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Dev Blog #9 – Why is Last Regiment not fun?

Is this fun? Do we like this? Are we happy with this?

Lately we’ve been receiving feedback from the people playtesting and those who saw the progress on stream that the game doesn’t seem to be interesting or enjoyable. When you get to that point, you have to stop and ask why. This is very concerning, and so we gathered the team for a ‘come to God’ meeting on what we should do about it. There were two options: 1) cancel the project, or 2) barrel down to what those reasons are and find out how to fix them in a systematic way. This is a decision that we often have to make when developing a game, and for now we chose to keep fighting and go with the second option.

Here are the reasons why the game wasn’t fun:

  1. There is no turnaround event. This is a big problem, and it was similar to what we encountered with the early versions of Legends of Callasia, and solved later on by adding cards as a feature. You knew relatively early in the game whether you were going to win or lose. For the players to have fun, everyone should still have the chance to win even when it’s pretty close to the end of the game. During our games, it’s clear what’s going to happen next, and you just keep building and summoning units until someone wins.

    In Legends of Callasia, cards can turn the tides of battle – such as War Industry to convert you or your enemy’s structures; or even a Territorial Oppression card, which can be used to occupy structures and cities, in one turn.
  2. There are so many things to think about. The process of figuring out what the different options are and understanding them is time-consuming. Right now, 45 minutes of gameplay seems long, though there are several games which take longer but are still fun. It’s tedious not because you have to think too much, but because of the constant struggle to get more information. For example, when you have a unit with a long list of abilities, you’d have to click each ability one by one to know what it does. And there are several factions available too! While it’s true that playing the game enough would help you know what all these abilities are, it does provide a steep learning curve for newer players, and it might be a better decision to just have one or two *defining* abilities for each unit in the game.

    The abilities of both the unit and the structure it is occupying can be overwhelming.
  3. There is no midterm goal. Currently there are clear short-term goals (summon this unit, capture this building) and long-term goals (destroy all enemies, take over everything). This lack of midterm goals was also a problem in the early version of Legends of Callasia, and our solution was to create the concept of kingdoms (a group of territories) which you can capture completely for more resources and points. This would be difficult to do in Last Regiment especially with its hex-based maps, and it doesn’t really match what we’re trying to do. So how do we create something that’s visual and gives players a sense of accomplishment?

    There is no midterm goal of conquering kingdoms, or building your own structures, which are already pre-made in the map.
  4. There is low sense of player agency in not allowing you to build your own things. Right now it’s dependent on the person who created the made the map. If there’s a farm on a certain hex tile, you can’t do anything about it. Players do not have the power to define how their structures are placed, and that would have been a strategic decision that would contribute in making the game more fun. Another source of confusion is not knowing when you can summon units, which is only allowed when you have occupied all hexes of a city. Players would assume it’s a bug when they cannot build a unit – it’s something that is not currently explained when you first start playing.

What can we do to fix these?

  1. We thought we’d first address the issue of building – maybe if we solve this, we’ll be able to solve all the other problems we mentioned. Instead of having premade structures, we can instead have builder units and upgradeable spawn points for buildings. It would give players a larger sense of agency so they can start defining how they want their world to be built. This would also address the lack of midterm goals. Right now we’re looking at making the heroes of each faction have the Build ability in order to ensure that each player has a builder and would be able to build structures.
  2. Simplify stuff. We need to have units with fewer abilities so that players have would have less to think about and instead spend more time making more strategic decisions. It should be clear enough what units do, where they can summon them, and how they can win the game. In terms of spawn points, we will be limiting the classes of structures by tying them with the races, instead of the factions where the lore is based. One of things we’ll also do is to remove docks, and instead allow ships or water-based units to be summoned on spawn points next to the water.

    The Temple of Death was designed to look like an Orcish religious element, composed of corpses powered by death magic and fungus.

Aside from these, we’ll have to continue balancing the game. We realized that after ending the turn, your resources are immediately replenished and you can continue to summon more units on the next turn, which makes the game become less fun.

In line with simplifying the game, we’d like to have fewer units with more interesting choices – like in Legends of Callasia with only four heroes per game making it nice, snappy, and strategic. In Last Regiment, you are pressured to move and build units quickly, which makes it less tactical.

What we plan to do is to adjust summon costs for units (some expensive, some cheaper) as well as increasing the resources cap, but decreasing the rate at which they fill. This would hopefully motivate players to do some other actions to get their resources up, and afterwards make the strategic action to attack or use their abilities.

We also want to create more spells that are buff-based as opposed to just doing damage, to make it less about bombarding with lots of units, but more of using specialized units intelligently.

Hopefully by next week we’ll have progress for some of this stuff and playtest if they work. We’ll also create at least one new bigger map and bring in more players to test. We’ve also been doing some changes to the art, so you can also look forward to that!


Dev Blog #8 – New Factions and other changes

It’s been a while since our last update (more than a month actually!) but while Chris is away, the rest of the team has been happily working and making changes to Last Regiment.

However, one thing we should point out about game development is that what it looks like from the inside is different from what it looks from the outside. There are several things we’ve added and changed to the game that won’t be obvious when you look at it from a player’s point of view. A lot of what we’ve been doing a lot lately is implementing a lot in the back-end which you can’t see, but it’s critical before we add anything else – such as setting up rules before we can program the AI.  So aside from that, here are the more obvious stuff that we’ve done in the past month.


New Factions and Units

We’ve added two new factions, making it a total of 8 factions so far (and we’ll add more later on!):

  1. The Tirezia faction is large agricultural community in a sheltered valley near the colonial settlement of Redkeep. With Guildmaster Silvio Longfinger as its main hero, Tirezia includes units such as Clockwork Footmen, Harvest Spirites, and Enraged Peasants.
  2. Mugroot is a massive forest of gigantic diseased fungus, overrun by the Infected. This infection was brought about by a particular Orcs who prayed to the God of Death to unleash such power. They have units such as the Mindless Thing, Deathly Legion, Halberdiers, Lancers, Sporebeasts, Rotwyrm, and more.

Updated Abilities

Some new abilities were added such as Embarking, which allows units to move across water tiles from the docks. Structures also have abilities of their own: Windmills boost the amount of gold you earn; Cathedrals allow you to heal; Inns provide buffs to your Attack; and so on.

Art and UI Updates

We’ve also updated some of the UI such as when forming your regiment (which now requires you to select a hero in order to get heroes from that faction), the multiplayer lobby, selecting a map, and a working chat window. There are also some little changes that improves the game visually such as making the tiles and map art two times bigger, and intuitive highlighting for hexes during movement.

Gameplay

We still do daily multiplayer playthroughs of the game to test out the new units and abilities we are adding. During the resolution mode, all abilities take place first such as ranged attacks and spells. Visually they appear sequentially, but they are all happening simultaneously. After this phase, unit movement and melee combat follow. You can replay the multiplayer game from our livestream through the VOD.

Our Current To Do List

Based on the live playthrough, here’s what we need to do next:

  • Continue making improvements based on feedback from Legends of Callasia and address issues such as how to simplify game mechanics and communicate them clearly to the players
  • Fix weird graphics bugs and visual effects
  • Rebalance units and adjust powers for the new factions
  • Build more maps for playtesting
  • Look at different win conditions to add
  • Research on how we can integrate tournaments and other external social features within the game
  • Get the build ready for the upcoming conventions this September
  • Put a schedule together on when we can have Early Access (hopefully by January 2018)

Overall, our main goal is how to make this game FUN – and all the feedback we can get is very much appreciated. We plan to show more of our progress next week, and hopefully we can get back to our original weekly schedule.


Dev Blog #7 – Pretty Isn’t Good

We spent the last two weeks working on two really big parts of the game: the game flow and the back-end.

Design: The Game Flow

As seen in our previous updates, we had to plan out the full game flow from starting the game to playing it, as well as the resources and the victory conditions (the reasons why players win or lose). We spent a lot of time on each of them , then now we are putting all the parts together and making them all work in a way that makes sense. This involves adjusting the values to make them fun and right now, it’s not yet balanced. Thus we continue to playtest: if something’s not fun, we find out the cause, and then we adjust.

The game flow begins by building an army, which you can do at the Choose a Regiment screen. Each faction has a hero, who has bonuses such as gold, or in some cases, gives you special abilities.

For example, Major Carl L’Averi leads the Redkeep faction , which is a colonial settlement ran by humans and elves. Redkeep has very straightforward units such as scouts, militia, and artillery. Carl has a Siegemaster bonus, which means it would be more difficult for enemies to take a city if you have him placed there.  All other factions have their own heroes and minions.

To recap the other factions:

  • Ivoria – A city deep in a jungle ran by wizards, who used their magic to empower beasts such as apes and lemurs
  • Silverwood – An old Elven capitol in the forest, now taken over by Moonpriests and other forest spawns
  • Darktalon – A dark forest inhabited with goblins, spiders, and other wild beasts
  • Polliva – A royal city on the other side of the ocean, home of the colonial powers coming back to take over the continent
  • Ruma – An island halfway between the old and new worlds, which has become the center for trading and filled with pirates – one of them is our lead character, Olivia.

Back-end Development: Servers and Multiplayer

The second major thing that we are doing is fixing the servers and getting multiplayer up and running. We have 4-player working now, but it still includes some broken stuff. For example, we found a bug wherein embarked units don’t take any damage (which Nelson exploited) and while some had -1 HP and never died (Ben’s immortal Chainsaw Shocktrooper) – so nobody won. The full unedited video of the 4P game is up on Youtube.

Art: Pretty isn’t Good

Another thing we’d like to share is something that really plagues developers, which we also mentioned two weeks ago when talking about the game’s ideal game length. Same with art, we don’t always get on the same page. When artists are create the structures, characters, or map decals, they’re looking at the art way up close and make those that look good in that perspective. However, people play the game zoomed about.

This is not a new problem – and it’s an amateur mistake that happens over and over again. It is partially a communication issue, but also partially because the people making the game don’t play enough of it.

Sometimes we get WIPs of art in a gray screen, then the artist would ask,  “Are these good?” The last thing a designer should say is yes. You don’t know if they are good, you just know that they are pretty – and pretty isn’t good.  Pretty is just pretty. What you want to know is if they are good for the game, and to know that, you have to put them in the context of the game. If they don’t look good in the game, it doesn’t matter how pretty they are. They are not good, and the definition of good in game development is not if they are pretty, but if they achieve the goal that you’re trying to reach with this particular piece of art.  This is something we forget sometimes, so right now we’re working on altering the maps a bit and modifying some of the art to make them look better.