A Wild June Appears

May brought a graduation (congrats Brad), transformative changes to the game, and of course, another busy month! We’re very excited for what’s to come, but first: the month’s highlights in review.

Generalized Map Creation

Much of CrysCo’s battlefield is now stored in a database which makes for easy updating and more mobile map creation. Now we can simply edit attributes within the database instead of changing an entire map file. Additionally, all battlefield related code has been generalized to work on an arbitrary map. This allows us to add new maps of different sizes, landscapes, AI, build sites, and gameplay mechanics. Keep an eye out for a new map soon!

Server Performance

Loadbalancing capability has been integrated into the server codebase. Essentially what this means is that we are now better able to scale the number of games being played at once by automatically spreading out server load over several servers instead of just one. As more players skirmish on the Crystal Frontier the stronger our servers must be. Now we have the ability to deploy new game servers to combat bottle-necking and provide a seamless experience to all players.

Graphical Updates

  • The demo battlefield (Riven Outskirts) has been given a graphical redesign to be more graphically consistent and visually intuitive for players.
  • Some graphical settings were refined, which has provided a more vibrant and clean graphical experience.
  • The fog of war system is getting a visual and technical overhaul (you can see how it looks so far below) that is more dynamic, smooth and performs better than the existing version.

UI Updates

Arrows!

 


Abilities, attacks, and moving now have arrows that indicate more precisely what target(s) have been selected.

Tactical View

Get a quick overview of the battlefield using the new tactical view by pressing TAB. The tactical view allows players to quickly determine if units can attack, move, or use abilities. Hovering over a hex in this view displays what unit(s), if any, are currently occupying that hex. Clicking on an occupied hex will dismiss the tactical overlay and focus the unit in the world. The tactical view is helpful to avoid forgetting units as the sizes of the active armies grow.

Art

Isa is almost ready! Here’s our latest update–which is from one of the incredible artists we’re working with, Milly Parkes.

On the Horizon

We are currently finishing-up our market research grant, with our last play-testing focus group occurring the first weekend in June. As we continue to transition away from conducting market research to implementing these findings, Crystal Companies is slated to see continuing major changes. Among the things we’ll tackle this month: lingering UI/UX issues, implementing new models–a few of which will (fingers-crossed) be custom–and further implementing the many new and different gameplay elements that have been backlogged over the past few months (this will include card, environmental, and balancing changes). Lucky for you, dear reader, next month will probably bring many unforeseen developments–some good, some bad, but all guaranteed to be utterly fascinating (we can only hope).

P.S. We will be in Portland, Maine on Wednesday, June 21, exhibiting at the MTI TechWalk, which is a part of Maine Startup and Create Week–if you’re in attendance, come say hi!

CrysCo Update Notes – May 24, 2017

05/24/2017 – May 24th Update Notes

  • Spline Arrows
    • New Bezier spline arrows have been added to better visualize movement, attack, and ability targeting.
  • Tactical Map View
    • Pressing Tab now brings up a tactical view of the map, displaying the entire field in a simpler, concatenated screen.
  • UX
    • Several UI elements have been updated to be more visually compelling and informative.
    • Cards can now be dragged and reordered in hand.
    • 3 cards can now be mulliganed at the beginning of the game.
  • New Loadbalancing Server
    • The CrysCo server has been revamped to be much more efficient with loadbalancing.
  • Bug Fixes
    • Text parsing is cleaner and includes parsing for niche abilities.
    • Ability stacking has been fixed to properly add multiple conditions on one unit.
    • Several issues with AI movement, path-finding, unit refreshing, and repairing towers were fixed.
    • Graphical performance was enhanced while decreasing the size of the client.
    • All techniques were provided the functionality to give multiple conditions or spawn multiple different units. Also, triggered techniques were provided the functionality to trigger on more than one action.
    • Fixed issues with invisible units showing up on the map incorrectly.

April Progress Brings May Goals

Another busy month is in the books. Here’s a snapshot of April 2017 as we experienced it here at Boreal Games.

Updated UI Features

The UI has seen even further updates, both with new features and making existing ones more obvious.

To that end:

  • Contracts can be reordered by dragging and dropping
  • Company status has been rolled into a contextual info bar beneath the contract manager, showing when it is relevant and keeping the UI clean.
  • Mulligan can be performed at the beginning of a skirmish, allowing a player to exchange up for 3 contracts for different draws.

  • Player and Opponent panels have been simplified to display conquer scores and player icons, as the previous company info was moved to a more contextually appropriate location. This opens up space for upcoming social features.
  • To support the mechanic of conquer victory, a conquer panel now displays when the score changes on either side.

Technical Improvements

Text parsing is cleaner and includes parsing for niche abilities.
Ability stacking has been fixed to properly add multiple conditions on one unit.
Several issues with AI movement, path-finding, unit refreshing, and repairing towers were fixed.
Graphical performance was enhanced while decreasing the size of the client.
All techniques were provided the functionality to give multiple conditions or spawn multiple different units. Also, triggered techniques were provided the functionality to trigger on more than one action.

New Demo Decks

*Gunslinger Squadron:*
A Wealth demo deck has been added to the deck choices in the demo client! Gunslinger Squadron relies on ranged pirates, scavengers, and siege to make for a truly explosive strategy.
New Wealth cards have been added to the game, including pirates that drop potions and weapons, myrmidons that gain strength from raiding, and powerful spells.

(You can download the demo and enter to win a Nintendo Switch here).

Art!

We’re very excited to have the first of our custom models in the pipeline. While the model is looking great, it’s not quite done. For now, check out this concept we had done awhile back to get an idea of what’s in store:

UMaine Business Challenge

For a lot of this month we were busy preparing for the UMaine Business Challenge, which was a pitch competition that gave us the chance to pitch Crystal Companies in front of judges, Shark Tank style.

We won second place!

On the Horizon

We are transitioning into summer–tying up loose ends and getting ready to tackle some totally new areas of the game. Essentially, we’re going to be polishing current features and adding new ones over the next few months. If all goes according to plan, Crystal Companies is going to grow by leaps and bounds in the very near future! #knockonwood

Springing forward & marching on

We made many big changes this month including a new environment, streamlined controls, exciting game changes and optimizations, and integrated analytics.  We also found out this month we are finalists for a pitch competition!

Environment Update

The play field is just a couple of days away from a graphical overhaul, with some improved lighting and physical effects as well as reworked environments.

UX

We’ve been working to streamline giving directions to units and confirming various dialogues; to that end a number of new hotkeys have been added to the game:

  • R – Activate selected unit’s move
  • T – Activate selected unit’s basic attack
  • Enter – Can confirm active movement, multi-target attacks, resource triggers, forfeiting the game.
  • / – Is now the default command to bring up the chat window.
  • F – Focus the selected unit, causing the camera to automatically pan to center that unit on screen.

For a while, abilities that summoned units to the field–such as Arachnid’s Egg or the Veteran Commander’s “Call Soldier” ability–would not provide any indication of stats. Now, abilities that bring other unit’s to the field can be Shift + Clicked to reveal the related units cards while they are in your hand.

For units that are already on the field, a new button to the left of the unit title will reveal additional unit info, including the related card’s. This is most useful for claimable structures–you can view the cost and available choices before moving a unit to an adjacent space, allowing you to better plan your strategies.

Focus Group Number 2

A couple weeks ago we traveled down to Massachusetts to playtest Crystal Companies at Fitchburg State University.  We had a great time playing the game, getting feedback, and meeting all of the talented students there!

Analytics

We’ve added in custom Unity Analytics to help track error reports as well as user tendencies in order to better inform our debugging and design choices.

Optimizations

  • Decreased overall size of game client by 45%.
  • Reactions are now sent one-by-one to the client instead of all at once.
  • Client does much less decision making and much more requesting to the server.
  • Text parsing for abilities has been improved to encompass abilities with targets, ranges, and associated abilities. Overall, ability description texts are much easier to understand.
  • Fixed some logic problems with the demo AI so that creatures don’t improperly attack multiple times in one turn.
  • Reworked some code to improve UI performance.

Game Changes

  • Placing units or moving units onto crystal formations or abandoned weapons now automatically claims the resource or boon.
  • Conquer Score: holding Mountain Town now adds one conquer point to a player’s score at the beginning of each turn.  Acquiring four conquer points will win the game.
  • Building a tower in the forest or desert now aligns a player’s team with a faction within that region. Subsequent towers built in that region are filtered to only allow building of the chosen faction’s blueprints. A player is also unable to choose the same faction as their opponent.
  • Added functionality to attack more than once a turn for certain characters.

On the Horizon

This month we are working to improve user experience with better icons, helpful indicators, and card dragging and re-positioning.  Various card updates are coming during April along with a new deck management scene, both of which we are super excited about. We’re also working with a couple of talented artists to concept and model a couple of captain characters.  Server efficiency and load-balancing and client optimizations will be strong focuses this month as well.

This month we were chosen as finalists for the UMaine Business Challenge and will be competing in the pitch competition at the end of April.  Wish us luck!

CrysCo Update Notes – March 31 2017

03/31/2017 – March 31st Update Notes

  • Conquer Score

    • Defending Mountain Town now accumulates Conquer points.  At the beginning of each turn that you own Mountain Town you will gain 1 Conquer point.  If you accumulate 4 Conquer points, you win the skirmish.
  • Visible Units Window
    • Each visible unit will now also appear in the Visible Units Window as a thumbnail of its card.  Each unit in the window will display whether it can attack, move, and how many movement points it has left.
    • Units in the Visible Units Window can be filtered to only display units owned by a certain player or by whether the units can attack, move, or use an activated ability.
  • New Hotkeys
    • R – Activate selected unit’s move.
    • T – Activate selected unit’s basic attack.
    • Enter – Can confirm active movement, multi-target attacks, resource triggers, forfeiting the game.
    • / – Is now the default command to bring up the chat window.
    • F – Focus the selected unit, causing the camera to automatically pan to center that unit on screen.
  • Alliances
    • Building a tower in the forest or desert now aligns your team with a faction within that region. Subsequent towers built in that region are filtered to only allow building of the chosen faction’s blueprints.
  • Related Units Window
    • Some cards spawn minions but not being able view those minions’ attributes before you spawn them is a problem. The Related Units Window displays a minion’s card so that you can view the minion’s attributes before you use a unit’s spawn ability.
    • To open the Related Units Window, either click the icon in the top right corner of the Selected Unit Panel or Shift + Click a card’s ability.
  • General
    • Placing units or moving units on crystal formations or abandoned weapons now automatically claims the resource or boon.
    • Reduced client size by 45%.
    • Improved client/server communications
  • Bug Fixes
    • Resolved an issue where the AI player was able to attack multiple times with one unit in a single turn.
    • Fixed several minor visual issues and card text ambiguities.

Short month, big gains

Intro

It’s hard to believe February has come and gone–except that when we look back, we actually got a lot done! Phew!

That said, our work this month has been mostly behind the scenes. But here are the high-points anyway:

1. New Logo

2. New website

As you might have noticed, CrystalCompanies.me  has had a major facelift. The new system will allow us to integrate functionality more easily in the future, like leaderboards or cards pulled right from the live game database.

3. Hosted our first demo event

We received a ton of great feedback from first-time players and ate pizza, so yeah. #success

4. Very update, much optimize

Here’s a list of general optimizations Brad made that are super important but not the sexiest:

  • Optimized model meshes and textures to work more efficiently on lower-end machines
  • Updated model instantiation to be much more efficient and display much more smoothly
  • Increased line of sight performance
  • Fixed several bugs pertaining to loot abilities, duplicate, clone, drawing cards, text parsing, and resource conversion
  • Updated movement to display much smoother and removed sudden teleporting on undoing movement. Units also do not suddenly appear at their end point but instead appear when they enter a visible hex spot
  • Updated heal to increase health over maximum health points
  • Added in missing card art

On the horizon

In March we’ll be heading to more events, including our own focus groups. We are still locating talented concept artists to further develop the world of Crystal Companies. Game play adjustments and an updated battlefield are also on the docket.

If you have a moment, help us out by playing our latest demo and filling out a survey (with a chance to win a Nintendo Switch…)–or just hop on our mailing list if you haven’t already. #thanksinadvance

A journey of 1,000 miles…

Intro

January came with many small and, if we’re being honest, banal but important updates. We’ll let you read those, but in the meantime, here are some of the more interesting changes we made to Crystal Companies this month:

1. Card Art

We overhauled card art–i.e., the cards now have images on them that sorta look like the thing they’re supposed to represent! More to come on this front…

2. Guided Tutorial

Pretty self-explanatory (and awesome, right?).

 

3. The Rest

  • Balanced attributes and abilities of various creatures and spells.
  • Made power cards are more tank-y while increasing towers’ synergy with each other.
  • Toned down the power nature’s spell cards.
  • Extended demo version to provide multiplayer online gameplay.
  • Changed Mt. Mordt to Mountain Town that acts as a marketplace to trade resource and contract mercenaries.
  • Quality of Life:
    • Updated general events and actions (combat, techniques) to be smoother and more efficient.
    • Fixed many bugs with animations, conditions, and hex highlighting logic.
    • Upgraded performance of resource loading and model and effect instantiation.
    • Upgrade performance of fog of war more smoothly fade and become visible.

On the Horizon

Lots of things are happening–big and small. Let’s see…

  • Planning and running focus groups
  • Restructuring the overall look and feel of the game environment
  • Updating the website
  • Producing surveys, demo adjustments, and more of these guys:

Going full-speed heading into 2017

Intro

The last month of 2016 was crammed full with work and holiday cheer. Going into 2017, we feel grateful for both the successes and bumps in the road we’ve shared over the past year. Below you’ll find the highlights of our accomplishments last month, as well as what to expect from us this year. Cheers!

Crystal Companies finally has a logo! Above is an example of a simple treatment but a detailed crest is in the works.

Resource icons have been given a new look as well, more inline with a runic style.

Battlefield

We have been planning to overhaul CrysCo’s battlefield for quite sometime now and this month we finally did!  While the regions of the updated map loosely resemble the old , the flora, textures, lighting, and structure have all been upgraded.  The new map provides players with three distinct regions, each designed around a general strategy. The Desert is the easiest to traverse which makes easy for rushing early game while the Jungle is slower but is a great area to build an army over time or defend.  The Marsh is a hybrid region containing both fairly traversable terrain and small boons.

 

Desert

Rushing in with a band of deadly mercenaries makes a skirmish quick, fun, but a bit risky.  The Desert supplements the rush strategy by providing access to faster movement, more contracts, and strong but temporary spirit warriors. Contract thieves still lurk in the shallow parts of the desert, however, in the deep desert there is a fierce bandit leader who awards skeleton contracts when defeated.

Jungle

Building an unstoppable force over time is incredibly useful for late-game sieges.  The Jungle is a maze of trees offering slow but permanent boons.  Crystal wolves still roam in the outer regions, though the deeper region has become a mystical and dangerous woodland. Deep in the grove lives a tanky dire wolf mother that can be coerced to join a worthy army. The wolf’s howl calls its pups to fight by its side. 

Marsh

Running through the heart of the map is a swampy wasteland, cordoned off by natural obstacles. Towers enable players with enough crystal resources to enter this area more quickly. Alternatively, players can take roundabout paths to reach the center of the battlefield. Either way, an extractor guardian awaits! The player who successfully overcomes this foe will gain control of a powerful crystal-generating menhir.

Updated Camera

We’ve updated the game camera to better facilitate viewing the battlefield. It’s one of those things that you would only complain about when its bad, and now its not as egregiously bad as before! Also added some new cam features behind the scenes to facilitate the in-game tutorial, but you’ll have to wait to see those.

Settings Panels

On the Horizon

When we’re not busy dwelling on the enormity of existentialist dread (jk) we aim to be adding new features to CrysCo! And, of course, making sure more people can get a taste of what we’re proverbially cooking up. The following are some of our goals for next month:

  • Adding gameplay updates, including a mulligan function
  • Creating a new, expanded tutorial
  • Increasing our Boston-area meetup attendance (follow our twitter for regular updates)
  • Planning our presence at great events (both our own and for those we’d like to attend that are organized by others; again, see twitter for up-to-the-minute info)
  • Improving our Twitch presence (which is currently up for twice-weekly live streams–Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM EST)

(Cap’n) Crunch Time

Intro

We have been super busy over the past month applying for a second grant, updating user experience, writing, and drafting a demo for a big game conference application.

Sketchblog

This month we launched the Sketchblog, a behind-the-scenes look at the lore of Crystal Companies. The first three posts delve into the significance of the game’s namesake crystals and the history of the world of Crystal Companies. You can find out more here.

Art

Although the founders of CrysCo are all creatively inclined, none of us are professional illustrators. As fate would have it, a good friend of ours, Chris Szczesiul, has exactly the skillset we lack! He’s phenomenal, but don’t take our word for it. The first bit of work he’s produced for us is here!

Events

Devin, our concept and community developer, regularly attends meetups and events in the Boston area. If there are events in New England you want to see us at, let us know! We’re excited to be finally showing the game live and in-person, and we want to get plugged into the local community as much as possible as we continue to make progress.

UX Updates

New Hand Interface

The redesigned interface for the contracts in a player’s hand solves lots of lingering issues with the previous version, including not being able to mouse over all the abilities of a card without mousing over another card, and handling any number of cards without becoming impossible to use. It also implements the new card design. Nice!

Updated Hex Highlighting

All of the hex highlights for various units and abilities have been updated to look cleaner and more distinct. Small changes in the highlighting logic makes specific abilities highlight with more informative graphics, such as non-basic attack abilities now correctly highlighting with the attack highlight rather than the ability highlight.

 

Small Tweaks

As always there a lots of small changes in the game that probably won’t be noticed (and that’s a good thing) including:

  • Claim can now be used from the radial menu
  • New claim window implements new card design, with simplified functionality
  • Tooltips now snap to screen space
  • Text fixes on various UI elements

Singleplayer Demo

We found out about a big game conference application deadline five days before we had to submit a playable demo.  So what did we do in those five days?  Worked our asses off.  Our overall goal for those five days was to make the game look as good as it could.  We had been testing it for months but didn’t have the time/money to get better models or artwork.  Since we won’t know if we’ve been accepted to the conference, and we can continually update builds for our application,  we have been frequently updating the demo.  The video below is 3 minutes of sped up demo gameplay:

Battlefield

Prior to this update the battlefield didn’t have much of an identity–trees were terribly scaled, textures weren’t consistent, and the colors were bland–so we quit neglecting the horrible looks and remade the battlefield.  While projection system we have running on our battlefield is not conducive to making fluid environments we did our best to update it with great looking flora.  For next month we expect to rip out most of the projections which will allow for better lighting, shadow, and terrain texture control.

Visual+Audio FX

An exploding burst of fire just isn’t the same without fiery particle effects and intense sounds.  We felt that since our focus is to make a card game more immerse we should probably add visual and audio effects. We took time to fine-tune particle effects and audio to sync with animations to make skills and spells more interesting. We are developing a new system for creating these effects and sounds so that the making new sequences is super streamlined!

Character Models

Free models aren’t usually the best, especially when they come from various artists. With this demo, we wanted to display our characters in the best way we could without breaking the bank.  Since we didn’t have the time nor money to hire a legion of professional artists, we looked to Unity’s Asset Store to find high-quality stock models.  Finding and customizing our new models made them fit well into the game and now our characters look 100X better!

 


On the Horizon

Finalizing more features for the Crystal Companies demo is going to be our main  focus for the next month. We’re also very interested in updating the overall aesthetic and user experience of the game.  We have recently been traveling to small meetups to showcase the game/get feedback and we hope to attend more this month!  If you’d like to play the demo, let us know and we’ll send you a copy!

Optimizations and Great Opportunities

Intro

With a demo on our horizon we have been furiously working to perfect a single player version of Crystal Companies.  Optimizing the game so that it’s efficient, small in size, good looking, and is fun to play has been a major focus over the past month. Several improvements, including server efficiency and automatic detail-text parsing, and experiences at PopTech and UMaine’s innovation center are all featured in this edition of our development blog.

Optimizations

Working with such a large code base which has spanned over the past two years has been tough.  Most of the code was written when Will and I were still in our second and third years at college.  Over the past month, we put in a great effort to refactor unnecessary code by generalizing the structure of the single and multiplayer versions of CrysCo.

We have become more and more aware of the overall size of CrysCo, and, throughout October, we have successfully reduced its size nearly 60%.  Additionally, we have been working more on the networking of card collection search and filtering and have doubled the speed of card search.

DYNAMICALLY POPULATED OPTIONS AND CARD ATTRIBUTE FILTERING MAKE COLLECTION SEARCHING FASTER AND SIMPLER

New Tooltips

Two major changes happened with tooltips this month. First, the new tooltip design has replaced the existing version. This tooltip is more inline with the general styling of Crystal Companies, as well as being more clear about the technique is represents.

The second major change is that technique plain-text descriptions are created using a text parser. This makes it obvious what techniques do without the tedium of needing to write a description every time a new ability is added to the game.


User Experience

Over the course of the month we updated the UI in several small ways including fixing inconsistent spacing/scaling/color issues, updating loading screen with animated icon and tips, refining the display of character attributes on the “Unit Selection” panel, and correcting draggable and resizable windows.

Contract Design

In the previous update we talked about the updated contract design, and it has finally been fully implemented in Unity. With drop down lore, and the ability to hold any number of abilities it greatly improves upon the previous iteration without being needlessly cluttered with information users don’t need.

Chat UI

One of the most visual changes to the UI this month was the updated chat UI. Behind that scenes there has been some backend changes to increase the functionality of the chat and make it easier to add more functionality in the future. 

PopTech

I was lucky enough to receive a free three-day pass to PopTech–a technology and culture conference–through my university.

While to mingling with entrepreneurs, investors, and other influential people was great, the most memorable moment was meeting the couple behind the indie game That Dragon, Cancer.  My  experience at PopTech was incredible, to say the least.

Foster Center For Student Innovation

Long title, amazing opportunity. I was awarded a workspace at FCSI’s incubator to work on CrysCo. The innovation center provides many great resources and support for student entrepreneurs!

On the Horizon

Our main focus over the next few months is to finalize a playable demo of Crystal Companies. This involves many big improvements including a new battlefield, polished UI, tested game mechanics and card abilities, and illustrations and other game-related artwork.