I apologize for my radio silence during the last few weeks. I’ve had a lot of excited life updates, which have some large consequences for the future of Stingy Hat Games.
After much deliberation and planning, I have rejoined the regular work force. I am still getting into the swing of things at my new 9-5, and that’s where all of my time has been going in the past month or so (both into securing the post and into settling in at it). Obviously, this means that I won’t have nearly the kind of time I used to have to devote to Stingy Hat Games and game development in general. Still, I fully plan to continue working on my projects here, even if they will necessarily have to take a back seat to my daily life.
Since I no longer have the time to fully support my releases, I will be making Silent Station and Land War completely free to play as of February 21st, 2015. To the people who have supported me through buying these two games, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. However, since I have a steady source of income now, it makes more sense for me to want to try and get my games into as many hands as possible, so that means making the games free.
How about some good news? Well, I have a new super secret game project currently in development, which I will unveil soon. What I will tell you now is that it is multiplayer, and I’m pretty excited about that. As always, you’ll be able to play it here, on this website, first and for free. So stay tuned for that. I would also like to step up my streaming/let’s playing in the near future, although I don’t have any definite plans for that just yet.
The updates in this build are too vast to completely list. Since the last web build, I’ve had two professional artists contribute character art. I’ve added an intro cinematic, outro cinematic, and closing credits. I’ve also added a fully featured options screen, and fixed a lot of bugs.
This build is more or less identical to the Windows 8 version of the game coming out shortly for $0.99 (USD). I’ll leave it up here for another two weeks or so for people to try out and find any last minute bugs.
Land War is out there in the wild now (buy it today, it makes a great gift!), and in these post-release days I have quickly learned a couple interesting lessons about indie game design and development. Rather than write a lengthy, high concept post-mortem analysis of the game, I thought it would be best to distill everything I’ve learned into a series of easily digestible articles.
LESSON ONE: Nobody reads the manual.
While I never thought of Land War as a particularly complicated game, I did recognize that there were some unconventional gameplay mechanics in there. Specifically, the mechanic of creating troops to fight for you and upgrading them is not something you see very often in an action game. To this end, I made sure to display the icons that dealt with that business very prominently on the HUD. Still, I knew I had to do more to inform my players how my game works.
This is where I had the brilliant idea to include a “how-to” section in my game. From the main menu of the game, the player can press the “How To Play” button and be given a step by step run down of how the game works. I went with this idea mostly because this is how I had seen it done on most Xbox Live Arcade titles that I’ve played. Indeed, it is Xbox Live store policy that all titles must have a “how-to” section. This made a lot of sense to me, but at the same time I failed to realize something very important: Out of all of the Xbox Live Arcade titles that I’ve played, I have never once actually pressed the “how-to” button.
So it was with my game that nobody who played Land War ever pressed the big “How To Play” button on the main menu, and then would give me the exact same feedback about the game, namely that the game is too hard. Only the game isn’t particularly hard at all. Indeed, I toned down the difficulty significantly for the phone version so that it would be a very casual game. However, if you don’t know about or understand the troop creation mechanic, then even the very first level can in fact be quite difficult or even impossible.
What Land War needed was a first level with a number of HUD popups that would tell first time players what buttons to press, and when to press them. Again, my “how-to” section actually goes over these concepts in detail, but no player is ever actually going to see that so it is a moot point. Lesson learned.
Land War has officially gone on sale on the Windows 8 App Store, the Windows Phone Store, and the Google Play Store (Android).
I made a late term decision to postpone the iPhone variant of Land War. Or, more accurately, I didn’t realize that an actual Mac OS is required to submit an app to the iPhone app store until very, very recently. Worry not, though, as I have my sights set on a Mac Mini in the near future, with which I will be able to port all my games over to the iPhone platform.
What an incredible learning experience this entire release has been. And I know/fear that there will be more learning to come as the release goes on and the game gets into people’s hands. In a week or two I’ll do a postmortem write-up about everything I learned while making and distributing Land War.
What’s next? I will be in full support mode for a few days, I wager, after which I will shift into the final development push for Silent Station (you remember that game, right?).
What a ride this has been.
Oh, how about some links:
Windows Phone Store Land War page: http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/land-war/844d6005-2c51-4b5a-a060-f288b0e26ec3
Google Play Land War page: LINK FORTHCOMING.
Also, now announcing the introduction of an official home for Stingy Hat Games discussion forums. Sign up now: http://stingyhatgames.freeforums.org/
After long last, Land War has finally entered into beta status and is fully feature and content complete.
I’m going to send Land War out to the Windows Store people shortly, who will QA it and get me on track to having it up for sale. As such, this will be the final update to the playable build. On Friday, November 1st, I will permanently remove the playable build from my website. You’ll have to wait for it to come to a device near you to play it after that.
Check it out here (link), and get your feedback in soon!
As a note, the size of the build is starting to put a strain on my website’s bandwidth. The download might take a little while, so be patient.
Today there is a new playable alpha to Land War (link). Give it a tumble and tell me what you think.
This update is smaller than I would have liked. Last week, development on Land War got side tracked (damn car). But now I’m back at it. I hope to have the game feature complete by the end of the week. We’ll see.
An important note: If the game fails to load for you, make sure you have the Unity web player downloaded and installed for whatever browser you are using.
Improved AI pathfinding.
A new set of “junkyard” themed levels.
A deployable sentry turret (available from level 11 on).
Another week, another Land War playable alpha. Check it out here.
This week I concentrated on laying some more AI ground work. The AI should path around obstacles on the ground, and just about get around altogether better than before. I still haven’t decided what I want to happen in terms of AI flag defense.
I’m continuing to rework the HUD, only to remove it the next day. I just can’t come up with a style for the HUD that I like, so for now it is very much pure utility and ugly. Mind that.
Also new this week is a reworking of the map select screen, and several different levels can be played.
Perhaps the coolest new feature of this week is the addition of a new unit to call down, the melee unit. You only have access to this unit in the second set of levels (level 6+), so beat the first four levels and the boss stage to start playing with those. The melee unit is faster than the base soldier, but slightly more expensive. He is good for rushing the enemy flag down, but his effective weapons range is extremely low, so he can be a risky purchase.
Check it out.
What can you expect for the next build?
More levels, surely. I also imagine that the AI will be finalized by the end of this week, so expect them to bonsai rush you and defend their flag much smarter than now. There will also be one more new unit for you to play with, and ten more levels.
A new build of the Land War playable alpha has gone up (link).
Changes for this week include a map selection screen. Just click on any of the red ‘X’s and you will load the one and only level. Other additions include the ability for you to upgrade your troops and flag carrier. To upgrade your soldiers or flag carrier, click on the ‘+’ icons on the lower portion of the HUD. If you have the resource points, clicking the ‘+’ icons will spend the points to permanently buff your units.
Right now upgrading your soldiers will allow them to take an extra bullet before going down, while upgrading the flag carrier will make him generate resource points for you at a faster and faster rate. The upgrades system is a major component of the game design, and will force the player to make tough decisions. Saving up for an upgrade is risky, as it means the opponent will be able to field more troops than you and may be able to overwhelm you. On the other hand, an upgrade is a major force multiplier, and a well timed upgrade can absolutely turn the tide of battle in your favor.
Give it a shot and, as always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated.
The Land War Development Blog is up, so you can see a complete(ish) list of features for the game, and where I’m at with them currently. Please check it out if that sort of thing interests you.
I’ll have at least one (perhaps two) updates to the Land War Playable Alpha this week. Expect to see further general refinements, as well as some new effects, a scoreboard, and the ability to upgrade your troops.