The three of us got together in person in late February (Josh lives far away) and ironed out some unknowns. This post will cover the development challenges we’re facing as an inexperienced indie team and how we’re tackling them.
So, what defines the art style for Mecromage? How are we going to try to appeal to the consumer and stay true to our passions? How do we make the game stand out in a positive light under realistic time constraints?
One of the core philosophies for Mecromage is that it should have tasteful retro appeal. For the artwork, we are most influenced by the simplicity, repetition, limited color palate, and bright colors, instead of what we consider to be more direct technological limitations of the day (i.e. pixalated graphics… not that there’s anything wrong with that). We are attempting to extend the artistic world of 8-bit games in a way that is exciting to their fans (including ourselves) and that is doable for a small team. In Josh’s own words:
I want to explore the essence of the artistic choices retro developers made based on the technology limitations of the time, not lean on the limitations as a nostalgia crutch. Our game world should feel as if the hyper structured retro tiled world existed thousands of years ago, and now that architecture has long eroded and is only just beginning to be built over. This concept alludes to the structure and order of Rome (retro structure) and the proceeding medieval age (Contemporary game scene).
Below is one of our asset tests, constructed in photoshop, followed by asset tests from Mecromage test levels.
For those of you who’ve been following the blog, you know that we’re never short on ideas. Now that we’re faced with the challenge of putting everything together to create the game, we have to decide: how do we take all our ideas and stress the ones that evoke in the player the strongest feelings of fun, adventure, satisfaction, engagement, etc.; and how do we make the game challenging (but not too challenging), tight, dynamic, and cohesive?
Some games seem to have a top down approach, where the story, characters, setting, scenery, etc. seem to come before and drive the game play more than the game play driving those aspects. For some games, this may be a perfect process, but not for all. (My favorite story-based series, Blood Omen, I imagine was largely developed like this.)
We decided long ago that game play would be the most important aspect of Mecromage, and this lends itself to a bottom-up “game play first” approach to development. We hope that focusing on the details of the game play before too much else is set in stone will allow us to create the most enjoyable experience we can and will keep us from painting ourselves into a corner. More specifically, our process has been to anticipate the needs of a level (new enemies, surface types, player ability refinements, etc.) before creating the rough draft, then getting feedback amongst ourselves after completing the draft.
Being small team indie developers means we need to be as flexible as possible. This was a primary pillar of development up until fairly recently. Now, we are starting to feel comfortable with the mentality shift from flexible systems and general concepts to tight specific content.
So here’s what Mecromage is looking like now from a top level:
- 4 Regions consisting of 10 levels, total.
- The main weapon is an axe-like weapon (works the same as the “mace” we’ve mentioned before)
- 4 utility items (grapple, fire axe, sticky bomb, boomerang), 3 of which consume alloy drop items as ammunition, and one of which has no alloy cost (grapple).
- Each utility has an alternate mode that is more powerful and consumes more alloy.
- Upgrades improve utilities and extend hero abilities.
- Plenty of other consumable goodies to give you a quick boost when you need it.
- Creatures of different cultures that tie into the back story and main story.
That’s all for this update. Thanks for reading.