On Loot

Lots of very boring work has been going on here in Squid Tower, but I’m closing in on a working Vertical Slice of game and the possibility of an Early Access release on Steam this year is looking good.

Loot

The number one thing I’ve been thinking about is loot. It turns out that Waves: Arena Tactics is all about loot and while that was never my intention at the beginning it’s how it’s ended up.

Loot can be bought from the shop, crafted (eventually) but mostly it is found during Dives. The reason you try to get deeper into a system is because that’s where the good stuff is kept. Deeper you go the better the loot and therefore the deeper you can go. It’s circular. Get deep enough and maybe you can crash the entire system and gain immense Notoriety (essentially experience points).

The idea I struggled with for a long time was that all loot should be fair and balanced; an ideology that was a hold-over from working on MMOGs for so long. This ideology is complete hogwash in a roguelike dungeon crawler like W:AT. Depending entirely on the players own skill level to improve over time is “pure” but results in most people just giving up out of frustration. There is also a physical upper limit on what a player can achieve meaning levels can never get more dangerous than that. Increasing quality of loot is what makes a Roguelike work and I am embracing it entirely.

Loot is digital in nature in W:AT. This is a world of bits and bytes not swords and treasure. When you pick something up it gets added to your download manager and queued up for download. Should your connection be terminated before the download completes then you’ll lose the loot (although leaving through the level exit will always complete all downloads instantly). Considering that the best loot is guarded heavily an unauthorized download attempt might cause a significant system response. Picking something up is only the start of your job collecting loot not the end of it.

I’ll go over all the types of Loot in the game and give some examples.

Equipment

All equipment is stuff that you can equip to your avatar. Fairly self explanatory. The majority of Loot is equipment and comes in 3 versions (V1.0 to V3.0) and each version is just flat out better than the previous one. Most V1.0 equipment can be bought from the shop as your Notoriety increases but the better versions need to be found by Diving deeper. V3.0 equipment tends to only be found in the most secure systems at the deepest levels guarded by the nastiest programs. Eventually crafting will allow you to create alpha and beta versions giving you an incremental increase towards the next full version by combining your spares (therefore v3.0b would be the best equipment you can get).

Your Avatar has several slots you can put Equipment into. There are 3 Program slots (Primary Weapon, Defence, and Super Weapon) and 5 Upgrade slots (3 Accessory slots, a Modification slot and a Booster slot). I did toy with the idea of borrowing Eve Onlines slot system but found it was quite cumbersome on a joypad, there are however similarities between the two.

Programs

Your Programs are the only way you can directly interact with the programs populating a system. They should be fairly self-explanatory but I’ll go over them anyway.

Primary Weapons are your basic attack (gun). Primary weapons use no energy and are always available. They are the bread and butter of the game and take one of 3 forms (I’m working on a fourth but I’m not committing to it yet) – Projectile, Beam and Thrower. Projectile weapons all launch a projectile that takes time to hit its target and often have an explosive element, high rate of fire and a large spread. Beam weapons all fire continuously and have zero travel time hitting instantaneously, they’re great at single target damage. Throwers are very short ranged but require very little aiming and often have a secondary effect like burning, stunning or knock back.

Defences are non-damaging programs that are intended to keep you alive a little longer. Defences always use up energy and may have a cool-down period after using them. Once a Defence is triggered it lasts for a fixed duration of time so knowing when to use them is critical. They can however save your life. Examples of Defences are the “Slow Field” which slows down everything around you, the Energy Shield which makes you temporarily invulnerable, self-heals, cloaking devices, teleporters, EMP blasts and sometimes they just give you massive buffs (for those that believe attack is the best form of defence).

Super Weapons (New better name suggestions welcomed) user up energy in order to kill things very efficiently. Smartbombs are the simplest example being great for removing all the chaff you may find yourself swarmed by. Some Super Weapons just do lots of damage or clear the screen while others are more about area denial such as lightning storms which last for a while striking enemies randomly inside their area of effect.

Upgrades

Upgrades are passive bonuses and can be used to tailor your Avatar to a particular play style.

Accessories manipulate the 8 base Stats in the game and define your Avatar: Health, Attack, Defence, Speed, Energy, Health Regen, Energy Regen, and Hacking. Health and Speed  are obvious, Attack  multiplies the damage of all your weapons while Defence absorbs some of the incoming damage your suffer. Energy is used to run Defences and Super Weapons and Hacking is used to crack open files and databases you find in the game (some files need a higher hacking stat to access at all). Health and Energy Regen just represent your avatars ability to passively regenerate those two stats.

Accessories come in many forms the most basic of which is just a single stat modifier like +10 Health. More complex forms might offer a larger single stat increase at the expense of another such as the Turtle which offers +15 Defence at the expense of 10 Speed. Others may offer small gains across many stats which is only useful when you have 3 of them stacked up. With 3 versions of every Accessory there are already over 100 Accessories in the game and the potential for even more in the future.

Modifications offer passive buffs that can be quite game changing but always come with a significant downside. A lot of the team buffing auras are modifications such as Healing Auras which increase the Health Regen of everybody within a certain range. Other modifications like the Vampire regenerate your health as you cause damage to enemies or they might just add a secondary effect to your attacks like a stun or burn effect. The downsides might just be sacrificed stats or debuffs (the Vampire Mod has a negative Health Regen so it might kill you).

Boosters only last a single level but provide a massive bonus during that level. The only way to gain extra-lives is by equipping an Emergency Backup Booster giving you a single life that lasts for one dungeon level. Other Boosters may give you a huge bonus to your stats or negate the Downside of a Modification. Boosters being consumable means that there are a lot of them out there and simple versions are readily available from the Shop.

Passkeys

Every level contains a number of Passkeys which are required to be able to unlock the level exit and in some cases well protected files. They aren’t very fancy but they are required to get deeper into the level. Passkeys are only ever contained in Databases which must be hacked (staying within proximity of the server until the security is broken down) which has a tendency to draw the attention of the system defences. Not all Databases contain Passkeys but they always contain something worth your time unlike Files which sometimes contain nothing at all or even worse Viruses.

Money

Yep Money. However we’re not talking gold coins as this is a digital universe. As a hacker sometimes you’ll find data that somebody might want to pay for (or will pay a ransom for). When this happens the offending files are converted into cash as soon as they finish downloading. These files might be a database of user names, payment details, credit card numbers, nude cell phone pictures or CCTV footage of illegal nuclear waste dumping. Whatever form it takes it’s worth money to the right (or wrong) people. Eventually I’ll add Bank systems that only ever contain large quantities of money but that’s for a different time.

Pickups

Pickups are temporary little boosts dropped by programs in the system as they get terminated. You can also find pickups inside files.  The most common pickup dropped by all programs is energy. All programs use energy to run so when you terminate a program you can steal the energy before the system reassigns it. Some pickups might boost your stats temporarily as well.


An Apology, a Sale and a Lower Price

If you regularly follow my blog you will have noticed that I’ve been pretty much absent from the internet for the last 6 weeks or so. I’m very sorry about this, I’m sure you want to know what’s going on with Arena Tactics and the silence on the matter has been disheartening.

This was all caused by my internet connection becoming almost completely unusable during this time. REIN (Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise) in my local area was causing my broadband signal to cut out sometimes a hundred times a day, this meant that the local exchange ended up throttling me down to early 1990’s speeds with massive packet loss as well as the disconnections. BT have been trying to find the source of the noise (I live in the town centre so it could have been any of a large number of shops, businesses or homes causing it) and say that they’ve resolved the issue. Here’s hoping it stays resolved so I can get back to important things like streaming development, uploading videos and generally keeping you all up to date.

Today is the last day of a week long sale that began on Monday with Waves being only $2.

New Low Price

After the previous Week long sale I secretly dropped the price of Waves from $10 to $5. I did this secretly because I wanted to see what effect a change in price would have without any of the effects of coverage that might result. Well after 2 months the game has been pulling in over 3 times as many sales at the lower price than it was managing before thus proving something.

In practice this means that Waves is now pulling in enough money each month to support my (tiny) salary where before it was a constant cycle of building up reserves from big sales only to slowly deplete them over 6 months. Hopefully this should let me get ahead of the game and free up some money to pay contractors for Arena Tactics.

Arena Tactics Progress

Waves: Arena Tactics is coming along nicely. I’m working on a vertical slice demo to coincide with the relaunch of the Kickstarter campaign later this year so you can all have a play and see what you’re funding.

The demo will give you the ability to attack a corporate server in Dive mode up to 3 levels deep. There will be boss fights, loot, a new inventory system, local co-op for up to 3 players (since online multiplayer would require Steam) and hopefully some new art work and music. I’m currently at the stage of tuning and balancing the demo (the internet being down gave me a lot of time to get programming done so the demo is pretty much feature complete) to ensure that it’s as fun as possible.

Keep your eyes fixed on Twitter and the Facebook page for any announcements of upcoming live streams as the demo gets closer to completion.


Waves Update 1.4 and 75% off Sale

Update 1.4 went live on Sunday adding a seventh Game Mode to Waves. Currently this update is only available to Steam users until I get a patch out. However everybody that buys the game direct from this site still gets a Steam code to redeem if they want to access the online features.

To celebrate the new update and also to try and raise some money to fund Arena Tactics, Waves is 75% off on Steam all week!


Characters, Voices and Weapons, Oh My!

Last Nights Livestream

First thanks to everybody who turned up to our Livestream last night. We all had loads of fun showing the game off and everybody was really nice so we’ll definitely be doing this again and trying to make it a semi-regular occurrence even after the Kickstarter.

Characters In W:AT

One of the problems I’ve always had with Waves was the lack of character for people to relate to. Believe it or not being an abstract sphere with a gun is not enough for a lot of people. During the Stream I suggested the idea of being able to  unlock Characters (which I think I will start calling Runners because I’m a hopeless Cyberpunk junky). Each Character has a different set of baseline stats and bonuses to certain playstyles in a similar way to Character cards in a Living Card Game like Android: Netrunner.

I Want Your Voice!

With the introduction of Runners it makes sense that each Runner gets a personality. The original Waves had a pair of Robotic announcers that told you about things like pickups and how little energy you had. These voices will return in the new game (indeed they are already implemented) but I’d like to add more voices with different accents and phrases for each Runner as well as localized versions different languages.

If you have a unique accent (or can affect one) and you would be interested in having your voice plastered all over the game then I want you to get in touch! Drop me a message on email and I’ll add you to the list. It won’t be hard stuff mostly things like “Quad Damage” and “Shields Full” not lengthy diatribes on the nature of transhumanism.

Anybody who gets their voice in the game will be credited as a voice actor and this invitation is open to everybody in all tiers.

We Need Guns. Lots of Guns.

There are ten main weapons in the game right now and five “Super” weapons but I’d like to expand both of these lists. A big part of W:AT is customising your experience with different equipment loadouts. During the Stream last night we showed off lots of different builds that can be achieved and I plan on putting up some videos on the YouTube channel showing off different ways to play the same mode.

If you can think of any weapons or equipment you’d like to see in the game then you can send me your ideas over twitter or facebook or via email if you’re shy. I’m looking for things that will be tactically different from the existing weapons rather than just a re-skin or more powerful version.

For reference here are the weapons that are already implemented:

 

 

 


The Final Push – Co-Op Video and Live Stream

It’s been a hard Kickstarter and I’ve learnt much about running a campaign like this. Backers may be looking at the funded percentage right now and thinking the project isn’t going to make it.

I disagree!

New Video

The final week of the Kickstarter is going to be the most important. I feel like I’ve been marketing this game on the wrong features. The fact is that the biggest feature of this game is the Co-Op and procedural “Rogue-like” elements. This is why I’m releasing the following video…

Above you can watch some unedited gameplay footage of the “Dive” mode. “Dive” is a Co-Operative mode for up to 3 players (either online or offline) where the objective is to explore the levels and dive deeper into the world. Depth will be recorded on the leaderboards rather than points and frankly it could keep going forever!

Live Stream

On  the 22nd of Feb (a Saturday) at 10PM GMT (5PM EST) I will be hosting a Live Stream event on the Squid In A Box Twitch.tv channel alongside The Pudding Earl. We’ll be playing the game “Dive” game mode in local co-op for about an hour with our friend Dan (assuming he can make it).

During the Stream I will be answering questions from the chat about the game and it’s development so if you want to get to know me then stop by!

Share It!

If you’re backing this project then don’t think that you’ve done everything you can to help. YOU CAN DO MORE! The last week is the most important but if nobody is talking about the Kickstarter then nobody else will back it and we will fail. All you need to do is share the link on twitter, facebook, reddit or any other social network. Shout about it in the streets and accost passers by. Whatever you do to spread the word it will help.


Waves: Arena Tactics Kickstarter is Live!

Here it is! The Waves: Arena Tactics Kickstarter has gone live!

The Kickstarter will run until the 28th of Feb so please tell your friends!

As part of this announcement I am pleased to announce that Robert Stjärnström of Machinae Supremacy will be composing an original soundtrack for Waves: Arena Tactics! This is however dependent on the project being funded so check out the rewards and pledge what you can!


December – January Devblog

December was a slow month with the Holidays taking up the bulk of the time so I mostly focussed on bug fixes so there isn’t a video this time.

January was all about getting ready for the Waves: Arena Tactics Kickstarter which took far more time than I expected it to (turns out the Camera hates me). Hopefully the Kickstarter should be launching in the next week and will run till the end of Feb.

I’ve also lined up a Composer for the new game who I’ll announce when the Kickstarter goes live.

I’ve also been tidying up some loose ends such as getting the Waves Soundtrack up for sale on Steam at last. It’s available to buy now for just $2 here.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to put together a proper Press Kit for Waves: Arena Tactics and do a bunch of boring business things like talk to Accountants. Hopefully I can get back to actually making a game soon!


November Devblog

Taking a bit longer than normal to get the Devblog up for November as I was messing around with a new format for the video but it was taking so long I ditched it for the old format.

First up are 3 new Primary Weapons; the last of the Primary weapons to be implemented from my current ToDo list.

  • Sniper Rifle – High damage beam weapon. It will pass through anything it can kill instantly until it hits something it can’t like a wall or a Boomer. This weapon prompted the ability to zoom out with the camera that you can see in the video.
  • Grenade Launcher – Fires an explosive projectile on an arc that detonates on proximity with an enemy. It can bounce off walls and around corners.
  • Burst Cannon – Designed to be fired in bursts. Spews bullets in a cone but uses energy to do so. If you run out of energy the rate of fire is significantly reduced.

November saw the implementation of the majority of the new Support Items in Waves: Arena Tactics.

Support Items are equivilent to the Slomo feature in Waves and are bound to the same buttons. You can equip one such item before you start playing from the number you have unlocked.

  • Slow Field – The slomo feature redesigned for multiplayer. It now only affects an area around the player using it rather than globally.
  • Healing Aura – Converts energy into health for everybody inside the bubble.
  • Energy Shield – Instead of damage coming out of your health it comes out of your energy reserve. Affects nearby team mates with damage they take coming out of your energy.
  • Shockwave – Knocks nearby enemies away from you.
  • Cloak – Limited invisibility. Firing your weapon deactivates it early and it has a cooldown after it deactivates before it can be used again.
  • E.M.P – Huge blast that stuns enemies and empties the energy reserves of everybody inside it (including yourself).
  • Teleport – Tap to drop a beacon, hold to be teleported to the beacon. Uses all of your available energy in the process.

I also added two new Superweapons.

  • Gas Grenade – Like the Grenade Launcher but instead of an explosion it releases a cloud of gas that eats away at enemies within it as well as obscuring their vision and slowing them down.
  • Proximity Mines – Visible only to the player that dropped them these mines take a moment to arm but once armed they explode when an enemy gets close.

December will be pretty light on updates due to the Holidays and the fact that I’ll be mostly working on a Kickstarter for the game so I can actually afford to pay an artist and sound engineer in the new year.

For now if you want to support the game then feel free to buy a few copies of the original to gift to your friends and family on Steam!


October DevBlog

The start of November means only one thing… Fireworks!

It also means that it’s time for a DevBlog about everything I’ve been doing in the previous 30 days.

Here is a video.

This was the first month where I really started to add content rather than work on invisible backend stuff like server browsers.

In total I’ve added 3 new weapons, 2 super weapons, 4 new enemies, loot tables and power ups.

The Power Ups are quite basic at the moment, all enemies drop some energy that can be collected to power your big guns and defenses, some might drop a health or damage power-up which will regenerate your shields or multiply your damage output respectively. These are all very short term generally lasting only 5-10 seconds.

In terms of weapons the Machine Gun was added (fairly self-explanatory that one) as well as the Repulsor and the Arc Cannon.

The Repulsor and Arc Cannon are both short range weapons and they don’t require a good aim to use. Be warned both of these weapons can hit friends as well as foes so watch where you point them in multiplayer.

  • The Repulsor emits a blast of energy that knocks enemies away and hits everybody in it’s area of effect, it’s mostly a defensive weapon and provides some crowd control.
  • The Arc Cannon fires three electrical charges in a narrow arc which will hit the 3 closest enemies (or if there aren’t 3 it will double or triple up). This stuns the target and can also arc over a short distance to other targets stunning them as well.

Two new SuperWeapons were added; the Mega Laser and the Spin Laser.

  • The Mega Laser is exactly like the classic Beam Laser just BIGGER. It draws a lot of energy while firing and prevents your other weapons from firing at the same time. It is however the only Super Weapon that can be targeted manually making it ideal for taking out enemies with lots of health.
  • The Spin Laser is made up of 3 Mega Lasers that rotate clockwise for a fixed time. Where the Mega Laser is good at killing off big enemies the Spin Laser is ideal for clearing up small low-health targets in large numbers. The range of the Laser is longer than the Bomb but it isn’t guaranteed to hit everything.

Four new enemies is actually one old enemy ported from Waves and 3 new ones.

  • The Cluster is back! That drunken looking yellow one from Waves returns and is just as drunk as before. Shooting the Cluster is only the start of your problems as it breaks into two smaller faster enemies.
  • Turrets are the first new enemy that can shoot back at you. They have a lot of health but can’t move. They are just as likely to kill enemies as they are you so you can use them to your advantage if you’re good enough.
  • Strafers are the second shooting enemy. Equipped with a beam laser they try to orbit their target and destroy them from afar. Like Turrets they can be pretty indiscriminate about friendly fire but if you leave them alone they’ll soon have your shields down.
  • Boomers just want to hug you. Unfortunately they are so full of explosives that just getting close to you can set them off and it really hurts when they go pop. Boomers are incredibly tough to kill but when they die all those explosives detonate taking out everybody around them – including you if you’re too close.

Waves: Arena Tactics

Announcing the next game in the Waves series: Arena Tactics!

Waves: Arena Tactics is the follow-up to Waves. It’s taking the arcade action of the original and pairing it with more of everything.

Arena Tactics is about playing your way. There is a slew of new weapons and abilities that can be unlocked to customise your loadout as well as lots of new Arenas to fight in.

Waves: Arena Tactics also supports online multiplayer both competitive and co-operative for up to 4 players.

Due for release in 2014 the game is being made using the Unreal Development Kit by Epic Games (http://www.UDK.com).