Tag Archives: indiedev

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.


Dev Blog #10 – On Data Management and What We’ve Changed So Far

Aside from our progress based on the discussion two weeks ago, today we shared some game development tips on how we manage our data using Microsoft Excel. As we said in a previous entry, we make use of spreadsheets as a repository for all the data that drives the game, so that it would be easy to manipulate and export into LUA files that the game actually uses.

Naming and Localization

An Excel file would have various tabs that relate to various things that are in the game, such as Minions. Each piece of data is related to one object in the game and follows a specific naming convention. For example, a creature called Tusked Apes in the game would be named “fact02_unit02”, since it’s the second unit in the second faction. We’d have records for “portrait_fact02_unit02”, “icon_fact02_unit02”, and so on. This allows us to quickly change things (like rename to Angry Apes?) without having to go through each of the records. It’s easier to cross-reference.  But in terms of powers, we went the other way and decided to be more straightforward. We follow “pow_mountedguns” or “pow_invisibility” as our naming convention, but it’s still a systematized and reasonable way of naming and understanding things. This also makes it easier for us to localize the text later on.

Unit Stats and Costs

In terms of assigning units stats, we rearranged the data sheets and implemented a new two-level data management system in the last few days. We have base stats for Attack, HP, and Movement which are scaled in reference to each of the units. This is the first step in balancing: how strong or how weak compared to everyone else do we want our units to be? The next step is to say: how strong do I want attacks to be in general compared to everything else in the game? Then we’d multiply it by a constant to get the actual stats that we see.

After some playtesting we get two kids of feedback: 1) If a unit is too strong or weak, we change that unit’s base stats. 2) If a player thinks that attacks take too long or are too weak, then we change the constant so that all units become stronger. This way we can very quickly make adjustments, especially when we add more units in the future.

We use the same system in deciding the unit costs. How much do we think control points should be worth relative to others, and in general? We first created a basic rule that we can later on adjust when we know which powers are stronger or weaker than others. The formula is based on all the stats for each unit, rounded up to the nearest multiple of 5, to make it easier for players to remember.

Gameplay Changes

We spent some time adding in a lot of building types in the game with various fun abilities. However, we realized that it was less fun to have more stuff. We want players to make great, important decisions, not a  thousand little tactical decisions. So we reduced the number of buildings with a substantial difference compared to the others.

The way buildings work now is that you can only build on a hard point if you have a unit with a build ability. All heroes can build, but there are some units such as Highborne engineers who also have the same ability. However, they can only build one kind out of the four racial building types (Human, Highborne, Goblin-Orc, and Kobold). These buildings can be upgraded along the racial type’s build chart.

We’re also adding in the concept or portals. Before, we had a rule about only being able to build on cities and ports which no one understood. These would now be removed from the game, and replaced with Portals.

We’ve also added a bunch of little changes, like additional animations, art changes, and updated UI.

Meanwhile, we’ve realized that most of factions that are too similar and have the same unit types. One of the things we should change is to create factions that have specific strengths and weaknesses.


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!