Tag Archives: multiplayer

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 #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.


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.)