War Ender

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Welcome to the official website for the upcoming video game War Ender, created by Lance Talbert. Join the Outsider Resistance Movement and combat those who threaten the peace of The City!

Design of War Ender - Level 1-3

One last battleground before the first boss.

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War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Welcome back to another Design of War Ender blog, where we go through the various levels and talk about how each one was made. So far we’ve looked at the tutorial and Levels 1-1 and 1-2. At this point the player is now getting pretty familiar with the mechanics of the game and has been introduced to a number of enemies. This has all been done to prepare the player for everything beyond chapter 1, and Level 1-3 is no different. The player is taken back out to the roof tops to learn about disappearing floors and two new enemy types.

Tying back a bit into my previous design blog, I wish I had moved the introduction of some of these enemies around. Level 1-3 brings enemies that require the dodge mechanic be used but no level up to this point had really done anything with it. However, the silver lining is that the average player would get to 1-3 by the time the tutorial is still fresh in their minds, so players would often pick up on what to do very quickly. But I suppose I should start with the first thing the player sees…what are those gray tiles?

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As if laser bullets, mines, grenades, and bottomless pits weren’t problematic enough, now Red has to deal with the floor disappearing beneath his feet! But it’s not all bad news. It at least takes a little time for the floor to disappear, giving the player plenty of time to react. First I make a long stretch of disappearing tiles with no enemies to show the player what these are. Then, after defeating a simple turret, the player is presented with disappearing floors in a slightly different way. They’ll need to hop up onto the higher floors then onto the yellow building to progress. This is where I try to demonstrate the timing required to navigate these floors safely. In case you make a mistake, there’s more disappearing floors underneath you to help you out. Just don’t stand on them too long.

Less hand holding happens from here, and now the player must jump across a chasm using nothing but the disappearing floors. In addition, when they reach the end they’ll have to fight off a few enemies. This is also a good time to show off how the player can use these disappearing floors to assist with combat, if for only a brief period of time. The floors maintain a fairly safe distance from the turrets, allowing players to shoot at them from across the building if they so choose. Finally, before reaching the checkpoint, the player must use both disappearing floors and the jump pads to clear the first section.

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As you might have gathered, the theme of this level is the destructible floors. But one straight level of dealing with those may be a bit overkill, so some new enemies are tossed into the mix. Meet the pyro (not that one), an enemy that shoots walls of fire in your direction. The only way to spare the hit points is to dodge past his walls of fire, teaching the player that dodging will become vital as the game progresses. There’s a helpful health pickup in case you take a couple hits or destroyed the first checkpoint. Just be aware of the mines underneath. Yeah, nothing comes easy in this world.

One pit of enemies later (which are avoidable if you platform well enough), you meet another new enemy. The “Shielded Flame Enemy” is a personal favorite enemy of mine, asking you to dodge past him and shoot his back to get rid of him. The shield will block damage from Red’s weapon and the flamethrower he wields makes it unsafe to jump over him. By this point, the player should start to get a firm grasp of dodging and how it works. There’s one more area after this where you must run across disappearing floors while dodging flame walls to get to the next checkpoint, completing the dodging training.

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The rest of the level is comprised of testing your knowledge of all the game’s mechanics so far. Every enemy is here, and the various environmental objects like fall through platforms and disappearing floors are present and accounted for. They all get used in different ways as the level goes on. For instance, two rocket turrets assist a pyro while standing over disappearing floors, requiring either quick movement or destroying the enemies. Near the end, another pit of enemies is present, once again asking you navigate upward using the disappearing floors. Falling will result in a brief fight, unless of course you wish to get rid of the enemies ahead of time.

While there are still some new things to show such as new enemy types, this is a good place to practice what you know as you approach the end of the first chapter. Wall of Lasers, the first boss, will also be accommodating this practice but the focus is primarily on the boss itself in that level. I should also mention that this level houses one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s incredibly small and only lasts a moment, but shortly after reaching the final checkpoint there’s an area where four jump pads are lined up in a row. The player only needs to jump once, hold the direction, and land on the first jump pad to practically be carried over to the final building to overcome.

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Admittedly, the third level does not have quite as much going on as the previous two levels. While there are certainly some new things to look at, a lot of the level is previous mechanics being used in new ways. This of course could not have been possible without the first two levels coming before it. Even after the first chapter, many of the levels will at least have a lot of new things going for it, even if that new thing is just a unique level layout. Unique level layouts of course lead to new ways to use enemies and mechanics to entertain the player. War Ender’s third level instead works to get you comfortable with the game so that the rest of the journey can be enjoyed.

Things are going to start getting very interesting from here on, as next time we’ll look at the game’s first boss and the challenges that came with putting it together. From there, levels begin to get more unique geometry and settings along with some new enemies and hazards. But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. In the meantime, I may have some new updates for Impressions by the time the next dev blog goes live. That game is getting very close to being playable from beginning to end. Hopefully I’ll have more to tell before long.

Until next time!

-Lance T.

War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Design of War Ender - Level 1-2

Hop aboard my train of thought as we dissect Level 1-2.

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War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

My goodness, it’s been a while since we’ve focuses specifically on War Ender, hasn’t it? Well, I don’t have a lot of new things to show off with any of my upcoming projects. A lot of what I’ve done with those involve smaller updates that couldn’t really fill a dev blog. Thus it seemed like a good idea to dive back into War Ender’s design and walk you through the philosophy of one of its levels. Today we’re going to examine Level 1-2 and look at how it introduced various ideas into the War Ender gameplay.

For starters, I have a fun little nickname for this level. I call it “the big list of enemies” level as one of its key aspects is revealing several of the enemies you’ll encounter for the rest of the game. And this is where I begin with a self critique of my level. I really wish I hadn’t thrown as many new enemies in here as I did. When originally creating the level the idea was to show off as much gameplay within a few levels as possible. This was at a time when I was still trying to get War Ender a booth at a games festival. In many ways, I was still working to make that good first impression I was talking about the last time I went deep into War Ender’s design.

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If you’ve followed this blog closely, you’ll know that booth was never acquired, at least not at the festival I was looking to attend at the time. Still, I didn’t really change the fact that this level throws too many new enemies at you. In total, there are four new enemy types to combat. This is more than the first level introduces! This would have been fine if

A) there were a lot more enemy types in the game, or

B) the setting wasn’t so drastically different from the previous level

But neither of those things happened, and therefore 1-2 remains a level that I still think throws too much at the player too early.

All that said, I feel 1-2 succeeds in many other areas. Let’s start with the aforementioned setting. The player has gone from being out on building tops to inside a factory. Obviously the level rules and geometry is going to be fairly different, and to hammer that fact home I present the player right from the start with a simple task…go down. Fall through the platform and face the enemies below. Now there’s something you can’t do outside! The whole first section is like this. It presents very few enemies and gives examples of what an indoor level is like. On top of this, the game is now showing that story can be delivered mid-level too, as an enemy exclaims to his buddies that you, the player, are here and they need to get out of there fast. Just a small reminder that the enemies fear you.

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After this is when the new enemies start appearing, and they come quick. You’re first introduced to a turret that zooms forward from the screen and starts shooting. Thankfully, they’re at least less resilient as the regular turrets. Still, this will show the player that enemies can pop in from the sides at any moment. Right above them are the infamous rocket turrets. I placed these enemies above platforms so that the player has time to see what they do. These turrets shoot rockets that will home in on your position, requiring you to either destroy the turrets quickly or move around the rockets.

The player is shown a quick demonstration of the power rocket turrets have with other enemies. A few robots from the first level are wandering the platform above with a rocket turret behind them. This is one of the more basic interactions that the rocket turret can have with other enemies. Next up are the mines, spread along the ground waiting for you to jump on them. You’ll hopefully notice the blinking lights before you jump down to where they are. If not…well, you can guess what will happen. Either way, the player is taught that traps can be placed by their enemies. Fortunately, you can shoot these mines before going down to where they are. Enough mines are placed so that players will most likely accidentally shoot the mines, destroying them. This is War Ender’s way of saying “don’t worry, you’ve still got the advantage.”

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At last, you’re introduced to one more enemy - the grenade enemy type. They toss grenades at you in an arc, requiring careful approach in order to defeat them. They’re first shown off three in a row, straight in a line, to show the player what they do. Immediately after this they’re interacting with two turret enemies. You’ll also notice that the roof is awfully low here, subtly telling the player that attempting to jump over the enemies will most likely reward them with a grenade to the legs.

With the new enemies introduced, the rest of the level is dedicated to tossing level design and enemies, both new and old, at you in ways you hadn’t seen previously. For example, one area requires you to shoot some mines in order to make an area to stand on. In another, you have a grenade enemies threatening to hit from across and below a platform along with a moving turret discouraging mindless jumping. And after that, you get to the final part of this level. Brace yourself for an onslaught of enemies like you’ve never seen before!

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It starts off simple. A couple of turrets, some shooters, nothing you’ve never seen before. Then all of a sudden you’re greeted with a pit full of enemies. How in the world do you get through all of that? In truth, at the time of making the level I wasn’t sure myself. I almost cut this part out but a friend told me he thought it an interesting segment. He compared it to lava pits in other platforms and said this enemy pit is far more interesting. Due to that compliment, I ended up keeping it in. And I’m glad I did too. Most players were well acquainted with the shoot-float mechanic by this point, so they would intuitively figure out to simply shoot-float past them, picking them off as they navigate the platforms. A health pack is found in this area to allow them some room for error.

In case you don’t want to simply glide over them, the option is available to take the pit head on and vanquish all enemies. To this day I find it rather cathartic to do. To a newcomer it certainly won’t be easy, but the feeling of satisfaction after doing it is immense. This simply would not have worked anywhere else in the level. It had to happen immediately after getting a checkpoint, learning the enemy types, and sharpening your skill with the game’s mechanics. Remove any of those three things and this segment could have been not fun very quickly.

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Regardless of whether you fly over them or defeat them all, you’ve made it past the second level of the game. Cyrus stands there at the end informing you of where The Outsiders are going and thus the stage is set for the third level. As a fun little bonus this is one of two levels where you can reach the top of the flagpole, Super Mario style. You certainly don’t have to, but doing so will change Cyrus’s dialogue a bit with him asking you to come down from there. A fun little easter egg exclusive to this level that simply came about because I had a floating platform near the end that had no other purpose. Sure I could have just deleted it, but where’s the fun in that?

In an effort to continue wowing the player, War Ender’s second level throws a lot at you. And while individually I think the game handles these introductions fine, it would have been better to save a few of these new things for later levels. In an alternate timeline there’s another version of this game that primarily focuses on showing the player indoor level design and, at most, two new enemy types. But that’s not the level I created. Still, it seems to have worked out because I noticed that by the time someone finishes this level War Ender typically has gotten its hooks into them. At this point the player must now brace for a couple more new enemies and a new environment object. But that level’s dissection is for another time.

Later!

-Lance T.

War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Milestones reached!

What’s going on?

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War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Now that I’ve begun to get settled in, it’s been good to be back in the wonderful world of game development properly. And given the updates coming next, it was a good time to jump back in. Perhaps I should just say it now. During the month of March we had two, count ‘em, two major milestones achieved. To say that I’m pleased would be quite an understatement. So what happened? Let’s start with what’s probably the simpler one to explain.

The first major milestone I want to go over is for a game that I’ve not said much about. For this larger game that I’ve been working on, I can finally come out and say that all the gameplay for this game is complete on a basic level. All player abilities are operational, even if not fully fleshed out. Some simple enemies have been created which can be expanded upon later, and the upgrade system (you read that right) is in place. There’s a basic gameplay loop in action. What comes after this? At the moment, I’m still figuring that out. This event, as of this writing, only happened a few days ago. Just in time for the dev blog, am I right? While I still can’t show or tell much, I figure we could celebrate this momentous occasion by giving you a very, very alpha screenshot.

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Have I mentioned that it’s 3D? I’m sure I’ve brought up the basics of the game before but if I’m honest I really don’t know which dev blog entry that could be. But yes, as you can gather from the screenshot (again, extremely alpha), the game is a first person shooter (FPS). Astute eyes can probably tell that this project is using Unreal Engine 4, which felt perfect for the kind of game I wish to make. You have your health, a gun with infinite ammo (between this and War Ender, I’m quite generous with ammo), a compass, and another gun with…fire ammo? Hmm, interesting.

We’ll leave this big game alone for the time being. It still needs plenty of time in the oven, after all. Let’s move on to Impressions, a game that I allow myself to say much more about. It also hit a major milestone, though what was achieved is a little less obvious. In a nutshell, the game is far along enough that I was able to come up with a basic demo for it. This demo isn’t available to the public though, sorry. It was created to show a certain artist what the game was all about. However, the fact that it could be created at all speaks well to the game’s progress.

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To create this demo, a few things needed to be done. First, character customization needed to be allowed. A very important aspect of Impressions is letting the player be themselves in the game. And that all starts with the basics, such as your gender and name. Now Impressions addresses you as he or she, and will call you by your name. Or, if you like, you can have the game refer to you as “Butter.” It’s up to you. Once you’ve got your character created, the game begins.

From there, the progress continues. The first in-game day is fleshed out and ready. The characters now correctly respond to your various actions. So if, for example, you start the game talking about the greatness of aliens coming only to then suddenly call them mean names, the game will call you out on your inconsistency. The remaining days still need this aspect worked on, but it’s coming along. In addition, three of the four in-game days are playable from beginning to end. All that remains is day four, which is effectively the part where you get your ending. So, everything leading up to the game’s final moments is playable, and it’s just the ending section that needs working on.

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The next major steps involve getting the game’s endings in order and allowing the remaining days to have the same responsiveness of the the first day. Doing all this could be potentially tricky since you have to program the game to be mindful of more and more choices as the story progresses. But once those things are done, the only other tasks remaining are polish. That includes technical polish as well as writing polish. And of course, there will be music, sounds, and art that doesn’t look like it was made by a programmer. Numerically there isn’t that many tasks left to do for Impressions!

But let’s not underestimate the work that remains. Just because you can count the number of things to do on your fingers doesn’t mean the path will still be easy. Making sure Impressions reacts to the player correctly for the remaining days will most likely be the hardest task and could take some time. All I can say is that the game is ready when it’s ready. How long that may be is something I don’t even know. But with this milestone completed, Impressions is that much closer to being finished.

Until next time!

-Lance T.

War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

On Environments and Game Development

I’ve had an interesting last few weeks.

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War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Part of the fun of writing a dev blog for February is that you don’t have as much to say since it’s a shorter month. Granted, it’s only a few days shorter, but less time is less time. So what’s been going on in February in the world of Infinite Level? Well, I have a simple answer for that. I moved. The apartment I had stayed in for the last few years was nice, but it was time for an upgrade. Thus, my wife and I have gotten our own house. Now I can be as loud as I want!

In all seriousness, the moving process is long and exhausting. Technically I’m not even done as we haven’t finished unpacking. I would be lying if I said much had happened in the game development scene. But the whole process got me thinking about what a game developer must do while still going through a monumental change. Eventually I settled on something very simple. The moving process gave me time to reflect on the past and think about the future.

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The events that happened before the big move were obviously a big deal. War Ender came out. That was easily one of the biggest things to happen in my life. And thankfully, the positive reception I had seen from before releasing War Ender carried over into launch day and beyond. Not too long after that, a batch of extra levels was released for War Ender which revived some old levels that didn’t make the final cut. It also showed off a “concept level” that was created when War Ender hadn’t even gotten it’s official title yet.

Sadly, due primarily to the need to work on other things, that first batch of extra levels for War Ender was also the last. There’s still some other levels that were scrapped that could have seen the light of day had I allowed myself the time to create them. But there comes a point where, as a game developer, you have to decide when to let a game go and move on. For my first game, that first batch of extra levels was that point. I can still say that War Ender does the things I ultimately wanted it to do.

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War Ender’s development comes to a close, and in remembrance I keep a few things that I had related to the game. This includes the banner I used at conventions and a little sign I made for the game. Unsurprisingly I place these items in my new office, reminding both myself and those who come in where I came from as a game developer. Well, partially at least. Now with that game complete, some new ones arise and prepare to take center stage.

Last month I revealed Impressions, the first of my intentionally small games about a trio of pundits talking about extraterrestrial aliens. Much like how buying a house represents a fundamental change in both how I live and how I view certain things, Impressions represents a shift in how I make video games. Impressions is much more story driven than anything else I’ve ever made. While that makes things like game mechanics and programming easier, it still has its own set of unique issues that I will have to tackle. During February I finished coding in the basic story beats of Day 3. On top of that I also made several passes through the game already and took note of which places need to change more based on player choices.

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I’m also beginning to think harder about what kinds of polish will be needed as the game goes on and how I wish to handle the game’s release. Being a smaller game there’s less pressure for it to make as much noise as War Ender. Yet at the same time you still want to be sure it gets in people’s game libraries. It’s a far cry from how War Ender was when thinking long term. In fact, just about everything with Impressions differs greatly from War Ender. Just like, you guessed it, house life versus apartment life. The two require different things and different approaches to those things.

It will be interesting to see how my development sensibilities change now that I’m in a new environment. And it will perhaps be even more interesting how I fare with a more story driven game compared to a mechanics focused title. It certainly is the season of change right now, and it is quite exciting. Now that I’m beginning to settle in, I look forward to seeing where Impressions goes over the next month. Look forward to more updates in the future!

Ciao!

-Lance T.

War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

Infinite Level's Next Game - Impressions

It’s funny that last month I was talking about first impressions…

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War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809

I know I originally said I would hold off on showing anything about the small project. But after thinking about it for a month and getting the opinions of others, I feel I may have misspoken. So, without further ado, allow me to show you what I’ve been working on for the last few months. Just bear in mind that everything you’re seeing here is in the alpha stages of development. Not that this should come as a surprise to you. Just look at that programmer art.

This is the alpha version of Impressions. Impressions is a game where you take control of what is essentially a pundit. You and two other pundits have the pleasure to discuss one of the greatest moments in human civilization. It has been confirmed that aliens are real. Not only that, but we were able to communicate with these aliens. And so the world (well, most of it) now acknowledges that we truly are not alone in this universe. But not everyone agrees on how we should approach this life changing discovery.

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The game is split into four days, with each day relating to alien activity in some way. For example, the first day is all about initial thoughts on knowing we’re not alone in the universe. When a day begins, you’re shown a brief article about what you will be discussing and some early thoughts from some of the off screen characters in the world. Navigate to another screen to check out what the general public is saying about the event on the internet. Suffice to say, initial impressions (ha) are quite divided.

After reviewing this information, you move on to your job. You and two others are gathered around a newsroom to discuss these events. As you may have guessed, the discussion gets quite heated. On the left is someone who believes this can only be good news for humanity as a whole. She is already fantasizing about the great things our species can accomplish thanks to this newly formed relationship. To the right lies someone less than thrilled about the news. He believes this could mark the beginning of the end, and that we cannot simply trust these aliens. At least not now.

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This is where you come in. You’re effectively the mediator. As the discussion continues, you will be asked to give your thoughts on the situation. But of course, you have a lot of eyes on you. What you say will be heard across the world. And perhaps even more intimidating (or exciting, depending on your point of view), the aliens will be witnessing your commentary as well. So what will you say? Do you side with the woman to the left and think this is positive news? Or perhaps you agree with the man to the right and think this is a bad thing all around? Maybe you’re just not sure yet?

What you say will affect the story and world around you. Sometimes those consequences are felt immediately, while other times you don’t see the end result of your decision till later. In the above gif, the conversation happening is suggesting that the player has a generally positive take on this news, and the dialogue following that choice reflects that. Though gameplay is relegated to this newsroom, you’ll get a peek at how your choices affected the rest of the world during the “pre-day” segments. On Day 2, the article you read will change based off your choices, and the public reaction will be different depending on your leanings and even some of the individual choices you make. The whole world is watching what you do. No pressure.

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As noted earlier, this game is still in the alpha stages. But it became important to start sharing what was coming up. Currently the game has two days of story beats programmed with the third day halfway complete. There’s still several checks that need to be done to make sure the choices the player makes will be felt throughout the game, and obviously a proper artist will be needed for the project. I’m hoping to have a much more polished game to show off within a couple months, but that will certainly be dependent on a few things.

Hopefully you enjoyed this early look at the game. Now that I’ve officially unveiled it I’d like to do more posting about it in future. So be sure to follow me on Twitter to get the latest info. Keep an eye on War Ender’s Facebook page as well as I’ll be sure to post updates on the game there. As stated before, I’d like to finish this game sometime in Spring, and I think I’m well on my way to accomplishing that. Day 3’s story beats are nearly finished, and Day 4 is looking to be fairly easy. Keep an eye on this dev blog as well as the aforementioned social media to see how the game is shaping up. And above all, as exciting as Impressions will be, don’t forget to show War Ender some love.

Until next time!

-Lance T.

War Ender Store Links:

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/884070/War_Ender/

Itch.io: https://prof-smash.itch.io/war-ender

GameJolt: https://gamejolt.com/games/war-ender/355809