Okay - I'm going to do 7drts! That's right, I'm going to make a real-time-strategy game in seven days. And I'm going to livestream as much of it as possible just for kicks -http://twitch.tv/happionlabs (starting around 10AM today)
My design goal is to see just how short a session RTS I can make. I want it to have most of the classic elements of Dune II: harvesting resources, building factories that build units, sending units to recon, fog of war - but play in about a minute. Not sure if it'll be time-limited or survival. Resources will probably be random drops - sometimes it'll just be gold, other times advances to your tech tree or free units - to increase uncertainty, slot-machineness, replayability.
So come on over to twitch.tv/happionlabs to check in on what I'm doing. Probably be boring as hell to watch, but I kind of like the pressure of thinking there might be other eyes on me as I work.
Side note: I still plan on doing an Energy Hook update on Tuesday. There's some great new stuff in there.
So the awesome keeps awesomeing - we've hit Stretch Goal #3, and Brian Luzietti is doing stuff. He's got some new jetpack sounds that I plan to get in the game today, just before the Indiecade deadline.
Now, something that's buried pretty far down on the Kickstarter page, that nobody has picked up on yet, is that I'm offering classes in game development.
After teaching at Digipen for a bit, and getting paid hardly anything for a ton of work, and thinking about the ginormous tuition the students are paying, I thought it would be a good idea to cut out the middle man.
Also, I was looking at other Kickstarter projects and thinking it was a bit lame that people were donating a thousand dollars to get, like, a tavern named after them or whatever. (And then I did exactly that with my own. But at least there's only five "taverns" in my game - it's valuable because it's rare! And you get all the other stuff too.) But I also thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if they got to create a whole level?"
But wait: not everyone knows how to make a videogame level. Which is why I then thought, "What if I offered one-on-one online (or in person, if they happen to be in the Seattle area) instruction and worked together with these budding level designers to make these levels?"
So that's what I'm doing. You'll get at least ten hours of one-on-one instruction by me. You'll get your level in the game, with a big bold credit by you, like the way N+ levels often have the designer's name on them. Also: you'll be keeping the rights to the stuff you make—so you can use what you create in your own games. (Though, at least for the near future, without the swinging character controller that's the key to Energy Hook. Still - your assets and level could be the foundation for something cool of your own.)
"But wait," you say, "that means I'd be paying you to work for you?"
Oh, no, you're onto me! Yes! Yes, you kind of would!
But I still feel like it's a good deal. You're getting real-world experience, mentoring from a veteran developer, and credit working on a notable game for a lot less than the price of going to game design school.
The bonus levels will be tangential to the main game. Players who don't want to play them won't have to, but I have a feeling some of them might end up being more fun than the core levels. What I'm imagining is at certain times the Energy Hook protagonist, Delilah, has to sleep. And when she sleeps she dreams about Energy Hook. And those dreams are the Bonus Levels that you all will make. Maybe sometimes they're pretty much like the regular Energy Hook levels; maybe sometimes they're COMPLETELY CRAZY. It's up to you. (But I get final cut.)
Make sure you have several solid days to work on your level before signing up for this - because if your level isn't done in time we just might have to ship without it. And if you're interested, you should probably get in touch first and ask me any questions you might have: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, sadly, this isn't an April Fool's joke. Paul Whitehead, the artist who has been working with me part-time on Energy Hook, works at Arena.Net by day and they've just announced a new profit sharing plan which he'd be kind of crazy to walk away from. So my dreams of raising enough funds to hire him away from Arena.Net and have him work with me full-time have been quashed.
When I first got the idea to do Energy Hook I planned on Kickstarting ASAP so I could see just how brilliant or dumb an idea it was. But in the process of working on the pitch and prototype I've fallen in love with it. I can't not finish it now. So I'm going to. Finish it. No matter what, even if I don't make a cent off it.
I want to do the Kickstarter anyway. Why? To find out if I should make the smallest, minimally viable game possible - or if we'll have the resources to do something grander.
That being the case, Paul urged me to wait more on the Kickstarter, so we can make the game look as good as possible before we pass the hat around. I really didn't want to wait. I've already postponed it once.
So I did that thing that people do when they have tough decisions. I made a list of pros and cons. It looked something like this:
Should I do the Kickstarter now?
It's eating my brain. I want to get it over with.
Slipping again is embarrassing.
We'll find out now how much resources we have - we might have to redo less stuff. (For example, right now we're making everything fairly flat-shaded and colored-in - with a lot more funding we could have higher surface detail, but we'll have to redo those flat-shaded models.)
Once the Kickstarter is over, we'll focus more on making a good game instead of making a good kickstarter pitch.
Kickstarter fatigue. It's getting harder to have a success on Kickstarter as time goes on.
The longer we wait, the better the game will look, and more people will want to fund it.
The longer we wait, the more we can build awareness and our social networks.
And if we wait long enough, we can have a first playable to show journalists before the launch and to give as a reward to higher tier backers.
Although the list of pros seems longer than the list of cons - the pros are mostly psychological issues of my own. Yes, I'm devoting too much brain glucose to thinking about the Kickstarter, but I don't have to be. Yes, I'm working harder on making our Kickstarter pitch look good than making the game good, but I don't have to be. Yes, I'm embarrassed about slipping again, but I don't have to be.
And yes, "Kickstarter fatigue" seems to be setting in; there are fewer successes on Kickstarter these days. But I don't want people to fund the game because Kickstarter is hot, I want people to fund the game because they genuinely think it's worth funding.
The only semi-reasonable pro is the one about redoing work, but if we raise enough funding that we have to redo work, that's ... actually a really good problem to have.
So, the cons have it! We're slipping.
Our new plan is to get something playable going, which could take anywhere from 1-3 months, all the while Paul making more better art. He's finished his teaching gig at Digipen and has more free time to make stuff. Then we'll have something to hand out to a few select journalists and players. (Which is another reason to Like us on Facebook - we'll give away one or two to our FB followers.) And then we'll do the Kickstarter.
Details for you developers out there:
This uses the ats Snow Suite by Lars Steerhoff - procedural snowy ground and trees - and it's free! Really awesome.
It also uses Soft Snow by Unlock Software - instant snow for only $2.
The framerate is sketchy because I did everything on my crappy laptop, since I'm away at my folks. Recorded with Bandicam.
The whole thing - finding the plugins, creating the scene, recording, editing the movie - took about two hours.
I wonder what sort of sales bump this news might get. All I can do is check the number of reviews that the game's gotten. It's been a while since I've checked, unfortunately, and although it's gone up a few since I last checked, no way to tell if that's in response to this news.
I am expecting my first month's sales data any day now...
Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine 1001 Games You Must Play Before You DieNomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game