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Archive for June, 2010

We just made the official announcement about the release of AstoDriller3020:

We are excited to get this game out there, it is a lot of fun and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I have.

As an Indie Developer we face a lot of challenges. We work with almost no budget trying to complete games that can take months or years to finish. These are games that we love to play so we put everything we can into them. We know some of these games are not going to be huge hits or extremely popular. What keeps us going? We know that the games are fun, we love playing them, we love making them and we hope that there are other people out there who will share our feelings about these games. Zatikon is one of those games.

Developed basically by a single programmer and continually improved over the years. The game has grown to have over a 100 units, each having unique abilities and strategy. Balancing all these units can be overwhelming but yet the game has grown into a very well balanced and fun tactics game.

One thing you don’t think about when adding that next cool unit is how hard it will be to get art to make the game look good. The board is can have a lot of units on it, so they are small. Making a small unit look good is not easy. Especially when you have over a 100 of them. You want animations and fancy effects? Now you are talking 1000’s of frames of animations. So do you not add the next cool unit because of the art restrictions or do you work with what you have to add even more content to the game? For us it is not a choice, our games are about gameplay. Pretty graphics and effects are nice but when I am in the middle of a game of Zatikon trying to plan your next series of moves with the timer ticking down I don’t even see the graphics:

So after all of this work its time to put a video of the game on YouTube right? Then we just sit back and wait for all the comments. There is nothing better then reading the fine things people have to say about your hard work:

“Looks like crap. >.> Did they even try at all? Graphics are not everything, but come on…. At least be a step behind final fantasy tactics, and not complete decades behind. ”

“Dude, you’re talking to someone who enjoys NES/Arati games. This is 2010. If you cannot design a game with at least NES style grafix, then please do not release said game. This still looks stupid. :I ”

The fantastic thing is both these comments were posted by the same person. Maybe after the first comment he noticed that we went through the effort to update the interface with all new graphics and just wanted to let us know what he thought about the new look. Apparently we should not “design” games “with at least NES style Grafix”. I am just looking over the user comments and taking notes for our next design meeting. If we can’t design a game with at least NES graphics he kindly asks that we “please do not release said game.” Thank you for the advice, I will write that down also. Could you tell me a little more about what you think of the game? “This still looks stupid. :I” Ah perfect, let me put that down as well. It looks like it is back to the drawing board for Zatikon (no pun intended). It is too bad we already released a game while it is looking so stupid. No seriously I wrote that in my design notebook: “Don’t design game that looks stupid”. Got it, cancel the two games we are working on. No more looking stupid!

I have just finished a small update to Kingdom Elemental which fixes a couple of bugs and should help solve the problems with some NVIDIA cards and Windows 7.  While working on the update I got to playing the game a bit.  It is a challenge to stay on task when working on a fun game like Kingdom Elemental or Bridge Construction Set.  I always catch myself playing the game and forgetting all about what I was trying to fix.  It’s always the “what if I try that” or “I wonder if this would work” thoughts that gets me.  Updating Kingdom Elemental brought back the memories of how much fun it was to work on.  If you are a fan of tactics games and sarcasm then this game is for you.  When developing games with a small budget tt is very difficult to get quality voice overs and create characters with personality but I think Tony, the sound engineer did a great job.  I highly recommend listing to the level 3 into, it is probably the funniest story I have ever heard in a game.

Hey Zatikon players,

A comprehensive guide is coming out featuring 2 guide videos, descriptions and uses of every unit and more! The guide is helpful to both novice and intermediate players, and in certain aspects can be used as a reference to advanced players. It describes the main menu, sub menus, chat windows, gameplay modes and army construction for beginner players, then goes into descriptions of every unit in Zatikon and what their strengths and weaknesses are. The latter section is geared towards newer players who may want a bit more info on specific pieces, but is also extremely useful for intermediate players to understand the finer points of using certain crucial pieces such as the acolyte and the scout.

The guide will also feature 2 videos; one will highlight the more basic aspects of Zatikon, such as unit movement, attacking and maneuvering your army, while the other will be geared towards intermediate/advanced players and will lean towards using potent unit combinations and creating your own unit combos.

Writing the guide was a welcome challenge, and involved me revisiting the game to understand the mechanics of certain pieces. I had received some material from a fellow Zatikon player Lunaria who had written about the basics of Zatikon, such as the menus and game play modes, but I felt that more needed to be said about the units themselves and about potent unit combinations. In writing the descriptions of units, I definitely drew from my experiences and blunders in Zatikon. A major challenge was writing descriptions of units that had just come out, such as the captain, the supplicant and the abbey. By playing a couple of games with the more experienced players I quickly learned how the pieces should be used, and definitely incorporated their strategies as well as my own  into my descriptions.

Overall, writing the guide was a fun experience, and I’m sure you will have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Here is a little snippet from the units section, enjoy!

Well, it might still be early, but I figured I’d go ahead and kick off the postmortem for AstroDriller3020. The road to the final build has been amazingly long and winding, but at this point, that’s all in the past. The game is finally done, or really close to it, and soon to be in the hands of the masses. Or at least the close friends and family that I can convince to buy a copy. Development started out rapidly, with a bright and hard working team, a tangible goal, and the time and resources to get everything done. The game took shape quickly, and I was really pleased with the results. But from there, as it often does to the determined indie developer, life happened. It’s a long and boring story, honestly, so I’ll keep it to the classic postmortem format: what went right, what went wrong. As the title spills, I will be doing this in several different parts, say about once a week. Each week will have either 1 thing that went right or 1 thing that went wrong. Sound good? On with it, then!

What went right: Team Win
The A stands for Awesome
I don’t like to bask in my own awesomeness too often, but for picking out as fantastic team as I did, I will. Seriously though, I couldn’t have been luckier than to have the guys that I worked with on this project. Each member of the team really seemed to be enthusiastic, and they all did above and beyond work. I considered myself a ball-buster, demanding high quality work out of everybody and scrutinizing each detail of the art/audio as it came in. But the team really became a lot better than I could ever ask. Fresh ideas came in constantly, as did detailed bug reports and critiques from in depth play throughs of the game. Many team members pulled double duty, creating levels for the game after they finished their core tasks. It’s because these guys took the game and ran with it that the game has as many levels as it does, and that those levels are insanely fun and balanced. I ended up going into “autopilot” for a while, where I just listened to what the team suggested, and I would try and implement as much as I could for the next build. The team really put a huge effort into AstroDiller, and the game’s quality wouldn’t be 1/10 as good as it is now without such a great effort behind it.

That’s all for now!

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