Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Adding More Variety to Events

Hey Everyone! This months build the focus has been on the event system in the game. We are really trying to increase the variation in the different kinds of events that you play through in the game. If you want to jump straight in and see for yourself then here is the build...

One of the biggest changes that is in this new build is the ability for us to chain events together in order to create a story that spans many events. Ultimately, every region in the game will have a handful of event chains that go along with the randomly generated event. These chains will give a story to that area that you can follow along with and if you complete the chain then there will be great rewards to help you on your journey.

Starting an event chain

An example of an event chain is the new "City in Distress" event. In this event you will enter a port city and find out that it has been being harassed by pirates. They will ask for you to help and if you agree then you will be tasked with eliminating these particular pirates. After accepting, you will see the pirates on your map and can go and destroy them. When you then return to the city they declare you a hero and give you a large sum of gold. We will be adding many such chains to the game over the course of the next months.

Another thing that we are working on is increasing the visual variance between events. This has required some re-factoring the code to make it easy to script out what kinds of things should show up in the event. There are now a few different ship types that you will see in encounters and when you go to a port there is a dock there. We will continue enriching the visuals over time and of course Kurt will be hard at work making new tiles and whatnot to spice things up. Another visual change that has been made is adding dynamic lighting. When the event takes place at night or sunset then this lighting will be used which gives some nice visual variance.

Night event with dynamic lighting

One thing that you will notice right off the bat is that the graphics used for the sailing scene have changed. Ultimately, we are trying to give this scene an ancient map sort of feel. You can get a little taste of this with the new ship and town icons. However, all of this is very much early works in progress and the islands are still developer art, so this really is just a taste.

New WIP map icons for sail scene

Last but not least, Riley has gotten a few more demo tracks ready and they have been added into the game. Right now they are just playing in order as you go through the different events. However, in the future we will probably tie specific music tracks to specific events depending on their mood.

As always, we love to hear feedback and ideas. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

---- v0.12 ----
- Added in demo tracks for towns and game over
- Events can now be chained together to form quests
- Refactored event system to make it easier to add more props into a scene
- Pirate surprise attack event now has small boats the pirates come from
- Town event now has a large dock
- The camera is now constrained to the area of the event
- Added dynamic lighting for characters
- Fixed some bugs in the fog of war on the sail scene
- Added a simple event chain for a town in distress
- Change the sail scene to use some new WIP icons

Sunday, November 9, 2014


The big news this week is that we have finally named the game! And it is...

We spent a long time going over lists of names to try and come up with something that we thought would fit the different aspects of the game. Ultimately, we chose Privateers because it is a very open ended name that expresses the freedom that you have to pave your own way in the world. We think that this reflects how we envision the game play turning out in the end.

Of course, with a fancy new name and all we should give a fancy new build, and here it is...

In this build the main focus was to redo the sailing experience in the game and explore how it can be more interactive and fun. As a result, there is a whole new game play experience around sailing now instead of just cramming into a little UI window.

Sailing around between islands

With the new sailing experience I am really trying to achieve the feel of a table top game. You get an overhead view of the map and you can select where you want your ship to sail to next. Then, the AI takes a turn and things can happen on the map such as ships moving around, leaving a port, or even attacking you. In later releases, I really want to enrich this experience so that each turn seems important. Also, we will increase the variety of things that can be interacted with on the map. For instance, we might add a giant sea monster which roams the map which you could choose to engage with. I am also toying with the idea of adding some ship to ship combat into this mode as well, but I'm not sure exactly how that will play out yet.

Designing regions for random map generation

Another big change that comes with the new sailing experience is random map generation which occurs for each play through. We have built a system which allows us to design hand crafted regions which have specific islands and events in them as well as randomly generated pieces as well. Then, these regions are generated and placed in order to form the map. So far, I have only made 3 different regions so there is a lot of repetition. However, we will progressively fill this out so that each play through has different interesting regions for you to sail through. This will really increase the replay-ability of the game.

I also want to take the time to also call attention to the new outfits that have been added for the human characters. Kurt put together a bunch of different pieces of clothing which we can mix and match and tint to get a large variety of looks. Also, there are specific clothing that can be used for different people groups in the game going forward. For instance, in this build, merchants always wear a red coat uniform to make them appear different. Also, I know that Kurt has been doing a lot of brainstorming on different people groups that you will encounter in the game and what kind of cultures they will have.

A bunch of different looking human characters

Lastly, there is a little treat in this build which is an early preview of some of the music which Riley is working on for the game. During the opening menu you will hear a tune in which he is exploring the instrumentation which he is going to be using for all of the tracks going forward. I think it really is setting the tone of the game well!

As always, thanks for taking the time to give the game a try and we would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Here is a brief summary of the changes in this build...

---- v0.11 ----
- Refactor sailing screen completely to be more interactive
- Add new clothing variations for humans of different types
- Crew now drop their items on death
- Added branding for new name "Privateers"
- Crew now quickly regenerate life and refresh cool downs after an event completes
- Monk's cool down reduction now works correctly
- Sail scene is now broken into regions which can have their own designs and are distributed randomly
- The sail scene now has fog of war
- Towns in the sail scene generate neutral ships occasionally

- Added new music to the menu screen

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Tactical Advantage

Hey guys! This build has some of the most dramatic changes to the game play that we have made so far. The focus has really been on evolving the core game play that occurs with each event. It includes a new tactical mode in which you can pause the game and give commands to your crew. Also, we have added classes to the crew which make them unique for playing different roles during battle. You can play the latest build here...

Just for the sake of bragging, I will show off a beautiful sunset picture that I took while on vacation in Hawaii this week. The early mornings were still free for me to get some indie dev work done.

This was the backdrop for my past 2 weeks of game dev'ing

I am really excited about being able to take tactical command of your crew during a battle. This adds a much more cerebral element to the game in which you can plan out what each crew member should do next in order to survive an encounter. As a result, the interface is now something pretty similar to the game "Dragon Age" where you can give commands to your party as well as take direct control of one of them. While playing the game, press SPACE to pause it. While paused, you can click where you want your crew members to move or attack. Then, press SPACE again to un-pause and they will follow those orders.You can use TAB to switch between which crew member you are controlling at any given time.

Giving tactical orders to your crew

I am trying to decide if I like the blend of tactical and action or if it would be better to remove the direct control aspect and only have tactical control. It could be that the blend will just end up being confusing for players and not actually add any fun. I would be really interested to hear peoples thoughts on this in the comments after they have tried the build. Though, as I mentioned above, the blend did work pretty well in "Dragon Age", so I know it is possible to make it work.

The other main change that is in this build is the addition of classes for each of your crew. Every class has bonuses which change how the class is used best. The bonuses include things such as increased health or faster attack speed with bows. Also, each class has a special ability such as a healing spell or the ability to stun enemies. Ultimately, creating a good complimentary class composition for your crew will be critical to success in the game. Also, finding the right items to compliment each class member will be critical to reaching the full potential of that class.

Browsing through your crew

Along with the class abilities, some items now have actions which are used in a similar way. For instance, there is a spell scroll which can be used to heal crew members just like how the monk can for his ability. Right now there are only a couple items that take advantage of this, but I intend to have unique actions tied to most of the items in the long run.

On a separate note, we have a team update which is that we have found a music composer to join the team. Our composer Riley is going to whipping up some awesome pirate tunes so people can look forward to hearing those in the future! He may also by involved in helping with sound effects and doing some of the coding for the game (depending on how much time he has).

Lastly, I hope everyone enjoys trying out the new build and remember to leave me your feedback on what you think about the tactical game play. The next build is going to include an art drop from Kurt to liven things up and we will be announcing the name of the game very soon. The list of significant changes in the build is below.

---- v0.10 ----
- Add tactical crew control (press space to pause)
- Fixed several bugs around how the crew work
- Player can now control any crew member equally
- Crew now have special abilities which can be used
- Actions can be queued up while in tactical mode
- Items can now have an action attached to them
- Improve item tooltips to be easier to read
- Added a window for browsing your crew
- Lots of UI improvements
- Added game balance framework to help with tweaking the balance in the future
- Add a handful of new items but most of them aren't fully complete yet
- Did an initial balance pass. Much more to come though
- Added Heal area action
- Added Stealth action
- Added Stun area action
- Added Mutli-shot action
- Added Rogue class
- Added Barbarian class
- Added Monk class
- Added Archer class

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Sweet New Style

Hey again everyone! This weeks build is all about style. Kurt has been cranking away in order to pump out a bunch of new sprites and animations for the characters in the game. So far, we have humans (with different hair styles), twerps, fishmen, giant robots, sea golems and gas skeletons. They all looks really sweet so check out the latest build below and give it a play.

I will keep this post pretty short because most of the new stuff you should really see by playing yourself. Nonetheless, below are some screen shots of some of the new characters. However, you really have see them in action to really appreciate the awesome animations.

Trying to survive a robot attack

How did sea golem's get on my boat!?

Twerps spawning from a portal

Another new feature that is introduced in this build is the ability to go on an excursion onto an island. In the future we plan to do a lot of different events that will take place on islands, but for now there is just one simple one to test the feature. Most of the work this release went into building a framework that can randomly generate islands on the fly. So, pretty much every island that you go to in the game will be a little bit different. The system is pretty interesting as it uses an alteration on a classic midpoint displacement algorithm in order to generate the terrain. In the future as we fill out the island content much more, so I am sure that I will have more to say about it then!

Wandering around a random island (test graphics)

As always, thanks for following along and beware of the many bugs you are sure to find in the build! Below is a list of the major changes in the build if you are interested. Also, don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments.

---- v0.9 Ship Notes ----
- New more realistic water sprites
- Add new human sprites
- Make humans NPC's able to equip and use various types of weapons
- Add Twerp enemy type which is small and fast
- Add framework for random island generation
- Add new Twerp Portals event
- Add Steam Robot enemy type
- Add Gas Skeleton enemy type
- Add island event (test graphics only)
- Major perf improvements to the sprite manager system
- Add Fishman enemy type
- Add Sea Golem enemy type
- Make enemies able to have multiple attack types
- New Portals event type

- New events for new types of enemies

Saturday, September 6, 2014

1 Million Downloads

This post is just to take a moment to celebrate that I recently crossed the 1 million downloads line for all of my games. It is a pretty exciting milestone as and indie developer, and I am really thankful to all of the people who have taken the time to download and enjoy my games. It is a huge joy to read all of the reviews and comments and see that people like them for the same reasons that I do! So, the journey took about 3 years and the following graph tells the tail...

Windows Phone downloads (~982k)

Most of my success has been on windows phone where I still receive about 300 downloads a day even though I haven't updated my most popular game Legends of Decent for well over a year. You can see a few large peaks in the daily downloads which represent times when my game was featured on the front of the windows phone app store. Otherwise, it has been a stead crawl most of the way.

Windows 8 downloads (~19k)

I ported the game to windows 8 shortly after the OS was launched, but haven't been able to find the same success there. However, the 19k downloads were still part of getting me over the 1 million line, so I guess it was worth the effort. I have often wondered how the game would have done on android or iOS, but I think that I did benefit from the visibility that I got from being in a less crowded marketplace.

Nonetheless, by far my proudest achievement has been how well reviewed Legends of Descent has been ever since launch. I still get a new 5 star review every few days, which is really incredible.

Reviews for Legends of Descent in the US

Anyways, it has been a fantastic journey and I hope that my next game will be as well received as this one was and can put me on the road to the next million (or 10)!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Artificial Stupidity

That's right, it's time for a new build. The main focus in this build has been to improve the AI of the NPC characters in the game. Also, you can now hire crew members which will fight on your behalf in events. Check it out at the following link and the full change list is at the bottom of the post.

So, why do I title the post "Artificial Stupidity". Well, the reason is that there isn't really much intelligence involved. The enemies aren't very smart, but rather simply follow a predefined behavior in a way that makes them appear to be smart. One of the most important pieces of appearing to be intelligent is to be able to find your way from one place to anther. In the world of AI, this is called path-finding. There are TONS of algorithms which can be used for path-finding and each one has its own merits and drawbacks. The one used most commonly in game development is called A* (and it is the one I am using as well). I won't go into the details about it, but if you are interested in algorithms then you should read about it. Either way, the end result is that the enemies no longer simply walk into a wall because you are on the other side of it. Now, they will walk around the wall in order to hunt you down and kill you. Cool.

A* path-finding grid in action

The other major feature that I put into the game with this build is the ability to have a crew on your ship which fights on your behalf. Right now, this is the most simple implementation that I could make, and the only difference between crew members is how much health they have. However, there is a ton of potential to expand this system to make each crew member bring something unique to the game. In the future, I intend to add different characteristics which each crew member might have which would make them valuable. For instance, different ones have the ability to use different kinds of weapons. Also, some might heal you and other crew members. Other still might have the ability to coax enemies to attack them and they can take a very high amount of damage. Putting together a crew which has complimentary abilities will be critical to winning the game.

Hiring some crew for my ship.

In this current iteration, your crew is completely controlled by AI (and a simple one at that). They will look for the nearest enemy and go try and kill them for you. However, I plan to make a lot of changes in this regard in future builds. The first thing I want to add is the ability to assign different AI personalities. For instance, you could assign some crew to be aggressive (like they are now) but others to be defensive and to stay on your own ship and defend it instead of attacking. However, I want to go beyond this and try out adding the option to pause the game and then assign specific actions to your crew. So, if you want to micro manage your crew during a particularly difficult encounter then you can do that by pausing every time you need to and then assigning what actions you need your crew to take. This will add a new tactical element to the game which is currently missing which I think could be super fun.

New slaver ship event in which I have gotten the slavers to surrender.

Lastly, I will leave you with a small taste of what is to come in the next build. Kurt has been hard at work coming up with the actual sprites that we will be using for the characters in the game. Below is a tiny sample of some what he has come up with so far and you should be able to see them live in the game soon! As always, let me know what you think of the build and share you ideas in the comments.

New enemies from Kurt that we will be adding in soon.

v0.8 Change List
- Add path-finding to AI
- Make ranged enemies do line of sight checks
- Allow enemies to grapple across ships
- Add hirable crew members which fight for you
- Add ability to hire crew in certain trade events
- New marooned man event
- New slave ship event

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ship Battles for Fun and Profit

After going through a phase of creative block, I am finally making significant progress again. The latest build includes the baseline tech that I will use to save games and takes a first stab at what a pirate ship battle will be like. Check it out here...

I have spent a ton of time over the last month trying to conceive of what a ship battle would look and play like in this game. Of course, it is not an option to cut ship battles when making a pirate game, they simply must exist, and must be fun. However, there are a lot of technical things to consider since the game takes place up close to the action and I can't easily zoom the camera out because the game is 2D and things would get distorted if the camera wasn't pixel perfect.

New pirate ship attack event

One idea that I considered was to have the ship battles be like a separate mini game. This way I would use completely different graphics for them and then after they had played out you could zoom down into the action again. However, I didn't really like separating the ship battles out from the rest of the game very much. Also, it would need to be coded completely separately and need its own art assets and whatnot, which would be expensive. So, I decided not to pursue that route.

Grappling between ships during a battle

Ultimately, I have settled with the idea of having the ships be stationary during the battle. Then, characters will grapple back and forth between the ships as they battle for victory. However, I will still allow the player to have some control over the actions of their ship (in future builds). I am thinking of adding the ability to attach upgrades to your ship such as cannons which you could then use to sink the opposing ship. I will have to experiment with a bunch of different ideas for how your ship will play a part in the encounter in order to find out what is most fun.

So, in the comments let me know what you would like to see in the ship battles and maybe I will add it in :-).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Bit More Tech

When building a new game (on a new engine you haven't used) there is a lot of time spent just putting together the underlying tech necessary for the type of game you are making. That is what the past few weeks have been spent on for me. Unfortunately, this doesn't result in all that much new content which is fun to play. However, it does help flesh out the vision for what I think the game will be in its final form some day. So, try it out here...

There are two main new changes introduced in this build. The first one is a new merchant system that allows you to buy and sell items in certain event locations. Along with this I added a few new events which result in you being able to make trades. In the future, trading items will be a vital way of decking out your gear, your crew and your ship.

Trading items at a merchant port

The other piece of tech is a new travel map that your see when you want to sail. This shows you a map of where you are and the various locations that you can chose to sail to. The addition of this gives you a much better feeling that you are actually travelling somewhere between events which is really nice. The art used for the map right now is just something I grabbed off the internet, so we will be filling it in with something better in the future.

Choosing a destination to sail to

Anyways, hope this gives you some more of an idea of where we are headed with the game. I am hoping to get most of the tech out of the way soon so that we can start filling in the game with more fun to play content.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let's Get Piratey

In this build we are trying out a new theme which is basically your classic pirate theme. The tiles that are used for the ship are from the actual artist Kurt, so they should resemble the style that the finished project will look like You can check it out here...

Don't be critical with this build because it is pretty raw. I wanted to play around with some of the concepts we are thinking of, so I have prototyped a bunch of stuff. However, I don't want to make everyone wait until it is all over before you try it. So, I have posted this build up for you despite its obvious rough edges. So, enjoy all of the numerous bugs that I am sure it contains.

Fighting the undead on your ship

The main thing to notice in the build beside the pirate theme is the event system. This is where you can sail to different locations and a different event will trigger at each one. Right now, when you sail it just randomly spawns an event. In the future, there will be some sort of map that you can pick the location you want to sail to. This gameplay style is borrowing a lot from "FTL" which fans of that game will notice right away.

Example of event text

I am pretty excited about the event driven gameplay because it allows us to do a lot of different stuff. Most of the places that you visit will have some choices that you can make. What you chose will determine how the event plays out. For instance, if you come across a merchant ship you could choose to attack it or to trade with it. Whichever you chose will make a large difference in how you are able to progress.

Shout out in the comments with what cool events you think should be added into the game! And of course, any other feedback is always welcome.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Perf Separates the Men From the Boys

Hey everyone! It has been a little while since my last post, but finally there is a new build for you. I will explain some in this post what I spent all that time doing. Or, if you don't care, you can just check out the build here...

So what was I doing you ask!? I was trying to make sure that the game will run at a whopping 60 fps on any computer. It turns out that by using the normal Unity sprite renderer for every tile on the screen was a bad idea. It was making a call to the graphics card for every tile. This resulted in 100's of calls to the graphics card every frame of the game! I didn't notice this for quite a while because a modern gaming PC can handle this just fine, but when I tried to load the game on my phone it ran at 1 fps or worse.
Something that you might be surprised to hear is that making games in general isn't that hard. The tools are so good that I am confident that most people who wanted to could figure out how to make a game. However, what makes great game developers great is their ability to make the game perform well even on old machines. This requires you to employ lots of design patterns and techniques that professional software developers use. You need to understand concepts such as memory utilization, garbage collection, algorithm complexity and much more.
Dark Legacy Comics: Lag
When you want to do mobile development, this whole performance issue becomes critical. To give an example, on windows phone if you want to run on any device (not just the high end ones) then you can only use 90MB of memory for your game. This is like having to write your game to run on a computer over 10 years old, and as a result, brings a whole new set of challenges to bear. That being said, even after spending some weeks on perf optimizations, this game is still not running smoothly on my phone. Hopefully I am able to figure out how to harness Unity in a way that will work. Nonetheless, for now, I am putting the perf optimizations aside to focus on adding some more content because that is more fun.

In the next build (v0.5) you can expect for the environment to change dramatically. We will be trying out a more pirate based theme which will take place on ships and whatnot. So, look forward to that!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Something more origonal maybe?

So, here is an update build for the fans. Remember that you can press 'c' to open the change list and read what is new.

Some exciting news this week is that I have added an artist to the team. His name is Kurt and I worked with him before on "Legends of Descent". I am super excited to be working with him again and to see what kind of a sweet style we can come up with.

Over the last week, we have been discussing where our game should be set and what the overarching plot should be. So far, I have just been developing the game as a typical dungeon crawler, which really isn't fresh at all. However, Kurt has come up with a bunch of interesting ideas which I will share out with you guys. Also, my father in law had some interesting ideas as well.

Here are Kurt's different ideas...
  • The game could take place on a fantastical ship. As the ship travels the game will progress and the mood will change based on the surrounding atmosphere. Perhaps at the end of the game it could crash on an island.
  • You are defending an island against an invading army. Each play through you will explore different portions of the island.
  • You are in an ancient military city that comes under a zombie invasion. You have to fight your way out of the city to survive.
  • You are in a forest for that breaks out into fire while you are defending it. By the end of the battle you are defending a pile of embers and ash.
  • You are on a giant and the different areas are represented by areas of his body such as a forest in his hair or a plain on his skin. Perhaps it could even be a rock giant which has grassy areas and whatnot no him.
  • You are in a suspension city which is connected with bridges and has rivers below. Creatures spawn from the canyons below and crawl up into the city.

Here are ideas from my father in law...
  • The game takes place in the world of bugs (amongst the grass and the weeds). You play as one kind of bug that must survive and fight off other bugs and threats.
  • The game takes place in a house and the world is made up of toys.
  • The game is parody on the current vampire craze and reuses characters from them but in a humorous way.
So, as you can see we have a wealth of different ideas at this point. This is the phase of game development that I have heard referred to as the "unreasonable optimism" phase in which you dream up all kinds of crazy things that would be awesome. However, the next step is to reel it in and see what is really possible and what is really fun. So, I think that we will pick a couple of the best ideas and do a bit of prototyping to see what works best.

Sound off in the comments about what setting and plot you think would be awesome for an action rogue-like to take place in. Hopefully you will all get to see some prototypes over the next few weeks.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Progression and Abilities

Without any delay, you can check out the new build here if you want. The change list can be viewed in game by pressing the 'c' key...

Today I wanted to talk a little about one of the great pillars of RPG games, which is character progression. This is basically the way in which the game allows you to shape and change your character to be what you want over time. In a typical fantasy RPG, it usually takes the form of level ups which increase your power and unlock new abilities. However, this concept has become so popular that it has invaded the majority of modern games. Even sports games now allow up to level up the players on your team and upgrade their statistics to make them better players.

Incredibly overloaded WoW UI

However, I find myself questioning if it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Many modern games focus on having DEEP ability trees for players so as to increase the amount of options that the player has. However, this results in needing to spend a lot of time studying the differences between different paths of this tree to understand what you want to do. This can be a somewhat of a long and arduous process to understand, and often times the differences are subtle enough that you might not even care what they are. Don't get me wrong, I love traditional RPG progressions just as much as everyone else, but I am wondering if it is time for a change of pace.

There are a couple things that these progression trees bring to a game that I think are really fun and expand the value of the game. They are the following...
  1. They give you a sense of accomplishment as you play the game.
  2. They force you to make decisions which have consequence on how you play.
  3. They improve replay-ability since you can make different choices the next time you play.
I state several of my design goals with this game in this post. They included that it will include perma-death as well as that a full play through should be around 2 hours of time. As a result, the idea of a deep level up and skill tree doesn't really make sense for this game. Instead, it makes more sense to have a very large breadth of things the player can do so that each time they play the game it feels very different. So, this is going to be my goal with regards to progression of characters.

Diablo 2 ability tree and stats

Furthermore, with this new game, I am thinking about taking a much different path in which the character progression is not strongly tied to the character themselves. I am considering not having any experience points or level ups at all. Instead, the progression will be focused on the items that the player collects which will dramatically change how the game is played. The best items in the game will be hard to get, and you will only be able to get 1 or 2 of them in a single play through. So, you will have to chose which ones you want to go for at the start and work your way to it. I am still deciding exactly what that will look like. Perhaps I will add some sort of a crafting system that will allow you to progress towards the best items in the game by collecting their components. I will probably implement a few different options and see which one works best.

Let me know in the comments what are your favorite character progression implementations in games and what you like about them. Maybe there is something I can borrow!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ya Gotta' Have Style

Before I spill my thoughts about game development all over you, I should let you know that the first build of the game is online for people to try out. This is mostly just a technical test to see what the engine can do. So, enjoy...

Now that we have that out of the way, today I wanted to talk about something that is incredibly important for INDIE games to think about... style. As an indie dev, you are working on an extremely constrained budget compared to modern AAA games. For instance, I can usually afford to front a few thousand dollars for everything I need to make a game that I can't do myself. This is nothing compared to the millions of dollars spent making modern AAA games. So, how is it possible to still compete in this situation? The answer is to chose an interesting style for you game which makes it appealing and beautiful but much cheaper to create than modern super realistic 3d graphics.

Coming up with a game style can take a great deal of creativity. There are many examples of how this has been done extremely well over the past years. A couple that come to mind are "Limbo" and "Braid" which both did an amazing job of creating a compelling world on indie budgets (though their budgets were still reasonably larger than mine).

After making "Legends of Descent" I learned a few lessons about the important of the style that you pick for your game. Legends used environment tiles which I would then arrange in a way to produce a dungeon. The first set of tiles that I used for development I borrowed from a game called "Tibia" and then later had an artist make original ones for me. I then took free character sprites from the web to use for my character and the enemies. This kind of worked out ok, but to be honest, the styles of the two clashed quite a bit. Also I ran into issues because the character sprites that I used were so large that they used a lot of memory. Furthermore, the character sprites were pretty expensive to get done by an artist, which limited how many enemy types I could put in the game. In the end, style is one of the things that I regret most about Legends.

Tiles being used to create a dungeon level in "Legends of Descent"

So, what are the important things that you should consider when deciding on your games style. Here are a few that I can think of...
  1. Will the style of all of the elements of your game flow together or feel disjointed?
  2. Is the style original or creative making it pleasing to view?
  3. How expensive will each asset cost to be made?
  4. How reusable are the assets? Can you easily tweak them to make many variations?
  5. Do the assets need to be created in several different angles (if 2d)? How many?
With those in mind, I have picked a much different style for my current game. First off, I will have it be top down instead of orthographic (from an angle). This allows me to rotate the sprites around 360 degrees instead of having to have many sprites drawn for each angel. Secondly, instead of using many drawn frames for the characters, I am instead going to break them up into pieces which I will animate by moving. This is similar to the game "Rayman" and will allow me to create lots of interesting animations with minimal art assets. Lastly, I am going to go for a more cartoony style that is probably inline with the SNES generation of games. I think that this is going to allow me to create a really large amount of content without being constrained severely by my small budget.

I found an awesome blog post about creating top down art here. You will notice that I have used his sprites with some slight modifications for version 0.1 of my game.

In the first build which is linked at the top of this post you can go try out the game and get an idea for how it will look. All of these graphics are either made by me or borrowed from free art sites. So, they give you an idea of how it will feel, but none of them are final. Once I am sure that this is the way I want to go I will bring on an artist to start doing the real ones. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Monday, February 17, 2014

So what shall it be?

Before you can start making a game there is something that you must have first... an idea. In general, it's pretty easy to come up with a game idea. However, it is much harder to come up with a fun game idea. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to come up with an "original" game idea. Pretty much all of the games that I have ever made are derivations on games that I have played on the past. In general, I play a game that I really like, and then I think about how I would change it, and then I go do that. As a result, I have a lot of respect for indie dev's who can actually come up with things that have never been done before.

So, in light of that, what kind of a game should I make now? Well, when I was teaching myself Unity last month I prototyped a game that my wife had suggested. It was a puzzle-platformer that had a very unique twist to it that I have never seen or heard of before. You can tell it came from my wife because it actually was original! I got all the way to a playable prototype which I really enjoyed making, but then came the moment of truth. I needed to actually design a puzzle that was fun to play. It turns out that I am completely terrible at puzzle creation. So, I gave up on that and decided to move towards something more familiar.

Recently, I have been having a lot of fun playing Roguelike games. For those who don't know, Roguelikes generally are RPG games which have a focus on procedural generation and perma-death. Some recent examples of games like this are "Dungeons of Dredmor" and "FTL" which are amazing games. I really like the perma-death idea for a couple of reasons
  1. It keeps play session shorter since it is no fun playing a game for more than a few hours if your entire progress will suddenly be lost.
  2. It adds a real intensity to the game since the consequence of death is so much higher
  3. It creates a great stage for re-playable content

Dungeons of Dredmor

My last game "Legends of Descent" was an action RPG with a lot of procedurally generated content, so it is not too far off from a Roguelike. However, the only consequence of death was a small gold cost. I wouldn't want to delete anyone's character because some people had actually logged 100's of hours into their characters.

So, what do I want to do differently with this new game now? Well, here are the main design points that I am currently thinking will guide me...

  1. Perma-death for all characters
  2. One play through from start to finish should take less than 2 hours
  3. The theme will be fantasy of some sort, likely an dungeon crawler still
  4. If players level-up, it will be pretty simple. No complex skill trees
  5. Most of the progression of the game will be through collecting items which will drastically change how you play based on which ones you equip.
  6. The game will be real time action, not turn based
  7. There will be a strong emphasis on replay-ability. Likely there will be unlockable content and some randomization to support this.


I know that leaves a huge portion of the game still completely unknown. I agree, and I plan to flesh those details out as I go. I will try a bunch of things out and keep the fun and toss the rest. If anyone decides to read this blog, then they can contribute to shaping the end product as well. Hopefully at the end I will end up with something worth the time!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's make a game

Welcome to my new blog "AM Indie Dev". I named the blog this because ever since my daughter was born 3 years ago I have found that most of my "free time" exists in the wee hours of the morning when no human is normally awake. After coming to the conclusion that I was not going to be sleeping during these hours as long as I had small children, I decided that I would make some use out of them by learning to make indie games. Thus, my early morning indie game dev adventures began.

So far I have published 6 games. 5 of them on the Windows Phone 7 platform and 1 of them on the Xbox Live Indie Games platform. My most popular one is a top down action RPG called "Legends of Descent" which is very similar to the original Diablo. I spent about a year creating it and adding content to it, and it was an absolute blast. However, it was a big project and left me feeling a little burned out at the end. On top of that, Microsoft stopped supporting the XNA framework which I was using, so my entire engine no longer worked. As a result of this, I haven't created a new game for over a year now. Well... the time has come to start it up again. I am finally ready to get serious about a new project.
Legends of Descent

That's where you come in. I have decided to do regular blog posts as I create this new game and allow people to enjoy the process along with me. I have spent the last month learning how to use the Unity engine, and I have decided that I am ready to start a new game using it. Since it has a web player, I am hoping to regularly post updated builds of the game online that people can try out and give feedback on. Hopefully it will also be fun for people to see it come together over the course of many months.

So, here are some of the things you can expect from this blog over the next few months...
  • Getting to play a game from its infancy until it actually becomes fun
  • Getting to give feedback on the game and see it actually change
  • Hear my musings about indie game development in general
  • Learn something about how games are made as I share my progress
I hope you are as excited to go on this adventure as I am. My plan for the next couple of weeks is to do some posts about different game ideas that are going through my head and then eventually decide on one to pursue. I will also try and get a basic tech demo of a game up and running online so people can begin playing along. Let's make a game!