Magic Stones Postmortem

Last year was contacted by a person from idevgames to write a postmortem about my game Magic Stones. Since over 1 year has passed already and he didn’t post anything in his site, I thought to post the postmortem in my blog, so at least I didn’t waste my time writing it and maybe someone could find it interesting, who knows.

Here it goes – enjoy it!

Overview

I always liked the idea of making a fantasy-card game, so I started to outline the basic idea on a piece of paper. Yes planning was essential in this kind of game, I knew it from the start (and luckily I did it).

I decided to base everything on celtic mythology, so I first started to do some research both in local library and also on the net. Found the celtic runes and thought to assign to each one of them a spell or a summoned avatar in the game. I divided the runes into 4 elements (the classic air, water, fire and earth) even if their original meaning is a bit different (but hey is just a game!).

So after sketching out the general features, statistics, skills, creatures, background story, etc of the game, I put all those numbers together in a spreadsheet page.

Then had to solve a big problem, to make the graphic of such a game, and found in Poser a very good solution. Bought several ready-made 3d models, and after several weeks spent on various renderings, I had the basic 48 avatars ready (20 avatars for the 4 elements plus many neutral/evil ones).

I added a roleplaying element to the game, so that in addition to your “deck of card” you had also an in-game alter-ego, with an inventory of items that could affect your power and a set of basic skills that would influence the game in general.

Tools used

I used xCode and a very simple but really powerful 2d programming API called PTK (website http://www.phelios.com/ptk) that I had already used in all my previous games with great success.

As I already said, for graphics I used mostly Poser 5/6 for the monsters, characters, etc and photoshop to design the interface of the game.

For the music I just bought royalty-free music from one of the many online stores.

What went right

The game had since its launch a good group of loyal followers. This maybe also because I decided, shortly after I released version 1.0, to add “bonus pack” or “expansion packs” with new game features and new avatars/quests, completely free for registered users. This was both a hard move (once I had announced it, I couldn’t change my mind) but also a winning one because it helped greatly to improve customers loyalty and is keeping my game always “on the news” thanks to those frequent updates (about every 2-3 months usually).

What went wrong

Despite I had planned everything, as always happens in this sort of games, you’ll need to TEST TEST and TEST. When you make a simple match3 game, is hard to have bugs after hours of playing (because game mechanic is always the same). With this kind of game instead, I had many bugs in the initial version 1.0 because I didn’t took the time to test it properly since was too eager to release it (a mistake I will never repeat in any future games!).

Conclusion

I can say that it was both a very rewarding experience (got so many enthusiast email feedbacks!) but also very stressing. The day after release was working 10hours a day to fix all the bug and I had also a tight deadline to deliver the first expansion “The Bone Lord” in time for Christmas 2005. Keeping the game updated also is not so simple, since need to add more content like new art/sounds, and new gameplay elements. But overall I like this kind of games so in this case the passion plays an important role.

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