Slashware’s 2019 Rewind

And so, 2019 is over.

Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story… stay tuned for the 2020 plans, coming soon!

OpenArthurianX6 saw its second and third milestones completed although not nearly enough dev time was invested into it as planned, Expedition was worked hard through all year, both a first phase following the original design (inspired by Seven Cities of Gold but without a clear focus) and a second phase, Children of Bachue, a campaign (or stand-alone game?) using the theme of the Muisca people (Colombian native tribes).

I participated in 2 game jams (7DRL and js13k 2019), gave a talk at JSConf Colombia, was interviewed for a podcast, went to 2 events away from home (GDC 2019 at San Francisco, and Bucaramanga GameQuest). Learned a lot of Unity, C# and TypeScript.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of Expedition but also doing work for 4 different clients.

Also, since I’m now working full-time in Slashware, doing these posts gets a bit more complicated… I don’t know what level of detail to use! Some months this year I had a lot of people working in Expedition, for instance, and it gets hard to summarize the things that were done.

See also rewinds for 201420152016, 2017, and 2018.

January

I started 2019 working with Camilo Ramirez in a small fun project, a recreation of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch game. It went nowhere, but it was fun.

Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 8.44.31 AM

Afterward, 2019’s development of Expedition started (also with Camilo Ramirez), we added support to navigate the full world map into the game (a huge, boring, plain world), including the system to load batches of terrain on runtime. We also worked in the weather system, different approaches for storms, and the cutscenes for the James Cook campaign, hoping to have a playable thing instead of just an engine.

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 6.41.43 pmscreen shot 2019-01-14 at 6.44.52 pm

February

Work continued in Expedition, doing some experiment with clouds, as well as triggers inside the campaigns, further pushing the James Cook campaign, which ended up not being very exciting to play so we went back to think how to provide a fun experience there. We developed the hunger and morale systems a bit, as well as a simple interaction to supply the Expedition, looking forward to add some interesting elements to the mix.

w15-clouds

w15-rio

March

As usual every year, I participated in the 7DRL Challenge. In my entry, Heroes of Noresskia, I tried to generate “overworld” adventures with parties of adventurers following the track of a villain from town to town. It was not a very traditional roguelike, but I was rather trying to go after the intent of creating an automated dungeon master as the original motivation of the developers of Rogue. It’s also not very fun.

noreskia2

I went to GDC 2019 in San Francisco, talked with many people about Expedition and got very valuable feedback. Also, I organized the roguelike developers’ meeting, went to the parties (including POWx9) and explored a little bit of the bay area.

All along GDC and Afterwards, work in Expedition continued of course. We sought to improve the visual quality of the game, one of the main pieces of feedback we got. This also included doing additional experiments on forest rendering. I also briefly worked the idea of adding procedural storylines to the game.

exp-4

April

Some work was done in Age of Golf (an evolution of my Ludum Dare entry, Golf Over Africa), mostly in the visual department as well as adapting it to mobile controls. I planned to add some animations, however, that never happened and the project got stuck.

D4DwLcDWAAEREEp

Work in Open Arthurian briefly resumed, adding the initial support to define Doors and Keys opening these doors.

And of course, we continued working in Expedition, doing tweaks on scene lighting, camera position, camping, and fatigue systems, as well as doing some general changes in UI to increase its resolution. More info here and here.

ExpeditionZ 4_27_2019 4_36_04 PM

May

Visited Bucaramanga, Colombia, for the BGA GameQuest. It was fun and useful. Posted a complete report about it here.

D5mJdd2W0AcGxtF

Some smaller developments included Tweet of the day, a small module for my projects’ page to select a project randomly every day and present it in a tweet format, and fixing the web renderer for the Stygian Abyss level generator, to display tiles correctly.

Morgaelin, the Ultima 8 – like Java engine powered by libgdx, was also open-sourced. No developments happened on it throughout the year.

screen-shot-2013-08-23-at-7-26-30-am

For Expedition, work continued on improving visuals and UX, with more experiments for the display of forest as well as adding more detailed combat commands similar to a RTS.

Expedition0518-4

However, most of the efforts were centered on building an alpha for our submission to the CREA Digital government program, in the shape of the “Children of Bachué” campaign, themed in the Muisca culture and legends.

muisca1

Along with the dev work, there was a lot of documentation to do, mostly boring but useful including a simplified version of the Game Design Document. David Florez and Juan García joined the team as visual and sound artists respectively, in order to publish something convincingly good (it worked great). More info about the work in Expedition can be found here, here and here.

June

While waiting for the response from CREA Digital, we continued worked in Expedition. I did my first big actual code contributions with some work in procedural terrain. We also implemented battle music, worked a lot in combat and mouse movement. More info here and here.

expJun17-2

Another batch of work in OpenArthurian was made to get out of the way a big block of stuff, by adding support for saving and loading games.

July

Work in Expedition continued with more elaborate procedural generation, added support for discoveries, and moving combat to a separate scene. We also added the first version of the automap.  Posted some info about it here.

Dramatic MountainsIslandsDiscovery Journal

August

Finally, a BIG batch of work for OpenArthurianX6, adding many things including Line of Sight, packing as a native App, support for reading books, using inventory items, levers, multiple floors, solo mode, pathfinding, and a lot of foundational AI work. Milestones 2 and 3 were completed!

oaxm3

For Expedition, we worked in defining the scale for the overworld, as well as an implementation of field of view using camera vignette, and a first approach of adding rivers to the map.

screen1

Expedition0727c

Additional work was done in the procedural generation module to distort the scale of mountains to provide a more dramatic appearance.

proc1b

We also added a first version of the “hometown” screen (used to stock the expedition) and the “voyage mode” (representing the long transatlantic voyage, added pathfinding for combat, and did a lot of UI tweaks.

screen3

We also got the news that we were selected as winners for CREA Digital. So we started organizing work with the team and planning the three months-long project. Posted some more details about all this here.

September

Most of the Children of Bachue team started working this month; we did a lot of concept artwork, trying out some ideas for a new representation for the overworld, as well as the mood to project in the UI and its art style. There was a lot of debate and examining different references for both things.

Escena2

ESCENA2.10

We went beyond the concepts and created the first 3D art for the overworld. This didn’t work well at first due to performance issues with the number of trees we were trying to render, so we hard to circle around it and consider other ideas.

expeditionSS

We also conceptualized the Spanish characters.

spanishDudes

Likewise, we documented the references for audio and music, started working on them and did some initial casting for the voice-overs for the cutscenes.  We created the infrastructure for the voiceovers (which we changed afterward) and integrated the inventory model with the “units” model.

I also participated for the 3rd year in a row in the js13k jam, creating a simple monster hunter game called “Backpack monsters“. I almost didn’t participate due to lack of time, but I’m glad I was able to scrap some hours to work on it. It was great fun.

October

I gave a talk about Procedural Content Generation at JSConf Colombia. I also posted a summary about it here.

8

Continued work in Expedition / Children of Bachue: Given the performance issues that we hit with the forests, and also keeping in mind our production budget, we decided to aim for a more “comic” look for Expedition, similar to Northgard. As a result, we came up with a different way to represent forests.

Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 10.21.39 PM

This also impacted the unit design, we also felt this way it could work better for gameplay purposes (given the issues that games like AoE 3 had, with all units looking the same and being hard to distinguish in combat)

models

There was also a lot of work in UI integration, with a more finalized minimap design, and the windows of the game using the newly designed appearance.

mapConcept

We also worked in the landing flow, the first time user experience, the definitive appearance for the cutscenes, the style for the character portraits, and all along a lot of work in the music tracks and SFX. Some of the work we did was detailed here.

November

Was interviewed for Spazcosoft Podcast, talked about gamedev in general, roguelikes and Expedition.

This was the last month for the CREA Digital “boost” for Expedition, so we did the best we could, creating models for the different types of European towns, integrating the unit models and their animations into the game, illustrating as many cutscenes as we could.

image (11).png

I decided to make the maps in the history campaigns procedural as well, and created a procedural generator for highlands, and polished it to use different types of terrain textures.

image (10).png

I’m probably missing a lot of other things we did, but it was hectic!

December

While most of the team assembled for the CREA Digital project was disbanded here, work in Expedition continued beyond the initial deadline. I took a chance to integrate everything we had done, run tests with players, perform content fixes and additions.

image (12)

I also took some last-minute decisions, like discarding the low poly forests and replacing them with the trees we had made originally, but with a much more closed-up camera angle so having fewer trees to render at the same time.  Also did lots of tweaks in the procedural generator, and integrated the conversations for all the characters we had designed. This all happened before the CREA Digital deadline.

Afterward, with a more relaxed pace, I improved the minimap rendering the roads between towns.

I also posted about candle based procedural terrain generation, just for fun.

20191208_1938083878354620972754871.jpg

GDC 2018 – Parties

Here’s a summary of some GDC 2018 parties and events based on my experience, hope it’s useful for someone planning their next GDC journey!

For each one, I tried to categorize it under a type and rated how interesting it was FOR ME. I also marked the parties where I think you should still have a good time even if you go alone (this is important if you don’t have friends 😦 )

Kongregate Party

  • Type: Corporate, Academic
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes
20180319_160323
Networking like a pro. Also, free food yay!

After an initial networking time (lots of good food and drinks), there were three talks: one about the current status and plans for Kongregate (nice one), a pretty weird one about ideation in games which was fun, and another one (pretty good and practical) about taking the right amount of risks while developing a game.

20180319_180042

Pocket Gamer Party

  • Type: Club Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No
20180319_232242
Having lots of fun

This year, as far as I could see, it was a fairly standard club party. Drinks were a bit expensive. It’s loud so it’s hard to network except on the line to enter the club. Also since it’s on Monday it may be a bit out of place to get crazy when you are on GDC for business.

20180319_233113

IGDA Serious Games @ Google San Francisco

  • Type: Academic
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 2/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

20180320_154557

I’m not sure how I ended up in this one. It was interesting tho I didn’t do any networking since I just didn’t feel this was my target community. There was a talk about applying serious games to youth audiences and then a short ceremony to deliver community contribution awards. Still nice to check out Google San Francisco building with a great view of the Bay Bridge.

There was good food too.

20180320_164020

Github Party

  • Type: Game Showcase
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

20180320_191650

Some games (not many) put together in the awesome Github HQ at SF. The main conference area was occupied by a versus game where you competed in different obscure games for about 10 seconds. There was also a multiplayer coop game where you had to navigate in a ship-like thing with your friends, and another one you controlled with a telegraph-like device.

20180320_203610
Meeting Leaf Corcoran, one of the masterminds behind itch.io

The cafeteria was open for you to bring your laptop and display your game, I saw a couple interesting games there. This one was the one I liked the most for networking (with other developers) due to the nice ambient (great chiptunes!) and everybody being a geek there.

It was supposed to be a celebration of the Global Game Jam but I didn’t really see anything related to it.

20180320_211752

The Other Party (GameJolt Party)

  • Type: Game Showcase Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

20180320_213927

Lots of games put together in a club. Music was a bit loud but you could still interact with the game developers, play cool games and network. Pretty cool if you’d like to check and play some games.

20180320_222833

Roguelike Developers Meetup

  • Type: Networking
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 5/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

20180321_153541(0)

We met together and talked about our games and projects, around 20-25 people showed up which was nice. Planning to do something cooler for next year (hope I can gather enough people again!)

20180321_164959
The awesome developers of Caves of Qud

GDC XPerience Networking Mixer

  • Type: Networking
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

This one was a bit of a let-down, but maybe I was expecting too much. Basically, the entry fee (around 20 USD) gives you access to a hotel rooftop bar to chat with other developers. Met a couple interesting people there tho, but I think they hyped the event and failed to give it more spice.

Nice view of the city tho.

20180321_194441

that.party

  • Type: Game Showcase + Club Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

20180321_201650

One of the most popular “public” parties at GDC time. Some interesting indie games were being displayed too, and I met some roguelike developers too.

20180321_210704.jpg

Drinks were a bit expensive, but the electronic music was super cool. Gather some Friends and go if you like electronic music and video games!

20180321_221923

Zynga party

  • Type: Arcade party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

20180322_185046.jpg

Zynga opened their offices for people to go in, interact with their employees and get a glimpse of what it’s like to work with Zynga. Arcade machines, slot car racing, shuffleboards, three type of hamburgers, beer and drinks. Great to have a fun time with friends! They also provided shuttle service from and to the Moscone.

20180322_175926.jpg

5th Latin American Gathering at GDC

  • Type: Networking?
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

This one had the potential to be good but I think the venue choice was not very good for the event: it was too loud, too dark and the space reserved for the event was far too tight to fit that many people!

A real shame since I was really interested in meeting other devs from Latin America. I hope next year it’s better!

Marioke

  • Type: Karaoke Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

20180322_210443.jpg

Same venue as that.party (smaller space tho). Nerd people yelling popular karaoke songs with their lyrics changed to be related to games and gamedev. Nice time if you like karaoke and you bring your nerdy friends.

20180322_223105.jpg

I’m told some famous indie devs can be found around but since I don’t know any that didn’t appeal much to me. This year they also had Botnik displaying cool predictive text stuff including Pokedex entries, sentences that Cloud would say to Tifa on FF7 and more cool stuff.

20180322_210315
I created this one

It was also open tab so cheap/free drinks, yay!

Pow x 7 Bonus Round

  • Type: Chiptune Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

20180323_235153.jpg

This one had two ambients, one more chill with video game music and the other crazier with stronger chiptune music and people dancing around. Nice way to close GDC, just for fun!

California, March 2018

Took 903 pics on this last trip:

  • 264 at Computer History Museum
  • 104 at Fort Point
  • 46 at North San Francisco
  • 96 at GDC Day 1 (Kongregate and Pocket Gamer parties)
  • 90 at GDC Day 2 (IGDA Serious Games + Github party + GameJolt Party)
  • 85 at GDC Day 3 (GDC Expo + Roguelike meetup + That.Party)
  • 129 at GDC Day 4 (GDC Expo +  Zynga party + Marioke)
  • 52 at GDC Day 5 (GDC Expo + Downtown SF + Pow X 7 Bonus Round)
  • 37 at Stanford Area

There is a lot of cleaning up to be done!

20180322_170737

Slashware Battlestations

SZDev01 – White Knight

The original battlestation of the ancient era; it was abandoned after more than 10 years of service, its initial white appearance already dimmed into a yellowish hue.

  • Year: 1993
  • Build: Custom PC Clone
  • Processor: Intel 486
  • RAM: 8MB
  • Storage: 80MB
  • Type: Desktop
  • Pilots: Slash
  • Status: Lost
  • OS: DOS 6.1

SZDev02

Acquired by Slash with his initial earnings as a junior software developer, it was a huge upgrade compared to the 10 years old White Knight. It was used to developed the first batch of roguelikes in Java.

  • Year: 2003
  • Build: Custom PC Clone
  • Type: Desktop
  • Pilots: Slash
  • Status: Decomissioned
  • OS: Windows XP

SWBS01

The station used to establish the first Slashware fortress. Some more roguelikes and also Pixal saw a lot of development on this machine, it was already near its end of life when the marble halls were inaugurated.

  • Year: 2006
  • Build: Custom PC Clone
  • Type: Desktop
  • Pilots: Slash
  • Status: Decomissioned
  • OS: Windows XP, Ubuntu

SWBS02 – Greyhound

The oldest battlestation which remains still operational, it was originally used by slash while acting as knight of the orange circle, leading a development team on NetSac.  It came bundled with a nasty virus called Windows Vista, but its software was then cleansed for good. This was the main battlestation for Kram during the times of the slashwareknights.

  • Year: 2008
  • Build: HP
  • Type: Laptop
  • Pilots: Slash, Kram
  • Status: In reserve.
  • OS: Windows Vista, Ubuntu

SWBS03 – Necktie

The first hardware acquired for the failed plans for the expansion of the slashware fortress. It was used almost exclusively to develop business software including Quadrigan and BPX. Although no longer part of the Slashware fleet, it’s still active and keeps being piloted by Straust to these days.

  • Year: 2012
  • Build: Custom PC Clone
  • Type: Desktop
  • Pilots: Straust
  • Status: Sold
  • OS: Windows 7

SWBS04 – Fishing Rod

Also acquired for the first Slashware Fortress. Unlike the Necktie, it was acquired mainly to pursue the second objective: game development. It fulfilled its mission covering the required evolutionary steps of failed advergaming, educational and freemium games, leaving lessons by the end of the Slashware Fortress era.

  • Year: 2012
  • Build: Custom PC Clone
  • Type: Desktop
  • Pilots: Axel, Slash
  • Status: Damaged, active
  • OS: Windows 7

SWBS05 – Shiny Falchion

Acquired mainly to pursue the development of iOS games. It’s slash’s current battlestation.

  • Year: 2013
  • Build: Macbook Pro
  • Pilots: Slash
  • Status: Damaged on battle
  • OS: None

Ananias hits 50.000 installs on Google Play

It’s been a long time, but Ananias finally managed to hit the 50.000 installs mark on Google Play, last time we checked in 2014 we had 20.000 installs, back then I thought it would take three months for the game to reach the next milestone. Following are some insight on it’s journey to the 50.000.

stats1

It took 2 months for the game to jump from 10.000 to 20.000 installs, yet it took 22 more months to hit the 50.000 mark… of course, installs rate slowed down a whole lot but still is about 40 per day. No investment on advertising campaigns yet. The iOS versions isn’t out yet either.

stats5

Getting the rating up after its initial fall has been a great challenge. Even with all the work going into the game I have only managed to increase 0.18 on the average rating these two years (from 3.45 to 3.63). With 2075 ratings, it will be very hard to get it over 4.0

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-00-14-pm

There’s hope still… there have been months of overwhelmingly positive feedback which I hope can be repeated once the final version of the game is officially released. One thing I managed to do is having more than 2x 5 starts ratings than 1 stars, though still not a big margin.

stats3

Countries-wise, we are in a very similar position than in our previous milestone. United States and Russia keep in front with Brazil rising into the ranks and South Korea and Canada keeping on the list for 50% of Ananias installs.

stats2

One interesting metrics are the current installs by device, 4750 vs 3703 , actually 1.000 less installs in 22 months… which I don’t think it’s that bad since it’s natural for people to lose interest on the game, I think I’ve managed to keep the drop rate low.

stats4

Google Play has a new metric which only includes “active devices”; it shows that there are currently 2303 active installations. How many of these are active users? it’s hard to know since I no longer have metrics for that in place.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-9-11-30-pm

Lastly, we have the (paid) fellowship edition with 702 installs. We don’t have a means to compare since back then only the free edition was out.

In summary, here are the installs numbers so far on Google Play: 50.021 total, 3703 current, 2303 active, 702 paid

Goals? I still dream on having one million downloads some day.