August 2013 blog archive

This page contains all the blog posts from august 2013. To read the most recent blog posts, click here.

25/08 - Card upgrading and customizing

Originally HDX was going to have a card upgrade system that would allow players to fully customize the bonus a card would get from upgrading. It's obvious that this could easily generate overpowered cards, so this idea was quickly abandoned. The next best thing was to give each card a set of upgrade choices, from which you could choose one option every time the card was upgraded. As these cards still need to be balanced for every possible combination of upgrade choices, it became clear that this wasn't a good solution either.
If a card had 10 choices of things that could change when that card was upgraded, upgrading that card one time, to level 2, could produce up to 10 different cards. Upgrading that card on more time to level 3, can produce up to 45 different cards with two upgrades, and at level 4, up to 120 different cards can exist with 3 upgrades.
So (assuming my math is correct here), from a single card, across all 4 upgrade levels (including the original version), 1 + 10 + 45 + 120, or 176 cards could be created. Obviously there are going to be a fair number of upgrade choices that don't need a balance check. But with 170+ varations for 500 different cards, it's clear that trying to balance all of this is an insane task.
HDX ended up with an upgrade system where each card has a fixed upgrade path. Every card can be upgraded 3 times, so there are 4 versions of each card. The upgrades were such that they didn't impact balance of the card too much, which meant that most upgrades weren't terribly exciting either.

I want to add card customization options in HD3 as well, but i'm not looking forward to creating a system that's impossible to balance. The upgrade options could be kept relatively low-power (such as passive abilities that provide +1 shield or +1 resist to a specific race), but this also means most options have little impact on gameplay and as such might not be interesting enough to bother with.
Since there are going to be more options to choose from, there will be more possible variations of cards that can be made and as such more cards players will want to have in their stock. A big problem with HDX and its approx 2000 different cards, is trying to browse through so many cards when making decks. On top of that you want to be able to reverse upgrades applied to cards if you want to try another set of upgrade choices. So to address this, i could make card upgrades part of the deck, instead of tied to the card itself.
An example : lets assume you have 4 vectors and 2 decks which both have all 4 copies. One deck might be defensive so these vectors received defensive boosts, the other deck focusses on damage dealing, so the vectors in that deck have received offensive boosts when you upgraded them. The upgrade choices you make for a single card are stored as part of the deck. So a single card can have a different set of upgrades, based on which deck you use it in. The advantage is that you have more control over what you want to do with a card - you don't need 8 vectors, so your card stock isn't cluttered with too many different varations of a single card (only the default versions of Vector, without upgrades would show in the card list). On the other hand, not all players might be interested in picking a new set of upgrades for all cards in every new deck they make, especially when those upgrades are low-power.

Next to card upgrades, i came up with another way to influence the stats of cards in HD3 : skills. These influence a large group of cards at once, for instance all fighter-class ships of a certain race. If you make a deck with a certain tactic, chances are that a number of cards will be receiving similar upgrades. Instead of having to individually upgrade all these cards, one skill could boost all of them. Imagine that you created a deck where all ships received +1 resist to CA as one of there upgrades, since you know you'll be fighting CA opponents. If you face different races as opponents, you'd have to change the +1 resist on all your ships, one by one, from CA to another race. With skills, it would be a matter of switching out a single skill.

Right now i'm considering only using one of these two features. While the combination of both has the potential to create 1000s of different variations for each card, it will cause balance problems. I'm leaning towards only using skills for HD3 as they don't directly change cards themselves and nicely move upgrades or bonus stats to a seperate kind of item, not messing with deck building, card management and so on, keeping things easy to manage. Skills also remove the potentially cumbersome work of upgrading all cards everytime you create a new deck. Skills are going to be constructed in such a manner that they can be combined with each other and then tied to a deck. Instead of having 40 cards with 4 upgrade choices for a deck, one would have to choose somewhere between 8 and 12 pre-constructed skill combinations (this means there's some form of crafting system that lets players create these combos).

I still believe that customization can be fun and can add extra tactical depth to Hidden Dimensions. If i compare HD3 and HD SQ, the latter is much better suited to a detailed upgrade system, since cards there have a much higher stat resolution than HD3. Combat in HD SQ is not as tactical and doesn't require in-depth deck building (HD SQ doesn't really have a deck concept to begin with). Individual shipcards in HD SQ act more like RPG characters with a wide number of stats that can be boosted. On the other hand, a skill-based system seems a better fit for HD3, where tactics are more numerous and more important.

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18/08 - TechnoSpire 2 release

TechnoSpire 2 (TS2) has been released for Android, as standalone and as flash game last friday. The flash version is only available on the NULLL site for now, but from next weekend onwards, i'll start uploading it to various flash game portals.
The java part of the release (i.e. the Android and standalone versions) is basically part 2 of the big TS2 test. This is not so much about getting regular bug reports, but rather to see if there are any extra issues related to compatibility with the various Android versions and the 3 major desktop operating systems, as well as performance in general.
Download locations for all versions have been compiled on this page.

During the past week i've continued work on the preparations of both HD SQ and HD3, working out possible mechanics for these games as well as doing a few sketches for screen layouts. I'm taking my time with this - after all, these are relatively large games with a few new (and complex) features i want to experiment with.
It's too soon to say which of these 2 game ideas i'll actually start coding for first and when i'll start or even when it might be released. Over the coming weeks i'll talk about some of the planned features for these games in this blog.

11/08 - HD3 and HD SQ

The preparations for the release of Technospire II are pretty much complete, so i have already been working on the preparation of HD SQ. This means i've been making a list of all the mechanics in the game and worked out some details about them. The next step would be to make sketches of all the different screens in the game to get an idea of the kind of imagery and UI-related mechanics the game will require. Then, i'll do the same for HD3. And when both games have this detailed overview ready, i can decide which game i'll make next.

Choosing between HD3 and HD SQ won't be easy. Both games will take a fair bit of work, so whichever game is not made first might not get started on for quite a while. There is some overlap between the games as they'll have some mechanics (mostly related to events and database interaction) that'll roughly work in the same manner for both games.

HD SQ is a spin-off of the 'traditional' HD series. It focusses on building a small fleet of ship cards instead of building a deck. The combat mechanic will be very different from a traditional HD game. Most, and probably all ship cards from HDX will appear in this game, but all their abilities will need to be adjusted to work with the different combat system. This will take some work. I have some ideas for events, indirect pvp and indirect co-op, which are all relatively complex as well and will need a fair bit of testing. Next to ship cards, there will be other items that need to be created and balanced. Beyond that, the actual combat mechanics and AI are relatively simple.

HD3 will probably take more time to complete than HD SQ. Even though the content mostly exists already (most cards from HDX will remain unchanged) and some of the core mechanics already exist in HDX, there's plenty of new stuff. The same ideas regarding events, pvp and co-op will work for HD3 as well, but as this game is more complex than HD SQ, so will the mechanics to make all this stuff work. New abilities will be added, as well as new gameplay modes. The AI will need a lot of work as the one from HDX probably isn't good enough. I haven't decided what form any card customization and/or upgrading will take, this is something i'll have to figure out in the coming weeks.

Neither game has direct pvp in its initial set of features. The pvp setup from HDX can't be ported to Java, so i'll need to find something that can work on both Flash and Java and across Mac, Windows, Linux and Android. If i find a suitable service that's affordable, it also needs to be tested. All of this can take a lot of time, so it's probably better to not include direct pvp with the initial release. If there's enough players and demand for a direct pvp system, it can always be added in later.

Next week will see the release of Technospire II, in the meanwhile, i'll continue working out features for both HD games.

04/08 - TS2 and UL2

I'm currently preparing both Technospire 2 and the Ultranought follow-up for release. This process is a bit more complex than before as there are basically 3 versions of each game : a Flash version, the standalone Java version and the Android version.

Looking back, both games served well as test projects to get to know Java, LibGDX and Android. They won't be as polished as some of my other games and there's still room for performance optimizations in some locations, but i still intend to release both games. Releasing is also part of the test, as is getting an idea of how the games perform on other Android devices (and Linux and Mac for the standalone version) through player feedback.
Technospire 2 is still planned for a release in August, while the Ultranought follow-up is planned for later this year.

It's a bit too soon to start thinking about what game i'll work on next, but a while ago i did mention there were 4 games i wanted to work on short-term, of which the Ultranought follow-up was one. That leaves 3 games : HD SQ, HD3 and an ARPG. In all 3 cases, plenty of prep work needs to be done before i can start coding, which is a good thing as it would allow me to take it easy for a bit and perhaps even take a short break.