Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Phlogiston preview

Imbroglio: Phlogiston, the second expansion for Imbroglio, will be released next week! It is an alchemical laboratory filled with strange experimental equipment and dangerously mutated creatures.

The main "shiny new thing" to be introduced is the concept of charged weapons: a weapon tile can become electrified to empower its next attack with bonus damage and chaotic energies that arc through adjacent enemies as well. This is like a new resource to gain and spend, but instead of a number that goes up and down it's stored on the tiles on the board. It creates a whole new range of possible board constructions. With the extra damage it's kind of an alternative to Whetstone; hitting multiple enemies it's kind of an alternative to important board-clearing weapons like Echo Harp and Witchpact Blade; and with a variety of effects triggering off it it's kind of an alternative to curses for building combo boards.

What kind of combos? Time for some EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW CONTENT oh no!

The Lightning Rod basically moves a charge from something above it on the board to something below. (You might as well put it in one of the middle rows.) What goes on top? Something has to create a charge in the first place; this is strictly a combo weapon. What goes underneath? Pick any weapon, maybe there's something you think will benefit especially well from becoming charged. And in the middle - it charges itself along the way so that's a bit of extra damage too.

And of course we have also a new alchemist hero who can manipulate charges, empowering her weapons for extra damage:

"At night" is just a fanciful way of saying "every second screen". Remember how the walls are darker sometimes? That's night-time. At one point I thought this was going to be a whole big thing, I was designing all these cards that had special night-time effects, but honestly "this doesn't work half the time" isn't a very exciting hook so forget it. But for an enemy bonus it's solid, it creates a rhythm alternating between business-as-usual and fleeing-in-terror, it totally changes the tactics around when you want to score a gem. And with both the hero and the enemies boosting damage the stakes are high; this is a challenge for skilled players.

Most of the new stuff revolves around charges, but there's a few other weird little toys to play with too. Alternative ways to score gems, to level up your weapons, to play it safe or to gamble everything.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Cinco Paus has been incredibly well received; a lot of people are saying it's my best game yet, reviews are consistently highly positive (nobody on the appstore has rated it less than 5 stars), everything I'm hearing from players is great. This has not translated into many sales; it doesn't seem to have spread much past the circle of people who are already following my work. Weirdly there have been quite a few new people buying 868-HACK - it might be that people are hearing good things about the new game and then buying the old one instead because it's somehow seen as an "entry point" to my work? I guess I can't complain about this but they are very different games and I suspect for a lot of people Cinco Paus would serve as a more accessible entry point - it's more immediately fun, with less technical resource management, also it might be a better game. For similar reasons I'm a little surprised by the lack of recognition from the IGF - 866-HACK and Imbroglio were both design finalists and I'd hoped that with this one having a bit more immediate accessibility it might be the one to have a chance at actually winning - but I don't really know what's going on there now that Design, Nuovo and Grand Prize have all merged into the same category. Anyway, not to worry, I'm very happy with the response from people playing it and it's okay if sales are a slow burn.

I discussed my thoughts around expanding/porting Imbroglio. I've had an expansion just about ready to release for months but kept delaying it because I felt like it should wait until after the PC release. But I've realised part of what's been getting in the way of me porting it is that updating it with expansions becomes a bigger task the more platforms it's on, and I want to keep being able to do that in the background while working on new projects. So I think the answer is to keep it just on iOS for now, expand it there, and then eventually do a full PC release with all of that content included once I'm done meddling with it. Sorry I know that's not an ideal solution for everyone but it's one that works for me.

Started messing with a prototype that might turn into yet another tiny roguelike, not sure yet if the concept works, it's a slightly awkward one that needs quite a bit of stuff built up first before I can really test it. This might just be a bad sign; I usually get the best results from ideas that I can prototype super-quickly, but I don't want that to be a limitation on what types of things I can ever make so I'll sometimes try the tricky ideas anyway. I'll hopefully be able to reuse some things even if the main idea doesn't work out.

From thinking about what's seen as an "entry point" to my games, I'm wondering if I really ought to prioritise making something that might establish a new entry point, and I think the way to do that is to make something that is perceived as somehow "bigger". It's really nice that 868-HACK continues to sell and reach new people but it won't be enough to keep sustaining me. I'd very happily continue making games on the same kind of scale that I have been, but I know part of why they're hard to get attention for is that they're "small". Imbroglio was really quite a large project but a lot of the work was paring the design down to essentials and making it work in a tiny space, work that is unappreciated in an industry obsessed with BIGGER and MORE. So the challenge for me now is to find how to make something that will fit that perception of being "bigger" to get that attention on it, without completely throwing away the design principles that make my games good by making them small. Let's see what I can do.