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  1. #1

    Tales of the Outpost - Discussion

    So I'm sure most of you are aware, but I've been building a game on my own for the past few months. It's called Tales of the Outpost, and it's a city-building simulator that takes place in a fantasy RPG world. You're responsible for building and stocking the various stores around town so wandering Nomads (adventurers) will visit and use your Outpost as a rest stop between adventures. It's currently being built for the Microsoft platforms (Steam, Windows 8 store for tablets and PCs, Windows Phone, Xboxes) only because my professional development experience is greatest with the .NET platform, and because Visual Studio 2012 makes multi-platform development a breeze.

    Anyway, I thought I'd make a little thread to keep people up to date with how development is going, or to field any questions that anyone may have. A website will soon be available at; I've paid for the domain, just need a website to put in it now. My development skills are fine; my art skills not so much, so I don't want to try and build a site on my own that looks like crap. Luckily, someone I've done a few contracting jobs for in the past is very much interested in diversifying into gaming, and has offered to help fund the game. So when that happens, I'll finally be able to work on this game full time, as well as hire an artist to start making me the website and the game assets and logo.

    Until that happens, there isn't much to look at. It's a few thousand lines of code that doesn't function as much more than a "look, I figured out DirectX!" and a whole slew of behind-the-scenes data structures and handling. A working, playable build that I'm comfortable sharing is likely 4-6 months away, though I'm hoping I can get it done sooner. I'll be doing a limited Alpha test, a closed Beta and then a pre-purchaser Beta after that.

    Game Details

    This is going to be a quick-and-dirty section for now; I may expand it later, but really... just wait for the website. There is SO much to tell about the game, it feels unjust to summarize it in a few sentences or a bullet point list. There are many game mechanics and symbiotic systems in place to make it a deep but easy-to-manage simulation, and I'm hoping to push as many new technologies and ideas into the game as possible without suffering scope creep. A lot of these are still early ideas that may make it to the cutting room floor, depending on if I discover technology limitations or that it impacts the game's performance too much.

    • BUILD dozens of different stores, services, ameneties, decorations and more. With the right type of equipment and services available, new Nomad classes and characters will visit your Outpost. All build times are meant to represent a realistic time-scale of construction; projects can take hours or days for the more complex types.
    • UPGRADE your stores with dozens of different improvements that are unlocked only as your Outpost accomplishes certain tasks. You are meant to only have one of each building, and to take it from a tent with a handful of trinkets to a brick-walled emporium of fine wares.
    • POST QUESTS at some of your stores for Nomads to pick up. By selecting the parameters of the Quest like location and enemy type, you can manipulate what sort of resources the Nomads will find in the field and eventually sell back to the store that posted the quest.
    • LEARN more about the world that surrounds you through the actions the Nomads choose to take. Through their independent adventuring and special Expeditions you can sponsor, more information will be added to your Codex. This system stores all the information you've learned about the places, enemies and loot of the world. Use this information to guide future Quest parameters and find new or plentiful resources for your shops.
    • AUTOMATED gameplay mechanics are organized in a series of symbiotic game loops. These loops continue to simulate even when you're not playing, ensuring that the commerce, construction and adventuring continues even while you're not there to watch. Each time you start the game you'll be given a summary of what's happened and any important notifications. (This will either be force-simulated by the game when it's loaded up again, or via constant Cloud simulation. I worry about long-idle gamers eating up server usage and boosting costs for me, but the point may end up being moot.)
    • CUSTOMIZE the experience with the robust Metacosm Toolkit, giving you the power to write a new story for the game, or to give it a complete makeover without messing with the core game mechanics. Don't like the fantasy RPG setting I included with the game? Make the art and data assets for a zombie apocalypse with a whole new set of buildings and items and quests and everything. Not feeling that motivated? Have no artistic digit in your body? Then just write a new story with new characters as a mod. Even if you write a zombie story, the game engine will try to match it with zombie art when somebody goes to play it. I want Tales of the Outpost to be a game engine for building worlds on top of. I plan to release more official campaigns as time goes by, but am hoping the mod community will go nuts with these tools.

    I think that's the best quick summary I can manage, though I'm still leaving a lot of detail out, obviously. Basically, I want to create a Game Engine first and foremost. I want something that people will be reskinning and retuning in new and interesting ways. But mostly, I want to ensure that the core gameplay is fun through multiple playthroughs, rewarding for those who put extra effort in and not artificially slowed to the point where casual players will get bored.

    The symbiotic game loops I keep bringing up are a huge part of the simulation. It's easiest to explain with a hypothetical game situation. You've just earned a new achievement which unlocks a new upgrade at your blacksmith. He has most of the supplies already (each store maintains its own resource pool,) but needs a lot more Copper than you have right now. So you pop open your Codex and bring up the entry for Copper. Through past adventures the Codex knows that Copper has a decent drop rate from Goblins, and that the Ghostly Mountain has a high Goblin population. You return to the blacksmith and post a new Quest, asking Nomads to hunt Goblins in the Ghostly Mountain. They return with lots of Copper to sell to your blacksmith, enabling you to start the upgrade.

    Each of those steps required a lot of cycles to get where we were. We needed to build and stock and supply the smithy long enough to earn an upgrade. We needed to keep our Nomads equipped, healthy and adventuring or they'd lose interest in our Outpost and stop visiting. We needed to glean information about where the Goblins are and what they drop through Expeditions that we sponsored earlier, and fine-tuned that information through the AI-chosen random adventures the Nomads get up to after an area has been explored.

    I've tried to build every mechanic in this game to focus on being easy to manage and to automate as much of the tedium as possible without making the game so easy you can just idle it for a few days and it'll be fine with a bunch of progress made. To that effect, each of the gameplay loops has at least one mechanic that requires your input to truly thrive. You can't discover new lands or resources without funding Expeditions. Nomads require upgraded equipment in order to progress since their growth is measured by skill levels which grow as they are used, and capped based on a combination of their class and what equipment they are wearing. And you can't build them that new, better equipment without new resources or experimentation with old resources and recipes in new combinations.

    Anyway, I think that's all I'm going to write for now. I'll be offering Alpha in a limited basis to some of the gents here. If you have a Windows Phone or a Windows 8 tablet (doesn't have to be a Surface, any Windows 8 touchscreen device) that's an added benefit to me, as I need help testing those platforms as well. The Metacosm Toolkit for making custom content is going to be a late addition; it may not even get finished before I launch the game. I'm hoping to have it ready to use in-house for my first free game expansion, though. And if I get another developer working with me, it'll get done earlier.

    Current Status

    I am currently teaching myself DirectX for the graphical component of the game. I'm building my own engine rather than using a limited one like Unity because there's just too many things I want to do with this game that any other game engine would likely have no clue what to do with. I've built the framework for all the data I'll need to keep track of during gameplay and prepared it to interface with either SQL, local flat files or the future (and optional) Cloud saving feature. Game mechanics are mostly finalized on-paper in terms of what will be in before or after retail launch, and those that are in have been logic-mapped to make the actual coding go smoothly.

    I'm currently waiting to hear back about the funding; I sent in a project summary/plan for him to read over and approve. These things take time. Art is non-existent at this point in any way, shape or form making it difficult to start marketing. I know what I want in my head, but I need someone with skill to make it happen which is where the funding comes in.

    So I'm splitting my time between DirectX education and writing up the prose for the marketing materials, website and the like. Hoping to get back to the game mechanics soon for a change of scenery. I'm really enjoying the whole process, and learning a ton in the process. I have to say, it's about time all those years of advance algebra and matrix multiplication and everything became useful!

  2. #2
    Thanks for sharing this Wiz. It sounds like an interesting game. Good for you in coding this complex build on your own. I would be more than happy to help you with (free) promotion and advertising here on the site.
    PM me if you are interested.
    "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his" - General George S. Patton

  3. #3
    Sounds interesting!

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