Candidate 2 – Post-Apocalypse 4X

You’d never have thought my New Year’s Resolution was “stop making promises I can’t keep”… actually, you probably would because resolutions are made to be broken! This is a long-winded apology for not having a Ludum Dare post-mortem. But worry not, as plenty of stuff has been done.

 

Grid Optimizer

Project Grid Optimizer is pretty much done from a core mechanic standpoint. There’s plenty of room for growth, adding more variations and mechanical tweaks that absolutely explode the content (for free!). The core mechanic is there though, so it’s ready for The Playtest whenever I get around to packaging all these prototypes I’ve been building.

 

Candidate 2 – Post-Apocalyptic 4X

Last week, before I started Grid Optimizer, I mentioned that I was delaying my original Candidate 2; Post-Apocalyptic 4X. Grid Optimizer gave me some easy work so I could rest up and get my head back in the game, so now PA4X is knee deep in development!

What is the game?

I’ve got 4 core tenets I want to design for with PA4X

  • Multiplayer Focus
    The whole project spawned from the frustrating situation that arises from trying to play Civilization V online. 4X games are wonderful, they’re almost a perfect genre for me as a strategy game fan. I wish they had good multiplayer, but there are so many problems with traditional 4X design that create an abrasive experience. I want to try and fix that.

    Waiting for players...
    Waiting for players…
  • New Town Fun
    One of my favourite parts of Civilization is finding a location for a new settlement. It’s such a perfect mix of all the 4Xs.

    • Explore: You have to find the location by traversing the map and uncovering the fog of war
    • Exploit: You know how big your city will grow and what you need, you’re trying to find that perfect mix of hexes to place your city on to exploit the most benefits.
    • Expand: Cities increase your production, as well as the land you control on the map
    • Exterminate: While exploring and settling, you need to exterminate any threats along the way. Your city’s position can also be aggressive or defensive, determining whether you plan to exterminate or prevent extermination versus another player.

The problem I find with Civilization is that this fun part of the game very quickly becomes redundant. The map fills up quickly, and every new city you found has less of a return than the last (ahh, the law of diminishing returns). It also majorly increases the turn time.

All its missing is desert for Petra
All its missing is desert for Petra
  • Stories
    Endless Legend did a wonderful job building lore and introducing ideas like Quests into the 4X genre. However, Crusader Kings II is more the sort of thing I’m looking for. Not many 4X games tell the tale of your daily struggles, the personal management of your people, and the importance of collaborative teams of characters and not the ‘One Great Man’ emphasis.

I want PA4X to be story-telling machine… developing on concepts like City States and Neutral Factions in Civ V/Endless Legend, using inspiration from Crusader Kings II to develop not only interesting stories but interesting characters that make every playthrough unique.

Endless Legends Broken Lords
Endless Legend’s Broken Lords
  • Survival 4X
    4X theming has been so focused on growing massive and crushing everything beneath your might, that I feel there’s room for a game in a more survival style. I want the world to feel brutal, not aspirational, I want the people to be struggling to rebuild what they once had, not aiming for the moon (literally). While PA4X is multiplayer focused, I want it to be a struggle just to survive the game, so that even if you’re left behind by your competition, you still have a sense of individual achievement if you can make it to the end.

    Rick Grimes group in The Walking Dead
    Rick Grimes’ group in The Walking Dead

What I’m going for in PA4X is a sort of Civilization for a Walking Dead world. No zombies, because I’m sick of them, but similar struggles to lead disparate groups of traumatized people and survive in the horrible new world that has been left to them. I want players to become a Rick Grimes… or The Governor, both powerful leaders who use their own style and resources to build their version of ‘civilization’.

So with all that said, how’s progress?

The non-GSD
I won’t be GSDing PA4X because I’m trying to develop it in a 3 day burst and there’s no point in a day-to-day update.

Day 1
Day 1

Day 1 was spent hooking up Grids by Gamelogic which automates an absolute ton of work that I’d otherwise have to learn and implement for the Hex grid system. I’ve got an extremely loose generation system working and a tiny amount of content to prove that the functions work.

You can;

  • Scroll around a generated hex map
  • Click tiles to designate them for farming (this will eventually be restricted around your ‘city’)
  • End the turn to generate resources from tiles
morning_2_build_ui
Day 2

Day 2 felt much bigger although I’m not sure if I actually got more stuff in or not. It’s just nice to see it look more like a game and less a Match-3 puzzle! On Day 2 I hooked up a temporary ‘do everything’ UI that handles the unlocking, buying, and management of everything in your ‘city’. UI is always a big pain to implement in every project I’ve ever worked on, so I’m glad to have got this core functionality in.

You can;

  • Open the ‘Do Everything’ tab
  • Highlight items available to see their information
  • Click items to start the build process
  • Finish the build process (although you don’t actually get the ‘building’ yet!)
  • Highlight resources in the top bar to see some info there too

I’m actually still on Day 2, so depending on how I feel this evening I might even be able to get some more done!

One thing I’ve been worried about is just general design work. 4X games are tough to design, despite looking very simple in terms of the logic. Economic balance and scaling the numbers and mechanics over hundreds of turns (while keeping the game competitive) is my biggest challenge. I believe I have some core mechanics that really shake up the formula, and that’s what this prototype is here to test

Time’s Up! Plus a Candidate 2 switcharoo!

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that my latest plan is to spend 2 weeks each on two separate candidate games before I really start trying to evaluate which game I need to focus on for IGF 2016. The 504 hours from June 1st > October 31st needs to have as little wiggle-room as possible.

My current project is Project BR, a procedurally generated multiplayer survival deathmatch game. I started proper work on it over 3 weeks ago. The goal was to create a proof of concept, with all core mechanics in the game. 50% past my deadline and I’ve got the mechanics in, but it’s still not ready. After discussions with many friends and peers, I’ve realized that making a single-player demo of the concepts just isn’t going to do the idea justice. I will need that LAN network code at least, which I’ve been told is tricky to implement but not as scary as I assumed.

There’s a point when I just have to say “enough is enough” and start moving on to another project. I’m cheating at the moment! Therefore, Project BR‘s first phase of development; iteration 1, is now officially complete.

Here’s my final GSD;

GSD - 24th April
GSD – 24th April

Most of the last phase of Project BR, the naughty extra week (!), was implementing more of the ‘demo’ features. These are the features I felt the game must have to stand out and show its true colours.

  • Kids are now generated
    This is the coolest thing in the game. This is the reason why I want to do this project. Every character you play in Project BR is generated based on psychological traits, social relationships with other combatants, and a healthy dose of RNG. These numbers all feed into a large system that determines everything about your character. How fast they run, how quietly they walk, how far they can see, if and when they recognize traps, what and how successfully can they craft items. This is all in now, and it’s brilliant! Every kid is unique.
  • Crafting System
    There is now a crafting UI and crafting system, letting players find various ingredients that they can combine to generate new items. I’ve got all temporary data in at the moment, but the system itself is working

So why is the game not done and I haven’t got a prototype to show? Two issues;

The first is that the Line of Sight system, which is so crucial to the exploration and tone of the game, is currently broken when the map scales to a more realistic size. I have ideas for how to fix it, but this will take time.

The second is that if Network Multiplayer is truly just a 1-2 day job… it’s better for me to actually build it and do a real test, than to work on this shoddy and inaccurate single player demo experience.

This is another week’s worth of work at least, and I’m already 1 week over my time limit. So I’m putting it on hold. Iteration 2 is when I’ll add networked multiplayer and iron out the bugs.

Until around mid-May, I won’t work on Project BR anymore. It’s time to start on Candidate 2.

 

Candidate 2: Post-Apocalyp—- NO! Puzzle Game!

It gives me a little sadness to announce that my Post-Apocalyptic 4X candidate is going to be pushed back. Project BR was a tough process and I’m a little burnt out with learning really new solutions. I need a quick win and the puzzle game I’ve got on my list of candidates is exactly that. I’ve even built it before in the past!

Candidate 2 is what I’ll refer to as a ‘Grid Optimizer’. I won’t go into massive detail about the game here, since it’s so simple and tiny that I might as well just show you it when it’s ready. Nevertheless, here’s my GSD… and this won’t get much bigger for the entire scope of the project;

GSD - 27th April
GSD – 27th April

Look at that! It’s TINY!

Unlike Project BR, when I finish all of these tasks… the game is basically in Alpha. It’s ready. It can be evaluated and played 99% like it would be in a real product. This is the sort of scope I should be aiming for anyway, so it’s a no brainer to do this project for the next 2 weeks.

Unfortunately from a blogging perspective, things will be a little dry. I’m very well aware of the limitations of casual puzzle games; see the Threes/2048 fiasco. Although it’s a great problem to have, being so successful that everyone clones your game, I don’t want to tempt fate. I want to be in the best possible position in case that best/worst-case scenario happens. Therefore, I’ll need to be a little smarter with showcasing my work online.

I’m hoping that I can keep things interesting here by doing a Ludum Dare post-mortem, which will update you on another potential IGF candidate game.

Project BR: Week 1 Update

Progress on Project BR has been flying so, without further ado, here’s the GSD;

GSD - April 6th
GSD – April 6th

I lost my development virginity on a ton of things;

  • Working Inventory and Gathering system
  • Totally hacky sound radius system
  • Controller Support
  • ‘Line of Sight’… I used a friend’s solution so I didn’t actually develop this! I do have to tweak it though, which I’m dreading.
  • Animations and integration

It was all a lot of fun to develop, and surprisingly easy. This seems to be my general thought with programming; it’s surprisingly easy. I’m sure when I start working on more nuanced and polished mechanics I’ll get to the hard stuff where I need things like… maths.

Line of Sight
Line of Sight

This post is actually delayed by a few days and I’ve done so much more since then. I’ll get that update in before the final 2-week mark ‘post-mortem’ where I’m supposed to stop working and show people what I’ve done.

One major concern I have is that it isn’t a game yet, and it won’t be one by Sunday. Evaluating how ‘fun’ it is will be very difficult at this point. Perhaps for this first playtest, I will just watch silently as people interact with the character and the area… taking notes on control schemes and various issues they have.

Another option is to create a quest for the players to achieve, which encourages them to interact with the area and perform many of the tasks that they would do in the ‘real game’. This is something The Stanley Parable did with its non-spoiler demo. The final option is to do the previous idea and also add in a little same-screen combat demo.

Plenty of food for thought! I’m very aware that ‘finding the fun’ too late has been my number one weakness, so I’m hoping to avoid that again.

Will have the Week 2 update for you next week

Candidate 1: Project BR

The Plan is underway and I’ve been working on my Candidate 1 prototype; which I’m calling Project BR.

Project BR is a top-down survival multiplayer deathmatch game. This project is inspired by DayZ, Hotline Miami, and various ‘Most Dangerous Game’ fiction like Battle Royale (where the BR comes from), Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and The Running Man.

Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale
Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale

You are one of 20-40 procedurally generated characters, from a procedurally generated group (each player is connected in some way), on a procedurally generated map. The exact theme; whether it be schoolkids, graduates, prisoners, office workers, or abducted human slaves (!), is to be confirmed.

You must take your character and try to become the last man/woman standing. The core focus of the game is exploration and combat, with the former providing you with items to power you up and targets to fight with for the latter. Supplementing these two tenets is streamlined crafting, a basic survival needs system, and various motivation changers that promote complex social interaction as opposed to ‘shoot on sight’.

I’m super excited about this project.

As with Bard Life, I’ve been using the GSD to track what I need to do and how much progress I’ve made;

 

Project BR's first GSD update
Project BR’s first GSD update

 

My goal is to spend another week on this prototype, building all basic core features, before sharing it with friends & family and moving on to Candidate 2. Based on the feedback I get and the development of Candidate 2, I’ll have a greenlight decision to confirm if Project BR has what it takes for The Game (the product of The Plan!), and whether I will give it another round of development or not.

Have a great weekend!