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Michael's Blog Bytes
Jul
05

Summer update 2014

Vacation time has come, which means that I’ll probably be travelling around a bit. This also means that I’ll not always be able to reach my e-mail, though I’ll try to get some time to respond to things at least once a week. I’ve had difficulty responding in a timely fashion throughout most of the first months this year, so I don’t expect this will change all that much. I hope to do better once summer vacations are over.

Current plans remain unchanged; I’m working to get the beta of P&T2 ready; it’s not as far along as I’d like, but there is time yet. I also plan to release one more update of the existing game before going on vacation. Unfortunately, I updated my development environment earlier today, and … Google’s Android Development toolkit struck again – breaking pretty much everything. So – as I write this – I’m basically reinstalling everything. Assuming nothing else gets broken, though, I hope to get the new version out later this weekend. This will primarily be a maintenance release to try and fix some problem areas in the game, but if they test out okay, I might add one or two small new encounters as well.

Have a relaxing summer holiday, if you’re getting any, and happy 4th of July to our US fans.


 

May
21

Pirates and Traders 2 Progress

ic_launcherA lot of people have asked about when Pirates and Traders 2 is coming out. As a general rule, I don’t answer that question, since I know from experience that hitting deadlines outside the day job is pretty much impossible. It’s hard enough hitting those deadlines in the day job.

I would like to have the game in beta by the end of summer. Whether I make that, though, depends on a lot of different factors, though – some of them outside my direct control. There is also the matter of determining the right state to make the game available at; there is no point in releasing it while it still contains obvious, major errors. In addition, there is the matter of feature completion. While I will probably cut some features for the beta (port attacks is a likely example, for instance, as that is completely changed from the original), the game does need to include a reasonable subsection of the functionality from the existing game. I don’t think I will get much useful feedback from the beta if it is from the start a significantly worse game than the original.

At the moment, I think this is still possible to achieve. The core of the game is there – the ports are working, although there still remains a few features to implement for the game to be playable (governor + recruiting crew). Ship combat still needs some work, although it is mostly functional now. Events and encounters need to be implemented. But if those things are in place, the game is going to be very close to playable.

I know, however, from many years experience that these kind of estimates are worthless. If I worked full-time; sure, I could tell probably have given a pretty good estimate of when I’ve done all that. But not with this as a part-time job. So all I can tell you is when I would like to have this ready. By the end of summer. Whether it will be ready? Only Davy Jones knows.


 

Mar
03

March already?

Why does February only have 28 days? It has no business being that short – always feels the lack of those two extra days when I’m busy. Anyway – a little bit of the current status.

I’ve been trying to release new screenshots/graphics regularly each week, but this weekend just got too busy. I’ll try to resume with that this week or the next. Apart from that, the first few months this year have gone into heavy development.

Much of January was spent working on the code in Dwarf King. Most of the framework for the game is now in place, although there remain some parts that are still not fully developed. I’ll have to go back through some of the code there; but I don’t want to build a lot of functionality in there that I might then decide to throw away. At the moment, I’m pretty much waiting for some of the content for the game to be produced (i.e., maps, storylines, etc), while I work on other aspects.

An important milestone for Pirates and Traders 2 was reached, when I received the new in-game map. That required some re-work of the game engine as I ran into some unexpected performance issues, but most of those should be solved now. I love the new map (which I posted on FB), and work is now progressing on filling in the map data. Unlike the original game, the P&T2 map will be a grid map, so every space on the map needs to have data encoded (name, description – if it’s an interesting place, special features, etc). It’s a lot of work – unfortunately – but I think the result will be worth it.

Finally, I’ve been working on a major “rebuild” of the Small Battles combat engine. Combat is an important component of Dwarf King, and it is of course not irrelevant in Pirates and Traders 2 either. I experimented with a couple of different combat models, but I’ve now eventually – I hope – settled on the version I’m going to use. Assuming things work the way I want them to, it’ll be a simple turn-based combat system, played out on a hex grid. I’ve been putting the finishing touches to the new version in the past weeks, and assuming I soon get rid of the last bugs, I might do some alpha testing of that soon and integrating with the Pirates and Traders as well as Dwarf King engines.

Next Stops:

  • Finishing the Pirates and Traders 2 map data.
  • Integrating the combat engine into Dwarf King and P&T2.
  • Finish up the next Pirates and Traders update.

Now, back to working out the kinks in that battle engine.


 

Jan
29

New Years Update

Happy New Year, everyone. I had a long Christmas vacation this year, and it’s taken time to catch up with the backlog of e-mails, messages and work since coming back. Way too long, to be honest, but that’s sometimes how it goes with the indie life, when other commitments interfere. In any case, I am slowly working through e-mails, and will try to respond to any posts that may be lacking a reply. If you have sent me a message and haven’t gotten the expected reply yet, please try again.

In the meantime, work has been progressing on the games. Much of the work has focused on Dwarf King in the game algorithms and UI, and I’m hoping to soon have the game in a playable version. Specific work on Pirates and Traders 2 has been fairly limited, although a lot of the things that I am doing on DK will transfer to P&T2 as well. The biggest task that is going on with P&T2 right now (and almost complete) is the development of the new in-game map. I’ll be posting a sneak peak of the new map sometime soon.

Still not sure when either game will be ready for the first public testing, but I’m working as fast as I can, and if I have my way, there’ll be something out in the near future.


 

Nov
17

November Update

Time passes quickly when one is busy, and November has been a very busy month (in real life; not my game development career). A few updates on what is moving at the moment.

Pirates and Traders is almost ready for a new update (now testing). This update will bring a couple of new encounters that allow you to interact with the Cimarron port, though just short ones (nothing major). Perhaps more interesting is the new tavern encounter that will also be added in this update, which gives you the opportunity of recruiting a random specialist crew member. This has been a much requested feature for a while now. After this update, I hope to manage one more update before year’s end, though we’ll see how that goes.

I’m still working on the ship combat engine in Pirates and Traders 2. Adding multiple ships into encounters does pose a challenge, in terms of making sure that the player is receiving sufficient information to take the right decisions. There is also the question about how detailed one can make the combat system. There are many small touches I could add to make the game system more “realistic”, but such considerations have to be always tempered with concern for how things are to be handled in the interface. Either way, I am hoping to post some screenshots of this soon.

The majority of my time is still being spent on Dwarf King, though. I’ve currently implemented the core of the game engine and done a first draft of the game interface. Work now is concerned with nailing down the game implementation; ensure that the orders work as intended, streamlining stuff that is currently a little fuzzy, and trying to make sure that the game interface provides the player with the feedback they require. One point of concern is the resource system; the game currently has a complex resource system with 12 trade goods. One of the hard decisions that will need to be considered during this next pass through the game is whether that is just too many. The game currently has a really nicely developed resource production system (e.g., the player harvests fur, which gets produced into clothing, which is required to clothe your people, etc), but as always when working with mobile devices, there is a trade-off in terms of complexity vs presenting information to the player. It’s a tricky balance.


 

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