My current project: Colony
Tom from Pentadact put out a nice article recently on the different steps he went through to develop the excellent Gunpoint. One of the points which struck me was the fact that he started blogging about the game from the first week, which helped him build his audience. I've always been more of a "hide it until it's done" sort of developer, but the idea has a lot of merit, so I figured I'd try it with my latest project, currently going under the code name "Colony".
Colony will be a 2D turn-based strategy game set in space, and follows in the footsteps of the Total War series of games. I'm a huge fan of Medieval II and I wanted something similar that you can play on mobile. Currently the strategy category on Android seems to entirely consist of Clash of Clans clones, or tower defence style games; both valid types of games, but I'm not attracted by base building games and I could never get into the TD genre. The Total War series provides a nice sense of empire building and progression (you could also throw Civilisation in there), with a nice mixup of real time combat.
For my game, the very loose idea is a "world" map, where you control your planets and outposts, move your units (fleets as well as special units such as spies etc), and generally interact with all the different factions.
The planets can build both buildings and infrastructure, or fleets and ground troops, the variety of which depends on the type of planet that you're on.
Combat-wise, there are two phases; the space phase and the ground phase. The space phase in entirely ships and you have to battle any planet defences or defending ships. You'll need to carry any eventual ground troops with you, so your carriers are vulnerable and need to be protected. For inspiration, I'm looking at Flotilla; there it's all about manoeuvring and exposure. So something like this, but modified to fit a grid-based system.
Once the external defences are down, you'll need to begin the ground assault to actually capture the planet. For this, I see it working like Advance Wars; moving units around to capture the different cities.
I also want to explore recording the player's actions as a sort of history book, that they can use to give a perspective on their rise (or fall). It could be interesting to read about yourself in the third person from history books :)
One of the things that I want to include and improve upon over Medieval, is the use of agents. Agents in that game were along the lines of: spy; assassin; merchant; priest; princess; captains/royal family; and diplomats. Each had their own specific function, but the choices were too simplified and in the later game, they became less useful. Some of the problems were:
- Successfully performing tasks increased their skill, and vice versa. However, that meant that low level agents were all but useless and likely to get worse so, as the chances of success got lower as they failed. You needed to string together a series of successful missions to get an agent of a halfway decent capability
- Agents could have traits like "bravery" or "shrewd trader", but they don't really have a huge impact on the game
- Diplomats were very limited in what they could do; In the later game, I found it impossible to negotiate any sort of treaty - even giving regions with no strings attached, the AI wouldn't accept, so you could never really try "the diplomatic option"
- Once the map is uncovered, spies generally ended up sitting in settlements "causing unrest" because there was nothing else for them to do
- Eventually your captains/royal family become so numerous that you quickly forget who's who and so, stop caring
- Princesses are pretty useless; their functions are identical to diplomats with the addition that they can propose marriage - except their charm is generally too low to get accepted by anyone except your own captains, or they get married off early and never actually make it as a unit in the map
- Merchants don't really being in enough cash to be anything more than a small boost
There are a few areas that I want to explore with agents in Colony; diplomacy, spying, and trade.
- Most things should be possible with diplomacy. Even if another faction hates your guts, you should still be able to resolve issues without going to war. You could also have some interesting scenarios with political refugees or criminals crossing borders
- Spying should be more than just basic information. Think of Varys in Game of Thrones. It should also be possible to plant information, to try and influence AI decisions
- As with any space game, trading should be a big part. Trade rights, mining asteroids for resources, roads and trade routes, and of course pirates. Or, of you're at war, privateering
All of this is of course subject to scope and change :) I have a rough idea of what I want, and I'll change it up depending on what's fun or not.
I'll post any code that I think's worth sharing; my next post will be on cameras and moving around the game world.
I'm currently prototyping in flash, meaning that it should be easy enough to share current builds on the site. It should be cool to see the progress of the game over time, and at least posting it will keep me honest; no more slacking off, procrastinating in the evenings :)
Keep in touch
I've set up a mailing list that you can sign up to if you're interesting in following the progress of the game: