Tribloos 3 is currently being checked out in intimate detail by Big Fish at the moment. I’m working on a new project as well as adding some final touches and prepping for marketing. So I thought I would take this time to share some of my personal thoughts on why I like writing Tribloos games.

I’ve spent about 3 years on Tribloos 3. That might seem like a lot, but in actual terms it’s probably only been about 4 months full time work for me. Someone asked me, about half way through development, why hadn’t I just re-skinned and expanded the Tribloos 2 engine. Why had I started almost from scratch again? It’s a good question, I think. I’m biased of course, but I thought perhaps others might want to know why too. So here it is, why I like writing Tribloos Games.

It’s 2014 and…

Space Farmers had been out for 4 months. We’d been working on it in the meantime, adding new levels and gadgets and other fun stuff. But despite various cool things happening (such as it being played by PewDiePie) it hadn’t performed financially as well as we would have liked. That’s quite depressing really, can you imagine what it’s like to have you game featured in a video that has had over 2 million views and your distributor reports back that it’s resulted in a grand total of…30 extra copies?

Yes that’s right, YouTube marketing officially doesn’t work, you heard it here. Okay that’s a big bold statement which begs to be explored. So more on that another time I think.

However we were a little dispondent about creating another game. I decided to take a step back and start work on a new Tribloos title. It’ll only take 6 months, I convinced myself.

But this time I want animations!

I’m torn about this statement. On one hand I’m pretty pleased with the animatics that are in Tribloos 3. I think they look awesome and add some depth to the world and the story. On the other hand they took absolutely forever to make.

Super early screengrab from one of the in-game animatics

It’s no surprise really but I’d made up my mind to focus on making my near-perfect Tribloos game.

That meant I couldn’t simply recycle all the old code from the second game. I had to attack the weak areas of that and build on the good bits. The good bits were, for me and many fans of the series, the characters and the “gotta get gold time!” gameplay. I decided I wanted to add some more intelligence to the workers. This in turn would lead to more possibilities in the engine and what you could do in the game.

I quickly sat down and started writing out a plot for the game based on an idea I’d had at the end of developing number 2. The gist being that one of the Tribloos gets “Tribb-napped” (oh how I lolled) and you have to rescue them. This led to a whole host of new area ideas as the remaining Tribloos could split up and go after them.

They could split up!?

That meant there were going to be sections of the game where you could legitimately play various areas at the same time. So after completing the first area you’d be let loose on areas 2, 3 and 4. After completing all of those you could attempt 5, 6, 7 and 8! 9 And 10 would be in order but I was still pretty pleased with this idea. And it’s stuck until the end.

The challenge here has been to implement a “what happens now” function at the end of each area. If you’re playing the game from start to end then it should be smart enough to pick the next area for you.

That’s something I’ve only had to worry about recently now I’m in the end stages of development. I always enjoy doing the story based stuff when writing tribloos games! Not that I didn’t enjoy adding the 30+ functional buildings to the game.

How much did you say?

Ah ok, here are some statistics for you:

Tribloos 2 had:
20 Building Types
9 Obstacle Types
80 Campaign Levels
5 Environments

Tribloos 3 has:
35 Building Types
24 Obstacle Types
100 Campaign Levels
10 Environments

Now because there are more environments there are fewer levels per environment than before. This has been an advantage because I’ve been able to keep them more interesting progression wise than the previous game. But as you can see this new game is absolutely packed to the brim of new buildings and obstacles.

So, why do you keep writing Tribloos Games?

It’s 3 years well spent. I’ve been full time contracting, moved house, met many new friends, lost old friends and brought a new baby girl into the world. It’s been a roller coaster ride and the Tribbs have been right there with me.

When I first started submitting games to BigFishGames back in the late 2000’s I had some really great feedback from the guys there. I submitted a couple of games. One was a tetris like block building game. The other was a sokoban clone – although I maintain to this day I’d never seen Sokoban before writing it!

The Tribloos are a special bunch for me. It was my first game series to sell several thousand copies, sure, but the big thing was this: People really seemed to like it. I got even better feedback on the second game. The bigger question is why did I stop?

Uhm, so why did you stop?

I attempted to push The Tribloos 2 onto mobile users a few years ago (2013) and it flopped. F2P had just started to strangle the mobile market and I, like many other game devs of that time, fell foul of it. We had no interest in fleecing people for in game items that could be used only once or for cheats to make levels easier. And so our games fell by the wayside…

However I always knew I wanted to make another Tribloos game. I think this one will do pretty well, it’s definitely by far the best game in the series so far. I don’t plan to stop here either. As long as people enjoy them I’ll continue to write Tribloos Games til the end of my development days!

The Tribloos 3 Development Diary
Hey everyone – happy new year!

Christmas has come and gone, and with it our first chance to report that the first Release Candidate has been sent to BigFishGames for review.

This is very exciting for me. It means it’s one huge step closer to being let loose into the big wide world. My current estimate for a release date is around March/April this year.

So what’s next in the meantime? A number of fun things!

  • Marketing – I definitely need to start talking more about it in the big wide open world.
  • Mac Version – Nearly every week for the last year I’ve thought “I should turn my Mac on and see if it still builds…” Fingers crossed!
  • Steam – Store setup, API work and looking into cloud saves (something I’ve not yet bothered with but think it makes sense!)
  • Videos and Trailer – Gosh I really should have done this a long time ago. Oh well
  • New Project – I can really start to focus on the next title that Rich and I will be working closely together on!

So I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead. But here are a couple of new screenshots I took late last year of the game in action. Stay tuned for a video coming soon!

So what’s been happening in Space Farmers 2 development? Both nothing at all, and an awful lot at the same time.

Confused? I certainly have been. Allow me to explain.

Steve and Thomas looking slightly green

After initial development with Unity, which we used to develop SF1, we decided that we were going to try out Unreal Engine instead – and we’re sticking with it.

Why change?

Firstly this is nothing against Unity – which has had a hard time of it lately with people blaming the engine for the amount of dross on Steam. We love Unity and without it we wouldn’t have created some of the games we have.

However, as we’ve written before, the hardest part of SF1 development was the networking code and as Unreal is built for multiplayer the benefits soon became clear. Just testing networking in Unity meant you had to create a build, run the game (twice), join the games together and find your code doesn’t work. In unreal you pick a number of players – hit play – and the games start.

So for the past few months I’ve been working though tutorials and working out how we’re going to do what we want to do in Space Farmers 2 using Unreal. It’s been an experience – but not entirely unpleasant.

The Tribloos 3 Development DiaryIt’s time for one of my last Tribloos 3 – Development Diary Updates for The Tribloos 3 – that’s because it’s in final (bumpkin based) testing!

What’s happened since the last update?

We’ve been through a couple of very small alpha testing phases and have identified a whole bunch of issues! Then I spent almost 2 months finishing off the OST and the sound effects. Gosh that was quite a bit of work…

But it’s sorted now – with one exception. I’m hoping I can do something special for the ending song but more on that another time.

I’m aiming to have nearly everything in place to send over the BFG before the end of next month. This is still waaaaay longer than I’d hoped. But I think the important thing is that I get this finished and out into the world in a decent state that I can be proud of.

So what exactly is left?

I’m doing a pass of the game myself now. Basically mopping up any last things I’m not happy with or feel could do with some improvement. There are a couple of special elements I feel need to be made slightly more fun and some particle effects that need tidying up.

Once I’ve completed my latest to-do list I’ll be passing it to the existing, and hopefully new, Beta testers!

Then I can get a trailer put together or two. I was thinking of doing a story one and a gameplay one. After that it’s time to send it to BFG and other interested distributors. Then I can sit back and rel-oh I mean get straight to work on Space Farmers 2, yessir Mr Rich sir!

Time for some new screenshots?

Absolutely, here they are. Four brand new screenshots of featuring some of the GUI, conversation and new elements in the game. Let me know what you think and catch you next time!

Spacey Farmers! The farmers in SPACE!

Yep, it’s time for a small but significant Space Farmers update.

With Tribloos 3 literally in the end stages of development (sorry it’s taken so long, but I hope you’ll all try it!) I can say that Space Farmers 2 development has, well, kind of started again.

We spent some time the other evening reviewing the tech demos that Rich has put together. Some of them are awesome fun! We’ve also been looking at some interesting Untiy assets and libraries we could potentially use to add some absolutely crazy nonsense into the game.

I think I can safely say we’re excited and terrified at the prospect of jumping into the deep end of SF2 development again. And I think anyone who’s looked at the Steam support forum can guess why.

Single word: Networking (is annoying)

So to give ourselves a break we’ve decided to make the game to use Photon PUN as a 100% solution. Rather than having it as a 3rd fallback option. This could end up being costly for us if things don’t work out. But getting people connected took up more than 50% of both our development and support time with Space Farmers 1. We just can’t drag ourselves through that again.

If you’re so inclined you can check out Photon PUN over here. We used Photon in the last game as, like I said, a 3rd fallback option. It was for if we couldn’t get the two methods of P2P connection working. It was also used for Lobbies.

In a way I always had a (ironic) chuckle* when someone would email us saying the servers are down. Because there were no servers in SF1. Aside from Photon which, as far as we could tell, worked 99.9% of the time.

The PUN system is built for Unity and makes use of the Photon Cloud network. It’s always felt pretty speedy and based on the traffic we had for SF1 we should be able to keep the costs down enough to keep the game running long term.

So this is why we’re choosing it as the new way forward.

Great, I think, so what’s next?

Once T3 is out of the door (at least for acceptance testint) we’ll be announcing more of a roadmap for where we’re going with the game. Along with a plan for regular updates for anyone who’s interested. We’ve got a ton of plans and thoughts but we also want to make this game for you as well as ourselves.

Okay, stay tuned as always. There’s going to be a bit of focus on T3 as we move into final testing/release so bare with us and we’ll have more SF news for you soon.

* THIS IS A LIE. I ALWAYS CRIED

Well goodness me. It’s been quite the adventure. Almost 3 years in the making (again I’ll talk about why in the postmortem) and many speed bumps in the road. I feel like I’m on the final stretch at last.
The Tribloos 3 Development Diary
I’m very pleased with the final result (generally) and I can’t wait to share it with the world. But first I have a few final tasks to take care of. Firstly here’s where we’ve gotten to this last 2 weeks:

– Further testing and bug fixing
– Sound Effects
– Scene transitions
– Conversation tweaks and changes (characters actually show some emotions!)

So I’ve been quite busy!

Previously it’s been awful for me to list out my remaining tasks. But now it’s not so bad. Check this out:

– Mac version setup (partially done)
– Testing and bug fixing
– Music for 5 areas, ending cut-scene and main menu (this is literally the only tough job left)
– Remaining sound effects
– Tutorial (I think this is my least favourite part of developing casual games)
– Final cut-scene construction (although all GFX are in and ready)
– Even more Testing
– Talking with portals/setting up distribution areas for the game
– Far more testing

So like I said the biggest job is the music. This is a bit of a problem because my work laptop which I use for development 4/7 days a week doesn’t have my compositional stuff on it. It’s a group policy thing which stops me installing it on here annoyingly.

I feel as if I need to lock myself in my home office for a week to get that part done. A tune a day shouldn’t be too impossible…urp.

There are a few other tasks that I need to look at but nothing which isn’t fairly straight-forward. I’ll try to cover as much as possible in the next couple of blog entries.

I still don’t haev

The Tribloos 3 Development Diary

Oops, well I missed last week’s entry because of being super ill for a few days. I’m back now and ready to share some of the development fun I’ve been having with The Tribloos 3.

There were many new features I wanted in the new instalment of the series. One of these was a return to more detailed “inbetween” story segments. I liked the comic book style of Tribloos 2 but it felt very flat and disconnected. While aware that this wouldn’t be a short job I still wasn’t prepared for the gargantuan task I was taking on.
Continue reading “Tribloos 3 – Development Diary Part 4”

Blitzmax has been my development tool of choice for over 10 years now. But I’m about to move permanently…
andysopinion
Back in 2005 a very exciting thing was happening in my world.

I’d been using Blitz3D to mess with 3D game development for the last 2/3 years. It had even helped me get my first programming job. I’d finished a couple of basic games in it and was pretty well versed in it’s eccentricities.

However the creator of this famous development tool had announced something very special: A new version of the Blitz tools: BlitzMax!
Continue reading “Moving away from BlitzMax”