Archive for May, 2010

Eschalon Book II Hints and Tips

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

eb2 screen6

Eschalon Book II is now out for PC and it’s a great Ultima-style RPG game. Mac and Linux versions are due out May 26th 2010.

Here are a few hints and tips I’ve built up so far:


– Start with light armour, not heavy armour like I did, that was dumb. Probably best not to bother with shields until later too (I got it early at the expense of other useful stuff).
– Get at least level 1 in cartography. Level 8 seemed to be pretty useful and I didn’t bother to go higher.
– Don’t get divination or elemental until you have at least 15 in wisdom or intelligence respectively otherwise you won’t be able to learn any spells anyway. Spend the points on fighting or something else until you are clever enough.
– If you get wisdom 15 and divination, you can learn the heal spell, pretty darn useful. There’s also a neat cartography spell at intelligence 15 and elemental (I think it was Int 15; I got it around then anyway).


– Use the quick save a lot and reload if you get a disease, otherwise you’ll be really crippled and that snooty cleric charges a fortune to remove the disease. Of course if you are purist you’ll have to grin and bear the ailment.
– Sometimes you identify something to find out it’s worth less than the cost of identify! If you have lots to identify but not enough cash, save and then identify the first one and make a mental note what it is, then reload and identify the second one etc. until you find the best thing. Again you may find this against the spirit of the game.
– Quick Save just before going into a shop. If you don’t like the selection keep reloading until it’s better because the shop’s contents randomize each time (if you went with the default game settings). Also you can do it before smashing open barrels and opening chest etc. This is dirty cheating.


– If you are being chased, run off the map and they’ll go away. Handy!
– Try to get monsters to chase you just one at a time to pick them off (classic technique).
– Lead monsters in dungeons to a torch on the wall so that you can still hold your shield and fight in good visibility.
– Don’t bother doing any fighting at night especially in rain storms (torches don’t work), camp it out until dawn.
– Bows are pretty crappy at first, as they have a long distance penalty and then you can only get off a couple of shots before you have to swap to melee weapon. You must swap when then enemy is still several squares away otherwise they’ll whack you whilst you are swapping. Also arrows are expensive.
– Setup two weapon configs: melee and ranged. Don’t forget to apply the same armour and rings etc to each config. If you gain a new item, switch to config 1 first, then put on the new item and save, then switch to config 2 and put on the new item again and save. Bit of a pain but you don’t want to accidentally remove it when changing config.
– Use bludgeoning weapons to smash barrels, doors, chests etc not bladed ones.

General Tips:

– Read all the in-game tips (F4).
– Use the hotkeys (press F1 to find them out). X is very useful as it beings up 3 core dialogs.
– Don’t let yourself starve or dehydrate, it’s real bad.
– If you get desperate for cash, sell a scroll, they are worth at least 60, then you can buy food and repair your cheap shoddy weapons and armour.
– Rat meat. mmmm good. Well not that good, but if you get hungry, kill some rats.
– You can carry kegs of black power and put them down where you want. They can be used to blow up special walls, locked doors, locked chests and closed barrels etc.
– Keep an eye out for small square hard to see panels on the floor in dungeons as they are switches for hidden doors, traps etc.
– Get some Lore rings early on and put them on whenever you need to identify stuff. Of course later on just get the Lore spell. Other useful rings are foraging rings and intelligence rings (put these on when you can’t learn any more spells due to low intelligence).
– Get a whole bunch of gloves that you can use at different times such as: tinkers glove (for mending whilst you are camping, this is VITAL to save lots of money), lock picking gloves, skullduggery gloves etc.
– Take off boots when quick travelling so they don’t wear out!
– Consider keeping hold of some wizard hats to boost intelligence or wisdom in the event that you can’t learn any more spells due to low intelligence or wisdom.

Quest Tips (SPOILERS):

– Ruel’s house isn’t that near the sea like the woman says, it’s somewhat inland. I wondered off into outlander territory looking for it (too far NE) and was getting ass-kicked but then stole loads of cool stuff off them and ran away.
– Kill the black molds in the pump room to get the copper key.
– Trust the first guy who tells you about the werewolf, it’s not a trick like you are led to believe 🙂
– Destroy the wasp nest with a powder keg or demon oil. Don’t use a bladed weapon for goodness sake.
– The treasure map from Everdale is for the East Fellpine Forest above the river.
– You can get into Port Kuudad via the sewers which you can reach by going the the caves near Everdale. Go North East when you exit the caves.
– For the 4 chests in the sewer that lead to a secret hideout you need: a candle, a bag of salt, a lockpick and quill. All these can be found and bought from shops. Sometimes you need to travel for a long time to make sure the shop restocks, then save and reload until the item you want is there.

Please add your tips too!

The 6 steps to massive game development success

Monday, May 10th, 2010


Photo by 3rd Wheel

How do you get from here to there, where: here = dream about massive game success, and there = massive game success?

Well there are 6 steps as I see it:

1) Learn to program. Hopefully in a language conducive to game programming!

2) Fiddle around making incomplete games and engine code. This is where you get better at applying programming and begin to learn about game design.

3) Make a complete free game. Many people never reach this stage. Making a 100% complete game (even a small one) is not easy and takes a lot of staying power.

4) Make a commercial game. This is a complete game that is commercially viable that you sell and actually make money from. Many people never reach this stage after stage 3.

5) Make a successful commercial game. I added a word, but oh it’s an important word. Almost everyone reaching stage 4 will not have made a game that makes any decent money, and so many people give in at that stage. The ones that carry on may have to make several games, honing their craft (game design AND marketing), before they reach stage 5.

6) Make a massively successful game. Once you hit stage 5, stage 6 can be achieved by further improving yours skills, investing money, getting a lucky break etc. It is possible, but only a few developers will ever achieve this final accolade.

I’m at stage 5.5 🙂 Stage 5 has been done a few times, and now I’m part of a team working on stage 6 which I believe is inevitable based on everyone’s skill and the financial backing we have. (We recently released a popular Facebook game called My Tribe that is now scaling rapidly. It’s very exciting to be part of it).

Think of these stages as belts in a martial art. Stage 5 is your black belt, but Stage 6 is becoming the master. To progress through the stages needs regular hard work, determination, and skill. Wimping out at Stage 2 or 3 because it hurts or you are tired won’t get you a black belt.

Which stage are you at?

How to find time to Program

Sunday, May 9th, 2010


photo by Robbert van der Steeg

Someone emailed me a little while back and said that they don’t have much time to program due to having a full-time job and asked what can they do to get into the programming state of mind so that they can be productive with their precious time. Well, I’ll try and answer that in this post.

Give up your job

Sure being more productive with your spare time is a good goal, and more on that in a minute, but another way of looking at the issue is how can you get MORE time to do programming.

The most obvious way to get more programming time is to give up your job and go full-time Indie! Of course, this path is not for the weak-hearted, and for goodness sake, make sure you have a runway.

Let’s say you really can’t give up your job right now, well…

What else can you do to make more time?

1) Start young when you have parents paying the bills and not many obligations, and get lots of practice in.

2) Try going part-time with your job. Some employers will allow this and it will give you the much needed time to do programming.

3) If you go part-time or give up your job, consider reducing your outgoings as much as possible by things like:

– Move back in with your parents, share a house, or marry someone rich 😉
– Downsize so you have a PC/Mac in a caravan (knew someone who did this and he managed to get away with very little work).
– Get rid of your TV to save money AND create more programming time.
– Ditch frivolous expenses and stay in more. However, don’t ditch exercise, healthy eating or spending time with your kids or loved ones, if you have any.
– Get rid of your car.
– There are tons of way to save money if you put your mind to it and are dedicated in the pursuit of your dreams.

How can you be more productive with your time?

1) Make it a habit. Write down a schedule of weekly programming hours and stick to it no matter what. Even if you don’t feel like it, just start and force yourself to work on your game for 10 minutes and before long you’ll be into it and making progress.

2) Try telling everyone that you are going to make a game by a certain date, and ask them to badger you about it. Public failure = embarrassment.

3) Put on some inspiring music that makes you work super fast. Trance music and 8-bit music does this for me. Nothing with lyrics though or I can’t concentrate on typing code.

4) Keep a proper up-to-date To Do list so that whenever you get a chance to program, you know exactly what to do next. Floundering and not knowing what to do is a massive waste of time. Try keeping a list of some low hanging fruit (easy coding tasks) that you can do on days when you don’t feel like tackling something hard.

5) If you really can’t face programming then get inspired: play some games, read blogs/forums, listen to music, talk to friends, go out for a walk. But, warning, you may never start! Or you may go the other way and get so inspired that you stay up crazy late and get no sleep and eventually get ill – I did this and it wasn’t pleasant (worked all day on business software then stayed up until 4am every night programming for months until I felt really awful).

6) Make sure you have a definite end goal, and make sure it’s realistic. Keeping the goal in mind will work as motivation on those days when you most need it.

Realise it’s a pipe dream and forget it.

If you can’t motivate yourself to program for an hour or more a day and more at the weekend then you really won’t make any decent progress. It’s the same as learning an instrument, or getting good at a sport or martial art. You need dedication and determination and a burning desire to achieve your dreams. If you don’t have that yet, then go and develop it. Or just give in for now, stop punishing yourself, and come back to it later when you are ready.

Good luck in whatever you choose!

What ways have you found to make more time for programming, and what techniques do you use to get into “the zone”?