Cycling against the wind

Sometimes I feel like I am cycling against the wind. I am putting a lot of energy and effort into things but don’t seem to moving very far.

For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to find a couple more graphics artist to try out and work with. My present graphics artist is really great but I am not his only client so sometimes he is just too busy to work on things for me. Hence my looking for someone else.

I think I have found two potentials, so I have agreed a rate for some work, provided something for them to work on and now look forward to seeing what they can do. It all takes time and energy with very little to show for it at the moment.

Next up is I think I may have found a great partnership for my game Kampfgruppe. It will involve a change of name for the game and I think will have a great future. More news I hope on this soon. Again time and energy with nothing to show right now.

Most of my spare time is still being spent on getting Invaders from Dimension X! to a state where I can pass it over for an initial test and show the fruit of my labors. I feel like I have done a lot of work and improvements on this in the last couple of weeks but its not quite there yet. Another big push this weekend.

Oh and additionally in the spare time I don’t really have I agreed to review a new book – Java Game Development with LibGDX: From Beginner to Professional 2nd Edition. This looks like a great book for someone both learning Java and game development. I am definitely going to recommend that you buy this book.

And finally in the spare time in my spare time….. I have been thinking about designing my own board game. It will be an American Civil War based game. My wife’s comment was “Are you crazy?!!?”.

One sad piece of news – James Cobb, who is very well known in the wargames arena, sadly passed way in January of this year. James reviewed my first game last year and I was very much looking forward to sending my next game to him for review.

Its February already?

Where does the time go?

Well, I know where 6 hours of it went – The SuperBowl! What a great game.

As you can see from the header picture I now have the splash screen for Invaders from Dimension X.

I got the game working on my Android tablets this past weekend. I use them to check that everything is resizing correctly and that the game works well for touch screens which more and more laptops have. The desktop PC is my main focus but I have to say the game looks really good on a tablet!

My focus for the next two weeks will be on testing and to get the first drop to my chief tester and to Mark, the publisher of the original board game. Battle for Korsun work is temporarily on hold while I do this.

In the background, I have been looking for an artist to work on Battle for France that I so proudly announced 9 months ago as “coming this year” (meaning 2017 – oh how young and innocent I was back then!). I don’t want to use my main go-to guy as I want him to focus on Kampfgruppe next. If you are a graphics artist reading this blog then do feel free to reach out to me. I am always happy to give someone new to the industry a chance.

I am now averaging about 20 hours a week on game development. A little crazy when I also have a full-time day job. But I love what I am doing and this is my big year to see if I can really make a go of wargame development.

And finally

Another reason I wanted to get Invaders from Dimension X working on a tablet device….. I can test the game while in bed! Don’t say I am not committed!

Work in Progress Update

What has been happening in my small part of the world?

Battle for Korsun

I am making good progress on the Russian AI. I have a basic framework in place and now have the AI moving and attacking based on a priority-based list. It’s actually moving too quickly and I will need to slow it down so the player can see what is happening.

Now comes hours and hours of testing and refining. What I need to be sure of is how the AI handles things as the game advances and things become more open.

I am hoping that by sometime in February I can hand the game over to a couple of beta testers for a first look at the game and to test out the Russian AI while I work on the German AI.

Invaders from Dimension X!

I have received back the splash screen and some menu items. They look really good! I now have them plugged into the game.

Next up is to get one scenario working from end to end. There are still a couple of things that are not flowing right.

Again once I get the first scenario working to my liking I will get the game out to a couple of beta testers – hopefully sometime in February as well.

And in other news

This finally arrived in the post from Japan. I haven’t made a model kit in years. When I opened up the box it looks a bit daunting.  If you hear no more about it you will know it turned into a disaster!

While doing some research I found that you can subscribe to Wargamers  Illustrated prime. Its £1 for the first month and then £5.99 (about $8) after. That gives you access to their entire back issues online magazines and articles. I am hoping it will be good for researching.

I continue to add articles to my Flipboard Magazine. Viewing readership is growing slowly.  I hope that it becomes a place for people to discover stories and websites they were not aware of.

As always do email me with questions or comments.

First update for 2018

I didn’t write a blog last week although I had done a lot of work over the holidays. So here’s a little catch-up.

Battle for Korsun

I have now started on the Russian AI. I spent a few days working out what the objectives should be and how the AI should react. So I felt there were 3 stages:

  1. Very aggressively cut through the German lines and create the pocket
  2. Widen the gap between the trapped forces and the relieving forces
  3. Defend

To help with this I have given each Hex a value. This helps drive the Russian AI when making decisions on what to do. Each turn it will make some checks – Has pocket been formed? Is there a wide enough gap? where are the German forces concentrated? etc.

As an example, if its the early stages of the game and the pocket is not yet formed it will be guided into where it needs to go next by the hex values.  As it must form the pocket to stand a chance of winning it will attack very aggressively. Units that cannot help with that objective will look to pin German units in place.

Invaders from Dimension X! 

I also did a lot of work on this with testing the various possible Marine and Alien moves. In addition, I prepared the second Map for this game. Finally, I talked to my Graphics designer about the menus and he has roughed up some drafts which look great. When I get the final versions I will show on here.

Flipboard

I have now got into the daily routine of adding articles that interest me or I think are of interest to a wargamer. Do check it out here.

Book Review

While doing some research I came across a magazine that needed someone to review books. I read a lot and had a secret desire to write reviews. So I signed up, chose a book, received it and am currently reading Battle of Wills. I will publish my review here once it’s submitted and published.

Iwo Jima

In between all of the above, I also did some research on Iwo Jima (and broke one of my 2018 resolutions to stay focused!). I thought I might try out a new graphics artist so gave him the job of graphics for the island. I also put together a potential splash screen and unit counters.

The graphic was based on US aerial photos taken in 1944 and an army report I found produced at the time with various maps of the island.

Feedback welcome.

Finally

I have been thinking about computer wargames and wargaming in general and how to get more people interested in what I do and what I am sure others are also trying to do in this area.

I feel there is a gap in the market between the type of games I make and what companies like Slitherine make and publish.

Some ideas I have had are:

  1. Redo some maps and counters from old board games and offer them here free as downloads. I know there are a lot of wargamers who make their own counters but may not have the expertise to make them look good. Another alternative would be to do some good Vassal mods.
  2. Reach out to a company like Slitherine and see if they would look to work with small independents and have an Indie developers section on their site. They could perhaps take a 10% cut of games sold. It would act as an incubator for the next generation of programmers.
  3. Reaching out to other small wargame developers like me and forming a collective group to support and advertise each other’s work.

If you have your own opinions on this please do email me your thoughts.

The Shape of Things to Come

What is planned in 2018 for yobowargames?

Battle for Korsun

I was originally hoping to release this around late November but as usual I underestimated how much effort it takes to really finish a game.

As of now, the two player game is almost complete and I have all the translations for the game. In the new year, I will focus on the AI and really test it out.

The planned launch is now sometime in March/April 2018.

If this game does well there is the possibility of a follow-up game that has the same ruleset – meaning a lot less work for me to release.

Invaders from Dimension X!

I am also tentatively looking at April/May (possibly earlier) for the launch of this game. Presently I am testing one of the scenarios out and making sure all the Alien and Marine actions work correctly. Once that is done I will work on the second map/scenario and the campaign game. I also need menus to be created and designed.

As for Korsun, if this game does well there is the possibility of a follow-up game.

Kampfgruppe

One of the things I have learned is that creating games that have different rule sets means I cannot reuse a lot of the code I have written. This means a long time span between games coming out.

With Kampfgruppe I am planning to release smaller incremental modules to the game. I am pretty much decided on the base game being free. This model seems to be working for Slitherine’s Order of Battle. Also, I want to appeal to fans of games like ASL who are used to a game coming out in modules. As a side note, the rules for this game will not be based on ASL.

This will allow me to work on a smaller subset of the game with each release. Also with the base game being free, I am hoping there will be more people playing it. Finally, I can get community feedback a lot earlier and adjust the future of the game based on that.

I will be adding modding tools to this game. For it to be successful I need to have community involvement.

Social Media

In today’s world to get noticed you really have to be active in the social media.

I am going to tackle this in a couple of ways. First up is I have started a Flipboard Magazine that puts together a lot of stuff I read on the web on a daily basis.

I will also use my Facebook and Twitter feeds on a more regular basis.

Finally

Happy New Year and thank you for all your support in 2017

Lance

A look back at 2017

2017 is almost over and it’s about time to have a review of how the year has gone. Let’s start by setting out what the year should be judged against.
I have a three-year plan to see if I can become a full-time developer writing wargames or for a new opportunity related to this area (wargames development) to present itself. Below is a “back of the napkin” outline of that plan.
  • Year one – get a game published
  • Year two – publish more games and get a track record
  • Year three – make enough money to be viable as a full-time vocation
Presently I have a full-time job and therefore can only work on this in my spare time.
So let’s start with some hard facts:
Games Published: 1
Platforms supported: 4 (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android)
Developer Blogs: 51
Times Blog read: 1884
NewsLetters sent: 1
Reviews: 1
Below is where I earned net income for my first game. iOS sales were a nice surprise for me. Google sales were a disappointment – I am not sure if I made it free that downloads would be much higher. I made a small profit from my first game. From what I read that’s a great achievement on its own.
PC still rules when it comes to selling games.
Below are the number of page views on steam for Kursk. The first peak was when I launched Beta and the second when I officially launched the game. Interestingly the Steam sales show only tiny spikes and yet sales were relatively good in those periods.
Behind those hard facts is a year-long list of things I have learned:
  • Blogging is easy when you have a genuine interest in the things you write about and don’t try and cater to a supposed audience. I have tied over the years to start a blog on various subjects because it seemed to be what everyone else was doing. Now I have found my niche. I write about things that interest me and its almost like a personal diary.
  • Writing code is probably only about 50% of actually publishing a game. I am constantly surprised at how much time I spend on things like research, working/speaking with my graphics artist, 3rd party contacts for localization, documentation, preparing for the launch of a game etc.
  • Finishing a game is really really hard. I have read this many times on other blogs and it’s an absolute truth. Test, fix, test, fix and repeat. It’s truly grueling!
  • People are generous, kind and helpful. I have had people reach out to me offering to test my games, suggest improvements, respond to my blogs with their own experiences, write emails just thanking me for writing the game and the list goes on. Thank you – they are the ones who motivate me to continue.
  • Localisation needs to be planned and is time-consuming. I have yet to see the results from my labors on preparing my games for localization in 5 other languages. I hope the investment will pay off eventually.
  • Technical skills have increased in areas such as Photoshop, InDesign, Code Management, Java, Packaging, AI and others
I have also learned about things I need to improve on next year:
  • Plan, sketch and commit to paper the game before starting coding. Up until now I roughly plan out the game in my head then go to it.
  • Marketing… I either need (free) help or I need to learn a lot more to make this effective.
  • Social Media – I need to be a lot more active in 2018 on things like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Walk don’t run. I am doing too much at the same time because I know it needs doing when the reality is I am under no real time pressure.
  • Stay focused. I allowed myself to get diverted working on things that provided no real benefit.
  • Staying healthy and spending time with my family is important. I have got better with this as the year has gone on but I can improve more.
Personally year one has been a success. I published a game, made a little money, learned a lot and have a solid foundation for year two.
Scorecard: So far so good

See you again in 2018!

To my loyal readers – Happy Holidays!

Thank you for your support during 2017.

Normal service will be resumed in 2018 when we have Battle for Korsun and Invaders from Dimension X to look forward too.

Lets talk Invaders from Dimension X and Battle for Korsun

This week has been a pretty intensive week working on two games at the same time.

First up is Invaders from Dimension X. I had more graphics arrive and I spent time plugging them into the game. So now I have almost all the in-game graphics. Next up will be the Menu, splash screen, and some chrome items.  Followed by work on the scenarios the game comes with.

I probably have about 70% of the gameplay working – its a case now of getting everything working together nicely.

Starting positions for scenario 1: Run the Gauntlet
Fire!
Mind the Dice!
Mind the Dice!

Battle for Korsun

I sent off and received back translations for Battle for Korsun. I used contacts that I have built up on fiverr.com. Now comes the laborious task of making sure all the strings fit in the spaces I have allocated. With 6 languages it’s going to be a lot of work…

Below is the start of working on the German menu – notice the rather long word for Manual!

I also had the manual translated – so 6 sets of them to tidy up and publish.

For some reason this week I suddenly had a lot of hits on the Steam page I have set up for the game. I can only assume the game appeared in a list somewhere. Good news for me as now have more people who added the game to their wishlist.

Also, I am very heartened by the fact that in the top 5 languages of users who visited the page are Chinese, Russian and German. I am hoping this is a sign that the game will do well with these users.

 

Invaders from Dimension X!

 

An image for every situation!

This Thanksgiving weekend I took a break from Battle for Korsun and plugged in most of the new graphics I received last week for Invaders From Dimension X.

I now have most of the Alien actions (they are card driven) working and its starting to look really nice. Below are the Marine units. If you are interested in looking at the original boardgame then go here.

This weekend there was another steam sale and I had roughly the same number of sales as the Halloween sale for my Kursk game. I am interested to see how the game continues to sell next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Birthday today!

Today is my birthday – Yay!

And I got this as a present – Double Yah!

You looking at me?

In other news, I have got some more graphics in for Invaders from Dimension X. I will try and get all the new graphics into the game this week to see how everything is looking.

Below is a little taster of one of the Marine Counters.

Most of this week has been spent on bug fixing the two player version of Battle for Korsun and I have also almost finished writing the game instructions.

Once I am sure I have all the language strings I will send everything off for translation and get them put into the game. I am sure there are going to be a few issues with string lengths but once they are sorted out I will then send this version out for some testing.

I have decided I will launch the game in the new year once I have got the AI in and everything is looking good.