The last six months have been just awful. This blog is all about Game Development 101, though, and I guess that's part of the deal: that being able to design and implement a game isn't enough. You need a lot of drive to get the projects done, even in the face of some truly terrible resistance.
In my case, my mother just passed away following an unexpected stroke and diagnosis of metastatic cancer. I've spent a lot of time travelling to visit and a lot of time worrying about her; my free time has gone to make up for the office time that I've lost, which means I've barely been able to work on Praetor at all. I apologize to all the people who have bought and enjoyed the game and have been waiting for the next campaign.
Like many people though, I find some degree of solace in work: it's sometimes easiest to bury your head in a project until life feels bearable again. So over the last month or so I've managed to burn through the remainder of the 25 battles that make up the third Praetor campaign--and tonight I finished the last one. Done and done, as my mother used to say while brushing her hands together.
I need to do some final testing and tuning on this release prior to submitting it, but that step should only be days away now. I've play-tested every level individually and need only to spot-check to make sure I haven't broken anything as I pushed forward, plus a little testing around the transitions to make sure upgrades go smoothly.
This third release includes the aforementioned 25 new bad guys to fight--actually it's 25 battles, but something like 35 different bad guys and another dozen magic enchantments that they bring to the party. In compensation you gain access to another dozen good guys and a dozen new magics, plus you get stronger and healthier and gain a number of other new abilities. The story line also moves forward, introducing a new ally (Kaitronius) who will play a big part in the fourth-and-final campaign. Finally, I took the opportunity to sharpen the graphics a little bit: I recolored the water on the main screen, reworked the world map a good bit to reduce the noise introduced in ocean areas and recolored certain territories to match the campaign story. And I put a new icon on it, because that's fun. I also fixed a ton of bugs, including adding some very substantial safeguards to prevent losing saved-game files; I'll talk about those changes in a later post, because they represent relevant Game Development 101 content.
From a game sales perspective, Praetor continues to provide a slow but steady income: it's enough to cover my expenses for the hobby--including the dedicated server for the Random Software web site, which is non-trivial, and periodic upgrades in cell phone hardware for testing. Looking back, though, the free version of Praetor was a mistake: it significantly siphoned off downloads of the for-pay version, and yet it never generated much in the way of ad revenue--maybe a dollar or two a day on average. Peanuts. I've withdrawn Praetor Free from distribution in the US, but have left it available in other countries (I've had people write to thank me for making it available in places where Zune doesn't accept purchases). And I won't be updating Praetor Free to contain this new third campaign; if people want to play the full game, they can damn well shell out a few bucks. It has only cost me two years of effort to write this thing after all.