It’s that time of the year again : Steam summer sales! Yeah, loads of games at small prices! Like every PC players, I’ll probably buy a bunch of games (which will mostly stay untouched for the next months) but as a professional game developer, I’m more and more convinced that the whole concept of these promotions is toxic.
Why toxic? Because systematic sales and discounts contribute with other factors (mobile stores pricing, bundles) to decrease the commonly accepted prices of games to absurdly low levels. It’s now a standard gamer behavior to wait 3 or 4 months before buying any game because you know for sure there’s a major discount coming. It’s so systematic that it’s nearly stupid not to do so!
‘Most people don’t know how much it costs to make a game’
It’s now common place to hear or read complaints about prices of games daring to set a price above 10 or 20 dollars or euros. But most people have no idea, no concept of how much a game costs do develop. Damn, even a lot of young or inexperienced indie developers have absolutely no clue when they start! This is most obvious when you take a look at crowdunding targets of game projects. Usually teams are inexperienced and ask for ridiculously low amounts of money for projects that will most likely fail spectacularly… or teams are experienced and ask for ridiculously low amount of money because they know they will look bad and fail if they don’t. But experienced developers will do everything they can to get A LOT more than what they asked using stretch goals and such, secretly hoping that they will have maybe nearly what they actually need. You can even have those experienced developers collecting millions of dollars to create a point & click and still failing to produce a full game with that much. Ok no, that’s a bad example. This has to be bad project management or Jack Black’s voice acting costs way too much money… Continue reading
So, where were we… After all, it’s been nearly a year for this long due second part ^^
Ha, Yes! In the first part, we have seen how we could generate some kind of mask in two parts for the appearance and disappearance of our particles. We also covered how we would use a level operation rather than a binary cutout mask. So we’ve got something a bit like that :
Right now, we haven’t talked much about the diffuse aspect of our particles and their color. That’s what we will focus on right now. The most basic thing you can do is just apply a diffuse texture to the particle, something preferably vaguely related to the animated mask. But if you have a fade in mask different from the fade out mask, you won’t be able to have something very coherent along its whole life. Let’s forget that, it just sucks…
link to french version
Since last september and the first public demo of Drifting Lands, we’ve kept adding content to the alpha version. Not as much as we would have liked, but behind the scene a lot have been done too and we’ve got a pretty solide base. Until now, we’ve kept a pretty low profile with the game. The main reason is we didn’t want to create too much interest around a demo version which was definitely not representative of the full game we had in mind. Right now the alpha looks like ‘just’ a shmup. Ok, it’s fine looking (at least I hope), it’s got original features like the skill system, but the hack & slash / RPG evolution part is completely absent.
In the coming months, we’re gonna need a lot more awareness around our project than what we’ve already got. At least just to confirm we’re not going in the wrong direction, and decide how far we’re gonna go, how big this game can reasonably be! We need at least a bit of this RPG system, a hint of this evolution you’ll go through when you’ll play the real thing. And that’s what we’re doing right now for the next update. Continue reading
Let me tell you the story of a publisher ignoring a signed deal, how a German court of Justice decided it was apparently ok to do so, and nearly caused our undoing.
I’ve reached a point where I don’t understand how it’s possible to commit to a publishing deal for small studios. How could it be reasonable when what’s happening to us, well… CAN just happen. Honestly there’s not even something really specific to the gaming industry in this, so I’m wondering how international trade can even work.
If you’re not familiar with our situation, I’ll start with a brief summary: Alkemi is small indie studio founded in 2009. In 2012, on the 11th of september (definitely not a good omen), our first game Transcripted was released on Steam. Never heard of it ? Well, I guess I’ll have to thank the PR department of our publisher. But I have so much more to ‘thank’ them for… We weren’t too happy about the absence of visible work on the game release but it was nothing compared to the fact of losing our game entirely. Continue reading
All future updates until the final release will now be published to the Steam store. You can already try the demo of the game which now includes two levels in two difficulty modes.
What are you waiting for ? Head over there : http://store.steampowered.com/app/322750
Good news: we have the opportunity to deploy our game on Steam pretty much whenever we want! That’s awesome because it will handle automatically all the pain of keeping you folks updated with the latest version of the game. We won’t hesitate to update the game much more regularly with minor improvements or bug corrections. On the downside, Steam integration is simple but it takes some time. We may have to delay our first major update by a week or so to do things properly. That would lead to a new build for the end of the month approximately.
Does it mean the game is going to be pay-to-play or going into early access paying mode ? No. Definitely not right now. We will continue with our current plan : improve the current demo into a full fledged competitive and free shooter. Start to ask a bit of your money when we feel like it deserves it with at least a bit of the RPG / evolution part.
Thanks for your support!
Bonne nouvelle : nous avons l’opportunité de déployer notre jeu sur Steam à peu près quand on veut ! C’est vraiment une bonne chose, parce que cela nous permettra d’éviter la douleur de tous vous maintenir à une version à jour du jeu. Nous n’hésiterons également plus à mettre à jour le projet très régulièrement pour la moindre amélioration ou correction de bug. Le mauvais côté, c’est que même si l’intégration Steam ça n’est pas la mort, cela prend un peu temps. Nous allons probablement retarder la prochaine version de la démo d’une semaine environ ce qui nous mènera quelque part à la fin du mois.
Est ce que cela signifie que le jeu va devenir payant ou early access payant ? Non, pas du tout. Nous allons suivre notre plan et faire évoluer la démo en un jeu à part entière de shooter compétitif et gratuit. Nous vous demanderons un peu de vos deniers quand nous estimerons que le jeu en vaut la peine avec au moins une partie de l’aspect RPG / évolution.
Merci pour votre soutien !
It’s time we made an official annoucement about what’s going on and where we are heading. So here’s the plan ! (french version at the end)
Drifting Lands is a massive project for a team of four devs and a music composer but we decided to go for it because it is modular by design. We know we can scale the project according to the community we will be able to interest in our endeavour and the funds we will manage to raise by various means. We also know we can slice the global project in two parts and use the first part as a demo / experimentation ground / free game of its own.
We will very very soon release a first public playable demo of Drifting Lands. This demo will feature first a very limited content. A first taste of the actual gameplay if you want. But it will hopefuly evolve rapidly with new content and stay public AND free. With time it could even be considered as a game of its own but it will not be the Drifting Lands we have in mind. What are the common points and the differences between the demo (for lack of a better name right now) and the real thing : Continue reading
Ok. First thing, I’m sorry this isn’t the second part of the particles tutorial. I think I have vastly underestimated how complex it would be to extract a clear explanation of our FX system which is very very cool in a twisted and intricate way. Making the rest of the explanation worthwhile will require that I isolate some code from a more complex set. I’ll probably have to split it in two more parts to swallow the effort.
But today, I’ll write about normal maps… and rocks. I have already explained how we had used normal mapped sprites for Transcripted. If you don’t know what normal maps are, you can take a look at this previous post to learn the basics. Drifting Lands is a much more 3D game than Transcripted was. All ships and a lot of background elements are “real 3D” but with a pretty stylized modelling and fancy shaders hopefully making the whole thing look more like an illustration. The overall look of the game is influenced by a lot of games (Journey, Diablo3, Darksiders…) and a lot of animation movies (Disney and Ghibli productions mainly). The art direction is more focused on shapes, silhouettes and harmony of colors, than on detailed hi-res textures or realistic physically-based materials.
Drifting Lands takes place over, around and inside a broken planet. There will be plenty of flying bits of rocks involved in all environments of the game. The background rocks represent a large part of the visual identity of the game so we have worked quite some time to find the good balance between polycount and shader complexity to create nice looking blocks. Right now, we will focus on how these rocks catch the light.
One of the first tool we developed for Drifting Lands was a brand new FX / particle system. The artistic direction of the game is headed toward a very graphic and stylized rendering and we do love traditional animation ! Here’s a sample of particle FXs in the current alpha version. Each of these effects requires from 3 to 20 or 30 particles max.
For Transcripted, we had used our Flash-like MovieClip system but it had a major flaw I didn’t want in the way this time : to have ‘long’ and smoothly animated FX we had to create a big array of bitmap frames and store them in atlases or spritesheets. Though we had total control over the animation, it was requiring a large amount of RAM and VRAM to store the image sequence if the FX was a bit too large.
See this modest organic explosion effect above ? We’ll it’s kind of the only one used throughout all of Transcripted because it’s already taking way too much texture space for what it’s worth ;)
And here’s a new video to show more of the actual gameplay of Drifting Lands ! An example of a run with a frontal AoE attack, a dash, a healing skill and a reflecting shield. Also featuring : a first draft of an in-game UI and a taste of what the music could sound like.
You can now start to see how Drifting Lands relates more to an hack & slash rather than a pure shmup with the intense use of timed skills. If you spend all your energy (=mana) on attacks, you might not have enough to dash through a wall of bullets or heal your burning ship !