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Author Topic: Shardpunk: Verminfall (xcom/darkest dungeon/steampunk) [tech demo available]  (Read 14782 times)
bryku
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« Reply #140 on: September 06, 2019, 10:54:15 PM »

Let's talk game design today.

As many of your might already be aware of, my game features a slightly different approach to handling weapon ammo. Weapons, instead of having ammo clips, have a heat indicator that goes up with every shot. Seems like a simple inversion of the ammo clips approach, right? Well, here's the main difference:

When the heat reaches maximum, the player is not forced to reload. They can risk taking a shot with an overheated weapon. What is more, such shot will deal more damage and is able to shred enemy armor (remember this part for later).


Rogue firing an overloaded shotgun, which shreds armor. And basically insta-kills the big rat in this case.

The downside of having access to such powerful attack is that there is a risk of weapon overload. This is clearly displayed for the player:



If an overload happens, the player receives damage. This introduced a nice risk/reward mechanics in the game. Both ranger and rogue classes had this mechanism present already.





Then I've added the soldier class to the game. He's a damage dealing tank class. However, his accuracy is not perfect.

I wanted to give the solder a special ability which would allow him to quickly put his weapon into overheated state, without having to fire any shots first. That would allow the player easily add some extra punch to his attacks (with the risk of overload still being present, of course).

Lore-wise, I had an explanation ready for this as well: characters using regular weapons would avoid overloading them on purpose as it can be dangerous. However, a seasonsed soldier might be hardcore enough to push the limits of his weapon/suit (as these two are combined - the gun IS a part of soldier's suit).



One might still argue that it's kind of silly, as overloading a weapon might simply be about firing a few shots into the sky/ground. Why would regular characters be really afraid of it? So why not add such action for everyone?

Anyways, not all of the stuff must be 100% realistic, right? I mean even XCOM had its own sins: number of grenades and ammo was basically infinite between missions, same with medkits. On the other hand, each character had a hard cap in the number of grenades they could carry on a mission, etc. etc.

Lore and realism issues aside, I found another problem with the "force overload" action for the soldiers: as I mentioned before, overloaded shots deal extra damage and shred armor. However, there is currently no need for the soldier class to deal even more damage than he is doing using his regular attack. He is already capable of killing most enemies in a single shot.

The most difficult enemy in the demo - the heavy rat, which requires some extra effort to be put down - does not spawn very often, so having the "force overload" action present only for the sake of killing a single guy was not worth it.

So I decided to pivot and change the way "force overload" action should work. It would no longer boost the damage and introduce backfire penalties - instead, it would allow the soldier to perform more than one "shoot" action in a turn. This might become very handy when dealing with multiple enemies.

First of all, to avoid naming confusion with all the overload mechanics, I renamed the new action to "combat suit boost". The suit enters a higher energy state, allowing the character to fire more than once.



Normally a soldier can perform one attack per turn, and performing such attack ends their turn immediately. When boosted, I wanted them to shoot at least three times in total. After some playtesting, this evolved even more: a boosted character was able to perform as many free shots as they want in a turn. However, there was a limit: no free shots were allowed if the weapon core became overheated.

This caused the following issue: if the player boosted the suit whilst having the weapon in an overloaded state, they were unable to perform any free shot - therefore using the boost was not making sense then.

I overcame this with making sure that the boost action additionally reloads the weapon's core, making sure that the player is able to perform at least as many shots as the capacity of weapon's reactor.



The players can still optimize the usage of "boost" action by making sure they have an action point left to actually reload the weapon when it gets overloaded after performing a bunch of free shots. With weapon core's capacity of three, it gives six free shots in total. It does not feel too much, as a) in some situations there can be a lot of enemies on the screen and b) the %to hit of the soldier class is not that high, so there might be a lot of misses.

Some of you might be thinking why a soldier would have a low % to hit rate. Well, it makes sense from the gameplay mechanics perspective - making that armored, high damage dealing guy deadly accurate would overpower the character, so I had to nerf him in some way.

And from the lore perspective? Well, this is a retired soldier, wearing an old, rusty armor. Most of the young soldiers are already dead/caught fighting on the streets of the Capitol anyway.

Anways, this is still not the final iteration of the "boost" action. I plan on testing how it would be working if I actually allowed using the free attack action when a weapon is overloaded. I could then remove the initial weapon reloading from the boost, as the skill would become usable even if taking each shot would have a risk of a backfire.

Well, this entry sure got very different from the usual "status update" stuff! On the other hand, describing my thought process on this helped me to clear my mind and actually gave me some new ideas for game mechanics.

Anyways, going through regular game development status update quickly: aside from working on that soldier class, I added some new in-game screens (a "welcome" screen, and a "thank you" one after one ends a mission).

What's next?

I believe I will reiterate on the backfire and boost mechanics for the soldier some more. Also, I'd like to try out another library for handling game camera movement. The current one is pretty neat but has some disadvantages - I will happily write more about it in a future blog post.

Thanks for reading!

As usual, if you'd like to receive more frequent updates about the development and a heads-up about release of the demo, follow me on Twitter at @bryquTheDev.

Also, do help me out reaching a bigger audience! Please share, retweet or simply tell others about the game - each new follower gives me a big confidence boost!

Take care!
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bryku
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« Reply #141 on: September 13, 2019, 10:51:11 PM »

Alright, first here's some follow-up information on the "boost" action design that I described in the previous entry: It now basically allows the player to perform an infinite number of shots in a turn, even if the weapon core becomes overheated.

Firing an overheated weapon still of course carries the risk of taking damage from weapon core malfunction, so performing too many shots without reloading the weapon will still end up in the character killing themselves.






Also, because of this change I have slightly altered the "boost" action - it no longer reloads the weapon at the beginning, as the player is able to use the action even if the weapon is overheated.



I actually find it amusing when it comes to adjusting the game lore to fit game mechanics. Initially my gameplay idea was that the soldier should not be able to fire an overheated weapon. Lore-wise, I was ready to justify it that the internal safety systems of the combat suit don't allow for such action, as it might cause major damage (probably an explosion of a weapon core on a large scale), including collateral damage.

Later on, when I decided that it will be possible for the soldiers to fire overheated guns, all the lore ideas from above have been scrapped. So now performing such action might result in damage, but there are no safety systems in place - designers of combat suits apparently knew that in some cases it is worth risking one's life for the sake of killing that last enemy instantly, without the need of reload.

This ability to shape the lore in any way I like really is something. It's like creating a new world. It's super fun and addicting!

Alright, so much for the combat boost action I guess. My next plans were to investigate new camera movement library, but I postponed it for now. The current approach is good enough, and I need to finish the rest of the tech demo first.

The good news is that there are no major code changes required. The scope is closed, all the game screens are present, and the game feels like a game - with a menu, settings, the ability to play the demo mission, ending screen and thank you page, and with ability to replay the mission.

All the sounds and music are present as well.

Only some graphics are missing, so I focused on these. Basically the characters still need some diagonal movement/shooting animations. I started working on adding such shoot animations for the rogue.

Here's how it looked like before, when only the "side" animation was present. The first one looks especially vivid:





Here are WIP version of some of the new ones:





That 2nd death animation should still be tweaked (there should be separate death animation for falling in different directions, but I am not planning to include them in the demo; well, I might add them if there is enough time but they're not critical for now).

What's next?
Still a number of animations is missing, so I will focus on creating them. I will do a lot of playtesting as well, so some balance tuning and bugfixes will be happening. Can I therefore say that the demo is in a polish phase? I guess yes, kind of.

Also, there's still the game name change that will be happening. I need to have a new game logo ready first though. Then there's some Steam stuff that I want to take care of, and possibly setting up some kind of player feedback mechanism as well - but that is not very critical at the moment.

Thanks for reading!
As usual, if you'd like to receive more frequent updates about the development and a heads-up about release of the demo, follow me on Twitter at @bryquTheDev.

Also, do help me out reaching a bigger audience! Please share, retweet or simply tell others about the game - each new follower gives me a big confidence boost!
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« Reply #142 on: September 27, 2019, 05:56:05 AM »

Well I'll be damned! It seems that polishing the game requires far more effort than I anticipated! In my defence I can say I didn't have any experience with it up to this point, so I am learning as I go.

I know that the game is feature complete. However, this does not stop me from expanding the work backlog.

But first things first: there were still directional animations missing, so I created some of them. Rogues now have up/down animations for throwing grenades:






I skipped the diagonal animations for the throwing. Seems like using the default ones work correctly when dealing with diagonal angles:




Also, I managed to fix some game bugs during my playtesting sessions. Man, I can't remember when I played something else than my game... good thing is that I am still having fun with it. I guess mostly because each run is slightly different, so this stuff does not get repetitive.


Here's one of the glitches I encountered. Two rats present on the same tile, one of them stuck in an infinite animation loop.

(Now that I think about it, I did play another game recently! It was Crying Suns, and it was amazing. Go check it out, there's a demo available.)

And here's the thing: during playtesting, I found a number of things that I believe need improving. That's why my work backlog keeps on expanding. But hey, I guess that's what the polishing phase is really about.

Anyways, even though I didn't plan to to anything about it, I changed the way the tutorial messages are displayed.

Here's the old way of handling them:


And the new one:



I didn't want the tutorials to take up whole screen space, so I put them on the side. The text has been split into smaller pieces that should be easier to handle by the player.

Hopefully this time I will be happy about the outcome and I won't touch this part of the game anymore.

What's next?

I need to work on the visuals for the loot points. The whole idea of the "scavenge run" demo mission is to search through these points, and I am not really displaying them in any way - they are simply marked by an indicator. Adding some real graphics for it might make the gameplay experience even better.

Thanks for reading!

As usual, if you'd like to receive more frequent updates about the development and a heads-up about release of the demo, follow me on Twitter at @bryquTheDev.

Also, do help me out reaching a bigger audience! Please share, retweet or simply tell others about the game - each new follower gives me a big confidence boost!

Take care!
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« Reply #143 on: October 01, 2019, 10:11:23 AM »

Welcome back! This has been a very interesting week, as I focused on tweaking some in-game visuals. As I mentioned previously I wanted to do something about the way loot points are displayed.

The tech demo that I am working on will have a single mission available, and it will be about scavenging resources. Gameplay-wise, there are some searchable loot points present on the map. The player should search through as many of these as possible to find sufficient stuff to keep the game going: people need to be fed and healed, the airship needs to have fuel, explosives need to be made, etc. etc.

The bottom line is that the player needs to prioritize searching through these loot points above doing anything else. Even combat is secondary. That being said, if you don't deal with the rats they will deal with you, and all your precious loot will be gone anyway.

Until this point, the loot points were displayed using a yellow indicator. The indicator itself is a good idea (as it gives the player information where they need to go), but it was lacking "real" visual representation:



That's why I've added some visuals, for example a suitcase and a metal container:





Also, I figured out that it would be cool to add some dead bodies to the game. After all, the Capitol has been overrun by the rat swarm, so there should be some signs of a massacre on the streets, right? And as bodies seem like great material for loot points as well, I made them searchable:





An interesting thing came up when I was adding yet another loot point: a locker.



The thing with the locker is that it is higher than other loot points. Therefore, because the orange loot indicator graphic is independent from the loot point graphic, they were not looking too good together:



As you can see, the loot indicator covered up the locker almost entirely.

What is more, it made no sense for the player characters to crouch when looting a locker (which is happening for all other loot types). There's no need to crouch when you're opening something that high.

In the end, I made sure that each loot point visual has some metadata, and its size (being large or small) is a part of it. The position of the orange indicator depends on the size.



With the new approach, loot indicators can be different for different loot point types.

Additionally, when characters drop their inventory on the ground, there's now a clear information on what has been dropped:



What's next?

Well, I will go bug-hunting again! This means a lot of gameplay sessions and tweaking the numbers. I already changed my approach twice to the number of hit points the enemies should have, to the number of loot points appearing on a map or to the way the camera works.

I definitely need to get this game demo out and receive some real external feedback. I will start by having a small, closed demo for a few people that were involved in the game creation process. Then, after the game logo and Steam page are ready, I will release the tech demo to the public.

Thanks for reading!

As usual, if you'd like to receive more frequent updates about the development and a heads-up about the release of the demo, follow me on Twitter at @bryquTheDev.

Also, do help me out reaching a bigger audience! Please share, retweet or simply tell others about the game - each new follower gives me a big confidence boost!

Take care!
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« Reply #144 on: October 06, 2019, 11:02:44 PM »

Alright, this entry will be a short one. The tech demo of the game is more or less ready and I am busy with updating the webpage, presskit and such. I've also started working on a new trailer.

Then there's other stuff to set up like the Steam page, some user feedback system (I'd like to have a survey ready so that people who played the tech demo could share their thoughts on the game), a Discord server and so on.

This all means that I am moving into some dirty work right now, so there won't be any interesting stuff to talk about in the nearest future.

That being said, I am still planning to post a devlog entry next week.

For now, enjoy some new screenshots - I am planning to put some of them on the webpage and the presskit.



















Take care!
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« Reply #145 on: October 07, 2019, 05:17:12 AM »

Love it!!!
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« Reply #146 on: October 07, 2019, 10:50:41 AM »

Rope animation is super cool
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bryku
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« Reply #147 on: October 15, 2019, 11:15:44 AM »

Love it!!!

Rope animation is super cool

Thanks for the good words guys!

As the release of the tech demo approaches and me being mostly busy with some dirty work (setting up the steam page, updating the presskit, etc.), I'd like to share my favorite game design patters (which I also am trying to put in the game):

Risk/reward system

Ah, I love this one and I use it a lot in the game. Nothing is better than allowing the player to make a decision - assuming that this decision really matters. I despise games that only give you a fake feeling of choice (like when during a conversation the only options are "go on" and "I'm listening"). But, if the player is aware that they can take the easy way or perform a riskier action which will yield a better reward, that's a good dilemma to have. There are quite a few places in my game where I'm using the risk/reward system:

Using explosives. It helps you to clear a lot of enemies quickly, but greatly speeds up the process of new enemies popping up.




Staying longer on the map. The longer the player decides to stay in combat, the more resources they can gather. On the other hand, staying longer exposes your characters to more enemies so they might die/get injured.



Note: this mechanic is not fully exploited in the tech demo of the game, as there is nothing besides the combat layer present at the moment - so gathering more resources does not grant you any tangible rewards.

Weapon overheat. Characters do not have to reload their weapons - they can continue shooting them. This even causes more damage to enemies but can damage the person who makes the shot.




Melee and other close-range attacks. Some characters can move extremely close to enemies and try to kill them from close range. If this is not successful, they risk taking damage during enemy turn.



Surprise mechanics

(and I am not referring to EA's silly way of naming lootboxes)

When playing a turn-based game, I like having a plan. What I like even more is when the game screws my plan over and forces me to figure out a new way to get out of a bad situation. That's where the negative traits of characters come in - they do not get triggered very often (though the exact probability value is hidden from the player) but when they do, you need to improvise.



Emergent gameplay, allowing the player to create their own story

I am not into making games with linear narrative. Sure, the main storyline might be linear (XCOM 2 has only one happy ending, no plot branching or stuff) - but if the player can experience stories (and then even tell them to others!) during the gameplay, that's very satisfying. Think of any gameplay session of Civilization, XCOM, Alpha Centauri or such - I was always building the story myself as I go, and the game mechanics were helping me out in doing it.

Backtracking that makes sense

I love when one has to re-visit the same location in the game, but the location itself has changed and holds different challenges or experiences. This is not present in the game but I am trying hard to find a good way of applying it somewhere.

Pressure

As I mentioned, I don't like it when things are going smoothly during gameplay. That is one of the main reasons I dislike the late game in XCOM 2 - your soldiers are very overpowered and basically nothing can harm them. Still, XCOM has mission timers to make sure that you don't get too comfortable but in the late game you don't really feel pressured at all.

Again, my game forces the player to evac out from combat as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary damage. More pressure-like mechanics will come when the strategy layer will be introduced and the player would have to keep the squad alive and the airship running between missions.


Alright, I believe these are the main design pillars that I especially like. Note that this was purely about game mechanics. Stuff like visuals, audio or accessibility are also EXTREMELY important.

That's it for now. Note that there won't be a devlog entry next week, as I'll be at Poznan Game Arena. I won't be showcasing the game there - I'm simply visiting. I hope to meet a lot of indie developers, playtest their games and gather some experience for my future adventures with game development.

Take care!

Also, do tell others about the game - it needs to gain more exposure. Thanks in advance!

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« Reply #148 on: October 15, 2019, 05:45:35 PM »

just found out this project. It looks and feels great.

Already wanting to play it.
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« Reply #149 on: October 20, 2019, 10:34:33 PM »

just found out this project. It looks and feels great.

Already wanting to play it.

Thanks for the good words! I am pretty confident that a tech demo will be coming out this year, so stay tuned.
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« Reply #150 on: October 25, 2019, 01:09:30 PM »

So I spent the previous weekend in Poznan, which was hosting the Poznan Game Arena fair. It was my first gaming fair ever so I didn't really know what to expect. I attended it as a visitor - so I was not showcasing my own game. It's way too early for that. Or so I thought - but more about this later.



My main goal for visiting PGA was getting a general idea of what is going on during such events and see whether it makes sense to set up a booth of my own in the future. Here are some things that I learned, that might be useful for the others:

Be sure your stand/booth is standing out, and your game name is visible

Once I reached the hall where indie games were being presented, one thing struck me: most of the games that were a part of a bigger booth (like a booth owned by an indie fund) were barely visible. Each game had the same display (provided by the sponsor) and inputs (keyboard, mouse, etc.) and as they were packed very closely one to another there was no way of seeing what games are there anyway. The only clearly visible thing was the logo of the sponsor (LG company) who provided the hardware.

Also, there was barely any place for the game developers to stand next to the player.

Initially, I thought that in future gaming fairs I would not be having my own game booth, all branded and everything. Going as a member of a bigger group - especially if it's free - is very tempting, but I recommend doing some research on how the showcasing place will really look like. Otherwise, you might be stuck in a corner of a room, with no real way for the players to reach you.

11bit Studios had a great booth, with some neat wallpapers for Children of Morta. Having something like this would be a blast.



Make sure that you have a game to show

Oh man, this one's difficult.

There's a saying that if you believe you can show your game to the public, it's already too late - as you should showcase and playtest it as early as possible. I get it - that's why I am releasing the tech demo of my game, even though the game is far from being ready.

On the other hand, I've seen indie games at PGA that were clearly not ready to be showcased at all. I won't be pointing fingers here but I believe these games were just taking space for better ones that could be present instead. "This is The End" is far more ready than these games were; now that I'm thinking of it I am pretty sure I could showcase my game at PGA with no shame.

Competitions draw people in...

...although I am not sure whether they make the people memorize your game better. Some of the booths (Riftbreaker, for instance) were having a giveaway of some random gadgets. You had to spin a wheel to win a prize.


Well, they also had a cool robot statue.

This attracted a lot of people near their booth. However, it seems that people (children, mostly) were more interested in the prize than in the game itself.

I believe that it all boils down to what kind of competition you are hosting. A competition that involves playing your game (especially if it's a local coop game) sounds way nicer than a spinning wheel giveaway.

Listen to your players, gather feedback

As an indie developer who would be showcasing my own game, I'd have two major goals: make sure that people remember my game after they leave and make sure that I gather as much player feedback as possible. Both of these goals require social skills (you need to talk to the player to hear stuff about your game!). Some of the developers were clearly lacking them.

I heard that a good practice is to have a wall of sticky notes (or a whiteboard, maybe) which the players can use to provide feedback. This might be a good solution for the kinds of people who'd like to avoid human contact.

Forget about sound, or provide high-quality headsets

Boy, was it loud out there. Lots of people, lots of noise. If you didn't provide a good headset for your game there was no chance for the players to hear anything. So either you invest in some noise-canceling stuff or you turn the sound off completely.

Prepare an interesting demo

Even AAA games did it wrong. I wanted to play Control as I heard that it has some nice telekinesis mechanics (basically giving the ability to throw stuff at people, which sounded cool). It turned out however that I couldn't reach the point in the game where the main character starts using these awesome abilities. I had to go through some introductory, story-based, cinematic-like experience first. So no combat for the first couple of minutes (and often you only have a couple of minutes to hook the player!). Also, due to no headsets being present there was no way to immerse yourself in the cinematic experience anyway.

As a visitor, take advantage of 'VIP days' if they're present

Well, this piece of advice is more for visitors. I attended the PGA on Saturday, and the number of people was staggering for me. This is how the booth for Cyberpunk 2077 looked like 15 minutes(!) after PGA gates became open:



If you're planning to visit PGA - especially with children - consider visiting on Friday. The tickets are more expensive but (as I heard) it is less crowdy.

NOBODY knows about your game

We all know that, but I tend to forget about it. I was talking to several indie developers about other indie games in production that I follow. Some of these games were even having successful Kickstarter campaigns - which might mean they're recognizable. Guess what - nobody actually heard about any of the games that I know and follow.



Alright, so much for the PGA experience. I had lots of fun there, that's for sure!

Back to the game development thing: I have most of the stuff ready for the tech demo. Steam page is almost set up (although I will be hosting the demo on itch.io).

As I am waiting for the new game logo to be finished, I am setting up a list of media/contacts to reach out after the demo is out. Also, I am working on a short trailer as well.

Here's an important note: starting from now, I will be posting devlog updates once every two weeks. This will give me some more time for development (creating devlog entries takes a lot of time as well) - especially because there won't be that much stuff to show in upcoming months; I will be working on the strategy layer of the game (ship management, mission selection, etc. etc.) and it will take some time before I figure out how the UI for that part should look like.

Have a great day, everyone!

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« Reply #151 on: November 09, 2019, 10:27:34 AM »



Alright, the good news is that the tech demo is almost here. I have all the stuff ready and I am not planning to add any new features to it. The Steam page is set up (although it is not available yet), the webpage and presskit were ready some time ago. Heck, I even created some email templates that I will be sending out to some gaming media, informing about the tech demo coming out.

Still, it will be a very soft release (if we can actually call it a release, as it's only a small tech demo) and there is still a long way to go. I am pretty excited about it anyway! Hey - it will be my first release of a game after all (besides my past game jam entries)!

The only thing remaining is the new game logo. I will write about my reasons for renaming the game in a future blog post.

And for now, let's talk about my favorite topic - game design. I finally got a chance of playing Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden so let's talk about its design mechanics.


(note: I will assume that you have at least a general knowledge of what that game is about)

The main reason why I wanted to play the game was the similarity of its game mechanics (at least during combat) to the ones in XCOM. As my game is inspired by XCOM as well, I was looking for even more inspiration. Here are some of my main points/observations:

Free roam is not for me

The game has the hub/base area (the Ark), and there's a bunch of interconnected locations on the game map. When the player enters a location, they can freely explore it and gather any resources they can find. This seemed cool at the beginning but became a chore later on. The game expected me to walk through the whole location, searching for hidden stuff. I guess I am simply too old of this and I don't like to waste time.

It would be very convenient for me to have a "gather all loot" button that would do this work for me.

Killing enemies silently sounds somewhat good

So the enemies are moving around on map areas, and you might find a way to kill some of them off using silenced weapons if an enemy is further away from the main group. This is kind of fun and satisfying but also can become boring. The game changes into a stealth game in these moments. What is more, if it turns out that you did not manage to kill a character silently (and it alarms the other ones) it might mean game over, as your squad is not ready to take the whole group of enemies in single combat. Which means you have to reload the game. Something is not right here.

The ambush mechanics from XCOM 2 were far better designed. Failing an ambush did not mean that you needed to restart. Which reminds me: there is a great video about handling failed situations in games by Adam Millard -



Map travel is weird

As I mentioned, locations on the map are connected and you can move between them. The point is that there is no reason for you to revisit old locations. After you clear a location from enemies (and gather all stuff) it seems that enemies do not respawn. The funny thing is that you need to be going back to the Ark from time to time to buy/upgrade stuff.

Luckily, there is a fast-travel option available that you can use to move to any known location (including the Ark) at any time (assuming you're not in combat, that is).

Fast-travel is very convenient, but it makes the whole idea of allowing to revisit old locations even more senseless. Why would a player want to spend time going through already explored areas? One reason might be that there are still some uncollected things laying around - which only enforces the argument that forcing the player to wander around and look for stuff is just a bad, time-consuming mechanic.

(of course, the player might simply want to visit a location to see REALLY good visuals, but that's another story.)

Healing is silly

If you have medkits, you can use them to heal a character - during or outside combat. Additionally, some characters have a "corpse-eater" skill, that allows them to regain hit points from fallen enemies. However, this skill only works inside combat(!).

What is more, there is no auto-healing mechanism when your characters arrive in the Ark.

This all makes sense when you look at all mechanics and how they work, but it seems broken to me.

Obviously, as you can return to the Ark at any time with no cost, having an auto-heal present there would break the game. Players would be taking advantage of the system by trying to take out parts of enemies on a map (without alerting others), then going back to Ark to heal for free, and then repeating the process.

If the "Corpse eater" skill would be working outside combat, it would not break the game that much - simply corpse-eating characters would be consuming less medkits (as they would heal themselves using corpses). However, there's one caveat - each character can have only two active skills selected during combat (even if they have more available). This means that nobody would be activating the "Corpse eater" skill during combat if it would be available outside combat as well. It would be a waste of a slot.

In my opinion, if the game mechanics are set up in a way that one can see that they've been kinda rigged to make them work altogether, it is a sign that someone did not think about the big picture here.

I mean sure, XCOM has silly limitations as well. A character can only take a small, limited number of grenades on a mission. Some items have unlimited quantity, others need to be manufactured or acquired.

However, when it comes to the healing/map travel mechanics here, it seems that the approach is too... naive, I guess?

Lore and narration is awesome

Yeah, the artifacts that you find and all the comments from the main characters about the world are doing a great job in setting the mood. The writers did a very good job at this, in my opinion.




No permadeath

If they die, it's game over and you have to restart. Same like when you fail a stealth kill. Not having permadeath kinda makes sense, because there's a fixed number of characters.

Which brings me to my final conclusion:

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a puzzle/walking sim game, with some strategy elements

And I am not saying this in a negative way! It simply seems that I was expecting the game to be an XCOM clone, whereas it simply borrowed some parts about the ways it does combat. However, the gameplay is pretty linear. Each encounter seems more like a puzzle for me that needs to be solved using a specific approach (select squad members that have a particular set of skills, kill off some enemies, then select other squad members, equip them with other guns, finish rest of the enemies off).

The "walking" part is great with setting the mood and explaining the lore. And the player can press "E" from time to time to collect some scrap.

Seems that I am not a great fan of such games. I believe I prefer the approach Firaxis has in their productions. They make games that in fact are VERY complex board games, with fancy graphics and stuff, that are better in respecting my time by not having too many mechanics that would make me wonder why I am wasting time doing things that should be removed/automated.

Man, it really seems that I am into a very specific genre of games Smiley Anyways, that's why I am creating my own game and making sure that all the design choices enforce my own design pillars. As I mentioned, I will be releasing the tech demo soon. For now, here are some gameplay gifs:





Hopefully, I will have some major news about the release date of the demo soon. Take care!
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« Reply #152 on: November 22, 2019, 02:53:14 PM »

Gonna keep this one short: after more than 1,5 years of hobby work, I have released the tech demo of the game.

Go grab the demo at itch.io.

There are links to Discord channel and a post-demo survey included in the game. I will be grateful for all the feedback!

That being said, here's the breakdown of stuff I was busy with in the last two weeks.

I've created another trailer to train my video editing skills:





As you can see, the game has a new logo. And a new name as well!


The old name ("This is The End") is no more. Google results for that phrase were mostly returning info about the movie with the same name, or to the latest Avengers movie.

I have also set up the Steam page. The review process went pretty well. Now I can start getting some wishlists!



What's next?

First of all, I'm gonna celebrate reaching this milestone. I have released something other than a game jam entry for the very first time! I am aware that this is just the beginning of my work on the game (the tech demo is covering a single aspect of the whole thing), but I believe that releasing early will allow me to gather valuable feedback.

The next stop is working on the tactical layer. It will be difficult sharing work progress on the devlog, as there are nearly no visuals present for that part of the game yet. Luckily, I have a bunch of game development/design-related topics that I'd like to discuss here so I will surely have content for next devlog entries.

That's it for now. I'll be back in two weeks - now go play that demo!
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« Reply #153 on: December 09, 2019, 05:38:12 AM »

OK, first of all, I see that there's a top100 voting going on at IndieDB - so do cast your vote for Shardpunk right here!

Now it's time for the actual devlog entry:

So this was the first time I've actually released a tech demo of my game - and it went pretty good, I guess. I reached out to some news outlets and YouTubers, and the game gained some interest. Shardpunk got covered by a few channels, including SplatterCat - which was a big surprise for me.





Also, Indiegraze did an interview with me.



All of this is really great. I never thought that there will be youtube videos with let's plays of my game available. Awesome feeling.

Along with the tech demo, the Discord channel went live. This whole Discord thing is new for me (back in my times - and I'm 35 - people were not using strange things like this...! Wink ). I set it up in the most basic way possible (two channels, no bots, no nothing). Thanks to Discord though (and all the kind people there), I was able to resolve issues with Linux build of the game (I was not planning a Linux release but it turned out that I made it working).

The game also started collecting Wishlists on Steam - so that was surely a great move with making the Steam page available before the demo went live.

So what's next?

There's still a lot to do. First of all, existing parts of the game should be fleshed out. It was a good thing that I embedded a link to a survey in the game as I received some valuable feedback. I have extracted the most common things that people were reporting and will prioritize them for the next release.

For instance, I need to make the negative traits less annoying. The thing is that some negative traits are causing the characters to panic which can even result in them running away. This is a nice feature as it can mess with player's plans. However, if it gets triggered too often, it becomes a nuisance. The probability of such panic attack needs to be reduced significantly, and I need to set up a mechanism preventing it be triggered too often as well.




I've already added the rendering of the movement path, which will help the players out in identifying which character is currently active.

Adjusting existing mechanics is one thing; another is creating the first version of the strategy layer, which includes ship management, crew management, and map travel.

I would also like to introduce another dose of randomization to the game by making sure that the maps are generated in a semi-randomized way. There will surely be at least one separate devlog entry about it.

I am aiming to have the 2nd tech demo ready before the end of Q2 2020. As this is still a side project, it might be that the milestones will shift - we'll see about that.


Thanks for reading, see you in 2 weeks! And of course, If you still haven't played the demo, go grab it now!

Take care, and enjoy some more gifs!




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« Reply #154 on: December 20, 2019, 01:48:39 PM »

One thing that I knew will be changed after I release the tech demo was how the evacuation points mechanic was implemented. There were two evac points being present on a map, and they were semi-random (picked from a collection of available evac points).

Having evac points present on a map all the time had its good sides. The players had a clear idea where they should go, while still making sure that they need to gather resources.

I wanted to try out another, more flexible approach that I've seen in the Long War mod for XCOM 2: dynamic evac points.

So the idea is that there are no evac points on the map initially. The player can freely roam the map, searching for stuff and fighting the growing number of enemies. When the player decides that it's time to go, they call for evac.





Now, here's the interesting part: the evac does not arrive at once. It needs a couple of turns for the airship to reach its destination.



Such an approach introduces some new depth, as the player should plan their future moves to make sure that they are ready to evacuate when the evac zone becomes active.

To make stuff even more fun: evac points only stay active for a couple of turns, then they disappear. This is to make sure that the player does not place the evac in advance and stops worrying about it.



Of course, it is possible to call for evac more than once, but it always requires you to wait for it to arrive. I might also consider adding a cooldown on the ability to prevent the players from spamming it if that turns out to be the case.

I've playtested these new features a few times, and they seem like a good change. The downside might be that the player does not know where to go at first (as there's no evac present, so there's no clear exit point). I am not sure whether this will be a big problem. After all, scavenge missions should be simply about searching the area and finding stuff.



Other than that, I managed to make some of the negative quirks less frustrating to players. For instance, the "scared of missed hits" trait no longer causes a character to lose their cool and panic; such character will now receive a negative to hit modifier for their next shot. This will make the player's life slightly more difficult, but won't mess the gameplay up in the same way having a panic attack did.


Yeah, I know that the text is hardly readable. There UI overhaul in progress, and I'll hopefully show some new stuff in the next entries.

What's next?
Well, the holiday season is here! I am not sure whether this will allow me to work some more on the game, as there will be a lot of Christmas/family-related stuff going on. Nevertheless, I am planning to work on map generation mechanics.

That's it for this entry! Merry Christmas to all of you!






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« Reply #155 on: January 10, 2020, 01:36:47 PM »

Initially I thought about creating a blog post summarizing all the progress on the game I made in 2019. However, I decided not to. There will be time to create summary posts when the 2nd tech demo comes out. Right now, let's focus on the latest changes - and these are related with level generation.

The first tech demo of Shardpunk (the one that I released back in 2019 - go play it if you haven't already) had one static map. By "static", I mean that all the walls and obstacles - so basically the stuff that you use for cover during combat - were always in the same place.

Some of the visuals (things like wall decorations or floor debris) were placed randomly to give kind-of-unique feeling, but the general layout of the rooms stayed the same.





Two shots of the same location, with different decorations. The lighting is generated randomly as well.

What is more, the loot points (so the tiles that the player should visit to search for supplies) were also semi-randomly placed. The level had a predefined set of tiles that can hold loot and the game was randomly picking part of them to become "real" loot points in the game.

Also, a loot point can have a different visual representation. It can be a body, a bag, a locker or anything else I come up with later on. The possible visuals vary depending on the location of the loot point. Loot points that are located directly below a wall can choose from a broader range of graphics (as they can have a regular body, or a body leaning against the wall).





Loot points can be different in each run.

Another way of making sure that the static tech demo level felt a little bit different each time was the introduction of multiple entry points. The player could start the mission in a different location of the same level, which introduced some changeability.

Long story short: even though the level used in the first tech demo had some degree of randomness, it always had the same layout. I knew that I need to change this; I myself was starting to get bored with playtesting the same location over and over again.

I decided to use a semi-randomized approach. The mission map is now being created from nine smaller fragments, that are picked randomly from a pool of predefined ones that I've created in my editor.

In the end, the map has nine of these fragments combined together. Each fragment is 20x20 tiles wide, which means that the mission map has 60x60 tiles (the tech demo map was 40x80 tiles).

The biggest challenge here was making sure that each map fragment can fit any other one, with no visible connection issues. That was especially important for road tiles - I needed to make sure that a road that starts on one tile gets continued on another one.

I tried several approaches to handle this problem; in the end, I decided to use a pretty straightforward approach - on each map fragment, the road is always placed in the same edges.




These screenshots are taken from the map designer tool. Each of these example fragments has a road present in the same place at the top.

Such an approach means that the current map fragments will only allow me to generate a map with horizontal roads. It won't be a big problem - later on, in the post-second-tech-demo phase, I will be able to create separate sets of map fragments for, for instance, vertical roads. Not to mention stuff like more dungeon-like, tight sewers levels. But that's something for another time.

Anyways, this map generation mechanism allowed me to introduce a lot of more randomness and tactical challenge to the game; also, it works pretty well with the dynamic evac point feature that I described in one of my previous blog posts.



Corners of four different map fragments are present on this gif. The player can't really see the connection.

Now, there are other challenges I will need to face in the map generation feature. One of them is making sure that the loot points are distributed in a way that makes the game fun. I believe they should not appear too often, to force the player to be more mobile; or maybe they should be placed all around the map, but their drop rates should be pretty small? It is all hard to say without the tactical layer being finished yet.

What's next?

I will be focusing on the tactical layer now. That being said, I am going on a winter holiday next week (time for some skiing!) so I won't be spending any time working on the game. I will surely come up with some new gameplay ideas during that time though Wink

Take care, and have a great year you all!
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« Reply #156 on: January 24, 2020, 01:21:31 PM »

The winter holiday season in my area is almost over. I have been away for most of it, so I also did not have any spare time to spend on Shardpunk. But that's cool, having a break is also important.

My main focus right now is making sure that the tactical layer of the game is fleshed out. So let's talk about it.





Note: all the screenshots are in a very early phase (I'm still experimenting with the layout) and are missing most of the graphics.

Player characters will spend their time between missions on a prototype airship, which is floating above the Capitol (the city overrun by the Rat Swarm). So the airship is the home base. It contains different facilities that allow the characters to perform various activities.

But first things first. The tactical layer will also be turn-based, so it'll be closer to Darkest Dungeon than to XCOM games, where it was real-time, with the ability to advance time. During each turn, the player will be able to assign characters to different activity slots on the ship.



Also, the player needs to select a team of characters that will perform a mission in the current location (assuming that there's a mission available).

Then the combat starts. The first tech demo covered this.





After the combat, the player sees its summary and the summary of all other activities that have taken place on the ship - which could be about new items being manufactured, people getting healed, etc.



Next is the food distribution phase. Each character needs to get their daily ration of food supplies, or they will start receiving negative traits ("Hungry", then "Very Hungry"). If no food is being provided for a character three turns in a row, they die from starvation.

After the food is distributed, sanity checks for characters are being made. If a character is low on sanity, they can acquire a negative trait. I will write more about the sanity mechanics in future entries for sure.

At the end of the day, the player chooses the next destination from a set of possibilities. Each location might hold a different mission type or at least a slightly different set of loot available.

Then the turn ends. And that's the core gameplay loop, described in a very rough way.

The main focus for the player will be to keep the characters alive (by providing them food and taking care of their sanity levels), gather resources and follow the major questline (which will be about getting out of the Capitol).

There are a few other mechanics I want to be present in the game, like taking care of the ship's generator or maintaining/upgrading the weapon cores. However, these won't be present in the second tech demo. I want the demo to have the main gameplay loop present in its minimal form, and allow the player to play through at least two missions.

What's next?

There's a lot of stuff to do with this tactical part. I am trying out different approaches to presenting stuff on the screen, to make sure it is readable and looks nice. I am pretty sure that I will be working on the tactical UI for at least a month, if not longer.

Take care!
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« Reply #157 on: February 07, 2020, 01:22:07 PM »

Ah, the ideas. They seem great when we think about them, but as soon when it comes to execution, it turns out that they are not that good. This is exactly what happened to me and my idea of how the tactical layer in Shardpunk should be (which I described in the previous blog entry).

I have set up the basics of the tactical layer and had some test playthroughs of the game. And I didn't like how it felt.

The airship management thing (so handling slots, making sure that every character has an activity) was not very amusing. It might have worked in Darkest Dungeon, where the player had a lot of active characters (in Shardpunk, it will be a small number), so most of the slots were taken.

What is more, Darkest Dungeon had plenty of stuff that could be upgraded (after all, the home base was basically a city, not a small prototype airship).

Additionally, the missions were getting tedious and boring. Even if they’d have an extra objective other than just “gather stuff to survive”, the main goal would always be about filling the backpacks with lots of stuff. That does not sound very bad, but now that the evac points are placed by the player, there is too much freedom and too little pressure present.

You go down, you gather a lot of food, you get back. Then you go down, gather other stuff, you get back. You heal in between and create some equipment. You make sure that the engine is working There is *some* feeling of pressure here, but it’s simply not enough.

What is more, initially I was pretty hyped for the combat preparation screen. You know, we will be having all the characters standing next to each other, the player will be able to choose the loadout, etc. Pretty much XCOM. The thing is that this is not XCOM. This is not about a group of guerrillas going on another mission to kick some alien ass. This is a group of people that try to get away and survive. I am not saying that having a mission loadout is a bad thing – it is just it should feel different.

That’s why I decided to pivot and change the gameplay idea.

The whole airship thing will be gone. Characters will travel on foot. Basic gameplay loop will look as follows:

1. The combat phase. Your goal is to reach the next shelter and gather supplies on your way.
2. Find and secure an exit point to a temporary shelter. Enter the shelter (here is where the combat phase ends).
3. Manage your team in the shelter. Distribute supplies. Depending on the type of place, you can manufacture stuff, heal deeper wounds, restore more Sanity. Make the team rest a little.
4. Get out of the shelter (through one of the possible routes, thus allowing the player to choose the next location type) and continue your way out of the city.
5. Repeat.

This is a major change to the gameplay loop. There is no central base right now. It means that only the resources being carried by the team are the ones at their disposal. Well, maybe the shelters will hold some stuff as well, but you should not rely on them. It will change the way how each resource type works - but I will write more about it in future releases.

All of these changes add more of the "hopeless escape" vibe to the game. Also, as the slots management thing will be gone, the UI design will go in a different way.

This pivot will surely increase the time necessary for me to release the next tech demo in which the tactical layer is presented. However, there is good news as well! There will be the Digital Dragons Indie Showcase event happening in May in Poland. I am planning to submit Shardpunk there. It means that I will be releasing a new tech demo around March 2020 (as March 15th is the deadline for submissions).

This 2nd tech demo will obviously still not have the tactical layer. It will be a more polished version of the previous demo, including some new graphics and a new enemy type.

It means that I have a month to flesh out, test and release that tech demo. The schedule is pretty tight, but I will shoot for it.

So what's next?

Well, you already know that. I will be putting the game together, making sure that the combat layer can again work independently from the tactical layer (which will be remade later) and that it looks even nicer than before.

And here's a bunch of in-game gifs, to make this entry more amusing.

Take care!









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« Reply #158 on: February 26, 2020, 06:44:15 AM »

So I am working on creating that second tech demo of Shardpunk, that I am planning to submit to Digital Dragons Indie Showcase. Now that the old tactical layer has been scrapped, I focused on making sure that the combat part is working correctly and that it is better-looking.

The previous blog entry was very text-heavy, so I'll try to focus on screenshots now. Here are some highlights of the stuff that I was working on for the past two weeks:

There will be a nicer HUD in during the combat:



I am trying to get rid of the blue color from the UI, so the character stats are now different:



Note that this is not the final version. I am still experimenting with different layouts.

The deaths are now more bloody:


(you can actually see that this gif is using another version of the character stats, still being blue)


There are some new crate graphics, new light sources:





I upgraded to the latest Unity to be able to use its new 2D lights feature. The problem is that it turned out that Unity removed the built-in resolution dialog! So I had to add mine.

Also, there's gonna be a new enemy type in the 2nd tech demo: the rat commander.



Now, this fella is able to throw a grenade. I had to make sure that he is not too lethal, as the game wasn't very fun with overpowered rat commanders running around.

Generally, the game is pretty stable at the moment and it seems that I will be able to make the Digital Dragons submission. Assuming that I will finalize all the UI changes.

What's next?

The demo needs more polishing, and some parts of the UI still need to be changed. For example, I want the inventory UI to look different, and be less explicit. Also, the game could use a character details window as well.

One thing's for sure - I won't be adding any new features for the demo. It'll be just UI and polish.

That's it for this time. Wish me luck!

Take care!
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« Reply #159 on: March 06, 2020, 03:04:11 PM »

That's right, I am almost ready to release another tech demo. It should be available to download in about a week from now.

The idea of having these incremental updates seems to be working very well for me. It works even better when there's a strict deadline involved. In this case, it's the 15th of March, as it's the final date for submitting entries to the Digital Dragons Indie Showcase thing.

I guess the best part about releasing often is that you can receive valuable player feedback. I was able to identify a lot of both cool and annoying things present in the first tech demo thanks to all the responses from the game feedback form.

I mean this should be a no-brainer for me, as I worked more than 10 years in a scrum-based software production process. Iterating is important.

Also, I found another advantage of splitting the work into smaller chunks. You know how the majority of indie game developers suffer from the inability to finish a game due to new game ideas popping out in their heads? Well, basically I treat each iteration as a new "game" idea, that I can freely become hyped about. The next thing after the tech demo arrives will be about introducing Sanity mechanics in the game.

Anyways, time for some visuals from the game. Here's the final UI from the combat layer:



As you can see, the weapon heat meter (which is more or less an ammo indicator) has its own graphics, and it has a special animation when overheated:



What is more, when the player tries to perform a shot with an overloaded weapon, there a vignette effect and some other UI stuff telling the player about the danger of using an overloaded gun:



The goal of the tech demo will be about entering a bunker (which replaced the airship evac point now that air travel has been scrapped).



Also, I decided to place a very basic character details screen. It only holds the traits of the character:



That's it for now. Expect the tech demo next week. Sign up to the newsletter to be informed when it goes live.
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