Gold Leader on GameShed!

Gold Leader (Flash) has been released!  GameShed made an offer late Sunday and by early this morning (Wednesday) it was all resolved and posted.  Check it out!

Gold Leader on the front page of GameShed!

Gold Leader on the front page of GameShed!

All in all I’m super happy with how this turned out.  GameShed seems pretty legit and so far the game’s been well received there.  As importantly, the GameShed people were super easy to work with, their API and branding were easy to incorporate, and they seemed genuinely excited about the game.  Based on their comments and the artwork they pulled out, it was clear they’d played through it several times, and the play tracking on FGL shows them looking at it quite a bit.

Though it’s short and simple I’m super proud of how Gold Leader turned out.  It’s a fun, well implemented game with a high level of polish and it found a great sponsor, so go give it a whirl!

Perfect Mission

Tonight I was looking for a good game to play for a few minutes and then I realized, “Oh hey, I know one!”  Jumping into the cockpit, I quickly realized I was on a roll.  Check out the achievement on the far right:

The perfect mission: It is possible!

It was good to finally confirm that the final achievement—a full mission, with no player deaths—is realistically feasible in the current/final mission script.  As a side note, not a single mission objective target escaped either.  Having now done it, I think the Gold Leader achievement’s actually not that hard as long as you aren’t overly conservative with the powerups, don’t risk collisions by going after enemies that don’t matter, and take frequent brief shooting pauses to recoup a couple shield points.

More than that, it’s pretty great to have a game that I actually really enjoy playing and find replay value in.  I was pretty burned out on it after extensive playtesting for the last round of revisions, but however this turns out in the end it’s at least a game I really enjoy.

Gold Leader: Mechanics

This is part of a series of notes on the development of Gold Leader, currently being shopped around to game portals.

Conceptually Gold Leader organically evolved—arguably, devolved—through three distinct phases.

The original concept was much more of a strategy game, turn-based but with underlying shooter dynamics and conventions.  This would be somewhat similar in mechanics to Steambirds or the earlier Wings of War boardgame but different enough to be interesting.  In some part this was motivated by the narrative theme of a large scale conflict.

Mostly that got set aside just because I was starting with almost no infrastructure, writing all of the underlying game framework in addition to the game itself.  That concept seemed quite likely to rapidly become a project doomed by its own ambition and never completed.  Hopefully I’ll come back to some of the original ideas though, I think there’s interesting things to do there.

Alongside a desire to scope down the project, the underlying action gameplay being developed was actually kind of fun.  So, the game converged rapidly into being more directly a shooter but keeping some of the original concepts.  In particular, the AI pilots that fly through and help you out in the final product were originally a much larger part of the game, with a lot more player interaction.

They came out pretty good as they’re used right now; some of the later set pieces when they appear are definitely among the best moments of the game.  However, I couldn’t easily get them to work well as co-pilots like I originally envisioned.  After a lot of prototyping and playing, that component as well eventually got scoped way down, and I wound up with a really fun but classically patterned shooter.

Gold 4 flies in to help save the day in the minelayers objective.

Fortunately, I do think Gold Leader has maintained a couple small twists on the shooter genre.  For me there are really three things players need to learn how to do well to succeed:

  • Use the screen wrapping to get in and out of tight spots, strafing targets and then getting out of the way, or flipping around rather than flying all the way across the screen to hit a critical target.  The latter especially is important.  It requires slightly different spatial reflexes than most shooters and takes some time to coach yourself into it.  Interestingly, this way originally adopted for the much more prosaic rationale of being a mechanism to maximize screen real estate on small mobile devices.
  • Taking short pauses in shooting as you move around to continuously regenerate a couple shield points, rather than keeping the shoot key mashed down like in most shooters.  Originally shooting reduced your energy so you were more vulnerable the longer you shot, but this was not actually much fun to play.  The current design is a good balance of standard shoot-em-all-up and more nuanced tactical flying.
  • Waiting to use upgrades until they’re needed, but not waiting so long as to get overwhelmed, die, and lose them.  In keeping with the idea of being a simple game ready to just jump in and play for a couple minutes, as well as having limited art resources, I really wanted to stay away from cliched upgrade shops and other common shooter conventions.  Many reviewers wish the upgrades were more plentiful, but I’ve adhered to the idea that upgrades should be special, and you should be forced to think about how best to use them.

Nothing earth shattering, but I think those are different enough to be interesting twists on standard shooter gameplay.  That’s backed up by the polarization they’ve produced among the beta testers.  Something like 125 people have tested Gold Leader up to now, and maybe two dozen have given direct feedback.  Among those, there are a good number that really disliked some of those mechanics.  Just as many though really appreciated the little bits of new tactics they create.  As a designer, I’m really happy to be able to say “Well, it’s a super simple, classical shooter, but here’s three ways it’ll challenge how people have become ingrained to play these games, and force them to learn new intuitions and tactics.”