May 1, 2013 - Financial hiatus

I’m taking a little bit of a break from Archaos at the moment as more immediate priorities have arisen – notably my financial status! As you probably know, I quit my full time job in September of last year to work on Archaos, and indeed I’ve made a lot of progress; as much if not more in my abilities as a programmer as on the game itself.

As it stands, I need to do a partial rewrite on the client, as some aspects of it (mainly legacy stuff from last year) have become unmaintainable. Sounds drastic but I assure you this is only a minor setback; lots of Archaos is done and working to my satisfaction (the server for example is in a pretty good state at the moment, and the implemented features are working very efficiently) however the rigours of dealing with stateful asynchronous stuff all over the place (via the network, player inputs, waiting for animations and so on) combined with the lack of any kind of pattern have led to a game which as it stands is becoming near impossible to debug. Action must be taken, and that will begin with the application of a proper MVC pattern to the client game code.

In order to continue to be able to work on Archaos, I’ve taken on some web jobs (which bizarrely appeared totally out of nowhere from friends right as my savings were about to dry up) but this is a temporary thing and as soon as they’re done, I’ll be back onto Archaos and aiming for a beta release.

I can only apologise for the seemingly endless false starts and broken deadlines for those of you who’re following this project – it’s embarrassing to keep having to explain myself. My focus is however still solidly on getting Archaos finished and released, and then getting to the bit I’ve been really looking forward to; extending the game through new modes, features, spells and units!

Stay tuned!

December 10, 2012 - Why am I here, and what is my purpose?

In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. Immediately the laws of physics ensured that everything would work the way it does. Without physics, the universe wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be able to ask the question. From the physics that cause the stars to shine and eventually die came chemistry. Every element of every molecule in every compound in the universe came from a dying star. The abundance of elements and the laws of chemistry resulted in biology – life. For billions of years physics, chemistry and biology interacted, resulting in all of the people you have known, all the pets you’ve owned, all of the birds you’ve heard sing, and all of the insects you’ve unwittingly stood on.

You’re here because physics, chemistry and biology have been at work shaping energy and matter for 13.75 billion years, and will continue to do so long after you are gone. Your purpose is to enjoy your short waking moment in time, to learn and to explore, and to recognise that you are part of a magnificently ancient, complex and purposeless universe that has produced you with your own complexity and consciousness, and given you the ability to comprehend your place in it and choose your own purpose.

November 27, 2012 - The ultimate Chaos creature infographic!

I’d love to share this little stroke of absolute genius from one of Archaos’s longest serving (and thus longest suffering) fans – and incidentally a very talented programmer in his own right and major Chaos buff:

Click the image to view the huge (7680 px wide) original

@andy_herbert has painstakingly put this ‘cheat sheet’ of all of the original game’s units together showing graphics, stats, movement and combat ranges for each one, and grouping them together into this attractive infographic. I think it’s wonderful, and I’m going to print a large version of it out for my wall to use during testing!

Alpha is now under way with a small number of testers. So far we’ve played a few furtive ‘games’ (in the loosest sense – no casting, no ranged combat yet!) and apart from a few silly bugs, all seems to be well. I’m putting the finishing touches onto the standard movement/combat model in the next day or two (including finally adding ranged attacks) and then I’m going to implement casting.

Casting brings with it the somewhat-more-complex-than-it-seems matter of the user interface – which of course is critical to any game and which if not implemented correctly can really hinder this game. The interface in Archaos has to be intuitive, compact, and it has to get out of the way when you’re trying to play the game itself. As a cross platform mobile and desktop game, the way a player will interact with the game will differ slightly amongst platforms, however I want to ensure that the differences aren’t too jarring, and that each platform plays to its own strengths.

One of the methods to improve the experience is the use of gestures, so a player can pan and zoom the map intuitively, like they’re used to – and it may also through testing lead to methods of reducing the chance of accidentally performing an action, such as by having a user tap and hold on a unit or tile and then drag outside of a circle in order to perform the action (to ensure that the unit or tile tapped is the intended target, and that the user hasn’t just accidentally tapped the screen somewhere).

As I realise people like to see screenshots of progress as well as words, here’s a view of a typical alpha testing game session (with debug data above the units) showing the newly added window bezel to the mini-map, which is the basis of the UI, as well as the new ‘volumetric’ cursors and the big ‘cancel’ button.

My horse prepares for its gallop towards the hopelessly outnumbered cyan wizard


September 27, 2012 - Going solo

Over the last 6 months, I’ve been putting together plans to do something pretty radical, and as of a few weeks ago, those plans reached a head. I have now left my previous employer, the wonderful Cool Blue, and I’ve set out to work on Archaos and other projects full time, as an independent game developer.

It’s a big and somewhat scary step for anyone to abandon a guaranteed monthly income in pursuit of something which may likely end up falling flat on its face, but on the other hand games have been pretty much my whole life for a long time.

Earlier this year I held a LAN party at my house for a few of my long time mates, all of whom I met through games (most via Quake 2) and it happened to be just after this year’s E3. On the Sunday morning I was up before most people, and I sat watching trailers and coverage of games like WatchDogs, The Last of Us and X-Com: Enemy Unknown and started to yearn to be a part of this industry. Gaming is what I’ve always done, and what I want to do.

I’m now in the early stages of setting up my own business and I’m both refactoring and redesigning what I’ve now spent what amounts to many years of time, effort and planning on, with a cross-platform (desktop and mobile) release of a fully working, multiplayer Archaos as my primary goal.

The plan is still to allow players on all platforms to play together, and to switch from one platform to another (so a game can begin on your desktop, then you can continue to play turns on the train to work via your phone for instance) and to make use of the features afforded by devices (e.g. push notifications when it’s your turn) and I think in that respect, there’s not much else out there that I can find that offers that kind of seamless strategy gaming experience.

Anyway, just to give a bit of a taste of what I’ve been working on…

Note that these are still early concepts and some things are likely to change, but I’m much happier with the look of Archaos now that I feel I have a consistent style.

Stay tuned for more news, as well as a big update to this site coming soon!