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Dev Blog # 6 – Addressing Game Ideas That Suck

To begin this week’s dev blog, we’ll share something that not only applies to Last Regiment, but to game development in general: how does the theory of all our ideas actually play out?

This is a really hard part of game development. Game ideas start out as really cool on paper. But when you start to implement it, you begin to realize that there are things you forgot or didn’t think about, and it ends up not being like what you thought it would be. This is the point where some new developers fail: they say to themselves, “This sucks, I give up.” But that is something you cannot avoid in game development. The real task is getting from that point to another.

To quote from Adventure Time: Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.

Before you can be good, first you have to suck. It’s easy to get real disheartened that you’re not good at this.  Instead of giving up on idea and just changing it to something else, you have to be able to critically look at it and figure out: Why does it suck?

So you’ll notice in our updates that we’ll continue to try out ideas and keep switching them up. For example, as we talked about before, the concept of steamrolling or snowballing has been a common problem in strategy games. As you become more powerful and acquire more resources or units, you eventually reach a tipping point where you’ve guaranteed your victory and there’s nothing else anyone can do. Of course, most players would like that, but if it happens too early, people would feel disenfranchised for their game. If in the first five turns it becomes impossible for anyone to go any further, that’s when strategy games fall down. The challenge for us developers is to find that balance. In Legends of Callasia, we have the card mechanic that enables you to make turnarounds in battle. These are the types of solutions we want.

For Last Regiment , we’re currently looking at two ways to handle resources:

  1. Hoarding resources. This is the basic Civilization model. For every turn, I get more gold.  My pile gets bigger and bigger. I keep hoarding so I can go form armies, build structures, etc.
  2. Limited resources. In Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering, you get a certain number of resources which you can use for each turn. At the end of the turn, it replenishes.

If you remember, we moved to limit-based model precisely because we wanted to prevent steamrolling. We played it like that in the past weeks, but it wasn’t fun.

Why was it not fun? It reaches a point wherein I’m over at your castle, trying to finish the game and get you out. But because both of us have the same amount of resources every turn, you would just keep on spawning more units to fight me off. At the same time, if the game continually refills your resources (example: 10), we need to make sure that nothing costs 11 resources. Getting the same amount of resources creates a mechanic with fast turnaround, which works really well in Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering. But in a map-based strategy game where you want the units to move around, last longer, and do things, it’s not such a great mechanic.

So we switched back Gold and Mana into hoarding resources.

We still have the concept of control points, which is a limited resource. Like the population limit in LOC, you only have so much control but you can increase it by getting more buildings. Now the number of units I can make and control becomes limited by how much you can hoard. This is something we haven’t balanced yet. What happens when my hoard gets really big? We’re still figuring it out.

Meanwhile, we’ve also been working on a bunch of core technology to make sure multiplayer is functioning properly. We’ve also added stuff like new effects and new art. We are also playing with idea of having some neutral units and the concept of healing.

Another big change is the camera movement. When we were playing, things would happen on a different part of a map, but I would be looking at something else. That was hurting the game: people thought it was broken because you didn’t see or know what happened. So we changed the way you visualize the game. Theoretically,  the camera would be dragged around to show you things as they occur.

In terms of ideal game length, we’re still struggling with that. For Legends of Callasia it was about right: 30 minutes for 2-player games, while bigger games can be from one to two hours. It’s a nice spot for players to be drawn in and get involved. But some want it shorter, some longer; others want more options or less options. This is always an issue in game development: getting everyone to agree on something. Since different things such as more players or bigger maps can affect game length, we’ll continue to play around with that during the course of the development cycle.

But the bigger questions are always: What it is that we ought to be doing?  Who are the players we are targeting? You never really know if you’re building the right game, especially at this early stage.

For example, we’ve been getting some feedback on how we’re writing the fantasy or the lore of this game. People have certain expectations  about what things should or shouldn’t be, which is a challenge as we create a unique lore for this game.

We also did a multiplayer playtest during our stream (full, unedited video here) and these are the things that we learned today:

  1. Movement is a lot of fun. The camera movement is really good.
  2. The attack/damage values of the heroes are within the range we expect. They’re not perfect and would still need more balancing, but overall, they’re pretty good.
  3. The economy is still wonky. You’re consistently getting your Gold and Mana, but there aren’t many places you can spend them on. After a couple of turns, it gets to a point where the resources don’t matter because you already have everything you want. You keep hoarding and continue spawning, which makes the game basically endless.

In general, we are pleased with the progress we’ve been making and the feedback we’ve been receiving. We’ll be looking at various solutions to address the current issues. Hopefully by next week we have figured something out.


Dev Blog #5 – Choose Your Regiment + Multiplayer

Two weeks after our previous update, we went live for the first time with a multiplayer game of Last Regiment! It’s still far from done, with a bunch of placeholder art and broken things that we already know about.

We also realized that we haven’t done an intro about the team yet. Some of us also worked on Legends of Callasia. We have:

  • Chris, designer and Creative Director from Japan
  • Adrian, also known as “Tentaklor”, our coder in Malaysia
  • Ben, animator and artist from Malaysia
  • Artists Edwin, Erwin, and Jun from the Philippines (plus Karen who occasionally helps out with the UI)

That’s the core team, but we also have back-end support from Allan (Technical Director), JD (coder), and Monika (Marketing).

We also share a brand new screen – “Choose Your Regiment”.  One of the big parts of the game is all about building some sort of deck or regiment. This is still a first cut of this screen which still used black squares with text for their internal names, which we’ll replace with pretty art sooner of later.

When you build a regiment, you can choose units from up to three factions (Note: The limit is not yet working in the game, so you’ll see us choose factions from multiple factions in the video.) There are various factions to choose from:

  • Redkeep – A massive fortress city set on the edge of Kothia where the local Highborne (elves) and Portellian colonial powers (humans) work together to begin their reclamation of the ancient land.
  • Ivoria – A wizarding city deep in the jungle where mages and beasts (such as the monkey warriors), are led by dark, powerful sorcerers
  • Silverwood – An overgrown wilderness which was once the home of the ancient Highborne kingdom, now filled with Woodspawn spirits summoned by the vengeful Moonpriests
  • Darktalon – A deep, dark forest inhabited by ferocious, magic-hating Goblins.
  • Polliva – A large and powerful fleet coming from a great capital across the sea
  • Ruma – A rough port of sailors, traders, swashbucklers, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of the Portellian Empire

These are the first six factions, and we’ll add more later on as we build the game and get it working.  Each faction comes with heroes, which are super powerful, heavy-duty units. Each faction is limited to one hero (for now – maybe later we’ll add a special faction with more than one hero?)

Once you’ve created your regiment, you can just save and exit. When you go to the Multiplayer screen, you can choose which regiment you want to use then host/join a multiplayer game.

Watch the video below for our multiplayer playtest with Ben, and also do a bit of Q&A with our viewers. (Warning: Lots of placeholder art and bugs.)


Dev Blog #4 – Q&A Session and Bigger Hex Tiles

In the past week we’ve started getting more questions about how Last Regiment is going and what plans we have for the game, so for today’s stream we first did a little Q&A session. We even answered questions not specific to this game such as “Why do game developers do stupid things?”

Then we showed some of the new art we made for the maps, such as bigger and more interesting tiles for the blocker features (non-walkable tiles), instead of adding several small tiles.

That way the hex shapes are not too obvious when you look at the map on a whole.

It may not look like huge progress, but it’s really a process we need to spend much time on. We want to make sure we create some pretty looking maps, because screenshots are the first things that people are going to see at the download page. We want to make sure that we make a beautiful game from the very beginning.

We actually also made some progress for multiplayer mode. We tried it yesterday, and had wanted to stream it today, but it’s still not ready. We’ll continue working on that and hopefully we can show that next week. We’ll also keep answering questions, so just keep on asking by leaving a comment here or on Discord. Better yet, drop by the stream when we’re live.