Archive for the ‘Apotheon’ Category


June 18th, 2013 No comments

Almost another year since last update, and still working on Apotheon. The project has become massively ambitious, so release still seems far away. I am hoping for a release in 6 months, but that could very well be 9 months from now (rereading my past posts my game release expectations have been horribly wrong). It’s hard to say because Apotheon development was very different than Capsized’s – we spent a long time prototyping and polishing the initial vertical slice of the game getting all the mechanics done, rather than Capsized where we pretty much had all the levels done then polished the mechanics after. So now that we are done the first third of Apotheon, I am hoping developing the rest of the content is smooth and painless. I think we spent way too much time on the vertical slice for this project – only moving on to the actual real narrative of the game after almost a year and a half of development, before that the mechanics were in but the story was just thrown together to make the world make sense.
Having playtested Apotheon it seems to be getting a really good response, especially after the recent changes we’ve made to the story and adding a objective system. I used to think of the game as a sandbox RPG, where the player could just be thrown in and find their own objectives, and just have fun in the environment. But I realized that’s not what people would want from Apotheon – there just are not as many options for player customization (we can’t compete with Skyrim in assets and content), not enough freedom of movement and action to really find fun in a sandbox world. We noticed that once player’s couldn’t just keep going left to finish a level they felt lost and just gave up, rather than feeling any motivation to continue and explore. So once we redid the opening level and tutorial to be non-linear and objective based (making a non linear tutorial is a pretty hard design challenge, but it seems like Jesse did a awesome job on it) only then were player’s constantly engaged. The inspiration of Apotheon, greek mythology, also goes well with a really narrative focused RPG.
The combat system of Apotheon has evolved very nicely over time. It took about a year of constant tweaking and changes to get to the point where fights were where we wanted – requiring dexterity, tactics, and timing. It’s probably been through around 10 or so major revisions, complete rewrites, but we ended up with a very unique and fun system. The combat is really the core gameplay element of Apotheon, so I am pretty happy we got that right.
Hopefully me and Jesse will be doing a few talks this summer at PAX and later on GDC about the Apotheon development process – I think we have a lot to say on how a small team (2 core developers) can approach developing a very ambitious RPG game. How Jesse developed the art style is also very interesting, since Apotheon originally started as a sci fi gun action game.

I updated the Projects page to include Indievania and my short story writing, and also added a Apotheon page, which will hopefully some day have some more info.

Other projects right now I am working on is a Unity3d prototype I am calling ‘Automata’, inspired by physics games like Bad Piggies and Creo. It’s hopefully a side project I’ll actually be releasing, since the design of it has come so naturally and development has been really fun (which is usually a good sign).

Categories: Apotheon

Long post

August 26th, 2012 No comments

It’s been over a year since my last update, but I decided to keep this site going as mainly a archive of past projects.

My newest project, which takes about 80% of my time these days, is Apotheon with Jesse McGibney again.
We did a interview with GameSpot at GDC about it.
Without a doubt it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever done – in terms of programming, production, design, it’s getting increasing more massive and complex. I love how the game is turning out – we still need to figure out a lot of very essential gameplay aspects, such as tweaking melee fighting and dealing with inventory management (something I don’t have enough experience with since I rarely played RPGs as a kid) – but it’s still far from release, I am hoping for April/May of 2013. People have responded very positively to Jesse’s art so far – and it really is a brillant art direction not only because of how beautiful and unique it is, but it perfectly fits into the game mechanics and the themes we wanted to pursue – and also is extremely good for production and reusing assets (very minimalistic, very pattern based for easy level design)
I sometimes wonder with Apotheon if I’ve spent too much time on the technical aspects and not enough on actual game design. A lot of development was spent making the physics system work with the skeletal animation system, and then making that also work with the networking – I think I was aware of not getting in the trap of pursuing something technically complex for too long and delaying development, but I still am envious of other indie developers who able to make great games with simple tech. Indie developers really shouldn’t compete with technology – unless it’s something very unique, their focus should always be on design. I can’t understand why an indie developer with limited resources would attempt to create their own engine. I really think developers need to understand where their talents are, and focus on that – the defining aspect of ‘indie’ to be is doing a lot with limited resources. We are pretty good at keeping things as simple as possible for Apotheon – but I can’t imagine myself creating another giant codebase for a single project like this again, hopefully we can either reuse a lot of this work for our next game or successfully move on to a more standard game framework.

It’s been over a year since Capsized was released, but it still seems to be selling quite well and there is still a lot of new players and interest in it. I think when we originally released we didn’t get the attention I was hoping for – just since we didn’t focus enough on marketing at the end of development. But after release, and we got 80% on Metacritic which was great, and had a few Steam sales, the interest and response to the game kept picking up. Every Steam sale we’ve had has been massive, a few times larger in revenue than our first day of release, which is something I didn’t expect. I think what would have been better for Capsized is if it was released on another platform first – like XBLA/PSN, then had a Steam release. That way we could have had the initial people try it and enjoy it – then a well publicized release for Steam. I think a few developers have understood the value of this – that even if popular games make the majority of their revenue from PC sales a console release first can still be great for initial promotion.
Capsized is still selling and being developed for other platforms – right now being ported to iOS by Indiepub (IPad release only right now), and also other PC platforms from other developers. I still have yet to see how the iOS version will really turn out – I still can’t imagine people responding well to a touch controlled Capsized – it’s already very difficult to control with a mouse + keyboard, and the game relies so much on fast movement and quick reflexes – but I’ll wait to see what they are able to do.

Illfonic’s Nexuiz was released February 29th for XBLA and May 3rd for Steam. I was extremely happy about how this turned out – Illfonic got the gameplay perfect and really enhanced what Nexuiz had been before. The only thing I miss was having basic deathmatch – their design was entirely team based, which I guess makes sense since that was the majority of online Nexuiz Classic servers anyway, but I still missed the chaos of a packed FFA deathmatch match.
It’s also good to see that the Xonotic project, a fork of Nexuiz from some developers, is still being developed and played. Definitely a different game design than Nexuiz was pursuing – and it kind of makes me realize I had opened Nexuiz development up too much to the community in the later releases (making the game design more generic than I think me and LordHavoc, the other designer, had initially planned for).

A few of my friends and my brother also compiled a book of our past short stories and released it as the Celestial Puppeteer. The main writer (and really the only good professional writer) is Dustin Geereart, and primarily he set the theme of the book while the rest of us matched it. A lot of the stories are pretty messed up – and some of my own are from when I was had just started writing right out of high school, so I am a little hesitant to promote it without first seeing some response to it.

Besides Apotheon, I have two other current projects taking my time. One is Indievania – a online marketplace for indie games. I started this site as a response to trying to sell Capsized online and having a horrible time with non-Steam PC distributors. They all took a very high percentage of revenue based on the service they provided – their sites were horribly designed, their game submission process was really inefficient, and I couldn’t stand how they paid developers (they’d send you sales reports every month and then you’d have to invoice them, and usually it would have to be over a certain amount to be paid). I decided there needed to be a site that allowed a game developer to sell games quickly, with very little headaches and problems, and retain their profits. So I started Indievania development about a month after Capsized was released, and opened up the beta last year around November. So far the site has over 300 indie games added, and continues to grow in popularity. Hopefully I’ll have time to continue development with it – I’ve tried getting help from other developers and moderators but so far no one has been very reliable.
The other project is a new 3d game project with my brother, which is a dream project we’ve had on our mind for a while. Right now we are mostly just focusing on the tech behind it with a lot of placeholder art – and then when Apotheon is released I am hoping we can move towards full production on it.

Categories: Apotheon, Capsized, Nexuiz, Stories