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
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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.

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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.

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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. [/ms_column] [ms_column style=”1/2″ align=”left” class=”” id=””][/ms_column] [/ms_row] [ms_row] [ms_column style=”1/2″ align=”left” class=”” id=””]

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.

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Foster Center For Student Innovation

[ms_row][ms_column style=”1/2″ align=”left” class=”” id=””]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![/ms_column][ms_column style=”1/2″ align=”left” class=”” id=””][/ms_column] [/ms_row] [ms_row][ms_column style = “1/2″ align=”left”]

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.[/ms_column][ms_column style = “1/2″ align=”left”][/ms_column][/ms_row]

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!

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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.[/ms_column] [ms_column style=”1/3″ align=”left” class=”” id=””][/ms_column] [/ms_row]

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!