It feels like too long since I posted here. Plus our amazing plan of releasing a game every 2/3 months seems to have ground to a halt for various reasons. Time for a quick update then…
So I (Andy) have had a bit of time off work recently. I’m between contracts so thought I’d look at a new game engine I’d heard about.
I was sifting through my YouTube feed for Blender3D tutorials and noticed a few videos called “Why I moved to GODOT” or similar. Usually this kind of thing is clickbait-ish of course but I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt because I’d just watched his decent tutorial on sculpting.
Godot looked pretty amazing and I was naturally skeptical at first. However it seemed like it was gaining popularity for 2D projects especially so I thought I’d give it a go. Anyway, to cut a longer story short I’ve been working with it for about a week when I’ve had chance. The output has been pretty good so far! If you follow me on Twitter then you may have already seen this:
So I’ve had this idea for a game for donkeys years. It’s morphed from 2D to 3D back to 2D. I had aspirations for making it an MMO, in my imagination the whole thing is played out like a Pixar movie!…But I’ve decided to be vaguely sensible about it and keep it 2D and single player and focus on the gameplay/story I wanted most of all.
Disclaimer: Who knows, I might stop developing it! Life is…flukey at the moment and with family/work I’ve no idea what will even happen tomorrow at this point. Things will hopefully stabilize soon…
So the plan is that the game features two halves. The first is the world travel/exploration via a rail network where you’ll be able to activate junctions to new areas via a remote control device of some kind. I hope to have train battles as well as being able to upgrade and even personalize your train.
The second half of the game is the ground combat/exploration which will be a side on version of mass effect 2/gears of war style combat. Duck/Cover/Shoot type mechanisms. I’ve only really had chance to work on this for 3/4 hours so far including more learning about Godot. So not too much to show there but I will share this super early picture of a Tribloo I was using to test with.
So things are moving at a nice steady pace at the moment. I’ve got at least another two weeks or so before I start another contract so I’m hoping things will continue to develop well for a while and I’m hoping to write an update next week with more news!
Back in 2014 we both had a moment where our time went inversely proportional for game development time. From having tons of time to work on games to very, very tiny amounts of time to work on games.
I chose to spend that time working on a different title. It took sooooo much longer than I anticipated. But it got finished and distributed. And very near the end of that we started talking about developing a new game!
It wasn’t Space Farmers 2.
What?! You said you would be-
Yes yes, we know we said we’d be working on Space Farmers 2 next. But we had a really, really good idea for another co-op game. We spent a few weeks playing around with physics engines and wheel collider code to try and make it work. And while we still love the idea for [SECRETGAMENAME] we haven’t got the time to mess around with unity physics right now.
We will return to this mystery project, probably in a few months just for fun if nothing else. It might even become *part* of Space Farmers 2. But for now you can be assured we’re back on the case!
So c’mon then. What’s going on?
If you’re an avid fan (and good grief, we love you guys) you’ll know we’ve been messing with prototypes of the game engine for some time. The problem is we’ve not gotten very far with any of them. We started in Unity, then looked at Unreal and are currently back at Unity (mainly because we’re so much more comfortable in C# as a language).
We’ve split our duties to spread the load.
Rich is working on gameplay! How will the character be controlled? What kind of control modes are there?
Andy is working on networking! How will the client/server architecture work? How do people connect to the game?
We’ve been having online dev sessions most Mondays for a while now and that’s working out quite well. We’ve both progressed well and it’s almost getting to the point where we put our work together to create a proper prototype project.
Tell us about the new prototype!
We’re still trying to work out how we want this to play out. This is the current plan:
– Single Lobby that anyone can join and see others
– Some form of example game mode for 2 people
– Some form of example game mode for > 2 people
And, well that’s it at the moment. We don’t want to plan too far ahead otherwise we can’t stay agile. But we wanted to have a starting place where anyone could just load up and start a game. The first release may be even more basic than that.
Why are you planning to start so small?!
Well we don’t really see it like that. But the idea is to start with the fundamental basics. Get some feedback on the initial version of the net code, movement, shooting, etc.. And then put out as many updates as we can each month.
What we don’t want to do is make everyone wait 2 years until we have something half baked. We may as well show you the batter first.
We also don’t have a planned date for any of the above just yet. But like I said above, progress has been good recently. We’ve got a lot of work to do but we very much hope it’ll be worth it!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It’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!
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.
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.
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.