Shadow Empire design blog #3
Just a quick word I am still alive and kicking. Designing a new engine is not easy. I have to juggle a lot of different tasks at the same time, but slowly everything is moving forward and integrating. The unit and landscape map artwork is close to completion, I am almost halfway through with the design of the campaign scenarios and the random game maps are starting to become more and more interesting.
The gameplay has had some live testing against friends and with a few select alpha testers from previous games. And it is good! As you might remember there are 3 modes of play: simple rules, basic rules and full rules. Especially the advanced parts of the rules need more fine-tuning. They were often a bit to overwhelming and confusing. But I am making a lot of changes for the better that keep the depth but provide a more tranquil playing experience.
I guess everything is taking a long time because I am not choosing the easy route very often. With the landscape artwork for example I chose to have dynamic generation of maps, but also dynamic generation of some hex tile artwork, moving water and quite some animation with some units and locations.
The same for the campaign. Definitely not the easy route… Every scenario has a semi-randomized map, meaning that the core logic of a scenario stays the same, but every play is subtly different. The campaign comes with a story that can be influenced by the player. Every scenario is a little mini story where you can actually make some choices and in between the scenarios you’ll find some time to wander around your base and talk with your leaders.
Big task ahead of me now is the creation of the final user interface. Moving your units around on the map is already a pleasure, and just a few days ago I worked on improving the flow for combat. It is quite amazing how approaching combat between two units like a little movie script pays off. Also experimenting with some audio feedback. Which works amazingly well, although I get tired of my own voice used in the placeholders. It is a lot of work to make sure the key rules are visible and audible to the player, but it pays off. Also a clear game flow and visibly transparent rules makes me reflect more on my own design and it already happened quite a few times a change in the game flow or interface also caused a change in the game rules.
The interface and the game flow are the areas where I really try to make an enormous improvement compared to earlier engines. We will soon see if I succeeded or not :)