Amber’s Magic Shop officially out!

First of all, public service announcement: after a month of very intensive testing, my dating sim with optional crafting gameplay Amber’s Magic Shop it’s finally out!

You can download a demo and get more info at the game’s official page: http://winterwolves.com/ambersmagicshop.htm

As usual, if you buy from my site you’ll also get a free Steam key once it’s out there (not sure yet when, but should be in the next months). A mobile version is also planned and should be out probably around June on Android, followed by the iOS version later.

Gameplay and prototypes

Today I also wanted to talk a bit about what I’ve learned in the past months. As you know I like to try different things. This lead to two “experiments”: Queen Of Thieves’ randomized missions, and Amber’s Magic Shop crafting simulation.

While I know many people who liked both games gameplay, I am the first to admit that the result was less fun than I originally planned. Talking with people in forums and other devs, I think I found some basic mistakes I have done:

  • First of all, for both games I had the story written BEFORE the gameplay, and that forced me to tweak the gameplay based on the story and not the opposite
  • I didn’t really make any prototype for both games. I did one for the combat of Queen Of Thieves, but not for the whole “robbery missions” thing. Doing prototypes is essential to know if a game is fun or not early during development
  • Last but not least, I don’t enjoy particularly sim games. I mean I like playing them, but I’m not obsessed. My tastes have also changed with age: when I was 20 years old I remember playing very long games with Civilization (can’t remember which version was). Nowadays? I can barely play for a few hours. While for example I played a lot games like Horizons: Zero Dawn, starting the final battle at level 44… πŸ˜€

The conclusion I can draw from those observation is simple: if I decide to try again doing a game with more different gameplay, I should really either have a beta prototype to get early feedback from players, or at least code it myself first, and then worry about the story later. Otherwise, the final result it’s never going to be as good as it could have.

For VN/RPGs the thing is different, since you can tweak the battles as you play/read the story, that’s what I did both with Loren and SOTW, and both games are the ones which got more praises for gameplay. Same thing for PSCD, which probably has the best gameplay of all my games (unless you really hate card games…!).

In summary any kind of game that has a story mixed with combat/fights at certain key point of the story it’s safe to do for me. For other kind of games, I really need to try a different approach, to have a better final result πŸ™‚

Last but not least, Love Bites coding/playtesting is progressing well. Below you see a fun scene where Brandon tries to invite Viktor to dance πŸ™‚

Posted in amber's magic shop, dating sims, development tricks, general, life simulation | 3 Comments

Love Bites & Cursed Lands update

In the image above, the usual “character selection screen” from Love Bites! Yes I’m starting to work on this game now, coding the various gameplay parts. First of all, yes there will be a scheduler but there won’t be any stat raising!

See, I listen to what you tell me πŸ˜‰ I’m not against stat raising games of course, but they need to be very integrated with the story or the gameplay mechanics. Skill checks to pass, and that change the events of the story for example. I agree that if all the stats have to do is just make the gameplay a grind to reach the required value, it’s better to not have stats at all! And that’s why I decided to not have them in Love Bites to unlock the endings.

However, there will still be a scheduler and a few variabls, which together with the in-story choices, will unlock some endings or variants. The current plan is:

  • each love interest has a job to offer to the protagonist. Depending which jobs you take, you’ll unlock more scenes and advance the romance with the love interest.
  • each weekend (Saturday/Sunday) there will be the chance to have a date with one of the love interests
  • in the visual novel scenes, there won’t be anymore a “right or wrong” choice, leading to an increase of relationship. Instead, each choice will alter some hidden variables which will lead to endings variations. I’m not sure if I’ll keep those variables hidden or even show the effects on the choice text itself, have yet to decide it.
  • the only variable in the scheduler will be Energy, Money and another one which I’m not revealing for now (could be called “Stress”). They can influence the game ending and even lead to a sudden game over (don’t worry, it’s not easy to “lose” in this game) and relative achievement, which will be fun πŸ™‚

Love Bites beta should begin this Summer or early September, though not sure yet when exactly.

Cursed Lands news

Good news: the script of Cursed Lands (in the screenshot above, the game main menu) it’s at very good point, and should be completed this year. Of course this doesn’t mean that the GAME will be out this year! πŸ˜‰

Currently the story is already over 150,000 words, so it’s likely that the final story will be close to the 200,000 word range. Yes, I managed to make another “small game” ™!

Jokes apart, I think for a RPG with a good story, recruitment missions, loyalty/relationship/friendship/romance paths, male / female main character, side missions etc… 200,000 words are needed.

This game, without any spoilers, consists in 3 phases: the intro, where the player is “hired” for an important mission regarding N’Mar. A central phase where player must explore the world and recruit new party members to help with the main goal. A third phase where the “final battles” is played and everything it’s resolved.

In the image above you see a prototype of the central phase, where players will spend most of the time. Yes it’s similar to Amber’s, but the similarities ends with the left GUI πŸ™‚

What about the gameplay? For now I can tell you a few things about the RPG/combat:

  • you can use special skills (Talents) against normal enemies and, with reduced effects, against bosses. Your playing character possess those talents which can lead to interesting results. For example let’s pick the following talent: Bluff – May cause enemy to flee and drop an item. Obviously, with normal/regular enemies this will work (of course during testing I’ll limit certain talents to once in a battle, and also will depend on the target level, etc) but with bosses not (otherwise there won’t be combat lol).
  • if you remember the very old announcement post, I posted a screenshot of the love interest, 6 in total. However, you can recruit MORE people to help with your quest! There are two dwarves, Dasyra and Galan, which are each one the opposite personality/class (Dasyra is a healer, Galan a berserker) and we also decided to allow some secondary side mission which will enable the player to recover also characters that maybe were abandoned in the first mission (where a choice is forced). A total of 10 characters can be recruited in total, and with all of them you can increase your relationship and unlock a “friendship bonus”.
  • because of previous point, to avoid micro-management madness, I’ve decided that each character will have 4 or maximum 5 inventory slots: main/off hand, ranged, armor, jewelry/accessories. I think I might reuse SOTW system with randomized items but for sure have unique items that will be more powerful than anything else.
  • same for the skills: I prefer to have less skills but designed better, so 5 skills for each character, for a total of 50 different skills (enemies might have others though). I haven’t made my mind about the attributes yet, could use same system as SOTW since it’s already well tested.

As you can see, this is definitely NOT a small game by any means even for the complexity of gameplay. The script should be finished towards end of this year, so I might even be able to release this game next year. I know this is a game I started only recently, but as I’ve said many times, I cannot control how slow/fast writers work, so it can happen that games started not long ago are finished sooner than games in the works since years.

Well, at least means a new RPG will be out relatively “soon”, right? πŸ™‚

Posted in Cursed lands, dating sims, general, love bites, roleplay games | 11 Comments

Amber beta and rest of the year plans

Amber’s beta officially started a few hours after the latest blog post 2 weeks ago, and I’ve made good progress in fixing bugs and adding features, thanks to the usual great testers in my forums. Special thanks in particular to “Franka” for the help in testing the crafting framework so accurately! (it takes a long time lol)

For those who want to try the game, here’s the official page: http://winterwolves.com/ambersmagicshop.htm

The beta is in a very advanced state: the story is finished, and at the time of writing this post no known bugs are left πŸ™‚

Rest of the year plans!

And now, time to talk about the upcoming release of 5 new RPGs this year!!! Haha obviously I am joking πŸ˜€

Having a game I started officially so long ago like Amber in beta is very satisfying, but unfortunately for many of the others there’ll be more to wait because are either RPGs, have an insane amount of romances, or both. Three games in particular, Undead Lily, Planet Stronghold 2 and Loren 2 have all those “problems” πŸ™‚

Anyways, if you remember in the first months of this year I was working on Undead Lily. I asked my coder to do some changes to the card framework and the “good old” RPG framework used in Loren, SOTW, etc.

The first change, on the card framework, would allow the cards to have “skills”. So in practice it would become quite similar to a RPG system, but with the usual easy to understand rock/paper/scissor mechanics typical of a card game.

The second change instead would consist of adding a delay based system with a fixed turn on the RPG framework. Currently the framework has action cost/time (as you know if you played those RPGs) but we cannot measure “a turn”, since it’s all relative to each creature’s speed. So if a party had super-quick creatures, for them the “turn” would pass faster than the others.

Changing it to a fixed timer would allow me to use fixed turns, so have events happening each turn (which would be the same for both the factions involved in the battle) and also some more cool things like having actions that cost less time, so your unit could attack and use a potion in same turn, etc. I would use it mainly to do my Undead Lily experiments but also in future games πŸ™‚ I think it could even allow the implementation of a system similar to Fallout 1-2 or Wasteland 2 “AP points”, in which each action has an AP cost. This last feature though isn’t officially approved by my coder, so might just be my dream πŸ˜€

Regarding which games will come out next this year: I’m currently aiming at releasing at least a dating sim or maybe two. One is Love Bites, while I won’t say what is the other, also because it could be a “cursed game” or a game still unannounced πŸ˜‰

Posted in amber's magic shop, beta demo, dating sims, development screenshot, life simulation | 5 Comments

A typical day of my indie life

First of all PSA: Amber’s beta demo should be finished very soon. Not sure if today or in the weekend, but look at my twitter/forums for an announcement πŸ™‚ As always, it turned out to be a much much bigger/complex game than I thought!

And now, I’ll talk about a typical day in my indie life!

Some people, even fellow devs, wondered what a day of my indie life looks like. Knowing how many projects I do at same time, people are probably curious about how I do it.

Spoiler: to be honest, I don’t know how I do it either!!! πŸ˜› Many days I do things in different order of course, and some days I take a half-day break or even a full day off if I’m particularly tired (like after a big game release or something). Anyways, here’s what a typical day looks like:

7.30-8.00 – it’s when I usually wake up. The first thing I do in the morning is turn on the computer and check the emails. Unless there’s an urgent email, I just read them but don’t reply and instead go downstairs to have breakfast.

8.30 – 12.00 – During the morning it’s where I do most of my work. I am really much more productive in the morning! I usually reply to all the emails first, and then depends on what is the current situation. If I’m working on a game, like doing some coding job or beta testing, then coding/fixing bugs takes the precedence over anything else.
If I’m not currently coding a game instead, I could be writing a storyboard for a new game or doing some game design (ie. new RPG ruleset, gameplay ideas, etc).
In summary I keep all theΒ  coding or creative tasks for the morning, because it’s the moment of the day where I’m more productive and also more “fresh” (not sleepy or tired).

12.30 – 14.30 – After lunch, I usually take a break. Some days I could do trips outside (when weather is good). Even when the weather is not particularly good, as long as it’s not raining, I take 20-30minutes of walk outside in my garden (luckily big enough so that I don’t seem a fool going around in a small circle! :D).

14.30 – 18.00 – This is my “afternoon working time”. Here I usually try to do tasks that I still need to do, but that doesn’t require particular attention/concentration. Of course, as I said in the beginning, I also did coding in that period many times. During SOTW beta I was coding almost every day even during these hours. But it’s not something I’d like to do again! πŸ™‚
So usually I do stuff like: answering emails of artists, musicians or writers asking for feedback or suggesting examples/stuff to work on next. For musics I browse youtube videos as references. For art, I google images around (many artists aren’t native English speaker, so a photo/image reference works better than trying to describe the situation!). For writers, I sometimes send them random ideas/feedback on what they showed me.
This is also when I usually read stuff. There are some periods where I get even 20-25,000 words to read in a day (having so many projects at same time…). And as you can imagine takes some time for me to read them all! After reading them I send my feedback (usually positive) to the writers or in some cases I ask for some changes. Same thing for art and music, though at least those take much less time! For art, it’s obvious if a sketch is not good, and for music I listen to the track in a loop several times before giving the feedback to the artist.
Other tasks involve: updating my website, preparing banners for Steam, fixing some small art mistakes (like a wrongly colored outfit or something that’s easier to fix myself than ask the artist), and of course scripting the games, which takes some time even if luckily it’s not a complex task.
During those hours, when I’m particularly tired, I also play games and watch movies/tv series. I know it sounds like an excuse but that’s still “work”!
I took many ideas for my games from those activities. For RPGs, I took inspiration by playing other titles. SOTW isomap was made after playing some Spiderweb RPGs. Loren and Planet Stronghold were clearly inspired by Bioware’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. Amber’s crafting is based both on Atelier series and Guild Wars 2. And so on πŸ™‚
Even tv series give me a lot of ideas for the stories of my games. Like some years ago “ah interesting so this character was her boyfriend, but now he lost his memory?” bam, Always Remember Me plot started forming in my mind!

19.00 – 22.00 – After dinner, I might still do some activities if it’s a particularly intense period. Still, no coding (unless it’s really an emergency, like a new Steam release with a crashing bug!). I was doing coding in the past, but at these late hours, I found I was having a very hard time to sleep afterwards. So I would end waking up the next day very tired and less productive in the morning. Because of this I stopped doing very “brain-intensive” tasks at those hours. I could say that 21 PM it’s when I stop completely working, but it’s a lie since sometimes because of timezones, I get emails at 22-23 PM from my collaborators and usually I can’t resist replying to them if they have any questions πŸ™‚

As you can see, in practice I could say I work 12hours every day. Oh yes I forgot: this is Monday to … Sunday πŸ™‚ I work every day like this. There are no weekends or holidays for me. Even if as I said, sometimes I take a day or two off to recharge batteries, because overworking yourself it’s never a good idea! But my friends doing regular jobs think I’m crazy for not taking even a single week of holidays. Who knows maybe in a distant future I will, but for now… that’s it.

You could say that in the afternoon besides doing some “monkey tasks”, I also gather ideas, inspiration for new games. And in the morning I put to practice all those ideas/rules/designs, working hard to keep releasing at least 2 games every year, which is quite an achievement for today’s standards πŸ™‚

I hope someone will find this post interesting. Of course it’s just how I do it, but there isn’t “a single way to do it properly”. However I think having a sort of fixed schedule really helps to stay productive in the long run and taking regular breaks helps to not get burned out too fast.

Posted in development tricks, general, indie life | 8 Comments

Spring Sale until 31st March


My cat Lilly seems to enjoy this warm Spring

Just a short blog post to announce that I’m doing a Spring sale, from now until the end of the month included.

The games released before 2016 are discounted by 66%! While the games released last year are discounted by 25%!

No need to enter any code, the discount will be automatically applied on checkout.

Posted in promo sales | 2 Comments