Cold War Research

It’s been a busy few months working at Dambuster Studios and The Chinese Room; despite not getting much time to do actual development my Google Alert for Cold War comes in everyday with information, articles and stories about a war that ended 25 years ago. These are a few of my favourite links, some of which will undoubtedly appear in the Spy Management Game.

NCAP (National Collection of Aerial Photography) have a released a wonderful collection of images gathered during the Cold War of various locations from East Germany, Egypt and Syria. NCAP’s images will help add some visual detail to mission briefings.

As well as assets there are so many stories from the Cold War, this one from DailyNK about the use of Radio in West German, giving the East Germans an insight over the wall. Hopefully the shear breath of stories and ideas from the Cold War will help make Spy Management Game be an interesting place to spend time.

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Finally an article from Tech Insider shows how the Cold War references were used to help create the world of Fallout. It’s just nice to see examples of games drawing from the rich history of the Cold War.

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Deeply Dreaming

So what is happening with Polyology and Spy Game at the moment? Well unfortunately I don’t have time for the next few months as I’m currently busy working for Dambuster Studios and The Chinese Room on upcoming projects. I’ll still bring Polyology to Steam, I’m still going to continue the Spy Management Game but in the short term I need to be practical and make sure I have enough money.

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Missed Opportunities: Fallout Shelter

Fallout shelter, for the few of you that don’t know, is a management game about running a nuclear bunker after the apocalypse on iOS and Android. It’s of course a Free To Play (F2P) game as well, as most games are these days. This entertaining game is let down by a few missed opportunities that without much development time could have notably improved the game.

Mystery Boxes

Like several F2P games it has Mystery boxes containing a select of random items, and again like all successful F2P games the early stages of the game gives you a Mystery box. However Fallout Shelter doesn’t limit the selection of random items you can get from the starting mystery box. This can wildly effect your play experience. One player might get 500 money, while another player gets an awesome weapon that does all the damage. While the money is nice, the weapon makes attacks on your vault take a few seconds, instead of a minutes of painful drawn out combat.

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Mystery boxes can give you resources, such as 50 power, which only makes a difference at he start and quickly means nothing as the game continues. It’s a shame the Mystery Boxes don’t progress and change as the game does. This would fix the randomly assigned difficulty at the start of the game and keep Mystery Boxes useful to players later in the game.

Wasteland

In Fallout Shelter you send your dwellers, loaded up with health packs, into the Wasteland to collect items and money. Over time they use up their health packs and you have to choose when to recall them back to your shelter. I was disappointed when recalling a dweller from the wasteland. Nothing happens on their journey home. No more lovely wasteland log updates, no fights, no nothing.

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This mechanic is screaming out to have events happen on the way back, they should be able to find new items and fight enemies. Importantly this lets you gamble about when recall dwellers. Will 2 health packs going to be enough for the 10 hour trip back or is it worth the risk leaving them out for another hour? It creates choice and tension instead of bland inevitable non-event of recalling a dweller.

Despite these missed opportunities Fallout Shelter is still an entertaining game filled with charm and isn’t a bad way to spend time while compiling.

 

Player Centric

As all good developers I try and spend some time on personal development. I’ve been watching some of the talks from the Full Indie Summit 2014 and amongst them was about player centric design by Nels Anderson (Lead Designer on Mark of the Ninja), which currently has a criminal number of views so you should probably carve out 40 minutes and watch it yourself.

Enjoy it? It mostly made me think about how I want the player centric design of Spy Game to play out. Using real life ideas such as love and betrayal to help generate interesting player centric stories.

Perhaps Agent Alpha is captured, however Agent Juliett is in love to Alpha, so she throws her current mission to rescue him.

Do you send in more agents to help with the rescue? If they come back alive to you keep both, one or none of them as active agents? What are the consequences of Juliett throwing the mission?

So much potential, so much to create.

Greenlit!

Polyology has been Greenlit and will be available on Steam in the coming months! This is excellent news, it’ll allow Polyology to entertain more people and hopefully help me carry independently developing games. More usefully I’m including my Greenlight statistics to give you an idea of what numbers are needed to get onto Steam.

votes over time

Most the views for Polyology came through launching a Greenlight campaign, from Steam users who happened to look at their Greenlight queue. The second small bump was from doing a YouTube Video with Action Soup Studios and finally the second large spike was from doing a Lazy Guys Bundle. It’s very heartening seeing my actions correlate with Greenlight votes.

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However as you can see the statistics above Polyology didn’t get that many votes, at least compared to the Average Top 50 (on the day I took the screenshot). The average number of Yes/No vote ratios are about the same. The followers at 1.9% is higher than the top 50 average of 1.36%.

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So why did I get Greenlit? To be honest I have no idea. Maybe they played Polyology, or liked the Rock, Paper, Shotgun review? I suspect it’s because Steam is becoming a more open platform and they’re generally letting more games through. Regardless should go and integrate the steam overlay, localize and think of some achievements for Polyology.

One Year on

So it’s been a year, to be honest it’s flown by and doesn’t feel like any time at all, Maybe I’m just getting old.

There have been many highlights this year

  • Showing at Gamecity 9
  • Polyology Released
  • Contract Work
  • Greenlit
  • Homefront Gamescom Demo

New Year’s Resolution

  • More social updates
  • Polyology on Steam
  • Spy Game

I’ll talk more about my contract work and Greenlight stats in future posts, until then here’s the Homefront Gamescom Demo I mentioned above.

Spy Game!

So it’s been a few months since posting, mostly due to being hard at work at doing Freelance work, learning Unity and developing new game ideas.

First of which is a Spy Management Game! A very under utilized genre in my humble opinion. There are a large number of espionage series in contrast; Homeland, Alias and Spooks to name a few. They typically have strong themes like betrayal, the greater good and intense action sequences. Ideally these themes will come across in this spy management game.

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The game is set during the Cold War as it has a rich history, isn’t entirely focused on electronic surveillance and gives a great visual theme. The game will recreate historical events, such as the Space Race, but allow the player to influence it’s outcomes and changing how events play out. Importantly, like any good game, the focus will be on the characters in front of the rich background of the Cold War.

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As well as the management side of the game; hiring agents, selecting missions and worrying about funding. There will be top down stealth missions; sneaking into a lab to steal rocket plans and assassinating that communist dictator. Finally there will also interactive fiction sections of the game; interacting with other agencies, turning agents and undercover interactions.

Anyway I obviously have a lot of work ahead of me so I doubt this project won’t see the light of day for a while. But it’ll always be ticking along in the background, keeping me furiously scribbling down notes or implementing another gameplay idea. Just encase I wasn’t enough I’ve also got another lovely puzzle game idea I’m developing…maybe next blog post.

Two’s company

Over the last few months I’ve been working for myself three days a week on Polyology, and working for Dambuster Studios on Homefront: The Revolution the other two days. Both jobs are essentially doing the same thing, creating games, however in practice they’re extremely different.

Working at Dambuster Studios is great, particularly because of the development team, yet I’ve choose to work independently with the majority of my time for a few reasons….

  • Freedom – I don’t have to work on another FPS game, the last 7 years of my career I’ve worked on various shooters. Now I can more variety in the genre of game I work on.
  • Scale – Everything is easier with a small team and a small game. Communicating with the team, syncing builds, changing design all become trivial. It’s like the different between guiding an oil tanker and rubber dinghy.
  • Challenging – Working independently involved doing lots of different things; design, programming, QA, art, business, marketing. It’s making me grow as person and appreciate all the different skills that go into creating a game.

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However I do still go to turn up to work, and I enjoy it more than ever.

  • Resources – The amount of time, from a large group of extremely intelligent people, that is going into Homefront: The Revolution is just astounding. One day’s work at the studio with approximately the amount of development time that has done into Polyology.
  • Support – Having other people when you have questions, bounce ideas off or just have a tea break with is fantastic.
  • Marketing – Something that’s hit me hard since releasing Polyology is the amount of time and effort that needs to go into marketing. I just don’t have to worry about that at Deep Silver, they have a talented and experienced team to deal with it.

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A few weeks ago my boss asked me “Do you mind working on some checkpoint load bugs?”, traditionally a less fun and difficult part of programming in CryEngine, like a good employee I agreed. But I really don’t mind, work just more enjoyable when it’s not full time. I can just get stuck into whatever task I’m lucky enough to get and not have to worry about the 17 different tasksI could be doing as an indie, let alone how it’s going to put food on the table.

If you get the change to work in a AAA team and independently I suggest you take it and enjoy the variety of what both jobs have to offer.