 10, 2014

A nice little interview with yours truly up on Indiegraph. I talk System Crash, of course, and reveal the current ETA/sales price for SC. 😉

Check it out! (Apologies, there’s a glitch with their text formatting at the moment which makes it hard to distinguish between questions and answers. But it should be fairly clear on reading)

Screenshot Saturday

31 May
May 31, 2014

(Screenshot Saturday is a twitter hashtag devs can use to post quick updates about their games. The posts are collected on the screenshotsaturday site. I’ll mirror my updates here.)

Working on mission scripting and trying to make the main path less linear.

MissionFlow

On Ambition

26 May
May 26, 2014

You know, 65 singleplayer missions for the System Crash single player campaign sounds great, until you have to script each and every one. 😐

System Crash is Feature Complete!

23 Apr
April 23, 2014

*One last mighty push, and the boulder crests the hilltop*

And…done! System Crash is feature complete! All revamped code systems are in and as polished as I can make them!

Now it’s just another month and a half of wrapping up story content and packaging for release and we’re a-Go!

June release is looking good!

Booyah!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, after weeks of crunching ridiculously hard, I’m going to collapse in a heap for a few days. Play some video games, read a book, contemplate my navel lint.

Screenshot Saturday

19 Apr
April 19, 2014

So I thought to myself “Gareth, you do the #screenshotsaturday thing on twitter, why not on your blog too?”

Why not, indeed?

So have some screenies. I was hoping to be feature complete 2 weeks ago, but that didn’t work out, a combination of some thorny issues to resolve and Real Life needing attending to. Ah well. But I should be able to get it done by the end of this long Easter weekend, which is incredibly exciting! Which means the next beta release is a week or two away, and it’s simply finishing off the (revamped) content from now on. Which is the fun bit, hoorah!

Anyway, screenshots. Here’s one of the new Objective Point progress bars in the duel screen, makes it clearer what total OP you need to achieve victory. That target can vary now, as opposed to always being 30, so it was important to clearly display that goal. Just showing the two numbers was a bit confusing and didn’t look so nice. Progress bars are much easier to read at a glance.

OPProgressBars

And clearly, here, I’m getting my ass handed to me. But never discount the Hacker deck, it’s got some tricks up its sleeves!

SurevSavesTheDay

Some smoke grenades to buy time + uber hacker Nicolai Surev save the day! Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat!

Over The Hill

01 Apr
April 1, 2014

They say the last 10% of a project is the hardest, and that’s certainly true.

But I’ve also found that there is a tipping point. It’s like pushing a boulder up a hill. You strain and you grunt and you push that sucker up against gravity and your own desire to just say “fuck it” and have a lie down. And there just seems to be no relief in sight. But somewhere along the line, you crest that hill. And then, without noticing it, you’re over the top, on the other side, and it feels like the project takes on a momentum of its own, picking up speed and pulling you along with it, like it did in the beginning when everything was fresh.

I’ve hit that point again with System Crash. The decision to do some major reworking was, honestly, a bit demoralizing. It’s like burning every drop of energy in you for the final stretch of a race, being right in front of the finish line, and then having that finish line suddenly teleporting a few hundred meters away. Wrenching.

It’s been hard to retread code/design I thought I’d finished. Hard to dredge up the motivation. Hard to find a third wind.

But I’ve crested the hill again. Everything’s coming together, motivation is welling up without effort, every day I sit down eagerly to tackle my dev list. System Crash is almost feature complete, now. Seven tasks remain on the list, which I hope to complete by the end of this week. Then it’s a month of revamping the content of the campaign and commissioning new art for that content, followed by a month of packaging it all up for sale and prepping marketing. I’m aiming for release in June.

And then it’s done. Two and a half years of work, fifteen years building toward this moment, to releasing my first commercial game. What a ride. Whether it’s a commercial success or not, I have done what I set out to do, and built something I’m proud of.

So. Damn. Cool

06 Mar
March 6, 2014

I really, really can’t wait to show you guys and gals the updates I’ve been making to System Crash.

It’s been a long wait, I know. With long stretches of silence, stretches that might have led you to wonder “Has he given up?” or “Is this really worth it? Wasn’t SC almost done? Why make big changes now?”

I’ve asked myself that second question, too.

But guys, I can genuinely say, it was worth it. It’s coming together SO nicely now. The flow is so much better, the way the story is presented is much more, dare I say the word, “immersive”, and the whole thing just sells itself better, I think. Much better.

I am truly excited for you guys to see it. I was pacing with excitement this morning. Those moments when the haze of the long grind clears and you fall in love with your own game again, those moments make it all worth while!

There’s still some work to go before I can wheel it out to the public. UI’s still need polishing, new writing is in the process of being done, new art will be commissioned once I’m confident that I’m not going to be making more changes. But we’re getting really close now.

It’ll be worth the wait, I promise!

soon-3