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.

Hey, how have you found games this year? If you hadn’t guessed I’m gonna get just a little philosophical about them. That’s, uh, why I’ve called it “Philosophy of Game Design in 2017”. Also I’m going to get a bit grumpy, I don’t mind showing that side of myself. I’m rarely grumpy IRL (honest, just ask Rich!) But the subject of some game’s design properly gets me down sometimes. First let’s rewind a bit.

I hate Candy Crush.

Oh we’re starting grumpy are we?

Yeah so I hate Candy Crush, but not because it’s a match 3 game. I like Match 3 games (Zoo keeper ftw) and I can appreciate CC’s slick casual design. But the technical genius, and it is an evil genius, behind it’s “1 less go than you need” algorithms irks me. It really pushes people into buying additional turns or special items. Incidentally the revenue that game still generates is just frightening.

Ok so that’s hardly talking about Philosophy of Game Design in 2017, it’s getting on a bit these days.

Alternatively I have a vague hatred of games like Criminal Case. Again not of the genre but of the monetization design these titles often employ. Paying to speed things up appeals against the other negative human trait; impatience. I have an allergic reaction to games telling me I have to artificially wait while a progress bar fills up over the course of a day. Or that I don’t have enough “energy” to continue.

That’s a trait used in other casual games – I tried one seriously this year based on the ever popular Final Fantasy series. The best part of this one in particular was the “community” events, but aside from that I would have rather had paid once and then all rewards would have been effort based rather than time or money based.

Effort vs Time/Money for rewards

And that’s where my problem lies and the reason I’m cross about the state of the games industry and what it’s doing to my beloved genres. Nothing is safe! RPGs, building games, platformers – they’re all fair game.

My son has loved the Plants Vs Zombies games since he was old enough to steal my iPad away from me. While he loves PvZ2, he very much dislikes the adverts. He would much rather continue to play tricky levels for rewards rather than sit through another Gardenscapes advert to get to them. He often asks me about buying “premium” plants in the game. I was shocked to see that many of these cost more than what I paid for the first game! Hows that for philosophy of game design in 2017?

Often I’ll be talking about this and many other games which are considered to have “gotten it right” in terms of microtransactions. The consensus is nearly always “but you can play the main game so that’s ok” – and I can’t help but think that’s the wrong way around. I’d rather that the old shareware model was re-introduced. “Hey, play the first few levels then pay for the rest.” Of course this isn’t what they want players to do, they’d rather you paid 12x $4.99 for plants rather than $9.99 for the whole game.

I’m picking on EA here, I know I am. The demise of Popcap still hurts me! However they’re obviously just one of many of the instigators of this new way of thinking.

PC Gaming certainly isn’t safe either

At least not yet.

Obviously as a game developer myself (be it part time currently) I understand more than most that games cost money to make. Tribloos 2 cost £3600 to make and Tribloos 3 has cost over £6000. Small numbers when you look at most budgets – but I’m just one guy paying for everything myself.

So I’m not opposed, in any way whatsoever, for people to be compensated for their work in the way that they choose.

That doesn’t mean we
a) Have to or
b) Have to like it and
c) Can’t do anything about it.

But we’ll get to C in a bit.

In fact it needs to change course!

PC Gaming is heading the wrong way currently. Loot crates are the thing currently. Lovely, lovely boxes of skins and sprays and stuff which they give to you totally at random from playing the game. Or, y’know if you wanted to pay even more money. Overwatch, I’m looking sternly at you…

This in-game gambling is a pretty strange thing. I’ve been playing PUBG in the late evenings after my Tribloos 3 work. To date I have made back 1/3 of the cost of the game by selling items I’ve gotten for free. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this. I don’t feel super great about it, then again I’ve almost paid off the cost of the game. Some people I know have gone further and made a profit just by selling the crates.

Side note – what if PUBG was free though?

Part of me wonders if this would have been possible if the game was free in the first place. I don’t think it would be. My belief is that a sense of exclusivity is felt by those that earn these items and, let’s not forget, randomly receive the higher priced items. I sold an in game shirt and tie for £3 the other day. Last year I bought a real shirt for less than that. I do find it interesting that paid for games seem to be doing as well as free games with their marketplaces, if not, in many cases, better.

Gambling? Is it though?

I’m not going to do anything pretentious like bring through the Wikipedia/oxford dictionary definition of gambling. But I think we can safely assume that if you’ve paid money for entry and you are given a random prize then that is a form of gambling. If you get in for free and are given a random prize then that is gambling. That’s because it’s likely someone will be standing near by with their hand out asking “want another go? It’ll cost ya”.

I’m not going to go into the moral quagmire of whether or not gambling is cool or not. That’s a personal thing for each of us and I walk the line a little. I’ve done some with friends and online, but you won’t find me in a Coral shop and I don’t have Betfair (or any other) on my phone. To be honest I far prefer to gamble with serious things, like my career for example!

But yes, any system where you get a random prize, especially when the potential rare prizes are dangled in front of you? This is gambling and most of today’s top titles participate in it. Make up your own mind on that one.

Ok let’s move onto what we can do.

Philosophy of Game Design in 2017

So we’re all creators right? I always think it’s great when I discuss problems with creators from other disciplines.

It usually goes like this; I’ll raise a particular issue… My YouTuber friends say “Make a video!”, my blogger friends say “write a really interesting blog post!”. My dad says “write a song about it!” (both my folks are musicians by trade). As a game designer I think “Let’s do something about it in our own game design!”.

So I plan on doing all 3 of these things. You’ve been reading my blog post about it, and now I’m going to describe what our current ongoing philosophy will be when selling our games.

A new Philosophy based on the old one!

First off – If we introduce randomised loot crates, which we’re not planning, they won’t be game affecting. It’ll be cosmetic stuff and you’ll also be able to pay for specific items directly.

Secondly – No trading. We don’t want you to be bothered by other random players pestering you to see your inventory for some potential swapsies.

Finally – Free to play means just that. You’ll get the whole game for free, including any updates. Pay to play will be one time entry only, those games won’t likely be suitable for pay-for-items for various reasons.

Our service promise to you…

Oh man, I don’t like how that sounds. Makes us sound all corporate. Look there’s only two of us in the Bumpkin Brothers. We hire other very talented people like Catherine Bennett and Jon Dunn to do lovely artworks for us but otherwise that’s all there is.

We want people to play our games and enjoy them. Not to sit in goal asking to trade, as seems to be the ongoing Rocket League trends these days.

Unfortunately it means we won’t be touching mobile, for a while at least. there’s no way to make headway on that space without Candy Crush style tactics and we’re just not into that.

So when it comes to releasing Tribloos 3 and, eventually, Space Farmers 2 on PC and Mac, we’ll be doing our very best to keep you building houses, shooting chompy robots and solving puzzles rather than examining your loot collection for things you’ve got more than once. It’s a philosophy we’ve always held close and will continue to do so because we just floopin’ love games.

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

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”

Ignore the prototype number. We don’t really have one.

We were on version 0.001 of Tribloos 3 for about 6 months so. Also Rich hates numbers so let’s just say it’s *A* prototype.

We spoke about this a couple of weeks ago on our Live Stream “The Kitchen” show which we run every weekend (this weekend it’s on Saturday). We had a discussion about how we want to run the development. We kind of covered this in yesterday’s “The Fear of the Unknown” post but you can hear us vocalise this in the video below.

Some progress has been made since this version was shown but we thought we’d extract it from the live stream feed and put it on YouTube. This way we can specifically show what we’re currently working towards for anyone who doesn’t want to wade through our (pretty awesome) 2 hour show!

The good stuff happens about 8 minutes in (obviously our developer chat is awesome but if you just want to see the game then start from there.)

Creating games is fun but it’s hard work. It’s fun, otherwise we would be doing it, but it can also feel pretty daunting.

One of the core principles we want in Space Farmers 2 is the ability to evolve the game. We want to take feedback from players and add it to the game. The idea is that if someone comes up with a cool new gadget we want to take it and add it to the game. Now I’ve written that down it sounds too easy – we’re not even coming up with the ideas!

Setting up the foundations for that to happen though is where we are at the moment. But trying to build foundations for a house, when you don’t know what the house will look like, is not simple. In fact it’s something that I find quite paralysing.

Space Farmers 2
We’re working on it!
Every thing we add to the game requires some kind of compromise. For example; the characters currently look like even more basic than Space Farmers 1. But the foundation has been lay for a far more complex avatar system. If someone now comes up with a great idea which required the players to have 3 feet (I would say legs but they don’t have legs). That would involve changing a fundamental part of the game so may not be possible.

Thankfully I am reassured by the knowledge that between us Andy and I have about two hundred years of experience of people asking us to perform impossible programming feats. I hope that by being open and honest about what we’re doing people will understand what we can and can’t do and why we make the decisions and priorities we do.

As 48% of us here in the UK think – we’re better together.

We need your help!

So with all of that said, we need YOU to help us add as many crazy features and cool ideas to our public Trello board as possible!

Space Farmers 2 Trello Board
Look at our shiny new Trello Board!

Get commenting below, tweet at Rich and Andy or, even better, come visit us on our weekend Live Streams. Let us know what your priorities are in the game. Talk about the features that we, and others, have requested. Together we can make this game even more awesome than the first!

Yes, this is IT! We’re going to work on Space Farmers 2!

Space Farmers 2 Under Construction
We’re working on it!

It’s time to stock up on turnips, get out your laser powered blunderbusses and charge into another adventure with our intrepid intergalactic farmer friends.

Since it’s release in…gosh was it really 2014? Anyway, since it’s release we’ve been discussing with each other, and anyone who’ll listen, what else we wanted to do with the game. We love Space Farmers but we always knew it would be a first. Not quite a prototype but more of a…precursor for greater and wilder things.

We’re immensely proud and humbled by the number of positive reviews, comments and general good feeling there is towards the game. It’s because of this a sequel will exist.

Continue reading “Announcing: Space Farmers 2!”