NGF 2016 – Post-Mortem and Thanks

tommyTommy: Supreme Science Overlord

It’s been over a week since we returned both tired and elated from our time at the 2016 Norwich Gaming Festival!  It was pretty exciting for us to go back to NGF given that last year it was where we demo’d the first actually playable prototype of Sure Footing.  To say it still had a long way to go is something of an understatement: the level generation was flakey, there were some pretty horrible physics bugs, the controls needed tuning.  Yeesh… there was so much we had there that was still largely broken and far from tuned.   However, we received a really positive response from the fine folk who came by to play our little game.  The comments and reactions to Sure Footing at NGF 2015 sat with us ever since: given they not only largely convinced us this game is worth finishing, but also had a real impact on new ideas, mechanics and features that have subsequently went into later builds.  So returning this year was a real opportunity for us to talk what was discussed and put it into action.

So this time last year, after showing off the game we had lots of ideas, but perhaps most importantly there was one driven by a particular group of kids playing our game.  This wasn’t even the first time they had passed by our stand, but the second (or maybe even third) visit to try and beat each others scores.  The contest was heating up and I recall having a discussion with the parent in charge who happened to be the mother of at least one of the children playing.  Among questions of when our game would be out (which I’ll add was expertly dodged at the time), the question of whether they could play together was a possibility?  This wasn’t something we’d ever really considered.  We’d only just got a basic prototype running after all.  I gave something of a non-committal answer: while in truth we had not given it any consideration, it sat on the back of my mind for months.  Over time it piqued my curiosity: could we make a multi-player build?  What does multi-player infinite running even look like?  How do you pull that off?

It was with some pride and trepidation we returned to NGF 2016: not only with Sure Footing looking completely different having been overhauled last summer, but also with the first ever playable multi-player build.

The Build

For those of you who missed out on the 2016 Norwich festival, or just fancy seeing the game all over again then, here’s a wee video of the most recent build!

Thank You

If anything this blog exists to say thank you, there are a number of you to thank and all for different reasons.

The Organisers of Norwich Gaming Festival: A lot of feedback and discussions from last year had clearly been taken on board in terms of organisation.  Not just from ourselves of course but other developers who had been in attendance last year.  Getting in, setting up, storing equipment and many other minor logistical issues were handled brilliantly – and frankly much better than they tend to be at events of a similar scale.  A sincere thanks to the NGF team, notably Daniel Scales, for their support.

Fellow Indie Developers: It’s always great to meet other developers and get a chance to chat with them.  Sometimes you may have met them before, other times it’s perhaps the first time you get a chance to meet.  It was great to see the Aniode team again (Nature Zombie Apocalypse) who we were set up next to for two days), the Freekstorm team (Doctor Kvorak), Henry Hueffman (Hue), the Overcooked team and of course XMPT (DiscStorm) – who we’ve had the distinct pleasure of displaying alongside on a number of occasions.  Also a shout out to Thomas Hopper (Factotum 90) and Matt Gambell (RPG Tycoon).  Many a useful discussion as well as some random banter were had.

The People of Norwich and Everyone Who Attended NGF 16: Like last year, NGF was a big moment for us.  Last year we took the feedback as emphasis that we should take what we’ve got, run with it and turn Sure Footing into something. Actually make it happen y’know?!?  This year, we had another big milestone, this ominous multiplayer build was hanging over us.  Truth be told, we’d only just finished re-writing parts of the game to now scale to multiple players.   It was only just working a week in advance and we’d not given it significant playtesting.  So this was a big opportunity to find out whether a) this idea works and b) what would need changing to make it worthwhile in the long term.

The short answer is yes: the multiplayer proved really popular! While the single-player continued to find an audience – with folk continuing to play the game quite happily on their own – the multiplayer mode drew crowds and we would often see groups stay with us for several rounds of multiplayer mayhem to see how far they could get.  It also helped those who perhaps wanted to spent a bit more time beating those single player high scores to get a little more quality time!  We did notice some folk staying 10, 20 minutes and more trying to set those all-time bests.

All in all, we’re now feeling much better about how this game is turning out and our faith is once again renewed (something of a genuine problem for us at times).  So once again, seriously, thank you!

Moving For Launch

We’ve had the NGF 2016 post-mortem and are now seriously discussing the next steps: what is the final feature list for launch?  What could we build later as post launch content?  How do we plan our development work for the next 6-9 months to get the game finished by years end?  We’ve started getting that final feature list sorted out and are moving towards achieving that right now.

No doubt I’ll be talking about that a lot more in future weeks.  Though right now I’m juggling between working on this and the research papers based on the procedural generation algorithms in the game.  Next month I’ll write up a long piece discussing how the main components of how this actually works.