Category Archives: tycoongames

Games that are or will be available on my newsite

Friday catblogging – Happy New Year

Gilda in a basket in the bathroom of my old home. Because we have so many cats, we never had a decorated Christmas Tree, otherwise would be instantly destroyed… 🙂

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone! I have released Planet Stronghold alpha 0.8, which features lot of new content! If you’re interested in trying the demo or buying the game please visit the game website.

Then, a quick update on what you can expect in the next months:

Role Playing Games

Beside Planet Stronghold, which will be finished at end of January 2011, I plan to start 2-3 more RPGs. I love RPGs and I always wanted to make them, but in the past I was lacking proper funds and/or technical knowledge to make decent ones. Now, using Planet Stronghold RPG framework I can expand it and create new RPGs. Most of them will be in fantasy setting though, since it’s the most common/popular one (unless Planet Stronghold is so successful that convinces me to make add-on/sequels). I have already a good collaborator of mine who is starting creating the main game plot, character sketches, and so on. Another one should start hopefully in next months, and I want to do another myself as well. So the 2011 will be surely full of RPGs!

Adventure Games

I am still in love with my character of Vera Blanc, despite the first two episodes not being really topsellers. As I posted several times if I make a third episode, it will be an adventure (first person) and not a visual novel, since the adventure style integrates better with that kind of game. I have already a plot for the story, but since it requires lot of money, it’s still a risky decision, so if I make it, won’t be before next summer, or even later during Fall/Winter of 2011.

Visual Novels / Dating Sims

Of course I’ll keep making them! Flower Shop 2 release is really close, is just a matter of few months. But since is tied to external factors (artists finishing some pieces) I won’t dare to name a date for it. Instead I can already say that very likely the otome game “Remember Me” will be ready around February/March 2011, since the plot is completely written and need only to code the “simulation part” of it and do testing/balancing. Depending how my other projects go, I could make more VN/Dating Sims, but they’ll be mixed with simulation games.

Strategy / Simulation Games

In 2011 perhaps I will finally release the sequel of Spirited Heart. I have yet to start coding it though, so is probably more accurate to say that in 2011 I’ll begin coding it, which is a bit different. It won’t be ready probably before 2012, also because I have in mind some online-features (probably optional) that could improve the gameplay a lot, so I am not sure yet I’ll use Ren’Py to code this one.
There will be for sure more strategy/simulation games coming in 2011 though. A remake of my game Universal Boxing Manager, this time with the fights completlely in 3d realtime, is under production! Is made in partnership with a good 3d coder who is going to use Unity3d to power the 3d simulation. It’s probably my biggest/most ambitious game to date and the 2011 will be mainly focused on it. I hope will do well since I’d like to port more of my old games into 3d or start new ones.
As I said I might also find the time to do a sort of light-strategy/time management game based on Heileen settings. In particular, Heileen 2 settings (pirates, the caribbean). The game could be played as normal strategy game or with visual novel cut-scenes (they’ll be optional). This will be a sort of experiment since I am not sure if/when I’ll finish it. Let’s say I’ll work on it on my spare time and when it’s done, is done 🙂

Online Games

Almost every year I say “next year I’ll make one”. So, this time I won’t say it! But, I would like to try making one, even if I am not sure I’ll find the time…or better, if I’ll find the right person, since I’m probably going to outsource the coding (will be most likely done in Flash or HTML5). Or if the new interesting BRL:monkey project from Mark Sibly (creator of Blitzmax) gets released, I might use that and do everything myself.

So in conclusion, looks like the 2011 will be a year full of new releases! Happy New Year again!!

Hey look! I have a Thanksgiving bundle too!

Thanksgiving superbundle

Actually it’s not even a normal, regular bundle. But it’s a SuperBundle! ™ 8)

What’s in it? Well, there are the two Heileen games (two visual novels with over 80k words combined), Summer Session (a very fun and replayable dating sim) and Bionic Heart (a fully voiced dark-sexy-creepy sci-fi visual novel with 24 different endings). So as you can see, there’s a game for every taste!

And what about the price? it’s just the price of one single game. Yes, four games for the price of one!

What are you waiting? Go check the offer now!

Superbundles like that are said to be seen only once in a human lifetime. You should really take advantage of it now 😉

(Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll make the usual friday cat blog and will get back to writing like a normal indie developer)

There might be an Heileen 3

pirates!Yep…discussed with the artist Rebecca who is totally busy doing webcomics until this December, but there might be a 3rd chapter of the Heileen series. But really different from the previous games! I don’t want to anticipate too much but while it will have a strong visual novel element, it will also mix with other kinds of different gameplay.

I’ll try to be vague but I have to spoil something so if you haven’t yet played the game, maybe don’t read below 😀

The premise would be that at the end of the 2nd episode, you would end up in the pirate ship with M. Then you would wander around a mysterious caribbean archipelago to find out the missing companions from the first episode. So it would be a sort of “find all the remaining characters”. But it’s not just that: the game would have a bit of RPG (I might even include a VERY SIMPLIFIED version of Planet Stronghold combat) and some adventure parts (use object X on target Y).

For now is all just pure fantasy since I have nothing written down yet, but if this happens it might be:

  • fully voiced – this mainly because the game would have MUCH LESS text, so in this case it might be possible to voice it all. But don’t worry the story would still be intriguing and full of plot twists like the previous ones!
  • multiple endings – well, this is almost a classic. However, the multiple ending part would mostly be in the final part after you have regrouped with everyone
  • simulation – you would need to travel with a ship, you could play the evil pirate or good trader as you want
  • RPG – as I said I might include even some very short combat. After all since I coded all that combat system I need to reuse it in more than one game! 🙂
  • adventure – in some location you would have to use items and solve some simple puzzles
  • strategy – I was thinking it could be cool some sort of meta-game like Risk. Nothing that would affect the game/story TOO much, but a bit yes (you could either try to win it or ignore completely)

so yes a rather unique combination as you can see. I like a lot the idea/setting and the kind of resulting gameplay could be quit interesting. If this goes on the game might be done probably by next summer, depending how other projects evolve in the mean time!

Simulate my life, please

Of my upcoming games, there’s basically no “pure-VN” game. Flower Shop spin-off will have mini and meta games (more details in the coming weeks), and the other two otome game projects will have all a dating sim / life sim structure.

I know is a bit hard to define what is a “pure VN” and what isn’t. As practical example, Heileen is a pure VN: mainly text and choices (there are also quests but they’re not complex as the quest you might find in a RPG game). Summer Session instead is clearly a dating sim: you have stats to raise, several places to visit, character relationships, and so on.

What’s the difference then between a dating sim and a life sim? This is really tough. I might say that Summer Session and Flower Shop were dating sim, while Spirited Heart was a life sim. But really in this case the difference is much more subtle! I dare to say that dating sim focus more on the romance/relationship, while life sim have also other aspect. Spirited Heart has romance option but you can play it completely ignoring that, trying to raise your stats and become the best researcher, dancer, and so on.

I always loved life simulation games: I played The sims until the latest installation. However, while they’re very nice and varied to play, they miss completely dialogues as you might know. Making “dynamic dialogues” that change every time is impossible even for EA. However I would prefer some sort of “scenarios” where you have specific character background, life goals, relationship, etc. Sort of smaller scale, but more detailed.

On other news, I might be opening a new website soon specifically for otome games, since in my main website I always focused more on RPG/Strategy games. Games like Spirited Heart are OK, but for the new ones I’ll use a separate website. Beside I’ve read somewhere that if you put too many choices in front of the user he gets confused (I seem to recall the number was 12, don’t ask me why!).

So makes sense to keep in homepage only the best selling games, but some games deserve space anyway. So, better start a new domain with a new specific market in mind.

Making of Card Sweethearts

My latest game, Card Sweethearts, is out. So I thought to make a post about the making of it, including some interesting informations for developers about a hard DRM decision I had to take.

As you might imagine taking a look at the screenshot on the right, the game is about poker. In some parts, you can even play strip poker with one of the four women you’ll encounter during the game. The game features beautiful manga art from Rebecca Gunter (don’t bother contacting her, she is full of work until next year!) and uses a custom version of the Ren’Py card-game engine that the programmer Tom made specifically for this game.

The Game

The project started a long time ago, so long that I had to look in my emails archive to find out when first I asked Tom if he would like to collaborate with me for this game. It was september 2008! The poker engine took quite some time to make (it’s more complex than you might think, especially the Poker AI of the CPU players) so around the summer of 2009 I had a finished alpha version of the poker engine, all the art for the game and a general plot idea in my mind.

At those times I had released already some other visual novels/dating sims like Bionic Heart. The problem for me in making those games was (actually it still is) the language: since I wanted this game to be humorous, I had lots of difficulties in writing it in english because isn’t my native language. So I hired a person I found on Deviantart to write the game texts.

Unexpected Problems

Sadly, that person quit in middle of the story in autumn 2009: so I was in a very bad situation, with almost everything ready except the story. Once again, I asked my precious collaborator Ayu Sakata (which at those times was proofreading Heileen 2, and started writing The Flower Shop) if she could finish the story. I really can’t blame her for not being too enthusiast about this (even if she never said that, I’m sure she was!), being a poker game with a male protagonist trying to date the girls, and end up playing strip poker with them 🙂

But anyway, she did a great job as always and in April/May we had the final beta version. Now comes the interesting part for developers: the DRM!

Why we decided to drop the DRM

As you can imagine, such a game would be very popular among the warez sites (manga, strip poker, etc) much more than my other regular games. Tom even came up with a neat online activation system, that was using a private/public key (similar to what OpenPGP does for emails) so that the product, once activated on a computer, was tied to its hardware. The user would have been able to “deactivate” the game from a computer to reinstall it to another, but still, was unable to play for example at same time on his home pc and on his notebook.

After some weeks of testing and feedback from friends, developers friends and normal testers, we decided to take the risk and drop it. Why? Well, for several reasons:

  • I’ve always promoted the idea that people would buy the game license as “personal”. So restricting the use to only 1 computer per person was against what I always did
  • There’s always the risk of server going down, preventing people from registering (even if was just one-time activation). A fun coincidence was that exactly in those weeks I was unable to play even for just a few hours Dragon Age expansion (requiring online log-in) and I remember I was extremely disappointed as player
  • The game would have been cracked anyway: so all that DRM would have accomplished is prevent a “0-day crack” but possibly piss off some people
  • The Ubisoft DRM epic fail was not too distant: I had fear of bringing my company under a bad name… once you lose the buyers confidence, is hard to get it back!
  • Ultimately, we wanted to provide a good experience to paying users, and focus only on them, not the pirates

So, we released the game using absolutlely No-DRM system. Just a download link to get the fullversion, like we always did.

I don’t know if the game has been already cracked or not (it’s out since just yesterday) but I have the feeling (and the hope!) I made the right choice. The choice of rewarding people who buy games, not punish them with absurd DRM requirements.