20XX

Design

  • Procedurally-generated levels: How do you structure them so that they balance challenge and fairness?Level design’s definitely been a tricky, iterative process for us – balancing what the generator spits out has been a challenge.
    • 20XX’s levels are built out of semi-defined “chunks.”
      • “A chunk contains static info like “how wide/tall is this room?”, as well as a skeleton of the intended platforming path through it, and a giant list of possible enemies/hazards that can spawn in that section.”
    • “When the level decides to make that chunk into a level segment, it populates the chunk with its skeleton, then, based on where in the game you are (is this a hard part or an easy part?) populates that chunk with more platforms, enemies, and hazards to fill it out. The fairness part, then, is in making sure that the potential range for any given difficulty setting feels fair. The skeleton has to be traversable with no upgrades (so it’s always doable), and the hazard/enemy placements have to be enough to provide some level of resistance. (This is a super iterative process, and some of our first attempts at this really sucked.)”
    • “To make it all flow together, each chunk has a well-defined entry and exit point that’s build to mesh well with whatever pieces come before/after it.”
  • 20XX is made in a custom C++ engine, which means porting it kind of sucks. That said, we really, really want to
  • Echos to Eredu to 20XX dev cycle
    • Character identities never changed
    • Action platform feel w/roguelike elements never changed
    • Implementation of game elements changed (soulnut unlocking)
    • All art assets were redone from the early build
    • Major milestone hit, lead to meaningful discussions about “upping” the games quality
    • Clement Scott polished up the visuals
    • Really reviewed the playability rules all the time
    • Even had a load out system in the beginning, which got scrapped
  • Most significant change?
    • Revamping all of the visuals from an aesthetic viewpoint
    • Introducing the “core-aug” system (similar to the armour upgrades from MMX)
      • Player experience improved as the avatar changes to reflect this
      • Slot item filled but now gets the player thinking about the deeper customization features (CONVEYANCE!)
      • Adds layers on top of the exploration elements

Dev Cycle

  • Most memorable “You might be an Indie Game Dev” moment
    • “Our first showing at PAX East in 2014 behind the massive Twitch booth was one — our location was so, so bad and I was so, so excited to have it. “
      • “My army of friends helping me set up the booth — the scrapped-together-ed-ness of the whole thing stands out to me as a “woo, indie dev!” moment. (Being across from the legendary Soda Drinker Pro.)”
    • “Staying up until 5 AM or whatever ungodly time it was the first time MANvsGAME and Ezekiel_III co-op streamed the game last Spring.”
    • “The day we launched 20XX in Early Access, we sold 64 copies of the game. I was thrilled. In hindsight, that’s obviously terrible.”
  • As an indie developer, what is your work/life balance like?
    • “My work quota isn’t defined in tasks, it’s defined in “how productive to I have to be to not feel like a piece of shit at the end of the day?” I can take off a day after a patch and play Overwatch all day if I want, but I’m probably going to feel like poop at the end because I wasted the day. I’m much more likely to work until I lose focus, play a little Hearthstone, and go back to work. Make some level chunks, play a little Diablo, go back to work.”
    • “Some weeks I work all day every day, especially coming up on big shows or submission deadlines — some weeks it’s a little more lax than that. Since I’m also the customer support guy, there are multiple variances that contribute to my workload — when I break stuff or when we have big sale events, the rush of players with issues swells, and I spend more time setting them straight.”

Release/Post-Release

  • Mighty # 9 release helped improve the games sales
    • Ppl were thirsty for a good MMX-esque game but MN9 didn’t deliver so they looked elsewhere
    • They communicated better to their fans to set expectations of what the game will be
    • Weeklong steam deals/summer sales did a good job at advertising the game & increasing sales
    • Overlap in the fanbases on Steam where the communities advertise for them
  • Clear & consistent update schedule for fans while in early access
    • New bosses
    • Armour sets (mix n match)
    • Boss weapons have 2ndary purposes
    • Vending machines to buy weapons (can knock over the machines & get whatever)
  • Moving to launch/post launch
    • Promising Lvl 9 with unique encounters as a capstone to a run
    • Reworking all of the bosses
    • Polish/fixing throughout the game itself
    • Post launch
      • Understanding where to port the games
      • Additional musical themes for bosses
      • Steam Workshop integration/mod availability (goal is for players to make their own segments —>level editor that validates the chunks)
        • Could lead to infinite level designs by integrating the validated designs in the community

Fundraising

  • Putting own money into the project
    • “Yup! Pretty much no game these days runs a Kickstarter intending to provide 100% of the game’s costs, and we were no exception.”
    • “Of course, when we ran our Kickstarter, 20XX was relatively garbage-y compared to its current form. “
      • “We should have waited, but we didn’t know we’d end up pushing it this far. “
    • “We really did intend to make this as a much smaller scope project, but every time we hit a milestone and got more and more attention, we realized there was really a market for this sort of thing. “