Archive for the ‘Grey Alien Games’ Category

Shadowhand Dev Diary #23: Balancing and beta testing

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Click here to wishlist Shadowhand on Steam!

The last couple of weeks I’ve been balancing the first 5 chapters of the game, preparing a beta test with session logging, and analysing the results. More on that below!

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Balancing Chapter Goals and Enemy Star Targets

Shadowhand has a built-in AI simulation that can test both puzzle and duel levels 1000s of times and output the results to a file (see example above). I can then use those results to set up chapter goals for things like getting a Combo of X, or collecting Y stars, or earning Z gold. It’s super-useful.

I also use the simulation to first balance a duel with an enemy to check they are possible to beat but are not too easy or too difficult. Then I take a look at range of turns to beat (in graph form) and use that to calculate the silver and gold star goals for each duel.

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Gold Economy

Then I log the min/average/max amount of gold earned on each hand/duel in a spreadsheet (see example above), which I can use to work out what prices to set each shop item at. I don’t want the player to be able to afford everything as I want them to have to choose between cool items and to stay motivated to keep playing to earn more gold.

When I got the results back from the beta test I was pleased to see that everyone earned between the average and max amounts I had predicted, and that they bought the items I wanted them to but also had individual variation in choices. This means that my gold economy model works and can be extended to the rest of the game.

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Beta Test Logging

The beta version I sent out last week also logs the player’s actions and then emails the log back to me when they exit. This allows me to compare their playthroughs with my balancing efforts. Luckily everything went as expected which means I can roll out my balancing techniques to the remainder of the game.

I also got beta testers to fill out an online survey or to email me with feedback, plus I watched several people play it in person and via Skype. Then I compiled a list of all the action points that I wanted to work on and implemented them in the game.

Luckily there was nothing major, just cool little improvements that help the “onboarding” process go more smoothly. I love this sort of work because you get to make small, yet obvious, improvements/fixes to the game that you know will help players enjoy the game more.


I’ve probably said it before, but Shadowhand has taken a lot of design work. Solitaire games have been made before, and so have turn-based RPG games, but they have never been combined before like this. That’s meant a ton of design spreadhseets and documents have been generated. The design folder alone is 65Mb and nearly 160 files, and that doesn’t include visual or sound design, or test results, which were also epic untertakings.

At least now the design is all done and it’s clear how I need to balance the rest of the game. There will still be tweaks as I receive more beta tester feedback and maybe also after launch as well, but nothing major as we must ship what we have soon!

Shadowhand developer blog #14 – Fencing Practice

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Shadowhand is an RPG card game for PC/Mac coming to Steam soon.

In this developer blog, Jake does some fencing training at a ball!

Don’t forget you can wish list it here on Steam!

Shadowhand Dev Diary #17: sound effects

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Shadowhand has got a LOT of sound effects, mostly supplied by Power Up Audio, though a few are ones I have carried accross from older games such as Regency Solitaire.

There are:
- 71 UI/gameplay sounds
- 60 combat sounds
- 73 Voice over samples (for enemies)
- 119 ambient background sounds
Total: 323

And for good measure there are 37 music tracks!

Each one of those sounds (and music tracks) has been specified, created, plugged into the game, tested/edited, and finally mixed. That’s a lot of work for Power Up Audio and me as the guy integrating them into the game.

Attack Sequence

When an enemy attacks the player in the game several sounds are triggered in sequence with carefully timed delays and balanced volumes so that you can hear them all. For example:
- Enemy yell (triggered immediately)
- Weapon attack sound (like a swoosh of a sword which is triggered immediately but peaks at 250ms)
- Weapon impact sound (e.g. a crunch or squish. This occurs after 300ms)
- Player hurt sound (played at same time as weapon impact sound)

Furthermore those attack sounds have to be heard over the battle music which plays at a volume that doesn’t blot out the general cardplay sounds.

Anyway, for the last couple of days I’ve been listening to the final mix in-game and adjusting some volumes here and there. I listen with headphones on, then through my speakers which are quite large, just for a different perspective.