CRPG Dev – Now on Patreon

I’ve now set up a Patreon page for CRPG Dev. My page is at:

http://www.patreon.com/crpgdev

My game releases will continue to be free to download and play just in case anyone thought otherwise.

Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, Patreon is an ongoing form of crowdfunding where you can pledge an amount of money to help support projects or content creation that you are interested in on a monthly or per item of content basis. You specify how much you want to pay to suit your budget, what you think  the content is worth or the value you place on the effort that went into creating it. Patreon campaigns tend to focus on multiple items – videos, games, songs – rather than just one big project such as a single game.

As a Patron you can choose which level of pledge suits you and this in turn gives you access to different levels of reward. This could for example be early access to content, your name in a game, extra updates or additional content. There are lots of different rewards that content creators are offering to their Patrons.

Patreon also provides an advertisement free, online community where Patrons can read about new CRPG Dev developments, discuss topics of interest and gain advance access to game releases directly from within the site. There is also the opportunity to contribute more directly to the development of the games through Skype or Google Hang Out type events or through invitations to submit characters, items or quests for inclusion in the games.

The CRPG Dev Patreon page has been set up for a single monthly amount rather than an amount per game release / per piece of content model. I thought this was the most straightforward and sensible model for CRPG Dev. If you later decide you no longer want to be a Patron then you can easily remove your pledge.

Personally I’ve been really inpressed with Patreon and I think it offers a great alternative to Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I’m supporting a couple of people on it and I like the way it works with sneak peaks at upcoming content, chat on the forums and extras

Anyway please take a look at the page and let me know what you think, what you would like to see via Patreon or any other thoughts you might have. Thanks.

Stone of the Citadel – Planned for Release 0.1

Stone of the Citadel – Back in 2012!

I originally started working on Stone of the Citadel back in 2012, originally using the Simple and Fast Multimedia Library (SFML) which I had used (and still use) for Alternate Reality X. I wanted to create a party based CRPG which brought together what I considered the best features and experience from the classic CRPGs of the 1980s and 1990s. For me that’s the Ultima series, Might and Magic, The Bard’s Tale, the SSI games including Eye of the Beholder and of course Alternate Reality. In addition there are many other games which I’ve played or been intrigued about over the years where I thought good ideas didn’t achieve their potential.

Even today as a player and aspiring game developer I still love a lot of features about these games and the style of gameplay that they contain – controlling a party rather than a single character, grid based maps, turn based combat, atmospheric use of text and in a number of cases memorable music and sound effects. They have a unique feel and interest for me which isn’t really catered for or captured in most modern games.

I can’t really hope to compete graphically with the big games of today and if I’m honest I don’t really wish to – we’re well catered for in the first person, single player Elder Scrolls type category. That’s not to say that presentation and graphics aren’t important to me. I will be putting a lot of effort into the appearance of the game to make the 3D view as attractive as possible and have all the relevant information easily accessible.

So what can you expect from Stone of the Citadel?

Firstly it will be made using Unity 3D. The reasons for this are many but the main ones include its powerful features, excellent cross platform support (including iOS and Android) and a rich community with lots of tutorials, videos and helpful information. It’s fairly easy to use and has a big asset store of code, 3D models and other add-ons which you can add to your project. It’s also been used by for many games including high profile kickstarters like Wasteland 2 and Shroud of the Avatar so we can see how capable it is. I’ve spent enough time using it now to be comfortable that it can do everything I would want for my projects (and lots more than I won’t use) and it will allow me to easily create the type of 3D and 2D views that I need for my games. It will do away with the problems I’ve had with OpenGL and video drivers as it seems to work fine on every machine and device I’ve tried.

The game itself will allow you to create a party of 1 to 8 adventurers to explo. A back story will be generated for each character you create or you can create your own to provide extra customisation for your characters. Whilst there will be a notional class or profession, most characters would be able to attempt most actions, wield most weapons etc but would require focussed effort and training in order to be effective in that area.

Map wise I will be using a grid based system similar to that used in games such as Eye of the Beholder and Might & Magic 3 and to some degree Ultima IV. This is different to the format used in say Alternate Reality where each position on the map has 4 outward facing walls, sometimes resulting in paper thin looking walls. This map format also allows me more flexibility in regards to the automap and making use of an Ultima style tile view should there be a requirement for that in some stages or areas. I think it will be the best fit for the type of levels I’m looking to make with SOTC and within Unity 3D. This doesn’t however mean that the 3D view will just be walls made from square blocks 🙂  Whilst the map structure and layout are unlikely to change during the game, expect the map to be always active with events, encounters and items. Some of these will be heavily randomised so that it always feels like there is a lot going on in each area rather than a map area that can be “cleaned out” and then feels barren and empty.

Example of the EOB map style (from www.gamewinners.com)

The game will begin in a City with further areas outside the City becoming accessible as you progress through the game and develop your characters. Some characters and monsters in the game will move around the environments independently of your actions so you will sometimes encounter the same characters or opponents at different points of the game, creating the feeling of a real living and breathing world. Characters will respond to your party as individual characters (based on their unique characteristics) rather than using a single, stock response. Characters will have a lot of detail for you to develop (if you want to).

I’m now working on the first demo and framework code within Unity 3D. My first task is to complete my initial building blocks (some simple textured walls and doors) and build up a sample City map for exploration. More details and screenshots coming soon.

Alternate Reality X – Release 0.71, Mac OS X version and Next Steps

Alternate Reality X 0.71 running on Mac OS X!

Alternate Reality X 0.71 is now available for download from www.crpgdev.com. I spent a lot of time (about 50 hours sandwiched in around work and family commitments) on this one modifying and tidying up a lot of the display code in the background so that ARX runs much more consistently across different window and screen sizes. I’ve also modified the encounter art scaling code so that encounters in both the original Atari 8 bit style and using Ted’s new art scale properly based on the 3D window size. Another area which annoyed me was the positioning of screen elements when visiting shops and modules. These should now appear neatly centred on the screen or window rather than spread out to the four edges of the screen as previously which I didn’t think worked very well. Hopefully these changes were positive! This release also includes a couple of new encounter images from Ted – a Slime and a Noblewoman (who wasn’t in the original AR).

Mac OS X version running full screen
I’ve got a lot of other visual changes that I have planned for future releases such as a smaller auto map, updated map – hopefully showing the full City and Dungeon 64 x 64 cell levels, encounter animation (at least for the original 8bit art) and lots of new wall textures. I may add a little resolution / display options utility as well so that people don’t have to edit arx.ini by hand. I also need to clean up some of the interface generally in terms of text input and on screen prompts (or lack of)  which confuse people. Expect desktop icons for both the Windows and Mac OS X versions very soon 🙂 
The other major development for me is my first ever game release for Mac OS X. I now have a version of ARX 0.71 available for download on Mac OS X. I can’t really say how satisfying it’s been to be able to make this available for people. Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback and support for this release. Currently it’s only available from this link but I’ll add a proper page / description shortly:
I had to tweak the security settings for the App but this only takes a few seconds and OS X will tell you how when you try and run the game.
Really pleased with SFML running on Mac OS X. The latest 2.1 version seems to be work really well and comes with xCode templates to get you started. Once I got past some of the differences with using xCode and became more familiar with using a Mac in general then SFML seemed to do its job very well. Laurent Gomila has done such a great piece of work with SFML since it started a few years back. If you have any interest in game programming then you should definitely consider SFML 2.1. 

The SFML 2.1 template and test project

In terms of game play updates for Alternate Reality X, I will be focusing on improving encounters and items in the game for the 0.72 release. This will include adding multiple body parts to combat, surprise and waylay, knock downs, fleeing, blocking, stun – you know what I have in mind. I could really use one of those Wands of Cold to cool down those hot headed Flame Demons. Alternate Reality for me is very much about the encounters you have so I really want this element to be very strong and close to the original games. Don’t be surprised if the more friendly characters begin having a lot more to say that they used to – of course it may not always be useful or truthful!
I also want to include some of those juicy treasure items that made the City and Dungeon so enjoyable – eyes, scrolls, trumps and lots of weapons and armour. Some of these essential additions will probably require some fairly major changes to my older code which may require changes to the save game format. I’ll see what I can do though.
I’ve had a few queries about Stone of the Citadel recently and whilst there isn’t currently a downloadable demo work on it has continued in the background (mainly focused on design and content). This will be a Unity 3D project. The initial release will focus on creating your party of adventurers and I think will show how SOTC will capture the best of the classic CRPGs whilst adding some spice of its own. Expect a playable multi-platform demo in the near future.
If you enjoy what I’ve been doing with Alternate Reality X or other CRPG Dev projects then please consider making a small donation via Paypal to cover my time and web site costs. Please also keep your feedback, emails, questions and words of support coming – they are a great encouragement and help shape my future releases and games. Thanks as always for your support.

Alternate Reality X – Release 0.70 – Now Available

Alternate Reality 0.70 is here and available for download from www.crpgdev.com. It includes some new Dungeon features and several pieces of great new encounter art from Ted. There are also some additional pieces of art from the unreleased Amiga version of the Dungeon.


A great looking Knight courtesy of Ted

A Mac OS X version will be available in the next few days which I’m excited about. It’s looking pretty good so far and is a big step for Alternate Reality X. I’m really enjoying working on ARX just now so I would expect to have another fairly rapid release not long after this one, hopefully fixing some of the issues which annoy me such as problems with the different screen resolutions not looking good, fonts and text covering up Ted’s artwork! If you would like to support development of ARX then please consider making a small donation via Paypal using the link. Thanks.



Homunculli attack!






Alternate Reality X – Release 0.70 – Coming Soon

 
The Ferry Man puts in an appearance in release 0.70
 

If you follow the Alternate Reality X Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alternate-Reality-X/277276259054861

then you will have seen that I’ve been pretty busy recently working on a Mac OS X port of ARX and putting together release 0.70 for a February 2014 release. It’s long overdue but it seems like people are still behind the project which is great. I’m using the Facebook page more as it seems to reach lots of people and it’s quick and easy for me to post on it. I will still be using the blog here for much longer posts though so keep watching.

In addition I’ve been looking into the options for Android and iOS ports. Android I’ve already had some minor success with but iOS will require the paying the annual $99 Apple Developer Programme sign up fee. This is required even to test on your own device. Anyway well worth doing and would allow me to make submissions to Apple for including ARX on the App Store! I think they are pretty tough in their requirements from what I’ve read but something exciting to aim for.

Alternate Reality X – Back on track

It’s taken me a long time to start getting back into Alternate Reality X but I finally have my most recent version up and running again on a different computer, with the latest version of the Code::Blocks development environment and the latest packaged release of the SFML multimedia library. I’ve used both of these for some time for ARX development and it’s good to get these new versions installed and working properly with my most recent ARX code before I get stuck into the next stage of development.

I still have some of the new artwork to incorporate into the current version as well as lots of things I see in the program and on the screen which I really want to tidy up. Next step is to draw up a list of these issues that I want to fix for the next release and then start fixing them. I’d also like to get some new content into the next release as well as just bug fixes so let me know if there is something you really would like to see me work on next.

Alternate Reality X – Next Steps


Firstly I feel I should explain my long silence on these pages, the forums and the ARX facebook page. Since August 2013 I’ve been extremely busy at work and at home with some big work related projects and deadlines, changes within my family, some travelling away from home and then to top it all off various family illnesses (myself included). Nothing serious but something had to give and that was my game development interests. All of these have meant that I have had little or no time to spend on Alternate Reality X. Anyway I am back now and keen to get back to work on ARX. Thanks for your patience and continued support during this time. Sorry for not keeping you up to date. Whilst all the above has been going on I’ve been thinking about ARX and my next steps for when life became less frantic.

I’ve been struck recently by how buggy the current version is and how my code is now desperately in need of a major overhaul. It’s frustrating for players to put a lot of their valuable time into playing the game, only to come up against some serious bugs that I’m not aware of or have not had time to fix yet. I’m not beating myself up for this as I’ve effectively learnt everything I know about game programming through the course of developing ARX so it’s not surprising that a lot of what is there has not been implemented in the best possible way and is not very flexible. I’d like that to change and I have a few ideas how to go about it.
I’ve also a strong desire to make it much more accessible in terms of multiple platforms (Mac OS X, Android etc). I’ve just bought an Ouya and I’ve had a great time trying that out and would love to make a version of ARX available on it. For those of you not familiar with the Ouya it’s an Android based “micro-console” based around a Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset similar to a Nexus 7 tablet. It’s available with a controller for $99 in the US and £99 in the UK and all the games are free to try. It’s targeted very much at the small or independent developer and appears to be right up my street for the sort of the games and development I’m interested in. I was playing The Dungeon on it (under C64 emulation) on my living room TV yesterday which was pretty cool. As the Ouya is Android based, any games I develop for it would be easily ported to other Android devices. Windows will remain the primary platform for any development.
I’m not looking to change the basic presentation of the game much in terms of the current 3D engine and the 2D display for encounters and menus but I would like to bring it more up to date and make it easier for new players and players on other platforms to enjoy. There is Android and iOS support for SFML in progress and the new release of Unity 3D now provides functionality for making 2D game production easier (which ARX primarily is). Unity of course allows you to build different versions of your game across multiple platforms very easily. SilverAR has been working on his Unity AR so I wouldn’t want to tread on his toes but his project is very different to mine, being a modern, full 3D Alternate Reality.
Probably a bit premature just now but I’ve started looking at firms who can produce printed boxes – I would love to have real fold out boxes similar to the original ones that Alternate Reality shipped in and full printed manuals (on the green / yellow paper of course!). Everything would be rewritten to expand on the original City and Dungeon documents.
 
I’ve also got several pieces of great artwork from Ted which I want to get out to players as soon as possible as they will really enhance the game in my opinion.

Let me know your thoughts.

Collection Fever

I blame YouTube. A few of the channels I subscribe to have had videos recently where people have received boxes full of classic PC games or have unboxed old computers I have fond memories of. Last week I browsed through eBay for old computers, games and accessories and I’ve been taking a regular look since then. I hadn’t realised how active the vintage computer market was.



My first console – An Odyssey 2 known to me in the UK as a Phillips G7000
 

I haven’t bought anything yet but I came close to buying a Commodore 64 on eBay. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for though (in terms of accessories and games) and the final bidding went a bit higher than I thought it would. You can even search for Commodore 64’s and buy them through Amazon it appears! In addition I really want to create a much more comfortable work and play environment / office at home with a proper desk. This would provide enough space for a couple of old timer computers in addition to my main work set up.

The original model of the Commodore 64 which I had back in the 1980s

If I do go ahead and buy some old equipment I want to use it – I don’t want to just have them sit in a cupboard or gather dust. I would play some of the original games and would possibly be interested in trying a bit of old style game development. It seems the tools are out there now to make this a lot easier. Maybe a “Stone of the Citadel” “light” edition on the Commodore 64 🙂

So what would I be interested in? My first console / computer was an Odyssey 2 but I never really liked it very much so I think I would skip that. An original “Breadboard” Commodore 64 would be my first choice. I was lucky enough to get a new C64 when I was about 11 years old and had it up until the 1990s. Lot’s of memories of playing Elite, Alternate Reality: The Dungeon and Ultima IV –  good times. I followed that with an Amiga 500 which I went on to replace with an Amiga 1200 when it was released. The Amiga 1200 was reluctantly sold about 1995 to pay for a holiday to Egypt when a promised job extension fell through. A decent Atari 8bit machine and Spectrum (rubber keys version of course!) would also be good. Which model of Atari would people recommend as I’m not really up to speed with the various models. Obviously it would need to play Alternate Reality well! I’m also interested in picking up old games across most platforms – mainly RPGs.

The original Commodore Amiga 500 which I used to play Eye of the Beholder and Speedball 2

I also fired up the CCS64 emulator and had a lot of fun with my son playing Commando, Elite and Delta. He especially enjoyed Commando (which reminds me to get Mame set up properly some time) and just kept having “one more go”. Just shows how a 30 year old computer can still be fun for a child who has access to the modern gaming platforms.

Do you have any tips or stories on collecting? Either post on the blog or drop me an email at acrin1 @ gmail . com. Any reasonably priced, good sources, preferably in the United Kingdom but will look internationally too. Funds don’t allow for spending much so I’ll be looking over the long term but would love to hear any related advice or experiences.