Where was I, oh right, SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance.
To be honest I probably haven't covered the game as much as I should have on this site, the journalist in me knows it's a thin line between sharing information and shameless self promotion. That said, I'm extremely proud of the game, and I almost want to see it succeed on its own with or without the help of Co-Optimus. I know its a game that at first glance, might seem shallow and simple. "It's just another twin-stick shooter," folks will say. And it IS another twin-stick shooter, but it's my twin stick shooter and it's damn fun.
Certain genres of games have evolved over the years. Simple changes have gone a long way to make a game that we play today, almost not recognizable as the same genre of a game of the past. A twin stick shooter though has survived this test of time, it hasn't had to evolve all that much. In essence, we're all still playing asteroids with a nice coat of paint. And you know what? It's still just as fun.
That's not to say there wasn't room for improvement, or the ability to add layers of fun on top of a proven formula. So what started as a discussion on a car ride back from PAX East turned into a twin stick shooter with RPG and Strategy elements as well as a few things borrowed from FPS games.
Our prototype from months ago. Hard to believe, but at one point we were "proud" of this.
The basic goal was simple, create something that forced players to work together in numerous ways. While most twin-stick shooters don't necessarily facilitate methods to do this, even though co-op exists in them, we aimed to create something different. The first, and most obvious way, we do this is with a class based system for our ships. We give each one strengths and weaknesses and when you combine them all together you should theoretically get a nearly "flawless" attack force. That's all well and good, but there needed to be some incentive.
And that's where our salvage system comes into play. The way it works is this - salvage plays a crucial role throughout the game. Salvage is dropped when an enemy is killed, that salvage is needed to power generators that protect planets. The more salvage you put in, the higher your score, the higher your score the bigger and better upgrades you can buy. The salvage is shared among the whole team equally, so there's no competition to see who can get the most or who will horde it.
Salvage also applies some interesting effects on your ship - for one - the more you carry the slower you move. Blowing up with a ship full of salvage will lose quite a bit of available salvage for the level too, so players need to protect those with the most. If you do blow up, you need to repair yourself at the generator or another player carrying salvage. Finally salvage can be dumped at anytime for someone else to pick up or it can be "burned" by powering your ship's shields. All of these things combined we felt made for a system that promotes teamwork as well as addictive gameplay.
So we built a prototype and we playtested. And we tweaked and adjusted and tested some more. While we worked on core code like this, we also spent time building the story, graphics, sound and PR material. As an indie studio everyone has to pitch in on everything, and thankfully, we have a really awesome team of folks helping in anyway they can.
For me it's hard to believe, but there is an end in sight to the game. After nine months of development we're in the process of polishing, tweaking, and optimizing. We're lining up builds for several contests and getting ready to release on Xbox Live Indie Games. Soon after our PC build will be ready. All the while I'm staring at tiny issues throughout the game, wondering how to fix them or if someone will even notice it as a flaw.
The entire process has been extremely rewarding for me, but the next steps have been incredibly nerve wracking. It's almost time to share what we've done, to let everyone to see what we've been tirelessly working on for months. Will you notice its imperfections, the tiny globs of paint on the floor? Whatever the outcome and whatever the takeaway, I just hope everyone can get the same amount of enjoyment out of the game as we had making it. As long as that happens, that's a mission success.