May 29, 2013

The second most popular gaming conference in the north

Networking ®, the Trading Card Game

Hello! Now that our bearded scout squadron (with glasses) is back from Sweden and recharged, it's time to write a couple of lines about our trip to Nordic Game Conference, Unite Nordic and some related events.

For us the trip went very well. People seemed to like the idea behind Interplanetary a lot, and Hedgehop, one of the games we still very much hope to finish at some point, was very well received by the few people I had a chance to show it.

We thought about writing a longer post mortem and a more detailed description of the events, but there are plenty of those around at this point, and you can always watch some of the presentations online. So, instead, here are some things you should keep in mind when it's your time to travel to NGC. (Majority of these points apply for most games industry events.)

Nordic Game Conference tips for the newcomers:

Plan ahead.
Make it clear to yourself what you require from the trip and plan your actions accordingly. Is there someone you want to talk with? A company you want to connect to? Are you looking for a training place? Do you want to find a publisher for your game, or are you there for advice?

If you travel with a group, discuss your goals beforehand. This way you can keep on the lookout for your friends as well: If someone spots a person you want to talk with, they can give you a call.

Cutting out your 150 fliers manually is very indie.

Prepare some material for your game or team.
Think of the message you wish to deliver to your target audience, and what that target audience will be. Prepare the materials early. You may also want to prepare an elevator pitch for your company, team and/or your game.

Make reservations as early as possible.
This allows you to find cheaper flights and accommodations. Comfort Hotel Malmö is a good choice, it's located right next to the Slagthuset where the conference is held.

Pack light.
You'll end up needing only 1/3 of what you have in most cases. Linens and a towel are usually not needed, even if you stay in the cheapest possible hostel.

Wear good shoes.
Your trip is likely to involve lots of walking and standing, and it'll be a lot harder to focus on important things when you have blistered feet.

Be aware that the price level in Sweden is very high.
This is true even from a Finnish perspective. You can expect a McDonalds meal to be around 10€, a beer in a bar around 8€ and drinks around 12€. There's a good China Box at Gustav Adolfs torg which is not exactly cheap, but it's a good alternative to the other fast food places.

Data roaming is around 0,8€ / MB and wifi access in the conference area is pretty unreliable, so you might want to consider Swedish prepaid for the event.

Conferences offer lots of quality content for social media.
You can post interesting things often, and if you tag the people or companies you meet, there's a chance you will get retweets/shares etc.

Travelling in good company is optional but recommended.

You don't need to attend every talk.
Though the talks may appear to be the main thing, most of the information you will get is something you can find by googling. The real value lies in stuff that you can learn when discussing face to face with the professionals. Attending their talk may be a good way to earn a chance to speak with the person later, though.

Have some business cards with you.
It's so much easier for the people to remember you afterwards if you give them one. Offering yours is also a less awkward way to get one.

It may be a good idea to wear clothing with your team/studio/game logo.
This makes you more recognizable and memorable. It also makes it easier for people that know your game to recognize you and start a conversation.

Make use of your previous contacts.
Game industry people are usually friendly and eager to help- it's usually ok to ask them to introduce you to someone they already know.

Go to the afterparties every day, even if you don't drink.
There is a good chance you will get your most important contacts there. And if you do drink...

Don't drink too much.
Most of the evening parties offer free drinks, but you'll get more out of them if you stay reasonable.

Most importantly, talk to people.

This is the core of everything. Only by socializing you'll end up getting new contacts and strengthening the existing bonds.

So there you have a couple of points to keep in mind, some of which we have learned the hard way. Hopefully now you can avoid them and have even more fun and productive conference experience!

All in all, the trip to Malmö, Sweden, was very, very worthwhile. Thanks to Neogames, Wooga and Kavio Cluster for making it possible!

May 24, 2013

Designing the Power Grid

Nuclear power is the safest power. Except for those few times.

Hello, hello, hello! Sasu here again, filling the space for our team leader Niklas, who's still on his Nordic Game trip. Hopefully, we'll see him back healthy next Monday. Adding to that, our programmers have been working hard on planning and design this week, so actual progress has been a bit slow. Soon, we'll be back on full gear!

Meanwhile, I've been coming up with different systems for the poor, unsuspecting coders to implement. This week's subject may become quite a dominating feature in the game; The Power Grid system is something to consider when developing your planet's infrastructure.

Power can be considered as your action points. Almost any action, from building to shooting your weapons, takes a bit of Power. The more Power all of your Plants generate, the more actions you may pull off each turn.

A picture and a thousand words

Structures can be built all over the planet, but the most efficient way of gathering Power is forming one, continuous Power Grid by building them close to each other. Every structure has some amount of Power Connectors: simpler ones have two, while others may have as many as four. When you've placed a new building on the planet, its Connectors attach to other nearby structures, if they are within range. As long as all the buildings are part of a grid with at least one Power Plant, they will function properly and stay online.

It is also possible to make several grids, not connected to each other, but there are some drawbacks to this strategy: the more Power Grids you have, the less efficiently you can actually use the Power generated by the Plants. You will receive less usable Power from two grids with two Power Plants each than one grid with only three Plants, for example. This gives the opponent an incentive to try and bomb your grids into pieces. After a massive attack, you may find your one big grid turned into three small ones and some structures orphaned and offline, without a Power Plant in their grid.

Now you're playing with power! This system is presently being tweaked, but the main idea should stay. It adds a nice layer of depth, especially when mixed with some other systems we're working on at the moment. You'll have to wait until some other time to hear about those.

May 17, 2013

Designing Tech & Research

When can I finally have a clone to call my own?

Hello, hello! I'm Sasu, a game designer on the most wonderful game, Interplanetary. Lately, I've been working on the technology tree and the progression of upgrades, which will be our subject this week.

One of the main themes of Interplanetary is the development of technology. Players start up with technologies that seem quite plausible to actually exist in a couple of years, but the further the game proceeds, the more incredible they become. Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but we still try to make it feel at least somewhat believable. No huge science fiction star fleets, just humble interplanetary space guns. 

In Interplanetary, players gain science points that are used to research new technologies. The generated points are counted towards technological progress at the beginning of each turn. Each technology needs a certain amount of science points. When the goal is reached, the technology is usable and new development options are opened. 

Original diagram, do not steal.

Projects are construction or development operations that take place in cities and span over several turns. Researching technologies not only grants various bonuses, but also opens up the possibility to develop certain projects. For example, the technology of “Quantum Paired Sensors and Communications” allows the player to detect incoming projectiles earlier and to build facilities for “Communications Shielding” and “Faster-Than-Light Communications”. 

All the technologies and projects have certain pre-requisites. You need to research “Particle Physics” before being able to research “High Power Particle Beams”, which in turn allows you to develop “Orbital Laser Defense”-project. Sometimes, a project must be completed to unlock new technologies. No “Orbital Manufacturing” without the help of a “Space Elevator”. 

Research enough technologies and you just might reach something amazing. We might add some wildcard mechanics to the tech tree so some of the more incredible tech may be hidden and only discovered accidentally. That is, after all, how science tends to proceed. Eureka!

Alrighty, that's enough nuggets for now. I can almost promise you that the details will change in some ways, so no frowny faces if they do, okay?

May 11, 2013

What news from the south?

This week was an interesting one! We traveled to Helsinki with some fellow Kavio game developers in the beginning of the week and got a change to present the very early prototype of Interplanetary to some game industry professionals. Thanks again Frozenbyte for having us!

Needless to say, we got some very good feedback. While there are still some problems with the proto, we we're happy to notice we are moving to the right direction and the main parts of the game work as intended. It's also very encouraging to notice that nearly all of the issues that came up were something we had already acknowledged.

The Interplanetary proto is now officially finished. Though we didn't have enough time to try out all the features we wanted, we now have a good idea of the final game design and we are ready to start working on the final version.

This week's blog post was delayed a bit by busy busy business and a thunderstorm, sorry about that.

May 3, 2013

Inside Interplanetary: Cities, towns, colonies and buildings

Beautiful day in the city of Ars Konsepth. What could go wrong?

This time we have a couple of lines (read: wall of text) about the role and functionality of Cities, Towns, Colonies and Buildings in Interplanetary. Again there needs to be a disclaimer: Much of the design described here may change during development. If you have thoughts, ideas or even suggestions, feel free to share in the comments.

Cities are one of the key elements of Interplanetary: They hold majority of the planet's population and generate resources like Production and Science. Each city has 1-6 production slots for different Projects that  provide either one time bonuses, such as population growth boost, or permanent ones like Space Elevator. Permanent bonuses occupy the production slot they are built in.

Cities cannot be destroyed in a single turn, but if their population is reduced enough, they will turn into Towns. It's theoretically possible to destroy an enemy city by precision strikes across two turns by turning it into a town , but considerable amount of firepower is needed as Cities are quite resilient.

Towns could be described as placeholders for potential cities. They appear on the globe from the beginning, but cannot be interacted with directly. Towns hold some population just like Cities, and when the population grows large enough, the town becomes a City. Player can speed up the growth by protecting a city with a  defensive building or building other structures near it. Unlike cities, Towns can be destroyed.

Colonies come into play a bit later in the game. A sufficiently advanced civilization can develop a Project for colonizing another planet in the same planetary system. The main function of a colony is to provide precious material for the player, but Colonies also act as forward platforms for some useful Projects and upgrades that cannot be built elsewhere.

Buildings are megastructures that serve a single purpose like producing resources, defending Home Planet or gathering intelligence. Players can choose fairly freely where they place the buildings, as long as they are not built in water etc. However, placing a building has almost always a tactical side to it. For an example, building in tight clusters makes buildings more defensible, but also makes them vulnerable to splash damage. Some weapons require line of sight, so building them all around the globe might be a good idea as opposed to concentrating them on one side.

So that's the very basics, we may write in more detail about these mechanics later. Lets us know what you would like to read and we will do our best to deliver!