Westward dev log #14: A Vertical Slice

I have encountered the term “vertical slice” a lot in the past few weeks. In the game dev world, it’s used to describe a particular kind of game prototype that is suitable to show to publishers. The idea is that it’s important to focus on conveying the key aspects of your game (what differentiates it from other games, the “hook”), and to do that well. So instead of showing off a “full” game, featuring barely playable prototypes of all the features, you slice away one aspect of the game and focus on delivering it with the best execution possible (keeping in mind that it remains a prototype, not a final version).

That’s my goal at the moment. I consider the settlement systems and the buildings-based economy associated with it to be one of the main hooks of Westward, and therefore I am focusing on showcasing this as much as I can in the demo. This is why I have developed the building UI so much recently, and why I’ll keep working primarily on that aspect in the coming weeks.

More specifically, you have at the moment three buildings: the fort, a hunter hut an a trade post. The hunter hut produces food at regular interval, which is stockpiled at the fort. The amount of food in the fort has a direct impact on the productivity of the other buildings, as well as on the performance of the players. The trade post is at the moment disconnected from that, and simply allows to buy or sell stuff.

In the coming weeks, more buildings will pop-up and will start to get interconnected. The gold acquired in the trade post by trading with players will feed the fort, resources produced in other buildings will go to the trade post, while others will go to the workshop waiting to be converted by the players in more advanced products that the settlement or the players themselves may need. All of this will manifest itself differently from one settlement to the other, depending on many factors, such as the development level of each, which will unlock more buildings and capabilities. This should hopefully result in a small interconnected economy, that will be fueled by the players and will impact them in return.

In the meantime, I have been putting effort into showcasing features that are not yet present by hinting to them through various texts. In the recently updated demo, you’ll see for example a lot of small question mark icons in several menus. Hovering them will display help texts, that may shed some light on the current and future workings of the game.

Similarly, items and character statistics now have mouse-over descriptions. Finally, in the character panel, a new “suggestions” pane provides you tips about what to do based on your status and the status of your settlement.

Battles will also play an important role in the game, even if it will be possible to avoid them entirely for those not interested in that aspect. I think we are reaching a decent first vertical slice on that front, showcasing the turn-based multiplayer battle system. The gif below shows that battle zones now expand as new participants enter the battle, enabling anyone to join (or to be dragged in a fight!).

The battle system is not finished. Some mechanics are missing, such as the ability to throw bombs (previously crafted in a settlement’s workshop) to affect multiple foes at the same time, or the use of potions to add more complex effects to the battle. But the gist of it is there, so I’ll focus a bit more on the economy for now.

In summary, I expect to have a vertical slice of a core aspect of the game, its economy (and its interactions with the players) ready in the near future. There will still be a lot of work after that to achieve the complete vision I have in mind, but it should be enough to start showing around, gathering feedback and initiate discussions. Keep following!

If you share my enthusiasm about the progresses of Westward and would like to contribute, consider having a look at my new donation page. In particular, take a minute to have a look at my Patreon page, where you can find a listing of rewards for various levels of recurring contributions!

Jerome Renaux

I'm an independent game developer, working mainly on browser-based multiplayer online game (HTML5 & Javascript). I love to discuss about all aspects of game development so don't hesitate to get in touch!

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Jerome Renaux

I'm an independent game developer, working mainly on browser-based multiplayer online game (HTML5 & Javascript). I love to discuss about all aspects of game development so don't hesitate to get in touch!