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.
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).