Hi folks! Wow an update! Yes– I’ve failed miserably at writing an update every week this year. I’ve managed, what? About 3?! Well writing about what I’m doing remains a weak point, but at least I’ve been doing some work!
I’m pleased to say I’ve joined a great community of game developers at Bristol Games Hub. I’m finding it a great experience so far. Previously I was working from home, which was fine but full of distractions. Having a proper office space has worked wonders for my productivity.
As well as finally releasing Concrete Jungle 1.1.8 on Android, iOS and Mac, I’ve been busy on my new project. It’s still not really ready to show, but I thought I’d use this post to tease a bit about what you can expect in the form of posting some of my inspiration. I think you get the idea!
This update has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here! I’m currently prepping the mac version for release on Steam next week, along with some long-lingering bug fixes.
The mac version on Steam contains both a native version and a wine version- it’ll ask you which one you want to play on launch. The Wine version has been available for a while on storefronts like itch.io, but I’ve been waiting for a functional native version to be ready before releasing on Steam. Both versions share the same save game directory, so you can play either one without losing progress.
Because of some bug fixes relating to possible exploits, the Steam leaderboards will be reset next week.
Concrete Jungle 1.1.8 is live now on Steam, and coming to other storefronts shortly.
New Features & Changes:
-Mac version now available!
-English dialog now plays even when a different language is selected (to turn off, lower the voice volume to 0).
-AI bugs with placing towers (would sometimes try an illegal move)
-Fixed a bug where the display of the unlocked card faded before you could read it.
-Fixed a bug where the game would not maximize its window on startup.
-Missing link icon from the ‘Welfare Office’ card.
-Missing link icon from the ‘Farmers’ Market’ card.
-Missing star icon from the ‘Sculpture’ card.
-Fixed some dialog errors on levels 7, 11 and 14 when using languages other than English.
-‘Parking’ building’s extend max block size ability was being applied incorrectly, resulting in only a +1 size increase.
-The level name introduction text now scales properly with the game window.
-Some remaining text and grammatical errors.
Card & Skill Balances:
-‘Museum’ no longer duplicates cards that can duplicate other cards.
-‘Newspaper HQ’ ability now only applies to empty land or point-collecting buildings and is capped at +32 economy.
Game Ideas That Were Almost My Next Project (And Why They Weren’t)
So, with my next project on the horizon I thought I’d dive into some of my previous ideas and talk a bit about why they weren’t chosen to be my next project. My actual next project remains under wraps for now, so this is a bit of a tease- but rest assured I think I’ve chosen correctly! I feel the need for a big disclaimer: None of the screenshots below are from my projects, they’re from various games that inspire me.
You can file most of these under ‘well of course not, that project would require a large team’. But I’ve always preferred to be ambitious with my ideas, so all of these were under serious consideration at one point or another.
A VR (optional) immersive sim/Stealth RPG. Inspired by: Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock.
Case for: This year I’ve been experimenting a bit with VR after eagerly buying an HTC Vive. I’m aboard the VR hype train, and I think this would be my ultimate VR experience- there’s a tonne of potential for some really cool experiences with this tech. After some time and thought though, I think the industry has quietly decided VR is going to be a bit of an experimental space for a while. There’s a clear divide between the kind of games we’re seeing on these early VR systems and what most people spend their time playing. If I were to develop this it would have to be VR optional and being able to play through the game entirely using conventional controls would be a must. Case against: The tech does need to mature and grow a bit more before we see what it can really be; the comfort is not quite there (wireless would be ideal), the resolution needs to be upped a bit in my opinion and the cost to entry needs to come down. It’s a really exciting start though- I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in 5 years. But even just typing about this and staring longingly at that Thief: The Dark Project screenshot makes me want to make this. Gah!
Concrete Jungle 2 Inspired by: Concrete Jungle, SimCity, Skylines Case for: This would of been the obvious and safe choice. I’ve learned a whole lot and feel I could really build (no pun intended) on the first one with some cool refinements and ideas. I’d like to revisit making it more of a sandbox game, I’d certainly revise a lot of the mechanics and make the jump to 3D. Case against: I’ve been working on Concrete Jungle for about 4 years straight now- I need a break!
A first person adventure/immersive sim where you play a front-man of an awful punk band and try to become famous. Inspired by: Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, Burden of 80 Proof, Trainspotting
Case for: Uniqueness. I love story based games, and I feel there’s a gap in the market for more real life/down to earth/independent film style experiences. I really like the idea of setting this in a small British coastal town and having a small open world with some basic RPG elements. Keeping the focus on narrative and day-to-day life but having a bit more game-y-ness than your average walking simulator. Case against: This was probably my #2 idea, failing mainly due to the practicality- hiring actors, mo-capping them in 3D etc was asking a bit much for my current situation. The main barrier to making what I envisioned was creating believable human NPCs. It takes a huge amount of time and money to get that anywhere near right, and I’m quite keen for the genre to move away from walking around empty rooms. I also find I get a lot of motivation from cool game mechanics, and the story-driven idea was not quite enough to quench my love of them. I want to return to this idea in the future with a small team and bigger budget.
A DayZ-esque survival game that uses the whole of the UK as a map. Inspired by: DayZ, Arma Case for: I love DayZ and huge open terrains to traverse. It’s a polarizing game, but I really admire the sparse but incredibly intense encounters- playing the original mod back in 2012 created some of my favourite gaming moments. I also realised I enjoy travel and orienteering in games- frantically trying to navigate Chenarus in the dark and getting lost was strangely entertaining to me. This idea was to turn both of those up to 11 by staging the game in a life-sized UK game world. My incredibly ambitious plan was to create an engine that would output the level data and terrain from OS map info. Case against: As above, way too ambitious for where I’m at right now. Who knows how the multiplayer aspect would work- maybe some kind of server bubble system? I didn’t get too far into this side of things before abandoning the idea due to it being too ambitious. I am occasionally aware of my ideas becoming too much!
A Pub management game. Inpsired by: FTL, The management game genre
Case for: I went through a management game phase earlier in the year. Plus I really, really like FTL and I wanted to create some unique twist on that concept. Case against: Once I started gathering ideas I lost interest fairly quickly. When I started making games I promised the bread and butter of ColePowered would be innovation and trying new things. This didn’t feel that new. It’s a bit unfortunate as I’m not sure a pub management game actually exists outside of the casual mobile market? Even so, the core concept wasn’t unique enough to hold my interest.
So there we go, the projects that almost made it. I hope to be writing about what *I am* working on soon!
Hello folks, thought I’d write a post meeting the new year head on. I’ve decided I need to make some changes to the way I do things in order to grow what I’ve started. So here’s a sort of ‘2017 and beyond’ manifesto for ColePowered:
Be more active within the gamedev community. I’m pretty awful when it comes to twitter, facebook or even just writing on here and it’s something that needs to improve. Even if nobody reads it, writing these dev blog posts are a great way to collect thoughts and reflect. As an introvert I find simply being vocal the most challenging thing about solo game development, but until I can afford to hire somebody who does it all for me it’s something I need to work on! This year I’m going to make an effort to be more social on here, social media and also attend more gaming events. I’m going to attempt to write something on here every week- whether it be a simple post like this or a much more interesting development blog entry.
Play more. It sounds counter-productive but my gaming time has really taken a bit of a hit in recent years. It’s simply because I enjoy making games so much, I prefer to spend more time making than playing. I remember Tom Francis saying something that rang particularly true on the Crate & Crowbar podcast a while back, something along the lines of- making a game is like playing the most complex, satisfying game imaginable. But playing can provide valuable inspiration, I need to be careful not to miss out on what’s actually happening in gaming or I fear my game ideas will be left behind.
Transition from Concrete Jungle to my new project. Yes I’ve started one, but it’s in the early prototype stages. I’m almost ready to start talking about it and showing off what I’ve done so far, but not quite. Meanwhile Concrete Jungle still needs updating to include some additional languages (which have been ever so kindly translated by some fans!) I also need to address a few issues on mobile and release properly on mac. Although I’m still 100% committed to the game, I am absolutely eager to move on to a new project now.
Grow the business. Since becoming a full time indie, I’ve taken a very frugal approach to spending. I’ve always chosen to do/make something myself wherever possible. This philosophy has served me well- it allowed me to make Concrete Jungle for £12k and survive the years prior. I’m not going to abandon that approach, but I do want to start thinking about growing the business in the next few years. I’m not quite sure what the first step is here, I’ve got a feeling all will become clearer with the next project. Concrete Jungle’s sales have been enough to keep me afloat as a sole developer for at least another year and a half, maybe two- which is fantastic. I’m so pleased I get to continue what I do! Being able to do this for a living is a dream come true.
So, assuming I don’t fall at the first hurdle, see you soon. Have a great new year, here’s hoping to a better one!