Withstand: Minions Quest | An Introduction

I welcome you, the reader, to this diary entry!

So this is our first entry ever. I'm excited and by the way filled up with coffee - so lets see how this one goes.
I know, that this entry is less of a technical thing (at least less than I originally intended to write), but I think that it is important to give you an overview on what we are developing beforehand.

First of all, who are we? We are MVG Interactive, a small team of 3 guys from Austria, Europe (thus please excuse any grammatical errors :-) that develop software (not only games) in our spare time (for the moment).
As a new years resolution I (that is, Michael) promised to write a developer diary on a more or less regular base. And here I sit...
I am going to write a diary entry at least once a week, maybe twice - most likely a Thursday or Sunday, based on the amount of things that happen.

What is Withstand: Minions Quest? Withstand: Minions Quest is a tower defense game featuring a group of heroic young boys and girls (all somewhere around 10 years old) that like to dress up as knights, magicians and other "DnD classes". One day, Willy the Wizard shows them a great spellbook he found in his grandfathers basement. Using this mighty book, they construct a portal to another world, hoping for unicorns and elves, but instead find a destroyed, burned world ruled by the great Warchief, the most evil Orc one can image. The Warchief steps through the portal and, eventhough the boys manage to close the original one, he keeps opening more and more smaller ones, trying to swamp Earth with evil creatures. The boys decide to fight the evil Warchief on a journey that takes them across several dimensions.

Withstand: Minions Quest contains a main storyline that is played by the player, starting out with only two heroes and progressively obtaining more and more, as he progresses. The heroes collected by the player must be trained (by using them in combat) to reach higher levels and unlock abilities. Each hero has one special ability which comes in handy from time to time. We decided against using a Rock, Paper, Scissors system and rather go with a more balanced one that requires the player to act and think most of the time, as the maps are short but intense and the lanes used by the evil minions are changing from time to time.

In the final game there will be about 80 maps placed in 4 different dimensions (that is, environments). Throughout the game, up to 8 heroes can be collected. We plan on using shareware as business model by creating a "lite" version that contains only the first episode/campaign "The First Strike" and a "full" version containing the complete game. Most likely, the "lite" version can be upgraded to a "full" version (which does make a lot sense by the way, as the heroes progress throughout the game). I will write more about the financial stuff as soon as I got any useful information.

Withstand: Minions Quest uses LibGDX as underlying framework that handles all the nasty stuff we simple did not want to invest any time in. Thusly we are using Java as development language. I will write another entry covering the ups and downs when developing using Java.

I thought about not putting any images into this diary, but I am sure that you will appreciate some graphical thingies in between the plain words. :-)
This is an actual in game screenshot we took in December.The graphical style is not the one that will finally be used, you should view this as the "old", outdated style which will be replaced.
Two other things that will change besides the style are the left upper health bar that will be removed and the middle wave progress indicator will be replaced by one that covers the complete level and shows the pauses in between the waves.

As of now, about 75% of the game are completed, we still need to add audio and finalize the maps. Our goal is to release the game in middle of June, which gives us enough time to fix most of the bugs (or all of them, at best) and do some marketing.

Some insights into our previous development history:

The overall development process was very rough and inconsitent. The first idea for Withstand: Minions Quest, and the very first technical demo dates back to October 2014. Back in the days, the game was supposed to be multiplayer game, something in between LoL and Scrolls. Needless to say, we stopped development, as I began to realize the complexity of the complete system, we'd have to create and maintain. Being a gang of three, it's pretty hard to accomplish this task (not impossible though, just very time consuming and risky), mostly because there is only one programmer.

The next step, somewhere in June '15, was to look at the shattered pieces and figure out a way to create something of a singleplayer game. We decided to create a Tower Defense game, just like Plants vs Zombies. The first draft and demo featured dynamical pathing, free player movement and stuff. It felt bad, though and didn't really fit the overall style of the game. So, in September '15 we settled on using a fixed grid and pathing system, taking away the direct player control.

As we reached our "Feature Complete" milestone in early '16, we started noticing severe performance issues, mostly bugs that caused the game to consume memory until it reached the computers limit. After some fixing, I brought it down to about 400 MB when playing the first map, but still the consumed memory was growing with every map change, which at some point would introduce the return of the original issue. At some point I took a look at our used graphics and realized that the overall size of a single body part (we use skeletal animations generate by Spriter) was larger than the actual character ingame :-)

So we implemented some proof of concepts using different approaches, like downscaling the animations and providing a "smaller texture resolution" option ingame, or complety offline rendere the animations. But unfortunately it didn't quite work out, as the resized graphics looked crued at best. It was clear, that we'd need to remake every single graphic.

While Dominik, our artist, was creating sketches for the new graphics, we started thinking about moving away from our original main platform, the PC, to mobile platforms (so, Android and iOS), as our game mostly meets the overall casual gamer on mobile platforms, and it fits better. Anyways, we will create a dedicated PC version in some time, provided we receive some positive feedback (but it guess, I'd port it anyways, just to spend some time coding in C++) :-)

That's basically our projects history in ultra fast forward. Like many (speak: none) projects not a straight road, but rather a curvy one filled with many pitfalls. But you fall, standup, grow and learn.

I hope you gained some insight in our project and that I managed you attract your attention and interest. I'd be happy to hear your feedback. The next diary entry will hopefully contain some new graphics. As soon as we have them, we will also create a trailer/teaser/gameplay video and post it here too!

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