Going Indie - An enterchaining first month

We've about 1 month (it's actually more like 5 weeks now) into our indie game dev adventure here at Featherweight and I thought it might be a good moment to start documenting the journey for anyone who's interested. 

What did we actually do?

- Took the jam version of Enterchained and got it ready for an initial release on the windows store

- Added touch controls to Enterchained for Windows Phone store to be eligible for a competition

- Made 2 big Enterchained updates post release, one with a gear system and one with a bunch of new enemies to expand gameplay

- Started prototyping our second project in the gaps

- Got a logo and made this website

That's a whole lotta enterchaining

At this point we've barely scratched the surface of our second project which we'd hoped to be well into developing by now. The main reason being all the time we spent working on Enterchained. Originally we'd intended to just port the jam version to the windows store for a competition and move on, though once we got started porting we ended up fixing a bunch of little things in an attempt to try and make it feel worthy of being on a store and not just feel like a hacky jam game. The more we fixed up little things the more everything that wasn't quite right with it felt out of place. The whole time we were trying to be vigilant about avoiding scope creep so we were avoiding fixing anything that would take more than a day to do. This had the bizarre effect of making Enterchained very low on bugs and other small issues while it still suffered from the gameplay shallowness of it's original game jam form.

Updates part 1 - Gear

Given all the time being spent working on Enterchained we ended up deciding that we needed to try and get it to a point that it could be released properly as a way of giving ourselves some experience at releasing a game - which in turn forced us to go back and add the depth that we'd been avoiding due to the fear of scope creep. From our Windows 8/Windows Phone soft launch we'd seen that even though the game isn't ideal for phone the numbers were significantly higher on the phone version (probably because the windows 8 pc store is a baron wasteland) so we felt like we had to address the single player experience of the game, as that's how most people were actually playing it. We threw around a couple of ideas but decided we could probably smash out a loot system pretty quickly. We gave ourselves a week to complete it, we worked out a simple system that we hoped would add both strategic depth and longevity, and worked flat out managing to finish it off within a week.

The gear menu

The gear menu

Updating the combat

We put up a version for people to playtest on the TigSource forums and got one extremely in depth response which had a bunch of valid complaints about the combat being too shallow, this is something we'd been aware of since the end of the jam but hadn't wanted to address because the combat code was fragile and the knockdown/execute combat model we'd used wasn't particularly easy to expand upon. The thing that made us reconsider was that the playtester on TigSource hadn't even made it to the gear system, which would of helped address some of his issues with the game. At this point we decided that given how much work had gone into the game we really owed it to ourselves to think about what we could do push the combat over the edge.

Like the gear system we only considered options that were possible to implement in a few days so fundamentally changing the combat was out. Instead we focused our efforts on adding new types on enemies that would spice up the combat. In the end we only added 2 new types of enemies the slashers who walked slashing constantly and then stopped, and the giants who have to be attacked from behind and kill the player instantly if they hit. It took 3 days to get the new enemies implemented and the levels redesigned to work with them but result was really good. Having 3 different special units (the 2 new ones plus the "lion-heads") gave a lot more variety to the combat and made map positioning a much bigger aspect of the game. At the same time having more unit types to play around with made it possible to design an opening level progression that felt like it had a deliberate structure and flow for the player. Overall I think this was a big win and I can't believe we didn't do it earlier given how little time it actually took once we sat down and thought through what we could do within the bounds of what had already been built. It was a matter of taking a step back and looking at the project as a whole rather than endlessly tweaking and bugfixing which allowed us to improve the game significantly in a short amount of time. 

Getting ready for launch

At this point Enterchained is basically all wrapped up now and we're just waiting to get some advice from people on how to get it out there properly. It's taken a bit longer than we'd expected but I think we're both pretty happy with the final result given it's only been a 1 month project. It will be out within a week or two, so find a friend and warm up your sword arms.