Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So, let's talk about indie development a bit

When you hear the words: "indie developer," what comes to mind? Minecraft? Steam? Kickstarter?
There is an indie development community that I think all small developers should get into.
The "community" has their own Steam-like client for distributing and buying games called Desura.
Of course, I probably haven't convinced anyone to even check this out as a means of distribution, but what if I told you that this client also supported alpha-funding?
Any game listed on that page is currently in alpha development, but you can purchase and play the games as the developers work on it! This is similar to Kickstarter and a feature that Steam really needs to be truly indie-friendly, in my opinion.

So what is alphafunding?
Games such as King Arthur's Gold (previously reviewed here) and Minecraft are just two examples of games that are currently in alphafunding and that were previously in alphafunding.

So why choose alphafunding, what about publishers?
As a developer who hasn't published a game, I do have a niche fanbase (Island Defense/Hero Arena fans may remember me as an editor from Warcraft III) and I do not have the previous work to get a publishers attention. So where does this leave me? Alphafunding. Alphafunding, with the proper amount of people, ensures your game is going to be made without harassment from a publisher, threats to be dropped by a publisher, and it's just nice to have people give feedback and criticism on the game while you are developing.

DRM, DRM.... WHY!?
Another thing to worry about when choosing a publisher and hoping to be accepted is, what do they require? Currently, it seems that any game EA decides to publish gets thrown onto Origin. So, why is this bad? Not many people like Origin and just flat out hate publishers like EA. Take Kingdoms of Amalur as an example: amazing game. What is there to hate about it? Oh... EA. Now, luckily, EA did not obtain exclusive rights to this game so you can actually purchase it off of Steam. From what I have seen (remember, this is only from what I've seen, no data was collected for this) Steam sales of Kingdoms beat out Origin sales of the same game.
Steam has been generally accepted as the go-to DRM for PC developers. You can see this just by looking at the concurrent users on Steam's homepage.
So why am I talking about DRM and publishers? To be honest, protecting your game is worthless. Steam and Origin games are generally hacked within a day - DRM free, baby! Your game will be held back trying to implement DRM, there will be licenses needed to obtained (unless you program your own... which... why reinvent the wheel and delay release even more).
To be honest, I prefer using Steam even though I preach about why DRM sucks. I don't purchase games off Steam though because of the DRM I purchase them because of the convenience and social aspect Steam provides - something that most DRM's ruin for you.

I want to make games for people using community ideas!
Oh, you're being cute, right? Oh... you're serious?
In my experience this generally does not work during the game's production. Once a game is released then this is an acceptable way to please your fans and attract new members to the community. I always enjoy when companies listen to good suggestions and implement them relatively soon, it makes me feel like we have a say.
This is the primary cause of feature creep from what I've seen. Stick to your design document, a working final product is what people really want. Banana monsters who throw flaming balls of dung are not necessary... upon release at least.

Let's talk a bit about some of the business aspects
As an indie developer, I have realized one thing: people are cheap... very cheap. The more free it is, the better. What do I mean? Two examples I always use are the business models for the games of Heroes Of Newerth and League Of Legends.
Heroes of Newerth at its launch had about 30,000 users on at once at its max. While League Of Legends never really publishes their numbers, they had substantially more active users on the forum and matchmaking queue times were shorter (meaning more players). Why is this? The major complaint of Heroes Of Newerth wasn't that it was harder to learn or that the community is utter garbage when it comes to courtesy (which it is), but that the game was a whopping $30! Holy shit, talk about bank breaking expensive! People didn't want to dish out the $30 because there was a competitor, League, which was released for free. Like I said, the more free, the better.
So how did Heroes Of Newerth fix this? They went free-to-play... too late. Heroes now can reach 70,000 users at once (not at max either), they effectively doubled their numbers... but where is League at? 1.3 MILLION users at once as of November 18th, 2011 (the Escapist).
The way I see it, microtransactions are the payment model of the future. Just two examples of this are League of Legends and Runes of Magic whose success almost solely comes from their business model.

But... I want to be a mobile developer, this all doesn't matter!
Actually, this all matters quite a bit. Although many potential customers are willing to dish out $0.99 for the next Doodle Jump clone, they are also willing to dish out $5 worth of "little $0.99 addons," also known as... MICROTRANSACTION PRODUCTS!
The hardware gap between tablets and PC's is closing. Tablets can now handle a lot more and can output some amazing graphics. In my opinion, people shouldn't be thinking: "We are making a mobile game!" They should be thinking: "We are making a cross platform game... how can we go about this?"
Game engines such as Unity, GameMaker, Construct, and Stencyl all support cross platform compiling... what is to prevent you from launching to multiple platforms?

That's all I really have for now. I may be following up on this as ideas come to mind... but I feel like I covered enough for one post.

Chalk, Andy. "League of Legends Muscles Past World of Warcraft." The Escapist. 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

Notable links:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

King Arthur's Gold?

Not too long ago I was browsing the alpha-funding section of Desura hoping to find the next "Minecraft." What I found was... what one could call similar, but it is something that I would call: "better."

I saw that the game had a free version that didn't restrict play all too much - I downloaded it. All I know is that the four hours or so that followed were nothing but a joy.

So, what did I see? At first... nothing too pleasant
Title screen to King Arthur's Gold

The starting menu really isn't too appealing to the eye, but I had to take into consideration that the game was still in alpha and being made by two people.
Fortunately, this eyesore is nothing but a simple launcher. The game boasts some amazing retro style graphics from Max Cahill. The menu was fairly straightforward: Solo led to singleplayer v.s. AI and to a zombie mode (only available in the full version), multiplayer led to a server browser to join another menu which had options for a server browser or matchmaking, settings brought you to the settings and so forth.

So... what about the gameplay?
Yes, of course - the gameplay!
Archers can climb trees and hold LMB to charge their shots
In the solo mode you start in a pre-made level and can choose to start off as the archer or soldier (builder is only available online). Each class is, of course, played very differently: the archer boasts a long range shot whereas the soldier has more health, shorter range, and a shield.
The gameplay is very easy to pick up on in solo mode - move right and kill enemies. The game features a "ticket" system similar to the Battlefield franchise and once you run out of tickets, you cannot respawn.

Soldiers can hold RMB to raise their shield and aim it towards the mouse
In solo mode, the archer is near useless. The AI soldiers are programmed to raise their shields in the event of an enemy bow being drawn thus making your arrows almost useless. The soldier on the other hand becomes quite fun as when your ally archers draw an arrow the enemy goes into defensive mode allowing you to charge your sword and wail on them all you want.
The solo mode is just a gimmick, really, and should only be played when you're suffering from extreme boredom with no internet... the game is meant to be played with other people.

The multiplayer
You will run around a lot without a God-damned clue as to what to do when you first start multiplayer. You will try to build structures (if you can muster up the courage to look like a complete idiot) only to have a more experienced player tear down your structure to expand/create their own. Generally speaking: the community is close-knit and friendly. Asking a fellow teammate why they just destroyed your shit usually ends up with a helpful response that helps your learn.
Okay, building phase is over! Time to kick some... who just killed me? You will notice that you cannot just run into combat blindly in this game. Chances are if you do, you will run into either:
  1. Bombs. These are annoying as all hell, watch for them
  2. "We will block out the sun," yes, many archers who have way too much skill at aiming
  3. GQWJRJQTHQ#(T a trap.
The game is fun, don't get me wrong! You just need to... accept defeat at times and learn from others. Once you get the hang of everything you will find yourself immersed in the game and just having a good time.

Bridges with team colors can only be walked on by players of that team... spike traps under these are a must!
Builders can mine ore, gold and harvest wood to build "blocks"
Unfortunately, I have noticed a lot of lag while playing. Sometimes you will be dueling a soldier and he will somehow end up behind you and get you with the backstab. This is normal. Do not complain about it as everyone suffers from it and it is a known issue that the developers are working to fix. This is a game in alpha, after all.

So... is this worth my money?
Overall I give the game an 8/10.
The game is still in alpha and there are MANY features being planned and the game is only $10 currently while in alpha. For the price and the fact that it is in alpha, the game is definitely an amazing game and is definitely worth the money. I hope to do a follow up on this game upon the release as well as follow up on the updates that are released.

Side notes:
  • The game is made in Irrlicht
  • LibNoise is used to generate the maps
  • Cross platform (Windows, Linux, Mac)\
  • From the creator of Soldat