Planet Roguelike-Dev

December 12, 2017

Grid Sage Games

Year 4 of the Cogmind

Each year in Cogmind development has been bigger than the last, and 2017 was no different!

As in the 2014/2015/2016 summaries, let’s start with a collage of images from this year:

cogmind_development_year_4_small

Selection of images from the past year of Cogmind development as posted on this blog and Twitter (full mega size here).

In 2017 Cogmind flew through Greenlight, entered Beta after yet more huge content updates, and has since made its way onto Steam, where it’s continued to do fairly well as we head into the post-Alpha who-knows-when-this-will-end-but-it’s-fun period of expansion!

Development Time

At the Year 4 (technically Year 4.4) mark we’ve reached 8,410 hours of total work, keeping mostly on par with previous years:

timeline - cogmind_monthly_development_hours_201307-201711

Cogmind Monthly Development Hours, 2013.7-2017.11 (click for crisper full-size version). (The color coding is for different aspects of development tackled each month, the subject of a future in-depth article to come when Cogmind is complete.)

You can see development ramping upward into 2017 as I was eager to finish up the coding (green) and content (orange) to finish the story before a planned Steam launch, but then in April I got that nasty concussion which resulted in a serious hit on productivity.

Still, this year added 2,046 hours, a slight 3.2% increase over the year before. Work on the game itself (923 hours), however, fell 19.8% compared to 2016, a ratio shift that reflects two factors: 1) progress all but ground to a halt while I tried to recover over summer but couldn’t very well stop community interaction altogether, and 2) preparing for Steam inevitably requires a lot of non-game work. You can clearly see the Steam EA release there in October, with a peak resembling my own EA launch of Alpha 1 back in 2015 :). Now that Cogmind is released on Steam and that side of things is stabilized, the graph will start shifting back to more content-focused work over the coming months.

Overall it’s been a great year for progress, though it could’ve been even better had I not hit my head… Luckily when things were at their worst (late August when I was incapacitated most of the time) I finally found a treatment that worked well enough to get me back to full time work!

matrix_acupuncture

Acupuncture!

I’m still dealing with some of the effects now, but have at least gotten noticeably better--I mean, otherwise that 243-hour work month when I launched on Steam wouldn’t have been possible :P

Features

To summarize this year’s highlights: Content was added or adjusted to greatly expand the experience for players across the entire spectrum, as Cogmind got easier difficulty options, the first challenge modes, and an extended end-game with deadly challenges few have even reached, much less survived. Most importantly, in the first half of the year the story was completed with seven different endings to uncover. (I also animated all the endings, which took quite a while!)

cogmind_mapgen_interesting_caves_red_open

There is no map like this in game (honestly it wouldn’t make for enjoyable exploration), but it’s an experimental precursor to… something secret added this year.

I decided to signify the shift into a new post-story phase by declaring Cogmind “Beta,” the massive release of which was both aptly and inaptly dubbed “The End.” This happened around the same time as Cogmind reached two full years in my own “early access” program, which has gone well enough.

Of course plenty of other features came out this year, too, as linked from the ten releases beginning with Alpha 13 in the Release History. And we still have one more update to look forward to this month :D

cogmind_various_2017_feature_gifs_collage

Mix of various feature gifs from the year. Because gifs.

News and Writing

As with last year, most updates have been discussed via release notes on the forums (and now Steam) rather than covered here on the blog. At both of those places I’ve also started regular weekly updates (“SITREP Saturday”) rather than posting randomly once every 10-14 days like I was doing before, so that they’re more predictable.

Although I haven’t been sharing as many design articles this year due to the changing nature of the kinds of things I’ve been working on (for example much of the game content added this year was secret :P), there are definitely more on the way in 2018. But I have been continuing to write FAQs over on r/roguelikedev, where #55~67 are all from this year and you can read about topics like Mob Distribution, Character Archetypes, Status Effects, and Transparency and Obfuscation as they relate to Cogmind.

Exposure

For years I avoided seeking out too much attention for Cogmind, even shying away from some decent opportunities that presented themselves, because the game world was not only incomplete, but more importantly it was definitely priced for hardcore fans of the genre (for those of you new to Cogmind, know that for a long while it was $25-30 as a more reliable way to “crowdfund” the scope I was trying to build into it--we can thank the early adopters for making the current version possible!).

I didn’t want Cogmind’s first impression on a wider audience to be primarily that it’s strangely overpriced for an indie game, which often fall between $10-20, so I turned down some offers for exposure back then. That changed with the Beta and the price drop, although it’s interesting to note that despite my attempts to contact some press and LPers this year, almost all of the best channels interested in Cogmind found it on their own, both before and after the Steam release.

This year Cogmind was one of the subjects of an article on PC Gamer (which also later announced the news of Cogmind’s Steam release), and even appeared in two magazines, PC Guru and Canard PC. There have been more than a dozen other smaller pieces this year as well.

cogmind_steam_EA_release_coverage_collage

Some of the coverage Cogmind received this year, mostly around its debut on Steam.

But often more helpful than media coverage these days, Let’s Players were responsible for the biggest boost in exposure, with popular players like quill18, Aavak, and Nookrium definitely driving interest around the Steam release. (Also many thanks to the smaller channels out there doing even more streams/videos over the long term <3)

Not that I can draw a huge audience myself, but I’ve been continuing to occasionally stream as well, and we often have new players drop by to mingle with the regulars and pick up tips, which goes a long way towards improving the skill level of the community as a whole. As of the most recent stream I’m uploading them to YouTube where they’ll live longer than on Twitch, in case people want to watch them later.

We’ll see if Cogmind gets any mentions in end-of-year articles, but I can say that just this week we already made the IndieDB Top 100 list for 2017--voting for the final round is actually ongoing right now.

Obviously the best new point of exposure for Cogmind in the long term is Steam, where it’s accessible to a greater number of players and can integrate more closely with the gaming community at large.

Steam

We’d been talking about it in the future tense for so long that it almost feels unreal, but 2017 was finally the year Cogmind arrived on Steam.

Early in the year Valve announced they’d be getting rid of Greenlight by replacing it with a simple paywall, and I knew we were close to a Steam release anyway, so I figured I’d respond by quickly putting Cogmind up there and try to beat the inevitable deluge of games to Steam. Given all the assets I already had lying around it took only two days from decision to campaign, which was pretty cool.

cogmind_steam_greenlight_100percent_top_100

Well that didn’t take long!

Cogmind made it through pretty quickly, though I still planned to wait at least a couple months for the Beta before it’d be Steam-ready.

cogmind_greenlit_yes_votes_graph

Clearly a dedicated fan base at work :P

Unfortunately my accident essentially coincided with Beta completion, meaning I had to give up the plan to reach Steam before all those other games, and also forgo a preferable early-summer Early Access release.

Staying alive for the long-term seemed a little more important at the time xD

But hey come October believe it or not it really did happen! Player reviews have been good, and the leaderboards certainly exploded. I’ve actually already covered a lot of details from the Steam release and its aftermath in my postmortem, so check that out if interested.

cogmind_steam_EA_portmortem_graph_collage

Some graphs shared in my recent Steam EA month-1 postmortem for Cogmind.

2018

All that’s behind us now… what we want to know is what great things 2018 will bring!

Well, certainly we’ve gotta finish the stuff still listed on the long-time roadmap, which altogether will take at least a few months, or more considering it’ll all be mixed in with other improvements, too. So without a doubt we’ll get those built-in achievements, an expanded robot hacking system, more ambient audio, and revamped score sheets.

This means Early Access will easily last another six months, and probably longer because I don’t want to bother calling it 1.0 if we’ll still be getting new extra features for much of the coming year.

Exactly how much longer will really depend on what happens on Steam while the remainder of the confirmed features are being worked on. If reception and sales are sufficiently good, I’ll have trouble stopping myself! I can’t be specific about the virtually endless list of potential features I’ve accumulated (player expectations and all that…), but I’ll admit there is room for, plans for, and a desire to add, many new items, mechanics, robots, maps, NPCs, factions, everything…

cogmind_2018_item_art_preview_concepts

2018 awaits :)

This post Year 4 of the Cogmind originates from Grid Sage Games.

by Kyzrati at December 12, 2017 12:56 AM

December 10, 2017

Land of Strangers

LoSt this week (yearning for Arken)

An easy bug fix, which I still
struggled to get just right. 
I'm still working on Arken Town (the settlement where the game is set to start), and making lots of small engine tweaks along the way. I've been refactoring the world generation routines for a while, and even if the changes don't make a huge visible difference, I spend quite some time just thinking the designs through. Organizing the data associated with the settlement, for instance, had me setting up some infrastructure to handle other important places on the map.

I've also changed to the climate map generator, so I can access more detailed info pertaining to regions and landscapes later. It's mostly stuff I need to generate bounties and story lines (ie. at the sheriff's/post office in Arken hangs a wanted poster, and the game must generate details regarding the fugitive's whereabouts).

The map generator just needs a few finishing touches before I can leave it for now, I think. So I'm zooming in again on the minutia of Arken to get this baby up in the air.

The gunsmith

Since I don't have a lot of time to muck about with LoSt these days, I'm trying to divide development into small chunks that can be handled in short, sporadic sessions. (In that light, it may be detrimental to the project that I take a few hours to write a blog post like this, but I hope it's part of the fun to some people at least who might drop by here from time to time :)

Now that I'm starting on Arken in earnest, I've decided to do it house by house. Each of the planned "places of interest" that can be generated, will demand that I fine tune the engine a bit. First out is the gunsmith, a pretty inconspicuous kid that offers some services. In addition to selling guns (and possibly special ammo), the smith can repair or enhance guns you already own (by adding a prefix, basically imbuing the gun with a special shtick).

Bittner lever action repeater, by a German gunsmith
Regarding engine tweaks needed to get this in the game, it's mostly AI-related. I have been working up to this, and already implemented the basic interface for giving items to NPCs. Now, I just need to make the gunsmith react appropriately if someone offers them a gun. It could be done by adding some states to the content database, but looking at practical solutions, it strikes me that the current AI module is very shaky. It may be a good time to go in and do some basic changes, since I'll only be facing increasingly complex NPC behavior as development continues. It's honestly something I've been mulling about in my brain for a while, so I have some ideas…

Adding the gunsmith will entail another addition to the engine, again quite moderate, but with possibly wide reaching consequences. When you offer the gunsmith a gun, I decided I'll have to pop up a window with a prompt to the player, like: <"I can fix this for 30♄." (Y/N)?> I already have <more>-prompts, so making it happen won't be a big deal (just get the confirmation, pay the bill and upgrade the gun). But it's something I might need later for popups connected to other game changing events. For instance, when resting at a saloon, the player may just see: <You rest for a week. Press Space to continue.> But the game should do a lot of things, like healing the player's longterm wounds, passing game time, and (if appropriate) grant the player new reputations and shticks, just to mention a few things. So, even this silly little popup becomes an issue to ponder on the metro after I've delivered the kids to school (whether I should compare that to a calligrapher meditating for hours before executing a simple stroke, or just admit analysis paralysis). In any case, it would be meaningless to hack my way through this to the benefit of the gunsmith, just to have to redo the whole thing when I come to the saloon a few houses down the road.

As always,
Minotauros

(1 hex ≈ 1 screen) A last change I must do before #12, is to make
the world larger with "bulkier" regions. The Land isn't supposed
to be huge, but the current scaling makes it feel too small.

by Aging Minotaur (noreply@blogger.com) at December 10, 2017 11:03 PM