December 30, 2014

Upcoming: Improving Your Crew's Day


The improved interface addressing some of our larger issues

Greetings Star Commanders!

Hope you all have had a wonderful Holiday season and that you are ready for the New Year.

We have been back at work this week after a very successful Alpha 1 launch. We are very excited to have our kickstarters and fans playing the game and are looking forward to updating and improving the experience - which is exactly what we are talking about today. If you haven't gotten into the alpha you can right now at www.starcommandgalaxies.com!

The focus for our next update, which comes out in January, is crew interaction. Right now a lot of features in our game are pretty much done but not quite. For example:

  • Power is in but not connected to the GUI and some objects.
  • Food and Energy are draining but not really causing you harm
  • Using objects works but is very clunky
  • Teleporting exists but is finicky
  • Tooltips tell you a bit but not enough
  • It's not entirely clear what it is that you're supposed to do!
All of these items and more are on our list of things to do.

But the primary focus is on fixing and improving how you interact with your crew, how they give you feedback and how they interact with the world.

Desires, for example, should be a strong guiding force for what you are "supposed to do." If your crew member is hungry, tired, wants more light or wants to explore a planet this should be clear to you, the player.

A crew member wants more light. When you don't make it happen, he gets mad.

Our central gameplay cycle revolves around keeping your crew healthy and happy. One of the primary complaints in Star Command mobile was the fact that your crew and ship were always ready for battle. You got into a skirmish then proceeded to healed your crew, repair your ship and then head for the next battle. 

In Galaxies the ship battles, visits to alien planets, diplomacy and trade all throw off the energy, hunger and desires of your crew. For example: visiting a Trilax ship will introduce new desires for your crew like Trilax art. Now, as Captain, it is up to you to decide who is ready to go on Away Team missions, who is the right person and what the consequences of that will be. You have to weigh that with who is tired, hungry, injured or afraid of alien worlds.

Focusing on your crew's mood/stress level will be very important. We will be introducing those elements in the next update so that it's much more clear what you have to do with the hours of the day in your crew's lives.

We will also introduce comfort objects - things that help your crew relax and get into a good mood. Plants, paintings, TV's will help your crew get some R&R after a costly battle or exploring the harsh environment of a lava planet.

More to come as we get closer and closer to release of Alpha 2. Tell us what you think and if you have any questions!

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

December 21, 2014

What Makes a Great Tutorial

Greetings Star Commanders!

Star Command Galaxies Alpha 1 is out! You should check out our brand new website and join in if you haven't already.

One of the biggest questions we have received so far about the alpha is "What Do I Do?" It's almost like we forgot the tutorial. To be clear, we did not. So we want to talk about great tutorials and our approach to teaching the mechanics and strategies of Star Command Galaxies.


The Original Tutorial
Let's start by talking about one of the greatest game tutorials: Super Mario Brothers for the NES. This is been covered many times by many people and probably much better than us, but we will rehash some of the principal concepts.

Basically, the very first area in Mario teaches you all the mechanics of the game. It was designed to teach a new player that getting mushrooms was good, blocks could be hit, and jumping on gumbas wouldn't hurt you, by making these actions almost impossible to avoid. It's elegant, it's simple and most importantly it uses no text.

Super Mario Brothers designed by today's standards

Mario isn't the only game to have an awesome non-tutorial tutorial. We look at Sim City 4 quite often.

Sim City 4
Sim City 4 never told you "You have to build a power plant." You would get that message by zoning a neighborhood and watching it not grow. Eventually you would get a "No Power" icon. The same was true of water, garbage, employment and other game concepts. Yes, there were advisors to help you along the way, but primarily the game showed you that there were certain things that needed to be done before you could continue on. The system, by its nature, enabled you to explore and try new things through experimentation.


The Sims thinking thoughts
The Sims is also a big inspiration for us. Again, the game never says "This Guy Needs To Sleep" - it shows you icons, body language and other hints of what you need to do to keep your character alive and happy - how succeed at the game. This means that ANYONE can pick up the game - kids that can't read yet, people that don't speak english or even new gamers who aren't familiar with common gaming tutorials. It's elegant, it's simple and it's universal.

That is one tired crew
In Galaxies we have similar goals. At this point its very early and, frankly, not working at all but the overall goal is to let the game tell you how to play itself. Early you can't travel because you have no engine. You may build objects but they have no power. There is a sequence and we don't have to tell you "Build an Engine First" - it enables exploration and creative thinking. There is no "right" way to play the game, just some minimum requirements for you to continue on.

We want anyone to be able to pick up Galaxies. I personally have a 4 year old son and one of the more frustrating things I have experienced is his inability to play Star Command on mobile. It wasn't for a lack of trying. The game simply had too many unintuitive concepts that had to be explained through text - something he couldn't read. He didn't know why he had to assign crew, what the enemies were trying to do or what his goals were. All of these elements were delivered through text in hails and popups - not very elegant.

That's not to say we won't have any text. It's still very important to world building and finding out more information on a particular object or character. But with Galaxies it doesn't start with "read this to figure out what your supposed to do" - instead it is "play this and if you want to learn more you can."

Right now this is not working - we will freely concede that. But we won't bandaid it with a bunch of popups that would work but not really fix the core problem. Instead we will diagnose why players aren't understanding certain concepts and help the game explain those better. 

A great example is refrigerators. Right now it simply isn't intuitive to go pick up food pellets, put them in the fridge and then go the kitchen to eat. Telling you to do this wouldn't fix to core problem.

So please bear with us while we try to make the game intuitive instead of putting in temporary or just bad fixes.

Tell us what you find to be unintuitive or what you would improve on that's already in game. Or point us to great tutorials you have used in the past. We read every comment, forum post, tweet and facebook post you send - so join in the conversation!

Next: Food, Energy, Social, Stress!

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon 

December 4, 2014

The Mobile Marketplace Has An Integrity Problem

We just received an e-mail that we wanted to share and discuss with our community. This is the tail end of it:

I offer many services concerning your app, if you are interested feel free to contact me. 
1. App Store Ratings & Reviews :Ratings/Reviews Price 
50 ratings and 10 reviews - 99 USD 
75 ratings and 15 reviews - 149 USD 
100 ratings and 25 reviews - 199 USD 
125 ratings and 30 reviews - 249 USD 
150 ratings and 35 reviews - 299 USD 

The premise is paying some fixed amount to receive reviews and ratings for your mobile title - and receive these types of offers almost daily. We have never used these services and we never will. But it does speak to a larger problem: integrity.

The ability to essentially purchase buzz for your game is nothing new, but on the mobile marketplace your rating and reviews are absolutely critical to success. And, to make a baseball analogy, paid reviews are the equivalent of steroids. It's not cheating because it's not illegal but it makes everything you see in the store suspect.

For mobile it has become increasingly a strange world that has nothing to do with "games" as we would classify them. Products built from the ground up to entertain and challenge players. This is just no longer the case. Larger companies build games from the ground up to be money producing machines not based on the merits of the gameplay but on the model of the challenge. IAP aren't inherently bad (there are many great examples of freemium games) but the culture on mobile is always suspect. There is no integrity.

Popularity can be purchased. Reviews and ratings can be fixed. Games sell one model then quickly pull the rug out to reveal much less genuine intentions. None of this is new - but it is becoming increasingly discouraging.

That is not to say this is limited to mobile. This is something that the game culture as a whole is wrestling with as well. GamerGate is all about the integrity of the reviews we are given. Can we trust the numerous sites, blogs and youtubers to give us honest evaluations of our favorite hobby?

One of the things that makes this complex is the rise of indie games. The front page of Steam at any given moment is more than 50% indie titles - which is great. But it also makes it extremely difficult to figure out what is worth the investment. The most interesting element about the state of gaming is that most players don't even play the games they purchase. It's not longer about "can I get it?" - it's about your most valuable asset: time.

And this is why integrity is so important. There are hundreds of titles released and we all only have so much time. Gamers want those amazing experiences: building your first hole in the ground to escape the night in Minecraft; using a uber-medic combo to push your team and the cart to a victory in Team Fortress; getting the shit scared out of you for the first time in Amnesia. Our time is valuable and we want to pour it into the titles that give us the most return on our time investment.

The mobile market place has a serious problem with this right now and the business model isn't helping. The most heartbreaking thing about the whole environment is that could have been the next great mobile platform. Better than the 3DS, more adopted than the PSP and more accessible to indie developers than any other system before. Instead we have a system where discoverability is extremely difficult, reviews are always suspect and a games place on the top 10 chart can simply be purchased instead of earned. That is to say nothing of the copycat of mechanics that, frankly, were well established and refined in the late 90's.

Don't mistake this as us ejecting from mobile development - nothing could be further from the truth. But as gamers and developers we have concerns. We love the potential of the platform and don't really have answers to some of these larger problems. Maybe with time the market will mature and begin to self-regulate itself - who knows.

If there is one silver lining it's the community itself: gamers overall tend to be extremely reasonable, passionate people that really just enjoy having fun. It's rarely about ego, social standing or any other existential facet that can plague other hobbies. We have utter faith that the community will find a way to make things "right" and bring the integrity of gaming back.

That's all. End of rant.

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon




November 21, 2014

The Highs and Lows of Game Development

Deadlines in video game development are tricky things (as many of our fans know). You have to weigh what is good to what can be done in a "reasonable" time frame. To self regulate ourselves we try and focus on external events to apply for - and for the last 2 weeks we have been crunching to submit IndieMegaBooth at PAX East 2015.

For those that don't know, IndieMegaBooth is an organization that takes a group of lesser known indies and get's them booth space at events like PAX, GDC and Gamescom. They are one of the bright stars of the indie development world.

These crunches represent the best and worst in game development.

We got a ton done on the game. We cram as many features in that we can, everyone works very hard and very long hours and does it of their own free will as we are an indie studio and we answer to no one.

Last night we were all in the office working 'til 2:00am to get our game submitted into the Indiemegabooth. As we reached the submission hour our build fell apart - we could not get it to compile - and what we could get to compile wouldn't run. To describe the situation as disappointing would be an understatement.

But this is the challenge of making games. Often times people wonder what the hell we're doing. How can it possibly take so long time one one game? Our approach is that good things take time.



Here is a screenshot of the game with our real time lighting, crew desires and planets. We know the game is fun and we know that our fans will be very happy with Galaxies.

Nights like last night can be extremely discouraging to a team. You work very hard for a very long time on something you are very passionate about - and it doesn't come together how you envisioned. But then we look at what we have done and we see the passion our fans have for our game and we know in the long term it will be worth it.

More is coming very soon. The game is in a fun, playable state and with a couple more weeks of polish we should be looking at a public alpha. That is something we can't wait for. As long as we can get the game to build :)

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballon

November 5, 2014

Star Command Galaxies - Now With S.C.I.E.N.C.E!

We just released our first Alpha of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. to our Kickstarters - and we couldn't be more excited!



This represents months (years really) of hard work. We completely changed our engine, our building system, our crew and character system, combat - really everything from the ground up to make a more open, dynamic and exciting Galaxy for our fans to explore.

So What is S.C.I.E.N.C.E?

S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is the same toolkit we use to create content that will populate the game Star Command Galaxies.

The primary function is to create map files that we call "Super Objects." Super Objects are the ships, space-stations, planets and objects that populate the pool we pull from to populate a galaxy. This procedurally/randomly generated galaxy is where our super objects will live.

So when you create a ship, all the walls, tiles, lighting etc and how you set them up are saved as a super object. You will eventually be able to load that super object in the galaxy map and fly around the universe coming across other creations of your own, our creations or ones from the community.

S.C.I.E.N.C.E. will help you create, preview and experiment with lots of different things. Let's say you want to make a scummy forgotten town on the far side of the universe, and you start with designing a cantina. You could layout your bar, dance floor and band stand, save the file and then you would have the option to load that super object into any planet scene you create.

This will eventually lead to deep and interesting environments to explore with your starship crew. Truly unexplored areas that dynamically populate cities with their own inhabitants, structures, economies and dangers.

This is the first step in our roll out of Star Command Galaxies, the next chapter in the Star Command saga. It will be released for PC, Mac and Linux and more information including a new website, gameplay, features and other info will be coming soon.

We will be releasing S.C.I.E.N.C.E to the public after we do some initial bug squashing and feature testing/fixes.

More coming soon!

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

September 19, 2014

Ship Inventory and Store interfaces

Parker here! I'm one of the designers here at Warballoon.

I wanted to give you all an update on what we are working on and show you how game concepts change over time. Interfaces have the potential make a game really good - or really bad. We are often borrowing from well known and polished examples found in some of our favorite games. For a starting point of our building interface we took a look at Civ 5.
Civ 5's build system shines at relaying a lot of information but without being an overwhelming wall of text and options. The interface is capable of giving most building's bonuses readily while still relaying important modifiers for the city. New players are given recommendations using small icons and can play accordingly.

Here is our first attempt at a build screen. Items are grouped in categories relating to function, and more information regarding power use and added effects are given using mouse-overs.

We also took some inspiration from another well polished inventory system, that of Dota 2's.


DOTA2 has a more visual system, with icons used to represent every item and all the information given in mouse-over. We tried to incorporate aspects of this, mainly the icon system and categorical sorting functions. However, there is a higher learning curve for players as they attempt to guess an object's purpose and effects by it's icon. Experienced players simply buy the item they want by knowing it's icon, while inexperienced players are able to mouse-over. 

The environment is a fairly high Actions Per Minute style RTS, really hurting new players who are forced to make decisions in real time. DOTA's remedy to this is a "recommended buy-build" system where players can edit, download and share builds which helps make the game more accessible.


Our first attempt at implementing some of the Dota 2 store features.


Our latest iteration enhances sort-ability further, so that players can quickly figure out how objects would affect your ship's function and performance. Further play-testing will tell us if this helps new players overcome the learning curve of identifying ship objects by its icon. 

More to come next week!

-Parker

September 11, 2014

You can make anything with SCIENCE!

Howdy everyone!  I'm Tim, a developer here at Warballoon, where we know how awesome designing/building/modding a game truly can be.  Today, I'm going to talk to you about a new breakthrough coming in the not-too-distant future, S.C.I.E.N.C.E.



I like science!  Wait, what is it?
Well, bold-face font, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is the Star Command Isometric Enhanced New Creation Editor, which is our modding tool for the community to use.  It is a way for you to design new objects and add them into the game for you and your friends to visit and/or use.  Simply put: build things, create worlds, share it all, expand the universe.

Good tag line, but how does it work?
Once you open up S.C.I.E.N.C.E., you can choose what you would like to build.  You can build such things as Ships, Planets, Objects, and Characters.  Once you have chosen what you would like to build, you are given a graphical interface to develop it with.  This allows you to draw your objects, set up walls on your ship, or even add in Flora and Fauna to your new volcano planet.

Can these objects/ships/planets do anything, or do they just look pretty?
Perhaps you want your new object to emit radiation, or you want your new ship to have beautiful Avarian architecture.  No worries, S.C.I.E.N.C.E. has your back.  You can set properties for each object such as how much power it will take, or how obnoxiously loud it will be to deafen nearby crew members.  You can also bring in sets of alien architecture to work with your design, allowing you to make various alien ships.  Ever wanted to see an Antorian Cruise Ship or a Midorian Trade Cruiser?  This is your chance to make that a reality!

Neat, I made something.  Now what?
So you've finished your new Ship/Planet/Object of Doom and you want to share your new scientific creation with the world, possibly via email or at a large conference.  Well then, it's time to Export it into a game readable format.  Currently, we're looking at both LUA and XML as potential export options, and have tested both.  Here's a little of what the ship looks like in LUA format currently.



And here's what the ship itself looks like post-creation.



How much is this new S.C.I.E.N.C.E. going to cost me?
At Warballoon, we believe in sharing all of our new S.C.I.E.N.C.E. with the community.  So how much does it cost?  In a word, nothing.  In five words, it will cost you nothing.  Rather, it will be a free download for everyone on the planet, separate from Star Command: Galaxies.

I'd like to challenge your hypothesis on this new S.C.I.E.N.C.E.
The tool is still somewhat in development and we are always open to fantastic new ideas.  What would you like to see in the tool, and what questions do you have about it? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter. We're always listening. Always. (Cue creepy music....)

Remember, you can make anything with S.C.I.E.N.C.E!

September 3, 2014

Upcoming Mobile Update

We have been super busy and wanted to take a second to catch our mobile fans up on the status of Star Command.


We are currently beta testing mobile and wanted to talk about the features that will be coming up for mobile. So peel back your eyelids and check it:


We have upgraded the entire engine to Cocos3.0 - which means support for Windows Phone! Star Command will be coming to Windows phone for the next update! Live in the shadows no more Windows users.


The next big thing is the new combat engine. You will now be free to roam the galaxy with the ability to choose when you get into battles. We have removed all mini-games in free roam mode and now players will be able to target each enemy subsystem during battles.


With the introduction of free roam you will now be hunting the remnants of the Star Command fleet - pirates! Pirates will offer much more challenge to you with abilities like healing, grenades and other surprises for your crew.


Give your crew the latest and greatest in gear with kits! Gravity boots and flamethrowers will be the first items out of the gate to help your crew navigate the new dangers in the galaxy.


So now that you can go where you want, when you want and give your crew new gear you're gonna need some new friends! How about man's best friend? Bam. Done.


Dr. Klebaticus Science Lab is the newest room in Star Command (Kickstarters will have instant access to this) that you can discover in the galaxy. Dr. Klebaticus has been working on secret experiments - and now you can benefit! Reanimate the dead? DO IT!

As you can tell we have a lot of new features. So when you ask the logical next question: "WHEN?" you will understand when we answer: "When it's done beta testing." We have a new platform, lot's of new features and, therefore, lots of new bugs and play balancing issues.

Love to hear your thoughts though! Send us a tweet @starcommandgame or visit our facebook page.

More from mobile and Galaxies soon!

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

July 30, 2014

Strange New Worlds

We are a live and working extremely hard. We will have a video up next week showing the new ship building system, but for today here is some concept art. Should start to spark the imagination of where we are going....






May 22, 2014

Concept Art to Wet Your Whistle

Greetings all!

We have been hard at work doing some very dull stuff. We have implemented a SCRUM agile development environment here at the office and are now using JIRA Agile to make it happen. Boooorriiiiinnng.

We have also been polishing up our building engine to be more free flowing and allow you to basically do whatever you want on a ship. Rooms are now dead. Instead, if you want an engineering section you drop an engine; if that engine is putting out too much radiation you better build a containment wall around it; now route some power from your engine to your laser batteries using high capacity power conduit built under the ship; install a captains chair and route a low capacity power conduit to it - bam. You're ready for space.

This has been a huge grind - building is basically the backbone for combat rules, laying out enemy ships, and playtesting most of the game. So it's something that has to be done correctly and it is slow going and rather bland in regards to screenshots and status updates. So bear with us.

In the meantime, here is some concept art to wet your whistle!

Antorian High Command.

We are continuing to evolve the species in the game. We are expanding their mythology, their tactics, their look and how their own ships function. The goal is for each race to feel very distinct and very foreign - "alien" almost.

An antorian looks down on a local metropolis.



The most vital thing to the Avarians are their hatchlings.


Avarian Warriors will help protect the flock.


Avarians on a stroll discussing galactic matters.

The team is hard at work every day. We're really excited about the way the game is going and we think you will be to once we really start rolling out all the new features.

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

May 1, 2014

Star Command is One Year Old!

A year ago today Star Command was release for iOS on the iTunes store. We think this is a great time to do a retrospective, talking about our successes, our failures and most importantly the future of Star Command.

WHAT WE HAVE DONE RIGHT


In the last year we have sold over 615,000 copies of Star Command. The game was released initially on iOS and we were chosen as "Editor's Choice." Over the next 5 months we converted Star Command to Android and added 5 new missions, growing the game by 30%. We have been featured on Google Play and currently have an average 4.3 rating from our user reviews. We were also featured on the Humble Indie Bundle with over 175,000 units downloaded.

We were covered on IGN, Joystiq, Gamespot, TouchArcade and dozens of other sites - sites we have read for as long as we can remember. Seeing Star Command featured on sites that we never even considered having a chance of being on was (and still is) an amazing experience.

We are supremely proud of Star Command and the success it has seen on mobile devices. It's remarkable how much it has changed all of our lives and allowed us to become full time developers. And that is an accomplishment in itself. We have been to Steam Dev Days and people talk to us as developers and actually recognize our game. That is a very surreal experience - believe us.

We doubled our team size and expanded our desktop release to something that we know will be worth the undoubtedly long wait our fans of endured. Which brings us to...

WHAT WE COULD IMPROVE ON


We have our share of critics and often times we agree with them. One of our biggest mistakes has been advertising features too early. We would move into a polish mode, it would take far longer than expected and our release windows would have to shift. A lot of the reason for our silence in recent months is from this lesson - we want to have firm release dates for our features.

Overall release dates are pretty much shit for us track record wise. It's something we see, we acknowledge and do our best with. We have always said quality is most important and that will always be the case. We want to show features when they're actually close to release and we feel confident about the date - not before.

Another thing that has been a huge improvement is new blood - our new team members at Warballoon have injected new life, new ideas and new sense of excitement that was long overdue for Star Command.

WHAT'S NEXT?


First, let's cover Star Command Mobile.

We have been working hard on really expanding the game and giving ourselves a canvas to create content quicker while also addressing some requests from the community. Our next release will have quite a few new features.

First and foremost is Free Roam mode. You will now be able to freely explore the galaxy, taking on new enemies, collecting kits and new rooms for your crew. One of the problems with mobile is that custom written story-driven content takes a long time to create, bug test and bring to life. We have focused more on the random combat and expanded resource collecting (rooms, new uniforms, crew members, kits, etc).

The prologue mode will continue to exist in the game, unchanged, but a another big reason for Free Roam mode is balance: Star Command had a clear progression system, with enemies introduced at appropriate times with appropriate equipment. In Free Roam players can fight ships that are a quick kill and enemies that are epically difficult (with some good gear to collect). We will still have story driven content in the future, but the focus will be far more on in-game content.

Another big improvement in Free Roam is a reimagined combat system. We have removed all mini-games and made weapons all real time touch based. Your ship now has energy that is produced from engineering and drained from shields, weapons and other systems on board. Enemies are also much more intelligent with equivalent systems that can be targeted. They have a brand new logic system and should present much more of a challenge to seasoned Captains. Mini-games will still exist in the Prologue, just not in Free Roam.

The new targeting system in action.

Contraband will finally be making its debut with equippable items for crew members. The first two collectible kits will be in the form of flamethrowers and gravity boots. Flamethrowers will give your tactical crew members the ability to spray enemies with fire - while also setting your own ship ablaze. Also, there might be a bit of a liability to friendly crew members if they are killed in action. Gravity boots will give your engineers the ability to make repairs to your damaged hull without fear of being sucked into the vacuum of the space. Clearly more items like Dogs and some other goodies will be coming as well.

Burn em or just don't get sucked into space. The choice is yours.


With new player abilities come new enemies. The next race players will be fighting won't be a race at all - it will be collection of the wretched scum and villainy from across the galaxy - Space Pirates. The goal with the Space Pirates is to give a race equivalent powers of your own - healing, repair (damage in this case), grenades and rapid fire along with improved tactics.

The pirates are coming!

Eventually we will move into offering new zones that can be unlocked with a small IAP. Each of these zones will contain new enemies, new kits and contraband, new ships and rooms and other surprises.

Finally, for all of our Kickstarter backers we will be rolling out dogs as well as Dr. Klebaticus chamber - which you can see a snippet of below. Don't want to ruin all the mystery.

The good Doctor is in.

It's been a great year and we're very excited about this upcoming one. The PC version of our game is going to have so many new features your eyes will likely bleed and we will be covering in future posts as we get closer to rolling the game out.

Thank you to all our kickstarters, fans, bloggers, reviewers, critics and everyone else that has made the last year so amazing. You are infinitely important to us and we work hard everyday to make sure your faith is well placed.

Cheers,
Jordan@Warballoon

April 24, 2014

Multiplayer is Dead - Until it Isn't

Over the weekend we asked a question on our Twitter and Facebook fans about the future of Star Command:

What would you rather see?

Deep multiplayer with cooperative ship vs ship battles and player controlled races that would be different?

OR

Deep single player with lots of races, research, and campaigns like civilization?

The response was quick and extremely one sided. At our last count the vote was 185 - 6 in favor of single player, and since the total comment count has passed 500 - with a similar trend.

So what does that mean?

One of the big reasons that we were exploring the idea of multiplayer was inspired by a quote from the FTL creators in a story that ran on Joystiq. You can see the story here but the short of it is was Matthew Davis talking about future clones of FTL exclaiming, "... it has to have multiplayer!"

This quote got us talking. We have discussed multiplayer plenty over the last three years creating Star Command but this was far more focused and action orientated - what would it look like, how would it play, how quickly could it be implemented, etc.

The two platforms, desktop and mobile, would have different executions for multiplayer as they have have different strength and weaknesses.

For the desktop we were looking at a player vs. player system growing into a much more robust experience on the campaign map. The initial launch would have been a simple ship vs. ship with one player controlling a Star Command vessel. Players could invade the enemy ship with their crew, take out their subsystems and go toe to toe with either their own ship with their own crew or a point pool where each player would build the best ship they could with a cap on points spent.

From there we would evolve into adding things like cooperative crews, with multiple players controlling crew members on one ship. The goal here would be expanding other races - now players could control the Antorians who would be very distinct from the Star Command ships in both form and function. Crews would go against other crews and work with other ships to expand the campaign map and establish bases on planets.

Finally this would have expanded into an ongoing universe where players earn unique equipment and grow their ship to fight other ships on individual servers.

With this system we basically remove research, mission cards and some of the dynamic galaxy elements and focus more on the players ship and combat.

As a self-critique we like both versions and each have their advantages and disadvantages. With multiplayer we like the glory and challenge element - we can never code an intelligence nearly as capable as human players. To that extent the glory of defeating an opponent in combat is really unrivaled. You are literally beating your very own "Kahn" - surviving on your strategy and ruining someone else's day, which is always satisfying.

On the other hand, single player allows us to blow out the universe, keep in numerous species and elements like space stations and research that become bogged down in multiplayer.

Some will say "Why not work on both?" and our answer would be - we will in some way. Multiplayer will always be in the back of our head but to really to make a good product we have to focus on one or the other. Our design doc was originally drafted as a deep single-player experience and we will continue to double down on that. Our mod support, storybuilder and content creation are much clearer now and the game will be that much better for it.

Multiplayer may be much more of an option for mobile - but for now our focus is on freeroam, the new ship combat system and crew kits.

Cheers,
Jordan

April 17, 2014

Intro to Chad

Oh hey there, I'm Chad. I'm one of the new developers on the Warballoon team. We have an exciting project underway and I'll be your co-host along with Chris (the pantless avatar from the previous post) and Aron (the avatar whom you have not yet met).

One of my main responsibilities here is working on top-secret voodoo with the Unity3D toolset. Unity3D you say? Why yes, we have collectively decided to give Unity a go on the new Star Command desktop game. I'll be talking more about that process and decision later on, but for now let's just say that we are looking forward to Unity's cross-platform deployment tools to help keep things under control here as we get into the final stages of development.

But all that's a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about the future. As far as day-to-day operations go, we're always looking for new ways to leverage the built-in utilities that Unity offers for handling lame and otherwise time-consuming minutia such as particle systems (spoiler alert?).

Be on the lookout for new posts from the rest of the team and myself as we continue this process and reveal some of the kick-awesome progress we make along the way.

Chad out.

April 10, 2014

Welcome!

Hey Everyone.

First and foremost welcome to the new Warballoon blog. Most of you probably don’t know me and that’s totally fine, in fact that’s why I’m writing this post. Back during the initial work on Star Command I was like most of you, a fan. But I was also someone that had experience with web development and upon noticing that the guys were using tumblr I offered to lend a hand and make a site for them. After the work was finished the guys told me to keep in touch as they continued on to finish the game and the android version. So I kept in touch and threw my hat into the ring once they started to look for more help and that brings us to now.

So now that I’ve got that out of the way let me go over a bit about what to expect from this blog. Over the next week or so you’ll be hearing from some of our members and they will talk a bit more about their role here at Warballoon (for my part I’m going to work on UI aspects like GUI and Animations).

Once the introductions are out of the way we’re going to commit to posting at least once a week talking about the game and what we’re working on. We want to be transparent with all of you so that you can see what cool things we’re working on.

Oh and my avatar? This is what happens when you’re the only member that’s currently working remote.

Until next time, Captains.

Chris