So, what’s next?

2016sofar

This year, so far I finished three games, with the fourth (Queen Of Thieves) already in a good state for a beta. So, what’s next? 🙂

First half of 2016

First of all, we’re halfway through 2016. I’m not going to lie, things have changed A LOT for the indie business. For the first time I heard other indies quitting or taking contract work to pay the bills. It’s scary. I am fine, since I live very frugally (my biggest expense is cat food! haha) but still, I cannot deny that I’m a bit worried too!

Early this year I released PSCD, which underperformed despite great writing and good gameplay design (not my biased opinion, it has 100% positive ratings on Steam!). I didn’t know why at first, but soon I understood the main reason: the art. The next games, C14 Dating and Heirs & Graces, did as expected, or even better than I thought.  Queen Of Thieves is in beta and in preorder since a week so it’s a bit early, but so far the impression is very positive.

In summary, all is good! I only hope the artist finishes the main plot CGs soon… I might need to use my motivational whip to speed things up! 😉

So, what’s next?

Going back to the original question: a few weeks ago I talked about burnout, and the risk of ignoring it. So I’m well aware of it, and indeed I’m taking frequent breaks from work. In practice instead of long holidays, I work every day (even weekends!), but less hours than I used to. Thanks to that, I am not really burned out or tired right now, and I’m planning what to do in the next months.

As already posted in the past, I am thinking to do some “other games“: games in which the gameplay is more important, without a plot or with a smaller plot. This because honestly, writing a good story of 120k+ words (like all my recent games, in some cases even double that amount!) is going to take time. And I don’t want to rush writers, because if the story of a story-based game is bad… yeah, you get it! So, an alternative is to work on something else on the side, while I wait for them to finish.

They could be pure-gameplay, or mixed with a story, but one thing is to write a story of 120k words, another thing is to write a story 30-40k words long (which is more than enough if a game is not strictly story-based!).

I made a small poll in my forums asking what kind of gameplay people would like to see mixed with visual novel/story: http://www.winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=3885

At the moment of writing this, “simulation” seems to be the most popular. Which is good, since it’s one of my favorite game genres and one I think I’m skilled enough (my early games were all simulations). This means that maybe I’ll try to add a more complex/detailed simulation part in my upcoming game Amber’s Magic Shop!

This is what I’m planning to do in the remaining months this year: some gameplay experiment/prototypes. I might post them in public and ask for feedback and then decide if they’re ideas worth pursuing or not.

Of course, the “regular games” will have the precedence. I’ll do those experiments while I wait for my collaborators to send me updates and make progresses 🙂

Posted in beta demo, game design, indie life, iPhone & iPad, other games, postmortem | 22 Comments

Queen Of Thieves beta

buynow

Yes, finally the game beta is ready! You can get more info and pre-purchase here:
http://winterwolves.com/queenofthieves.htm

Like always, during beta you need to visit my forums to know the download link, since it always changes based on the game version.

Of course even if it’s a simplified RPG, it’s still a RPG: so expect a longer beta testing period than my previous two games (C14 Dating and Heirs And Graces) ! However if you’re willing to help me and try the beta and report bugs, I will be very thankful 🙂

difficulty

Non RPG players will also be happy to know that I’ve added a “Visual Novel Mode” even to this game, since it’s a feature that seems popular. Besides those who don’t like or aren’t good with RPGs, VN Mode is also useful to replay the game quickly, maybe to try other romances / alternate endings.

As I posted in the forums already, what I’m looking for mostly is feedback about the game pacing: since in the story you need to unlock several scenes by reaching a certain money threshold every time (like 1000 gold, 2500 gold, etc). I want to know if the amount of time needed to reach each step is OK, or could be made faster (or maybe slower).

I am also thinking that maybe I could even add in the options screen a sort of slider to adjust the game pacing:

Slow: you get less money and experience from fights
Fast: you get more money and more experience from fights

This way if you like to play the battles and unlock the skills slowly (in practice if you like grinding!) you could pick the first option, otherwise the second. It’s just an idea of course so I don’t know if I’ll actually add this feature, but I think could make sense to do that.

The game is still missing a few main plot CGs and some background images, but in the past days a lot of testing has been done already, and I got several people that reached the end successfully.

Posted in beta demo, queen of thieves, roleplay games | 12 Comments

The last famous 10%

weaponroomIn the development screenshot above, one of the scenes of the main plot missions

What is this “famous last 10%”? In indie development, it’s usually how you refer to the last finishing touches, the polishing, the last bits of coding/art/music/etc you need to add to the game before you call it “finished”.

You could argue that nowadays a game is rarely finished, especially a complex one as a RPG, since new bugs always come out  even months after the “official release”. Or simply the developer makes patches and updates.

But anyway, in my case I am referring to the beta version, so not even the release. And I’m obviously talking about the game Queen Of Thieves.

Yes, I know that I said I would take it easy after all the games I released already this year (PSCD, C14 Dating, Heirs and Graces and the PSCD DLC just last week!) but… if you have the inspiration and especially if the weather is incredibly mild this year so far, why wait? 😉

I must admit that while normally I hate this “last 10%”, what they say it’s true: it’s one of the most important part of indie development. In case of a RPG, it can turn an average/mediocre RPG into a good/fun one.

For example, I’ve been tweaking the battles a lot recently. I even made a video!

In the video (the battles are speed up by 50% otherwise was too long) I show how the same battle can have very different outcomes. Obviously already having different skills will lead to different outcomes. But in this case, I wanted to see if I could beat this main plot boss fight without using any potion and without using the guard skill of Kira. I am playing in Normal difficulty, I leave the Hard/Nightmare one to crazy-ahem, “veteran” RPG players 😉

In the first attempt I do what was a good strategy in many cases: concentrate fire on the boss enemy to take him down first. But in this case, it’s not a good move. Instead, spreading the attack to weaken multiple targets it’s the winning strategy, together with paralyze on the boss.

Paralyze is very powerful spell, that’s why some bosses have high resistance to it (but they can be paralyzed for one turn anyway). I like how Kira’s strikes to lower the defense/armor value, combined with Thalia’s poison, can basically slowly weaken/kill multiple targets at once.

I am not sure how the beta testing will go yet, but being able to beat the bosses with different strategies surely it’s a good thing for any RPG!

Testing/tweaking battles apart, I’m adding a lot of minor details, including:

  • small background animations (for example in the forest during the day there’s a flying buterfly)
  • tweaking the amount of gold required to advance in the story, and the money you can earn. Yes, because as the story progresses, you’ll also earn more money running the shop or doing the robberies. This way even if the money required is every time higher, it shouldn’t take too long to reach the next goal.
  • possibility to sell gems to the shops, to earn more money quickly. Also increased the values of many gems
  • adding visual indicators on the map, so portraits of the love interests present in each location will be immediately visible
  • adding a step by step tutorial for first time players (something I didn’t have in my other games)
  • adding more backgrounds and unique sound effects

and the list goes on. It’s a bit frustrating to be honest, because it seems you’re working, but not making many progress really! This because they are all small details, hard to notice if taken singularly. But hopefully when you put all of them together, the effort I’m putting into this game will be apparent!

If all goes well, a beta at end of June seems a realistic goal 🙂

Posted in development screenshot, queen of thieves, roleplay games | 14 Comments