I'm pleased to say we've been on a heck of a productive streak since the start of December. It's gone by in a blur, but I've picked out some highlights for you based on the alpha patch notes:
- Lane design now feels decent! The troops, their rhythm, and their rewards feel reasonable while also incorporating some mechanics I wanted to try. There is still lots to think about, but having a representative example of a lane is a big accelerant for hero design.
- Our fog of war implementation got a real polish and is silky smooth; I am well impressed with DarnYak's work on this one!
- We had a great moment where some tricky and substantial changes were needed under the hood on Lumberyard's netcode; two days of work later we try it out and it worked first time! Nice job Yak again!
- Content has been steadily increasing and improving:
- A lot of the early counsels (items) in the game were to sample the tech and show that it worked. I've been trying to steer the newer ones towards "how could this encourage cooperation?".
- Hero design has progressed in a similar way: initially technical demonstration and now moving towards more meaningfully designed experiences. Right now Scavenger is my favourite!
- The UI has sharpened up a lot, with most of the essential lane-pushing game elements in place and working as they should.
Despite all this, we're still firmly on "old art"; models and textures are all basic asset store stuff until we get some extra hands on board to make improvements. I've worked Lumberyard's particle editor to the bone so hero abilities have distinct and readable effects... I look forward to being able to say the same for heroes.
Tools of the Trade: An Update
Way back in 2016, we wrote on this blog about some of the tools we were using for development. Some have stayed, some have changed; here's a look at our current collection:
- Notion is our primary knowledge-base, task management tool, and repository of design documents. It's super; I'm very pleased. If you have grand designs of any kind, do check it out (and the personal plan is free for students!).
- Rocket.chat handles our internal team chat, while we hop over to Discord for voice calls.
- Owncloud implements our shared filesystem for retaining screenshots, important documents, etc.
- Runbox host our company email.
- Gitea is a self-hosted, open-source github. It quite helpfully has git-lfs built in, which allows us toeasily commit and share game assets as part of our workflow. Fun fact: our main repo hit 3200 commits this month!
- GitFiend is a GUI for git that I actually like. I have never made this claim about any git client before.
- Cmder and its handy custom commands make it easy to run a variety of scripts from one terminal. I use these to package release builds, reload game servers, etc.
- Lumberyard is our game engine, though we've done a lot to customise how we use it. Most of the action is currently driven by xml-based scripting outside the editor.
- Visual Studio 2015 is a necessity of developing for Lumberyard. We do a lot of C++.
- Notepad++ is my choice for all our xml scripting and other text editing. There's prettier apps out there, but it's so damn fast and deep searches directories in a flash.
- Drupal 8 is the backend for this website and also handles authentication for playing the game itself. (This is ripe to change as we scale up.)
There's a couple of others, but I think this covers the interesting parts! Thoughts welcome; maybe someone will find a tool they like among this list.
What's coming up?
First to come to mind: hero design and tech to implement new abilities is one area we'll keep working on for sure. I really want to get back to some creative direction and branding work as well.
And of course, working out the last kinks that are interfering with client stability: no-one likes a crash (those do like to crop up...). Maybe we will be able to drop the 'technical' modifier on alpha soon. The client has come a long way in the last year.
Thanks to our testers for their time and patience in helping us get this far!