How the past influences the future
Today I wanted to talk about how Castledom came to be. It started back in the 90's - myself and a friend from high school knew when the University of Washington computer labs were empty. We would often skip school and play for hours! Back then, they often did not fill the labs with new computers - they would only replace them when an old one died. Knowing which labs had the highest ratio of new computers and when they would likely be empty meant always having a color monitor and a Pentium processor. Our favorite game when we started was Castles 2 - it was my introduction to strategy. Before this I had only played console sidescrollers on my NES. We would find a lab and play for hours. After Castles 2, came the Civilization games, starting with Civ 2 in our case. I realized that computers could do so much more than a console, and I knew that strategy was going to be my favorite genre. This became my foundation for gaming.
As every other indiedev has stated, I always dreamed about making a game - and I had two specific games in mind. One is incredibly impossible to be made at this time even by a AAA, let alone an indie. The other was to evoke Castles 2 and my own take on that style of game. Finally, I realized I just had to do it! Whether or not anyone else was going to play it, or even buy it, did not matter. I wanted a game I could play that evoked those same feelings that I remembered.
But how to make it? As everyone will tell you, your game WILL change and if you don't let it become something new, it will be an incomplete mess that is never released. You will become frustrated that your lack of skills is not bringing your vision to life, and quit gamedev altogether. I came in being prepared for this. I worked up a quick document of the items I thought would make for an amazing game, and then thought long and hard on what was actually needed for a minimum game loop. I decided on a the foundation and started building. During this, I realized that even what I thought would be needed for minimum gameplay can be reduced even more. The two biggest changes: 1) Individual units you can move on the board and combat you can watch, got replaced by a unit pool that is involved in every battle and no visible combat. 2) A 3D map was replaced by a 2D board game style map.
Scaling back, and even switching to a board game style has been great. It let me focus and give me another avenue of testing gameplay in the real world while I am not coding - and with real input from players! I found that if it was not fun in the board game, it is not going to be fun in the PC game. You have to ditch it, improve it, or merge it with another feature.
Now I am getting near the finish line of my first REAL game! It has been a crazy ride, almost two years from the time I picked up Unity and said "This is it, no more excuses." too having an alpha with two maps to choose from, AI that works (well, mostly), and to be able to play a complete game from start to finish. June 1st is the goal for the alpha build, it is on the calendar and I WILL make it! After that, on to real play testers so I can refine what works, and fix what doesn't.
More updates to come, and I hope you stay with me the rest of the way!