retrospective


It’s 2018!

It’s officially 2018!  With a new year comes new hopes and dreams and ambitions — 5% of which will probably get accomplished or worked towards.  Despite this, I think it’s still important to establish these goals.  Anyway, this post will go over how 2017’s game development went and things I’d like to shoot for in this new calendar year.

Battle High 2 A+

I started 2017 by showing Battle High 2 A+ at MagFest.  It was an exciting trip, although a little stressful.  I really enjoyed showing the game off to potential new players; in fact, I did again at the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention in March followed by a small tournament at ReplayFX in the summer.

Besides showing the game off, I also wanted to try and get a new character in the game; however, I got distracted by TrueSync, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts and will discuss later in this one.  The big issue is that adding new character isn’t cheap, especially this one as all of the sprites aren’t finished.  I could try and release the character as paid DLC to make up for some of the cost; however, that involves extra work — integration, VO, new music, etc.  I’m not going to say that the new character won’t come in 2018; however, it’s definitely lower on my list of priorities.

In 2017, however, Stream Greenlight was replaced by Steam Direct, allowing indies to publish their game onto Steam for a small fee, so I spent a small part of November and December releasing the game on Steam, so though I didn’t get a new character into the game, I did get it released on a new platform to hopefully expose the game to more players.

I’m not sure what my goals for Battle High 2 A+ will be in 2018.  I’d love to get the new character done, update the 3D backgrounds, or get netplay working; however, these are all currently low priority to me.  I’m super grateful for the fans of the game, and I know I could do a lot more to make the community grow; however, I want to move onto new ideas, a lot of why the TrueSync stuff was such a distraction though a very good one.  I’m not going to say the game is dead and that I’m never going to work on it, but I’m not going to promise tons of new content or changes either.  I think the most I will do is work to make sure all versions — itch.io, Game Jolt, Steam, and Xbox One and all consistent and up to date.

Project MerFight

Project MerFight was a rough part of 2017.  For awhile, I wanted to work on a tactics RPG with fighting game elements.  I learned a lot about art, pathfinding, and more; however, as I worked on the project, I just felt overwhelmed, that it was too big for me to take on by myself, that I was focusing on areas that just don’t really interest me that much.

With that, I made the difficult decisions, despite months of work, to put the game on hold indefinitely.  I think what this helped me realize is that I should really only focus on games and aspects of them I’m really passionate about, until I’m able to — if ever — build a team to help me in these others areas.  As much as I enjoyed Namco X Capcom, which was serving as a lot of my inspiration, there were features I just wasn’t excited to implement or felt overwhelmed trying to.

Though it feels like a failure, I think what I learned will ultimately help me and future ideas improve.  This if, of course, if the information is well documented, something I also want to improve in 2018.

TrueSync

In a previous post, I mentioned TrueSync, a online rollback framework for Unity3D by Exit Games, the company behind Photon.  Although not perfect — it’s still in beta — I think it has great potential to democratize deterministic online gameplay for a lot of developers that, like myself, find it rather difficult to approach or are unsure where to start.

I spent a lot of time working and experimenting with it.  I made a prototype fighting game using it called ProtoFighter; however, I also want to learn and improve my art and animation skills instead of a majority of my assets being from the asset store.  I’d really love to get my own fighting game framework fleshed out so that I can create new games using TrueSync more quickly.  This will take some time; for example, I refactored a lot of ProtoFighter so I could make it more extensible with other types of games, and there is still a lot of refactoring work to do.

2018 Goals

So 2017 doesn’t sound too exciting.  I focused on showing off Battle High 2 A+ and learning TrueSync and chose to “pause” a game idea; however, I did a lot of other things too, but they are all small prototypes, difficult to organize in any meaningful way.  Battle High, Project Merfight, and TrueSync are probably the most important when it came to my independent game development.

Anyway, here are some goals I’d like to aim for (not necessarily hit) for 2018:

  • Develop my fighting game framework and create a prototype with TrueSync
  • Show off a new game, prototype, or Battle High at another show, maybe one not based in Pittsburgh
  • Submit a new game idea (not a finished game) to Xbox One for the ID@Xbox program
  • Better self-care — sleep & exercise more, eat healthier, etc. (really, these are life goals but a new year always reminds me that I should be doing them as I get older)
  • Better my visual art skills — shaders, Substance, animation, etc.
  • Write more posts and/or tutorials as well as try dev streams.
  • Submit a talk to a conference — and do it NOT on the last day for submissions

This isn’t the most exciting list, and I know I won’t hit all of these.  Every new year, however, reminds me to step back and really observe and update and pivot on what I’m focusing on.  Since one of my goals is to write more posts here, hopefully I’ll write about my progress soon!


Starting “Over” & 2017 Thus Far

So I decided to “start over” with my blog. Blogger or Blogspot or whatever was becoming irritating to use and felt dated. The biggest issue is that writing code samples like this —

public class MyClass
{
    void Awake()
    {
        Debug.Log("Hello wor-, I mean planet.");
    }
}

— was a real pain.
Anyway, since this is the first blog that’ll appear on the official Mattrified Games website, I decided to do a quick retrospective of 2017 thus far.

MAGFest & Battle High 2 A+

In January, I went to my first MAGFest.  I went to show off Battle High 2 A+ as part of their independent games areas.  It was a great learning and motivating — to a degree — experience.  It was fun seeing people play the game and enjoying it.  There was even a Battle High 2 A+ tournament, which was awesome as well!  I could have definitely done a few things better; for example, not having an attract screen was probably not the best idea.  Also, I was at the booth so much, that it was hard to enjoy the festival itself; fortunately, it was 24 hour, so it wasn’t like it was impossible, but fatigue did set in a bit.

I did start a mailing list for Battle High 2 A+ and took it to another smaller and local Retro Games Festival.  There was also another tournament at ReplayFX.  Like I said, however, showing the game off was only motivating to a degree.  As much as I love the Battle High series, I’ve been working on it for a long time.  I’m not going to stop working on it entirely, but at this time, I’m pursuing different games and ideas.  There is still at least one Battle High 2 A+ character I would like to release, and there is still plenty of time to release said character before 2018, but I’m not going to promise it at this time.

The Aquatic Tactics Fighter

One game I’ve been developing off and on for awhile is a merfolk-themed tactics fighting game.  After MAGFest, I took a break from Battle High to work on this idea.  I really enjoy developing fighting games, but I wanted to develop something with more emphasis on story and single-player interactions.  So, for a bit, I was working on this a game that combined elements of a tactics RPG with those of a fighting game.  The problem, however, was that frakensteining the two genres together made me come to a few revelations.  One, it’s WAY too monumental of a task for a solo developer such as myself to take on.  Though hard, I don’t believe solo development is impossible, but for this game, trying to combine two large genres into one solid idea was intimidating.  At the same time, I was discovering that there are parts of tactics games I just don’t enjoy trying to develop or at least don’t feel inspired by.  So, due to these two issues, I decided to pause the idea indefinitely.

A New and True Fighting Game

I think one of my biggest regrets with Battle High is that I never took the time to try and develop a online multiplayer solution.  I felt very conflicted about the idea, ultimately deciding that the amount of time it would take to implement would be too much.  I’d probably would have never released.  So around the time I began losing passion for the Tactics Fighter, I discovered TrueSync by Exit Games.  This rollback netcode solution was made for Unity and though it’s still in beta, it’s giving me rather promising results.

Now, I’ve yet to really develop anything solid with it, but I’m confident that I can get something sooner than the Tactics Fighter.  In fact, I even signed up to give a talk at Unite 2017.  I really feel that TrueSync does a great job democratizing one of the more challenging aspects of online multiplayer for action games in a clear, easy-to-understand approach.

Anyway, my year so far started with Battle High, continued with the Tactics Fighter, and will probably end with a TrueSync fighter.  I’m hoping to release an alpha of some kind before 2018, before the fall actually.  I also plan to write more blogs here in the future; again, I hadn’t been keeping up to date with it because writing code samples, managing images, headings, and more was just a pain.  Hopefully in this new format, keeping my game work in one official place will be more manageable — again, hopefully.