Please check out my brand new game for iPhone/iPad!
So yeah, I lost my mind and actually spent my time on this ridiculous idea.
When I was a kid many decades ago, some of the games I enjoyed the most were games like 'Heroes of Might & Magic II' and MTG which seemed like they wouldn't be as hard to make as other game genres.
Because of the nature of cards, I didn't need to have any animation skills to make a card game.
For example, here's my buddy Harry posing for the 'Majestic Aura' aura card in the game. I mostly used stock photography in the same way to get some 'art' for the cards. It's tough sometimes because you need to find something that's for sale and/or has explicitly abandoned its copyright claims, so you don't have an infinite choice of images to work with, but for your first game I think it's a fine option compared to pouring money into an art studio.
Next, I tried some existing games on the app store to see what I'm up against. This can be pretty disheartening because the popular games on the app store are made by actual companies (not by 1 dude in a basement), use powerful game engines like Unity to get a head start on the tech, and invest on getting great looking visuals with cool animations.
I knew that none of these I can possibly compete with - but I did notice some imperfections I thought I actually could improve.
Idea 1: screen sizing
A lot of the games I saw seemed to be designed for PC (where games can actually make money) and ported to iPhone later. Something that commonly bothered me was how tiny the assets looked on my screen, probably exacerbated by my terrible grandpa-level eyesight.
Plenty of games were 'borrowing', from the HOMM series like me, so they had 8x8 tile battle maps on the screen like in the classic games. I decided really early on that I wanted to have tiny maps.
The smallest battle maps in my game ended up having only 4x4 tiles, and the largest (which starts getting too small for the screen to my taste) are 7x7
Idea 2: complexity ramp
One leading game I tried had me start out with 4 different troop types, a hero, a city with 3 building types, and some resources to acquire even more stuff. It all looked great and pretty much like what I wanted to play, but introducing all that stuff at the same time made it feel like studying instead of playing.
On top of that, because of the complexity, they had me go through a tutorial where I didn't have any options (I just had to tap next-next-next to indicate I understood the lesson). This experience seemed to me to take away from their otherwise sweet game.
This gave me the idea to have the player start with 0 cards instead of some kind of 'beginner deck'. Even then, after asking some of my friends to test it, they commented that it became too complex too quickly, so I slowed it down even more.
Idea 3: a harsh game
So another game I really enjoyed as a kid was Diablo II. The game had a 'hardcore' mode where, if you die, you're actually dead and lose the countless hours 'invested' in your character.
Idea 4: No pansy end-boss
Another thing about Diablo II was that even though the game itself was pretty difficult, the final end-boss, you know, the one that the game was named for, was a total pansy. What the hell? I always remember feeling disappointed when contemptuously wiping the floor with him. No such nonsense in my game! The hardest fight is the boss fight.
Idea 5: Secrets
Another easy thing I could do is add secrets everywhere. This doesn't take any great programming skill, so I thought it would be a great fit for my 1-man mission. I tried to mimic the classic 1993 game 'Doom', where players get rewarded for pushing walls randomly until they discover some secret bonus.
Idea 6: Boomer references
So if you read this far, you probably noticed that nostalgia was a pretty big motivational factor for me. During the design, at one point I noticed I had the cards 'Doom' and 'Earthquake'. If I just renamed the 2nd card to 'Quake', it'd become a reference that some boomer gamers out there would appreciate.
I did, and I started renaming cards everywhere in this manner. I even had a card named 'Craft Star' at one point, but I think that was taking it a little bit too far, so I ended up cutting it
I still have a lot of things to be disappointed about.
- I don't understand anything about how networking happens, so my game is single-player only. That's really a shame, because it would probably lend itself pretty well to multiplayer.
- Because I'm all alone, the content is pretty sparse (there are only 8 levels to go through for now).
- I'm good at AI, but I had so much trouble making the basic game and it took me so much longer than I expected that I didn't end up actually making a proper AI. The computer follows some basic rules while playing and that seems to give a reasonable enough result most of the time.
And I could list a lot of other disappointments. But at the end of day, I'm stoked because I actually released a game. That's pretty crazy!
Thanks so much for reading!