Hey everyone! Last year, our strategy game, Legends of Callasia, won SlideDB's Editors Pick for Creativity. It was our first strategy game, so it was bound to have some issues, but we received a lot of good feedback too. With that we are now starting our second strategy game, Last Regiment.
Last Regiment is a fantasy-themed strategy game with single-player campaigns and simultaneous turn-based multiplayer, which we are currently developing on PC, and hopefully on Mac and mobile as well. It takes the best parts of Legends of Callasia, makes a bunch of neat changes for a faster, deeper, and more strategic game, and allows player to design their own levels through its built-in map editor.
The game is still in its alpha stage, but we are opening its development progress and livestreaming it on Twitch! The weekly dev stream starts on April 19 10PM EST at twitch.tv/ninesquirrels.
We received mixed reviews about our single player campaigns for LOC, so we are working on improving the story for Last Regiment. We now have a lead character: Olivia.
This character is (obviously) based on Olivia from Legends of Callasia. We thought she was such an awesome character there, that we wanted her lead in our new game. So we have redone her, given her a new story, background, and costume, and brought her in as the leading lady for our new game.
We'll post an entry from our developer blog after our first stream. For more details, visit lastregiment.boomzap.com.
April 20, 2017: Developer Blog #1
Our first livestream for Last Regiment was success despite a rocky start. (FYI: Games that run on OpenGL instead of DirectX may have some issues on XSplit - use OBS instead.) You can find the full unedited livestream footage here and the written version on our blog here.
We started with little post-mortem on our first strategy game, Legends of Callasia, to explain why we are making this new game. It's a turn-based game that can be played in a reasonable amount of time, largely because of the simultaneous gameplay. You can play multiplayer on a desktop or a tablet with your friends in an hour and a half – it doesn't take forever!
But as with any game, there are bunch of things we thought we had to improve or wished we could have done.
- No level editor. The whole game is structured in a way that creating a map starts from a hand drawing, transformed into several layers of Photoshop, then an Excel file. It was frustrating every time someone asked if they can make their own maps – it was a cool idea that we would have liked to have done but only possible if we start over from scratch.
- The learning curve. Though people enjoyed the game, many didn't understand how things worked when they first played it. They got confused about the combat system: how armies work, what do the unit stats mean, how much is the actual damage, who gets attacked first, etc. The game had a system but we weren't able to explain it very well. The battle screen felt like a game of its own which players couldn't understand. It became a huge barrier for getting first-time players to become interested in the game, and though we had people in the community helping out the newbies, we would very much prefer if the mechanics can be easily grasped when you hopped into the game.
- The story / lore. Admittedly, the story was not something we had focused on in LOC. We had assumed our players would only want to move their armies around and not deeply care about the story – we were wrong. We went for classic fantasy characters such as humans, elves, dwarves, and the undead. People were asking us about the lore, and as we went along we tried to add story. This is another big change we plan to do in Last Regiment – to create a real world, write meaningful stories with original characters that stray a bit from the obvious fantasy tropes.
- Faction and unit structures. With each faction having only 6 units each, there were limited unit combinations or synergies that a player can come up with. You cannot use units from different factions. Once players have figured out the best way to play each faction, it shortened the lifespan of the game, even if we released new updates. There was no challenge to find new synergies that no one else has figured out.
Now these were the things we wanted to change, but unfortunately were not possible at the stage Legends of Callasia is in. Thus, the idea for Last Regiment was to take the things that people loved in LOC and address all the issues we had to make a much more improved strategy game.
The Game Reveal
Last Regiment will also be a fantasy-themed game like LOC, with story-driven single-player campaigns, and maps to play in skirmish or multiplayer with AI or human players. It would also have its built-in map editor, which is made possible now that we're using hex-based maps.
We are also working on an improved UI for the main menu, with a dedicated space for news and announcements, instead of the notification pop-ups in LOC which players found annoying. Note that the images in the screenshot are mostly placeholder.
Unlike in LOC, there won't be any lands or kingdoms to conquer, which usually takes a few turns before any action happens. We go straight to the fighting and let you control units from your pre-formed regiment and capture specific structures. Aside from the hexes, we are also implementing fog of war and will be introducing mana, which will allow you to summon new units on the map. You can have units from different factions and go into battle without going into another screen. You can watch Chris playtest the game in the video (#1.2) to get a clearer idea on how movement and combat work.
Built-in Map Editor
We're making the map editor as easy to use as possible and adding different terrains, structures, and decals in order to have that same fantasy map feel from LOC. The buildings you'll have are based on the lore and the different factions in the game. Some will also have special abilities and features – more on that in the video (#1.3).
Story and Characters
The idea for the story begins with an old, European-style world who colonized a brand new continent called Kothia, leading to incredible colonial wars. Humans from the old world brought constructs made of magic and machinery, and these encouraged the natives to fight back.
The Highborne, one of the original inhabitants of Kothia, needed magic to fight this with and so they summoned spirits of the forest, currently known as the Woodspawn. Meanwhile, the Orcs summoned the spirits of death and brought forth fungal growths that infected people and rotted out their brains. The new world becomes a desolated wasteland.
The humans went back to the old world to develop better tools and technology, which we based on modern, 1750s technology such as cannons and galleons. With these new powers, they returned to Kothia and the Reconquest began.
But back in Kothia, the people who had retreated created stronger magical factions to fight the chaos happening in their world. New units such as apes and vampiric lemurs had spawned.
The game now takes place in a world controlled by little armies and mercenary kings fighting each other. There will be units based on different factions, races, and technology. You, as the player, will be constantly putting together mercenary armies based on these warring factions.
We introduced Olivia in our previous post, but this time we show you her full portrait. She was previously in one of the early colonial armies during the Reconquest, but after some events, she ends up being a pirate at the seaport of Saltia Ruma. The story begins with Olivia returning to Kothia and forming her own mercenary army. Yes she is a one-armed female pirate, and we're excited to tell you about her journey.
We also answered some of other questions from the viewers during the stream such as:
- Will there be non-unit stuff from each faction that you can take?
Answer: Yes, there will be powers and abilities, but instead of putting them in the regiment bar, we gave those to the units who can only use in specific ranges at certain positions in the map.
- Can any creature activate the different buildings on the map?
Answer: We like the level of humor where ridiculous creatures can do ridiculous stuff, so yes. Also, we don't want to give any very specialized characteristics for the units, because when you implement those kinds of rules, it complicates the gameplay and it has to be explained in the game really, really well.
- Will the story be on a level that I can stream during my story playthrough time and enthrall my audience?
Answer: Definitely. We're still aiming for missions that take 30 minutes to two hours, similar to LOC. The story will be made up of number of maps and it won't just be about conquering territories. It will be about moving through different hexes and telling stories based on places and characters on map.
The answers are explained in detail in the video (#1.4), so go check that out for more info.
Comments and suggestions are appreciated. You can leave a comment here, or drop by our stream next week to ask us directly. Thanks for reading this!
April 27, 2017
In this week's dev stream, we talk about the limiting factors such as gold, mana, control points (and unit cooldowns) to prevent the problem of steamrolling in strategy games.
We also have a brand new main screen! Still being made, but what do you think of it so far?
The banner and description would change depending on the menu selected. We’ve also added a section below to announce updates, livestreams, and other news. This section will be replacing the annoying pop-up notifications that we had in Legends of Callasia. We’ve also added icons linking to some of our social media pages on the upper right corner, while the full list would be available in the Community menu.
Developer Blog #3 - May 4, 2017
How do we make a game from nothing to something? We use a bunch of editors we build ourselves, and other tools that are generally available.
Our Hex-Editing Tools
Believe it or not, one of the biggest tools we use is Microsoft Excel. It’s a great management tool to put a bunch of data in one place and do automatic computations. We also use SVN, a repository system that allows us to control file revisions and easily revert to previous versions if needed. We use it is to keep the most up-to-date files without worrying about getting overwritten.
In this week’s stream, we shared how we made the individual hex tiles used in creating the maps in the game. The artists make different base terrain tiles and decals using Photoshop, then they have to be tagged properly on Excel. Each tile has to look different to make sure there is no ugly tiling. It takes a lot of work to make different kinds of tiles and decals, but this also makes it easier for the player to make their own maps, and also faster for us to rebalance levels and release more content. (Watch in dev blog video #3.1.)
As mentioned in the video, we also follow strict naming conventions to make it easier to localize into different languages later on.
In-Game User Interface
This week, we also made a mock-up of the in-game screen, which we’ll start to implement soon. (Discussed in dev blog video #3.2)
On the top left: regimental colors, player info, chat menu, scoreboard, hex grid toggle, settings menu
On the top right: number of units without assigned moves, resources, turn counter, end turn button (which turns green after all moves are assigned)
On the bottom left: active unit, HP and ATT stats, number of moves, powers and costs, buffs and debuffs
On the bottom right: the regiment bar – select 10 units that you can summon on the map at the start of the game from up to 3 factions, which you can save as a regiment and assign its regimental colors
How to Win
There are different game objectives depending on the mode and game settings. (Starts at 4:08 in dev blog video #3.2)
Campaign mode: Has specific victory conditions depending on story or lore such as to take over a particular building, survive in X number of turns, defeat a certain unit, build X units, collect X amount of gold, etc.
Multiplayer mode: Let players set up victory conditions at the start of the game ad create different gameplay modes. By default, you have to defeat all your enemies and take all their structures so that they can’t summon any more units.
So far we have built prototypes for different kinds of structures and the powers that they have, then one of our next tasks is to put it in the game and test to see if it’s fun or not. (Starts at 5:38 in dev blog video #3.2)
Units can take over structures and take on the structure’s properties. We also use these structures to give the maps a sense of place and have them tied to the lore and the culture of the different races in the game. Similar to the weaponry, fashion, and technology we’re using in this game, we have slightly modern structures based on the 1700s.
Lore: The Infection
The Orcs are responsible for the Infection, which is a deep part of the lore. (Starts at 11:34 in dev blog video #3.2) They were losing in the great war many years ago, and they prayed to the God of Death to help them destroy their enemies – and so they were given the power to infect the dead with fungus and spores, which eventually took over the lands, driving away the other races.
A different faction of Orcs went to the Sun God and banded with other races to form a community that is simple and peaceful. This is an example of how not all creatures from the same race are the same – so we made factions that aren’t racially based.
We’ve divided factions from races, to make sure that players have different options instead of strictly playing a certain race. (Starts at 15:20 in dev blog video #3.2) Each faction, such as Redkeep, has its own lore and may have a mix of elves, humans, constructs, and other summonable units. Meanwhile, Ivoria is a huge jungle area with wizards of different races who have powers over animals and beasts. Tirezia also has its own beast units, but in a farmland area. Adding these different faction choices gives the feeling of being involved into the lore and history of the game, and also allows players to mix and max different units.
How are we going to monetize this game? (Starts at 17:56 in dev blog video #3.2) It will NOT be free-to-play – everyone should have reasonable chance to play this game without putting in a lot of money to buy packs for a chance to get better units. We haven’t set a price point yet, but we are discussing whether to price it differently on the various platforms.
What we can tell you is there will be an initial purchase where you get the full game, and unlock the factions through the campaign. We received various feedback from people who want everything immediately available, but we felt that it cheapens the experience. We want players to have a sense of success and completion in unlocking new units, so when they player multiplayer, you know which people have played the game. And again, they also become more involved in the lore and story.
Developer Blog #4 - May 11, 2017
In the past week we’ve started getting more questions about how Last Regiment is going and what plans we have for the game, so for today’s stream we first did a little Q&A session. We even answered questions not specific to this game such as “Why do game developers do stupid things?”
49-minute video of Q&A session here: Youtu.be
Then we showed some of the new art we made for the maps, such as bigger and more interesting tiles for the blocker features (non-walkable tiles), instead of adding several small tiles.
That way the hex shapes are not too obvious when you look at the map on a whole.
It may not look like huge progress, but it’s really a process we need to spend much time on. We want to make sure we create some pretty looking maps, because screenshots are the first things that people are going to see at the download page. We want to make sure that we make a beautiful game from the very beginning.
Map editor preview: Youtu.be
We actually also made some progress for multiplayer mode. We tried it yesterday, and had wanted to stream it today, but it’s still not ready. We’ll continue working on that and hopefully we can show that in the next update.
Dev Blog #5 - May 29, 2017
Two weeks after our previous update, we went live for the first time with a multiplayer game of Last Regiment! It's still far from done, with a bunch of placeholder art and broken things that we already know about.
We also realized that we haven't done an intro about the team yet. Some of us also worked on Legends of Callasia. We have:
- Chris, designer and Creative Director from Japan
- Adrian, also known as "Tentaklor", our coder in Malaysia
- Ben, animator and artist from Malaysia
- Artists Edwin, Erwin, and Jun from the Philippines (plus Karen who occasionally helps out with the UI)
That's the core team, but we also have back-end support from Allan (Technical Director), JD (coder), and Monika (Marketing).
We also share a brand new screen - "Choose Your Regiment". One of the big parts of the game is all about building some sort of deck or regiment. This is still a first cut of this screen which still used black squares with text for their internal names, which we'll replace with pretty art sooner of later.
When you build a regiment, you can choose units from up to three factions (Note: The limit is not yet working in the game, so you'll see us choose factions from multiple factions in the video.) There are various factions to choose from:
- Redkeep - A massive fortress city set on the edge of Kothia where the local Highborne (elves) and Portellian colonial powers (humans) work together to begin their reclamation of the ancient land.
- Ivoria - A wizarding city deep in the jungle where mages and beasts (such as the monkey warriors), are led by dark, powerful sorcerers
- Silverwood - An overgrown wilderness which was once the home of the ancient Highborne kingdom, now filled with Woodspawn spirits summoned by the vengeful Moonpriests
- Darktalon - A deep, dark forest inhabited by ferocious, magic-hating Goblins.
- Polliva - A large and powerful fleet coming from a great capital across the sea
- Ruma - A rough port of sailors, traders, swashbucklers, and the assorted flotsam and jetsam of the Portellian Empire
These are the first six factions, and we'll add more later on as we build the game and get it working. Each faction comes with heroes, which are super powerful, heavy-duty units. Each faction is limited to one hero (for now - maybe later we'll add a special faction with more than one hero?)
Once you've created your regiment, you can just save and exit. When you go to the Multiplayer screen, you can choose which regiment you want to use then host/join a multiplayer game.
Watch the video below for our multiplayer playtest with Ben, and also do a bit of Q&A with our viewers. (Warning: Lots of placeholder art and bugs.)
Developer Blog #6 - June 8, 2017
To begin this week’s dev blog, we’ll share something that not only applies to Last Regiment, but to game development in general: how does the theory of all our ideas actually play out?
This is a really hard part of game development. Game ideas start out as really cool on paper. But when you start to implement it, you begin to realize that there are things you forgot or didn’t think about, and it ends up not being like what you thought it would be. This is the point where some new developers fail: they say to themselves, “This sucks, I give up.” But that is something you cannot avoid in game development. The real task is getting from that point to another.
To quote from Adventure Time: Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.
Before you can be good, first you have to suck. It’s easy to get real disheartened that you’re not good at this. Instead of giving up on idea and just changing it to something else, you have to be able to critically look at it and figure out: Why does it suck?
So you’ll notice in our updates that we’ll continue to try out ideas and keep switching them up. For example, as we talked about before, the concept of steamrolling or snowballing has been a common problem in strategy games. As you become more powerful and acquire more resources or units, you eventually reach a tipping point where you’ve guaranteed your victory and there’s nothing else anyone can do. Of course, most players would like that, but if it happens too early, people would feel disenfranchised for their game. If in the first five turns it becomes impossible for anyone to go any further, that’s when strategy games fall down. The challenge for us developers is to find that balance. In Legends of Callasia, we have the card mechanic that enables you to make turnarounds in battle. These are the types of solutions we want.
For Last Regiment , we’re currently looking at two ways to handle resources:
- Hoarding resources. This is the basic Civilization model. For every turn, I get more gold. My pile gets bigger and bigger. I keep hoarding so I can go form armies, build structures, etc.
- Limited resources. In Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering, you get a certain number of resources which you can use for each turn. At the end of the turn, it replenishes.
If you remember, we moved to limit-based model precisely because we wanted to prevent steamrolling. We played it like that in the past weeks, but it wasn’t fun.
Why was it not fun? It reaches a point wherein I’m over at your castle, trying to finish the game and get you out. But because both of us have the same amount of resources every turn, you would just keep on spawning more units to fight me off. At the same time, if the game continually refills your resources (example: 10), we need to make sure that nothing costs 11 resources. Getting the same amount of resources creates a mechanic with fast turnaround, which works really well in Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering. But in a map-based strategy game where you want the units to move around, last longer, and do things, it’s not such a great mechanic.
So we switched back Gold and Mana into hoarding resources.
We still have the concept of control points, which is a limited resource. Like the population limit in LOC, you only have so much control but you can increase it by getting more buildings. Now the number of units I can make and control becomes limited by how much you can hoard. This is something we haven’t balanced yet. What happens when my hoard gets really big? We’re still figuring it out.
Meanwhile, we’ve also been working on a bunch of core technology to make sure multiplayer is functioning properly. We’ve also added stuff like new effects and new art. We are also playing with idea of having some neutral units and the concept of healing.
Another big change is the camera movement. When we were playing, things would happen on a different part of a map, but I would be looking at something else. That was hurting the game: people thought it was broken because you didn’t see or know what happened. So we changed the way you visualize the game. Theoretically, the camera would be dragged around to show you things as they occur.
In terms of ideal game length, we’re still struggling with that. For Legends of Callasia it was about right: 30 minutes for 2-player games, while bigger games can be from one to two hours. It’s a nice spot for players to be drawn in and get involved. But some want it shorter, some longer; others want more options or less options. This is always an issue in game development: getting everyone to agree on something. Since different things such as more players or bigger maps can affect game length, we’ll continue to play around with that during the course of the development cycle.
But the bigger questions are always: What it is that we ought to be doing? Who are the players we are targeting? You never really know if you’re building the right game, especially at this early stage.
For example, we’ve been getting some feedback on how we’re writing the fantasy or the lore of this game. People have certain expectations about what things should or shouldn’t be, which is a challenge as we create a unique lore for this game.
We also did a multiplayer playtest during our stream (full, unedited video here) and these are the things that we learned today:
- Movement is a lot of fun. The camera movement is really good.
- The attack/damage values of the heroes are within the range we expect. They’re not perfect and would still need more balancing, but overall, they’re pretty good.
- The economy is still wonky. You’re consistently getting your Gold and Mana, but there aren’t many places you can spend them on. After a couple of turns, it gets to a point where the resources don’t matter because you already have everything you want. You keep hoarding and continue spawning, which makes the game basically endless.
In general, we are pleased with the progress we’ve been making and the feedback we’ve been receiving. We’ll be looking at various solutions to address the current issues. Hopefully by next week we have figured something out.
Developer Blog #7 - June 22, 2017
We spent the last two weeks working on two really big parts of the game: the game flow and the back-end.
Design: The Game Flow
As seen in our previous updates, we had to plan out the full game flow from starting the game to playing it, as well as the resources and the victory conditions (the reasons why players win or lose). We spent a lot of time on each of them , then now we are putting all the parts together and making them all work in a way that makes sense. This involves adjusting the values to make them fun and right now, it’s not yet balanced. Thus we continue to playtest: if something’s not fun, we find out the cause, and then we adjust.
The game flow begins by building an army, which you can do at the Choose a Regiment screen. Each faction has a hero, who has bonuses such as gold, or in some cases, gives you special abilities.
For example, Major Carl L’Averi leads the Redkeep faction , which is a colonial settlement ran by humans and elves. Redkeep has very straightforward units such as scouts, militia, and artillery. Carl has a Siegemaster bonus, which means it would be more difficult for enemies to take a city if you have him placed there. All other factions have their own heroes and minions.
To recap the other factions:
- Ivoria – A city deep in a jungle ran by wizards, who used their magic to empower beasts such as apes and lemurs
- Silverwood – An old Elven capitol in the forest, now taken over by Moonpriests and other forest spawns
- Darktalon – A dark forest inhabited with goblins, spiders, and other wild beasts
- Polliva – A royal city on the other side of the ocean, home of the colonial powers coming back to take over the continent
- Ruma – An island halfway between the old and new worlds, which has become the center for trading and filled with pirates – one of them is our lead character, Olivia.
Back-end Development: Servers and Multiplayer
The second major thing that we are doing is fixing the servers and getting multiplayer up and running. We have 4-player working now, but it still includes some broken stuff. For example, we found a bug wherein embarked units don’t take any damage (which Nelson exploited) and while some had -1 HP and never died (Ben’s immortal Chainsaw Shocktrooper) – so nobody won. The full unedited video of the 4P game is up on Youtube.
Art: Pretty isn’t Good
Another thing we’d like to share is something that really plagues developers, which we also mentioned two weeks ago when talking about the game’s ideal game length. Same with art, we don’t always get on the same page. When artists are create the structures, characters, or map decals, they’re looking at the art way up close and make those that look good in that perspective. However, people play the game zoomed about.
This is not a new problem – and it’s an amateur mistake that happens over and over again. It is partially a communication issue, but also partially because the people making the game don’t play enough of it.
Sometimes we get WIPs of art in a gray screen, then the artist would ask, “Are these good?” The last thing a designer should say is yes. You don’t know if they are good, you just know that they are pretty – and pretty isn’t good. Pretty is just pretty. What you want to know is if they are good for the game, and to know that, you have to put them in the context of the game. If they don’t look good in the game, it doesn’t matter how pretty they are. They are not good, and the definition of good in game development is not if they are pretty, but if they achieve the goal that you’re trying to reach with this particular piece of art. This is something we forget sometimes, so right now we’re working on altering the maps a bit and modifying some of the art to make them look better.
August 11, 2017 - Developer Blog #8
It’s been a while since our last update (more than a month actually!) but while Chris was away, the rest of the team has been happily working and making changes to Last Regiment.
However, one thing we should point out about game development is that what it looks like from the inside is different from what it looks from the outside. There are several things we’ve added and changed to the game that won’t be obvious when you look at it from a player’s point of view. A lot of what we’ve been doing a lot lately is implementing a lot in the back-end which you can’t see, but it’s critical before we add anything else – such as setting up rules before we can program the AI. So aside from that, here are the more obvious stuff that we’ve done in the past month.
New Factions and Units
We’ve added two new factions, making it a total of 8 factions so far (and we’ll add more later on!):
- The Tirezia faction is large agricultural community in a sheltered valley near the colonial settlement of Redkeep. With Guildmaster Silvio Longfinger as its main hero, Tirezia includes units such as Clockwork Footmen, Harvest Spirites, and Enraged Peasants.
- Mugroot is a massive forest of gigantic diseased fungus, overrun by the Infected. This infection was brought about by a particular Orcs who prayed to the God of Death to unleash such power. They have units such as the Mindless Thing, Deathly Legion, Halberdiers, Lancers, Sporebeasts, Rotwyrm, and more.
Some new abilities were added such as Embarking, which allows units to move across water tiles from the docks. Structures also have abilities of their own: Windmills boost the amount of gold you earn; Cathedrals allow you to heal; Inns provide buffs to your Attack; and so on.
Art and UI Updates
We’ve also updated some of the UI such as when forming your regiment (which now requires you to select a hero in order to get heroes from that faction), the multiplayer lobby, selecting a map, and a working chat window. There are also some little changes that improves the game visually such as making the tiles and map art two times bigger, and intuitive highlighting for hexes during movement.
We still do daily multiplayer playthroughs of the game to test out the new units and abilities we are adding. During the resolution mode, all abilities take place first such as ranged attacks and spells. Visually they appear sequentially, but they are all happening simultaneously. After this phase, unit movement and melee combat follow. You can replay the multiplayer game from our livestream through the VOD.
Our Current To Do List
Based on the live playthrough, here’s what we need to do next:
- Continue making improvements based on feedback from Legends of Callasia and address issues such as how to simplify game mechanics and communicate them clearly to the players
- Fix weird graphics bugs and visual effects
- Rebalance units and adjust powers for the new factions
- Build more maps for playtesting
- Look at different win conditions to add
- Research on how we can integrate tournaments and other external social features within the game
- Get the build ready for the upcoming conventions this September
- Put a schedule together on when we can have Early Access (hopefully by January 2018)
Overall, our main goal is how to make this game FUN – and all the feedback we can get is very much appreciated. We plan to show more of our progress next week, and hopefully we can get back to our original weekly schedule.
Developer Blog #9 - August 18, 2017
Is this fun? Do we like this? Are we happy with this?
Lately we’ve been receiving feedback from the people playtesting and those who saw the progress on stream that the game doesn’t seem to be interesting or enjoyable. When you get to that point, you have to stop and ask why. This is very concerning, and so we gathered the team for a ‘come to God’ meeting on what we should do about it. There were two options: 1) cancel the project, or 2) barrel down to what those reasons are and find out how to fix them in a systematic way. This is a decision that we often have to make when developing a game, and for now we chose to keep fighting and go with the second option.
Here are the reasons why the game wasn’t fun:
- There is no turnaround event. This is a big problem, and it was similar to what we encountered with the early versions of Legends of Callasia, and solved later on by adding cards as a feature. You knew relatively early in the game whether you were going to win or lose. For the players to have fun, everyone should still have the chance to win even when it’s pretty close to the end of the game. During our games, it’s clear what’s going to happen next, and you just keep building and summoning units until someone wins.
- There are so many things to think about. The process of figuring out what the different options are and understanding them is time-consuming. Right now, 45 minutes of gameplay seems long, though there are several games which take longer but are still fun. It’s tedious not because you have to think too much, but because of the constant struggle to get more information. For example, when you have a unit with a long list of abilities, you’d have to click each ability one by one to know what it does. And there are several factions available too! While it’s true that playing the game enough would help you know what all these abilities are, it does provide a steep learning curve for newer players, and it might be a better decision to just have one or two *defining* abilities for each unit in the game.
- There is no midterm goal. Currently there are clear short-term goals (summon this unit, capture this building) and long-term goals (destroy all enemies, take over everything). This lack of midterm goals was also a problem in the early version of Legends of Callasia, and our solution was to create the concept of kingdoms (a group of territories) which you can capture completely for more resources and points. This would be difficult to do in Last Regiment especially with its hex-based maps, and it doesn’t really match what we’re trying to do. So how do we create something that’s visual and gives players a sense of accomplishment?
- There is low sense of player agency in not allowing you to build your own things. Right now it’s dependent on the person who created the made the map. If there’s a farm on a certain hex tile, you can’t do anything about it. Players do not have the power to define how their structures are placed, and that would have been a strategic decision that would contribute in making the game more fun. Another source of confusion is not knowing when you can summon units, which is only allowed when you have occupied all hexes of a city. Players would assume it’s a bug when they cannot build a unit – it’s something that is not currently explained when you first start playing.
What can we do to fix these?
- We thought we’d first address the issue of building – maybe if we solve this, we’ll be able to solve all the other problems we mentioned. Instead of having premade structures, we can instead have builder units and upgradeable spawn points for buildings. It would give players a larger sense of agency so they can start defining how they want their world to be built. This would also address the lack of midterm goals. Right now we’re looking at making the heroes of each faction have the Build ability in order to ensure that each player has a builder and would be able to build structures.
- Simplify stuff. We need to have units with fewer abilities so that players have would have less to think about and instead spend more time making more strategic decisions. It should be clear enough what units do, where they can summon them, and how they can win the game. In terms of spawn points, we will be limiting the classes of structures by tying them with the races, instead of the factions where the lore is based. One of things we’ll also do is to remove docks, and instead allow ships or water-based units to be summoned on spawn points next to the water.
Aside from these, we’ll have to continue balancing the game. We realized that after ending the turn, your resources are immediately replenished and you can continue to summon more units on the next turn, which makes the game become less fun.
In line with simplifying the game, we’d like to have fewer units with more interesting choices – like in Legends of Callasia with only four heroes per game making it nice, snappy, and strategic. In Last Regiment, you are pressured to move and build units quickly, which makes it less tactical.
What we plan to do is to adjust summon costs for units (some expensive, some cheaper) as well as increasing the resources cap, but decreasing the rate at which they fill. This would hopefully motivate players to do some other actions to get their resources up, and afterwards make the strategic action to attack or use their abilities.
We also want to create more spells that are buff-based as opposed to just doing damage, to make it less about bombarding with lots of units, but more of using specialized units intelligently.
Hopefully by next week we’ll have progress for some of this stuff and playtest if they work. We’ll also create at least one new bigger map and bring in more players to test. We’ve also been doing some changes to the art, so you can also look forward to that!
Developer Blog #10 - August 31, 2017
Aside from our progress based on the discussion two weeks ago, today we shared some game development tips on how we manage our data using Microsoft Excel. As we said in a previous entry, we make use of spreadsheets as a repository for all the data that drives the game, so that it would be easy to manipulate and export into LUA files that the game actually uses.
Naming and Localization
An Excel file would have various tabs that relate to various things that are in the game, such as Minions. Each piece of data is related to one object in the game and follows a specific naming convention. For example, a creature called Tusked Apes in the game would be named “fact02_unit02”, since it’s the second unit in the second faction. We’d have records for “portrait_fact02_unit02”, “icon_fact02_unit02”, and so on. This allows us to quickly change things (like rename to Angry Apes?) without having to go through each of the records. It’s easier to cross-reference. But in terms of powers, we went the other way and decided to be more straightforward. We follow “pow_mountedguns” or “pow_invisibility” as our naming convention, but it’s still a systematized and reasonable way of naming and understanding things. This also makes it easier for us to localize the text later on.
Unit Stats and Costs
In terms of assigning units stats, we rearranged the data sheets and implemented a new two-level data management system in the last few days. We have base stats for Attack, HP, and Movement which are scaled in reference to each of the units. This is the first step in balancing: how strong or how weak compared to everyone else do we want our units to be? The next step is to say: how strong do I want attacks to be in general compared to everything else in the game? Then we’d multiply it by a constant to get the actual stats that we see.
After some playtesting we get two kids of feedback: 1) If a unit is too strong or weak, we change that unit’s base stats. 2) If a player thinks that attacks take too long or are too weak, then we change the constant so that all units become stronger. This way we can very quickly make adjustments, especially when we add more units in the future.
We use the same system in deciding the unit costs. How much do we think control points should be worth relative to others, and in general? We first created a basic rule that we can later on adjust when we know which powers are stronger or weaker than others. The formula is based on all the stats for each unit, rounded up to the nearest multiple of 5, to make it easier for players to remember.
We spent some time adding in a lot of building types in the game with various fun abilities. However, we realized that it was less fun to have more stuff. We want players to make great, important decisions, not a thousand little tactical decisions. So we reduced the number of buildings with a substantial difference compared to the others.
The way buildings work now is that you can only build on a hard point if you have a unit with a build ability. All heroes can build, but there are some units such as Highborne engineers who also have the same ability. However, they can only build one kind out of the four racial building types (Human, Highborne, Goblin-Orc, and Kobold). These buildings can be upgraded along the racial type’s build chart.
We’re also adding in the concept or portals. Before, we had a rule about only being able to build on cities and ports which no one understood. These would now be removed from the game, and replaced with Portals.
We’ve also added a bunch of little changes, like additional animations, art changes, and updated UI.
Meanwhile, we’ve realized that most of factions that are too similar and have the same unit types. One of the things we should change is to create factions that have specific strengths and weaknesses.
Developer Blog #11 - September 14, 2017
This week we’ll talk about some of the challenges we face as developers. How do we make our fantasy game different from others? How do we make all of the game elements consistent and coherent? What features and platforms should we focus on?
Before we talk about what we’ve been working on, we’d like to take a step back to discuss the lore of the game again. Some have been wondering why there are a variety of units and how they all go together, so we’ll start by going over the history of Kothia, where the game takes place.
Behind the Lore
When we made Legends of Callasia, we were focused on creating a solid one to two hour multiplayer experience with simultanous turns and missed out on building the story. It was predominantly based on multiplayer, and won’t do well when you don’t have enough players, thus shortening the game’s lifespan. There is a cycle of a) needing a certain number of players to make the game fun, and b) if the game is fun, you’ll get more players. We eventually had many dedicated users, but it was not enough to power the game.
For Last Regiment we knew we had to do something different in order to generate the audience. We realized that in LOC, there’s a silent minority who didn’t play multiplayer but instead played the single-player campaigns. This is where we should start: to build a world, set its foundation, and write the story.
So the questions were: Where do we draw from? How do we get started? We needed to find a year, and usually, the characters, technology and culture in normal fantasy is based on the middle ages. But we did want to follow the typical stereotypes that every other game already has. We’re still sticking to the genre, because the team is good at beautiful fantasy art. So what if we changed where we pinned the history instead of moving away from fantasy?
We decided to choose a much later period and a quite advanced year in history: 1772. There was more scientific development; there were trading companies, colonization, and nationalization. What if we had that history in a world where magic did exist? How would elves, orcs, and goblins deal with all these new technology, culture, and social structures? What do armies look like? What weapons would they use?
In Last Regiment, we call this period The Reconquest. The world is composed of a number of continent, the biggeest one being Kothia, which is similar to the Roman Empire. There were massive wars that involved magic, summoned spirits, infected creatures, constructs , and more. There is a massive apocalypse and civilization is largely destroyed.
Humans fled to the old world until centuries later when they decide to reconquer the continent with better technology and tools to fight back. This is the setting of the game. You as a player will have to go back and explore this new world.
And so here’s what we have been working on in the past two weeks.
- We scrapped mana and decided to stick to only one type of resource for the game.
- We’ve been testing the concept of hard points, which does make the game more interesting and offers a lot more strategy, but we’re not yet happy with the actual types of structures you can build. We made so many art and animations for these buildings earlier and we’re not sure where to use it. We built the assets too fast and some of them don’t make sense anymore, so we’ll have to revisit them.
- We tweaked some of the data and rebalanced some of the units. Making them have higher HP made a positive difference in the game: they now last long enough, but are more expensive and take longer to build. You as a player would now spend more time trying to keep your units alive, instead of churning them out and letting them die endlessly. You have to learn to manage units better, and this accelerated the pace of the game.
- We changed how the fog of war works, revised the visual presentation of effects, and continued fixing some of the art and user interface.
- And some other bug fixes!
One of the things that makes a polished game look really polished is artistic coherence. It’s the developers willingness to stop and make it something that it needs to be. For example, we have reasonably good art for the hero Tristan, but it looks visually different from the rest of the art in the game, such as the Chainsaw Shocktrooper (aka elf with the chainsaw). We can’t have both art that are aesthetically different from each other, and this is an expensive decision to make. This is one of the realities of game development: there’s always going to be something that comes up that you didn’t expect that you have to come back to and have it redone. Even if it doesn’t affect the gameplay, the extra level of polish makes a difference.
Multiple Resolutions and Cross-Platform Support
Multiple screen support is something you don’t usually think about. When developing games, you must keep in mind that changing resolutions could cause the user interface to be misaligned. There are two things you have to look at: the scale (bigger or smaller) and the ratio (widescreen, etc.). You need to go through each of the different elements of the user interface and decide where you want them aligned – to the center or on the edges of the screen. What if some players want the elements in the same size? What about retina size?
Meanwhile, there’s the concept of supporting the game on multiple platforms. There are features that are desktop-specific and tablet-specific. There are things on the PC such as hotkeys and mouseover highlights which are not available on a tablet, which is touchscreen. You need to focus down on your audience in order to know which platform-specific features to address. For Last Regiment, we’ve decided to make it PC-centric.
Focus on Single Player
As mentioned earlier, another thing we’d like to focus on is the single player campaign. We had players in Legends of Callasia that were vocal about wanting everything immediately unlocked when they get the game, instead of having to play the campaigns to unlock more content. This created a created knock on effect. What’s the point of single player now? Suddenly it became meaningless, and this is a mistake we want to avoid in Last Regiment. There is pleasure in working hard to unlock something, and the sense of completion is compelling for most players.
Developer Blog #12 - September 28, 2017
Starting this week’s dev blog with some fun news: we’re bringing Last Regiment to the game conventions!
- E-Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) – The first showing of Last Regiment will be on October 27 to 29 in Manila, which is the spiritual home of Boomzap (with most of our staff composed of Filipinos). This is the biggest gaming event in the Philippines, and would serve as a great testing ground in knowing what players like and don’t like
- PAX South – Happening on January 2018 at San Antonio, Texas, this would be our great reveal of the game to the worldwide press after all the improvements based on the feedback we would be receiving during ESGS.
Most people don’t see how much work goes on behind conventions. Here’s what we’re planning for our booth in ESGS.
We had one of our artists come up with the design for the panel walls and fascia boards, and we had to keep in mind where we wanted to place our tables and equipment.
Usually we bring our own banners and have to worry about where to place them in the booth that’s not blocking anyone, but luckily the organizers at ESGS allowed us to have our design on the wall itself. It’s also more convenient for us that we don’t have to make the materials ourselves and haul it over from wherever we had it made. It can also be very costly.
The other thing you have to think about is: what do you want to achieve at the show? Since we’re not selling the game yet, what do we want the players to do? For now, it’s all about the mailing list. The goal is to have them sign up, so we can let them know when the game is ready. Since most people are not willing to give out their personal info, we have to find creative ways to make them interested.
There are also some dangers in showing your game at a convention, especially when you still have a very rough build. The media is not that great in knowing how deep a game is in development, and may not be as forgiving on what they see so far. There is a minimum bar of quality that you have to hit, but you have to balance it out against showing it too late that you don’t have enough chances to make changes. If you wait until it’s finished before letting people know about it, then you miss out on the ramping up time where you can get them involved in the development. You have to ask yourself: is this game good enough to be shown but still early enough to allow me make meaningful reactions based on feedback from show?
However, if you want to be at a convention like PAX, you have to reserve a booth around three months in advance. We don’t know what shape the game is going to be by then, so it’s almost like a bet if we’re ready to go by then or not. Developers would like to think that they know, but they don’t know. So there’s a chance you’ll be at a show with something that’s not yet ready for public consumption. That’s the struggle not just for us, but for many developers. You also have to hope that you are surrounded by other great games in the area where you are in, since this increases the chances of press and convention-goers going to that area and seeing your booth.
So in preparation for ESGS, here’s what we’ve been doing in the past two weeks:
1. The Choose a Regiment screen has a revised UI, but still uses some placeholder art. The faction icons are now located in one row on the right, and you’re now able to rearrange the units you’ve selected. The first one on the list would be the first one to be automatically summoned at the beginning of the game.
2. New borders have been added, so maps now have a solid edge. This means some of the hexes are cut in half, making them not reachable. You can only go to spots next to them.
3. On the regiment bar, units which you can’t afford yet are now crossed out.
4. We’ve added in the concept of heavy vegetation killing the line of sight. We still need to test out if this is fun or not.
5. Before building a structure on ruins, you can choose to explore it first for a chance to earn resources… or experience other bad things.
6. Area-of-effect powers can now be placed on a hex, instead of restricting them to enemy units, which means you can anticipate where your opponents will move next and attack them on that spot.
7. Several character portraits are being revised. This includes our main character, Olivia. Here’s what she looks like now on our main menu. By next week she’ll be wearing something new!
We’ll share her new portrait on the next dev blog, and keep you posted on the progress we’ll be making.
Developer Blog #13 - October 19, 2017
We had to shift our schedule because of ESGS, so for today’s dev update we have three weeks worth of progress to show.
1. We listened to the feedback we received from Discord and changed the portrait art for Olivia, who now looks like a more privateer, pirate-y character. The backstory is that she was in the military force but got kicked out. While on exile in the Ruman islands between Kothia and Portella, where she is originally from, she developed a badass crew of swashbucklers and pirates. Note that this isn’t the final art yet, and we’re still considering making more changes.
2. We added some functionality to the main menu so that now when we switch from mode to mode, the options, information, and art would change.
3. We are making the map editor more up-to-date. Right now it’s not yet as user-friendly and still very much a dev tool, but it remains to be a planned feature for release.
4. We’ve updated the Choose Your Regiment screen and added the option of creating emblems per regiment, which are like alternate decks that you can use depending on the map. It’s largely based from the emblem system from Legends of Callasia, and there are different themes separated into tabs with up to four different colors that you can use for the background. We’re no longer adding flags as a background option since that piece of reality pulls you out of the whole fantasy feel (although you can make it thematically similar).
5. The map edges are now a lot wider than they’re supposed to be, because previously some of the UI would get in the way. Now when you select a unit or hex, the UI would not intrude much of the game. We also revamped the power and summon system wherein you can view their descriptions using mouse-hold, then play them on the map via drag-and-drop, similar to how cards are played in Legends of Callasia.
6. The selected object panel was also revamped, with a clear separation of what the unit can do (top) and what the current territory allows him to do (bottom). There are also different shapes to indicate if they are passive or active abilities.
7. The fog of war no longer has the cross-hatch lines and now looking better, but we still need to make the edges look more organic.
8. We’ve been playing around with the water: now we have deep and shallow water tiles. We spent some times making the coastlines look clearer and more interesting, but we’re also considering to have make it a game effect such as units that can or cannot go there.
9. Another slight modification we made is on the movement arrows. They look cleaner, don’t sit on top of the meeple anymore, and no longer have placeholder programming numbers. Now as you drag the unit, you can see how many moves it’s burning.
10. We’ve added 8-players maps and they’re a lot of fun. It’s a little bit slower because resolution takes a bit longer but still pretty snappy.
11. We’ve added a game logs feature which would appear in two places: at the bottom of the screen as it happens, and a history which you can collapse from the upper left panel. We’re still playing around on how we want it to look.
12. We’ve added cone effect damage that would allow you to target something that’s not in a round range, which would give us more interesting options in our spells. We haven’t made any units yet with that type of damage, so maybe in the next livestream we’ll have some to show.
It’s going to be busy in the next few days because of ESGS, and hopefully we’ll still be able to get a lot of stuff done for the next update (most likely because of various feedback we will be getting).
Developer Blog #14 - November 9, 2017
On the last week of October, we went to two conferences in Manila! First was Gamefest, a game development summit with speakers from both the local and international gaming industry, and E-Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS), one of the biggest consumer conventions in the Philippines.
What We Learned From ESGS
We usually don’t bring our games in the state Last Regiment is currently in: it’s an early build without a tutorial and lot of placeholder stuff. But since we’re blogging and streaming it, people have already seen it anyway. At the same time, whenever we want to do something big, we want to always do it first in the Philippines, the studio’s spiritual home.
On a practical note, not showing the game before we attend PAX South next year would have been bad idea. ESGS provided an opportunity for us to watch people play and see what we need to do to bring our A game to PAX.
One of the problems we had during Legends of Callasia was that nobody knew we existed. Although people in the industry knew Boomzap, the vast majority of gamers in the Philippines play AAA games and e-sports titles. As an indie strategy game in a world of huge production value games, how do we survive?
We were surrounded by huge companies at ESGS, and some people just took a quick look at out booth and walked on by. But it’s fine, they probably weren’t our audience. However, there must be a niche strategy gaming audience somewhere. Where do we find them? How do we get them to know we exist? We do all sorts of marketing efforts such as streaming, but how do we get people to know about the stream? How do we do marketing for the marketing?
At the convention, most of the major exhibitors had “booth babes”, but it’s something we’ve sworn not to do (aside from the fact that we can’t afford them). Last year, we had Callasia fans volunteer to man our booth at PAX – people who are able to share their love for the game. During ESGS, it’s the actual development team who was there to explain how the game works. We know this is more effective in attracting people who are actually into the game, rather than those only interested in getting pictures with pretty girls at a booth.
We also had a second booth at the ESGS Indie Arena, where all the other indies are. When people went to this area, they are actually there to play and talk to the developers about their games. This is our goal for the next conventions we’re attending. By next week we’re submitting to Indie Prize USA and Indie Megabooth at PAX East – hopefully we get chosen! The important thing we need to do now is get the game ready.
What We Changed In the Game
1. We revamped our UI art assets! During ESGS, the game trailer showed endlessly on the big screen, and we realized that the UI is old and dated. Thus we looked at the time setting of the game and asked ourselves what the visual design was of that time. The answer: rococo and filigree!
2. We’re adding two kinds of structures: Destructible and Permanent. While we were working on the map editor, we started to talk about what single player would look like and got to thinking about buildings. Does it make sense that you can build a village and have a large building tree within the lore of the game and still present a tactical feel? What if we separated it out: things that can be built and things that can only be placed via the editor. Thus, these permanent structures would become an object in the story.
3. In-game notifications have some improvements. Now you get more info as to what is actually happening on the game in the next few turns, including player resource upkeep. During ESGS, the most common question we had was which happens first? The game needed a clear language to explain the order of actions, and for now we added indicators on top of the screen during the resolution phases.
4. We’ve updated the movement arrows and the way they behave. We observed that players often made errors when dragging and moving heroes, and end up selecting additional hexes, so this hopefully fixes that issue.
5. As requested by the people on stream, we’ve added player emblems from Legends of Callasia!
6. We’ve added a new goblin faction called Darktalon led by Captain Hollythorn. They are masters of the environment who are against magic.
7. We noticed that there are too many heroes in the game. They are so powerful, and you basically end up with a screen full of heroes, which made them a bit unspecial. We decided that we wanted to have fewer heroes available to players available during the game. We want to make faction choice more critical, and now we’re experimenting limiting them to up to two factions per regiment.
8. Other things we’re working on are updates and reorganization to the minion powers framework, addition of cool new powers, and VFX improvements. We’re also still working on optimizing the game since as people noticed the low framerate it plays on.
So now people are asking: all these people at the convention got to try out Last Regiment, when do we get to play it? We’re planning to launch as an Early Access title on Steam in 2018, but before that, we’ll do a closed beta with some special people.
Instead of the usual signups, we’re choosing our betatesters from our most active Twitch viewers and Discord chatters.
- Watch our dev streams on Twitch and earn 2000 boombux. (Click here for the leaderboard.)
- Be an active member of our Discord and reach Level 15 by chatting. (Click here for the leaderboard.)
We’ll also invite press, content creators, and our betatesters from Legends of Callasia into the closed beta.
For now there is no estimated date on when beta would be available. We’re currently focused on making a solid demo build for PAX South in January. So in the meantime, stay tuned to earn those points for beta and watch out for our updates.
Developer Blog #15 - November 16, 2017
Before we get started, we want to talk about some industry stuff: Kickstarter has launched its own competitor to Patreon called Drip. As a game developer, this is interesting news to us.
Struggles in Marketing
We've had two unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns for Legends of Callasia and the major thing is that if you're not able to fund the project in a certain number of days, you get no money at all. Despite that, we made the game anyway. Afterwards, we gained some users and had another Kickstarter for the DLC, which went through. But honestly, we've set our bar of success really low. Technically, we haven't been able to fully fund a project yet.
We believe there are three scenarios to make Kickstarter work.
- You're already really famous.
- You have a famous IP.
- You have something so marketable and memorable that can break into the mainstream media.
The first two are not options for us, and the third one is very rare, so Kickstarter has been problematic in our case. Patreon is a different thing. It's very straightforward in how you have a service or product, and people can support you. This is good for those who consistently produce content, such as comic strips or write-ups, and Patreon is a way to help those people keep on producing that content.
And this is the same subscription tool that Kickstarter is now doing. According to the website, "Drip is a tool for people to fund and build community around their ongoing creative practice".
This is obviously a big thing but we're not sure yet how it works with games. There are already subscription options and other existing ways to do it that don't involve going outside the game to another thing. As of now, we don't know yet if we want to do it with Last Regiment. It's definitely useful in the creative world, but we're not sure yet about the game world.
There is also the question about discovery. The one thing Kickstarter does have is 14 million people who are willing to throw money at things, largely on games. But why did Legends of Callasia not become a huge financial success? There are certainly problems about the game, but even so, people never knew it existed. We think there are a lot of people out there who would love to play but never heard of it. That problem is something Kickstarter might be able to do something with, but it has a narrow focus wherein you need this money *right now*. We are curious to see how Drip would address this issue.
Obviously there are other services like this but the problem has always been: how big is your network? That's where platforms like Kickstarter and Steam makes it makes its money in. They already have a huge group of gamers and they're giving you the ability to be able to talk to those gamers through their system.
Aside from the question of how big is their userbase, the next thing we need to ask is: How many products are they offering? This is a problem with Kickstarter: they do have the people, but there are also at least 200 new games in a week. Other services have few people but few games, so there is a bigger chance for people to actually see you. There is a trade-off, and an argument has to be made about whether or not it's worth it.
The other thing we've been doing to get our game noticed is attending game conventions, and we are actually working on our Indie Megabooth submission right now! We're trying to be part of it in PAX East. It's a great show, as well as PAX East, but the value of going to same show with same game degenerates over time.
During the first show, it becomes a big deal because nobody seen it before. On the second show, it is less so since they've already seen it, and you'd just get looked over a bit. So right now the plan is if we get accepted to the Indie Megabooth, we'll be going to PAX East. If not, we're not going to buy a regular booth because the return on investment is not worth it.
Another thing is that we're not really a fancy game and can't have a big screen showing a huge fight. We're a strategy game, which is slower and quieter, and when showing it by ourselves., it is difficult to get people to come to our booth. Again we go into the rabbit hole of how do we market our marketing?
From the perspective of the press, streamers, and other influencers, they would have a list of what they want to see at the show. Nobody comes to PAX to see what Boomzap's up to. Getting them to come to our booth is actually a struggle. We have to reach out to them early on and make an argument for them to come.
If you're in the Indie Megabooth, everyone in the press would check that out. It's on their list. They would come by, but you still need to try to get them to play, though at least you get some eyeballs. Like Kickstarter and Steam's user base, the Indie Megabooth is a big thing that people know and would come to.
Another option is to sign up with boutique publisher that has a PR agency that makes everything happen for you. That's great but we don't want to have a publisher. So we're trying to find a place where we can be on a "to do list" that doesn't involve a publisher because we are trying to be independent.
More about "Earlier Access" aka Closed Beta
We've also started to receive more questions about Earlier Access. The hope is that we get around 20 to 30 people in the beta list, and we're expecting them to be those who are already interested in the game now.
There is no definite date yet on when it would begin, but the plan is sometime in January or February. There is the question of how far along do we want to be in the game before we start. We can give it to you relatively early with broken stuff that would likely change and entirely different from final version, and we're hoping that the people who are in the closed beta would be cool with it.
It's likely that we'll do the beta through Steam, so that it won't get pirated as much. We'll probably do a weekly build where we can turnaround balance decisions like altered stats and address other feedback we receive. Internally we can do daily builds but putting it over on Steam would be a real task, but if we have something new to add, we can go do that.
It won't be a full game. The game modes such as single player campaigns and other content won't be complete. It's something that we'll gradually work on as we get closer to release. But that is the point of beta - you'll get to see it earlier than anyone else, before a lot of it is done.
Plans for Single Player
Given our schedule for Earlier Access, we need to start thinking about how the single player modes would work.
The length for single player campaigns depend on the number of missions and hours of gameplay. There's still a lot of testing before we know how long missions take. If they take longer, we'll make fewer missions. If they are shorter, we make more. What we might actually do is build a series of missions that have variety in length, with around 20 hours of total gameplay.
We also want to make skirmishes more interesting by having goals that aren't always exactly the same, such as capture the flag, king of the hill, etc. A lot of discussion still needs to takes place to sort out how the game works. It's time to start thinking about the lore and story and how we do the single player missions. We need to look at other games and listen to feedback from players to see what they want.
How much would single player impact multiplayer? It comes from our experience in Legends of Callasia where we had a user complain why everything is not yet unlocked, so what we did was when you bought the game all the factions and units were available in multiplayer. The players then asked "Why am I even playing single p[layer?"
That was a mistake we made and for Last Regiment, we want to make sure that single player has meaning and what you're doing has value. We have not figured it out completely yet, but the plan is to have players unlock factions through the campaigns, starting with Olivia and Ruma faction. While going through story, you meet new people, interact with different characters, then unlocking them as playable factions.
We also want to make sure that players learn how to play the game before trying out multiplayer. The plan is to integrate the tutorial into the story, and have Multiplayer mode unlockable by playing. By the time you show up in multiplayer, you should know what you're doing when playing against other players and know what's happening.
Cool New Stuff
As always, we've made several adjustments to the game, but for this blog we want to focus on the UI revamp, because that is what players would immediately see. Aside from adding more rococo elements, it is important that the UI is able to communicate how the game works.
- The Regiment bar now shows a max army limit of 11, with only two heroes (which are substantially bigger so that you clearly understood who they are)
- We still have the nice control mechanic where you can click and hold units and powers
- The look and feel for the next unit toggle and timer was changed to look like clockwork and machinery
- Some of the UI panels now match the regiment color you've selected
- An indicator on top shows which phase you are in during resolution
We were looking at the old way of choosing regiments, and we didn't really like it. It was difficult to select a hero and find out what it does or what value it brings to me. And so we looked at how you built decks in other games where you can see all the cards in one glance.
It's still placeholder, but we've made the framing better. We also wanted to fill the screen with pretty art and make sure you saw them. We've added a player language wherein grayed out units can't be selected, and you can only choose the colored ones. We've made it easier to click on a unit to view its description and abilities.
In the future, we want these panels more themed to the factions. Right now just looks like a set of cards. We want this to be a place where we could express some of the history and lore of the game. It sounds trivial, but later on when we add new factions or release DLCs, there is a sense of discovery and excitement.
- Update to support segregated hero slots in game screen
- Update to support new design change: minions can only be summoned if hero is in play
- Updates to select army UI: manual army sorting works again; power lists work now
- Update to victory moves to support multiple stages
- Prototyped unit adjacency traits (increased ATT is highlighted in green)
- Fix to editor object selection: minions show up now; mouse scroll works properly now
- Change power targetting recticule to use video asset
Developer Blog #16 - November 23, 2017
Last week during an interview, we were talking about livestreaming and the reasons why we’re doing it. For us, the biggest threat to game development is not making the game happen. Making a game is not a huge challenge, and we’re relatively confident that we can make a reasonably good game. But can we make a great game? Like we’ve always said, the even harder part is getting people to know that it exists and get them to play it when there are so many great games and other things they can do out there.
Being Real in the World of Entertainment
Let’s look at the grand scheme of what people can be doing. Before, the main sources of entertainment were books, television, and radio. Then computers happened. There is now a vast source of content thanks to the internet to keep people entertained for billions of hours. On Twitch, there are literally thousands of people broadcasting something. In terms of games, there are also so many options available on Steam and all other game platforms.
And here we are, a small independent studio, saying “Hey don’t look at any of that, come play our game. We want you to look at this!” It’s a very difficult argument to make and we can’t really directly talk to people to convince them to do that. We have to go around the corner a bit and ask people, “Why don’t you come and watch our dev stream?” then maybe the game is something interesting to them, that they would eventually play it.
How do we get them to watch? We post on Facebook, Discord, Twitter, Reddit, 9GAG, and everywhere else. We need to start a discussion on another platform. Essentially, we are making marketing for our marketing for our marketing for our marketing, to get them to play a game that doesn’t even exist yet.
But another thing we find of value on Twitch is that it’s all real. This is the actual team doing actual development of the game. There are no scripts or press releases. When we look at all the time and energy we spent marketing our game and building our brand, we hope that the one thing that we have shown our supporters is honesty. When you come to our streams, we are exposing what real game development looks like and the life of building creative content: figuring out how all of this works.
We think that in a world where there are unlimited options, what people find valuable is to be treated like humans – and that is what we’re doing. We hope you appreciate all the time and energy we are putting into this as we share our real experiences and real lives of making games. Just like how earlier this week we had some extra livestreams of working on MS Excel to design the scripting system for the single player aspect of the game.
Developing AI for Single Player Games
There was an article about writing wherein the author talks about how the biggest problem is sorting out the commas when the story isn’t done yet. In terms of game development, it’s something that we’re also very guilty of. We’ve been going through balancing issues and fixing the user interface when we still haven’t made the main game yet. We needed to step back and decide what’s really missing from the game that we should have been doing.
One of the things we promised is the map editor. It’s easy to make the editor and it’s already there, because we need it to make the game, but we haven’t finalized yet how it all works on the side of the player. There are a lot of issues we have to resolve such as how they are uploaded, filtered, moderated, displayed, and so on.
The other thing we said was that we were going to make this primarily a single player game. Though a lot of players are interested in multiplayer, we learned from Legends of Callasia that some players don’t want to be pressured by the turns and time limits. We need this bulk number of users to build up the player base in order to make multiplayer a great experience.
But you can’t just make a single player game. You have to figure out several things, and it’s not really the most obvious stuff like the story. For instance, how do you make the AI actually do stuff? How do you give missions to the player? How do you tell the AI and the players what to do? What kind of missions do we have? How do we script those missions? As we dig deeper, we realize that there is a huge chunk of design that we haven’t done yet. We need to go build the scripting system, which is then up to the coder to integrate to the game. This is only the first step.
The next step is the AI, and not yet the actual missions. If you make a single player game, there is no other human to make intelligent decisions. People think making multiplayer is harder because of the obvious server and connection issues, but it’s actually easier when there’s another human playing with you. Instead, single player has algorithms that predict behavior.
In a simpler game, there are simpler AI and limited rulesets, so it’s quicker to do forward thinking and predict what’s going to happen in the game. In a game like Last Regiment that has so many hexes, units, and powers, the brute force approach in letting the game forward-project all the possible things that could happen in any given turn is extremely difficult, if not impossible. We have to look at AI in a different way and pretend that he’s human. We give it a series of goals and look at threat levels to determine what happens next. We can’t give it limitless power and classify smart or dumb AI. We assign them behaviors, whether they are aggressive, defensive, cowardly, and so on.
We then have to relate it to all the other aspects of the game and create rulesets such as when AI can use certain spells or which units to bring in certain situations. It gets really big real fast, and we haven’t even made the missions yet.
The other thing we can do is to “cheat” by granting the AI an advantage by having better tactical situations than the player. This can come in the form of increased reinforcements or territories, but as a human player, you should be able to think and come up with better strategies.
As a small indie studio, improving the AI is a challenging promise to fulfill. At this moment, a lot of the mechanics are still changing as we keep on rebalancing the game, so for now, we need to make sure that the AI is adaptable to various rulesets.
Most of the work we’ve done are still in the backend, so there’s not much progress to show right now. Next week we will be building more maps and hopefully there’s something more visual we can present.
Developer Blog #17 - November 30, 2017
A Quick Overview on Game Licensing
Are we interested in having people write about our games and publish novels related to our content?
This is not the first time we got asked if books can be made within the license material of our game, or if we could hire someone to write a story for us. We wanted to quickly walk through the business of that. There are basically two frameworks by which that happens.
- An author says, “I bet I can sell more books if I attach game content from license X to the story.” He/she then pays a license fee, and the license holder gets rights to look at the book before it gets published.
- A license holder says, “We want to have books about our game, profit from them, and have complete creative control, but we don’t have an in-house writer who can do it.” They would then hire a writer (full time or by contract), pay a fixed fee, and work with him/her them directly.
Having said that, the Last Regiment license is not yet worth enough to charge a license fee for, and we don’t have the resources to do it ourselves or pay anyone else to write for us. So unfortunately, no Last Regiment books to look forward to in the near future. Speaking of stories…
Creating the Story and Lore
What is Last Regiment all about?
We’ve always said that we were going to take the lore building and story seriously. It’s an easy thing to say, but before we delve further on that, we’d like to share another fun fact.
Not many people know that 99% of game designers are frustrated authors, and sometimes it shows in the games they make. One of the real challenges in writing a video game is to take that author part of you, the one who wants to tell a story, and shove him down. You need to stop yourself from writing that story, because in games, the players want to make their own stories.
In books, the characters do precisely what the author tells them to do, think, and say. You can’t do that in games. There’s this other person who wants to do their own thing and make their decisions meaningful. The game writer must fight the urge to say “You’re not supposed to do that! You’re supposed to go here and do this!” For example, players would have a choice if they want to go here or there, so a designer has to make both of these places interesting.
This brings us to writing the lore of Last Regiment. Before you can write a specific story, you must first create the world where it takes place in. Months ago we started putting together a skeleton outline on the basic ideas about the universe, and gradually adding notes on how the world is, who the characters are, and what the history is. Since we were looking at it from a wider angle, there was some confusion on what would actually be happening in the game.
What is going on? Why do we have these characters?
As we build the art for the game, we started getting questions on why we have a variety of characters with very diverse themes. For some it didn’t make sense, and that was problematic. Then we continued to flesh out the ancient history of the world to show how all the factions and units came to be, and conveyed this to the team.
The next story dump included more details on the period called The Reconquest, when people from the old world started to go back to a continent that they had tried to colonize in the past. This is where the story takes place, after several years of apocalyptic wars between the races where they used both magic and machinery. This was inspired by the modern age of the Enlightenment Era, and we looked at the colonial histories in Europe instead of the usual medieval setting of fantasy games.
Should we share the lore with our community?
This is where we are a bit torn. We want to keep people involved, but we also don’t want to spoil the game. We want players to have a sense of discovery and exploration when they play it. At the same time, we’d still like to have the freedom to change it.
Where are our characters in this lore we are writing?
If you look at the heroes and units in the game, none of them appear in the history. When you’re putting together a world, the first step is the large history of that world. The second step is detailing the facets of that world such as the technology, magic, transportation, weaponry, money, language, races, and a bunch more data that needs to be compiled. After these two are done, the final step is the actual story of the characters in the game: where are they going, what do they need, how do they meet, etc.
Doing the first two steps is important before you start anything because you need something that could lend something before you get to the end. But even when you reach the final step, you should be aware that sometimes the world and some of its faces might change because of the new things you are adding to the game.
What is the scale of your story?
Again, we take a look at Legends of Callasia, which has an epic scope. You’re a general taking over chunks of kingdoms and saving the world. Last Regiment does not have an epic scope. By design, we want to keep everything much smaller. Yes, there is a huge thing happening, which is the Reconquest, but you are only a part of it. Your choices are probably not going to change the entire world history of the game, but it’s about the characters going through a journey within this environment. They are not captains or lieutenants. As the title implies, you are controlling a regiment, not a huge army. It’s a much personal story and we want our players to care about these characters.
What We’ve Changed So Far
Back to the game, we had a big conversation about the dialog system and scripting the single player missions. The work is underway, but it’s not going to be done in a few weeks. Developing scripting engines is an iterative process that would take several months.
Right now we are trying out a variety of mission types and determining different variations of environments, failure goals, and other things that can be considered fun.
We’ve also made some changes to the user interface! Now you can preview the units in each regiment without going to the Choose Your Regiment screen.
Starting a skirmish or multiplayer game also looks better now, although still WIP.
There’s another screen we’re currently updating, but we have to stop and think about it mathematically.
The Cost of Adding New Features
Can we please change X to this? Why can’t you do this?
Every time we consider adding a new feature to the game, it has to be a cash-positive decision. Let’s take for instance the Choose Your Regiment screen.
A couple of weeks ago, we had the idea of having different background art per faction. Each background would take an artist at least 3 days to make. With 14 backgrounds in total, it would take 42 working days. Since the team gets paid a monthly salary, we need to look at the cost of making it and how many more copies we need to sell – and it’s a bigger number than what most people would expect.
If we look at new game features, you would have to consider the time it takes the coder to implement it, and for QA to test it. Everyone of those ideas needs to put into this math, and this is why sometimes the seemingly simple things don’t make it into the game. For the moment, we’re happy with keeping the Choose Your Regiment screen as it is with a black background and customized emblems per faction.
This doesn’t mean we don’t welcome any new suggestions. Keep your comments and questions coming, and we’ll see you in the next dev update.
Developer Blog #18 - December 7, 2017
The Funnel of Decision Making
When you think about selling the game, imagine a great big funnel. It starts wide and gets narrow each step.
1. Audience. Are there enough people out there interested in games like this to make a game like this worth making?
2. Awareness. How do we let those people know we are here, and get them interested in our game, and have them come check us out?
3. Curb Appeal (to download). When they get to the Steam page - is this game obviously good enough, quality enough, pretty enough, and obviously what they want enough that they will actually make the download, and open the game and give us a chance?
4. Accessibility. They downloaded it. They started playing. Is it intuitive and easy enough to learn - and interesting enough to keep them amused long enough to play enough to understand, enjoy, and appreciate the core mechanics of the game? Are they going to stick around long enough to ACTUALLY play the game?
5. Conversion. Will they buy it after the demo? Is there enough clear, obvious value in buying the game that they will put the money down to buy? How much? What is that price point? How do we clearly convey the value to them of a full purchase?
6. Retention. They bought the game. Is it sticky/interesting enough to keep them playing? Is it good enough to keep them from the game's competitors? Will they come back and play the whole campaign? Will they participate in multiplayer? Will they keep playing? Will they bring friends?
If we fail at any of these steps, all of the following steps are not even worth discussing. We take a look at two examples from the games we've made: a success story, which is the Awakening series, and where we failed, Legends of Callasia.
What Legends of Callasia looks like.We apply this to Last Regiment, which is a niche game. So the main question we're asking now is: who is our audience? We have to know what their interests are and where we can find them.
We realized that most strategy gamers are not on Twitch, so what is livestreaming for us? It is no longer a marketing vehicle, but a testing vehicle. It's good for driving people to our Discord, get them interested in the development, and talk to them about what they like and don't like. Getting feedback is extremely valuable and it's a more realistic expectation of how Twitch can help us.
Rethinking PAX and Refocusing our Marketing
Next month we're going to PAX South and instead of focusing on getting all of the media to check out our game when it's not yet complete, we're considering doing a bigger version of what we did at ESGS - to have people try out the game and get feedback. We learned this from a lecture during GCAP 2017. They also talked about how trailers are very critical in getting people to know the game, which makes us think how we should refocus our marketing efforts.
Big Changes in the Game
We're also testing out a lot of new ideas in the game. For reference, this is how it currently looks like, and it's going to have some major changes.
Some of the issues we're addressing now:
- Improving the fog of war - make them lighter or replace with tiles
- Revising the user interface (UI) so they don't cover too much of the screen
- Rethinking the way we show powers to the players
- Improving the overall look and feel of how we show hexes, how we aim things, and combat animations
- Redesigning how factions are handled
- Reorganizing some of the powers to better theme the heroes
- Looking at the way we are building and summoning things
With all these stuff that we're doing, the game is deeply broken right now. We're still checking which ones actually work. Some of them could be bad ideas, but we hope we'll have something to show by next week.