We’ve performed a lot of preparatory work until we’ve got convinced that we were ready to start the development of a game. We had to constantly fix tiny and big issues during that process, and while we did our best to make it better, we couldn’t afford to spend more time on that than was suitable to make our first game.
Briefly about Vidloonnya team and the game Protect to be alive:
We are the team of enthusiasts united to build a game studio called Vidloonnya. The name has a deep sense for us and translated as echo or reflection. We had a long way to unveil the game concept and the idea we actively develop today.
We have been developing our first premium class game called Protect to be alive. Protect to be alive is an environmental puzzle game with elements of micromanagement and action. The story happens in the invented futuristic sci-fi world with outer creatures. They are pursued by the appeared virus and have to adventure from one world to another to survive. The puzzles are solved by the combination of creatures and their abilities. As an example, we have a basic set of creatures and one can scream, another transport and another one can stamp.
This is short gif which unveils the work has been already done for short time of active development:
This article shares our knowledge we have got since the beginning of our journey.
Restarting from scratch again:
The encountered limitations forced us to reduce a scope and to change a concept while working on the prototype. In the first variant, a gamer could not control any NPC, and it took a lot of time to understand and proof that the concept was not satisfying. There is detailed post-mortem describing why this approach didn’t work for us: Protect to be alive: post-mortem
We’ve made a difficult decision to change the game concept to provide a good control on the game unit. We also changed the concept so that the controlled hero had to make others follow him. This is named mob-control approach. The new concept inspired us to think wider since we’ve clearly got more freedom to invent.
We have found great examples of existing games as #Pikmin and others, which became our lighthouses and determined the desired level we’d like to achieve.
Then we realised that it was easier to change the game engine than to continue working with the initial one which we used to make the first prototype. The decision to change an engine provided the new possibilities, but returned us to the beginning again.
We would like to share technical details of that decisions in the further articles hopefully proofed by great results which can be useful for you.
From emotions to the balance:
I believe you know the strong emotions that you feel when you invent a new game, especially the first game in your life. You want to make something new what has never done before. You don’t want to repeat and improve the existing ideas. You think emotionally and believe that your idea is a winner. But…
I love that we are not studio of one person, though I personally believe there are genius men who could create impressive and interesting game alone. My initial idea was to gather professionals of the game industry who have experience in #gamedev, and each of them could strengthen the team. Each one with unique professional abilities. Each one loving our common game. Each one ready for enthusiastic commitment to do maximum possible for the best result.
…We’ve got into the same trap as well. We didn’t want to even try something that was popular. We wanted to make an experimental game. I would even say too experimental. We tried to find alternatives or similar implementations, but they didn’t exist. The worst thing was it didn’t work.
We were thinking that it was just a matter of look & feel or the missing features, but it was not. The problem was of poor game design, and we had changed that.
We have definitely improved the concept, and we are proud that we kept the spirit of what we had invented. The spirit which we can project on the name: Protect to be alive.
Today we are confident and we move forward.
We started to draw:
The new concept and idea were written down and confirmed by the team members. An artist got a clear picture, and we’ve agreed about style and setting. We had started to make sketches.
The initial idea was to make a vertical setting of levels. Each level was divided into zones and player had to move from one to another to finish the level and move up to the next one. We followed this idea and have finished all stages of prototyping the main controls.
Next not less important phase was to sketch game personages and game objects. That proved to be the most difficult phase due to the different views, but nevertheless, we’ve settled the game setting and game style.
We are still trying to find our characters, so we are drawing them again and again. But a couple of first draws already became our favourites, and we are trying to make the best out of them.
It is still far away from the imagined results, moreover, it is already too high-poly for us. We decided to go low-poly stylised way. It is not much easier, and it has its pros & cons, but we believe that we can decrease overall efforts on fine details and concentrate on the game development itself.
Setting and Style:
We believe in both: It is important to choose the right style and setting which fits demands of the contemporary gamers, but it is also possible to implement a not famous style and setting nowadays, and there will be a lot of gamers who will love exactly that.
Anyway, my personal vision is based on analytics. I’m a fan of such great people as #Galyonkin and approach to fit by numbers and not by emotions.
Therefore, we are in 2016+ and Sci-Fi is everything today. We have also decided to mix that with the biological setting and invent an alternative world where the gamer has to manage the outer world creatures.
We love the chosen setting and style. We are trying to follow it.
Communication by tags:
Social networks help to keep and grow the communication with the potential game community. We have recently started to produce content and now we’ve opened the gates to show the revealed results step by step.
We have our web page, Facebook page, Twitter account, Youtube and many different channels.
But the gamers who like your presentations and even post the positive comments are not necessarily the players that are going to pay for the game. It is important to resist the illusion that the players who left a positive feedback are the game fans and they will actually play it.
We are going to visit more game conferences, but even there we can occasionally get a good feedback or a good hint, but not the targeted auditory. As I’ve said, the loyalty is proven only by the dollars.
Still, the social groups are a great help, even if just a moral support. They let you know that somebody liked what you do. Be careful about bots, they can generate thousands of impressions, but they don't target audience, though they may be helpful to deliver your content to the audience.
I believe that each game has its path. The worst way is doing nothing and waiting for the publisher to come and help you to sell your game. A good publisher is important, but you should have most of the work done before you ask for external help.
We know whom we want to have as a publisher of our game and why we need that. But it is, of course, a question whether one of them will see the benefits of helping us. Hey see you on #devgamm
The game: Protect to be alive
The game has kept its spirit and its core idea. The player still has to protect and has to survive. It is not tower defence by any of its definitions.
The main challenge was to find core mechanics and appropriate control option. We assume that we achieved that and we work to challenge our goals.
The biggest challenge for the gamer is that the protagonist has to stay alive and protect his followers.
Each level is divided into zones and environmental puzzles. There are other creatures of different kinds. Each one has its abilities, and the player has to use the abilities of creatures to solve puzzles and move further.
The puzzles aren’t the only challenge. There are enemy creatures who try to capture the world and kill the creatures looking to survive. The player has to be faster because the enemy creatures are active and can kill the useful creatures before the gamer can find them.
We’ve invented some cool core game objects, Oasis and Incubator. The Oasis can hide the creatures and let them regain the lost health. The player can also leave creatures in the Incubator and then search for the right combinations to solve environmental puzzles. Incubator also can create other creatures in case they were killed. Meanwhile, the ground gets poisoned and evil creatures become more aggressive.
But the remedy is that player can use its active abilities to scare enemies and they stop their negative action for the short time.
We would like to find a balance between relatively easy environmental puzzles, micro management and action. The player has to think to move forward and create the right combinations by protecting itself and its followers from the probable death.
We also would like to have, let’s say, an interesting idle AI for good and bad creatures. They should live their life even without the player, but they are doomed to death without the player.
- Game setting: Biological world and Sci-fi
- Graphical style: Isometric 3d in low-poly
- Control: Currently it is mouse pointer, but there is an idea to change to the direct control to make it easier for the controllers
- Genres: Environmental puzzler, RTS, Micro management, Action
- Platform: PC+Mac OS
- Distributor: Steam
- Dev Engine: #UE4
We believe in experiments and I personally believe that indie is about new fresh combinations and interesting new ideas even if they are implemented with the old mechanics. Definitely not a copycat or not something we can see in every second game on each platform.
We should not forget that if you don’t like something that you do that’s probably a game design issue. Look at the game design and not on graphics or new features.
It’s important to remember that all #gamedev groups are not your community. We believe that the best community comes out of the crowdfunding platforms, green light, platforms as Xbox, ps4, steam and a lot of similar approaches/platforms.
What inspired me very much is the following phrase: You live only one life if you want to create games, remember that you have to spend at least 2 years of your life on a single good game.
Are you sure you want to spend your whole life on 20-30 shitty games? Make 5-10 of the best what you can make. Don’t make the game only because you want. Better get experience in a successful company and come back to the #gamedev when you are ready.
The games we look on at the moment:
- Pikmin - I recalled that I played this genius game on Nintendo Wii and nobody still could compete that well
- Grow up - Amazing and inspiring game with low-poly stylish graphics
- Pan-Pan - We just felt in love with the concept and environmental puzzles. Low-Poly is also amazing here
- Algotica - That was the game we found when we were searching for our graphical setting. I immediately recognised that is the game we have to watch and look on
In case you want to know more about us and active development of Protect to be alive, here are our coordinates:
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