Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Perpetually Almost Done

Whenever anyone has asked about Shattered Throne in the last year, my answer has been "almost done, about a month away".  At least I get points for consistency, if not accuracy.  I started the current iteration of Shattered Throne about 3 years ago.  It spent half that time as an XNA game, and the other half living in Unity.  Truthfully though I have been thinking, and working on this game in some form or fashion since I had the initial simple idea of "Fantasy Advanced Wars" about 10 years ago.  It has taken many different turns and evolution since, as well as having been partially coded in a variety of languages and platforms.

I am not sure how Dark Delve beat it to the honors as being the first game I ever finished, it could be the legacy of ideas and hopes that causes Shattered Throne to cast such a long shadow and present such a formidable challenge to climb.  Perhaps I can place the reason on my own deluded sense of time.  After all, I had tried writing Shattered Throne already, and knew it to be a large project, despite the simple premise.  Dark Delve however, I could knock that idea out in about a month or two...  It would seem that when I say month, I really mean year.

It has been a rocky cycle of burn out and invigoration.  As I do game programming in my spare time, my rule has always been to work on this hobby 1 hour each day, and that has served me well, though sometimes I get too excited, pour myself into a frenzy of activity and burn out, shelving it wholesale for a month or more.  This recently manifested in my attempt to get a major milestone completed.  A fully developed and playable campaign, and async multiplayer.  I always felt that Shattered Throne was a good fit to play Asynchronously, but it was a bit of a pipe dream.  It came together surprisingly well, a topic I would like to detail in a future set of posts.  In fact, deciding on the story line for the campaign took much longer and had a much larger number of revisions.  I do fear how it will hold up under live conditions, and having to support it.

But that spurt of activity took its toll, I experienced probably my longest period of inactivity, nearly 6 months I reckon, and I do like to reckon me some.  It was a few months ago (real months, not Mark months), I was over at a friends house for a game day, and my friend pointed his young son towards me, to give me a report of a bug he found on the second campaign map.  He was very insistent that it was broken and had to be fixed.  That turned out to be the catalyst to break me out of the deep rut I had been in.

Another queer side effect of finding your energy again, is that the the scope of the project inevitably grows.  In this case, several axed features made it back into the game: Naval Units and Settlement Upgrades.  This of course pushes the time frame even further, but the extra energy and excitement it brings me inevitably gives me a bigger head of steam to keep at work.

So here I am, in what I think is a few weeks until launching this game up on Steam Greenlight.  Weeks, certainly better than a month, but not sure what the actual translated value is on this one.

Also commissioned some new art, including this amazing angel for the title graphic.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Keeping on Keeping on

Working with Unity has been a great experience, and the initial learning curve has not been as bad as I thought it might.  I am not much of a blogger, but I have continued to stay focused on getting Shattered Throne finished.  It is looking great (I have a handful of display items I want to clean up before posting any images).

This weekend I checked in my 400th revision to the source code.  The campaign is fully written and I have had a few good friends that have provided some valuable early testing feedback.  As preparation for this last test release, I added in the ability to submit player feedback and collect game stats to a server.  Getting feedback can be difficult, so it is always important to make it as easy as possible.

This experience showed me that adding server calls to a Unity game was painless.  As such, a couple weeks ago I ventured into a new area with hesitant steps, adding Async online multiplayer to Shattered Throne.  I have been very hesitant because this means supporting a server (I am one person with a full time job, game programming is just a hobby) and also because of horror stories such as this: http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/4/3727240/battle-dungeon-ios-game-pulled-piracy

I have the goal of submitting Shattered Throne into Steam Greenlight, and I know one of the first questions I will receive, "Can we play this against other players online?"  It is a very valid question for a Strategy Game.  As of right now, the answer is yes, it is possible to play Shattered Throne against other players via Async Online games.

The current near future plan right now is to put the finishing touches on the multiplayer aspect, fix issues brought up by current play test reports, and then it will be time to expand the play testing.  If you have any interest in playtesting (PC, Mac, or Linux) please drop me a line: checkmarkgames [at] gmail [dot] com