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.

Starting Autumn Off Strong

Intro

This month we were awarded a grant from the Libra Future Fund, which will in large part be put toward art and in-game assets. We’re already in talks with an exceptional artist–more details to come. On a related note, the character backstories are coming together and will serve to inform the awesome visuals we now officially have in the pipeline!

User Experience

The UI has seen a number of improvements over last month. Some changes are obvious, such as colors, fonts and other design elements. The new card design is one of the biggest changes. However, there is a number of smaller changes that help streamline the in-game experience.

Behind the scenes of the UI there have been some code refactors and efficiency changes to try to minimize the processing power needed. There are still a number of things that need to worked out but progress is coming along nicely.

Game Design

The core game components have been upgraded this past month with a focus on efficiency and resiliency. Making the server-client relationship smoother while also testing and polishing card abilities and interactions has been key in moving closer to a playable game.

Efficiency Updates

Several tools were developed to manage various account specific tasks.  Developing a card editor within Unity made it much easier to create and modify new and existing cards.  Another new module is the card distributor which streamlines the process of giving cards to players.  Both programs easily interface with our database without having to sift through all of the raw information!

Playtesting card abilities and interactions has been a major focus for us over the past month.  Making sure skills work properly in several different situations is important for a clean, bug-free experience.  Overall efficiency of networking and database communications has also been updated for quicker card loading.

Skirmish Snapshot

In the world of Crystal Companies, competing companies are not the only foes you have to contend with. During a skirmish, unfriendly beasts and opportunistic thieves pose a significant threat to your resources and safety. There are also much more fearsome foes–like dragons–that guard strategic points on the battlefield. To succeed in your quest for domination, you will need to subdue these enemies and put whatever loot they provide to good use.

On the horizon

For the future we plan on redesigning on our animation and effect synchronization system.  Making that flame wizard cast a crazy fire storm must look amazing and we won’t sleep until it does! This, along with character and ability balance testing, is planned for October.

In other news, lore, character design, and environment building are in the works with teasers on the way.  With the UI being overhauled, the card testing coming along better than planned, and professional art on being added, a web demo is planned for the near future! Get hyped!

Summer Recap

Introduction

 Implementing over 150 new cards, dozens of new abilities, a new patching system, radial menu, and game lore made this past summer seem much more fleeting than usual.

With a small team three, our time had to be used wisely to be effective. Most of the summer was spent intensely refining and reconstructing the server and client codebase in order to make a playable version of Crystal Companies. 

Our secondary focus was to replace our old patching system with one that was efficient, easy-to-use, and aesthetically pleasing.

This post marks our first progress update for Crystal Companies which explains what we’ve accomplished over this past summer.

We hope you enjoy your read and encourage you to provide us with any feedback you might have about Crystal Companies or this blog!

 

Patcher

The Crystal Companies Patcher has a few key purposes. It keeps the client updated with patches that are as small as possible thanks to the underlying patching logic, it provides the latest news relating to the changes of the game, and links to various community content.

All the various pieces of the news are just an embedded webpage, so it can be easily updated without any changes to the patcher. The design of patcher was made to look consistent with the final aesthetic of the main client.

 

Radial Menu

The radial menu is a feature that allows quick access to all of a units abilities .  It adapts to any number of abilities, and also implements the underlying hex-highlighting logic that is attached to hovering over other ability icons elsewhere in the UI. Using the radial menu allows quick changes between units without needing to navigate significantly away from the battlefield to the periphery of the screen.  It effectively maps 1 click to 1 action keeping the gameplay experience streamlined.

 

Cards

Crystal Companies’ 200+ card collection is divided into six main card types: creature spell, structure, trap, captain, and generator. Each card owns a set of attributes, skills, or effects that determine its power and rarity.

  • Creatures are the most common unit in Crystal Companies which have attack power, health, movement range, and line of sight. Creatures, along with spells, structures, and traps, all belong in the main section of a deck.
  • Spells are effects that occur immediately after they are played.  From fire storms to cloning creatures, there are a tremendous variety of spell effects in Crystal Companies.
  • Structures are units that share the same attribute structure as creatures but are typically immobile.  Structures can be played around any unit that has the “Engineer” ability.
  • Traps are interesting units which when stepped on, trigger an effect. Traps don’t have health, attack, movement range, or line of sight.
  • Captains are much like creatures but can be replayed immediately after they are removed from the playing field.  Each deck is allowed only one captain.
    • Generators are a special type of unit that only has health and line of sight and is currently only able to generate resource. Each deck is allowed three generators.

Techniques

In addition to attributes, a creature, structure, or captain’s technique add to its strategy, power, and distinction.  Crystal Companies currently provides three types of abilities:

  • A passive technique is one that alters of a specific attribute of a creature, structure, or captain card.  “Isa, Imperial Ranger” inherently is able to build structures which means “Engineer” is one of her passive technique.
  • An active technique is one which a creature must activate for the technique to take effect.  “Ryst the White” has a active technique that heals three target allies and cleanses their conditions.
  • A reactive technique is one where its effect is contingent on another event occurring.  “Tiger Trap’s” effect is a great example of this type a reactive technique where a foe is viciously attacked by tigers whenever it steps onto the trap

Lore

A core element of Crystal Companies is the namesake crystals, which are valued for different reasons in the game’s universe. Proto-crystal is an ancient, powerful, and finite resource from which five different strains proceeded. Each strain provides different benefits–most in the way of magical energy–but none rival the full power of proto-crystal. In fact, one of the five strains is valued simply for its rarity and beauty.

On the Horizon

Coming down the pipeline is a full UI overhaul, with new color scheme and fonts. This includes refactoring portions of the UI code for efficiency, expandability and maintainability,  implementing the new runic icon style, as well a standardized method for attaching icons to  abilities.

As for UX, game flow changes to claiming towers, accepting movement and other minor annoyances will be ironed out.  In addition there is always going to be some polishing of the game  experience, with subtle animations and transitions for various UI elements and color logic.

Refining the server and client sides of Crystal Companies is a never-ending project.  Making the game efficient and stable while also updating game mechanics, rules, and card attributes and abilities will be the primary focus of our lone developer.

More on the lore, characters, and world of Crystal Companies is forthcoming. These monthly updates will be compiled into a comprehensive guide in the not-too-distant future–so keep your eyes peeled!