Friday 10 June 2011

Vertex Dispenser

TLDR version: released a game, get it on steam.

This game has haunted me since 2005.
My first attempt at it pretty much failed. Back then it was a fairly standard RTS with a few weird new ideas mixed in. I didn't much know what I was doing, and the code got into quite a mess.

A couple of years later, I came back to it. I'd started a few other games (but not finished them), and knew better new how to go about things. I cut out the unnecessary parts of the design, trimmed it down to the core idea that was interesting, and ended up with something fantastic. And then I made it, played it quite a bit, tweaked it, relea--

No, wait. I didn't release it, it wasn't quite ready. This was early 2007.
It was a couple of weeks away from being done, but I needed to focus more on my studies, so I left it for a bit. It's been a couple of weeks away from completion ever since.

Back then, it was multiplayer-only. This wasn't ideal; although the game isn't inaccessible, it does have some skill to it, and it's easier to learn if you can take things at your own pace. (Not everyone agrees with this - some people like to learn an RTS by going straight into the multiplayer and losing until they win. This isn't for everyone. You're welcome to use this approach here, but it's maybe a bit harder when the game isn't a repeat of something you've played before.)

So I added a single player mode. It wasn't very good, so I threw it away and added another one. It's a series of levels with different goals, a "campaign", a fairly standard structure for a single-player mode of an RTS game.
Of course, this meant I needed to make AI for it, so I did. It will beat you.

One time, when I hadn't worked on the game for several months, I came back to it with a lot of new ideas for abilities. So I added them.
Some of them didn't work out very well, so I took them away.
It grew.
And then it was done. Well, almost. A couple of weeks away. I tested it with a bunch of different people, kept finding new things to fix and improve. Submitted it to the IGF - it didn't get in, but I met some amazing people who encouraged me that it was worth keeping working on it.
I got stuck, didn't work on it for a while. Friends would ask me if I'd finished it yet - no I haven't. I thought it was basically done - yes it is. But not quite.

This year, I had reason to switch to working part-time, and move to a different country.
Instantly, the game jumped back out at me.
"You're part-time, you can choose your hours, if you just spend a couple of weeks working on me full-time, I'll actually be finished."
Yeah right.
It was mostly correct - what I needed to do was work full-time on it for a little while. But those weeks were actually months,; making games is hard, and the final polishing stage is the hardest. Now I've completely lost track of whatever else I was supposed to be doing. But the game is done and it's fantastic and I'm so excited to finally get it out so others can play it. I hope you like it.

TIGSource review
RockPaperShotgun Indie Forecast preview
DIYgamer interview

Steam store page


  1. Demoed and wishlisted. I do have some suggestions though. =)

    * Make selected buttons more distinguishable from unselected buttons so menu navigation can be more easily performed with arrow keys.

    * Add an options button to the start screen. Before I discovered it, I had already beaten the demo, uninstalled and reinstalled to check myself before writing.

    * Add a button to toggle the abilities of buttons with the same color. If the toggle is persistent (as opposed to a temporary chord like Shift+X), display the current selection in the HUD.

    * Consider a preset with ZXC as the RGB colors, ASDF as the blends and Shift as the aforementioned method to toggle same-color abilities. This would break the control into smaller maps and allow fingers to find buttons from a single hand position close to home row.

    Frankly, the input is quite the barrier for me. With the player as a unit, there is no downtime to check the keyboard. In the midst of the action, my hand gets too lost to focus on any of the strategy aspects.

    PS: The RPS link is broken.

  2. Hey, thanks for the feedback! The input scheme is a thing - I've tried a lot of different options (including the one you suggest) and this is the one I was happiest with, but maybe it would be worth me leaving in some of the others as options.

  3. You really need to promote this one like crazy, since the fun will come from multiplayer, and if the community is going to be small this would be such big waste of an excellent game. Organize ladders, tournaments, prices (OK, virtual prices :))!

  4. Hi hi. Bought your game on a whim and a tweet from one of the RPS writers. Played for a number of hours and just wanted to leave some feedback.

    I'm not a massive maths fan, and I find my thinking is too slow for real-time strategy as I can get analysis paralysis to a degree (love turn-based strat though :P ). Despite this I'm enjoying it, which speaks well for several aspects of the design.

    In the bigger sized fields getting the pink\white vertices is pretty key, and I find it really tough to get them. Sometimes I do it by fluke, and somestimes I'll actually try and tie myself all in knots and by the time I give up I'm usually being whipped by the AI. The colour puzzles have helped somewhat with getting a strategy for this, and I feel certain that there is a key or a set of rules or patterns one should start to catch on to after continued play but I'm just not getting it. It would have been nice to have been pointed in the right direction by the game on the best approach to getting the tough colours. I've re-played the second colour puzzle (out of 12) half a dozen times now and no matter how hard I try I cannot get the white colour in that limited amount of room.

    From just darting around pretty much at random you can get yellow and cyan's but then the complexity of getting the last two is kind of a difficulty shift.

    All the number of keys you have to remember and what power they have is a little tough. Even in WoW when you have a high level char you don't have to remember this many hotkeys, and that's after 10's of hours play, in this they come on you very quickly and so I tended to just stick to 3 of the lower ones and forget to use the others.

    So yeah. Good game and I've already had my monies worth and I might see if I can get some buddles to get it, but until I see that there's an actual strategy involved I fear it'll never be a longterm endeavor.

    Cheers! :D

  5. So this came flummoxed me I played your first build in uni, but man, I'm totally buying it when I get home :D

    Congratulations dude, it's been a long road.

  6. *came → game
    *I played → when I played

    I tell you, work really takes it out of you :(

  7. Another indie developer here. I came here to buy the game directly from the maker. But do you really sell it exclusively through Steam? Bummer! Don't miss out on creating your own fan base that you can interact with, directly! ...and keep some of Steam's cut for yourself.


    Keith Nemitz
    Mousechief Co.

  8. Congratulations on getting the game finished and published. I'll take a look at the weekend.