Indie Dev Diary: The final touches

November 6, 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 finishing everything and moving on. 

Between content creation, level design, gameplay, playtesting, getting people involved, and debugging, there’s a lot that goes into making a video game. Even with all the fancy open source libraries one can use, and all the tools that make creating art, sound, and interface resources easy, it’s still a big undertaking to put together a game. Super Psychic Chibi Fighters started up in June, and it’s now November. The game will probably be in the app store in early December. Six months and about 800 hours of development time later, the final product is ready to see the world. 

Will people like it? I feel really confident that they will. I’ve played it just about every day for these six months, and I can say that it’s still pretty fun to try and beat my high scores on the minigames, or accumulate medals, or even click through the stories and relive all the silly jokes and boss fights. Will people know about it? I really hope so. Even once the game is released, the ongoing task of marketing, advertising, and getting people to talk about the game carry on. There’s always more to do, and of course, the next project is already looming on the horizon.

In the last few days of development, I’m jamming SPCF3 full of secret features, additional content, game polish, and bonuses. There are new cheat codes (one of which I’ll be revealing here on Snackbar once the game is complete!), a few new cameo characters that appear only in the story, and additional gallery content and bonus scenes that bring out the characters’ backstories and world. Ultimately, I want to go the extra mile and deliver more to gamers than they expect when they download the app. Who knows—maybe I’ll get as well known as Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies? Unlikely, but possible in the world of direct App Store marketing.

Super Psychic Chibi Fighters has a lot going for it. From the fun stories to the stylized eye-catching characters, I expect that it will get a lot of attention in the App Store and on websites where I advertise it. Everyone loves Victoria’s art, and reception so far to the personality and humor of the characters has been nothing but positive.

One of the fun, experimental things that I’m trying out in Chibi Fighters is DLC. Some people love it, some people hate it. Personally, I really like it when my favorite fighting games offer new characters as DLC, rather than making me buy the whole game over again to get the eight new fighters (yes, I’m talking about you, Street Fighter 4). So I included two additional characters for SPCF3 that wouldn’t have otherwise appeared in the game. One is a guest character, Cosette Garidion, from my old web series Dark Magical Orchestra. The other is Cecil Kaine, a story character who is not playable, but makes several cameos. I plan to see which one of these two sells better, and if DLC sells at all, really. If Cosette sells, expect more guest characters from webcomics and other indie games. If Cecil sells, expect the world of SPCF to expand as more minor characters from the story make full-fledged appearances. With any luck, the world of Chibi Fighters will continue to expand with more exciting content and levels even after the initial release.

SPCF3 has pushed the limits of my game design ability and programming from the very beginning to the very end. I’ve learned a bunch about programming, about making the game fun, about balancing abilities and skills, and about creating engaging level. The things that I’ve learned in the course of doing this game will hopefully filter into the next thing I go about developing. I’m thinking perhaps a tactical strategy game, something in the same vein as FF Tactics and Disgaea, to offset the frantic action gaming in my two existing titles. Online play would be a fun option to explore in the next gaming endeavor.Of course, whether I’ll be able to do more gaming depends on how well SPCF does. Such is the way of indie development.

Though Chibi Fighters is coming to an end, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to put an end to Indie Dev Diary. I’m working on plenty of card and board games, as well as the RPG Mystic Empyrean, and there will be another video gaming project someday, of course.

Next time, Brad will celebrate the release of his game in style, as well as introduce some of his other projects.

Character art by Victoria Parker for Level 99 Games.