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Dev Blog #14 – What we learned from ESGS (and how to join our beta)

Two weeks ago, we went to two conferences in Manila! First was Gamefest, a game development summit with speakers from both the local and international gaming industry, and E-Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS), one of the biggest consumer conventions in the Philippines.

LINK: More ESGS  photos up on Facebook

What We Learned From  ESGS

We usually don’t bring our games in the state Last Regiment is currently in: it’s an early build without a tutorial and lot of placeholder stuff. But since we’re blogging and streaming it, people have already seen it anyway. At the same time, whenever we want to do something big, we want to always do it first in the Philippines, the studio’s spiritual home.

On a practical note, not showing the game before we attend PAX South next year would have been bad idea. ESGS provided an opportunity for us to watch people play and see what we need to do to bring our A game to PAX.

One of the problems we had during Legends of Callasia was that nobody knew we existed. Although people in the industry knew Boomzap, the vast majority of gamers in the Philippines play AAA games and e-sports titles. As an indie strategy game in a world of huge production value games, how do we survive?

We were surrounded by huge companies at ESGS, and some people just took a quick look at out booth and walked on by. But it’s fine, they probably weren’t our audience. However, there must be a niche strategy gaming audience somewhere. Where do we find them? How do we get them to know we exist? We do all sorts of marketing efforts such as streaming, but how do we get people to know about the stream? How do we do marketing for the marketing?

At the convention, most of the major exhibitors had “booth babes”, but it’s something we’ve sworn not to do (aside from the fact that we can’t afford them). Last year, we had Callasia fans volunteer to man our booth at PAX – people who are able to share their love for the game.  During ESGS, it’s the actual development team who was there to explain how the game works. We know this is more effective in attracting people who are actually into the game, rather than those only interested in getting pictures with pretty girls at a booth.

We also had a second booth at the ESGS Indie Arena, where all the other indies are. When people went to this area, they are actually there to play and talk to the developers about their games. This is our goal for the next conventions we’re attending. By next week we’re submitting to Indie Prize USA and Indie Megabooth at PAX East – hopefully we get chosen! The important thing we need to do now is get the game ready.

What We Changed In the Game

1. We revamped  our UI art assets! During ESGS, the game trailer showed endlessly on the big screen, and we realized that the UI is old and dated. Thus we looked at the time setting of the game and asked ourselves what the visual design was of that time. The answer: rococo and filigree!

2. We’re adding two kinds of structures: Destructible and Permanent. While we were working on the map editor, we started to talk about what single player would look like and got to thinking about buildings. Does it make sense that you can build a village and have a large building tree within the lore of the game and still present a tactical feel? What if we separated it out: things that can be built and things that can only be placed via the editor. Thus, these permanent structures would become an object in the story.

3. In-game notifications have some improvements. Now you get more info as to what is actually happening on the game in the next few turns, including player resource upkeep. During ESGS, the most common question we had was which happens first? The game needed a clear language to explain the order of actions, and for now we added indicators on top of the screen during the resolution phases.

4. We’ve updated the movement arrows and the way they behave. We observed that players often made errors when dragging and moving heroes, and end up selecting additional hexes, so this hopefully fixes that issue.

5. As requested by the people on stream, we’ve added player emblems from Legends of Callasia!

6. We’ve added a new goblin faction called Darktalon led by Captain Hollythorn. They are masters of the environment who are against magic.

7. We noticed that there are too many heroes in the game. They are so powerful, and you basically end up with a screen full of heroes, which made them a bit unspecial. We decided that we wanted to have fewer heroes available to players available during the game. We want to make faction choice more critical, and now we’re experimenting limiting them to up to two factions per regiment.

8. Other things we’re working on are updates and reorganization to the minion powers framework, addition of cool new powers, and VFX improvements. We’re also still working on optimizing the game since as people noticed the low framerate it plays on.

LINK: Last Regiment Dev Stream #14 (FULL) on Youtube

“Earlier Access”

So now people are asking: all these people at the convention got to try out Last Regiment, when do we get to play it? We’re planning  to launch as an Early Access title on Steam in 2018, but before that, we’ll do a closed beta with some special people.

Instead of the usual signups, we’re choosing our betatesters from our most active Twitch viewers and Discord chatters.

  • Watch our dev streams on Twitch and earn 2000 boombux. (Click here for the leaderboard.)
  • Be an active member of our Discord and reach Level 15 by chatting. (Click here for the leaderboard.)

We’ll also invite press, content creators, and our betatesters from Legends of Callasia into the closed beta.

For now there is no estimated date on when beta would be available. We’re currently focused on making a solid demo build for PAX South in January. So in the meantime, stay tuned to earn those points for beta and watch out for our updates.


Dev Blog #13 – New Olivia and More!

We had to shift our schedule because of ESGS, so for today’s dev update we have three weeks worth of progress to show.

1. We listened to the feedback we received from Discord and changed the portrait art for Olivia, who now looks like a more privateer, pirate-y character. The backstory is that she was in the military force but got kicked out. While on exile in the Ruman  islands between Kothia and Portella, where she is originally from, she developed a badass crew of swashbucklers and pirates. Note that this isn’t the final art yet, and we’re still considering making more changes.

2. We added some functionality to the main menu so that now when we switch from mode to mode, the options, information, and art would change.

3. We are making the map editor more up-to-date. Right now it’s not yet as user-friendly and still very much a dev tool, but it remains to be a planned feature for release.

4. We’ve updated the Choose Your Regiment screen and added the option of creating emblems per regiment, which are like alternate decks that you can use depending on the map. It’s largely based from the emblem system from Legends of Callasia, and there are different themes separated into tabs with up to four different colors that you can use for the background. We’re no longer adding flags as a background option since that piece of reality pulls you out of the whole fantasy feel (although you can make it thematically similar).

5. The map edges are now a lot wider than they’re supposed to be, because previously some of the UI would get in the way. Now when you select a unit or hex, the UI would not intrude much of the game. We also revamped the power and summon system wherein you can view their descriptions using mouse-hold, then play them on the map via drag-and-drop, similar to how cards are played in Legends of Callasia.

6. The selected object panel was also revamped, with a clear separation of what the unit can do (top) and what the current territory allows him to do (bottom). There are also different shapes to indicate if they are passive or active abilities.

7. The fog of war no longer has the cross-hatch lines and now looking better, but we still need to make the edges look more organic.

8. We’ve been playing around with the water: now we have deep and shallow water tiles. We spent some times making the coastlines look clearer and more interesting, but we’re also considering to have make it a game effect  such as units that can or cannot go there.

9. Another slight modification we made is on the movement arrows. They look cleaner, don’t sit on top of the meeple anymore, and no longer have placeholder programming numbers. Now as you drag the unit, you can see how many moves it’s burning.

10. We’ve added 8-players maps and they’re a lot of fun. It’s a little bit slower because resolution takes a bit longer but still pretty snappy.

11. We’ve added a game logs feature which would appear in two places: at the bottom of the screen as it happens, and a history which you can collapse from the upper left panel. We’re still playing around on how we want it to look.

12. We’ve added cone effect damage that would allow you to target something that’s not in a round range, which would give us more interesting options in our spells. We haven’t made any units yet with that type of damage, so maybe in the next livestream we’ll have some to show.

It’s going to be busy in the next few days because of ESGS, and hopefully we’ll still be able to get a lot of stuff done for the next update (most likely because of various feedback we will be getting).


Dev Blog #11 – Challenges in Game Development

This week we’ll talk about some of the challenges we face as developers. How do we make our fantasy game different from others? How do we make all of the game elements consistent and coherent? What features and platforms should we focus on?

Before we talk about what we’ve been working on, we’d like to take a step back to discuss the lore of the game again. Some have been wondering why there are a variety of units and how they all go together, so we’ll start by going over the history of Kothia, where the game takes place.

Behind the Lore

When we made Legends of Callasia, we were focused on creating a solid one to two hour multiplayer experience with simultanous turns and missed out on building the story. It was predominantly based on multiplayer, and won’t do well when you don’t have enough players, thus shortening the game’s lifespan. There is a cycle of a) needing a certain number of players to make the game fun, and b) if the game is fun, you’ll get  more  players. We eventually had many dedicated users, but it was not enough to power the game.

For Last Regiment we knew we had to do something different in order to generate the audience. We realized that in LOC, there’s a silent minority who didn’t play multiplayer but instead played the single-player campaigns. This is where we should start: to build a world, set its foundation, and write the story.

So the questions were: Where do we draw from? How do we get started? We needed to find a year, and usually, the characters, technology and culture in normal fantasy is based on the middle ages. But we did want to follow  the typical stereotypes that every other game already has. We’re still sticking to the genre, because the team is good at beautiful fantasy art.  So what if we changed where we pinned the history instead of moving away from fantasy?

We decided to choose a much later period and a quite advanced year in history: 1772. There was more scientific development; there were trading companies, colonization, and nationalization. What if we had that history in a world where magic did exist? How would elves, orcs, and goblins deal with all these new technology, culture, and social structures? What do armies look like? What weapons would they use?

In Last Regiment, we call this period The Reconquest. The world is composed of a number of continent, the biggeest one being Kothia, which is similar to the Roman Empire. There were massive wars that involved magic, summoned spirits, infected creatures, constructs , and more. There is a massive apocalypse and civilization is largely destroyed.

Humans fled to the old world until centuries later when they decide to reconquer the continent with better technology and tools to fight back. This is the setting of the game. You as a player will have to go back and explore this new world.

Gameplay Changes

And so here’s what we have been working on in the past two weeks.

  1. We scrapped mana and decided to stick to only one type of resource for the game.
  2. We’ve been testing the concept of hard points, which does make the game more interesting and offers a lot more strategy, but we’re not yet happy with the actual types of structures you can build. We made so many art and animations for these buildings earlier and we’re not sure where to use it. We built the assets too fast and some of them don’t make sense anymore, so we’ll have to revisit them.
  3. We tweaked some of the data and rebalanced some of the units. Making them have higher HP made a positive difference in the game: they now last long enough, but are more expensive and take longer to build. You as a player would now spend more time trying to keep your units alive, instead of churning them out and letting them die endlessly. You have to learn to manage units better, and this accelerated the pace of the game.
  4. We changed how the fog of war works, revised the visual presentation of effects, and continued fixing some of the art and user interface.
  5. And some other bug fixes!

Artistic Coherence

One of the things that makes a polished game look really polished is artistic coherence. It’s the developers willingness to stop and make it something that it needs to be. For example, we have reasonably good art for the hero Tristan, but it looks visually different from the rest of the art in the game, such as the Chainsaw Shocktrooper (aka elf with the chainsaw).  We can’t have both art that are aesthetically different from each other, and this is an expensive decision to make. This is one of the realities of game development: there’s always going to be something that comes up that you didn’t expect that you have to come back to and have it redone. Even if it doesn’t affect the gameplay, the extra level of polish makes a difference.

Multiple Resolutions and Cross-Platform Support

Multiple screen support is something you don’t usually think about. When developing games, you must keep in mind that changing resolutions could cause the user interface to be misaligned. There are two things you have to look at: the scale (bigger or smaller) and the ratio (widescreen, etc.). You need to go through each of the different elements of the user interface and decide where you want them aligned – to the center or on the edges of the screen. What if some players want the elements in the same size? What about retina size?

Meanwhile, there’s the concept of supporting the game on multiple platforms. There are features that are desktop-specific and tablet-specific. There are things on the PC such as hotkeys and mouseover highlights which are not available on a tablet, which is touchscreen. You need to focus down on your audience in order to know which platform-specific features to address. For Last Regiment, we’ve decided to make it PC-centric.

Focus on Single Player

As mentioned earlier, another thing we’d like to focus on is the single player campaign. We had players in Legends of Callasia that were vocal about wanting everything immediately unlocked when they get the game, instead of having to play the campaigns to unlock more content. This created a created knock on effect. What’s the point of single player now? Suddenly it became meaningless, and this is a mistake we want to avoid in Last Regiment. There is pleasure in working hard to unlock something, and the sense of completion is compelling for most players.