Hi all! Can you believe I'm still working on this game? Believe it or not, I am! I had planned on doing weekly blog posts, but that sounded like too much work so I opted for monthly blog posts. That was also too much work so...now we're at about once every 6 months? Anyways, Serge has been begging me to update this for a while now so I probably ought to go ahead and do that.
Right, so, let's get the obvious out of the way. What have I been doing for the last 6 months? Well, I got a bit discouraged after my Reddit post (I think only one person actually played the game lol) so that sucked away some of my motivation. I think I just had to realize that while the game is very special to me since I wrote it, to the rest of the world it's just a sub-par half-finished RTS. That isn't a bad thing necessarily, it just means I need to polish it up and finish it.
So for the most part, I've been working on the "strategy" layer. One of the big goals I have for the game is to try to make the campaign a bit more free-form rather than a rigid set of connected missions. This actually turned out to be pretty tricky though as there aren't that many RTS games that do this. The Total War series was the first thing to pop in my mind, but I felt like the battles there often ended up too one-sided, as you could just ensure that you had way more troops than your opponent. StarCraft 2 had some interesting ideas, but to me the areas between missions didn't really feel like a game so much as a "talk and shop" sort of thing. I think that worked alright for Blizzard since the focus there is really going to be on super-tight gameplay experience, but I wanted something that felt more like a game.
What I was really looking for was something more like XCOM, where you don't have a lot of control over what mission happens next (so you can't massively stack it in your favor like in TW) but there's also a bunch of really interesting decisions to be made. I haven't really run across any RTS games that have this (although I'm sure there's something out there) and it's always been something I really wanted to see. The problem is when there's nothing out there to use as a reference point, you have to make it up!
I'm not a fan of coding stuff and then throwing it out later (who is?), so I wanted to come up with a plan before I went into it. After stalling for a while, I finally forced myself to sit down and just write something down with paper and pencil. I came up with a little flow chart for what I thought might work. Then I came back the next night, looked at it, crossed out some bits I didn't like anymore and wrote a whole new page expanding on the concept, and kept going. I did this for about a week until I came up with something that I was satisfied with.
In the end what I came up with was actually pretty similar to XCOM 2, as I really liked the idea of flying a massive cargo plane full of troops from location to location. I also learned about these things and thought having something like that to carry around all your troops would be totally awesome. After all, if it's gigantic and impractical, it's perfect for a video game! There's also a lot of the usual stuff such as research and upgrades. Upgrades were a bit tricky as one could see having those on both the tactical and strategy layer, but I decided to just keep them on the strategy layer since C&C did that for years and it was fine. It also means I can have a lot more of them as the player won't have to make those decisions in the heat of battle. There's some form of base building inside the plane as well which I'm hoping to turn into a kind of micro city-builder thing, but we'll see how that pans out.
So, I did all this, coded up a basic strategy layer, and started playing it. And wouldn't you know it? It's just not fun. It's so much that the strategy layer itself isn't fun, it's that the tactical layer is boring when you don't have all the units available to you. The game just doesn't scale down very well. It quickly turned into "spam a bunch of soldiers, blow up the enemy base, move on to the next mission". So that's what I've been thinking about more recently.
What I want to try here is something a bit more "roguelike", with randomly generated maps that have special bonuses on them. Maybe the local militia decides to aid your force. Maybe they decide you're just as bad as the other guys. Maybe you get access to a limited number of airstrikes. Maybe the enemy has a convoy you need to take out. Just something to mix it up so it doesn't feel like you're doing the same thing over and over again. I've started experimenting with this but it'll probably take some time before I have something that really works. I'm feeling pretty encouraged that there's a fun game in there somewhere, I just have to tease it out!
In the meantime, I've added in the airstrikes!
PS: Serge since you're probably the only person who will actually read this don't worry about the plane sprite. I made it myself 4 years ago...wow I've been working on this way too long :P