Planet Stronghold 2 “feature creep”

an user suggested an in-game messaging system and… definitely was a good idea 😛

First of all, let me thank everyone who already bought Planet Stronghold 2, and of course those sending in bug reports or giving me feedback. As I said many times in the past, I won’t be implementing everything I get asked (depending also how hard it’s to implement) but if I think an idea has potential, I’ll be happy to add it.

I have already added A LOT OF THINGS to this game, as much as that it’s definitely the most complex game I ever made (see previous post for the crazy amount of new features) so this one is for sure the last feature I’ll add, but it was worth it.

You’ve got mail

One of those suggestion was alongside “I wish there was a sort of in-game messaging system” and while it’s not a full featured email system (you cannot reply to messages) I think the final result is… interesting!

In practice, beside the normal scenes, you’ll get from time to time messages delivered to your private room. In the example above, clearly a stupid message from Milo (but what did you expect from him!?) but there will also be serious message or romantic ones.

Since in the game you can start with many pre-existing romances, I did my best to add romantic scenes, but certain romance route feature a “difficult relationship”. Cliff & Joshua for example have hard time seeing each other because they’re always busy (but this will change in chapter 3) or Rumi/Joshua will also be a complex relationship, because officially they’re not engaged anymore, but in reality they still have feelings for each other, at least until you don’t decide to “break up for real” in chapter 3.

As you can imagine I need to write those romances in a very different way from the others, so this message system will also be useful for that. A well written romantic email (even if it’s short) can do wonders, as it does in real life (a single ‘I love you’ message is more powerful tha anything, right?).

Overall, I’m pleased by how things are going with Planet Stronghold 2. As I posted in forums I don’t plan to have a demo for it, it’s not a final decision since I could probably do one at the end of development (right now would be too distracting), but I want to try and see how it goes. Considering over 90% of sales comes from Steam and there’s no demo there…

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Planet Stronghold 2 beta begins!

a video I made a few weeks ago to show PS2 combat gameplay

First of all, if you’re interested in testing the beta you can head straight here: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/planet-stronghold-2

There’s a demo, and the beta covers the first two chapters of the story for now. Only the demo should last at least 5h if you play both sides: depending if you are loyal or rebel the first chapter will be VERY different (completely different missions!). Since you can also start with many different existing romances, it’s basically impossible to see everything in a single playthrough!

The current plan is to have the third and last chapter finished at once, probably during the Summer and a final game release in Autumn (not sure yet when, depends on many factors).

What has changed?

I got some fun comments in the past saying how little things change between each of my RPGs. I laughed loudly because I love to make new experiments and there are many improvements that aren’t immediately noticeable (but should be once you play the game for 5 minutes).

Anyway in this case I made a list of some (not all, because I probably forgot something!) new features vs my other RPGs:

  • a new party morale system, so that your party members will react unpredictably if their morale gets too low
  • automatic combat (AI controlling the party won’t use any offensive skill though)
  • improved isometric map, quest directly linked to specific places, fog of war, automatic movement clicking with the mouse on the map
  • global map resources values, you’ll get quests to increase them, and the only way to do it is explore the map and do sidequests to increase these values
  • crafting, salvaging and upgrading items (weapons, armors and helmets)
  • skills and usable items like grenades that inflict damage proportional to their level (differently from fixed damage they had before)
  • over 100 unique enemies with several new skills
  • many new unique party skills like Psionic Charm that forces enemy to fight for you for certain amount of turns
  • new Resilience value that determine how the target Defense goes down, each hit lowers it, and then once reaches zero it resets and target loses the 10% of its Defense value
  • each weapon feels different: SMG and machineguns can fire multiple times and they will bring down the resilience value fast but do little damage, Sniper Rifles have high critical value so you can get lucky and do great damage, Heavy Weapons do splash damage with normal fire, hitting enemies on the side (but have long reload times)
  • loyal/rival relationship system: you can get a romantic ending with all characters but the scenes/writing will change based on this value
  • friendly/forceful overall value for the playing character that has a minor impact in battles and changes parts of the story
  • better inventory management, an overall item “power” is displayed as a big number so it’s easier to determine what item is better, removed the paging system and used a big scrollable window
  • skills now have five different power levels each, without needing a skilltree, you simply assign skill points to improve each skill available for each character
  • a more “open world” system, you can even fail a good amount of the quests without a game over, but party will react to this and you’ll lose your reputation as hero if you fail too much!
  • a new statistic screens unlockable in chapter 3 that shows how many enemies of which kind you killed, how much damage/healing each party member has done, etc

As you can see, clearly very little has changed! haha! basically I reskinned the game engine as always lol

The beta version

As said above, the beta features the first two chapters of the game. This game has been really hard to write, more than ANYTHING I’ve ever done in the past, because there are so many variables that can impact the story.

I am requesting players’ help: beside the usual gameplay bugs report/feedback, which of course for a RPG is always welcome, I would really appreciate if people paid attention to potential plot holes. Writing the story both from loyal/rebel was much more complex than the first game, and let’s not talk about all the romances.

An example of a plot hole could be: if you play as rebel, the King is imprisoned but you made it seem that he was killed. Then in one dialogue I could refer to the king as he was still ruling, or not imprisoned, or dead for real. All three could be wrong depending on the context. Yes it’s not easy, but if you spot anything that even just looks “suspicious” feel free to let me know!

Now excuse me but I still have half game to write, design and code!

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Corona Borealis is out!

Corona Borealis official trailer

The game official webpage is: https://www.winterwolves.com/coronaborealis.htm

I’m happy to announce that Corona Borealis is out. I can take off an item from my “2019 goals list” then! I said it would have been out first quarter and there was only a little delay.

As usual, for now the game is available on my site (through itch.io) only, but will appear also on Steam and mobile stores. I’m already working on those versions, though not sure how long will take yet.

I already wrote my feelings about the game when I annouced the beta, here I want only to add that it was really a nostalgic game for me, since it reminded me of my very early steps into visual novels / dating sims, both because of the art-style of the always wonderful Deji but also the kind of setting and story.

By the way if you’re stuck with the game, Jill (the writer) made a very useful walkthrough in my forums: https://winterwolves.net/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=4181

Planet Stronghold 2 beta

note to self: never make Shiler angry!

The beta will surely take place before end of May, as usual I’ll announce it on the social networks first. I have spent the last week adding more “camp talk scenes”. I’m going to follow the same system of Loren, that is many scenes but not necessarily all very long. Sometimes there’ll be a choice, other times not.

I am overall around 150,000 words considering all the main plot story and camp talk that you can unlock until the end of chapter 2. The game will have four chapters, though probably the last one will be shorter than the others (have still to plan it so I’m not sure really).

Compared to my latest/previous RPG, this one is much more RPG, meaning it has more complex gameplay. Just the fact that it combines crafting + isometric map exploration makes already the most complex game I made, but even the battles are, and the thing I was most pleased with was that you can win the same battle in different ways, using different “builds” or strategies.

Of course I’m curious to see what players will think too, that’s why I am eager to have it officially on beta, since you always find a lot of bugs but also solutions and/or different ways to solve problems only after the game is out and many people are actually playing it 🙂

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Fifteen years indie

Indie since 1896! 😛

Happy Birthday to me! Well it actually was earlier this month, the day before the previous blog post. But here I’m celebrating my 15th birthday as indie! I already wrote about my journey in my previous post of five years ago, so if you want to know more about it read here: https://www.winterwolves.net/blog/2014/04/my-first-40-years-10-as-indie/

The present

Now, five years have passed since that post, and things changed, changed a lot. In practice, everything has become insanely harder. I had to start a Patreon, because things are so tough recently that I felt I needed some help to finish the next games. Once again your response was really overwhelming for me, and I want to thank you all for your support!

Why things got harder? there are many factors but in the last weeks I thought about it a lot, and basically it’s due to a single main factor: “the gatekeepers”.

Back in 2004 when I started, you could sell directly from your site. I even knew people making six figures a year directly. And consider that amount using vendors which takes around 8-10%, not modern portals which take 30-35%…! But wasn’t only in 2004, I was still selling fine direct even when I wrote my previous blog post back in 2014, so 5 years ago.

In recent years instead, we had two different big changes:

  • the advent of mobile devices
  • Steam accepting all games and becoming “de facto” the most common way to discover/buy/play new games

In the first case, a new market opened, so thanks to Ren’Py I decided to try, and even if the money is really low compared to desktop, at least with Ren’Py doing the mobile ports is easy (except iOS, because of course everything Apple-related must be a pain in the ass, forcing me to hire an external coder!).

But in any case, even if probably some people who before were playing my games on desktop, now play them on mobile, for sure there are also new people/players who were introduced to my games (except for RPGs, I don’t know how you can play one of my RPGs on the tiny tablets! seems impossible) thanks to mobile devices. So that probably balanced things out in the end.

The ‘Steam tax’

But Steam? That is a different matter. Now, I am not “anti-Steam”. I am neutral, and I welcome the new Epic store because a monopoly is never a good thing (I can say it being neutral since there are 0% chances any of my games ever being accepted on Epic store lol).

As a matter of fact though, when before you could make a game, and say “I have 1000 true fans who will buy my next game. This new RPG costs $24.99, I’ll make around $25k and after vendor costs will be around $22-23.000.” now this reasoning is no longer valid. First of all the competition is crazy. Second, the discovery is a big problem on Steam right now due to non-working algorithm (I keep getting flight simulator games shown to me, even if I never bought one in my life!). But even if we consider that the same amount of people (the true fans) will buy my RPG, the problem is the fee: of those $25k in sales, less than $17k will end in my pocket after Steam’s cut. Such a difference for small indies like me is a lot, means less money to invest in the next game, more worries, etc.

Many of you still buy direct from me, and once again I thank you (I get almost 30% more each sale!) but the vast majority will obviously buy on Steam. I am not blaming users, since it’s not really their fault.

It’s what I call “the Steam tax” – basically when in 2014 Steam started Greenlight, IF your game got accepted on the store, you would get GOOD exposure. Really, really good, millions of views. Totally worth the 30% commission they asked in exchange of such visibility. Now? It’s almost like selling more or less to the same amount of people that before were buying on your own site, but of course you earn 30% less than before. Not a good thing as you can imagine!

The future

I won’t be lying and for the first time since I’m indie, I am not sure if I’ll still be here five years from now to write a new blog post. I mean, I probably will because even if this ended up becoming an hobby for me, I would still find the time to do it.

Things in life change, and nobody can really know what will happen in future, but the situation right now is rather tough. And it’s not just me, the mr nobody indie! I know of friends who made MILLIONS (literally millions) back in 2010-2014 on Steam that right now are not earning enough to make a decent salary (indeed many quit full time indie and took a daily job instead).

Haha this post turned out rather sad, didn’t it? It wasn’t my plan I swear, but if I had to write about the current situation, this is it. I hope nobody thinks I’m giving up or anything: I’m doing my best with my skills and resources. But I’m also living day by day, without much expectation about what will happen.

Hopefully we’ll see again in five years and I’ll still be a full time indie!

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Corona Borealis beta begins

the lovely main menu of Corona Borealis with the full cast

The game beta is finally ready! You can find it here: https://winter-wolves.itch.io/corona-borealis

No demo reasons

In case you’re wondering, I’m not going to have a demo for this game for a simple reason: during the scheduling part, you can talk with the person you’re working with. There’s a series of questions you can ask, and even if some questions are restricted to certain conditions of the game, you can actually play and discover most of them in the first part of the story (before the 4th of July event).

Also, this game is small, much smaller compared to my usual games: as you can see the price also reflects this, since it’s the chepest game I released in the last 9-10 years! Of course, you can replay it and unlock two different endings for each character, so the game length should also consider replaying the story, but still a demo wouldn’t have worked even in this case.

In summary the way the game is structured, prevents me from making a demo, a bit like what happened many years ago with one of my first dating sim games ever: Summer Session.

The game

That said, the game has 12 beautiful CGs, so actually the same amount or more than many other games I’ve made, so if you’re there for the art, you won’t be disappointed! The artist (Deji) really did a great job there.

The writing is really funny and lovely at the same time too. I’d say it’s a sort of spiritual successor of my early otome games, the Flower Shop series (even if the writer is different of course, it reminded me of those games).

If you’re looking for a simple, funny but at times also dramatic (because there are really some… unexpected events!) story, I’d say you can’t go wrong. Personally I’m really happy that Jill asked me to help her finishing this game because now that I see the final result my initial thoughts are confirmed: it really was worth doing it. Have fun!

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