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!

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!

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.

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

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!

So part 3 and this week I’m focused on buildings and their buttons.

I’ve decided to change things up very slightly this time around. In Tribloos 2 if a building button was unavailable (eg. the building could not be built due to lack of workers/resources) it was faded out. If it was available it was presented with a green glow. I wanted to make the distinction a bit stronger this time. Now if a building cannot be built yet you’ll end up with a “dotted-line-button” that should be instinctively un-clickable.

And of course the opposite is also true; eg. if the button is visible at all it’s clickable! Exciting stuff eh?

Tribloos Building Things
“Temporary” Tribloos building things..

Uh, okay that’s not exactly “mixing it up”, so lets talk about some real change.

Let’s make some wood

This is probably one of the highest requested features for Tribloos 2 but something that wasn’t easy to add that late in development.

And it’s centered around resource production in buildings like sawmills and toolsheds. Previously when you had sent a worker to a sawmill to make wood you’d have to count down or guess when they’d be finished. This was to be as efficient as possible so you could click on the toolshed to get them to make some tools the very second they’d produced that wood. Well guess no more!

When a worker now reaches a sawmill or other production buildings (again such as toolsheds, refineries, locksmiths, etc…) and starts to make resources, a small progress bar will pop up on the side of the building. This will show you how far through that particular worker is done with making wood or tools or whatever.

Worker Progress Bars
Tribloos making wood – new progress bars!

I’m especially pleased about the way this has worked out.

Like I said this was one of the most requested features from the previous games and I’m really pleased to have finally managed to get this in!

That’s it again for this week, I hope you’re all excited about the game so far. Next time I’ll be talking about the new cut-scene manager and how it effects the story.

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!”

Have you seen Scrap Mechanic yet? We played it during our livestream last Friday and thought it was pretty bloomin’ awesome.

Scrap Mechanic
Scrap Mechanic

It’s billed as a survival game but we mostly spent out time building weird contraptions in an attempts to drive, or vaguely fly, around the land. We didn’t quite get the hang of things straight away and there was plenty of trial and error before we got anything remotely usable. However we were really taken with the building mechanics and instructions on how to use the different elements of the game.
Continue reading “We played Scrap Mechanic”

The Tribloos 3 Development Diary
Welcome to the first in a series of development diary updates regarding our upcoming title The Tribloos 3.

I completely failed to write one for Tribloos 2 and I really regret it. Therefore I’ve decided to start up this up for the third game for anyone interested enough to read my hopes and frustrations while making the game!

So first off I’m actually writing this at the start of February 2015! I’m hoping to surprise any Tribloo fans with a trailer I’ve been working on in top secret. With any luck that came out recently and fans of the series are terribly excited. I decided to start writing these entries early so I had enough material to keep posting when I’m likely in the latter, slightly more consistent stages of polishing.

[2016 edit: “oops, not there with a trailer yet! Stay tuned…”]

But I’m excited today because I’ve finished the first iteration of the path-finding code I’m going to use in the game and especially pleased that it’s performance is so good!
Continue reading “Tribloos 3 – Development Diary 1”