[DevLog] Battle Snooker (Working Title)

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Hello friends!

I'm aiming to make a turn-based tactics game a bit like Advance Wars, or X-Com, but maybe easier to get into, and with shorter more fast-paced matches.
I enjoyed Hearthstone last year, and right now I'm enjoying Clash Royale.

If you can bounce your team-mate into an enemy instead of hitting them directly, they actually do almost double damage- but instead of damaging the other team to death, maybe you should capture the base in the middle like I did in this video!

I just this week put in the artwork and some sound effects, so I hope this video is self-explanatory enough. I also have a cool air-strike that hits all units finished and working, and a special ball that freezes the opponent's timer, a ball that converts all opponents around him to the other team, a ball that sits still and electrocutes anyone who comes near, etc etc. Check out my youtube channel if you're really interested.

The game is very in-development, and a lot of it can change. I'm only working on it after work, or on weekends.

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Actually what the heck I'll just post the older stuff here too:



In this video, you can see a giant donut that whacks all units within it's radius every few seconds. Maybe you want to knock the enemy into there- but can you do it without landing there yourself?


You can also see the electric pins that each team has stuck in the ground, and the red and purple teams' defense zones. If your ball is in it's defense zone, it'll take only half damage- so try to roll back there as much as you can!


This video was recorded a while ago, and so doesn't have any special art or sound.

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Oh I'd actually forgotten that I had screen shake.


Here's an example of the enemy who freezes, just cos I haven't updated in a while.


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Oh thanks!! Sound Effects are something I do myself and always hope I'm doing a good job.

I just knew I wanted them to sound like they physically exist, and not be sci-fi slot-machine sounds. They still need a lot more work.


The grass is very low fidelity in these videos, it looks a bit better in-game (but still not good enough). It's a black-to-white color ramp of some grass, like this:


and I just flow some particles over it telling it where to light up. The flowers are the same, except they also distort a bit and wave. You can see some experimentation with the grass here.

I'd love to do

, but I guess this is the limit of what I know how to do. Also... I do feel good that my grass is one polygon with a JPEG on it instead of a million.


Here's an update: It's the very scary Thief unit!!!!



Yes, he'll steal your red team!! I just finally got the AI working on this guy, after a long time, he finally rolls just within the perfect radius to steal you. Very scary. Over-powered? In the hands of a perfect computer, maybe so!

You also see here the level select screen I implemented yesterday. I was so happy with the idea of spinning a globe around, and unlocking levels around a fictional, exciting world map-- but now that I've had a chance to sleep on it, maybe it should just be a normal menu instead :I


Oh- and many UI changes, all the time, here's an example: The balls used to turn black when they were about to blow up. That meant that you actually couldn't see which team colour was dieing. Very stupid, in hindsight. Now their "face" actually gets smaller before they blow up instead, so you can definitely see which team colour they are.

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I don't know if anyone's interested in this, so I'm sorry if I'm just spamming, but here's my design process on the level select screen that I worked on today.
I closed Unity and opened Flash. This is my preferred drawing software, I've used it since I was 14.
I set the aspect ratio to my monitor, and try to only use different shades to denote focus, not get distracted colouring it in.
My first idea looks like a snowboarding game, haha! I skewed the menu options up and to the right, because I worked on SpeedRunners for 3 years and old habits die hard. One problem with this layout might be that the list is finite, so what if I have 60 levels? I didn't fit enough game information on this screen, but it is very neatly divided between MENU on the left, and INFO on the right... so that came out well.
The character is a person with their arms folded, with a circle made of circles for hair. I do wanna just go with the flow and put a lot of circles in the UI to keep the game's existing identity growing.
I went back to making the globe a part of the navigation. Also now we've got characters yelling flavour text, which is something I definitely want. I made the level preview bigger and closer to the navigation, because thumbnails are easier to recognize than flicking through strings of text.
Here's what's bad about this layout: Is it a menu? Where's level 1, 2 and 3? Do I go right to advance to the next option, or down? It's nice that the QUIT icon is in the top-right to better reflect the customs of software design, but how do I get there?
The globe takes a back seat in this iteration, and I've added a score counter to the level name. I definitely want to track your score on each level and daily challenge. The name pins to the globe-point very well, and brings those to concepts snugly together.
We're dividing the screen now between LEVEL INFO on the left, and FLAVOUR TEXT on the right. Even though the characters will give you a good impression of which units your about to face, it's quite loose and really they're just for personality and fun... so are they too big in this iteration? and is that text in the bottom-right supposed to be the charactrer talking, or the designer talking?
This is the final iteration I'll make for today. You can progress through these levels by flicking left and right, we can see your progress through them, which ones are optional and which ones are new, the level name, thumbnail, score and flavour text are all neatly tied together... You can see that the most important asset is in the middle of the screen, and pieces get less important as they radiate outward.
I think displaying your friends' score and world record in a news-ticker along the bottom helps it feel like it's being updated live. This is something I noticed in iterating on the awesome STREAMING NOW widget on the title screen on SpeedRunners. I hope it's not to distracting- but just distracting enough  ;)
I could even use this screen for generating a random match, daily challenge and maybe previewing online games in a lobby if I just remove the timeline!
We're not navigating a globe any more, or moving around a giant Mario World map, or running around a castle jumping into paintings... but it's very functional, and I can be proud of that.
Can this expand to flick through 50+ levels? If I added an expanded level set a month later, would people find it? These are questions I'll tackle next time I have a free afternoon.

Also it'd be healthy to just open a blank doc and make something completely different too.

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This week I worked on the level select:



...Yeah I'm using Advance Wars assets, they're placeholder. The other stuff is fairly close to real, though.


Today I took a crack at actually implementing Score:



Why is there a high-score and a grade on each level?

A scary thing about making a linear single-player game is that people are gonna stop playing when they get to the end. This might not work out, because typically you'll design a single-player campaign to be as long as it is fresh. When you've stopped introducing game elements, most people want to start wrapping things up.

HOWEVER: Tough nuts like X-Com, Street Fighter, Devil May Cry or Bayonetta have deep systems with more to explore than the sum of their parts. Having an imperfect GRADE lets players know that there's more to find, without letting them know exactly what. It's a call to play more creatively and explore the mechanics or work up the skill ladder.


The SCORE determines your grade, but it's much more granular. Which means it's more fit to be compared to other scores. I'm hoping it'll be a nice way to incite competition between friends and strangers without ever engaging in a multiplayer game... Although I hope they do that too! We can also see the world-record tick up point-by-point over time, so we can all get a sense of how the hive-mind community is doing, and where we sit on the grand scale of what's ABSOLUTELY possible in the game.


How do I determine SCORE?

I'm actually not very experienced with this, but here goes:

Points are not rewarded for doing specific tricks in a match, like teammate ricochets or bank shots. That would just encourage skilled players to play in a convoluted way that lines up with my vision for what's cool- and that's a finite, shallow goal. That doesn't encourage creative, exploratory play at all.

Instead, I set a WAGER at the start of a match: 10,000 points + (Number of enemy balls x 1,000).

Then your SCORE, if you beat the level, is that wager minus Number of Turns You Took x 700.

Plus the amount of health you ended the match with x 10 (Maximum health for each ball being 100).

Plus the amount of health in your deck, which you decided to keep in your deck, x 12.


Choosing only to weight your score based on the beginning and end of a match -HOPEFULLY- means that people will do whatever they can come up with to deal heavy damage in few turns, retaining all health.


Your GRADE is basically your final score divided by that original wager. If you kept it at 100% or higher, that's an S rank. 90% is an A. 80% is  a B, then C, and anything below 60% is a D.

A lot of games rank your skill by giving you 1, 2 or 3 stars at the end of a level; like Angry Birds or Kingdom Rush. The only difference I can come up with between a grade and a number of stars is how people think about them instinctively from experience:

Stars are collectibles, and can be stored up and cashed in. Maybe you'll need to spend them later- so it'll be less trouble to scoop them all up while you're here, than to hit a locked door later.

A grade is a certificate that you're given. You don't take the test again immediately, you just accept that you passed with a C and move on. Maybe later you'll take another look just to acknowledge that you're improving.

I guess what I'm saying is that a grade feels more like a reflection of your intrinsic progress, instead of hoovering up extrinsic trinkets.


I'm still not sure if this is good! It seems to work in the early levels.

I'd like if an S-rank were achievable on every level in the final game. We'll see.

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Those are pretty rad looking menus. Interesting process you have with flat colouring start.

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As with every E3: I am completely intimidated by all the amazing indie games and feel like throwing in the towel!


Well, heres an update for this week:



This new unit is a mobile factory. He/she spits out a small support ball instead of taking a turn. 

This unit started off as the SPLITTER. They'd split into two smaller units when they hit an enemy. That gets complicated, though; at what angle do they split? What if they do it while moving really slowly and end up occupying the same space? What does that idea ACTUALLY ADD to my strategic decisions?

When I came up with the idea of firing a dummy, I felt a lot better about it. The role of this enemy is to multiply and overwhelm you over time, so now they can achieve that in a way that's much less complicated.

For a long time, you would fire a dummy and then fire yourself. I thought this was great, it was so powerful to take 2 moves at once. The enemy was very challenging, which I enjoyed! I had to remove the 2nd shot though, because it was such a massive sum of damage all at once, it just aint funny when somebody really cracks how to use it. Instead, I turned up the frequency that it would fire a new unit, strengthening it's role as a source of overwhelming numbers. As an added bonus, it's one of the only units that can't actually fire itself, which is an interesting vulnerability.




I came up with an interesting solution for effects in the game, by the way:



This is a 256x256 PNG. Shades of gray, from black to white, act like an animation timeline from 0 to 1 second... or 0 to 30 seconds, or whatever you feel like stretching it to.

Let's say it makes black pixels visible at 1 second, grey pixels visible at 5 seconds, and very light pixels visible at 10 seconds.

Working on SpeedRunners, I would hand in these massive sprite sheets with sprite sprite sprite sprite sprite of animation frames for daft things like a big circle, or a little splash, or a puff of smoke. I'm quite happy to have come up with something so small and neat.
Here's another bonus: If you look at particle and trail effects in Street Fighter, you'll notice that they animate at a very choppy and staggered framerate when the game goes slow-motion, but these little effects can be played at ANY speed no problem!

I also use this colour ramp to tell the effect how to animate colours, which is also a very small PNG: fff162fd1163cb761a7f02793f851388.png


With this method, I can make effects animations that might otherwise be 50 or 60 frames of hand-drawn work!

This one is the splash you can see when two balls collide:




I also used this method on my explosion:



I can't wait to see what else it could be useful for, but I'm quite busy actually working on the game.


Speaking of which- this has been kind of a grace period where I've not been too busy at work, but I'm really about to plunge my gross uneducated hands into porting and certification. I'll actually be directly responsible for game code again on small projects at tinyBuild, so I'll be much too busy cleaning up after myself and apologizing to make solid progress on BAT SNOOK.


Oh well!

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Here's a playable build!


The game's chugging along with plenty of levels and placeholder Advance Wars characters, so I might as well put it out there for people to try.


Please give it a download, and let me know if you found it too boring, too confusing, slow, weird, or bad! I would love to go in and change things.

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Man I'm glad I'm making this as a hobby and not my job, cos if people were this disinterested while a whole company was on the line I'd be really stressed out!




The linear progression of levels is cool, I'm happy with where it's at. I'm almost feature-complete here, it's just about time to start making all those characters and artwork!

Feels very weird though, I've been holding back on it for so long that I have some anxiety on biting the bullet and working on style. My goal with this project was to push style and flair BACK, behind more structured design work and code... so is it really time to polish things up, or am I jumping the gun?


Speaking of design, there are two more unit types I'd consider creating, but I'm just not 100% sure. So I'm doing some on-paper design here; I was telling my girlfriend about why I don't want a vampire unit, and she came up with the idea of a Jesus-ball who would save everyone else at the cost of his own life-points. I was very happy about the concept, but thinking it through I'm a bit hesitant:



Heals team-mates within it's radius at the cost of it's own health. Puts every ball within it's radius into Defense too! (taking half damage).
Does minimal damage on actually hitting someone directly.


Things I like:
Deciding who to heal / defend is an interesting choice.
Would add a small defensive zone to maps without defensive zones.
Elongates the life and usefulness of every other unit.
Healing gives more than it takes, so you could cancel out the drain by having two Martyrs heal each other, and both benefit.
Can heal two units at once, for the price of healing one. Planning ahead for this would lead to a great health boost for your team!
Enemies could also take advantage and drain health from YOUR Martyr. Vice-versa too.
The Thief ball spends his own health to steal other units, so this would be a good team-up.
The Factory gets more dangerous the longer it stays out there, so that's another good team-up.

Things I don't like:
Why would you use one Thief/Factory and one Martyr instead of just two thieves? You'd get your desired attack out more frequently if you just used two of the same unit.
It would make matches take even longer.
Having only this unit left on the table is a sad and anti-climactic ending. He can't damage anyone!


...Really not sure if it's worth working on. Here's another one I came up with myself:



Leaves a trail of toxic slime wherever it goes. Slime damages units that roll through it, and creates friction in their roll so they can't reach as far. Your team-mates are fine though!
Inhibited by distance- this unit can't roll very far, otherwise he'd be much too powerful.

Things I like:
Gives you ownership over parts of the map. You could make the base in the center toxic, make your defensive zone toxic, or make the enemy's defensive zone toxic.
Carry out long-term strategies.
Make a toxic wall, and then try to continuously rebound your units back behind it after attacking!
Things I don't like:
Makes the map even more cluttered and hard for new players to read.
Introduces new game pieces to teach and be understood, what is toxic slime, how does it work, etc.
Not much depth beyond it's primary function. Doesn't interact with other units in many interesting ways.


...So I'm not sure if I should add more content or start colouring in, and this is paralyzing me for a sec.


EDT--- I guess if the Martyr blew up when he died, damaging units within his radius, it would be a more climactic ending and make him more useful as a standalone.

Too complicated, though? It's not really very intuitive for your support to blow up.

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Not much BS work at all these days, there are some real deadlines comin up at work-work. Here's a quick mockup I managed to sneak in today though:




These sprites are from Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for the Nintendo DS.

The idea is that my current match screen shows your upcoming enemy character... but it's not clear that that's who it is. It might better communicate that a match was starting if it looked more like a versus screen.

I also had a problem where I was telling you that you unlocked a new unit in your inventory... but what the heck is your inventory, right? With this new design, I get to show your current ball choice and also your enemy's. This really ties the enemy characters to their signature units, which I wasn't doing before, and gives an even better preview of the upcoming match.

One more thing: All of this info is even more helpful when I re-use this on the Multiplayer lobby screen! 



One downside to organizing things into these two compact widgets is that I was looking forward to drawing my big proud character art for each character. I imagined them being tall and stylish, not squat and bulky :/

Well... it's a good thing I'm doing all this paper design before diving into the artwork, cos at least I don't have to throw my own characters in the bin.

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For what it's worth, I'm not disinterested, I like reading these posts - I don't have much to add besides that it's cool to watch.

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I've been catching up on Dev posts as I consider taking a week off for the next Wizard Jam and trying to actually complete a game for once, instead of just half-making them (well more like quarter-making them.)

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Hey gang!

I haven't updated for a while cos it's been very busy at work, we're porting games to consoles and there are some very important deadlines.


Coding update: I have re-vamped the "Daily Challenge". It now generates 7 levels with increasing complexity, and unlocks one each day of the week. If you're playing on Wednesday, you should beat Monday, beat Tuesday, beat today, and then wait for Thursday's level to be delivered. The leaderboard will be the total of all your scores up til Sunday. So if you're 600 points behind a friend on Thursday, you still have a chance to beat them!!


Artwork update??? I've officially started thinking about artwork. I said from the beginning I wouldn't get distracted by art, but now I think it's about time to wrap things up.

For this concept art, I'm only thinking about rendering style. Concept art should help you answer some questions before you enter production. Like so:

  • Should the characters have black outlines?
    No, it's difficult to keep uniform scale with line art in games and I don't want to worry about that.
  • How many different colours is too many?
    I want to aim for a maximum of 4 colours in a character portrait, so they can double as printed promotional artwork later.
  • How much is too much fidelity of detail?
    The game has a very clean UI, and could potentially be on small screens, so I want large basic shapes that read well, and shouldn't put more detail into a square inch than the rest of the game would.
  • What is too little detail? Should there be shadows, hard shadows or gradual shading? Should these characters be tall and lean, have big heads, big eyes, Charlie Brown dots for eyes?
    I dunno, let's find out!

Remember: We are concepting RENDERING here, NOT CHARACTERS.

So I rounded up some reference art for a few minutes to give me an idea of what to try:




And just splashing around, here's my first test:



I like the colours and the shapes, but it's TOO clean. This makes me think of a facebook game or mobile game from a few years ago, and I don't like how inoffensive it is. The game lacks character right now, and I don't think this adds much to be interested in. I don't think I could show a very wide range of personalities when things are this clean either.

These are my first characters who I DON'T plan to animate, so I do have the liberty to spend more time on a portrait than I did in SpeedRunners. I should stretch out a bit more.


After a few other attempts, here's something completely different:



Wow okay. So one thing I got a bit better at was defining a character that looks like they've got things to talk about. This guy looks a bit more potentially dangerous or funny or interesting, so that's good.

I don't like how ill-defined everything is, I think it's too smudgy. Pretty weak lines, and I think it's too dark. Most of the contrast is happening low down and the face is a blur- which is the opposite of what I should do to communicate personality and identity. Proportionally, his head is about 15% of the image, while if you look at my Super Mario Hoops 3-on-3 Basketball placeholder art: they put great focus on heads and faces. So I definitely need to try again.

By the way, this pose is stolen from a photo of The Fonz, from Happy Days.


I tried again:



This is one that I liked. I like the colour balance, it really draws you up to the face. I used one-colour hard shadows, and then did one layer of more ambient light and shade. The skin turns a bit more yellow when it gets light, and a bit more red when it gets dark, which helps the game stay colourful.

I think proportions could still be tweaked a bit, this is still a bit too tall to squish into a game interface... maybe I should draw from the stomach upwards. I love this character pose, it makes me laugh, and I actually really like the outline on the eyes which was a complete fluke.

Oh and I decided to include a highlight down one side to help strengthen the character silhouette. I felt like I was missing some definition from the line art.


I started to think about what kind of characters I want to show, and I should aim to tell a story from a photo, because there's not going to be a lot of explicit narrative here. Sometimes you strike a connection just from seeing a person, or they just have evidence painted on their face that they've been through the same trials you have. Sometimes people are funny without jokes. I think each of the characters in Seinfeld tell a story at first sight, and in this next piece of concept art I decided to use Tuco from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as a base for someone with powerful identity in a face:




This is very similar to the last one, it's rendered almost exactly the same way. The proportions of the character are now almost 40% head, and MOST of that head is a face. My girlfriend just told me that looks weird, but I'm not sure yet, I think I like it. It feels like South Park to me, which I don't mind.

I think there's a lot of harmony in the colours and I like it.

I'm a bit nervous as to whether or not the shadows make it feel too high-fidelity, or if I should blanket him in more broad light. If you look at my Advance Wars 2 placeholder art, they do use a bit of shading, but very sparingly, and almost none on the face. I think I like the shadows on my previous test more.

I think the prop works, and I like how snugly he fits in the circle. That just means he fills a box really well, and will make for an easy UI element for me to use and play around with.




So this was my journey through some potentialities of how characters could look, and I'm still not finished!

It's been painfully slow working on this, because I've been opening the game in 3 or 4 hour blocks on Sundays and that's all D:

After this it'll be actual character concepting, then making the assets, maybe funnin' up the game board and in-game elements, then the game's ddddooooooooone?
Music too, I'll need to figure out music.

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Hello friends.


I clearly abandoned this project last year, because I was sitting down and making character art in drips of one hour every few days, and it was very uncomfortable and frustrating.

Today, in 2017, I've decided it's really stupid of me to have such a finished game project sitting on my hard drive, wistfully remembering the times I used to make games. So why don't I really knuckle down and polish it off?


Coding Update: After porting other peoples' games to many different boxes over the passed year, I've really learned a thing or two about organizing a project, and optimization. Coming back to my old code was pretty hilarious, so I've started USING VERSION-CONTROL, DELETING UNUSED CODE and JUST BEING NORMAL. I remember I was really adamant about doing everything in raw maths and numbers before, completely banning myself from using built-in physics functions and hit-detection. My logic was: if I don't know how to code a snooker game, I better not go around calling myself a programmer. In the interest of getting a project finished, making everything a lot more readable and even have a smoother game, I've decided to just get on the highway with everyone else and do things the easy way.


Design and UI Update: I've decided I'm not adding any more features; I really am aiming to finish and release the game.


Here's some iteration when I looked at my Level Select after 9 months:



The old screen was such a confetti-bomb of information, I tried to minimize more and more, asking what this screen truly needed to show and how I could show it in the fewest, most common-sense pieces.

I went back to old-faithful, using Advance Wars characters as stand-ins for my own. Squashing a person down into a circle just felt contrived. It felt MORE suffocating, even though the artwork took up LESS space. I wanted to air-out the menu like an old rug.

I wanted to drop the player-character on the left because it just doesn't give you any information to see your own man in EVERY LEVEL. I remembered later, though, that I am also recycling this screen for a multiplayer lobby, and a daily generated single-player match. In those contexts, playing as different colours, characters and using different units actually would have to be represented for both teams.

I decided the pips that represent each level are a superfluous addition to the language of the interface. It would be more consolidated if the levels were their own thumbnails, like on Youtube or Netflix. That way it might feel more natural to glide through them, instead of new artwork popping in and out every time you nudge forward.

The planet background took more of a backseat. It's purely decoration, so it belongs in the distant, distant background.


Character and Artwork update: I'm diving into making the real, final characters for the game now. If I have one for each new type of unit introduced, I should end up with about 6.

I've decided the main character and tutorial-voice will be male-female twins. They can switch seats whenever you tap the portrait in-game. I figured it was a nice, in-world way to flip genders, and I like using siblings or twins as a character trait.

As I discussed before, I like characters that are not 100% likable, confident or morally good.

I seem to get worse and worse at drawing every year, but I've found it helps for me to draw people doing twisty, bad faces. It alleviates the starting insecurity that my characters are hollow, bland nobodies.


This was my first day coming back to game art, and it was a bit more abstract and Nickeloden-looking than I wanted:



I do like this short-fuse, hot-headed little-brother personality though.

I'm dieing to blend from dark hair roots to bleached tips, but I just can't draw it. Using that, and the Mad-Magazine ears, unfashionable sideburns, sporadic drooping hairs and one tooth that's mysteriously whiter than the others, it does build a frayed, uncool, trying identity that I'm attracted to.


This is Elaine, from Seinfeld, feeling uncomfortable about saying "spongeworthy". Then given a new hairstyle 16 times and dressed up like a casino croupier.


I finally found a haircut I liked, but this character doesn't feel like they could command units. I talk a big game about having a variety of personalities, but when I look at this girl I just don't see much motivation or opportunity for good material.


I decided to try something else with costumes, and push it more towards Civil War generals. 200 years ago, high-ranking uniforms were very colourful and decorative. I’ve also had this idea for a really long time that I’d like characters to have these giant pool cues that double as a pointing stick- I thought it would be a good identifying signature for the game, but in practice it just limits the kinds of poses I can have and, in other sketches, I found that I was trying to hide them.

Shortly after this sketch I started drifting into bondage territory, and then steered away from it.

I like the really deep eyes on this character. I think it could lead to the Napoleon-complex I saw in my male character sketch, so I’ll retain some details and smooth her out from here.


I could write pages and pages about the road I went down in character concepting, but long-story-short this is what I have today and I think it’s a good spot. They look like uncouth, abrasive 20-somethings in classy eveningwear and I think I’ll get a lot of mileage out of that in the long-run.

I’ll give them both one more pass to make them look more like twins and just decide what’s too ugly to be a protagonist and what’s too attractive to be interesting, for both of them.


In the next post I’ll show final character stuff, reveal my lazy-ass process, say some really insensitive things about designing uncool people, talk about why I almost gave every character a cigarette, and show an addition I made to the in-game UI.

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Character check-in:



I drew one more layer on this character for colour and depth. Now you can see she still has the deep, skeleton eyes of a killer. I put a mole on her face for half a sec, but I think most people actually associate that with being a cute perk, so I moved it to the more awkward spot on her neck.

I like the story it tells, that someone would put up with that for so long that they're over the insecurity of hiding it. If I drew this character 10 years younger, she would be wearing her hair down.



On that note, I did at some point give these guys a cigarette. It was on a day that I wanted them to be more uncool (sorry, smokers). I was aiming the chain them to an old mistake they made as teenagers, or seem bad at kicking their own comforts. That's a normal human thing, but it turned out people looked straight through the characters and just assumed I thought smoking was cool.

I did a lot of similar things with concepting the male protagonist here, giving him evidence of an old eyebrow-piercing, outdated sideburns, an old tattoo of a shamrock that's starting to fade into a green blob, but all of these backfired-teenager-ideas I put on him just look like me trying badly to draw a cool guy!!

It turns out I can't pull off a lot of the really down-to-earth stuff I come up with, but I'll keep it on the shelf for later anyway.


I'll talk a bit about my process for concepting characters aswel.

I'm about to start concepting a character who lives on a unique combat mechanic: Their units do not take damage unless you ricochet a mate into them for bonus damage. Direct hits do NOTHING.

At first I just drew an extra-strong and intimidating man, but that was so boring I didn't even finish.


Digging into this concept a bit more, I balance him out by only giving him access to BASIC units. No freezing, stealing or anything fancy. Furthermore, he does NOT DO any extra damage, he's less "strong" and more "resilient". So I thought about drawing a face that looks like it's really weathered a storm. Maybe someone who somehow stuck around, and didn't progress.



Sitting down with a crutch and a big fat turkey-neck does evoke a sedimentary bed-rock person, so that's good. I pulled together some pieces from different people here, and it emerged that this character should probably be old. That's okay, because it's a space I'm not exploring with the other characters.

HOWEVER~~ His old, fat cantankerous body here isn't very intimidating. I wanted to try the character again, pushing the things I liked and ditching the things I didn't. So I searched again for people with weathered, craggy, resilient faces who were intimidating BECAUSE OF their diamond-hard endurance.



Instead of pulling his skin down, I pulled his bone structure downwards to make this long, sunken face. Instead of leaning on a cane now, he's digging this old commemorative sword into the ground. It's a person who's a lot more spooky, who's probably living on some scary tales.

I guess I upgraded from right-wing republican to all-out imperialist Demon Headmaster.



I came back the next day and really kicked the shit out of his face to double-down on the concept. There is a line, though, at some point he starts to look less like a haggard old neighbor, and more like a gross monster. So I might dial it back.


So most characters start off as a few communicative faces and photos blended together. Then I push the parts I think are adding to what I'm aiming for, and mute the parts that aren't.


Next I think I'll take on a character that converts units from your side, so characters from here on will likely be a bit more nice-looking.

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Boy, working on a game in your spare time goes pretty slow ):


I would post the new character, but I'm not very confident about it today, so here's a different update:



First thing you might notice is my new background art. Like a lot of the artwork in this game, these trees are mostly code. They move with the wind, and they're rendered using that effects-shader I was talking about in a previous post.. Their geometry right now is a couple spheres sitting on-top of each other like a snowman, but I think you can tell, so I may have to actually open up some modelling software and make a cone.

They're moving on a combination of a couple sine-waves and some noise right now, but actually I think I will re-visit this animation later. Believe it or not, I only figured out how to use the function "Mathf.PerlinNoise()" halfway through making these.

The rocks on the side of the table look like junk, they're placeholder.


(this gif is a 10-minute edit I made right after recording the video)


The other update on display here is the toxic-slime ball. It's basically what I said it was before. Really surprised at the kind of gameplay it opens up, though.

I heard a designer on Diablo 3 last week say that everyone would pitch him enemy ideas, and they all got really creative, but dozens of these ideas just boiled down to 'You Have To Hit THIS GUY First! Because if not, blah blah blah'. You really have to pull the player into making NEW DECISIONS and DOING SOMETHING ELSE if you're going to add an enemy or new units.

I've definitely fell short on that a couple times without noticing, but I hope it's not too much. I'm happy that the slime-ball does feel like a fresh kind of gameplay.


Did you notice the new UI widget that pops up in the top-left? It's a recap of what happened during the turn, in-case you're still foggy on damage numbers.I'm clearly desperate to not pop up damage numbers over the actual match, so I HOPE this is a useful solution for people. I got the idea from playing Hearthstone and notice that they also have a column of little widgets to remind you of what's happening.

I'm not sure exactly how to display this. If you leave it running, it stacks down the whole screen. Left for too long, the information blurs together into one big turn, which is not useful, but it's antithetical to the purpose if it refreshes too often.

I've decided to wipe the list clean each time you make a turn, and the previous turn was the enemy.


Character work is getting done aswel. If I spend one weekend on vacation though, and the next weekend going out, then progress on the game stands still for 3 weeks. Bummer!

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Okay so here's my character for the Thief ball:


It was a slow climb up to where I am now with this one.
What does the Thief ball do?
It converts other units to your side.
It steals people.
It's a puppeteer, a manipulator, a pied piper.
It drains health from ITSELF to do this. Suicide tactics are the way to play this unit.
Your own team's health is disposable, because you stole them.
It doesn't do much direct hit-damage, but actually steals from sitting in close proximity.

Because it was a subversion of directly hitting your opponents, I decided much earlier that this team had a built-in identity of manipulation, coercion and intelligent cunning. For some reason, to me, a triangle carries that. Maybe some graphic designer out there can explain why.

What kind of character stands for coercion?
I brainstormed a lot of big, flashy situations in real life where I felt like people were being stolen and used.
Communist dictatorships, pyramid schemes, cults, scientology, corporate take-overs and so on.
I felt like these were rich ideas to play around in, but coming up with powerful CEOs and dictators felt like I was throwing a penny on a million other enemies in video games. It just felt like filler.

Then at some point I had the idea to not imagine the person at the TOP of a pyramid scheme or a puppet-state, but the person in the MIDDLE of a hierarchy. At the fake-top. It's a fun reflection of how these things really work that you never get to meet the person in-charge, you only ever hear from a megaphone. So when I started to draw more of an attractive relations-manager who could be a puppeteer AND a puppet at once, the character had strengths and vulnerabilities that gave them a lot more to chew on.
In my head, the nation that this unit belongs to is running out of food and money, and is hiding the facts behind brainwashing propaganda. Maybe they are completely dependent on resources from one of the other teams. I probably won't get into it in-game, but knowing that now can inform decisions I make for the rest of the game's life.

Costume design
So I made the character an attractive lady to display all those things I said above. If you think I should've gone somewhere else, then let me know!
I decided if you're recruiting people from other countries, you should appear as a well-off, thriving higher society. That explains the flashes of gold, and I might do more with that.

After deciding the character was an attractive woman in a cocktail dress, I started off trying to convey that she was under some greater control. So I tried to design something with a tight collar, or handcuffs:
I noticed that a tall, thin neck amplified this worrying undertone.

At some point I really wanted to evoke the concept of a puppet-puppeteer aswel. I drew one thin vertical line on her gloves and dress, and thin lines in her hair coming up from her shoulders. In the final design, they lead up to her crossed bun hair ontop, where I was dieing to evoke a marionette handle.
I tried to keep that upside-down triangle shape in mind all the time. That would tie it to the ball unit in-game, and piggyback on the sinister feelings I get from that shape. Her head, eyes, cheekbones, the shading on her face, the glint of light in her eyes, her jewelry, her abdomen, and obviously this boob-hole (am I dumb???) are a triangle pointing down. It's kind of obsessive how much exposition I tried to squeeze in to the shape of this person, but that's my whole goal with designing characters on this project.
By the way I lit her from below to make her appear more sinister. In an earlier concept, nothing was there to betray the smiling exceptionalism, so she just seemed nice.

Right at the end, I made her a foot taller than my scruffneck red commander. She's portraying an affluent facade, so you should be able to feel that this character is wearing heels to tower above people. I'm happy that these two have such contrasting identities, I think they'd have a lot to say to each other.

The next character I'll sketch out will be the final-boss character. He has every unit at his disposal, just like you.
I'll update when I have some artwork.

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I spent the weekends in August on holiday, so then that means the game just has to pause for a while. It’s been sadly slow work, but them’s the breaks.


New Character: Gray Father
You ever spend hours designing a character, and then someone comes over and says “Steve Jobs”, and you just slam your head on the desk in defeat?


What was this character for?

  • This is the final boss.
  • He can use all of the other characters’ units in combination, just like you.
  • Combining multiple unit types is an intelligent and creative tactic.
  • I don’t want my final boss to be an all-powerful monster.

That’s not a very dense outline. With this character representing “all units”, his identity is very broad.
I figured a good villain should be something that really beats the protagonist, something that DISPROVES the strengths of the young, arrogant hooligan type. So if you’re 23 and you’re holding a royal flush, what shuts you down?
I wanted the final boss to be old. I’ve used old as a weakness a couple time, but what is old as a STRENGTH? It’s wisdom and maturity. The kind of person who’s traveled the world, has stories, lived as a slob and a snob, done their time, and actually DOES know better than you. When you meet a 21-year-old who’s in good shape, that’s one thing, but when you meet a 60-year-old who looks fitter than you, it’s humbling. This person doesn’t need to be mean or manipulative, they don’t need to be anything, they’ve done enough fighting to already know.
I think I am going to have a really weird ending, where my antagonist is nice, and my protagonist grows up, but I’ll probably talk about it again later.


So I started looking at old, convinced wise-guys. I like Jeff Bridges, but I love George Carlin. He’s had that smarmy smug mug for 50 years.

Pulling up from sarcastic jerks, I wanted a stocky, reliable old janitor or fireman quality. A guy who writes safety instructions. I like tall, brick heads and block noses for this quality, like Wolfgang Petry or Jim Varney (yes, that guy!).

Something I was 50-50 on was the eyes. I came up with the idea that the character uses all other characters’ units not by force, but by diplomacy. Small, smiling eyes are nice, but there’s something so inwardly pleased about closed eyes that I hated. Made him look like a conceited reverend.

Thinking about trustworthy eyes, I always found it spooky to see young photos of Charles Manson. He’s such a nice pretty-boy, he has kind eyes and it’s jarring to look at, knowing what how things went.
I mean… Robin Williams has nice eyes as well, but there’s nothing fascinating about that, he’s just a nice guy.


Lastly, I decided his costume should be pretty low-maintenance. Very open, like his diplomatic nature, his color is gray because he is open to all identities (and because he’s the oldest character). I gave him a hanging open vest, he’s a reformed hippie, cleaned up enough to come off as very competent and highly functioning.
The only challenge here was dressing him up formal enough to appear on the cast of Battle Snooker (is that really still the name??) but loose enough to make him feel disarming.



I’m still not convinced on where I ended up with this character, but I’m sadly gonna move on because I need the satisfaction of finishing something. He’s not as richly interesting as the previous characters, but I think it would take a couple more weekends to really hit a bullseye, and I’m dieing to move on. I have 3 more characters to concept, and then I have to go over them all for the final in-game assets.


We’re still in a renaissance for tactics games, right? That’ll still be true in 2018?

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I'm halfway-done on the next character, so here's some waffle about dialogue in the meantime:


Main Campaign Dialogue

This is the file that defines level 4:


I wrote placeholder dialogue a long time ago, so most of the game is already written.

Now that I have the characters designed and drawn up, I thought I would go in and re-write the dialogue. HOWEVER~ I was finding that I couldn't write over the old dialogue without losing something.


The placeholder dialogue was so straight-forward that it felt nice to be spoken to directly as a player. When the first mission says "Welcome to Battle Snooker!", it was tough to come up with something in-character that would give me a positive feeling in the same way. I wanted to establish these characters and this world, and set up something interesting, but not lose track of easing people into a nice, relaxed afternoon with a colourful, friendly tactics game.


SO~ I decided to completely put all of my badly-written rubbish in the back seat, and the first 4 levels basically stayed as they were; giving out gameplay tips in a friendly, human voice. It might sound a bit drastic to detox the whole script, but getting in the way of a newcomer's ability to understand and enjoy the mechanics is not worth squeezing in any lame sarcastic quips.

I decided to pull back and go 50-50 on gameplay-talk and character-talk from level 5 onwards. This is when I stop explaining the major interface of how to use the game, and start introducing the electric stinger unit. The unit is really simple, and should be mostly self-explanatory anyway.

I do make sure that whenever you lose a level, the character should say something that gives you a clear hint on how to come back and win:


I hope to do this for every level, until the end.


Daily Challenge Dialogue


The daily challenge will generate a random level every day, including one character shout-out in the level description. These can be purely for character-building, as they appear outside of the teaching and listening arc of the main campaign.

It's very cheap and easy to just keep adding character shout-outs, so you really need to be a harsh judge and delete the duds. I could sure delete a few of these duds in the screenshot above!


Working on SpeedRunners, we wrote roughly 300 random character shout-outs that would appear on loading screens. That might sound like a massively high number, but it's not. If you see one twice, the magic is immediately gone and it was all for nothing! In Battle Snooker I'd like to not just pick a random dialogue line from a list of 300, but put those 300 lines in a random order, and then go down the list one-by-one. That way, you could play for 300 days without seeing a duplicate.


The SpeedRunners loading-screen lines really did establish some fun relationships, like how Unic is everyone's friend, and the cast's animosity towards SR. We had Russian fans de-coding Cosmonaut's Cyrillic lines, a couple mysterious Easter-eggs, and some useful tips for beginner players.

Improving on that with Battle Snooker, I want the 2 opponents in the match to recognize each other, and quip on their unique relationship directly. If one character says "I'm your son" or "You're my ex-wife", or "Can't we be friends?" it might catch your interest and make you look at characters or gameplay pieces again with more context. As always, it's not about writing one big story-arc, but establishing a colourful identity and personality for you to read into as much as you'd like to.


This is good work to do when you're not at a desktop PC, because you can basically do this part of development on your phone.

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