Belated Happy New Year everyone! 2018 is off to an exciting start for us as we were finally able to show off an exclusive demo of Last Regiment at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas.
We’ve shown the game before at ESGS last year but this is the first time we were able to implement a tutorial for the game. This is also one of the main reasons why we wanted to show the game at PAX South – we wanted to watch people who have never played it before play through our tutorial and see what they thought of the game.
Our estimate is that 5 out of 100 who walked past our booth would actually stop and look at our game. They were like “Oh my God! I’ve been looking for a game like this!”. The other 95 looked at it and very clearly you’ll see in their eyes “Meh, Im not into that.”. But that’s fine. We know this is not a game for everybody. This is a game for a very specific slice of the game market.
The thing that we are most happy about this experience was, nobody really needed to have the game explained to them. In terms of how do you play the game, basically we just sat them down, gave them the rough tutorial that we just banged up in a couple of weeks, and within 2-3 minutes they were able to understand the game flow.
Here’s a brief preview of what the tutorial looks like. We’ll be posting a tutorial play through video soon with Chris and the team as they talk about ways to improve and shorten it.
Special thanks to our friends from Discord/Twitch who helped us man the booth. We couldn’t have lasted the entire 3-day event without your help.
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Before we get started, we want to talk about some industry stuff: Kickstarter has launched its own competitor to Patreon called Drip. As a game developer, this is interesting news to us.
Struggles in Marketing
We’ve had two unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns for Legends of Callasia and the major thing is that if you’re not able to fund the project in a certain number of days, you get no money at all. Despite that, we made the game anyway. Afterwards, we gained some users and had another Kickstarter for the DLC, which went through. But honestly, we’ve set our bar of success really low. Technically, we haven’t been able to fully fund a project yet.
We believe there are three scenarios to make Kickstarter work.
You’re already really famous.
You have a famous IP.
You have something so marketable and memorable that can break into the mainstream media.
The first two are not options for us, and the third one is very rare, so Kickstarter has been problematic in our case. Patreon is a different thing. It’s very straightforward in how you have a service or product, and people can support you. This is good for those who consistently produce content, such as comic strips or write-ups, and Patreon is a way to help those people keep on producing that content.
And this is the same subscription tool that Kickstarter is now doing. According to the website, “Drip is a tool for people to fund and build community around their ongoing creative practice”.
This is obviously a big thing but we’re not sure yet how it works with games. There are already subscription options and other existing ways to do it that don’t involve going outside the game to another thing. As of now, we don’t know yet if we want to do it with Last Regiment. It’s definitely useful in the creative world, but we’re not sure yet about the game world.
There is also the question about discovery. The one thing Kickstarter does have is 14 million people who are willing to throw money at things, largely on games. But why did Legends of Callasia not become a huge financial success? There are certainly problems about the game, but even so, people never knew it existed. We think there are a lot of people out there who would love to play but never heard of it. That problem is something Kickstarter might be able to do something with, but it has a narrow focus wherein you need this money *right now*. We are curious to see how Drip would address this issue.
Obviously there are other services like this but the problem has always been: how big is your network? That’s where platforms like Kickstarter and Steam makes its money in. They already have a huge group of gamers and they’re giving you the ability to be able to talk to those gamers through their system.
Aside from the question of how big is their userbase, the next thing we need to ask is: How many products are they offering? This is a problem with Kickstarter: they do have the people, but there are also at least 200 new games in a week. Other services have few people but few games, so there is a bigger chance for people to actually see you. There is a trade-off, and an argument has to be made about whether or not it’s worth it.
The other thing we’ve been doing to get our game noticed is attending game conventions, and we are actually working on our Indie Megabooth submission right now! We’re trying to be part of it in PAX East. It’s a great show, as well as PAX South, but the value of going to same show with same game degenerates over time.
During the first show, it becomes a big deal because nobody has seen it before. On the second show, it becomes less so since they’ve already seen it, and you’d just get looked over a bit. So right now the plan is if we get accepted to the Indie Megabooth, we’ll be going to PAX East. If not, we’re not going to buy a regular booth because the return on investment is not worth it.
Another thing is that we’re not really a fancy game and can’t have a big screen showing a huge fight. We’re a strategy game, which is slower and quieter, and when showing it by ourselves, it is difficult to get people to come to our booth. Again we go into the rabbit hole of how do we market our marketing?
From the perspective of the press, streamers, and other influencers, they would have a list of what they want to see at the show. Nobody comes to PAX to see what Boomzap’s up to. Getting them to come to our booth is actually a struggle. We have to reach out to them early on and make an argument for them to come.
If you’re in the Indie Megabooth, everyone in the press would check that out. It’s on their list. They would come by, but you still need to try to get them to play, though at least you get some eyeballs. Like Kickstarter and Steam’s user base, the Indie Megabooth is a big thing that people know and would come to.
Another option is to sign up with a boutique publisher that has a PR agency that makes everything happen for you. That’s great but we don’t want to have a publisher. So we’re trying to find a place where we can be on a “to do list” that doesn’t involve a publisher because we are trying to be independent.
More about “Earlier Access” aka Closed Beta
We’ve also started to receive more questions about Earlier Access. The hope is that we get around 20 to 30 people in the beta list, and we’re expecting them to be those who are already interested in the game now.
There is no definite date yet on when it would begin, but the plan is sometime in January or February. There is the question of how far along do we want to be in the game before we start. We can give it to you relatively early with broken stuff that would likely change and be entirely different from the final version, and we’re hoping that the people who are in the closed beta would be cool with it.
It’s likely that we’ll do the beta through Steam, so that it won’t get pirated as much. We’ll probably do a weekly build where we can turnaround balance decisions like altered stats and address other feedback we receive. Internally we can do daily builds but putting it over on Steam would be a real task, though if we have something new to add, we can go do that.
It won’t be a full game. The game modes such as single player campaigns and other content won’t be complete. It’s something that we’ll gradually work on as we get closer to release. But that is the point of beta – you’ll get to see it earlier than anyone else, before a lot of it is done.
Plans for Single Player
Given our schedule for Earlier Access, we need to start thinking about how the single player modes would work.
The length for single player campaigns depend on the number of missions and hours of gameplay. There’s still a lot of testing before we know how long missions take. If they take longer, we’ll make fewer missions. If they are shorter, we make more. What we might actually do is build a series of missions that have variety in length, with around 20 hours of total gameplay.
We also want to make skirmishes more interesting by having goals that aren’t always exactly the same, such as capture the flag, king of the hill, etc. A lot of discussion still needs to takes place to sort out how the game works. It’s time to start thinking about the lore and story and how we do the single player missions. We need to look at other games and listen to feedback from players to see what they want.
How much would single player impact multiplayer? It comes from our experience in Legends of Callasia where we had a user complain why everything is not yet unlocked, so what we did was when you bought the game all the factions and units were available in multiplayer. The players then asked “Why am I even playing single player?”
That was a mistake we made and for Last Regiment, we want to make sure that single player has meaning and what you’re doing has value. We have not figured it out completely yet, but the plan is to have players unlock factions through the campaigns, starting with Olivia and the Ruma faction. While going through story, you meet new people, interact with different characters, then unlock them as playable factions.
We also want to make sure that players learn how to play the game before trying out multiplayer. The plan is to integrate the tutorial into the story, and have Multiplayer mode unlockable by playing. By the time you show up in multiplayer, you should know what you’re doing when playing against other players and know what’s happening.
Cool New Stuff
As always, we’ve made several adjustments to the game, but for this blog we want to focus on the UI revamp, because that is what players would immediately see. Aside from adding more rococo elements, it is important that the UI is able to communicate how the game works.
The Regiment bar now shows a max army limit of 11, with only two heroes (which are substantially bigger so that you clearly understood who they are)
We still have the nice control mechanic where you can click and hold units and powers
The look and feel for the next unit toggle and timer was changed to resemble clockwork and machinery
Some of the UI panels now match the regiment color you’ve selected
An indicator on top shows which phase you are in during resolution
We were looking at the old way of choosing regiments, and we didn’t really like it. It was difficult to select a hero and find out what it does or what value it brings to me. And so we looked at how you built decks in other games where you can see all the cards in one glance.
It’s still placeholder, but we’ve made the framing better. We also wanted to fill the screen with pretty art and make sure you saw them. We’ve added a player language wherein grayed out units can’t be selected, and you can only choose the colored ones. We’ve made it easier to click on a unit to view its description and abilities.
In the future, we want these panels more themed to the factions. Right now it just looks like a set of cards. We want this to be a place where we could express some of the history and lore of the game. It sounds trivial, but later on when we add new factions or release DLCs, there is a sense of discovery and excitement.
Update to support segregated hero slots in game screen
Update to support new design change: minions can only be summoned if hero is in play
Updates to select army UI: manual army sorting works again; power lists work now
Update to victory moves to support multiple stages
Prototyped unit adjacency traits (increased ATT is highlighted in green)
Fix to editor object selection: minions show up now; mouse scroll works properly now
Change power targetting recticule to use video asset
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.
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.
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.