Thursday, April 25, 2013

Skyward Collapse Wallpaper

Skyward Collapse is heading to 1.0 in just about a month, and beta within about two weeks.  We'll have more details on the game as we get closer and closer to that time, plus a few other surprises that I think you'll find very fun.

In the meantime, I'd like to share with you this awesome wallpaper that was created by our very own Daniette "Blue" Wood.  I haven't officially announced this before, and should have, but we have a new art director!  You can read a bit about her on our About Us page.  Folks in the forums for the game have been enjoying periodically getting to watch her livestream her work on this particular piece.

This wallpaper is also the background of the main menu for the game, and you'll be seeing it as the main "promo art" for the game in general.  Click on the above image to get the full-size 1920x1080 version for you to download.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: Apparently blogger sized down the image to 1600x900 without my realizing it.  I've uploaded the full-size version on the forum thread about this post.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Skyward Collapse Teaser 2: Unit Sketches and More Details

So, we recently announced Skyward Collapse.  If you missed it, it's something we're really excited about.

However, we only showed a single screenshot with some of the final-quality map tiles, tokens, and skies in them.  Needless to say, the rest of the art is still in various states of completion, ranging from sketches to coloring to getting final polish on it.  We have a great pipeline going with about 11 artists (10 at Heavy Cat, and then our new art director Blue on our side), so that's all proceeding well.

When it comes to the units themselves -- all the Greek and Norse people and gods that move around the map like boardgame pieces each turn -- we haven't shown anything with them until now.  We're still working on the final coloring style for them, so I don't want to show any of the colored ones yet. 

That said, we have a lot of wonderful sketches of them that will be directly translated into the final unit graphics shown in-game (in other words, these are more than concept sketches -- they are the actual graphics that will be used in the game, minus color and shading, at a larger scale than you'll see in the final game).

Norse Chapman -- The chapmen are the main civilian workers for each faction.  Their primary responsibility is carrying raw resources from the resource producers to the town centers.  The raw resources themselves are produced by different civilians (unseen in the buildings that they work in, though you have to staff those buildings), and the finished goods are created in a similar way in the town buildings related to each kind of finished good.

Norse Arsonist -- Since there's a limit to how many siege-type weapons the Norse actually historically used (that just wasn't their main fighting style), we had to get a bit creative.  While our game is historically-based in some ways, it's also set in a fantasy world that is merely inspired by those civilizations.  That gives us some creative license.  In this particular case, we didn't have to take that much.  The arsonists are considered a "siege unit," and their primary purpose is setting enemy buildings on fire.  The buildings then take damage over time, while the arsonist moves from building to building in the enemy town or territory.

Norse Berserk -- Give these guys some bacon and weapons, and they're ready to rock.  The Norse don't have any cavalry at all in this game, but they make up for it with several intimidating kinds of infantry.  The Greeks and the Norse have very different units all around!  Even their chapmen have different stats.

Pan (Greek) -- This is one of the Greek gods that you can choose to call to your aid as the game progresses.  The gods all stand taller than the regular units (fit into a 128x128 square instead of a 96x96 square), making them more obviously and imposing.

Zeus (Greek) -- Here's an obvious example of one of the four "greater gods" that you get to choose from at the start of the third round of each game.  The greater gods are a lot more powerful and have a big impact on the game... but each side has one!

About That Whole "Peacekeeping" Thing
We've had a lot of awesome coverage for the game already, for which we're extremely grateful!  That said, there is a bit of a misconception based on my first blog post about this (which is my own fault) about your actual role as The Creator.

Basically, the perception was that you're in a peacekeeping role where you're trying to keep the two factions from fighting.  This actually isn't remotely true: you want those dudes fighting as much as possible if you want a real score.  What you're trying to prevent is genocide, or one side thoroughly dominating the other. 

You want both sides to have some heavy warfare, in other words, in order to get the maximum sort of score.  But while you're doing that, you want to prevent the following:

- One side obliterating the other (you lose if this happens).

- One side getting far ahead of the other (your final score is likely to be quite bad if this happens).

- Either side getting their economy so crippled that it's hard for them to carry on with their warfare (again, your final score is likely to suffer quite a bit, and/or the risk of genocide goes up).

Think of this kind of like the hundred years war, not the cold war.  This isn't about creating an uneasy armistice with spots of minor conflict here and there; it's about creating all-out war (on a village-versus-village scale) with possible periods of calm (where the sides are rebuilding as needed).  As a supreme being, you're not exactly that... benevolent.

Why is this distinction important?  Well, the implications are pretty huge, really: your job is that much harder.  If you're trying to maintain an armistice, that only involves so many moving parts.  If you're trying to maintain heavy warfare while not absolutely crippling critical infrastructure or allowing either side to overtake the other too much... well, there are a lot more moving parts there.

Overall I think the press still has a pretty good bead on what this game is in general, but that was one point I thought worth clarifying!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Skyward Collapse Teaser 1

Purely by coincidence, it's been exactly two weeks since we did our first teaser for our upcoming game Exodus of the Machine.  But did you know we're actually working on two new titles at the moment?

Our second upcoming game is called Skyward Collapse, and it's just now reaching a point where we're ready to show our first screenshot of it.  Aside from overlaying the logo in the lower left corner, this is exactly how the current build of the game looks as of about  10 minutes ago:

So just what is Skyward Collapse?  It's a turn-based 4x simulation god-game.

Overall Gameplay
Set high in the sky atop a floating landmass that you are actively constructing as the game progresses, you oversee two warring factions (Greeks and Norse).  Via solo play or co-op, you play as "The Creator," helping both sides of the conflict -- granting each side buildings, resources, and even new citizens.

However, the multitude of villages you create all have minds of their own, and will actively try to stomp the nearest still-standing village of the other faction.  Given the resources and appropriate buildings, your villagers will gear up for war without your direct interaction, and will fight it out to the best of their abilities.

Unlike most strategy games, your goal isn't to have either of the sides win.  "You" aren't represented by either of the sides, after all.  Instead your goal is to balance this conflict as best you can so that neither side gets wiped out.  You win by having the most points generated (read: most carnage) without either side committing genocide.

But you can't just strip them of the ability to gear up for war: roaming bandits make defense essential.  Not to mention, crime in each village goes up and up the longer it's without a military presence, until it collapses into anarchy.  You can construct embassies and assign traveling diplomats to them in an effort to reach a state of enlightenment where crime is no longer a threat, but this is difficult and only affects the two villages that are undergoing peace talks; their neighbors will remain as warlike as ever!

UPDATE: While we hadn't originally planned this, because of reader comments in a variety of places we've decided that we'll be adding a way to lose a campaign.  Here is our current brainstorming on how to lose.

Game Structure And Objectives
Gameplay takes place over three rounds (with a brief setup round occurring prior to that), each with a fixed number of turns that you can choose when you start the game.  During the time before your game ends, the goal is to get the highest possible score: your overall score is based on the lowest score of the two factions, so again keeping them in balance is key.

As you play, you'll also be trying to complete various meta-missions to increase your personal rank.  Every 10 missions you complete, you unlock not only the next rank, but also a new building for your towns!

Units, Economy, and Mythology
Oh, did I mention mythology yet?  Looks like not.  During the first round of the game, it's mostly just you and your villagers.  You can also directly summon certain powerful mythological creatures like minotaurs or the midgard serpent and so on, but these cost a lot of specialized resources that it takes a while to build up.

In round 2, you get to choose a Lesser God for each of the two factions.  Hermes, Idunn, etc.  Which one you choose out of your four options (per faction) has a big impact on how the rest of the game plays out.  Then when round 3 starts, you get to choose a Greater God to go along with them.  Zeus, Thor, and so on.  There's four choices per side here, too.

All in all the economic and military options are what you'd expect for a simulation game, but it's also probably our most streamlined game ever.  Easy to pick up, but there are already some really tricky advanced strategies that we've been coming up with.

Advanced Strategy Example
As one example of an advanced strategy: normally you can't control what units are being produced at, say, a barracks.  There are four units that get created in rotation at the barracks, archery ranges, and siege workshops (four per building, all unique per side, I mean).

So there's no control there for you: presuming that the resources are in place for the next unit in the rotation, it just creates that unit. For a novice player, there's nothing here to think about, and it's all very simple.  The barracks do what the barracks do.

However, the tricky part is that if you don't have the resources for the next unit in the rotation, then it keeps checking the other potential units in the queue until it finds one that it can create.  Do you see the trick now?

I suppose I also now need to mention that there are a lot of resources in the game.  Both "raw resources" which are collected and stored globally per faction, and then "finished goods" that are created on-demand by specialist craftsmen in an individual village.  Pigs are a good example of a raw resource, whereas bacon is a finished good.

Currently there are 15 raw resources, and 11 finished goods.  We're still polishing the exact mix of all those, though, so that may increase slightly by the time beta starts.  If that sounds overwhelming, it's not: the resources all have clearly-defined straightforward ways of being produced, and clearly-defined ways of being used.  Mostly your choice of how you gather and refine resources boils down to what you're trying to accomplish for a given faction or a specific village.  The resource production pipeline is actually one of your primary ways of exerting indirect control over your factions.

See the advanced strategy now?  Each unit at a military training facility has at least one resource that is unique to it, as well as some that are common to all of the units in that facility.  Therefore, you can control what units get produced in the rotation based on which finished goods you make available to that village.  Even better, you can figure out ways to manage the resources such that there are synergies between the different training facilities in a single village.

Other Things
Let's see, there are trading posts with a pretty straightforward trader model (but your traders are at risk of being attacked as they travel, which is what makes it interesting).  There are the aforementioned embassies.  There are three levels of schools to buff units in the towns containing those schools.  There is an (non-visual) upgrade model for all buildings and units.

You can place dozens of "special tokens" that are either general-mythological or specific-god-related.  You can smite land tiles, or make "military commandments" that gives some overriding orders to all the units of one faction (so that's a pretty big broadsword to be used carefully).

And there's some other stuff too, but this hits most of the high points from a broad level.  We're quite excited to be sharing this with you soon -- hopefully beta will be starting before the end of April, with a 1.0 in May!  When we hit beta we'll have everything in place and it will mostly be a matter of balance.