Godus Wars

Holy crap. Yesterday, Peter Molyneux announced Godus Wars. What’s Godus Wars?

Well, it’s a simple RTS with god powers. Watch the trailer:

Yeah.

So my immediate question was, if Godus Wars exists, is there any reason for me to complete Planitia?

In order to find out, I played Godus Wars for about three hours last night, about halfway through the first continent. The basic gameplay consists of flattening out the terrain (using the same sculpting tool from Godus) to allow your villagers to make new abodes, which give you mana. You use this mana to create fortresses from which you create warbands of archers. Your goal is to take over the enemy mana silo, and you can only do this with a warband. Upgrading your fortresses allows you to support more warbands, hopefully giving you the advantage over the enemy. You can use god powers to both help your own villagers and hinder your enemy.

Sounds great, right? Well, the game has a lot of problems.

The first is that sculpting is still done using the sculpting tool from Godus, meaning you have to pull around one layer at a time – and if you’re sculpting anywhere but on the beach near your village, sculpting requires a lot of mana. While sculpting in Populous was a bit tedious, it was nowhere near as bad as Godus/Godus Wars. Expanding a flattened area requires you to individually sculpt the layers below first. Flattening a mountain requires that you delete it, layer by layer. It’s tedious, it’s time-consuming, and half the time you end up sculpting in a way you didn’t intend, wasting time and mana.

Second, god powers almost don’t exist in this game. As you play through the lands you’ll unlock cards that represent benefits. You can pick up to four cards before starting a land. Some of the cards are passive benefits (warbands build faster, you start with more villagers, etc) but some require mana. These are your “god powers” and they mostly consist of buffs to your warbands or debuffs to your enemy’s. Only as I started level 7 was I presented with a real god power – Swamp, which makes a small patch of land uninhabitable. It wasn’t very effective or graphically appealing and I soon decided to save my mana for upgrading my fortresses. After all, warbands win the game.

Speaking of warbands, they have some problems that can make them frustrating to use. They require wide paths to move – odd in a game that so often connects areas with narrow sand bars. Giving warbands a command they can’t fulfill can cause them to become completely unresponsive. Ordering warbands to attack can also be risky. While all warbands have a flag above them, you cannot click the flag to attack an enemy warband. Sometimes your warband will interpret your attack command as a move order and will blindly march right into the enemy warband, ignoring all attempts by you to correct the problem and leading to free kills and XP for the enemy.

To make matters worse, one of the aspects of gameplay is that all units have to perform a little “stair climbing” animation while moving from one elevation to a higher one, and can perform no other action until they find secure footing. This means that if you order an attack on an enemy warband on higher ground, your warband will get cut to pieces while performing cute little animations and pathing around for solid ground.

And to top it all off, the AI cheats. Only a few levels in, the AI will start making two warbands at once even if they only have one fortress. A few more and it will start making warbands that already have veteran status on creation. This is the most blatant artificial difficulty and it completely breaks immersion. And there’s no multiplayer!

There are other problems as well. There’s no minimap and the camera speed is very slow, making it difficult to pop back and forth from your village to a battle. There also aren’t any hotkeys that could make this easier. A “make warband” button on the side of the screen for each of your fortresses would be all that is necessary to allow you to keep producing units while fighting, but Peter is still in “no interface” mode. And the game has performance problems – strange given the simple modelling and texturing of its units and structures. Perhaps that multi-tiered terrain is slowing it down?

Does the game do anything well? Yes. The basic premise is solid (and I should know). You create fortresses by circle-selecting a group of abodes; these then “bunch up” into the fortress in one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen in a video game. The models and animations are simple but stylish, just like in the original Godus.

But Godus Wars just isn’t good enough.

Let me be clear – this isn’t sour grapes! I’m making Planitia because it’s a game I want to play! If Godus Wars was good enough to replace Planitia I’d be disappointed, yes – but I’d also be happy that someone had finally filled this hole I see in the market.

I’ll continue work on Planitia. Perhaps, if Peter puts enough work into improving Godus Wars, it’ll make nice competition.

Bundle-In-A-Box results and IT’S BEHIND YOU!

Well, the Bundle-In-A-Box is over and I was really surprised at the nice emails I got and exposure the bundle provided. Many thanks to Kyttaro Games for inviting me to be part of the bundle! And again, thanks to my long-suffering beta testers, whose efforts will not go to waste.

On another topic. did you guys know that I like reading about the history of video game development? What? You did, because I never stop talking about it?

Well then, I guess this won’t come as a surprise to you.

Once upon a time, there was a game for the venerable ZX Spectrum called R-Type. Based directly on the arcade game of the same name by Irem, R-Type is widely considered one of the best ZX Spectrum games ever made. Not only is it fun and incredibly faithful to the original arcade version, it used a clever system to prevent the color clash that plagued color ZX Spectrum games at the time. You’ll rarely find a “Top Spectrum Games List” without it.

And now, twenty-five years on, the developer has written an e-book about the game’s development. It’s Behind You, by Bob Pape, details the trials and tribulations of being a young, naive and brilliant programmer in the mid-80’s. Watch! As he makes every rookie mistake in the book during his first few years as a programmer! Wonder! As he lives like a homeless person during the game’s development! Gaze in awe! As he details the tricks he used to make the Spectrum do things it frankly shouldn’t have been capable of!

It’s Behind You is available for free in various e-book formats from Bob’s website. I highly recommend it.

Inaria in the Bundle-In-A-Box!

Got a LOT to talk about today, so let’s get it started!

First…I’m in my first bundle! I was contacted by the administrators of the the Bundle-In-A-Box, and they asked to include Inaria in their new RPG bundle. I said yes, and now you know why I needed beta testers for the new version of Inaria. I’m so excited!

This bundle features a whole bunch of RPGs, including the one from my good friend Jay Barnson, Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon!

So I can check that off the list now.

Inaria Needs Beta Testers!

I’m going to be releasing a new, greatly expanded version of Inaria within about two weeks, and I need beta testers. Your reward will be a free copy of the final game, your name in the credits, and the satisfaction of having helped an indie.

Please send me an email at anthony.salter@gmail.com if you want to sign up! Remember, this will be a short test so you won’t have to worry about it dragging on forever.

Cardinal Quest

Okay! I’ve sold exactly one copy of Inaria through BMT Micro, which is enough because I wanted to find out what the experience was for the buyer. The buyer was one Ido Yehieli, who just happens to be an indie himself. After quizzing him on how BMT Micro worked for him, he then sent me a free copy of his game, Cardinal Quest. Which is actually a pretty good little Roguelike with modern features. I especially like the scrolling combat text – I was attacked by a succubus with her special power; the scrolling text told me I’d “Lost 3 Attack”. I killed her and a few turns later saw “Recovered 3 Attack”, which made it VERY clear that her spell had worn off. THAT’S the level of clarity I need in my Roguelikes. (I’m talking to you, NetHack. I don’t care how famous and beloved you are, I still think you’re a crappy game.)

Anyhoo, you can buy Cardinal Quest for a measly $5, and unlike my game there’s actually a demo so you can find out if you like it before you play. So check it out!

The Man Who Chases Two Rabbits Will End Up With None

Okay, so the reason I haven’t been posting (other than general laziness) is because I’ve become terribly conflicted over what to do next. I know, we already had this conversation, but there’s some other factors in play here.

First, I have a game. It’s called Inaria. It’s almost good, and some people know about it. If I spend the time necessary to improve it, I can effectively re-launch it with another round of press releases (which will hopefully get some traction this time) and possibly turn what was a mediocre game into a good one.

Plus, Inaria is content-driven. While there’s lots of fun and funny stuff in Dungeons of Dredmor, it’s not as story-driven as I want Inaria to be.

Plus…remember when I said that one of the failings of Inaria was not enough middleware? Well, I’m fixing that for good and all. I am currently learning Unity 3D, and I believe that it will help me make the 3D RPG that I’ve been wanting to make for so long. It could also help me finish Star Kittens and revive Planitia; that would give me three very different games (an RPG, a sim-game and a networked multiplayer RTS). For the record, you can sell games made with the free version of Unity without having to pay any royalties (a crazy, crazy bit of craziness on their part that I intend to take full advantage of) and the games you make can play on the web (with the Unity web plugin) or standalone on PC or Mac. Which means that I can make web-based demos of my games and then sell the full versions as standalone products.

But of course, first I must learn it. I’m going to devote the next month to doing very little but learning Unity. I’ll chase that one rabbit and then use it to finally get the others I’ve been wanting for so long.

A Dilemma

Okay. I’m thinking about making some graphical improvements to Inaria. You might remember from when I was doing the iPhone version that it looked a bit…well, better.

Those improvements, which make the levels pop up and down, were written by my good, dear friend Ryan Clark.

So why didn’t I use them for the current version of Inaria? Well…because I thought they might clash with the retro mystique I was going for. It might also clash with the “black squares” result of the visibility algorithm.

But now I’m thinking seriously about putting them back in.

Thoughts? Yay, nay?

The Insanity of a Manatee

So. Have I been working on my prototypes?

Of course not, that might actually be productive.

Instead, I’ve been working on improving Inaria.

Why?

Well, ’cause I don’t think it’s currently worth the money I’m charging for it. It’s still selling, but I feel kind of guilty every time I see a sale.

I’m going to add some stuff to it and then I’m going to put it to bed. One of the things I’m going to add to it is a randomly-generated dungeon to give it more replayability. The rest of the stuff will be a surprise.

I’m anticipating having this update done by the end of this week. Beta testers, let’s go one more round, shall we?

Okay, This One’s For Everyone Who’s Telling Me To Keep Working On Inaria…

This is Dungeons of Dredmor.

Notice how the first feature of the game is that it’s a Roguelike but with a modern interface. Sound familiar?

Notice how awesome those screenshots look.

And now notice this announcement that it’ll be released for $4.99.

This just reinforces the idea that Inaria was wrong game, wrong time (not to mention all its other flaws). I need to do something completely different, and frankly, I need to release it now.

Fortunately, I do have a couple of ideas.