Indie Dev Diary: Loose ends

November 20, 2010

Editor’s note: Brad Talton is an independent game designer and developer. What kind of games? Video games? Board games? Card games? Well, yes. His company, Level 99 Games, creates all kinds of geekiness. In a series of columns here at SBG, Brad shares insights into the game creation process. In this installment, he talks about lingering issues and what’s next. 

I’m currently in the very last stages of putting together Chibi Fighters, with only a few graphics and a little polish left to do. Since I’m still producing and polishing, I suppose it’s not too late to write a little bit about what kinds of polish are needed at the very last steps of the game design. 

At the moment, the only large thing that remains unfinished is the story mode. I need just a few more pieces of background artwork to put in, and am currently working on doing all the animation for the story segments. The way that the characters move on and off of the screen, as well as what music plays, what animations appear, and what sound effects are used are all stored in large configuration files. The process of tweaking these files, running through the story, then retweaking the files again and again to match the final effect I want can be a tedious process. However, the end result is that story mode comes out looking clean and playing fluidly.

A large part of developing a game is not in creating the content for the game, but in making the interpreters for these configuration files. Almost everything in Chibi Fighters, from the text used in Training Mode to the high score Jonathan needs in Target Attack, is contained by configuration files. With these files, there is no need to rebuild and reprogram the application every time a variable needs to be tuned or a misspelling needs to be fixed. Currently, just about everything that is being polished for Chibi Fighters is being done in these kinds of files. In a sense, the game is complete—it’s just the content that is being tuned and refined.

At around this stage of a project, the question comes to mind: what’s next? The more successful products that Level 99 Games has released have been things that let users create for themselves—DM Toolkit and RPG Cartographer—for planning RPGs and making game maps respectively. We want to continue to give people the opportunity to make their visions a reality and enable users to use our products to make the games that they want to make.

Our current toss around idea is an ‘RPG Maker’-style of application, that will let you design a JRPG style game and play it with friends. Another option would be a tactical game maker (that lets you create a Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea-style game). And there’s always the option of another video game, as well. I am always open to suggestions, so if you have a preference in this, please come and let me know!

Also, for those in the board game scene, I managed to get down to BGGCon this weekend, and hang out with some of the up and coming developers. We talked about the possibility of iPad versions for a few games—so look out for those soon on the Level 99 Games home page. I’m also working with Kevin Brusky of APE Games on a big licensed game—but no public information on that right now either, sorry!

Hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving!

Next time, Brad will celebrate the release of his game. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

Character art by Victoria Parker for Level 99 Games.