I’ve been a game developer for as long as I can remember. I’ve done hundreds of Flash games and about a dozen mobile games – three under the guise of Whiskeybarrel Studios this year alone.
I’ve been fortunate that after many years of working full time as a game developer, I’ve been able to take a bit of a break. Thanks to having a nest egg of savings and the occasional bit light contracting work, I’m now in the position that I can spend a bit of time doing dedicated indie game development. I’ve got about a 4 month window or so to get something done.
You have moments in your life where you realise, this is probably your last big attempt at getting a successful game out there – this is one of them. After this, I have to get serious and get back to ‘real work’, ‘app development’, ‘web development’, all those terms that make your eyes glaze over but pay the bills. The game development scene, from the +AAA company right down to the smallest solo indie developer, is ultra competitive. The bar keeps getting raised higher and higher and the big players keep taking more and more of the pie. This year, I’ve released a few small games to test the waters. The most successful, a physics puzzler called Captain Fishblock , has netted me a couple of hundred dollars. Pocket change. I can’t financially afford to do this for much longer, the real world will be calling me again sooner than I wished for.
I realised that the dream of being a financially successful indie game developer is just that, a dream. Most of us aren’t going to make it. I’m probably never going to make another Swords and Sandals hit game – something that actually gets a huge following – but I can do something maybe just as good – I can make a game that I would want to play. Nobody is standing in my way – no meddling boss nor demanding client. I have had a lot of interesting ideas pop up this year, at least 5 which I would love to build. There are budget constraints to all of them – a 3D basketball RPG is just way too big in scope. A multiplayer space exploration, giant robot fighting game requires way too much artwork. A anthill view castle building simulator where you control every aspect of the castle, from finances to plumbing. And so on.
So, the game I keep coming back to is this. It’s a game that’s been kicking around in my head. Everyone Gets Treasure: The Role Playing Gameshow
Basically, it’s party based tactical combat RPG , done as… a game show. Think “The Running Man meets Deal Or No Deal.”
A crazy wizard hosts a game show for adventurers to compete for fame and fabulous prizes. Heroes from all over the realm travel to his tower and are grouped into teams of five. Each episode, in front of a live studio audience, they will do battle against waves of ever more dangerous enemies as they climb the tower higher and higher. When only one remains standing , the game stops. As the audience cheers, the wizard and hero reappear on stage. This hero can either return to compete in the dungeon again with a new party, or go into the tower’s “Roster of villains” where they will appear in future episodes as bosses for the party to compete against.
Fade back in to a circular pillar with the 5 heroes standing on it ( top down view). The pillar rises up through a tower, past windows etc. You can use this time to rearrange the position of your heroes – this is an important tactic in the battle, because heroes in the front can attack, heroes in the middle and rear can only used ranged weapons, and so on.
The platform then comes to a standstill at a room with four gated doors. Depending on the level, there will be up to four stone walkways connecting to the pillar. Monsters will appear on the level out of one of the four doors. In early levels, they will only come from one direction (the north gate) but as the players get higher in the tower they will appear from the other gates.
The wizard will occasionally appear in a speechbubble to commentate on the fight’s progress. He might also decide to intervene in the game “Let’s throw some fireballs into the mix!” or “This is too easy, I think we need to get some giant slimes in there, what does the audience think?”
Some levels might even have water underneath the platforms , so we can have aquatic enemies that attack the players. A giant tentacled squid for example.
At some point during the battles, characters will die. They cannot be resurrected by any means. The party must go on without them, meaning battles continue to get tougher. If the group survives a level but has a few deaths, items once belonging to those heroes will appear in the group’s backpack inventory.
Once all heroes are dead, the game is technically over – however, on the killing blow for the last hero, the game will fade to white and that hero will reappear floating in the air, lights around him. The wizard will appear and announce something like “Barbarian is the last hero standing!”
The player is then given the option of reviving the barbarian ( for a gold cost depending on what level they reached ) – if they do so, that character then goes into a pool of heroes that may be used in future games.
Should the player not choose to revive the barbarian, the crowd will boo and the barbarian will become a BOSS MONSTER in future adventures. This character goes into the pool of monsters and will be randomly selected to appear in future games. Even if killed, they will keep returning. Eventually, the tower will be full of these villains who were once in your party.
The next time a game begins, any characters in your pool of heroes can be added to your group, making your group far more powerful. For a gold cost, the group can also start at a higher level ( but no higher than whatever tower level their most powerful character has reached. )
Should these ‘allstar’ characters die, they will still return to the pool of heroes but will not gain any power they may have earnt during this play through ( unless of course you choose to revive them again at the end of the game – you can alternatively send this new, more powerful hero into the dungeon as a villain to be faced off against.)
This morning I backed Distriqt’s fantastic Kickstarter that will allow me to have multiplayer gaming across Google Play and iOS. The idea is that you’ll be able to put your party of heroes against a friend’s party and see who’s the greatest. The power of multiplayer gaming is not to be underestimated – long after players are bored of the single player campaign, they will keep playing your game as long as they can compete against another person. And here’s the thing: No computer can ever match the unpredictability of a human opponent , in a tactics game that is really exciting.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is being planned for but will likely be a late phase addition as the Native Extension won’t be released until September. I’m excited about it.
One Last Roll Of The Dice (For Now)
This is it: One last real attempt at making a popular and financially successful game as an indie developer. I hope you’ll come with me on my journey, I’ll be updating the development diary as long as I can. There’ll be plenty of interesting tidbits and hopefully I can share with you the process of how I build a game along the way. I’m trying to build up support and awareness of the game, and that starts right here, at the very beginning. I have a trusted artist friend on board and a stack of music ready to plug into the game. I’m going to need a marketer ( if you’re interested in getting on board, get in touch with me and we can discuss it further ) to help me promote the game.
So, start spreading the word. Everyone Gets Treasure is coming, and EVERYONE’S GETTING TREASURE!!!!
Cheers, and happy journeys! Oliver Joyce