It has been more than two months since the last dev log, but it doesn’t mean that development has stopped! There is progress, albeit a bit less than what you could have expected in less sunny months. I’ll begin by addressing what the title is referring to, before moving on to listing the changes in the last update.
In March, I wrote a dev blog entry called “a vertical slice”, boasting that the online demo was getting near to deserve this qualification. Five months and some serious introspection later, I have to admit this is not the case at all. It is improving as a technical demo, but in terms of gameplay, it is nowhere near what I have in mind for Westward. Therefore, I have decided to reshuffle a bit my planning and to prioritize the gameplay loops and mechanics that should really differentiate Westward from other games and make it truly playable.
With that in mind, the upcoming weeks of development will focus on the enemy civilization, an NPC civilization that will eventually constitute the main threat and challenge of the game, and which has been totally absent in the demos so far. The mechanics related to the enemy civ will eventually be quite involved, but will be simplified for the foreseeable future in order to test the waters and have something playable in place faster.
Conversely, I’m going to completely drop the development of the classes for a while. I have a million ideas regarding the classes, but most of them will only truly be valuable in the context of the war against the enemy civ anyway. Moreover, classes and abilities and lvling-up are not what will make Westward stand out. In game design terms, they are not one of the pillars of the gameplay, more a complement to it.
Practically, this should hopefully mean more consistent and interesting updates in the future, so keep following!
Visually speaking, you may notice that many small UI elements (from mouseover icons to map scrolls to menu icons …) have changed, all thanks to the hard work of the artist working with me on the game. Most of it is not definitive and will have to be ramped up whenever the game really takes off, but in the meantime it’s a significant improvement on some of the placeholder assets I was using.
In addition, two new buildings are now present in the game: farms and workshops. Farms fulfill a similar function as the hunter huts (for now, they will diverge a bit more in the future) and simply produce food at regular intervals. (Also, this is not visible below, but they are animated!)
Workshops on the other hand are much more important, as they are now the only place where crafting can be performed. There, you can craft items for yourself, or have them crafted using the settlement’s stock, for the benefit of the settlement itself (e.g. crafting ammunition for the local troops). This building will eventually play a big role in the settlement economy and in the contribution of the players thereto.
In terms of battle mechanics, two new additions: bombs and firearms. There is still work to do on animating the use of bombs, but at least they are functional, you can use one in battle and deal damage to multiple foes. Firearms are now functional as well; they work similarly to bows and arrows, except that they obviously require a different kind of ammunition and can deal much more damage. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to give it a try just now, as I have momentarily disabled battles! Due to significant work under the hood, battles are quite buggy at the moment, so no battles. Coming back soon!
If you explore a bit (possibly guided by the restyled orientation pins being displayed on the fringes of the screen), you may also encounter newcomers (see picture below), making you happy that battles are disabled.
It seems almost trivial to mention the addition of one single animal, but the fact is that it had important consequences. This is the first creature that is so big that it occupies multiple battle cells at once, which required reworking several aspects of the location logic (due to poor foresight on my part…). This, in turn, was beneficial, as it laid out the terrain for the inclusion of buildings in battle (e.g. towers), which will be a key aspect of the war against the enemy civ!
Finally, due to too much traffic on my Heroku apps (which include Westward but also Phaser Quest and the tutorial apps), I had to upgrade my hosting plan to avoid Westward being shut down ten days before the end of each month. This has the added benefit that the game will now be permanently on (instead of “sleeping” when no one is connected), making it more permanent and more quickly accessible. It also means that the resource buildings will now pump resources out 24/7, which will probably lead to resource overflow, but that will be fixed once I start tuning the economy a bit more!
Thanks for reading this, and keep following, as the dev logs should now resume their normal pace!