First update of the new year! First, let’s catch everyone up to what’s been going on
I was invited to show Arms of Telos at GameOn, the largest gaming expo in the Baltics. For an online multiplayer indie game, expos like this are usually out of reach — 10 computers, booth space to hold them all, paying for the extra electricity etc — this is usually quite expensive and far beyond my budget, which is why when GameOn offered to provide the booth with 10 computers, I jumped at the opportunity. GameOn takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania. First time I’d been in Europe! I should have given myself a few extra days ahead of the expo because the jetlag was brutal — far worse than what I experienced going to Japan. I was basically a zombie during the expo, but thankfully GameOn provided some awesome volunteers to help with the booth — thanks to them, we held a couple small tournaments which were a ton of fun with each team on separate sides yelling strategies.
Expos like this are a lot of fun, but they're also great for seeing how new players experience the game. You get to watch hundreds of people play for the first time, see where they stumble, how well the tutorials are working, what needs to be better taught, etc. I was taking lots and lots of notes.
To prepare for GameOn, I put a lot of work into the Expo Build for the game (that’s partly why the changelog is pretty short — also because the new mode was a lot of work but doesn’t take up much space in a changelog ). In my build pipeline, I basically have a dropdown that lets me specify the type of build so it can compile it with different attributes. This lets me cater the experience to different contexts — a welcome screen that will attract people walking by, a way to let people sign up for the mailing list, bypassing the server browser and auto joining the local server, etc. Moving forward, this work will come in handy when I show the game at events in the future. Events like this do distract from development though, so for the next few months I’ll be avoiding expos and focusing on development (more on that below).
I also got a new office! Trying out an affordable coworking space near my apartment and so far it’s been great. I had been trying a home office to save money but I think in the end, I was less productive with all the distractions at home. For me personally, it seems to help to have a dedicated place to go to work. This is important not just for Arms of Telos, but also for the freelance work I do to pay rent.
New year, new game mode! The main objective I have for Pursuit mode's design is to create a fun mode that scales well with smaller player counts so that it's easier to find people to play with outside of Skirmish Saturday events, but designed in a way that tries to capture as much of the essence of the main Progressive CTF mode as possible. You can check out a more detailed explanation in this guide.
Originally I planned to launch Pursuit Mode with more features, but I decided it would be better to take a more iterative approach and involve player feedback from an earlier point in development. I released a couple updates last month to test partial implementations and got really great feedback, some of which is already implemented in the current release. While 0.20 does mark the official launch of Pursuit Mode, I still have plans for new additions to it and I want to keep getting your feedback. Even more than the progressive CTF mode, Pursuit has very little precedent in other games to draw from — this is experimental multiplayer game design.
I’ve mentioned it before, but designing a multiplayer game as a solo dev has some big challenges. I don’t have an internal dev team to test ideas with, so the first time you all get to try out new features is often the first time for me as well — before I’m able to test an update with you all, I can only guess how fun or balanced something will be. While that does add some challenges, I hope it also encourages you to be more engaged — this level of community involvement in game development is rare and you and your feedback are the lifeblood of this game.
I’ve also added kit presets — you can sort of think of these as classes. The defaults are Offense, Defense, Capper, Support, and Chaser, but of course you can create your own classes by customizing what’s in your kit — these presets are fully customizable and can be renamed to whatever you’d like in the config file. For new players, I’m hoping this will give them a starting point with how to think about their kit in terms of the various roles instead of basically forcing them into jumping in blind not knowing what’s good for what. For experienced players, it’ll save you those precious clicks and might also come in handy if you play both Pursuit and Progressive CTF and want different kits for each mode.
From the changelog:
Current State of Balance
I think in the short term, balance will be mostly about the new Pursuit mode — it’s only had very limited testing so far and it’s pretty different from modes in other games so there’s lots of unproven ideas. I don’t plan to be rebalancing weapons around Pursuit mode, so I’m talking more about things like tuning respawn times and magnet surface jump speeds, which both scale with scores in Pursuit mode. I’ll also be keeping an eye out making sure the matches have good pacing and don’t snowball, etc — find ways to make sure they’re as engaging as possible throughout. I think it’ll be interesting to see where Pursuit mode can influence the Progressive CTF mode and vise versa.
The Rocket Launcher has gotten a pretty interesting addition — now, when you hit someone with a rocket it will paint them and broadcast their position to your team for a few seconds. This gives it a bit more utility and reinforces the place the Rocket Launcher lives in the current meta. This is mostly for Progressive CTF mode where teamplay is important.
The main effort for the next few update cycles will be focused on visuals and player experience to get ready for Steam Greenlight. The visuals are too rough in general, but I also want to do a better job “selling” the fantasy of piloting a large spidermech. These efforts should improve the perceived quality of the game and help with marketing. I think it can also be important for new players — so that even if they haven’t yet grasped all the gameplay mechanics, they can still have some fun just experiencing the game and seeing things happen. The fact that you aren’t running around as a human is a big thing that sets Arms of Telos apart from other games and I want to take advantage of that as much as possible.
Also, I’ll be exploring integrating Discord’s GameBridge into the Arms of Telos client. Can’t make any promises yet, but I’ll be experimenting with both voice and text chat. More on that later
As always, let me know what you think!