War Ender is Available Now!
War Ender is out now on Steam, Itch.io, and Game Jolt! First, allow me to post some links:
How exciting! A game I had been working on for over a year can finally be in player's hands. To celebrate the game's release, I thought I'd take a little time to recount the journey as well as give some shout outs to some people that helped out. Finally, we'll round this off with that I'm looking to do in the future. So without further delay, let's start with the story of War Ender's development.
Once upon a time, in late 2016, something needed to change. I had just gotten out of a rough development cycle, and was frankly feeling a little down. The game I had been working on was canned, which is always an unfortunate end to a project. It was a shame too, because I felt it was a really neat project with some cool ideas in it. But after all that, I began to question my game development career up to that point. With every new project, I'd always try to outdo myself in terms of complexity of the project. But after this last game, I felt that maybe it was time to take a step back (or two) and do something simpler. Thus, I started making a platformer.
I wasn't content with just making another platformer though, so I decided to add some shooting elements to the game. Next thing you know, I have a basic game starring a red square that can jump and shoot. So naturally, I started making a few basic enemies. One enemy that could shoot, and another that would just walk around. After that, I started thinking about how to make this game with platforming mechanics have, well, platforming elements. I wanted to try and do something different...but what?
"Hm" I said. "How about he floats in the air by firing down?" It was a dumb sounding idea, but at the same time I wasn't making this game with the intent to be smart. At this time, it was still just a small side project that I'd probably put out for free or something. I didn't actually expect to make characters, worlds, and an entire story. But reality had different plans for me. One day, I hear about an upcoming convention happening near me. I decided to take a stab at it and submit what was currently called Action Square to the convention people. So I made some more enemies, a few more levels, and sent my little game to the curators.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't make the cut. It was pointed out to me that it's hard to get interested in a game with a square as the main character. Only Thomas was Alone can do that. So, that's when the idea came to make Red an actual human and not a literal square. So, I gave him along with the other enemies a bit of a redesign. Suddenly, there were humans populating this world I inhabited. And the moment that happened was when I thought "you know...maybe I should see this project more realized." That was about the moment when Action Square would be moved from a small side project I did for the heck of it to a full commercial release. The first one I had ever done, in fact. Oh, and obviously it was no longer called Action Square. It was renamed to War Ender.
And so began the full development of War Ender. It's honestly hard for me to recount what happened and when up until a certain point...the website's launch. You see, I knew I had to get a website together for a game that I was going to sell. But that wasn't the only reason that I was putting together a website. I was going to off to a convention soon. This would be the first time that I had ever put together a booth (I bet it showed). So next thing you know I'm making business cards, a website, and working hard to get the game to a presentable state.
The convention went well and the website started seeing more traffic. Now it was time to start working on the game's story and make the remaining levels. Life carried on this way, with the occasional trip to the St. Louis Science Center to help to promote the game. Now and then I'd add a new element to the game, whether it be a brand new enemy type or an entire mechanic. It was during this time that the idea to allow the player to do a dodge was implemented, adding to the complexity of the game.
Truth is, there's not a whole lot of major moments in the game's development beyond that, at least until the beta. Bonus levels did get a major overhaul, the soundtrack would see its completion, and much more. When War Ender began its beta phase, that's when things went from interesting to borderline insane. And I mean that in a good way. The game is very different from how it looked just a few months ago, right down to the art.
I didn't get many beta testers, but the ones I did get were all amazing and brought something very important to the table. I'll be dedicating a section of this blog to them, so let's wrap up the development story and get to their shout outs. It was thanks to the beta testers that War Ender got drastically improved and, if you can believe, easier to maintain. Next thing you know, the story was being delivered differently, controls were being reworked, and the dodge mechanic would get an upgrade. It's thanks to the beta testers that all my favorite parts of the game are presented the way they are.
Finally, I got an artist to join on board. It just so happened to be my brother-in-law. I had no idea he did pixel art, so when he came to me and asked if I was interested in having him on board, I thought "yes, absolutely." Next thing you know I'm getting images showing me the improvements to the visuals that were coming. I'd pass this along to one of the beta testers (who happened to be an artist herself) and she'd give advice on how else to approach the game's look. The original plan was to completely overhaul the game's visuals, but due to some real world things happening in the background, it didn't quite happen as planned. But hey, we got what we could and the game looks a lot better for it.
The final moments of development happened really fast, but thankfully with no major hiccups. There were certainly some...interesting bugs (fire for some reason stopped working the way it normally would), but nothing completely game breaking happened. Finally, on July the 26th, 2018...I woke up. I headed over to the computer and opened up all the different store pages. My wife, Katy, came along to join in on the launching fun. And then...the game was out.
And as of this writing, it has been out for a little over 24 hours now. I already posted the store links above, and of course I would highly encourage you to give the game a look. But now, it's time to take a moment and personally thank a few people. Obviously, I have to give a shoutout to Katy, my lovely wife, who not only playtested the game but was also great morale support. Everybody needs to thank her, for it's thanks to her that War Ender has the level balance that it has. Trust me, this game was much harder before her playtesting...
Another shoutout goes to Wesley, the man behind the game's improved visuals. He came in very last minute, and I both thank him for his courage and of course his lovely work. Next up are the beta testers, who each contributed something to the game. I already mentioned Katy, so now we move on to my good friend Harsh Gupta, responsible for helping me get War Ender's story together (it was a bit messy for a while...). Harsh can be found here. A thank you to Jenny Gibbons, who helped give art input when the artist initially came on board as well as feedback on control layouts. Having good control layouts is pretty important for a game like this, so her feedback was extremely helpful. She actually just put out a game herself, which I will link right here. Go give it a look.
Then there's Matt Schelsky, the man responsible for the input that would improve the game's dodge mechanic. I met him along with the rest of the Daemon Club crew at the Gamer Grace Convention in Illinois. You can find him here. And of course, though I may not know their names, I must give a shoutout to everyone who played an early build of the game and gave input, whether it was at a convention or through e-mail.
So here we are...game is out, it's done...where do we go from here? Well, let's start with War Ender itself. If Wesley chooses to, we can still work on the game's art and get it to look even more beautiful. Aside from that, I don't know how much updating War Ender will get beyond bug fixes and the like. It might be dependent on a few different things. I haven't quite decided yet, but I'm sure you'll learn one way or another. As for this website and dev blog? Though the website itself may not get much in the way of updates, I intend to maintain this dev blog for a little while longer. I have no clue what I'll write about, but it could become a space to share what's coming up in the future.
But what about beyond War Ender? Well, I have a few ideas. I've been inspired by none other than Mike Bithell himself lately with how he's handled his last couple of games. Make some small titles and release them has been the general gist of what he's been doing lately. I've taken a fondness to that idea, so I may try something similar. Obviously, he has a much larger following and can do stuff like that more easily. Of course I'd try to get the new games I make in front of people when ready.
This isn't to say I'm done with large projects. Far from it. I just think it would be good for me to work on smaller games that take a short amount of time to make. In between those I intend to work on a larger project that I suspect will outdo War Ender in a number of ways. The ambition is much higher this time, but I think I can pull it off. I won't say much about any of the projects for a while, but I will go ahead and say this. The big project is intended to be an FPS, and the first small project will be about aliens. I won't say anymore about them until they begin to be presentable.
With these new games, a new website will more than likely be made. I intend to have a central hub for all my works. When I will put this site together remains a mystery. And with that, I think that about wraps everything up. I did say in my last dev blog that this would be a bonus and you'd still get another dev blog next week. I still have no clue what I'll write about, but I'll come up with something. I may have to adjust how frequently I post here after that, but we'll cross that bridge when it comes. Until then, don't forget to check out War Ender at the links above, and do tell your friends and frenemies about the game. I'd really appreciate it!
Until next time!