September 28th, 2015
Hi everyone, it’s been another long stretch… here goes.
Taking simultaneous execution a bit further
Towards the start of the year I introduced simultaneous execution to the combat system. I’ve done a ton of playtesting in the months since, and the feedback’s been very positive.
Since the last update, I’ve been working one last big change to take it a step further: Before, each faction moved separately, so your units would move, then the enemy’s, back and forth. Now, all units execute their turns simultaneously.
To be clear, mechanically the game isn’t affected! These changes only affect the presentation of how actions are executed. All the planning and decision making is still completely turn based.
Here’s a quick video demoing how the new system plays:
To make this work, I created an algorithm that processes the player and AI’s queued actions at the end of the planning phase, identifies dependencies between them, then figures out who’s “allowed” to move when during execution while respecting the player’s input. This was a pretty tricky programming challenge and I came close to scrapping the whole thing at least a few times, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
I still need to spend some more time polishing up the algorithm and animations, but hopefully you’re all as excited by this last change as I am! To those of you who were looking specifically for an old school experience, I’m planning on putting in an option in to support it (this will be closer to what I showed in the first alpha video way back, but with all the new features and other goodness we’ve built up since then).
Classes, Abilities, and Unit Progression
Apart from the changes to make the turn execution phase completely real-time, I’ve been working on implementing and balancing the game’s classes and abilities. If you can remember all the way back to the campaign, the original plan for the combat system was something “chess-like” in its simplicity. There were only 10 classes in a simple, mostly linear progression path, and each class had just one corresponding ability.
While this was interesting in prototyping, early in development it became clear that we’d need to increase the scope of the class and abilities system significantly to keep things engaging for three full releases. Here’s the WIP class hierarchy I shared around that time for reference.
Since then I’ve been iterating through lots of different possibilities, and in the last few months I’ve been closing in on the final progression. For the first release there are now 18 playable classes, and each class has five unlockable upgrades. Here’s what the current class/ability tree looks like (click for hi-res, note the ability icons are missing since they’re not finalized):
Originally, the plan was to let players create “hybrid” units by leveling multiple paths simultaneously. After some testing, I decided against this, since it made advancement feel unfocused and balancing basically impossible. Now, units need to specialize down a path, but can choose which classes to unlock along the way. Additionally, within each class, players can choose three of five advancements.
These changes result in units feeling more purpose built and makes party balancing more interesting. I’m trying my best to have give each ability a unique behavior with at least one counteracting ability, as opposed to just having lots of ways to deal different amounts of damage.
Events, Playtesting, and an Award!
As mentioned above, I’ve been doing lots of playtesting at local indie game events at Playcrafting, The Sheep’s Meow, Babycastles, and the NYU Game Center. The ongoing playtesting has been really helpful for figuring out what’s working, what’s not, what’s confusing, etc. plus I’ve already gotten to meet a bunch of you in person which is always great. If you’re in the NY/NJ area, come say hi!
Earlier this month, we were also one of about sixty games selected for the Digital Games Showcase at the Boston Festival of Indie Games. Here’s a little interview I did there. We got tons of great feedback, and even won the award for best art!
The final vertical cut build will be up later this week for our alpha backers with the above changes, the auto-save system enabled, and lots of other tweaks/polish. The following build will be up in October and will have additional content past the vertical cut unlocked (finally).
I’ll be in the LA area from 10/21-10/24 for IndieCade. If you’re around there and want to take the latest build for a spin, drop me a line!
Once again, you’ve all been really patient, so thank you. There are times when I get pretty burned out and feel tempted to just wrap things up as quickly as I can, but I really think the extra time we’re taking for all these changes will be what takes the final product from good to great.
Lastly, here’s a couple more tracks to share