simon

simon

02/26/15

BIG NEWS: Final Public Release + Kickstarter Announcement!S

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Our Final Public Release

The latest version of our engine demo mostly focuses on speed improvements, bug fixes, and clean-up for future features. Not a feature heavy release, but for my computer, my framerate has doubled, and gameplay feels much cleaner. Not too bad!

Get the goods here (changelog).


Why is this our last public release? Because soon, we’ll be launching…

The Harmonia Tactics Kickstarter Campaign!

We’ve been working like madmen for several months to prepare for this announcement – on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 8:00am EST, Harmonia Tactics will be launching a fundraising campaign! Our goal is to raise $25,000 to complete our online gameplay and add heaping boat-fulls of new content.

Calendar

Official Trailer

Why Kickstarter?

Harmonia Tactics was always intended to be a game where players could explore, build their team, join forces, and face-off against powerful armies in an online battlefield. We’ve been expanding and tweaking the game engine for years now to create the perfect model for this online game, and now the time has come to finally finish it. In the beginning, we were a team of one (yours truly), but now we’ve quadrupled our forces to four to tackle this ambitious project.

We’ve come as far as we can without funding. The groundwork is there; now we need the art, characters, music, storyline, world, and everything else for a fulfilling gaming experience. With proper funding, we can work full-time to produce this stuff and finish the game for a December 2015 release!

The Dissonance is Coming…

“After a long, long age of peace, Harmonia’s tranquility has been shattered. It started with reports from the outlands, of once-peaceful wildlife attacking wanderers. Then came bloody riots and uprisings on the borderlands, seemingly without cause. And soon, in the hardest-hit, bleakest regions, demonic armies emerged and seized Harmonian fortresses to use as their strongholds, to launch further invasions into the heart of the realm.

“From Kingdoms near and far, the best magicians, priests, and mystics gathered together to divine the cause of the chaos that gripped their nation. The answer troubled even the mightiest of them: the magical forces that bound the world together and created order were beginning to unravel. Where the landscape had grown vulnerable to spiritual intrusion, an alternate dimension was bleeding into Harmonia’s own.

“In a last-ditch attempt to ensure the survival of civilization, the realm has put out a call for heroes from all species and walks of life, to turn the tide of the chaos that threatens to engulf their home. On an ever-changing battlefield where the world they once trusted grows violent and hostile, can these heroes beat back the Dissonance and restore balance to Harmonia?”

Our Plan for Harmonia Tactics

Team-based Tactical Gameplay. Each player will control four characters at once in a team composed of characters selected from their account. Players can move their team around as a single unit, or split their characters up and let them explore independently. Every character is free to roam the realm using the mouse or keyboard, but when there’s fighting nearby, they must take turns in our real-time tactical combat system. Like most RPGs, characters will level up and gain equipment to improve their fighting prowess.

Harmonia Tactics Tower War

Infinite World. The world of Harmonia Tactics will be divided into a grid of several small rooms called sectors. Each sector on this grid will be set in a different biome, each with its own unique set of monsters, encounters (see ‘Encounter-Driven Gameplay’ below), and a possible building or structure. We have six biomes planned so far – 4 are nearly complete:

Liberating The Kingdom. Kingdoms are scattered all over the realm. In the heart of each lies a throne room in a large castle, surrounded by cities that dwindle into small villages as one approaches the Kingdom outskirts. The invading Dissonance is corrupting each Kingdom from the inside-out, engulfing the entire realm in civil war. As the war rages, Kingdoms will constantly switch sides between the Harmony and the Dissonance. It’s your job as the player to clear out the Dissonance from each Kingdom by assaulting the throne room and defeating the boss. But, you can’t do it alone – as you push towards the throne, you must join forces with other players to defeat the increasingly difficult swarm of enemies in your path, culminating in a long, glorious, epic battle in the throne room. Defeating the boss will revert the Kingdom back to a peaceful state… for a time.

1 - Terrain vs Kingdom

Liberating a Kingdom has great rewards. Not only will you get to loot the treasure room with your comrades, the entire Kingdom will open itself up to the world, full of shops stocked with unique equipment, new characters to recruit from the local tavern, and new quests offered from NPCs. For achievement-hunters, you’ll get a badge for each Kingdom you help liberate, and get your name on our score board.

Encounter-Driven Gameplay. As you explore the world map, new rooms will throw different random encounters at you, such as a horde of monsters, a wandering merchant, an enemy patrol, or a lucky treasure pick-up. The difficulty of the encounter will depend on the population of the sector (from empty wilderness to bustling castle) and the level of Dissonance (from peaceful to enemy stronghold). Many encounters will have multiple paths to victory, and your actions may affect later quests down the line. For example, sparing an enemy general from death may persuade him to join your team – but turn some of your allies against you.

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Rogue-Like Elements. Harmonia Tactics is the kind of game where you sit down, start a new game, and play over and over again, rather than building up a single party over weeks or months. Each playthrough is a new experience from start to finish with random characters, random equipment, and random encounters in a random corner of the world. New characters will join your team as you adventure onward (no more than four at a time), and they’ll level up quickly so you’ll get a piece of the action without days of grinding.

In rogue-like tradition, when characters die, they’re off your team for good. Rather than being killed-off from the game entirely, they’ll return to your account, reset to Level 1, and be available for your next playthrough. This means rare characters earned from complicated quest chains or challenging encounters will be unlocked for all time, giving all players more interesting team choices the longer they play on their account.

The Character Cycle

Financial Breakdown

For an ambitious project like this one, $25,000 doesn’t stretch as far as you’d think. We’d like to give our project a $3,000 buffer for Kickstarter expenses, reward expenses (shipping and time spend on individualized gifts), taxes, and other unforseen expenses. That leaves $22,000 to be divided evenly between programming, story content, art, music, server and website maintainence, etc. Among the four of us, that leaves $5,500 apiece which should support us for six months of hard work: exactly how much time we need.

This is the minimum budget we need to deliver a satisfying version of Harmonia Tactics – however, we have several stretch goals with exciting new content and features prepared if the crowdfunding gods deem us worthy of additional cash. To name a few: more player-vs-player features, extra biomes (the Moon?!), support for iOS and tablets, and much more!

How You Can Help

1. Donate $10 to purchase the game early. Want to get in on the ground floor? Donate $10 to our Kickstarter Campaign and you’ll receive a free copy of Harmonia Tactics with early access. Connect directly with the developers in our forums, suggest ideas, offer feedback, and check out new features as they come in, fresh out of the oven. Help us polish the game so it’s fantastic on launch day!

2. Donate more to fund our work. Of course, the more you can give, the more you’ll get from Harmonia Tactics. Every $50 we earn translates to roughly one hour of work on the game for us, which means more content for everyone!

3. Spread the word. Just like fighting the Dissonance, you can’t do it alone. Let others know what we’re trying to do here. Post on your favorites forums, reddit, Facebook, Twitter, talk about it in the office, show your friends our trailer, shout “Harmonia Tactics” as loud as you can on the bus… whatever! It helps us a lot more than you’d think.

4. Tell everyone you know to give at least one dollar on day one. You might not think one dollar goes very far, but every donation pushes our ranking up on Kickstarter and puts that many more eyes on the project. We’re hoping to be on the front page with this one!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is Harmonia Tactics an MMO?
A. Yes, and no. We’ll have servers running 24/7 to handle the bulk of player traffic, but you’ll still be able to play the game single-player and open private servers yourself. We have no plans to let characters or accounts be transferrable between servers, so if you want to build up an army, we suggest you play on the most populated hubs.

Q. Can I play single-player?
Absolutely. If you’re playing solo, the difficulty curve will be scaled accordingly so you won’t need large teams of players for the more difficult battles. Plus, there will always be game modes that are playable solo against the AI or with bots (like ‘Battle Arena’ and ‘Tower War’).

Q. Can I host my own server?
A. Absolutely. Harmonia Tactics is packaged with the server and several mods for smaller games. If we have the time, we’d like to program a “mother” server that makes player-run servers easily accessable for everyone in the “multiplayer” menu.

Q. Will I have to be connected to the Internet to play?
No way! You’ll only need Internet access if you want to play online, for obvious reasons 😉 No authentication necessary, and all account/character information is stored locally on servers.

Q. Can I have a team greater than 4 characters?
A. We’ve talked about the possibility of unlocking more in-game team slots through heroic feats of player control, but we first need to see how well players will react to our gameplay, make refinements, and settle the final numbers during the alpha/beta phases. We may even lower the team size to 3 if larger parties prove overwhelming for most players.

See you on March 23rd!

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simon

simon

02/18/15

Showing vs. Telling vs. Experiencing: Part I

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Olden Times – or – I’m an Old Man

I don't need no plot to have fun!
I don’t need no plot to have fun!
Some time ago, in ages long forgotten, game designers embraced the idea that their creations could be immersive experiences in addition to gameplay, art, and sound. For many, the following may be a history lesson, but I’m old enough to have experienced the release of Final Fantasy 7 as a kid, and it was a total game-changer. Suddenly, RPGs could be three-dee, with amazing full motion videos (at least for the time), impressive character models, and a story that was complex, gritty, and engaging, full of rich character development with plot twists that hit you square in the feels. FF7 is, for good reasons, a classic as well as a milestone in gaming. It was a lot of people’s first RPG, and pushed mainstream gaming forward in a major way. I personally enjoyed the game quite a lot – the materia system was clever, it was challenging enough to keep me from putting down the controller. From beginning to end, a solid, satisfying experience.

Regardless, there is one very specific thing that I really, really hate about this game: The strong emphasis on storyline and visual effects set a model for all proceeding games to push the boundaries of immersive storytelling at the cost of gameplay and player control.

Now, I know many, many people will disagree with that thesis, and that many people play games because they want good story-telling (see the never ending argument of ludology vs. narratology). Nonetheless, even if I’m completely wrong and need to study Gameology or whatever, when somebody has a controller in their hand, there are both good ways and bad ways to tell your story – let’s discuss them!

Controller Time

"Knights of The Round" takes over 1 minute to cast.  Why can't you just let me play?
“Knights of The Round” takes over 1 minute to cast. Why can’t you just let me play?
Actually, before that, did you know that (spoiler alert) Aeris dies? Because she dies. Stabbed. With a big sword. Ouch. As it turns out, I’m an unfeeling monster when it comes to this plot twist because, to me, Aeris was more of a play-style than a character. I was more attached to her abilities and usefulness in combat rather than her connection to the ancients and the blossoming relationship with Cloud. Losing her as a playable character meant I didn’t have a strong magic user, and I’ll never, ever get to use her fourth limit break – what a bummer! Obviously, I’m in the minority camp with this one, because all of my friends were in some form of minor depression over her death scene, whereas I, frankly, couldn’t have cared less. No, this doesn’t mean I’m a cold person that doesn’t have feelings – but when it comes to video games, there is clearly a difference in how I experienced FF7 compared to my teenage compatriots.

I’m not bringing up this old Squaresoft RPG to combat ghosts from 1997, but rather to mention what I believe this is a major turning point from experience-based gameplay to narrative-based gameplay. When I sit down to watch a movie, TV show, or read a book, my objective is to experience a great story, get to know its characters, and enjoy the ride. However, as soon as a controller enters my hand, my primary concern as the player is to control in the game through the interaction between my screen, my controller, and my ability to play. I’m playing a game because I want to accomplish tasks, and I want to accomplish them well, because I get a good feeling when doing so, and a nicer feeling when doing it better. Tetris is pretty straight-forward in that way; if I reach level 10, I’ll want to play again to reach level 11, and I’ll be controlling the game via the controller 100% of the time – no stupid cutscenes to interrupt the flow. Those are what I like to call “coffee breaks”.

So, when Aeris dies in FF7, this is, to me, time spent without control of the game, not accomplishing anything, which is why I’m there in the first place. For the record, I know video game victories aren’t “real” accomplishments, and I’m not disinterested a game’s plot completely – I’ll watch the cutscenes the first time and enjoy them – but even so, what I remember most about playing FF7 is what I did myself, which finally brings me to…

Showing vs. Experiencing

Every FTL game has a great story, because you are right there with it.
Every FTL game has a great story, because you are right there with it.
Video games, as opposed to almost all other media, have the extra element of placing the audience directly in charge of the presentation. Normally, in the case of a book or film, it’s one-way communication; we’ll learn about our heroes and villains through either showing us their actions or telling us about their characters. Generally speaking, showing is the more effective method – we see Dr. Darkevil destroy an entire town in a cold-blooded fashion using a futuristic death ray, which communicates that he’s 1) ruthless, 2) a murderer, and 3) a bad guy that relies on his fancy technology. Alternatively, a character could simply tell us these things, like so…

“Last Tuesday, Dr. Darkevil slaughtered an entire town using his rainbow death beam.”

…but this is second-hand knowledge that doesn’t have the same impact as witnessing it ourselves first-hand.

So, with stories, we prefer showing over telling. With games, however, you can go one step further. Rather than witnessing the action, you can experience the action yourself. Let’s change the scenario a bit: When Dr. Darkevil decides to wipe Peacefulville off of the face of the Earth, rather than playing a cutscene (which would take away our controller time), how about we play as the sole defender of the town, fighting desperately to protect it from destructive rainbow lasers falling from the sky. Our actions are ultimately futile, and everything around us is destroyed because of it. We experience just how powerful the bad guy is, we experience the loss of every person that dies in the attack, and it’s our fault. Suddenly, the antagonist means something to us rather than our character. When we confront the big bad during the epic, final boss battle, the fight is on a more personal level. When we deliver the finishing blow, we get to avenge the innocent townspeople that we failed to protect and feel the satisfaction ourselves. The player has accomplished something, rather than the character, which resonates stronger to us than anything that could be told to us from a narrator.

I suppose in the case of poor Aeris in Final Fantasy 7, there’s a sense of helplessness we experience by not even getting the chance to try and protect her. Still, it would be made stronger if we had the chance to give it a shot, even if it was ultimately impossible. Maybe Sephiroth is descending from above, and it’s a race against time to reach Aeris before he does. Our instinct is to try our hardest, and when we fail, we tell ourselves, “Dammit, I’ll get stronger and make him pay for this!” We might even reload a few times to try and change the outcome before we realize it’s a scripted event – even so, we’ll still be left with a strong emotional connection, and, as a bonus, there’s no loss of controller time. If our performance was good (even though we’ll still lose every time), we might get some other reward – a super rare materia, for example – and we’d have less desire skip the scene altogether on subsequent playthroughs.

This rant shall continue in Part II!

simon

simon

02/08/15

TAG Jam 19 Genres

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Greetings, fellow Internauts! With TAG Jam 19 just around the corner (7 days!), I’ve compiled huge list of possible genres for our random genre picker. Here they are, in one giant list:

Action Adventure Animal Breeding Arcade Art Game
Beam 'em Up Board Game Building Sim Bullet Hell Business Sim
Card Game Children's Game Cooking Dance / Rhythm Dating Sim
Deathmatch Dress-Up Educational Fighting First-Person Shooter
Flight Gambling Gameshow God Game Life Sim
Light Gun / Point-and-shoot Maze Military Combat Music Nintendo Hard
Painting Pinball Platformer Point-and-click Adventure Procedurally-Generated
Puzzle Puzzle QWOP-like Racing Sim Real-Time Strategy
Robot Programming Roguelike Role-Playing Game Run 'n' Gun Sandbox
Shoot 'em Up Sport Management Sport Sim (not racing) Stealth Strategy
Survival Horror Text-Based Third-Person Shooter Tower Defense Typing
Virtual Pet Virtual Reality Wagon Adventure

Eight entries will be chosen from this giant table 24 hours before the jam officially begins. Entries must incorporate at least two genres into their game. For a taste of what’s to come, here’s a possible roll for the jam:

  • Stealth
  • Pinball
  • Point-and-click Adventure
  • Card Game
  • God Game
  • Strategy
  • Beam ’em Up
  • First-Person Shooter

From this choices, I’d personally want to make a Point-and-click Adventure + Beam ’em Up. No idea what it would be without some brainstorming, but it could be pretty neat.

metafarion

metafarion

02/07/15

Another month, another TAGJam

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Well, since we won TAGJam 18 with Bort’s Bender, the honor of hosting and judging TagJAM 19 falls to Simon. The chosen theme this time is genre-mixing, so we’re hoping to see some unexpected and possibly insane combinations. I’m holding out hope for a co-op roguelike 4X metroidvania collectible card beat-em-up farming sim in space.

Gentlemen, start your engines…

Well, maybe don’t ’cause it’s 8 days away, and that uses a lot of fossil fuels. But get ready all the same.

tagjam19

metafarion

metafarion

01/19/15

Busy Berliner Begets Bort’s Bender, Beguiles Bunches of Bored Bumpkins

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After a grueling two days of labor, Simon collapsed into a snoring heap following the successful delivery of Bort’s Bender, a charmingly bizarre entry in TAG Jam 18. This monthly quasi-competition challenges developers to produce as much of a game as they can in 48 hours time, and so our lead developer stepped up to the plate.

The result:

Bort's Bender Title Screen
…ok……seems simple enough…

You play as Bort, a delinquent teenager who skateboards through an art museum spraypainting as many priceless masterpieces as he can before succumbing to intoxication and an endless stampede of King Charles Spaniels, both regular and massive.  If this sounds unnecessarily insane, it’s largely due to the confluence of five random themes on which all Jam participants must base their game around one of.

Omigosh, that dog is HUGE. And BLOCKY.

So of course Simon just had to see if he could do all five.

I guess that does count as unnecessarily insane, and while intending no disrespect to our main dev, the result is surprisingly fun!  As gameplay progresses, the ground begins to shift more and more as Bort descends into a drunken stupor.  With unstable footing (skating?) and increasing numbers of adorable pooches bearing down on him, it becomes a challenge just to keep Bort alive, let alone continue the wanton defacement he so desperately need to satisfy his adolescent rage.

Ish it jjust me, or ish thhe ground movin’?

My favorite part remains the different dog sound effects for reasons I’ll leave you to discover.  At some point we’ll add this to the BC website, but for now, you can download it from GameJolt. Windows and Linux builds available as usual.