Archive for December, 2017

Shadowhand dev diary #31: Looking back

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

We announced Shadowhand in September, 2015 and rapidly put together a demo to try out on the public at EGX.

The concept was something of a prequel to Regency Solitaire, featuring one of the older characters from this Regency Romance in her wild youth, 40 years earlier.

While I was getting immersed in the history of the 1770s, with masquerade balls, highwaymen, smugglers and tricorns, Jake devised a novel game mechanic: turn-based combat driven by solitaire rather than dice rolls. As far as we could tell, this was the first time this had ever been done.

Testing the concept
Positech Games arranged for us to exhibit Shadowhand at EGX in Birmingham. So we spent four days cosplaying as highway robbers and demoing our game.

It was an exhausting time but the super-positive reception we got from players and press gave us confidence that we were on the right track with the game.


Photo credit: Jason Alan Dewey

We were hoping that Shadowhand would take maybe 12-18 months, but in the end we have spent over two years developing the game. Some of the extra time had to do with fine-tuning art and adding a lot of content, such as a multitude of enemies, items and collectible cards.

But the other factor that has taken longer was building and balancing a turn-based RPG. This is very complicated! There is a huge amount going on behind the scenes and we really wanted to get this right and provide a good level of challenge, choice and strategy to the highwaywoman experience.

The final weeks in the run up to launch have been exhausting as we have been working around the clock to make sure everything is ready.

Now we are finally at the finish line with launch day tomorrow – December 7th. We are really proud of what we have accomplished and are already getting great feedback on the game from those who have tried it.

It really is time to stand and deliver!

Shadowhand dev diary #30: Game complete!

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

We’re done! (almost)

It’s been a super-intense week with some extremely “crunchy” days but finally the game is done and a beta version has been uploaded to Steam, and a build has been sent to GOG! We still have to add Steam achievements and maybe tweak a couple of things before launch on Thursday but that won’t take long.

Hurrah!

Added in levels for Chapters 11-22

The game has got 22 chapters to play and over the past month we added in the levels for chapters 11-22 which is 12 chapters x 8 levels = 96 levels! As you can imagine, that took a while because each level is edited and balanced until it behaves how we want it to feel.

Then we playtested them all, and even got our publisher and sons to help – and now beta testers are testing them as well! This way we can spot any issues that automated tests don’t reveal and fix them but luckily pretty much everything was fine.

Balanced Weapon Groups C, D, E

There are 5 distinct weapon groups in the game and Jake balanced the last 3 groups by testing them with the automated AI test system and then tweaking them as required.

We also finalised all the gear (bombs/potions) item drops throughout the whole game. You can get gear from enemy loot, the shop, and crates on some of the levels.

Balanced Duels from Chapters 11-22

This was a big task that took a long time. Each enemy needs testing with different weapon and outfit combinations, and their stats must be adjusted to be the right level of difficulty. Generally enemies are hard but fair. Some are deliberately a bit easy (trash mobs) and of course the bosses are hard (but possible!)

Mid way through this task Jake discovered that the reality of the test results began to diverge from his mathematical design models as the enemies began to get too easy. So we had a rethink about how to make them tougher in a variety of interesting ways and then implemented that. It was an unexpected bump at the last minute but we solved it.

Edited the story from Chapters 11 to 12

We also edited the story and made various pre-duel and post-duel dialogs pop up for various characters. Plus we added in some pre-duel story sections and selected relevant music and gave everything one last continuity check.

What’s next?

The game has been sent to beta testers and press/streamers. If you need a review key, please go here and get one via keymailer.

Now we need to add the Steam achievements which we’ve already planned. There is code in place from Regency Solitaire for achievements that we’ll reuse plus we’ll add in some new ones. So it’s not a giant task luckily.

There may also be the odd tweak here and there before launch based on beta feedback and our own list of things we’d like to do. Also, there are things we can’t add in time for launch that we’ll do in the coming weeks in between collapsing in a heap from exhaustion and eating mince pies.

Misc Tasks

As per usual we’ve done a ton of small tasks covering all aspects of the game. This time I won’t bore you with the minutiae, suffice to say there was a LOT of it.