Hardcore scenarios
Wednesday, 01 February 2017

Usually in our games, each time you start a new world they have the same basic setup. In Depths of Peril, you start in a town with several other covenants vying for control of the Barbarians. In Din's Curse, you start in a town that sits on a dangerous dungeon or cave and you must protect the town. In Drox Operative, you start in a sector of space populated with several races and must quell the sector using any of 5 win conditions. In Zombasite, you start in a town with your own clan, and must survive the Zombasite and can win with 4 different win conditions.

In our next game, the basic setup will be different each time. Basically each new world will be a different adventure. Right now the things that can change are the basic layout of the world, if there are any clans around, starting conditions, different win conditions, and different lose conditions. I'm trying to make these each feel and play very different from each other.

Right now there 16 different scenarios in the game, here's some examples:

Normal: You start in a town, there are several above and below ground areas, and there are clans in the region that may or may not work with you. Other than not having your own clan this is similar to Zombasite.

Survival: You are locked into 1 small area, there a ton of monsters that respawn fast, and there is an active invasion. Your goal is to survive!

Unstable: You start in a cave that is collapsing one level at a time. Once a level starts collapsing, it isn't certain death, but boulders constantly falling on your head is bad. You win if you can get to the last level without dying.

Deathmatch: You start in a small area with a number of other NPCs in a fight to the death. There aren't any other monsters, but there are lots of traps. You can try to make treaties, but they will have to end sooner or later because only one can survive.

Gladiator: You start in a very small arena. You are trying to survive while wave after wave or enemies are thrown at you. Each wave is harder than the last.

So, at least from a setup perspective, this is the direction the next game is going in. What do you guys think? Do you have any cool setup ideas that you think we should add?

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Next after Zombasite
Thursday, 27 October 2016
For the first time ever, I think we are going to work on 2 projects at once. It's not like we are going to have 2 teams or anything. I just think these 2 projects will overlap enough that we can do both at the same time fairly efficiently.

While Zombasite isn't doing as well as I would like (hopefully launching on GOG will change that some), I think it deserves an expansion. So that's one of the 2 projects we will be working on. I'm not positive what the focus of this expansion will be, but some possibilities are more classes, lots more quests, more monsters, etc. The nice side benefit of working on an expansion is that it allows me to actively work on Zombasite, so that will mean fixes, balancing, and probably even some new features here and there will sneak into the base game. If you all have things you would like to see in an expansion, please speak up!

The other project is going to be a separate game that is focused around the ideas of hardcore characters with random skills and traits, the next generation of character is evolved from his/her parents, and each world has a random setup and win conditions. The general idea is each individual character life will be fairly quick, but some amount of the character's power growth will pass on to the next generation. Also which characters you evolve from will greatly control what mix of skills the new character has. Ever want a character that could stealth, use healing spells, and shoot arrows? You should be able to do that, but it will take some time improving and evolving from the right characters. I know this is relatively vague still, but if you have any ideas or games that you would like me to look at, again please speak up!

None of this is set in stone and it is possible that I drop one or both of the projects or go in a different direction, but this is what I'm planning at the moment.

So what are your thoughts?

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Steam reviews change
Thursday, 15 September 2016

If you aren't in the loop, Steam basically added more ways to filter reviews and the default filter (and the resulting score) only take into account reviews by people that bought the game directly through Steam. External keys are left out (they are still there, they are just not included in the default settings).

Lots of people have been talking about this. You can see lots of developer reaction on RPS and on Gamasutra. You can also see some of the games that were most affected by this change here.

Here's how this is likely to affect Soldak from a developer standpoint:

The good: Hopefully developers won't be able to cheat their review scores any more by providing free keys to people (or just fake accounts) to write up fake positive reviews. You can see in that third link above that this has been happening. Hopefully this also stops the practice of people asking developers for free keys to write up a good review on Steam. We get a ton of these every time we release a new game on Steam. Frankly it's pretty unethical so we've never done this and it's time wasted going through all of this email.

The bad: Developers like us still try to sell as many units as we can directly to our gamers. We've always given Steam keys to our directly purchasers on request. In the past, sometimes this happens because we release the game directly before we get on Steam and sometimes these are people that just want to give us more support by buying directly from us. Either way these tend to be some of our more vocal fans and now their reviews will not be in the default filter and score.

The unknown: We will lose Steam reviews from our games sold through other means but end up with a Steam key. For us that means some bundles Depths of Peril has been in and a few portals that provide Steam keys that our various games have been on. I'm really not sure this will change anything for us. For developers that rely on things like Kickstarter this might be big deal.

From a customer standpoint (I do buy games, sometimes on Steam and sometimes not. I don't write reviews though):

The good: Now by default I only see reviews by accounts that actually bought the game on Steam. That should mean much more of the reviews are actually by real people and not fake crap. This should be nice. I can also always change the filter to look at all of the reviews if I want to.

The bad: For me personally from a customer standpoint, I'm not sure there is anything bad, but again I don't write reviews.

So having said all that I looked at Depths of Peril, Din's Curse, Drox Operative, and Zombasite on Steam to see how it has actually affected us so far by changing the filters and seeing what changes. With the new stuff Depths of Peril's score actually goes up 1% and loses 2 reviews, Din's Curse loses 1 review, Drox Operative loses 4 reviews, and Zombasite loses 4 reviews. So overall we lost a few reviews and DoP score actually went up a little.

So what are your thoughts?

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Zombasite traits
Thursday, 08 January 2015
We have recently enhanced the skills system in our upcoming game Zombasite with traits. Traits are passive skills that are meant to significantly change how you play and/or build your character.

There are 20 traits spread evenly across all 5 attributes (strength, dexterity, vitality, spirit, and intelligence) and are unlocked when you meet the attribute requirement (50, 100, 150, or 200 points). Only points allocated by you count for this requirement (i.e. a ring of strength doesn't help you unlock a strength related trait). All 20 of these traits are available to every class.

Traits can significantly change your character. This is because they have major positives, but also because they all have negatives. You will need to take into account the positives and negatives and make a difficult choice to take the skill or not. Since you still need to use a few skill points to get the skill, getting the skill is not automatic when you meet the attribute requirement.

I have a feeling that many people will design builds around the traits they plan on eventually getting. I hope it will even encourage some people to put points into some attributes that aren't typical for that class, like intelligence for a warrior.

To make all of this a little less vague, here are some examples:

Pierce - All projectiles pierce their victim and continue to possibly hit more enemies. Each projectile does 15% less damage though.

Vanguard - Adds your defense to all nearby allies, but your defense is decreased by 20%.

Pain Delay - All incoming damage converted to damage over time, however you take 25% more damage.

Blood Magic - Skills use health as your power source.

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Zombasite skills
Friday, 12 December 2014
I'm usually worried about cannibalizing sales of our previous games so I try to keep some of the bigger things unique per game. I'm thinking of making an exception for classes & skills this time around. I think I'm going to keep the classes and skills in Din's Curse for Zombasite, at least as a starting point.

The hybrid stuff worked really well in DC and I think it will work even better with the trait stuff I've been working on (probably my next blog). We will of course change some of the skills to better suit a zombie game and rebalance everything.

For a change, I'm blogging about this before I make very many changes so it's a great time to get feedback from you guys. For those that have played DC, what skills do you think we should keep, which should we lose, and which should we change?

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