Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Deity Quest Complete!

It's been quite the year finishing up Deity Quest. I posted that Deity Quest was feature-complete Feb 28 of this year, and since then while the game was "done" and playable, there was so much to do. Polishing, debugging, balancing, the BETA test, marketing and tying up loose ends. I've been on that final stretch for months, and it's been rough, but the end is finally in sight! Last year, when I posted the IndieDB page for Deity Quest, I made an estimate that the release would be May 1st - which was my expected date of completion plus two months padding. It turns out I needed those two months padding, but the good news is that we're on schedule to release the game to the public on May 1st!

Whatever happens after the release date, Deity Quest has been a great experience. As my first commercial game, I had to do a lot of research and figure out things like payment processing and even entered the game for Steam Greenlight, which you can view (and vote for) here:



I also created a much improved trailer for the game, using Adobe After Effects instead of Windows Movie Maker, so I had a lot of new options to make it much better than the old trailer (like zoom, pan, etc):



Right now, I'm finishing up multiplayer battles, which was something I had contemplated adding for a while. This has really been a great learning experience for me, and should help a lot with my future commercial games, like Havencall!


Speaking of Havencall, those who have been hoping for news about Havencall for a while will be glad to hear that we are only about a month away from finishing the first world of the game. Havencall is broken up into three worlds, so that means we'll be 100% done with the first third of the game, and we already have a lot of assets for the second and third world. The expected release date for Havencall (with padding) is now October of this year - over a year beyond our initial release date, but at least we're getting there!



As for other projects I have planned to start this year, I have one pretty epic first person, 3D space game. I already have a team on board for it, but because of the scope, I'll probably end up trying to run a Kickstarter for it. It'll have great graphics, so look forward to that!

I also have plans for a sequel to I Can't Escape - so those of you who like horror and the style of I Can't Escape should look forward to that! While the game will have a similar atmosphere and mood, it will have a bunch new features, and of course many new twists & tricks. Those of you who played the original I Can't Escape should still be quite surprised!

I'll keep you posted on updates of all my projects, and get ready for the release of Deity Quest! It's been a crazy road finishing Deity Quest, and there were times I wanted to hit myself for trying a project so ambitious after only a few One Game a Months, but now that it's almost over, I feel quite satisfied, and am ready for new projects - perhaps even more ambitious in scale, more awesome and more of a challenge!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

End of the Year

We're coming fast to the end of the year - a time to reflect on how things went and plan ahead for the future. And it was quite the year for me - I joined One Game A Month and released four games - doubling the number of games I have released. I also attempted my first crowd-funded project - Rhythos RPG Builder, and while it failed, I learned a lot from it and have the beginnings of a very useful toolset for future games. I'm also over halfway done with Deity Quest (a larger game project I started after One Game A Month), and I even submitted Deity Quest to the IGF. It's been a busy year, and while I'm still not able to work full time on game development, I've made some big strides, and have even bigger plans for next year!

Projects Completed in 2013

I Can't Escape was my first One Game A Month, and by far my most successful one in terms of popularity and number of hits. Since I knew I wanted to participate in One Game A Month at the end of last year, I had actually started planning I Can't Escape in December of last year - so while the actual development didn't start until the beginning of this year, I had done the planning and team recruitment for the project in advance, and that extra planning definitely made a big difference. The actual gameplay for I Can't Escape was deliberately small, making it possible to complete in a month's time, and that simple gameplay made it easier to break player expectations and create the eerie atmosphere that made the game so successful.

A Different Color was my second game, and also had much less time for development since my original idea for February ended up being too large to do in one month. The goal for this game was to make something simple that had a strong message, based on some of my own experiences in life. It was short and didn't reach as many people as I Can't Escape, but those it did reach seemed to like it a lot, and many people seemed very touched or saddened by the story. There were also people who didn't like the message or misunderstood it, but that's expected for a game like this. I certainly touched upon some very sensitive subjects with this game, but that was my goal.

Trip Through Time was my third game, and in my opinion a failure. I was trying out new genres without the proper time or research, and the game mechanics didn't turn out as fun as I thought they would. This happens a lot in game development - sometimes when you finish that early prototype, you have something immediately fun, but more often it ends up not being as fun as you imagined or requires a lot of tweaking and redesign. With enough time, tweaks and improvements, perhaps I could have made this game a success, however, sometimes it's best to return to the drawing board and move on (which is one thing One Game A Month helped me learn). Deus Shift (2011-2012) took me over a year to complete and was redesigned from the ground up three times (with lots of scrapped code and assets). While the game is now fun and well balanced, it took way too long and is still missing some important features (like a good tutorial or campaign mode). Would it have been better to have scrapped the first Deus Shift prototype and tried out three new games ideas instead of redesigning it three times?

Rhythos! Arcade BETA was my fourth and final One Game A Month, and perhaps my most ambitious in terms of gameplay features. It was a redesign of the game that I postponed in February, and is basically a twitch/rhythm-based RPG battle system with a ladder of enemies to progress through. Rhythos was my second most popular One Game A Month, and as you may have guessed, what spawned Rhythos RPG Builder. I wanted to create a full RPG using this battle system but obviously couldn't do it in a month, so I planned to crowdfund an open source RPG Builder to allow myself and others to make RPGs with this battle system.

Rhythos RPG Builder was then created, and I fixed up an old tile map editor I had worked on in the past and added the Rhythos battle system to it. However, the kickstarter did not reach it's funding goal, and work on Rhythos has been postponed indefinitely. The reason could be that I didn't market the editor enough, or simply that it was what I wanted, and not what other developers wanted (a lot of comments were that people wanted a more traditional turn-based battle system). Finally, I think that it's tough crowd-funding an Open Source project, as if the project is successful, everyone gets to use the editor, not just the backers. If I had a strong community behind Rhythos from the start, I could have overcome this problem, but I jumped into crowd-funding the project a few weeks after Rhythos! Arcade BETA and without any strong plans. This was still a good learning experience however, and I do want to go back to Rhythos RPG Builder eventually.

Ongoing Projects in 2013


Deity Quest was started after Rhythos RPG Builder failed. I had gotten far off track from One Game A Month, and I wanted to develop one of the larger game ideas I had. Deity Quest mixes up the elements of pokemon, rpgs and dungeon crawlers and has an interesting 6 vs 6 battle system where you support your followers with items and spells. There's a lot of depth and strategy to Deity Quest's battles, but it is also accessible for casual players as the battles can be largely automated. If completed (which, at the rate I'm going it should be done by March of next year at the latest), Deity Quest will be the largest game in terms of features and gameplay length that I have ever made. With all of the base framework done (and several iterations of testing, tweaking and balancing the core), along with over half of the gameplay complete, I'm confident that I will finish this game early next year (and then have time to balance, playtest and get another beta out before March).

And what's the deal with Havencall? Well, right now, the ball is in Natalie's court, as all of the base framework is done and I need assets before I start adding content to the game. However, she's been getting a lot of art and backgrounds done, and even though we have to keep pushing the release date forward, she's promised now to have all the art done by March of next year, and the game will hopefully be released a few months after that!

Future

So, what comes next? Well, hopefully Deity Quest and Havencall will be released and successful. The more successful games I release, the further I get in my goal to one day make this a full time indie game studio! I've certainly been learning a lot and improving in both game design, programming and marketing my games (while I don't like marketing, I have to at least know how to contact press and let people know my games are released). And of course, I always have new game ideas - two of which have complete design documents and are planned to begin production next year! Both of these games are pretty big in scope, and I finally have a design that fits my epic These Falling Stars world and story, so look forward to that!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Deity Quest BETA Release!

We finished the BETA of the first part of Deity Quest! I am now sending out the windows, linux, android and flash version of the game to BETA testers (mac version coming soon). The game is nearly feature-complete at this point. It is just missing some final art, music/sounds, and the options menu. While the missing assets are finished, I want to balance and tweak the game and make sure it runs smoothly - which is why feedback from this BETA is so important! If you haven’t messaged me showing interest in being a BETA tester and want to help out, now is the time to do so (you can email me at davidmaletz@gmail.com).

Title Screen & Shop

Over the past week I’ve added a lot of final menus and tweaks, including saving/loading and the main menu. I've finished up all of the features, and added a short set of instructions at the beginning of the game. It doesn’t explain everything though, so there’ll still be some hands on learning as you battle and explore menus. You can view details on some of the older updates on Deity Quest's Indie DB Page.

Title Screen & Shop

I also added a shop to the game. Originally, I was planning on just having you find items in locations, but sometimes you’d get items you don’t need, and a shop adds a lot of flexibility to the game. If you have no arcane followers, for example, grapes (which recharge mana) are useless and you can sell them to the shop and buy apples (which restore health).

Title Screen & Shop

We’re moving fast toward the IGF deadline (Oct. 19th) - and if I can get the first part well balanced and all of the missing assets done in time, we should be in good shape! Look forward to future updates, and perhaps a public demo in the not-so-distant future!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Introducing Deity Quest

In Deity Quest, you play as a deity who has just graduated after 100 years in the Ethereal Academy. Finally, you are ready to claim dominion over your first planet, convert followers to fight for you, and support them in battle with your divine magic. You have high hopes of one day becoming the Overgod of the universe, and won't let your long-time rival beat you to it! Deity Quest has been in development since June, and was partially inspired by Pokemon-style games, dungeon crawlers, and role-playing games.

The basic idea for Deity Quest came to me when I was trying to fix some fundamental problems with a scrapped game design where you would support an AI controlled main character. The problem with that design was that there just wasn't enough for the player to do - however that's where I borrowed some ideas from Pokemon. The problems were solved by having a team of up to six followers you need to support and position, with the ability to gain new followers by converting enemies. The game is similar to Pokemon in that there's a large number of follower types to find and convert, however, the followers are all completely AI controlled, and your job is to lend your followers support using your deific abilities.

Deity Quest is also inspired by dungeon crawler games - you'll traverse through randomly generated areas and dungeons while managing limited mana and items to get you and your followers to the end. You're only allowed 6 active followers and 6 backup followers per area, and if they all die, you're thrown out of the dungeon. Likewise, running out of mana can be a big problem, as without mana, you cannot support followers or convert new followers, and followers that draw mana from your mana pool will not be able to use skills.

Finally, the story and progression are similar to a role-playing game, where you travel to different areas, follow a linear plotline and level up to gain new spells and abilities. The story is broken up into eight parts that span your adventures on the planet Aberos. Will you be able to become the Overgod?

Deity Quest has certainly turned out to be a bigger project than I originally imagined, but I'm excited to see it happen and it's already well underway! Right now, I have completed the battle system and an outline of the story, locations, dungeons and boss fights. This is the groundwork behind the game, and I've also done preliminary balancing for all spells, skills, equipment and follower types. There's still a lot to do - all the out of battle code and systems, like handling locations, dungeons and dialog. My current progress is still an impressive milestone and that is why I've decided to announce Deity Quest now. You can see some example battles in the following video:



As a god, you will need to choose an alignment that will affect various parts of gameplay as well as where you start and who your starting follower is. The alignments you can choose from are:

Good - Good deities follow the ideology that every follower's life is priceless, and gives all followers a slow regeneration to help keep them alive. While good deities can convert evil followers, they are harder to convert and require a mana conversion cost of 1 mp every time they draw from the divine mana pool.

Neutral - Neutral deities believe in balance, and that both good and evil have their place in the world depending on the situation. While they give no benefits to their followers, they are able to easily convert followers of all types, and can choose to learn both good and evil spells, giving them more flexibility and options.

Evil - Evil deities believe the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and will not hesitate to slaughter enemies and sacrifice allies to further their cause. Evil deities give all followers an additional 25% damage bonus to help them accomplish what needs to be done. While evil deities can convert good followers, they are harder to convert and require a mana conversion cost of 1 mp every time they draw from the divine mana pool.

So pick your alignment, convert followers to your side, create a balanced team of followers to fight, and support your followers as you head towards becoming the Overgod! I hope you're as excited as I am, and follow my progress on Deity Quest's IndieDB page!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Status & Plans

I haven't released a blog post or a new game in a while, so you may be wondering what happened and whether I am still doing One Game A Month. After the Rhythos campaign ended unsuccessfully, I knew that I'd have to take on more work as for most of this year I'd been focusing on making games (and making nothing on them) and that was starting to catch up with me. I'm not yet in a position to work on games full time, even though I'd really like to. However, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop making games.

I have decided to stop making One Game A Month, however. I have several larger projects that I've been wanting to make for a while that I couldn't make in a single month, even if I worked on them full time. One Game A Month was a great experience and helped me release several great games, but now I want to use what I learned to create bigger, more exciting games. Here are my plans for this year (ordered by priority):

Havencall - Havencall is a point & click game my wife and I have been working on the side for several months, and were hoping to release September this year. I still want to release it this year, and we've been working hard getting all of the assets prepared, although it might not be finished until November. It should be very impressive when done, both visually and story-wise. You can find more information about Havencall on it's homepage: http://havencall.com/. Here's a new screenshot of a scene in havencall, this one from the second world:
A Cabin deep in the woods on the outskirts of the city. Don't get lost!

Rhythos - I also don't want to give up on Rhythos just because the campaign ended in failure, so I'm hoping to finish a demo version of it by the end of this year so that people can try it out and see what makes it awesome, and then attempt another campaign next year. I'm really hoping the next campaign is successful, but if it's not, I'll probably end up releasing a less user friendly/undocumented version of it, mainly for my use (and anyone who can program and figure it out). That way, I'll still be able to use it to make some of my own games, so it wont be a total waste of time. And who knows, maybe it'll still one day get to the point where I wanted it to be since anyone can contribute to the project.

Unnamed Project - If I can, I also want to squeeze in one more game project this year. It's a new project I've been working on the design for recently, based loosely off the original system we developed for Ainsworth. It looks like Ainsworth is going in another direction now, but I'm leaving all decisions about that to Van (the artist working on it) until I get started on coding Ainsworth. However, despite it's flaws, I liked the original system of Ainsworth, and figured out how to fix all of the flaws, but those changes caused the design to be a completely different game. I've almost finished the design, units, spells and equipment for this new game, but it already looks like it's going to be pretty fun. I'll release more details on this game once I start prototyping it, but in short it's a game where you play as a Deity that gives benefits to followers (similar to D&D Deities), and you can convert followers from 128 types to your cause (a little like Pokemon). As for the actual gameplay and battle system, I'll tell you later, but it's pretty interesting and novel.



Next year, I have a few larger projects that I'm almost ready to get started on (ordered by priority):

Aero Empire Remake - It's been a long time coming, I've been contemplating making a remake since Aero Empire fell apart. The remake is now mostly designed, and we have decided to make it in 2.5D (2D sprites in a 3D world). It will be similar to the Captain stage of the original Aero Empire, meaning you'll be able to fly and upgrade your own airship, and travel from town to town accomplishing missions and trading. There will be different regions, reputations, economies, exploration and combat (so, one well designed stage instead of several shoddily slapped together). Since all of the art will be 2D sprites drawn by Matt, the artist who designed the airships in the original Aero Empire, you know that it'll be stunning visually - and I have a few tricks up my sleeve for clouds, atmosphere and depth perception in a top-down view with 2D sprites. I'll give more details about this next year, but we're serious about the remake now and have it mostly designed. It's about time we created this game!

Asylum Game (name subject to change) - Partially inspired by I Can't Escape, this will be a full 3D (not grid based) horror game taking place in an abandoned asylum. The rules of time and space will bend in this game, and like I Can't Escape, the game will rely mostly on atmosphere and exploration - although you might not be completely alone in the asylum!

These Falling Stars - An epic RPG I've been wanting to make for a while, and plan to make in Rhythos RPG Builder when it's done. The game is about the rise and fall of nations and heroes, and it's named These Falling Stars because it's about how even things that seem eternal like stars eventually fall. The game has 800 years of history, with three great ages and many nations and people who have risen to power only to fall in the ebb and flow of time. Once again, it seems like the seven city-states now ruling Zythros are on the verge of destruction, and they don't even realize it. Can you stop the inevitable collapse? Is stopping the progression of time even the right thing to do? This game has quite the story, with lots of twists and turns along the way that I'm not going to spoil - so look forward to it!

Those are my plans for the next few years. I'm really excited to get cracking making these games, and am even planning to attempt selling several of them in the hopes of becoming a full-time gamedev. We'll see where my game development career goes, and I certainly have lots of other game ideas I want to make if these are successful! Look forward to more updates on these games, and let me know if you have any questions about any of these games!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rhythos Development Blog

Just letting you all know that the lack of blog posts here is because I'm mainly focusing on Rhythos RPG Builder, and have been posting development updates about it here: http://rhythos.com/forum/index.php?page=forumview&id=development-updates . If you're interested in Rhythos, check out the updates there, otherwise, I'll continue to post interesting news and updates here!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rhythos RPG Builder - a Free and Open Source Dev Tool

I'm currently creating a free, open source RPG builder that will be cross platform and support many cool features, including an action/rhythm battle system which you can test out here: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/616768! The builder will have an accessible dual-scripting system and be highly expandable, including a powerful plugin API. The editing capabilities are inspired by RPG Maker and based off of an older tilemap editor I have been developing on and off in my free time for the past year or so. The builder also uses the great 16-bit style graphics provided by the Liberated Pixel Cup/Open Game Art.



I know first hand how hard finishing a project like this can be. I've had experience making game development tools before including VIDE, a 2D animation tool, HTML Tactics, a DOM-based tactics game editor, and a 3d cloud and atmosphere rendering API. I'm also the founder and lead programmer of Fancy Fish Games, with 6 games released so far. I feel I have the skills to make this project a reality as well as the knowledge of what it's like to be a game developer using the tools! With my experience and a large codebase already complete, I am confident I will be able to come though and finish this project, but I'm going to need a little help!


A 2x speed example video of me creating a simple house interior in the Rhythos Map Editor.

That's why I've started a kickstarter page (which includes a lot more details about the project) here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/davidmaletz/rhythos-rpg-builder! If you're able to back the project, that's great! But even if you can't contribute monetarily, feel free to contact me if you are interested in supporting the project as a coder or artist! This is truly a community-driven project and any support possible (even just spreading the word to other developers) would be awesome! You can also peruse the current codebase on github here: https://github.com/davidmaletz/rhythos . It still needs integration work and a lot of features before I'll consider it stable, but feel free to check it out and let me know if you are interesting in contributing code!



And of course, let me know if you have any questions, comments, or feature requests - this project is very expandable, and I hope to support a lot of options, features, battle systems and release targets eventually. I'm creating this tool for the community and with the community, so I want to know what you want!