And so, 2021 is over. Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story.
All in all, there was a lot of work in NovaMundi, now with a clearly defined theme, its Early Access release, and subsequent efforts to polish it and fill it with quality content for a full release, ultimately failing to perform it as motivation fell and project complications happened during the end of the year. OpenArthurianX6 also saw some important progress with three more milestones completed tho it is still not finished. Roguenet also saw further development and I even ran some events growing in attendance numbers using it. Rainy Day and FormulaProc were created and are likely to see future development.
I participated in 4 game jams (7DRL, js13k, Cultural Heritage, and ProcJam), had a lot of interviews mainly related to NovaMundi but no structured talks, and participated in just 2 virtual events (GDC21 and DevCom 2021). Switched from JS to Unity2D for a lot of my personal projects.
Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of NovaMundi and focusing on our main client (Zynga).
See also rewinds for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
After all the turmoil from 2020, I finally chose to focus on a single theme/scenario for NovaMundi: “The Spear of Chaquén”, which would be about joining the Muisca territories to foil the plans of European invasion.
Work was done in preparation for the Steam Game Festival Winter 2021 including procedural generation fun creating Andean valleys (which I don’t think I’ve seen in lots of strategy games), and also in the placement of the towns, as well as their appearance and its populators. The models for the units on the map also got a facelift.
NovaMundi’s first public release was in the shape of a free demo for the Steam Game Festival Winter 2021. This got us our first coverage from Nookrium which didn’t go very smooth but was useful, along with feedback from all around else, to plan for improvements.
The UI was remade, the onboarding was improved, and lots of facets of the game evolved including forest exploration, units leveling up, battle loot, and equipping blessings. Also included some critical roguelike-like elements, like finding huts scattered around giving gifts to the expedition (akin to items in the dungeon) and being able to hire units in other towns.
We also worked to improve the rendering of the rivers and their procedural generation, finally settling on a way to represent them re-using the “Ocean” plugin we were using for the sea before. In general, we also took a pass over the lighting of the game, doing a lot of tweaks that greatly improved its appearance.
Finally, worked in the less flashy but still needed Save/Load mechanics, something I thought was critical to have working perfectly for our planned Early Access release.
I completed Milestone 7 of OpenArthurianX6 after a streak of live-coding sessions and also participated for the seventeenth time in the 7DRL Challenge creating a great entry, Rainy Day, along with QuietGecko (and produced a couple improved versions afterward).
For NovaMundi, continuing preparation for the Early Access release, I worked along with PixelRiverPR in an effort to increase our reach and let more people know about it. It’s hard to measure this kind of effort but I believe it was well worth it, with the press release making a lot of places, and creating a good base of searchable content for the game. We also created new cover art and a trailer for the release.
Beyond the PR work, there was a lot of development, of course, improving the procedural generation for forests and adding a new biome (“páramos”, which I always struggle to translate into English, “high mountain tundra” comes close), a new type of location (caverns), and overall making the game “winnable”, and more accessible.
A first roguenet event was organized, featuring some of the games from the 7DRL challenge. Used this to test a bit how it would work with multiple people in, it worked fine.
NovaMundi was released to Steam Early Access, including an intro sequence and further UI improvements. We finished adding the páramo biome and game saving/loading and made important changes such as random chatter to make exploration feel less empty, balancing of numbers, procedural generation of lakes and wetlands, changed the appearance of the automap for it to look like a Muisca painting on stone, and improved combat so you could check the stats of your enemies and have your units start in a formation based on their stats.
Furthermore, the Spanish translation was released, also opening the possibilities for other future translations.
I attended the virtual Game Carnival 2021, which opted-in this year to use a streaming service which I think worked great. Looking forward to seeing how it evolved for 2022. I also won their Razer laptop giveaway 🙂
Development of NovaMundi continued with so much stuff that it’s hard to summarize, but it included rewards given by quest towns when they joined the alliance, consolidation of barter as the only mechanic to trade, using story points to hire people instead of “gold value”, small towns ravaged by war if you take too long to reach them, a new unit (crossbowman), the removal of time compression which was a huge deal, and many small actions of game balancing, phew!
In addition to all that, I created a roadmap for the project, and Jose Manuel joined the team as an advisor which would shape a lot of what we would do in the next months. We also created a new cover art of a Muisca expedition crossing a páramo, and there were a lot of interviews and local media coverage for NovaMundi.
More NovaMundi work with improved placement for vegetation and rocks, as well as in the rendering of forests and plains. A new unit was added as well (conquistador cavalry), and many optimizations were done.
The “compress time” command was added as a much-needed gameplay element, and there were even more interviews and media coverage.
I also overtook the hosting for Roguebasin, and updated it to the latest Mediawiki version to make it blazing fast and cool.
Manuel’s first batch of work on NovaMundi was finally integrated, replacing the names of the units and characters with the results of his research, and adding new dialogs including tooltips for words in the Muisca language. We also started improving the fauna displayed in the game to further match the one of the Muisca territories, adding the Andean Condor and Pumas.
Along with the pumas came the “wandering mobs” in general, so the overworld map feels less lonely and cool. UX improvements and optimizations continued, of course, and we also started a new batch of work in the Audio which was a bit neglected.
We had another playthrough by Nookrium which went slightly better but still didn’t manage to generate a lot of interest (indicating we are still missing something). And there was also an interview with Semana (one of Colombia’s biggest written magazines).
I also participated in the virtual GDC21, pitching a project as a new entry on the “NovaMundi series”. There was some interest in it from publishers but ultimately all the possibilities fizzled (not without leaving important lessons).
Roguenet revived as I organized two events using it (a celebration for the 7DRL Challenge 2021, and a roguelike fans party happening alongside GDC). With important usability improvements/experiments for the conversation mechanics.
For NovaMundi, August was July powered up, with more changes to adapt the content to historical research, a new slew of dialogs integrated, and even more fauna (spectacled bear, solitary eagle). Wandering parties of enemies were added replacing completely random battles, giving even more life to the world, and we started the revamp of the visuals of the units, which started looking weird in their low-poly appearance they’ve had from since about two years.
Two important interviews were made for Divulgark and Congreso y Sociedad; the first one grabbed the attention of Jorge Gamboa, Coordinator of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia – ICANH, who provided me with important insights that would further shape the theme of the game based on recent historical research on the way the Spanish and European culture spread on the Muisca territory.
I started the development of Distant Friends, my entry for the js13k.
While flying to Virginia to fetch a new computer for client projects, I finished the development of Distant Friends for the js13k; was pretty happy with the results: a fun little arcade game with bits of story here and there, I don’t make a lot of games like it.
Tried to take one week off to Disneyland but some client-work stuff happened. Both things helped NovaMundi’s development slow down, but I still managed to integrate the improvements on audio made by QuietGecko, as well as the new realistic models for units.
Devcom 2021 happened, we participated but frankly, there wasn’t a lot of action… maybe GDC’21 was just too close.
The last stretch of work done in NovaMundi for the year included integrating stuff from the rest of the team such as new fauna (King Vulture), new characters, hairstyle variations, updated European units, and audio for animals.
The biggest chunk of work, however, was implementing different quests for each one of the towns, as designed by Manuel, so that instead of just discovering the towns you had to do something for the cacique. This was long overdue.
I was invited to a panel on IndieXChange 2021, where I talked about all we’ve done in NovaMundi, and how to fund the development of a game from Colombia.
Milestones 8 and 9 of OpenArthurian were completed, including the “chunks” world model so you can now in theory create really huge maps and explore them seamlessly.
Roguelike celebration was organized again virtually this year, and was pretty fun with nice talks! I had a surgery so I’m glad I didn’t submit a talk this year which would have required a stronger involvement during the weekend.
However, I managed to organize a fourth 2021 event in roguenet, which included a good chunk of development including private chat areas, inventory, buying stuff, examining people, environment audio, and a first version of the roguelike museum.
Out of nowhere, I did some work in the ages-old Elite International Detective game, critical fixes and UX improvements based on some feedback I received.
Along with the same persons working in NovaMundi (plus a new person from whom you may see some work in 2022), I worked in the Cultural Heritage Game Jam producing Muyscamuy (plus a greatly improved version). It’s a single-screen strategy game/tycoon, themed around the Muisca culture. Pretty happy with the results as well.
Participated in Procjam for the first time with FormulaProc, a procedural formula-type racing show with ongoing development. The idea with this is to simulate races and have “fans” engage with the simulated tournament. Expect to see more development of this in 2022.
Development of NovaMundi resumed partially (not still in full strength), integrating some of the visuals that had been produced in previous months, and planning for the definitive release in 2022.