A cunning plan…

I am very wary of making promises wrt game development. Although I try to maintain a steady tempo in this work, it remains an activity that I primarily do in my – all too scarce – free-time.

The past few months have been harsh on my free-time. Part of this has been the move that I’ve already mentioned; that sort of stuff takes time. I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, although there’s still a lot to be done (e.g., the bunch of Ikea bookshelves waiting to be collected behind me). The other part is that work is just that my bread and butter work has been hectic for the past many months. I’m not complaining, mind you – I love what I do for a living – and I pretty much decide what (and how much) I work myself. But overtime spent on day work means less time for other things – and usually means I cannot work as much on my games as I would like to.

I spent some time planning out my (real-life work) projects a couple of weeks ago, which was immensely cool (we’re going to be doing some really fun stuff if you’re into open data and apis). But it also made me realize that I’ll be immensely busy for the rest of the year – and I’ve spent some time for the past weeks considering the various projects I’m working on. And the easy conclusion is that the Pirates and Traders 2/Dwarf Kingdom games I would like to deliver in the first version are probably more ambitious than is realistic. Understood in the way that I probably won’t be able to finish either of them this year.

So after some hard planning, I’ve decided to go back to basics. For the next month or so, I’m going to be working on preparing the minimally playable version of Pirates and Traders 2. Essentially the core gameplay experience – trading, travelling, and sea battles. No land combat. No duels. Limited storylines (I’ll convert as many as I can, of course, but I won’t delay the game release because of this). As soon as I feel that this version of the game is stable, I am going to release it on open beta. I’m aiming for April or May this year. As soon as the open beta indicates that people are able to play it without things crashing constantly, the game will be released in its free version.

I’ll then iterate over the released version over the following months (and perhaps years) and slowly add in all of the features that I have planned (and – as always – listening to your feedback and comments). Those of you who have been playing the game for many years, will be familiar with the approach – it is exactly the same way that the first – very simple – Pirates and Traders game developed into the game it is today.

I know that not everyone will like this approach, but from my point of view, this seems to be the best option. It means the game comes out faster and it means I get better feedback faster (and thus am better able to gauge which ideas are good or bad, allowing me to be more effective). In fact, simply releasing the game is of benefit – it is always extra motivating to see something one has worked on being (hopefully) enjoyed.

It will soon be five years since I released Pirates and Traders on the Android market. I can – quite honestly – say that it has been a wonderful journey. I hope that very many of you will join me when Pirates and Traders 2 sets out on its journey in the hopefully not too distant future.

Taxing week

Have I mentioned how much I hate doing taxes? Oh, I did? Ok, nothing to see here.

Apart from dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on paperwork, this week has been spent on fixing stuff in the story script engine. That seems to be done, now, so I’m starting to move on to other tasks. I’m still thinking of releasing a small app for writing Story Script modules in, but I’m not quite done testing it yet, but I’ll be playing around a little with it during the week, and if it seems solid, I’ll probably make it available for anyone who feels like beta testing it. Secondly, I’ve started working on the core Pirates and Traders 2 code itself.

Unfortunately, nothing that is worth taking screenshots of yet, but as soon as I have something, I’ll post them. Currently, I’m working on the Character Status view, which has a number of interesting issues. I’ve previously written about my intent to set up more “permanent” relations for the player; i.e., characters that you’ve interacted with a lot should “remember” you, but for that to work, there needs to be some very clear feedback mechanisms in place in-game. After all, it is not reasonable to expect that a player can remember that the Comte Domingo de Viamonte is really, really pissed at them – this information needs to be available easily. I’m still thinking on how to represent it in the story dialogues/scripts, but in the status window, my plan is currently to create a social map (i.e., sort of a wheel with the player in the middle, and the color of the spokes indicating the relationship between PC and NPC). I intend to build something similar for the in-game factions (as suggested by a couple of people for the game before).

Working on the status views will probably take the rest of the week (at least), but once that’s done the game should be closing in on “playable”.



Story Writing and other things

Apologies for the long time without a word, guys. Basically, things are still extremely hectic in my private life after the move, and I’ve had way too much to do at work as well. Interesting stuff, mind you, but it’s also meant that I’ve spent way too many evenings lately working on… work… rather than working on code for my games. Sometimes that’s just how things go.

I’m still working on the narrative engine; mostly fixing bugs and writing out a small story that tends to continually break the story engine (Ashton has helped with that too…). The new storyscript is a lot more compact, but rewriting everything and adding new functionality has also allowed me to add all new bugs to the mix. Hopefully I’ll be able to stamp the last one’s out soon.

If I succeed with that, I am considering releasing a small app that can translate stories written in the new StoryScript, and present them as simple “choose your own adventures”. The app already exists (it’s my test engine, which Ashton also uses to test story scripts for Dwarf King) so it’s not a lot of work to also release it. I know there are some of you who like writing a bit, so why not? It would be a free app, of course (I might add a few example stories, but there wouldn’t be much of a game there, unless someone takes the time to write something more extensive for it).

When I’ve finished fixing the story code, I plan to work on a beta release of Pirates and Traders 2. I also have a plan to release a bug fix release of Pirates and Traders (including some fixes that will make the game more accessible to blind players). I’m hoping I’ll get something done about that during March.

Thanks for your support.