Saturday, December 25, 2010

Praetor: Not Dead!

It's been a few months since I posted here--a gap that started, appropriately, just after I declared Praetor past the hard bits. Heh.

The delay has been caused by a new project starting at the office, which has consumed all my free time. The office is shutting down (as in, fully powered off while they swap power transformers or something) for a whole week during the holidays, though, so I can't make any progress on my Official Work and have plenty of time to play with Praetor again.

A few months ago I hired an artist to provide the big map, a 4-megapixel image that the game will reveal progressively as you work your way through the campaign. He delivered that in October, and it's perfect. A lesson from this: invest a little and farm out the things you can't do well to someone who can. If I'd done that map it would've looked awful; instead, this key piece looks like something out of the Lord of the Rings and it adds credibility to the whole project. Here's a small piece from it to give you an idea:

In addition to incorporating this gem, over the last few days I've made a lot of little changes: polishing up the tutorial, fixing bugs, rounding off the UI (adding an options dialog, delete-game popup and so on) and even adding some new content.

I've also made the executive decision that this first release will provide the campaign game only: no two-person online play yet. That's an unpleasant step back but it's very freeing; there was a good month of work needed to allow two-player games, and I don't want to waste that time. Now I can focus on the campaign, which is really the essential one-player RPG part anyway.

The role playing campaign takes place over 100 battles that occur as you work your way through the world map. Last week I had one test battle available; now I've thrown that test code away and have 4 finished battles instead--each with its own enemy, sound effects, game strategy and incorporation into the campaign narrative. In other words, the game is now 4% complete. Experience says it takes about two hours to add each battle at this point, which means I'm about 192 working hours from finishing the app.

That sounds like a lot, but in truth it's pretty exciting. Just as I predicted last time, I'm now seeing Praetor marching forwards: every few hours I extend the campaign a little further, and I'm already seeing my character increase in strength and gain new playing pieces as he racks up victories. And best of all, the freaking game is fun--I'm really enjoying the test play, and am still learning new ways to use the pieces I have.

This thing's going to be a winner, and I'm all excited about it. :)