G-Day + Ventura Day 10

A double header with this post, as I promised a little look into my Task generation and it happens to be June 1st!


On March 11th I announced The Plan which was a period of prototyping and experimenting to find The Game, an ideal project for me to submit to IGF 2016; the deadline of which is in October. Two and a half months has flown by and a lot has happened;

  • Bard Life was cancelled
  • Ludum Dare 32 happened
  • Project BR was started
  • Project Grid Optimizer was started
  • Project P4AX was started
  • Project Ventura was started

With each of these projects I took anywhere from a tip toe to a full on nose dive into development. The goal was to be able to assess each of these projects and then lock one down as The Game by 1st June.

1st June has come and G-Day is here, so what is the project?

Project Ventura

I’ll get into some details about why I picked Ventura over the others at the end of the week, but for the next 6 days I’ll have weekday update ‘Greenlight’ posts about what went right, what went wrong, and why I rejected all the other projects.

So what happens to The Plan now? Well Ventura is locked in, it’s getting made… it’s getting made for the end of October. No excuses, no changing my mind. It’s happening. The extent of how far I will get into the project by IGF submission day is something we’ll discuss over the coming weeks, but my basic goal is to have it fully functioning (perhaps without pretty art) by that point.

Ventura Day 10

Last time we talked about my first steps into the Task generation system. This is the lynchpin of Ventura’s whole design. City States will request things of the players in-game, what those things are is down to the Task Generation system.

Task UI
Task UI
  • It all starts with a Task Type, this is the ‘Raid’, ‘Rescue’, ‘Extort’, and ‘Scout’ in the UI above. This is the general behaviour that the player has to perform to complete the Task. I currently have 12 of these types planned, which should create a ton of variety between all the Tasks.
  • When a City decides to generate a Task, it picks the Task Type. As I develop the game, I want Civilization V-esque personalities for the Cities… which adds a little predictability and flavour to each location. At the moment, there’s a basic dice roll to pick the Task
  • When the Task Type is generated it has to run its own unique script to determine which Objectives are needed to complete it. In my prototype, I have the ‘Rescue’ task implemented. This task is themed as the city having a respected noble kidnapped by bandits.
  • The Rescue Task needs a location on the map that players can visit, a battle that they can fight, and then it has a completion behaviour which determines if the player needs to return to the City to claim their rewards or if the Task is complete as soon as the battle is over.
  • The Location for the task is based on the specific Task Type. Rescue Tasks will specify either an Industrial area (i.e. a Mine, Farm, Workshop) or a Dungeon (i.e. Abandoned castle, spooky forest). When Rescue has been decided as the Task Type, it then adds every possible Location into a list. From that list it picks an object and places the Task Behaviour inside.
  • When a player interacts with a Task Location, it will perform the Task Behaviour.
  • Most Task Types involve a battle for players to fight. In the Rescue Task Type, players must fight a single battle to release the prisoner. Once the Location is set, the system then generates a battle.
  • Battles can have up to 8 enemy units inside. The specific units picked for battle is based on the theme of the Location (a Mine will be based around a Bandit fight, a Dungeon around a Monster fight) and the difficulty of the engagement. This difficulty is based on the original city’s task creation.
  • The Battle Generation looks at the objective location, taking its theme. It then looks at the city, taking its difficulty. It mashes those 2 together and then randomly picks from various hand-crafted configurations of unit types.

This is what I have done so far. The plan is for the unit types to then be placed in the Battle scenario based on various terrain features of the Location. Once that’s done, there’s a whole Combat System I haven’t built yet so this is all groundwork!

WARNING: Crappy code contained in this image
WARNING: Crappy code contained in this image


Day 10 GSD

A lot of work has gone into the Task Generation, as you can see from the screen above, and I’ve expanded out the GSD to help track the holistic functionality of the feature;

Day 10 GSD
Day 10 GSD

As you can see, there is a lot of green! Basic game functionality is very much in progress. The next big thing is to start speccing out the Combat System. That will be large… very large.

There’s no turning back now!


Ventura – Day 9

Plenty of work done on Ventura since the weekend, here’s a recap;

Day 9 GSD
Day 9 GSD


Last time I had the Tavern navigation and purchasing functionality implemented. The Store was lagging behind but now I’ve got purchasing items fully implemented too. I haven’t shared any screens of the Store so here’s a little sneak peak;

The Store - Where you buy equipment to put on your Mercenaries
The Store – Where you buy equipment to put on your Mercenaries

Unlike Mercenaries, there are more than 4 items in a City at a time, so there’s also a page turning function. However as I mentioned last time, non-Weapon equipment is possibly on the chopping board. Alas, the perils of game development!

Task UI

The Task UI was the last major City UI menu that needed to be completed. In this category you can view and accept the Tasks that a City State will request of the players. Unlike the Mercenaries and Store, Tasks can’t just be ‘purchased’ for resources… Tasks are how a city creates dynamic content for players to engage with. Tasks need to be generated, unlike Mercenaries and Equipment which are randomized but static (a Mithril Hammer will always be a Mithril Hammer).

Task UI
Task UI

I’ll get into the details of Task creation next time, but for now I’ve taken the first major steps towards actually creating gameplay. When simple Tasks are in game, players can visit cities and then compete with each other to complete a Task first and receive the reward.

This is a little bit of a retroactive blog post, so next time I’ll go over what I did today (Day 10) and explain exactly how Ventura will create interesting content for the combatants!

Ventura – Week 1

Why do a day’s update when I can do a complete catch-up post, right?

Right! GSD!

Week 1's GSD Status
Week 1’s GSD Status

Ventura’s GSD got longer, but greener… and that’s a good kind of growth. Many of the tasks that were originally placed inside were too large and high level. During this week I split many of them into smaller parts and then completed those parts.

City UI

The first major feature completion is the lion’s share of the City UI. Ventura has 3 primary places that the player will interact with; the City, the Overworld, and Combat. The City is where players will obtain and accept Tasks, browse and hire Mercenaries, and purchase Equipment. You can see the Merchant is also an option in the main UI, but I’m deciding whether that feature is needed at all.

The Mercenaries Submenu of the City Screen
As seen last time, this is the Mercenaries Submenu of the City Screen


This weeks work completed the design and functionality of browsing Tasks, browsing Equipment, and browsing & hiring Mercenaries. Tasks need to be acceptable, and Equipment purchasable, but that utilizes much of the same logic as hiring Mercenaries so they should be quick tasks.


Squad UI

The Squad UI is accessible from the Overworld and is the place to see your current recruits and interact with them; be it equipping items, learning their powers, or reading their lore. This is a pretty complex UI, particularly with Ventura‘s controller focus, so it was the longest task for my Sunday’s development time.

Squad Summary in the Overworld view
Squad Summary in the Overworld view

A difficult UI design challenge is the limitation I have with regards to full screen UI. As the game is in real time, and your goal is to spend your limited time wisely, players can’t have their main view blocked by a UI. They can’t be stationary spending precious seconds reading Lore, Ability information, or calculating attributes. The Squad UI has a large amount of information in it, but it must be accessible without preventing the player’s travels on the Overworld.

While I don’t have an ‘auto-run’ feature built yet, this Squad UI is designed with that in mind. It must be informative without preventing progress. Imagine riding from Venice to Milan, with one eye on the overworld map and the other spent analyzing how best to equip your team. This is a better situation than feeling awful for standing still while you tinker with your troops.

Squad UI - Unit Details
Squad UI – Unit Details

Each character in your squad can be opened up to view their detailed information, while also enabling the equipping of items.

One great thing about building this feature is that it involved a ton of database work and planning that will assist with many other parts in the game. Building UI is such a rewarding design task because it solidifies the ideas you have in your head and makes them tangible; from here you can really assess if it’s working or if they need a rethink.

For example, in the Squad UI I’m forced to use the Left-Stick to navigate through menus. I really didn’t want to have to do this. I wanted to use Face Buttons for everything, which you can see from my City UI screen. Alas that is not possible here, so now I’ve realized I need to go back to the City UI and convert the Face Button design to the Left Stick navigation. Consistency is crucial in UI design.

The other rewarding thing about UI is that it’s all about displaying information from your game. This sounds bloody obvious but here’s the lesson; In order to display the information, you need to access the information.

Creating UI often involves the same logical links and information management that will be needed when the game systems are built. For examples, because my Unit Details UI can display Basilio’s modified Attack value, I can call the same variables and use the same processes to modify his Attack value in the Combat System. Therefore building a comprehensive UI is also building important parts of the Combat System!



A game design is often like a block of marble that you need to chip away at until you’ve got the perfect product (if perfection is possible!). When Ventura sprung up in my head, it had a lot of features. While designing and building the game, I’ve realized that some features could probably be cut.

  • Leveling Up Units: What’s the point? Isn’t acquiring Equipment the same thing? There’s no point building a completely new UI and system for leveling up a character when it doesn’t add much to the game
  • The Merchant: Currently this is on the chopping block, but is not removed yet. It’s pending because it’s based on a more complex City system that involves reputation management. If the game is complicated enough without reputation management, then I don’t really need the Merchant. In fact, the Merchant feature (which would involve the trading of precious Goods to earn more money) feels a lot like a post-launch expansion feature.
  • Helm/Armor: As you can see from the UI above, Units can equip a Weapon, Helm, and Armor. But why have 3 categories? If I want players fighting to obtain items, why would I triple the pool of items that are available? This is an economy issue and something that might be needed or might not. If Units can just equip a single item, that may or may not be enough depth to bring the game’s ‘competitive shopping’ to life. This is another feature on the chopping block, and it would save me a lot of time on balance and content creation.


Public Domain Jam

The deadline for PDJam occurred yesterday and there was no way Ventura was ready to be gamified. There isn’t even a combat system! Nonetheless, do check out the submissions and support this wonderful Jam idea.

Ventura – Day 1

While I’m actually on Day 5 of Ventura, for some reason I haven’t posted anything… so here’s Day 1!

Let’s start with the GSD…

Day 1 GSD
Day 1 GSD

Ventura is a game about riding around a fictional representation of Renaissance Italy, visiting City-States in order to receive Tasks, recruit Mercenaries, purchase Equipment, and buy Commodities. This week I’ve been focusing on UI, as much of the game is spent navigating menus.

The City Screen is where most of the magic happens. It is here that you receive Tasks which can be completed for Gold. That Gold is then spent on hiring new Mercenaries and equipping them, increasing your strength and allowing you to do more rewarding Tasks and combat other players.

The Mercenaries Submenu of the City Screen
The Mercenaries Submenu of the City Screen

Day 1 was mainly the layout design and very simple navigation from opening the City Screen to entering the Tavern.

If you’re wondering where Basilio’s beautiful art is from; it’s Fire Emblem: Awakening. While I haven’t settled on an art style yet, I do like this modern manga look and a similar style was also seen in Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes 


There’s just something I really like about the vibrant colours and diverse manga style combined with the more realistic proportions and less fantastical theme of… you know… real life!

Art is a long way away from being produced, so back to the meat ‘n potatoes…

Draft Overworld UI
Draft Overworld UI

The Overworld is where you’ll spend another significant portion of your time. Here you will receive the latest news (on the top left), can browse the mini-map (on the bottom left), and adjust your combat formation and units (on the bottom right). Combat is the most non-designed portion of the game so far, so I’ll be leaving that for later.

As I’m actually on Day 5, I have a lot more to show you… but I’ll probably give you the week’s update on Monday.

Have a great weekend!


Public Domain Jam + Candidate 3

It’s been a while, ladies and gents!

Firstly a quick update on Candidate 2; PA4X.

I’m quite pleased with how accessible the coding is for a 4X game. As I’m not delving into AI, it’s all a lot of UI systems and its turn based nature makes bug fixing and general logic so much easier! Therefore it’s very buildable.

However the problem is with design, iteration, and a massively convoluted assessment status. Remember why I cancelled Uffizi and Bard Life? Those games took too long to find the fun. PA4X has the same problem. It will take me weeks and months of design before it’s at a stage where players can say they enjoy the game. On top of that, it’s also a lot trickier to balance and design systems for a competitive 4X than a city-builder or idle game, so it just doesn’t make much sense to continue with it at this stage of The Plan.

No greenlight for this game, I’m afraid!


So where am I now?

I’m 11 days before my deadline for The Plan. The Plan was created to help me find a candidate for IGF’s 2015 submission in October. June 1st is when I need to begin working on ‘The Game’. Here are the prototypes I have built during The Plan;

  • Project BR: A multiplayer survival deathmatch game where you’re given a procedurally generated character and must complete dramatic quests while attempting to survive. Status: Needs an iteration loop.
  • Grid Optimizer: A simple puzzle game based on optimizing grids. Status: Ready for initial playtests
  • Ludum Dare 32 Followup: I didn’t discuss this at all on the blog, but Ludum Dare 32 did give me a good candidate game that’s worth investigating. Status: Needs an iteration loop.
  • PA4X: See above. Status: Red Light
  • Candidate 3: See below!

As you can see, Project BR, Grid Optimizer and Ludum Dare 32 are all technically in the running.

I have very mixed personal opinions about all of them, which I’ll get into on June 1st. Nonetheless, I still want another candidate game as I’m not satisfied with this selection.


Public Domain Jam / Candidate 3

My final shot at a completely blue sky idea before The Plan ends is Public Domain Jam.

Candidate 3 is a game which I want to get barely playable for the Public Domain Jam deadline, but it is also much more than just a fire-and-forget Game Jam project. I’m aiming for two birds with one stone. A solid Game Jam entry as well as an IGF Candidate. Funnily enough, Public Domain Jam has brought me full circle. I’m back on Machiavelli for this one!

Remember this guy?
Remember this guy?


Ventura is the codename for this project, and it’s back to the Renaissance with me. Linking to Public Domain Jam’s goal of being inspired by publicly available written works, I’m using Machiavelli’s writings on the use of mercenaries in Renaissance Italy as the inspiration for this new game project.

Ventura is extremely exciting to me as it brings together so many things I find intensely interesting in the field of Game Design.

  • It is a medium-term session multiplayer contest, akin to a Dota or League of Legends. I want the game to last around 30-40 minutes.
  • It involves competing with others, but not just through combat. Economy and strategic development decisions play a massive part.
  • In Ventura you are one of 4 mercenary captains who is tasked with protecting the City-States of Italy from external threats. You compete with others to fulfil quests and contracts, in the same world.
  • It’s similar to an MMO RPG quest region, but the core game is built around the idea of making it competitive. You compete for fortune, you compete to find the greatest recruits, you compete to acquire the most powerful loot. Everything that spawns in the game is limited.
  • When PvE is done, towards the end of the match, PvP begins and you take all that preparation and strategy into a fight to prove who is the strongest Capitano di Ventura.

Like Dota, where you experience an entire RPG in a single session, Ventura gives you a similar experience; but as a distilled MMORPG.

Reading it back now, it sounds crazily ambitious, but I believe I have a lot of very simple-to-build systems that become interesting based on the context of competitive play and a shared world. I’ve also got a combat system in my head that will be very entertaining. Then again, most of it is still in my head at this point… and that’s always too early of a stage to judge viability.

From now until June 1st I will be working on Ventura. Unlike with PA4X, I want to bring back the GSD and share the dev diary style posts I was doing previously.

Then, for better or for worse, I’m picking a game project that’s getting submitted to IGF 2015. Scary times, but unbelievably exciting too!