How many in-development games are there? There are infinite numbers of in-development games. Unfortunately not every one of those in-development games can afford the time or money to produce eye-catching trailers or to send out brain-catching press releases. Instead their harried creators make short GIFs and blog furiously about feature design, art creation and whatever remains on their todo lists.
These are devlogs. And this is where we collect the best of the week’s updates.
Procedural universes! Procedural world maps! Procedural dinosaurs!
I have a soft spot for modders-turned-game makers. Not only because I like the narrative arc of a dedicated fan turned professional, but because modding a game for a prolonged period of time can give you unusual insight. (Fig. 1).
Unending Galaxy is being made by X3: Terran Conflict modder SerialKicked, and you can see its inspirations in the description of the game:
Unending Galaxy aims at becoming a 2D sandbox/simulation/4X game based in space. […] As a player you can fight, trade, explore, build factories, and form your own empire. Factions are able to conquer territory and conduct diplomacy. The economy of each empire influences its military production and capacity. Most missions will be generated based on what’s actually going on in the galaxy (instead of what is usually the other way around).
The game’s weekly devlog is focused on directly charting progress towards completion, and there’s plenty that’s interesting about the design of a large, AI-driven world like this. For example, this recent post covers mission design – what tasks players might be offered, and how they’re generated and incentivised.
I’m not sure Adam has left his Distant Worlds since he started playing with them. What might happen if he was handed an Unending Galaxy? Would we ever see or hear from him again? Maybe we’ll find out one day: UG is only at v.0.5.5, but there’s currently an alpha build available to download and play.
When people say that their game is an MMORPG, I no longer know what that means. If they say that it’s about “classic dungeon crawling and turn-based combat,” then I have a better idea. If they write detailed, monthly posts about the creation of your various systems, then I’m suddenly a convert.
That above linked post walks through the creation of a single enemy AI, charting the different properties the game might choose in order to determine your opponent’s combat strategy. The result in the instance offered as an example is a defenceless, short-tempered damage dealer of average intelligence, but the post goes step-by-step through the options available, how those options are communicated to the player, and how it might impact strategy.
If reading isn’t your thing, the developers are also posting weekly Screenshot Saturday updates, which is where the above GIF comes from. The site is low on big-picture explanations of what the game is like to play, but the detail and art make it worth checking.
Have I written about Battle Brothers before? A quick search suggests I haven’t, but I’ve certainly seen Battle Brothers before, and I don’t know how I’d be able to resist its turn-based combat, its abstracted boardgame-style art, or its Mount & Blade-level ambition. Heck, there’s even a playable demo.
The TIGSource devlog for the game is five pages long, but that doesn’t do justice to how long and detailed some of the individual updates are. Look here at this explanation of worldmap creation, for example. Each world is procedurally generated, and not just for show:
For example, merchants travel on the roads between settlements, but not just for show. As they reach their destination, they increase the local wealth with their trading, which in turn increases the selection of equipment and supplies available, and the rewards that the settlement is able to offer for any tasks. In the same vein, consider an encampment of robbers in the nearby forest. That encampment will send out parties to raid farms, fields, the settlement itself and the merchant caravans travelling the roads. As the village is raided and merchant caravans never reach it, its wealth plummets, its people become poor and can offer the player little.
This mixture of procedural generation, strategy and RPG systems are maybe my favourite kinds of devlogs to read. There’s so much going on, so much to think about, such as this explanation of the game’s perk system. Again, in a game with permadeath, this stuff really matters.
The demo is “pre-alpha” and only designed to show some of the combat, but it’s already more than most devlogs contain. Take a look.
- Devlogs don’t need to be limited to the small, the unknown, the hyper-indie. Work on the re-creation of Rust in a new engine continues.
- Cloudface continues to be a platform game about a cloud with a face. Check these regular new animations.
- The ever beloved Citybound has started livestreaming development. There’s been two streams so far with more on the way.
- One of the longest-running devlogs is for Moonman, which is 174 pages long and still updated regularly. The game itself is inspired by Knytt, Nethack and Dwarf Fortress, so how could you not already be following it?
Right. And not one mention of the lovely foreign country I visited last week. (Which was the Czech Republic). As always, email me hot tips for hot devlogs.