The last few weeks working on Chaintanks have been very productive, and the game draws ever closer to completion! Since last time I’ve been focused on fixing bugs, filling in small missing pieces, and balancing the game since it’s mostly playable at this point.
One thing that’s been really helpful has been simply keeping a list of things I want to get done in a week. When I was trying to plan for Alpha Strike I went overboard and created a massive impenetrable list. It was almost completely useless for finding things to do each day. For Chaintanks, I do actually have a similar list, but at the start of each week I draw from that larger list to give myself a series of smaller tasks to do during the week. I’ve found it much easier to stay focused when I know exactly what I want to get done, and I’ve been more motivated since I have short term goals to aim for.
At the moment I don’t have a target release date for Chaintanks; the game will probably still take a few more months to finish. Since this will be the first long term game project I’ll have actually completed I’m sure I’ll be able to draw on that experience to make better estimates and use my time more effectively for the next game.
Where am I Now?
While the game was mostly functional a few weeks ago, there were quite a few bugs, as well as small features like the post mission screen and healing in the upgrade screen that were missed. I’ve filled in most of these gaps and I’ve been able to play through a few full sessions of the game to start balancing it.
The most glaring issue I found was that scrap rewards were not balanced… at all. I did have some work I’d previously done on determining how much everything should cost, so I was able to use that to work out appropriate scrap rewards for each mission. As I was approaching the end of the game I was able to afford around four fully upgraded vehicles.
I may increase rewards slightly, but with how things are balanced now the limited resources forced me to choose between going with a short upgraded chain versus a long lower level one, as well as what type of guns I wanted to use. In the interest of keeping that strategic depth I’ll probably avoid increasing the numbers too far.
One feature I’m planning on implementing that may require me to bump the numbers is Tech. Tech upgrades will simply bump stats for the player’s entire chain like HP, rate of fire, speed, and so on. Giving the player another option for spending scrap other than just upgrading their chain will add a little more depth and challenge the player to find the most optimal setup that suits their play style.
Since I’m pretty far into developing this game, I want to avoid adding too many features. Therefore, my goal with Tech will be to keep it as simple as I possibly can. I’ll also allow players to freely upgrade or downgrade their Tech so they retain the freedom to experiment that I’ve given them with the upgrade system.
Another small change I made to scrap was to increase all the numbers by a factor of 5. I previously had one scrap healing 5 HP, but the problem with that was that if a player only needed to heal 1 HP they would be wasting 0.8 scrap to do so. I felt that it would be best to allow players to use their scrap as efficiently as possible by letting them simply spend 1 scrap per HP.
As for some other changes, I increased enemy attack ranges and implemented a minimum range since some tried to orbit so close they never fired at you. I also had to tweak all of the spawning values since they were generating too many enemies that were too hard to kill.
I also added healing powerups when enemies die since I found the longer missions later in the game to be far too difficult now that scrap healing was removed from the game. I based the healing factor on the total health of the enemy that dropped it, so as long as I set the multiplier well it ought to balance itself throughout the entire game! Having to drive over something while also shooting a moving target is quite difficult too which adds an interesting mechanical challenge to the game.
Another Possible Cut
One feature that I might end up cutting is the other tileset art I mentioned in my last blog. While cutting this would cause the game to look a bit bland, it’d save a lot of time on doing art. On the other hand, looking at similar backgrounds all the time could make the player get bored quickly… I’ll decide once I’ve created some more maps with the tileset I have. If I can make them look good with a single tileset then that’s what I’ll stick with. If not, I’ll invest the time in creating another one.
I also finished 3 complete maps. One of them is duplicated across most missions in the game, but the others are in the game and can be played if you’re lucky enough to run across the mission cards that happen to contain them. There are still a LOT of maps left to create though which will take a while to do. I’m not looking forward to grinding through that but it has to be done!
Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to get a lot of maps done, implement Tech, and get started on the final boss. Stay tuned for the next devlog!