2016 Update

Hello one and all!

It’s been a long time since the last post and I felt it would be a great opportunity to update you all on myself, DevPact, and Virtu’s current project.

Recently I moved to Berlin and I have been working at YAGER since January. It’s my first ever AAA gig, and it’s been wonderful. The different styles of almost everything based on the size of the project is really surprising.


Our major project at the moment is Dreadnought, a class-based space arena shooter. My responsibilities revolve around everything ‘Live Design’. Balancing, feedback collection and response, tweaking, analyzing, and designing existing and new features for a game that’s going to be running 24/7 for many, many years.


Much of my previous experience at Substantial Games and EA Playfish revolved around this style of game, and I’m looking forward to being involved with our community and encouraging a more ‘open dev’ approach to AAA F2P PC services. Exciting stuff!

An interesting side-note is that every game company I’ve worked at has been completely different… Facebook games, Casual Mobile games, Hardcore Mobile games, and Hardcore PC games. I’m looking forward to entering this extremely different sector and deciding which type of company I prefer and which type of games I want to design.


Myself and Chris left China at a similar time and while we are still in touch, there’s definitely a lot less peer-pressure to keep up with DevPact’s original posting and content frequency. As of now I’m assuming it will linger around untouched til the end of time. All content I would be producing there I will now just be doing on here, my original site!



Having such an extended break between pausing Ventura, starting a new project, leaving Berlin, then starting another new project has changed things drastically for Virtu and my own personal independent development.

Ventura is near and dear to my heart, but multiplayer is something I’ll have a very hard time sorting out and the game itself becomes extremely complicated from a coding standpoint when you take into account that every Hero has 4 unique abilities. Before it went on hiatus, I was somewhat building an engine to enable me to bust out loads of possible Ventura heroes… but as I came back to look at the project a couple of months later, it dawned on me that the work needed to make Ventura a mildly exciting game was humongous. Like most multiplayer strategy games, it’s designed holistically and building a vertical slice of content in order to get feedback would take a very, very long time.

Welcome back to Haft

Since arriving in Berlin I’ve started a new project with a new mentality and new set of goals. Before I was setting up Development Pacts with my friends to force me to work hard. I was hoping to enter IGF 2016 and ensure that every second of my part-time indie dev was working towards a greater goal. I hated it. I was beginning to detest the whole idea of indie game development so I’ve taken a step back and calmed down.

My latest project is being built very casually. I’m not super stressed about whether the scope is too large or not. I don’t care if it’s commercially viable. I’m not aiming to blow peoples’ minds with an intense multiplayer combat experience.

I’ve got a simple question that I want to answer… how would a Turn-Based RPG work in a Civilization style 4X feature set?

It may not work at all. It may be amazingly innovative… all I care about right now is answering that question. I’m not going to get stressed about it, I’m not going to beat myself up, I’m not going to hype up the idea that I’m fighting for awards or all that crap that’s way too far out of my reach at this point.

It’s liberating!

This project is being called ‘Fellowship’ at this point. When I feel like sitting down and explaining what the hell it is, I’ll make another post on here and set up the Fellowship category.

The only hint I’m giving about Project Fellowship

For now I’m just enjoying life, enjoying work, and enjoying tinkering around in Game Maker.

Since last posting, I also entered Ludum Dare 34 with the best game I’ve ever built myself; Slum Runner. In a way it saved my indie-dev life.


I’m insanely proud of it so please give it a spin if you see this and let me know what you think.

Quick Update

I’ve been working hard on Ventura this week and last, implementing plenty of features. I thought I should give y’all a little GSD update to let you know what I’m working on. Full regular Ventura updates will be posted every Monday on DevPact.com, so check it out.


Lots of green, as you can see. Ventura‘s systems are very integrated and very simple, so it’s been a joy to work on so far. As mentioned in my latest Monday Update, I’ve been thinking a lot more about ‘Good Code’ and the way I’m programming features. It is a little messy as I add more and more on top of existing systems, but it’s good to keep my eye out for any godawful sinful code practices. I’ve been a slave to copy-pasting code, which would make any seasoned programmer cry!

Most work on Ventura is now based on the Ability System. Not just the coding of it, but also the content. I’m hoping to finish a robust and powerful backend so that the content just creates itself, although I’m sure a lot of the more adventurous abilities will require some custom solutions.

Once the backend is done, I have to create 10 Heroes worth of content before the game is playable. Then it’s technically ready for public eyes, at least in a capacity where I can witness the combat in action and then learn where to take the game before October arrives.

Reducing the scope of Ventura

Hey all,

As you may know already, I’ve been working on a game called Ventura which is a competitive online multiplayer strategy + tactics hybrid. Players start as lone wolf mercenary captains and have to perform tasks for the various city-states around the map to build up their strength, reputation, and gold reserves. Having a powerful mercenary gang give you strength in combat, which is a unique simultaneous turn-based tactical system inspired by the likes of XCOM and Frozen Synapse.

That’s a lot of stuff. In fact it’s probably taken me about 2-3 months to even figure out the best way to explain what Ventura is, since so much is going on. During this time I’ve been working on the prototype, on and off. I built the overworld map, I built dungeon generation, I built the city-screens and the purchasing and equipping of unique mercenaries and gear for them. I built the start of the combat system.

But only the start.

The fact is, I’m struggling right now with it. As it became more advanced and the pieces started to fall into place, a lot of red flags have cropped up. Some are design based, which I feel confident enough to solve, but most are related to programming. I’m not that confident when it comes to code. Progress has stunted drastically and my motivation has dropped along with it. Spending over 60% of the entire dev time just trying to get two characters to not walk into the same tile will have that effect on you!

With 9 weeks to go until the IGF submission closes, I need to pull my finger out and get something playable and awesome as quickly as possible. Which is why…

  • I’ve cut online multiplayer. Network code was always a red flag but the main reason is that I want a same-screen game I can get people to playtest easily for instant feedback
  • I’ve cut all the overworld map and out-of-combat systems. There were plenty of design red flags, but I am still confident it would work. Alas, it required network code and therefore this is a result of the online multiplayer snip.
  • Combat is no longer simultaneous turn-based. While I was very excited about the innovation I was seeking, the coding for it was unbelievably tough and for me to iterate and try out different systems it would take months and not days. It needs to be days at this point.

With these cuts, it’s hard to really say Ventura is the same game… but I’m sticking with the name and going back to an old prototype I gave up on a long time ago, back when even using an array in Game Maker would cause me to wince!

Welcome back to Haft
Welcome back to Haft

Haft was a concept I was building about 2 years ago. My goal was to create a combat system that could provide the thrills and spills of a battle in Dota 2 or League of Legends, but with turn-based and strategic mechanics. Much of the enjoyment I find from Dota is theorycrafting; imagining devastating team compositions, and then pulling off incredible inter-hero combos to crush my foes. You can’t actually do that in Dota unless you’re a cyber-athlete!

Haft was simple.

  • XCOM-style grid-based combat, with less randomness and faster turns
  • Final Fantasy-style ‘Active Time Bar’ initiative system so that turns alternate regularly and are quick and exciting. No sitting around and waiting, please!
  • Dota-style Heroes that are drafted by each player. They have unique abilities and strategies available to them and because they’re drafted there are no clones.

Back then though, I wasn’t capable of building it. Frankly I just sucked! Furthermore, Duelyst was announced and I was petrified that Haft had basically been crushed before it began.

Nowadays I don’t suck as much, and Duelyst went in a completely different direction than what I was expecting. I should never have stopped. There’s a game industry lesson for ya, stick with it… it will be unique just because you’re not the same as them.

So we’re back to Haft. Ventura is becoming Haft. What this means is that I definitely have the capability to finish the game by end-of October, at least from a systems perspective. It should be fun, it should have all content inside, and therefore it’s the best thing I can show the judges before taking the next step and actually hiring people.

It’s sad to lose so much of what made Ventura innovative. I love the medium-term session based gameplay of Dota, and want to see more multiplayer games take that approach. Ventura was my multiplayer-focused Heroes of Might and Magic, and I still really want to play that game!

Nonetheless, there’s still a lot I can do with the ‘New’ Ventura. The initiative system has so many amazing strategic possibilities that I’m relishing the idea of playing games with it. Designing Heroes was pretty much the first thing I ever did that was Game Design related, so this game is just me designing heroes for a living. Fun, fun, fun! On top of that, it’s local multiplayer and therefore it’s technically already playable. Once I have 10 Heroes integrated, I can put it in front of people and assess.

The most important thing to me about this New Ventura though is the fresh lease of life it gives me. It was very difficult banging my head against a wall for 3-4 weeks. I’ve personally not been in a brilliant mental state as well, dealing with a mild depression, so you can imagine how relieved I am to cut out so much of the impossible work and focus on the thing that truly matters… Game Design. This is as pure a game design project as there has ever been, what a great first game to test myself on.

DevPact Podcast #2 – Developing in the Margins

In the DevPact Podcast this time, Sam and Chris will be discussing techniques and experiences for being your own boss and working in your spare time

Here’s the link on iTunes where you can find all the DevPact Podcasts: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/virtu-podcast/id1015246330

Here’s a direct link: https://archive.org/download/DevPactPodcast2/DevPact%20Podcast2.mp3

This is our list of tips in case you want a recap;

  1. Pre-Work Morning Hours
  2. Flexible Times to work
  3. Enthusiastic Collaborators
  4. Leave your Twitter tab open on the Notifications page
  5. Complete the core and first draft in lone wolf mode
  6. Get a clear idea of what the project is meant to do
  7. Isolation
  8. Nudity
  9. Changing your locale
  10. Using music to change your locale artificially
  11. Fixed Deadlines
  12. Pinterest and Tedious Tasks when you’re not motivated and productive

Some or all of these notes are contradictory!



We mentioned the following stuff in this Podcast;

Ventura – Where we at now?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been catching you all up with my progress on the Ventura combat system. Since it was technically over a month ago, you guys are a month behind!

I felt I’d catch you all up with a video of the combat system in action, as it’s totally the best way to show you what I’ve been working on. But first, a recap…



Let’s start with a before-and-after comparison of GSDs since Combat Week ended;

After Combat Week
After Combat Week
GSD - All caught up!
GSD – All caught up!

YOU SEE THAT GREEN? It’s everywhere, right? Let’s go over what it all is…


Sound Integration
Ok so I can’t exactly showcase this, but since Combat Week ended I’ve implemented various clangs, swishes, grunts, and repetitive “Confirmed!” stings. Yippee!

Combat Damage
On the last Combat Week day, I got Attacks working. Now they actually deal damage, correctly.

Turn Resolution
This was a biggy, you can now play input orders to all Units on both Teams, watch them resolve correctly, and begin the next turn.

I forgot to green this one in, but now Units can die and it doesn’t completely break the turns and resolution systems. Sweetness.

Now that’s all done, let’s see this baby in action.


  • Player 1 perform a Move Maneuver and an Attack Maneuver with Lucina (Unit 1).
  • Units 2-4 Idle for both of their turns
  • Unit 5 performs two Move Maneuvers.
  • Player 2 Idles with Unit 1
  • Cordelia (Unit 2) performs an Attack with Maneuver 1 and then Idles for Maneuver 2
  • Units 3 & 4 Idle for both of their turns
  • Unit 5 performs 2 Move Maneuvers.

From the outcome you can see Lucina move into position and hit her two targets. Cordelia doesn’t hit anyone with her Maneuver 1 Attack, as Lucina is not in position yet… if only she’d Idled first!

Screenshot - All caught up
Screenshot – All caught up

The combat system has come a long way but there are still some pretty important features I need to implement, that will probably take more than my morning hour to finish.

  1. Clashing – What happens if two Units want to enter the same tile? How is that resolved?
  2. Movement Cost – Units should only be able to Move 1-3 tiles per Maneuver.

My super regular updates will probably dry up a little as I work on these major features. Once they’re done, however, the combat system is pretty much ready for Content and then the dreaded PLAYTEST.

Scary stuff!

A little DevPact update

DevPact is now live on http://www.devpact.com!

I won’t be posting as frequently as on here, but I’ll be posting less “omg MORE Ventura?!” articles and creating some more unspecific content for your amusement. So far we’ve published our first ever DevPact Podcast and I’ve written a couple of articles about Stephen King’s On Writing, a wonderful book that’s made me think about Game Development in a different way

Check it out!

DevPact Podcast #1 – Sunrise and Sunset

Hey all!

Myself and Chris gone and did a podcast. As I am a noob with hosting and iTunes and RSS, and Wix.com doesn’t allow it, I am going to stick them all on Virtu so I can get the feedburner working. It’s lame but hey, at least any random dudes looking at this god-forsaken blog can get some audio content!

View and subscribe on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/virtu-podcast/id1015246330

Or grab it directly here:


We’ve never done this before so be kind!




Ventura – Combat Week – Day 2

Hope you all had a great weekend! Here’s post 2 of my Ventura Combat System progress, which was done a while back. As a side note, it’s so nice writing blog posts retroactively 😉

Some quick context as to what the combat system is trying to achieve…

  • 1v1 combat with teams of 5 Mercenaries
  • Simultaneous Turns, with a Planning phase (making moves) and a Resolution phase (witnessing the outcomes)
  • Two Maneuvers per Turn
  • In your Maneuver you can Move, Attack, or Idle
  • There are no targeted attacks, you select a direction and your character’s attack ‘template’ will affect tiles and enemies below it
  • There are plenty of more details, but not for version 1!


Combat Week – Day 2

Last time I designed and transported my UI from Fireworks into Game Maker, without the actual Combat Grid (where all the action takes place).

The next step was to get that Grid in and put Units on it.

Combat Week - Day 2
Combat Week – Day 2

I’ve got a long and beleaguered history with turn-based combat grids. Previously I was relying on a solution by a developer friend of mine (Mark Parrish; @BestMarkEver), but I thought I’d give Game Maker’s grid system a spin and I’d played around with it a tiny bit for Eternal Struggle.

Easy peasy… I think. Now I reflect, retroactive blogs aren’t that easy. I can’t remember how hard it was or not!

The initial grid setup was definitely really smooth, and putting guys on the grid was also simple. Pathfinding, which is tomorrow’s post, is a major pain in the ass but apart from that Day 2 was quite simple. A nice morning’s work.

You can also see that I got my units on the grid. Initially I was going to just clone their big full-tile faces but there’s a little bit more information I need to convey on the tile itself (i.e. HP), so I went with smaller portraits with some room for maneuver. I’m hoping that I can restrict the amount of iconography in-game, as this is supposed to be an extremely simple (but deep) system.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking on the beast that is Pathfinding. Prepare for a horrendously stupid ‘bug’ and general thoughts about the first complex logic I have had to face as a designer/developer.

In other news, I’ve got a few thoughts I want to share about DevPact, which I announced last week.

One important point I’ve learned over the last year or so of independent development is the constant struggle with exposure. Not that kind of exposure, I’m sure that will come later, but the importance of getting your name (and game) out there.

Myself and Chris are thinking of all the wonderful tools out there to build up a userbase;

  • Let’s Plays – A chance for our glowing personalities to shine through the lense of other peoples’ games + free research!
  • Video Critiques – More planned and thoughtful video content akin to Super Bunny Hop or Errant Signal
  • Game Jams – Ludum Dare, Asylum Jam, Public Domain Jam, A Game By Its Cover… all useful design challenges that expand your network
  • Design Articles – One day I hope to write as well as Dan Cook. Click it and be entertained. That sort of thing.
  • Podcasts – A more adhoc, cheap, and flexible way to discuss current game affairs, other games and issues in the industry. I don’t like the sound of my voice though!

These are all things I think we want to experiment with for DevPact. The key is balance, as all of these tools take up serious development time.


Big things are in the works over here. Myself and Chris McMath (@chrismcmath), a colleague and friend, are starting up a new project called DevPact.

You are all well aware of my plan for IGF 2016 submission, but DevPact is a sort of cooperative, peer-pressured version of it. We’re hoping to update it together with information about our own separate projects (mine being Ventura), while creating some interesting experimental content, giving a closer look into the process of game development.

At this point, we’re not going to be promoting the site much. We need to iron out some creases and get it looking all purty. It’s not even got a URL yet! Early days.

As for this blog? I’ll still be posting here frequently. As of now, most posts on this blog will be replicated on DevPact. For the other ‘interesting content’ we have planned, I’m planning to keep it all on DevPact so Virtu Games is completely about the project and nothing else.

We’ve got lots to do but I wanted to share it with you all.