Update Blitzkreig: Free O’Clock High / Post-mortem


Hello folks! As you may of guessed from that stunningly witty title, I’ve decided to release my game Six O’Clock High for free. It’s now free on android, iOS will follow in the weeks to come.

Along with the new free-ness, the game itself has a new build which is a little shinier. There are chartboost ads involved BUT you can disable them completely via the options menu. Anybody who has purchased the game before now will have them disabled by default.

Releasing a previously paid-for game for free is always a bit of a moral grey zone for developers. I wanted to release SOCH for free because I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t want to pay for it, but who would play it. It’s a small game so it was always to be expected. But I don’t want to screw over the people who did pay for it and support it early on, AND I wanted to keep it all in one version. When you have multiple versions of the game game- paid and free, things get trickier to manage.

So that why I’ve just gone and made the ads completely optional. I would hope that a lot of people leave them turned on because, when it comes down to it, I do need money for food. But even if you just download the game for free, you have the option of removing them.



So what went right and what went wrong with Six O’Clock High?

The Good-
I was and still am pleased with the quality of the core game. I still have fun with it whenever I need to test it. With some reservations that I’ll expand into further on.

I’m still very pleased with the graphics. Tonnes of thought and adjustment went into creating the ever-so-slightly-washed-out-but-still-vivid colour palette. I had some lukewarm comments on the half-pixelized style I attempted, and I would have to agree it didn’t quite come together as well as I hoped, but I’m glad I tried it.

The Bad-
Controls still remain an issue on touch screens. I think I personally like them more than the average person, but they come up a lot. At this point it would be a lot of work with little reward to go back and input a whole new control system. Sorry guys. Maybe in a sequel?

The content is light, especially for a paid game. I always knew this was going to be the case as I wanted to keep this as a small project. Every project I do spirals out of control, I end up spending 1 year+ on. I wanted to do something small and light. Yes, I thought about doing an awesome single player campaign, with friendly AI, different levels, and progress saving. If I make a sequel this will definitely be on the cards. But Six O’Clock will always be just a little survival arcade game.

As for the price (tier 1), I thought it was reasonable outside of the context of the app store. I still do. $1 for a cool little time waster is fine right? The reality is the competition is very heavy, and even a tier 1 price can be a tough sell when it’s really quite a small game and up against free-to-play titles. That’s just the reality.

The Ugly-
Bugs. Always a downfall. I think I’ve got them all now.

The looping soundtrack. I couldn’t afford multiple tracks OK? BA-BA-DA DA-DA-DA!

Performance on lower end phones. Also somewhat unavoidable. I spent weeks trying to optimize each version as much as possible. It’s as good as it can get. If you have devices made from 2012 onwards, you should be fine though.

So there we go. I hope you enjoy Six O’Clock High. I very well may return to make Seven O’Clock one day. It’s certainly a game I’d like to expand upon.



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Building Camelot the Build #6


Hi there everybody! The Camelot project is progressing well. This month I’ve been polishing it up a lot, fixing bugs and testing on android. The game is working, the AI is working nicely on both PC and android, all the UI graphics and animations are done and the sound effects are in place.

01What’s left to go? The online multiplayer is a bit tricky to get working. Currently, you have to host a server yourself via PC and other players on android or PC can connect directly to you. This often requires some port forwarding on a local network though- something which users may find off-putting. Ideally, a master server system which both PC and android can connect to via their internet connections would solve a lot of this. But unfortunately a system like that would be costly and require maintenance.

But despite this complication, the multiplayer is working when tested locally, which is great. Network multiplayer on PC and android might be a feature that’s just there if you want to dive into it, rather than a game-selling one. I hadn’t ventured into multiplayer gaming before this project, and my tools and knowledge are limited.

The iOS version will sidestep this issue by using iOS’s GameCenter matchmaking system. The iOS version is next on the list, and should be quite straightforward now I have an android version working to a good standard.


03Apart from that, there really isn’t a whole lot more to do. I’m still playtesting a lot and coming across bugs to squish, but I think the big ones are fixed. I’m really happy with how it looks and plays, the sound and animations really add a lot to the feel of the gameplay. The AI is decent now, as far as my ability is concerned. They still occasionally screw up on the last play, something which I’ll continue to work on.


This project has been great to work on, I’ve learned so much. The AI in particular was by far the biggest challenge. There’s still a bit to go- I find the last 5% of game development can often take the longest/be the most challenging. As soon as you fix one thing, something else goes wrong, it’s a bit like whack-a-mole with bugs. But we’ve really got an awesome little game for you here!



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Building Camelot the Build #5


Now that the boring AI stuff is done, I can move onto the pretty things! This week I’ve been overhauling the game’s user interface from the ground-up! I was never very pleased with my first attempt at the UI (it was meant as more of a placeholder anyway), so I’m glad the more important stuff is out the way so I can finally focus on prettying up the game.


I think it’s a huge improvement! There are also tonnes of new animations to accompany the new UI.


As far as the UI goes, there are a few more things to do- the game over screen where each loosing player will be executed by Gawain, and a few multiplayer specific elements.


Since I’ve last posted I’ve also been working a lot on the sound- I’ve created a sound effect for every individual building as well as lots of pleasant UI sounds to accompany the gameplay. Expect to hear the sounds of butchers butchering, swords swinging, baths being run and weavers weaving as you build.


Although not visible in these screenshots, I’ve moved the ‘end turn’ button to the bottom right instead of the bottom left. Instead, the ‘undo’ button occupies the bottom left space. This feels more natural as the bottom right is a natural ‘final’ positioning- if you think of it like a book, you would end up here before turning the page. The same principle applies in design.



Next on the agenda: Bug fixing. AI tweaks. Tile graphical tweaks. Multiplayer testing.

See you soon!

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Building Camelot the Build #4


So there’s been a bit of a break with the dev blog entries lately. My reasoning is I’ve been reworking the AI from the ground up- and as I’ve talked about a lot of what I wanted to include in previous posts, I didn’t really want to repeat myself. Especially because it’s very difficult to show you the AI changes in visual form.

So in the last post I ended up with a semi-competent AI that was perhaps passable at best. Not really good enough. Also it was slow. Too slow. It paused the game while it thought, even on the PC version- and the sheer amount of calculations it had to do meant it would be a very tricky convert to mobile devices.

So I re-built everything from the ground up, with the aim of not only making it better, but making it much, much more efficient. I’m happy to say I’m 90% of the way there now- I’ve got a much more functional AI which is fast and most importantly, doesn’t pause the game and can run on mobile platforms! At the time of writing there are still some bugs to sort out regarding garden tiles and the end game, but I’m confident I can tackle these.

So for the really hardcore development fans out there- in the rest of the blog entry I’m going to post my detailed explanation of exactly what’s going on with the AI:

So when the AI begins it’s turn it starts to run through each possible combination of tiles it can lay in every position. This is often a huge number- especially at the start when it can be in the region of 20,000+ different combinations depending on what tiles it has. That’s why in the first iteration the game paused for a while processing them all.

So to get around this I’ve made it more efficient by giving it some basic rules to cut down the number of calculations it should proccess. If there is between 95-40% of the game left the AI will only anylise plays which are next to existing placed tiles. This cuts down on the combinations a huge amount. When there is 40% of the game left (60% of the tiles have been placed), the number of different combinations across the whole board is managable.

When the AI has gathered all the combinations of plays it can make, it has to rank them. It basically just puts all the combinations into a list, assigns them a score, the combination with the highest score is the one played.

This is currently how it determins the score:

((total tile score * tile multiplier) + (adjacent score * adjacent multiplier) + (double score bonus * double score bonus multiplier)) * scoring multiplier )
- ((total tile potential * potential multiplier) * (1 – game completion percentage/100))
- (next player scoring opportunity * next player multiplier)
- (2nd next player scoring opportunity * 2nd next player multiplier)
- (3rd next player scoring opportunity * 3rd next player multiplier)
+ (play blocking value * play blocking multiplier)

= ranking score

Here are the variables explained:

Total tile score; the total red score from just the tiles in this combination.

Tile multiplier; a variable we can use to tell the AI how to value the score on the tiles. In testing I have this at 100.

Adjacent score; the total points from adjacent tiles this combination gets.

Adjacent multiplier; a variable we can use to tell the AI how to value points gained from adjacent tiles. It’s useful to have this high compared to the others so it chooses ‘good value’ plays. In testing I have this at 300.

Double score bonus; the score multiplier that is applied if the combination features 3 end to end tiles. This is actually just 0 or 1 * the existing combination score (seeing as you either get it or not).

Double score bonus multiplier; a variable used to tell the AI how to value the double score. I’ve got this set at 100 in testing.

Scoring multiplier; a variable used to tell the AI how much to value scoring points. This is like a master variable for all of the above.

Total tile potential; because certain tiles are more ‘valuable’ than simply their score in red, I’ve implemented a variable (unseen to the player ofcourse) to determin the scoring potential of a tile. Without this the AI would just play garden tiles like they were wall pieces for example.

I’m still experimenting with the rankings, but they are supposed to represent the maximum scoring potential of the tile in relation to how common they are, and their positioning on the board. Here they are currently:

2 pnt corner- 10
3 pnt corner- 15
Blank wall- 0
Blank ground- 5
Garden- 100
1pnt wall tiles- 0
Scriptorium- 30
Round table- 50
Goblet – 50
Chapel – 40
Small Halls – 20
Great hall corner- 10
Great hall wall- 10
Uther Pen Dragon- 30
Dragon Banner- 40
Throne- 40
Excalibur- 50
Fireplace – 90
Wall inside corner – 5
Gates – 10

Furthermore though, I found this value needs to be less important as the game goes on. This is because at the start of the game every tile has it’s biggest chance to achieve it’s maximum scoring potential. As the game goes on it becomes less relevent, because as the tiles are filled in the chances that a tile can achieve it’s max scoring potential is reduced.

So to reflect this, I’ve made it so this value becomes less important in the equation as the game progresses like so:


Potential multiplier; a variable used to tell the AI how to value the potential. I’ve got this set at 60 in testing. I could just set the above tile rankings lower, but this allows me to easily adjust them all while keeping their ratio to each other the same (which is the important part).

Next/2nd Next/3rd Next player scoring opporunity; The AI will look at the hands of the following players and anylise how many points they can score from the current combination, if placed.

Next/2nd Next/3rd Next player multiplier; I’ve got a seperate multiplier for each following player here. I’ve given a higher weight to the immediately following player, with quickly declining weights given to the others- as obviously at this stage we don’t know what will be played inbetween those turns. In testing I’ve got next player at 100, 2nd at 50, 3rd at 20.

Play blocking value; This is how the AI attempts to block high scoring plays. It looks at the hand of the other players, and generates a ‘heatmap’ of the remaining board. This heatmap represents possible high scoring plays for the other players. The value on the heatmap for the spaces in the combinationĀ  is added to the ranking. It’s still quite a basic representation of the opponent’s high scoring tiles- it doesn’t take into account most of the variables above as this would require anylising through up to 3 turns worth of additional combinations.

Play blocking multiplier; A value to tell the AI how much to value play blocking. I have this at 160 in testing.

So that’s a detailed breakdown of how the new AI works. It might be hard to get your head around but I figured I might as well share this with you guys if you wanted to try!

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