War Ender

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!

New Story Execution, Improving the Dodge Mechanic

Let's take a break from beta reports to talk about new stuff!

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Over the last few weeks I've been hard at work making some major changes to War Ender, specifically in how its delivered its story. First, a little background. One beta tester and friend approached me and started asking about the story. As I began explaining it, he would begin to raise questions about certain elements. In other words, he found some serious plot holes. And I for one have never heard of "good plot holes."

So we talked about it a little bit. Eventually he suggested "okay, if the game's focus is on the mechanics and not so much the story...then don't tell the story." That may sound a bit strange, but hear me out. He wasn't proposing to get rid of the story entirely, but to communicate in a different way. One that's not so direct. If you've played the War Ender demo before the latest update, then you may recall that story delivery was done with walls of text before a level begins, explaining the context of the current mission you're in.

 War Ender story before the newest overhaul

War Ender story before the newest overhaul

In trying so hard to give players a story, I actually see that I failed to explain enough of said story. After a little thought, I came up with a solution. The result is the very thing I'm writing about and can be seen in the War Ender demo currently. The text walls that begin each level have been mostly redone to now show the current objective. As for exposition, I leave that to the gameplay to explain to you. Characters will speak now and again, but not like a cutscene. It happens during gameplay, and if you don't care about the story then you can easily skip right past it. Heck, in several moments I allow the player to cut them off by blasting them!

Efforts will be made to make the main story clearly understood to the player, but not directly and in such a way that some details may be interpreted differently between players. However, there's still the problem of bonus level lore that players would gain. Initially, in addition to having a unique and interesting level to play through after destroying a certain number of checkpoints, the game would use its story moments to give additional background information on characters and factions. But after this story overhaul, that system no longer worked. So what does one do then to make playing through the bonus levels worth it?

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Why yes, there's a lore book for all the lore lovers out there! Unlock pages by destroying checkpoints and completing bonus levels and get details on enemies, characters, and more! It's a completely optional part of the game and, like I said before, if you don't care about the story then it's very easy to ignore. Just enjoy tackling the various challenges within War Ender and not get bogged down by the details if that's what you wish. Player choice is a lovely thing, ain't it?

There's still another part of this blog though that also comes a beta tester. This comes from somebody different. He e-mailed me with a list of helpful feedback not too long ago. The bulk of the e-mail was made up of comments about the dodge mechanic and where it could be improved. So I thought "okay, let's experiment." Thus, I settled on incorporating bullet time into the dodge mechanic. In playtesting I have found that not only does it look cool, but it also gives you time to both reorient yourself so you know where you are as well as an extra moment to decide what your next action will be.

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Once again this will mean that I'll need to go in and update the demo as soon as I'm able. There'll be a handful of things that will need to be done first before this can happen, so bear with me! I look forward to hearing thoughts about this new mechanic. It may seem a bit strange to be adding something like this so late in development, but I'm willing to do things to make the game better. And besides, once I got started playing around with the idea I couldn't let it go, so not putting it in the game would've made me feel like I left something important out.

We've reached June now and War Ender is now gearing up for its inevitable release. Though I do have an exact date in mind, I won't publicly declare a release date until later when I know it will work. In light of these new changes, there's a handful of things that need taking care of on top of the usual bugs and tweaks that need to be made. I will tell you however that we're so close I can almost taste it! Hopefully you enjoyed having a break from beta reports to dive into a few late new things making their way into the game.

 

Until next time!

-Lance T.

Beta Report #2

Continuing the chronicles of War Ender's beta.

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Hello again, and welcome to the second beta report for War Ender! If you haven't seen the first beta report yet, give it a look here. This shall be a direct continuation of this series that will hopefully tide over excited players until War Ender is finally released this Summer. I think the format that we used in the previous Beta Report worked fine, so let's continue using it.

Once again, we'll start with some good old fashioned numbers. Since the last dev blog, I've managed to make a total of just 47 items completed. These items include bug fixes and tweaks, as per usual. However, the reason this number is so much lower than last time is because I've been working on some major changes to certain aspects of War Ender, and thus that work has taken up the bulk of development time. It may seem like it's rather late in the game to be doing any sort of overhaul, but I do believe it will ultimately make the game much better for it. In fact, beta testers have already told me that it's much better!

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I can't talk about the big changes right now as there's still a few kinks to work out. However, I intend to talk about it in the next dev blog, taking a break from taking about bug fixes and the like. This time around, the small things accomplished include adding a bunch of new things to the final boss as well as the final bonus level. There's also been some new sounds included in all the new bosses. There's one that can be heard in each boss battle...a special sound that plays whenever you clear a boss phase. In the case of Wall of Lasers, for example, this sound plays whenever you destroy a core.

There were also some humorous bugs that were fixed that I almost felt bad patching out. It was discovered recently that the player could slide along the ground after shooting in the air, creating an...odd looking visual. I kind of wish I got a gif of it, but seeing as I haven't updated the demo yet (more on that in a bit), you could probably recreate it now. This next bug may not be considered humorous by some, but it amused me at the time. For some reason, no matter what you did, the game would not record any checkpoints you destroyed in the final boss. It turns out this was due to the way the game was saving data before [REDACTED].

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Like last time, there were also several level adjustments made throughout. Most of it was small, such as adjusting a health pack location or moving an enemy a little bit in one direction or another. It is, as they say, the little things that keep you going, so I want to make sure the little things are as squared away as possible. There were also some small changes made to keyboard controls for the game. Now the left and right shift keys are used for dodging instead of Q and E. I've also set the enter key to be the key used in menus and for starting the game.

I mentioned I would talk about the public demo, and now that there's little else to talk about I think now's a good time to address it. Before writing this dev blog the original intention was to update the public demo with all the new fixes and changes present. However, this got delayed since there arose a need to overhaul a few items, which I vaguely talked about earlier. Now the plan is to finish work on those and then update the demo. I don't have an exact time in mind, but it would at least be nice if it can be updated sometime next week. Unfortunately, these things can be hard to predict, but that's the goal for now at least.

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I think that will do it for this Beta Report. Feels a little smaller than the last one, but that's primarily because there's something big just around the corner for War Ender. I look forward to fanboying over it in the next dev blog with all you lovely folk. It should be worth the two week wait. Plus, I'll still be toiling away at the bugs and needed tweaks. War Ender is really shaping up to be something wonderful, I genuinely believe that.

 

Until next time!

-Lance T.

Beta Report #1

How has the beta been going so far?

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Greetings and salutations everyone! Welcome to the first beta report for War Ender. This is what I plan to write about during the bulk of War Ender's beta phase right up until release. I'm going to consult my dev log during this blog and share any tales that may have formed during the course of this part of development. Without further ado, let's get started!

Let's start with some numbers, shall we? If you read my last dev blog, I mentioned how bugs have a funny way of creeping into a game. Well, it looks like they didn't stick around for very long. When combining level tweaks, minor changes to UI and gameplay, and bugs, there are a total of one hundred items fixed since the previous dev blog. That's...quite a few. It amazes me just how many little things need taking care of when you start to get closer to the end of a game's development. Though I can't give any sort of numbers on how many bugs are left since, well, I don't know, you can at least read this knowing that one hundred less problems will be found on launch day. And we're only just getting started!

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Some of the big changes include dramatically changing some behavior with the Shielded Flamethrower Enemies, updating some mechanics for bosses, sound effects for menus, and changing the dodge controls on keyboard. The Shielded Flamethrower Enemies now fire straight up as opposed to an angle. This change came because I felt collision with the flames of the flamethrower could be a little wonky in places, and thought it'd be much easier to shoot the flames straight up. The mechanical changes to bosses mostly include updates to the camera and little more, though of course they've all had some tweaks done to them. Adding sound effects for menus came about just because I like more feedback when pressing buttons on a menu, and the dodge controls were changed due to a request from a beta tester! This new control scheme will be seen in the demo soon.

As far as the kind of bug fixes being done go, a lot of them were related to visuals. Strange lines in walls, UI being out of place, and so on made up most of the small bugs seen in the game. I also had to go through and make sure the process of saving and loading data was working as intended. There was a brief period where the game would show all kinds of incorrect data, but after a while it got fixed and the game now saves and loads game data properly. Now you won't have to worry about your destroyed checkpoints being totaled up incorrectly!

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There were also tons of level adjustments made throughout the game. These include adding additional platforms in some areas, removing enemies, and making light adjustments to checkpoint locations. All of this was done to ensure the game maintains a proper sense of balance throughout. It's not easy, but I want to avoid there being any ridiculous difficulty spikes. Though the game is meant to be harder than the average game, you don't want to frustrate the player. This requires pulling off a very, very precise balancing act. As of now, I believe War Ender is going the right direction in terms of fair difficulty. But of course, there's bound to be more changes made as the beta goes on.

To round this all off, how much time has been spent playtesting the game? I certainly can't speak for the others, but for me personally I've already put about fifteen hours total into just playing the game seeking out bugs. And no doubt I'll be putting several more in as time goes on. I'm finding that if I move as quickly as possible, I can get through the game in about an hour and a half. That may not sound like a long play time, but you do have to remember that I've been playing this game since its inception and know it inside and out. I reckon it will take the average player a little longer on their first playthrough.

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With all that said, I think now is a good time to wrap up the first beta report for War Ender. One hundred individual items taken care of in just two weeks sounds like a lot when you say it out loud. It makes me wonder how many more lie inside the game? Guess I'll just have to jump back in and see what can be found! These next couple of weeks will continue with me taking out more bugs and making more gameplay tweaks. Oh, and as for the new art that's coming, provided that the artist is ready we might be able to start showing that off a bit come next dev blog. But, I won't promise anything one way or another, just in case.

 

Until next time!

-Lance T.

War Ender is in Beta! Now What?

War Ender has all its levels, music, and story. In addition, it's got most of its art in place. So what happens now?

 A visual representation of fixing bugs.

A visual representation of fixing bugs.

I've been looking forward to writing this dev blog. For the past month I've been having to think of relevant topics to talk about in these dev blogs since I couldn't exactly reveal what I was currently doing. I mean, I revealed I was working on the ending, but I couldn't show much. So I had to pad out my content a bit until I could finally talk about War Ender entering the beta stage. And now, here we are!

War Ender has actually been here a little while now. At the time of this writing, War Ender has been in beta for two weeks. That means on the same day the last dev blog went live, War Ender finally had its content in place. Talk about timing! So what happens with development from here? What's the roadmap I have for the rest of the game's development? Do I have a more specific release window in mind?

 The recently added screen wipe in action

The recently added screen wipe in action

Let's take this one chunk at a time. Obviously, from here on the focus will be on bug fixes and tweaks to mechanics. Since starting the beta phase, I've already squashed a ton of bugs, and I'm sure there will be plenty more to come. This leads me to my next point...testers. I know my game inside and out, so I'm not sure that I can reliably playtest this game for bugs and the like. Thus, it will be important that I at least get a few people playtest War Ender to help spot out bugs and tweaks needed to be made to mechanics or levels. My wife has been helping me out a lot with that, but it will still take more pairs of eyes. I'll be actively seeking out people to test the game myself, but if you are interested than by all means visit the contact page and shoot me an e-mail with the subject "Beta Request." If I still don't have enough, chances are you'll be added as a beta tester.

Throughout this blog there's been suggestions that the game has "most of the art" and that's true in some sense. Nothing is being represented by blank squares. But you see, there's been a very recent development in War Ender's...development (ha ha). Assuming I don't scare him off, it looks like War Ender has a new artist on board. And friend, let me tell you this guy is way better than I am. As it turns out, my brother in law can do pixel art, something I didn't know about him. I knew he was into art, but I had only ever seen his work a couple times and they were both drawings. So when he asked if War Ender could use an artist, I was rather surprised but also very quickly said something along the lines of "yes, make this game look prettier than I could ever make it look!" Knowing this, expect the game's art to go through a change between now and release day. And in case you got attached to the current art style in any way, I can tell you that the early work he's shown me is looking fantastic and will be a worthy replacement. I'll show it off more in time.

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Speaking of release day, let's talk about that a bit. As War Ender began getting closer to beta, I've been tossing around a summer release window. Since then, that hasn't changed. If anything, I'm able to confidently give an even more specific time. Right now, I am looking at mid to late June as a good time to release War Ender to the world, with the very latest release time being in early July. I'm trying to avoid releasing at the same time as some other major title, and thankfully Summer doesn't have many of those. Still, with the industry the way it is, there's going to be something that someone's thinking about releasing almost every day of the year. And then there's the additional problem of fighting for space on Steam, among other things, which will be...interesting. But that's talk for another time.

As for now, I'll continue spreading word of War Ender wherever I can. Earlier this week I launched War Endr's demo onto the Itch.Io platform while also updating the public demo. There's minor level changes, some UI adjustments for boss fights, and some bug fixes made with the bonus levels in particular in the newest version of the demo. So, if you haven't played War Ender at all yet, or you have but would like to see some of the new changes (I know you do), then head over to the demo page and select one of the two links to download the demo and play the game's first chapter in its most up to date state yet.

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So with all this said, let's lay out a roadmap for the remainder of development. From now until release, it will be all about fixing bugs and making tweaks to levels, mechanics, enemy behaviors, and so on. Balancing the game to perfect balance will also be occurring at the same time. Ideally, I want the game's balance to be where it needs to be a week before launch, with specifically the player's abilities fine tuned two weeks before. While nothing should dramatically change in the game from what's been seen in the current demo, there will undoubtedly be the odd tweak needed to make sure the game is as fun and smooth to play as possible.

During that final week, I'll dedicate time to making sure every bug that can be squashed will be gone. The hope is there won't be anything too difficult, if indeed very many bugs at all. But, as anyone who's made a game before can tell you, such hopes are high. Bugs have a funny way of creeping into your game, and I hear they really like to show up near the end. Even now, my wife has managed to accomplish some things using bugs. Crazier yet, she can do it every time whereas I can never seem to replicate what she does. Maybe I'm married to a speedrunner in the making...but the point is, there will undoubtedly be bugs that reveal themselves for the rest of development but I will make sure the game is as bug free as possible on launch.

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While all those things are happening the art will be going through the changes I was talking about. When that art will start appearing in the demo or even in this website's media page is unknown at this time. I personally don't like the idea of rushing the artist. After all, to quote the cleaner from Toy Story 2: "you can't rush art." Just know that the updated art will be shown when it's time to start showing it off. Like I said before, I really like the updated sprites we'll be seeing, and I'm hoping you will too.

A lot to digest here, I know. This is a pretty big step that effectively marks the beginning of the end. I'm excited and nervous, as you might expect, for the game's impending release. It's only a matter of time now before this is all over. Until then, I still plan to write dev blogs to keep you on board with what's happening, though I'll be the first to admit that it will be interesting finding things to write about. I'm planning on spending most of the dev blogs from here on talking exclusively bug fixes and tweaks, and if there's funny stories attached to them I might tell you about those. But that will all be present next time, so until then...

 

Stay fresh!

-Lance T.

For the Completionists

What's in it for those who want to 100% War Ender?

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Since revamping the bonus levels in the game recently, there's been a question I had been trying to answer for a long time...what happens when you 100% War Ender? I put off answering this question for a long time because, quite frankly, I didn't find it very important. But as we get closer and closer to having all the game's levels in, it's a question I keep coming back to. To recap what's happened in the last couple weeks, War Ender has a playable final boss that can be fought from beginning to end. I've also created two more of the game's bonus levels and even created a Facebook page for the game (I know, the horror!).

This means that the game just needs an ending after you defeat the final boss and one last bonus level put into place. I'm working on those things as we speak. But going back to the original question, what happens when you do everything you can? What's the game's reward for clearing all the main levels, destroying the checkpoints, and clearing the four bonus levels? Well, the answer to that question lies in bonus level 5, the final bonus level the player can unlock.

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To prove that you really are all that, War Ender has one last challenge for you when you do everything else in the game. I won't go into any details at all, but your final challenge in War Ender, should you choose to accept it, comes in the form of an extra boss fight. Now of course, I'm not going to reveal any details about how this boss works here, as I'd like players to discover that for themselves. But I do hope that many feel it is a worthy final battle by the time they reach that point. Anyone that can reach this battle and win is permitted to call themselves a true master of War Ender.

It won't be much longer now before it'll be time to start laying down a general time for when the game is coming out. I've been saying in the summer for a while now but I won't make any concrete announcements until two things happen. First, all the game's levels must be in place. Second, I'll take time to figure out what time will be best to release this in. Once I know that and have the levels ready, I'll start giving out more info. When release day does come, I wish all the completionists out there luck in accomplishing everything War Ender has on offer. It'll be quite a ride, for sure.

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Of course, this extra battle is already going through development. As I said earlier, I just need to put together an ending and finish creating this extra boss. By the time the next dev blog rolls around (feels like I say that a lot lately), there really isn't any reason why I can't be here telling you that the game's levels are all in. From there it will be a matter of playing through the game multiple times, getting it as polished as possible, and then...release! It'll be an exciting time indeed!

A couple blogs ago I mentioned that War Ender was getting revamped bonus levels. This extra boss fight is something that came as a result of going through the bonus levels and giving them a makeover. The feedback I've received throughout this process has been awesome and I hope this can act as one of the ways that I say 'thank you' to you. It pains me that I can't show anything off, but I do look forward to the day when players will be able to experience it for themselves.

 

Until next time!

-Lance T.