Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Shattered Throne now available on Steam Early Access

Though the it has been a long road, I am very excited to announce that Shattered Throne is now available through Steam Early Access.

Shattered Throne store page

There were two primary reasons for choosing to release in Early Access.  The first was the need to balance the game properly, which requires lots of eyes and people trying things I never expected.  The second is to test out and exercise the backend server I am using to handle asynchronous multiplayer games.

This project has taken more than twice as long as I originally anticipated.  One major reason being the switch from using XNA to Unity as my game engine, though the switch over process was not too difficult, it did mean getting familiar with a new environment.

This release includes the full campaign, asynchronous online play, and a few one off skirmish scenarios.  The following remaining features are planned to roll out over the course of Early Access, which I hope to last about 4-5 months.

- In game scenario editor with Steamworks support to share your creations
- More in depth asynch play, with multiple game types (such as fast play and epic) as well as leader boards and Steam notifications
- More scenarios, lots lots more.  Including puzzle and challenge maps as well as a hard mode campaign
- Steam achievements, unlocks, and trading cards

This project also suffered overly from scope creep, a developers worse nightmare, though this time I was the one pushing for additional features.  This resulted in a number of features that were not in the original plan such as 2 extra units per side, naval units and transports, settlement upgrading, and unit experience and leveling up.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I hope that putting the game out there at this stage will give me good solid feedback to shape it into a great strategy title.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Plan from Here

After Shattered Throne was Greenlit, I mostly faded out of view as per my nature.  Seeing as it is the start of a new year, I thought it a good time to share the plan going forward with Shattered Throne, which I have ever been hard at work on.

At the end of December I finished my latest beta build of the game, which was a major balance update, hopefully the last to see large changes across all units.  At the same time I was talking with the team behind the site Betar, which have an amazing idea, perfect for small developers like myself: create a service to connect game developers with beta testers, and offer a framework for interaction and rewards for testers.  I put this latest beta version of Shattered Throne up on their site as part of their public beta, the irony of which gives me some amusement.  Seriously, check these guys out, even if you could care less about Shattered Throne, it is the type of service which will only realize its potential by gaining a large active user base.

It has already provided me with some helpful information on bugs and accessibility I need to act on.  I am planning the next beta version to be available in mid January.  Besides the usual collection of fixes and balance tweaks (sadly have not quite hit the sweet spot), this version will contain a rework of the Campaign scenarios, introduce a new scoring mechanism (much like the one in Advance Wars), and allow the saving and watching of replays.

If all goes well and no major issues arise, the next goal is to have a soft release near the end of February (pre-release in Steam terms).  This build will feature the hard mode campaign, puzzle and skirmish (one-off) maps, and the ability to spend in game coins (earned by beating games with high ranks) on game unlocks.  I have always been concerned about the infrastructure supporting online play, and I hope that a soft release such as this will give me a chance to iron out any issues, as well as provide a final chance to ensure proper game balance.

If there are no major issues, it will be near the start of April that I do an official release.  In which I also intend to include a map editor and a small mini-game to waste the in game coins on when a player has unlocked everything.

From there, I plan to continue to support the game with bug and balance fixes.  I also have 2 Factions that were left on the cutting room floor.  If enough people have interest in the game, I would love to brush those off, commission the necessary art assets and package them with an additional campaign as an expansion pack.

Those are my plans at least.  Though I have also learned countless times how difficult it is to get everything together on time, so these are not hard dates, but rather my hopes.  I also owe everyone a conclusion to the AI series I started several years ago while starting on Shattered Throne, and I would also like to provide details on how I implemented the Async multiplayer server for interested developers.