Last week, we did a handful of pretty fun things.
First, we gave our game a name. It's been called Alter/Ego while we've been working on it, because that's... uh... a name we came up with, way back when. But the problem with Alter/Ego is that what we're going to ship, initially, isn't going to be the full game as we've envisioned it - and the game simply doesn't make sense if we call it Alter/Ego off the bat. I know that's kind of a weird thing to say, but it is what it is. So we've got a name for the thing we're going to release first. We'll tell you when we have something more to show. Naming stuff is always hard - you bounce around a lot of weird ideas, and in the process work your way to something that resonates. Some of the random things we'd talked about:
- Attack/Move: I know, it's a terrible name for a game. But it's so on-the-nose that it kinda worked. So, one of those names that stuck around for longer than one might expect, just because it's so weird.
- Above Ground: Thematically related, and kind of evocative of the universe the game will be in, but as a name, it doesn't really ... make any sense to a casual observer. There were also a lot of NAME: NAME options, but that's such a tired way of naming things that we scrapped anything that led in that direction. So no Above Ground: Salvation or things like that - it just makes all the words meaningless.
- Dustwalkers: Again, sort of thematically works. This was one of my personal favorites.
- The Days After Mutton Chops: Look, sometimes you're just exploring how far you can take something.
- Salvation: Another top-of-the-list name. Its only downside was that it feels too "Western", like you should be kicking in a saloon door and riding a horse. Not exactly wrong, but not exactly right, either.
- Powersurge: A pretty different direction from the above, but makes a lot of sense with the fiction & the world. Still doesn't really give you any idea of what the game actually is, though.
We'll see if we stick with the name we've picked. I think we're all pretty happy with it, and it's evocative and will hopefully stand out a bit. It's not Clash of (WHATEVER), or (WHATEVER) Crush/Pop/Zip/Burst/Blargle. So in that vein, it's already quite different.
The second thing we did was that we got the game into some beta testers' hands. Getting a distribution that worked together took a bit longer than we thought just because of matchmaking weirdness, but learning how to distribute multiplayer builds that work was stuff we had to learn, I guess. It's been great to have a couple not-us people poking at the game & giving us feedback. We decided mid-last week to make a few changes to how the game works, and we're getting those into the build this week. It's kind of strange because at this point, there's a fight between, "Well, this works and we've got time invested in it!" and "This should change because it's not as good as it could be!" It's always a difficult balance to strike, because you get invested in the way things are, but it doesn't mean that the way things are is good.
So after a spirited discussion, we added a third action you can take (yeah, other than Attack/Move!), and it does a good job of patching up the one place where the game bogs down.
We also got some feedback about the UI - we know the current UI is "serviceable" but not a lot more than that, but seeing other people play the game in person has been super helpful in making effective revisions, and showing what they need to see for the hierarchy of things to be clear. You've got three kinds of "health", which is a bit unusual - and we all understand how it works because duh. But "duh" just means we understand it because we understood it when we started with one thing, and as we've added more each change has made sense. But starting with all three types of health is super confusing at first. It makes sense eventually, but with a few UI tweaks, it can make sense immediately. So seeing that initial confusion was really helpful - testing games with actual users as early as possible really has no substitute. Particularly if you can do it in a way where everyone can see it, there's nothing that's quite as motivating as watching someone be completely confused.
All of this is great, because it's why we release the games we do. There's a point where you just can't "see" whether the game is fun or good, and you need fresh eyes to help you. You need the right eyes on it, because actually understanding what's happening on a game that's in development can be extremely difficult. But as we iron things out, and the game becomes more refined, we'll start opening the gates a little bit more & showing more of what we're up to. As always, check out the bottom of this page for a signup sheet to be part of our beta test!
But so far, we're really happy with how things are going. The game's fun at its core (so far), has a lot of potential for growth, and feels like that growth will keep it fresh and interesting for a long time. And that's just the core card combat mechanic. The other stuff we've got in store that layers on top of that? Well, that'll be another crazy thing entirely.
Next time, we'll talk a little bit about the social features of the game. I know some of you are expecting something like Fleck, and it's not going to be that. But we're building the game around the idea that we want players to get what they used to get out of the games they love, but in super short bursts of time. Social interaction's a huge part of that, and there's no way we're going to have a game that's missing a way to interact with your friends.