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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.



Month of Pirates

Not strictly true, actually – I’ve also spent a good deal of  time this month working on Dwarf King, but it certainly feels like it’s been pirates all month. Travelled to Denmark on vacation on a pirate themed boat and stayed at a Pirate themed hotel  (great fun for the kids), and did a ton of work on Pirates and Traders 2 as well as writing and editing some new stuff for the current game.

With respect to P&T 2, I’ve been working on the new ship model, the port system, and the contracts. I’m pretty happy with both. Compared to the existing game, the new ship and combat system will be similar, but with a few important changes. Ship’s speed and handling will be separated from the Rigging factor, which means that big ships (like Galleons) will have high rigging ratings (making them correctly hard to disable), while still being slow and sluggish.

The combat system remains essentially the same, but with a few tweaks that I think will make the system a bit more tactical. I also have some ideas for multi-ship combat that will hopefully make it possible to handle “fleet” engagements in the new version. The tricky part is to make the system as easy to play as the current version, while still making it meaningful from a gameplay. You should really only want a fleet in two situations – taking on enemy fleets (such as an invasion force or in fighting the treasure fleet) – and when carrying out military expeditions (which may now involve fleet engagements).

The port system is something I’m really enjoying tinkering with and considering how to strengthen. It will contain the same options as the current game, of course, but the basic framework is going to be a lot more flexible as I’m scripting it with the same basic system as I’m using for the adventure modules. What this means is that entering a port – any port – is essentially the equivalent of starting an encounter. And I can do some really fun things with that which would be extremely hard otherwise. One aspect that I’m making possible (though it will probably not be something implemented in the first version) is the ability to have the player be a character independent of their ship. In other words, one could – in principle – be a non-Captain character, and still travel around the Caribbean and have adventures. It opens up the possibility of – for instance – having the player start the game without a ship, and then – through adventures, encounters, and jobs – letting the player build up their character to the point where they can buy or capture a ship. It also opens up the possibility of Robinson Crusoe-like scenarios – e.g., even if the player is marooned or loses their ship (e.g., through having it sunk or being imprisoned by the authorities and escaping), allowing the player to keep playing and  attempt to recover their fortunes. In short, if you like the adventure/RPG aspect of the game, these changes open up the possibility to significantly expand on this aspect of the game (almost comparable to a real CRPG). If you don’t, these elements should make little difference to the core gameplay.

Finally, I’m playing around with introducing a new contract system to the game. Currently, the game has your plunder divided up according to a simple formula which – sort of – emulates the way Pirates divided their booty historically. But it’s a really poor model for traders and others. What I’m thinking of adding to the game is a more clear delineating between what you own, and what your crew owns, with concept of a ship’s contract. Pirates, for instance, would have the historical egalitarian model, with your captaincy dependent on the support of your crew. Ships under a Piracy contract would be constantly on the lookout for the big score – if you don’t feed their hunger for booty properly, they’ll eventually vote in a new captain. An alternative would be the Privateer model; it would require you to own the ship, but allow you to treat your crew more as employees (kind of like the current game model). This would probably be something you’d work your way up to, though, rather than being the default state. Under a Privateer’s contract, the player would be pretty free to work as he likes. Finally, one might also have the trader’s contract. A typical starting situation for a player as a trader would be as a part shareholder (and captain) of a trading vessel. Your crewmembers in this model would expect a living wage, but no part in the profits (though they would also refuse to risk their lives on piratical ventures). You would be able to buy and sell shares to the ship, and my plan would be to expand the banking system significantly to finally allow for some real merchant-based role-playing. Yes – that would include owning additional ships sailing on trade routes, as well as lots of other ideas that will probably not make it into the first version.

My first priority is still getting Dwarf King to alpha state (which I’ll write a bit on soon, plus showing of more of the great illustrations being done for the game by our artist), but once that is done, I’m hoping to rush P&T2 into alpha shortly after. Though I do wonder whether I should call it P&T2, or something else. Pirates, Privateers and Traders doesn’t sound so catchy, though. :D

Oh yes – and I haven’t forgotten about the existing game(s):

Pirates and Traders version 2.7.0 is just around the corner with the usual bug fixes and tweaks, as well as a new “troublesome” trading mission, and – assuming I finish the editing in time – the first part of the last of the three big story line quests I promised for this game (if not in 2.7.0, it will follow in an update shortly after).

Also, Pirates and Traders: Retro will receive an update that should allow it to be playable on phones with xxhdpi displays (and bigger… though at higher resolutions I do doubt how “playable” one can call it). The update will also include a few bug fixes.



Hot July

Well, at least here in Norway. Which is great, because it means lots of time out and about in the sun, playing with my sons. It does mean that I’m doing a good deal less programming than it if were rainy and dreary, but I’m not complaining. Even if the good weather means slower progress, there is always progress.

Most of my work on new games for the past month, has been focused on Small Battles. This is because I intend the Small Battles game engine to form the core of the land combat engine for most of my future games, so getting this right is important. Keeping this in mind, has caused me to make some important changes to the game engine. The original design called for simultaneous turns, but the initial play tests and my own experimentation convinced me that this kind of phased movement (first issue orders, then see the results) is a step too abstract for many. Consequently the turn sequence is now standard I Go, You Go turns. I also streamlined a few other  elements that needlessly complicated the rules, without adding any appreciable depth to the game. It’s still not as simple as I would ideally like it to be, but I think the new version is a lot more intuitive to play than the original.

Once I’m done testing it, and fixed some more bells and whistles to it, I’ll probably put it up on Google Play using the alpha test system.

In the meantime, I’m back to work on Dwarf King and Pirates and Traders 2. The former is getting a bunch of the graphics done at the moment, including some (in my completely biased opinion) really ace portraits. I’ve posted one on the facebook site, and more will come later. On Pirates and Traders 2, I’ve mostly been playing around with the map lately, ensuring that map elements display correctly. The next step will be to add actions and the status screen; or possibly to check out how big a map I can really use. I would really love to have a map including the Gulf of Mexico so that we can get places like Campeche on the game map, but there’s always the thing about app size. At those size, one can easily end up with a map that fills 15Mb all on its own – and Pirates and Traders is already a pretty big app to begin with.

I’m not completely done with vacation this summer yet, so if responses are a little slow during August, my apologies in advance. If you send me an e-mail and I don’t reply during the weekend, do feel free to ping me again.

Hope you all are enjoying the weather.



More thoughts on Pirates and Traders 2

I’ve posted some more thoughts on Pirates and Traders 2 over on the Facebook page.



Summer Blues

The time before summer holidays is often a busy time, and so this year has proven as well. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on a variety of issues (including fixing a bug in Pirates and Traders), but my time has been pretty limited due to a number of reasons, mostly work related. Worse than the slow progress, though, is that my response time on bug reports has been pretty slow. My apologies if you’ve sent me a bug report, and haven’t got a timely reply, or posted a question on FB and suffered the same fate. It is, unfortunately, the sort of thing that happens when operating a one-person operation on a part-time basis.

Anyway, a few things have been happening during the past few weeks.

Pirates and Traders 2.6.7 was released, containing a new (infrequently) recurring mission that can earn the player a native banner. I think this was needed, since previously you could only earn the banner in two unique missions, and your chances of either of them succeeding was not very high. I’ve also started exploratory work on Pirates and Traders 2, and I hope to write a little bit about the ideas I want to implement in that game on the facebook page soon.

A lot of time has been devoted to Small Battles. I wasn’t really happy with the first alpha version of the game, so I’ve made some important changes to the game mechanics. Currently putting in some effort there, before I return to work on Dwarf King. Just received the first of (hopefully) many character portraits for the latter, so things have been happening on that front too, albeit at a slightly slower pace. In either case, I hope/expect to be able to devote more time to development over the next couple of months, as well as sharing some of my thoughts with respect to the projects I’m working on.



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