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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Battle Gem Ponies DevLog #161 (Wednesday Milestones)

     Release feels so close. It's like the pieces are all in my lap and I just have to follow the instructions to put them together. The final version of Battle Gem Ponies is so clear in my head now that I'm fanboying over it sometimes.

     In the last 7 days I charted out exactly how all 360 battle moves will look, I recreated every menu, rebalanced the battle system, came up with catchier names for things, sorted out details for a DLC & multiplatform launch plan, and closely studied just about everything that makes the games that inspired this one so great.

     To keep track of things I made a week-by-week breakdown of the rest of BGP's development. Counting down what's left to do to get the game to a launchable state. If you wanna find out what the Yotes Games Wednesday Milestones are, look at the list below!

Tons and tons of tutorials! I'd stop, but I keep learning so much!
The stuff you can do with a plugin here and there is mindblowing.
I had no idea this was possible. I could reverse any animation this way.

When I'm not watching Unity tutorials, I'm analyzing the
effects used to animate Pokemon moves throughout the generations.
I also check out the anime and 3D games to see different interpretations of the same idea.
Hoping this leads to me making the prettiest move effects you've ever seen in a pixel art RPG.
Hopefully it'll lead to me making some amazing attack animations that even surpass the sprite-based Pokemon games!

  • Added More YouTubers to Contact Spreadsheet
  • Studied App Store RPG Sales Figures
  • Discovered More Helpful Plugins for UI, Variable, and Management 
  • Organized Ideas for Sequel
  • Plans for Local Multiplayer DLC (shared screen)
  • Reanimated All Sprites for Unity (ponies, menus, moves, and humans)
  • Learned How to Play Animations in Reverse with Unity Animator
  • Created Milestone Task List for Next 18 Weeks
  • Launch Prep Details Planned
  • Made a Fandom Wikia Account (eventually, a BGP wiki will exist)
  • Imported Tile Sheets
  • Renamed Soratina to "Aerotina"
  • Changed Some Pony Classes Around
  • Renamed & Rebalanced Tons of Moves
  • Practiced Writing Ponipedia Entries (each pony will have 4: appearance/functionality, feats/legends, personality, and Professor's comments)
  • Studied Pokemon Move Animations Closely (note elements that convey power)
  • Resketched Attack Moves to Account for New Visual Effects
  • Collected Patreon Funds & Bought Assets
  • Studied What People Like/Dislike About Pokemon & Recent Indie Games
     I couldn't help myself and started jotting down ideas for a local multiplayer mode. Gonna put this in as post-launch DLC along with the Oatmeal Mode. Together, they'll make for a compelling package to draw attention to BGP months later and also kick off the Steam/Switch/(whatever I can get it on) ports with some new content. After that the game should feel feature complete with tons of replay value. 

Just brainstorming ways to make BGP even more fun.
Enough for it to keep players talking until BGP2.
And look here! Some proof I'm really thinking about making a super organized wiki
for BGP myself so launch day players looking for a sort of guide have a place to start.
Writing it myself also gives me the chance to inject some personality
and even leave certain details out to create a little mystery...
I'd have a post or two up and some templates underway, but the website was being glitchy
and wouldn't save any of my posts, so I dropped it for now. I'll come back when the game's in beta.

     Lessons Learned:
  • With Unity, mobile builds can only handle spritesheets of size 2048 pixels across either way. So I had to split the tile sheets into smaller pieces, placing related things together.
  • HAHcon (an online brony convention) is a thing. I should sign up for that next year and make a spectacle out of it. A combination of Let's Play, Dev Commentary, Trailer teases, and announcements. I'll get to practice building HYPE!
  • I should be using Scenes instead of Prefabs for each map because it saves a lot of space on disk and loads faster.
  • Update: I just found out about thatgamecompany's Sky and I can probably kiss my hopes of winning mobile GotY goodbye. 😂 😅
  • Even if my game gets overshadowed somehow, it'd still be an honor to be in the conversation. Like, if people mention me as a recent fan game turned success (alongside Sonic Mania & Them's Fightin' Herds) or grouped with quality mobile titles (like Sky or Old Man's Journey).
  • I just wanna be like the devs that inspired me. To pay it forward and inspire others too. Can't say I know why though, it's just a feeling. Pride, I guess? Self-actualization and a sense of community.
Anyways, I digress...

       On the last day of February the time crunch really got to me, so I marked my calendar with an objective for each week left in development. I call them Wednesday Milestones!

(organized by week)
  1. Reconstruction
  2. Map Building
  3. Battle System Revamp
  4. Battle System & Placeholders
  5. Cinematic Systems & Polish
  6. Alpha Build, Test, & Launch (+ Localization Volunteer Request)
  7. All Text (+ Localization Drafts & Begin Volunteer Review)
  8. Battle AI & Cutscene Event Planning
  9. All Game Content (Complete Alpha)
  10. Closed Beta Test & Polish (+ Press Outreach, Announcement, Screenshots, Trailer)
  11. Animation & Art (Overworld)
  12. Animation (Pony Sprites)
  13. Animation (Ponies In-Game)
  14. Animation (Moves)
  15. Early Access Beta Test & Balancing (YouTubers, Google Play, Steam, Itch)
  16. Press Outreach (Review Copies, Launch Trailer, Date in Description)
  17. Launch Prep & Bug Fixes (Manage Contacts, Wiki Site)
    If I'm able to hit all these on the mark, we're looking at a June 20th release date. I really want to make that date. All of this seems possible given what I have planned out on paper and what tools I'm working with here, but by now I know that game development is just full of unpleasant surprises and setbacks. I'll try my best to keep ahead of things as best I can.

     Looks like E3 is going to be from the 10th to the 14th that month as well. This could be either great or horrible for my little mobile game. I may be drowned out of mainstream press by bigger news from AAA companies, or maybe the press will be more receptive to whatever neat-looking games get in front of their face this time of year.

     I know I'll have to hit the mobile games sites hard in the weeks before E3 to let them know I exist and my game is worth talking about. I'll be a month deep into beta by then, so I'll have something playable to send these folks. There will be a week of cooldown between e# and the launch of Battle Gem Ponies, so hopefully that'll be the perfect time for me to get onto news sites as traffic slows down but people still have their ears perked for cool stuff they might have missed at the event.

     My best bet might be to take advantage of the E3 hype (everyone saying "take my money" or "I can't wait to play something new") and show my target audience something they can buy and play right away on the phone right in their hands.

  The announcement of Unity's new Bolt visual scripting tool that comes free with a $35 Unity Plus subscription had me regret buying Playmaker for a short bit. But then after some comparison and a look on the Playmaker forums I was reassured the tool I got will work out for me in the long run. 

  I considered getting Unity Plus, but after checking how much I'd get from discounts on the Assets I want, I wouldn't even make my $35 back in savings, so I'm sticking with Unity Free until further notice. (If revenue passes $200K I have to upgrade to Unity Pro for $125 a month, but if BGP does that well I'll be crying tears of joy and happily fork over that much to Unity as thanks!) 

   Also, as an aside, did you know Unity provides it's own online multiplayer service? Cuz I didn't, and it's interesting to have some numbers to play with in my head when thinking about the scale I'll want to prepare for when launching online PvP in Battle Gem Ponies 2. 

     So let's just call this a median for now and keep in mind how much I should be earning each month to keep multiplayer support alive. This is the site I used to get the estimation. Basically 50 cents a gig. And this turn-based RPG shouldn't be doing much more than sending a few battle calculation results across the web.

     When considering this or a third party service, it seems like for what little I wanna do, this Unity Multiplayer package has the least amount of headaches. And I'm all about spending a few bucks to save some headaches and get a better product out to players faster. And speaking of gamedev budgets...


You can thank these heroes right here for taking BGP to the next level. 😎
     This month an additional $170 came in and allowed me to purchase DoozyUI (Simple HUD setup & portrait mode support), EZ Data (less bugs thanks to easy-to-track variables), EZ Bind (less bugs thanks to Unity syncing values across the entire project), Screen Fader (a sexy new Battle scene transition effect), Various Attack Effects (for fanciness and variety in combat animations), and an Underwater Shader (nice lighting effect for seafloor areas). 

     Again, I can't thank my patrons enough for enabling me to experiment with tools like these that I'd normally spend months trying and failing to replicate on my own. Having a working budget each month just feels amazing and makes Battle Gem Ponies feel more and more professional and polished.

     So if you're a patron in the $50+ Producer/Seducer tier, keep an eye on your inbox because we have to chat about how you want your trainer sprite to look and which ponies you want on your team. (Lookin' at YOU Matthew!)

    Marketing Tips:

    I found a bunch of helpful advice on when and where to promote my game on this YouTube channel Game Dev Underground. Keeping these in mind will help me be more effective at the marketing blitz I'm in for around launch time.

     And if you're an indie dev, maybe this can help you too. 😁

     This also marks the first week I'll start uploading new blogs on Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays. I tend to be super late with these things on Tuesday anyway, so I figured why not move the official timing to what I'm naturally drawn to. Tuesdays around or after midnight, I hit that publish button (or set an auto upload timer) and the new devlog will go up instead of me scrambling to finish something Monday night or Tuesday afternoon to post on that date.

     With this plan, I'll have a couple days after a weekend (which are typically interrupted with all kinds of life/family distractions) to finish up whatever cool thing I want to share then talk about it here. Also, Wednesday will likely be the day I upload my games to the app store since the marketplace refreshes on Thursdays, listing hot new releases right away. 

     The timing works out so I can make a devlog hoopla out of it here on launch day to get those search-based downloads going that might catch a Distributor's (like Apple's) eye.

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