It's been 2 years since we began working on the game: about time we knocked off a few more blog posts!
Granted it was a crazy idea to make a strategy game with gamepads from the beginning, though we never thought we’d be working on it for so long.
It was in March 2014 that William and I started making a small prototype after discussing what we should focus on over a couple of beers: the idea was to make an accessible, minimalistic RTS.
Why an RTS? Well both of us are strategy game fans but this genre is inaccessible many players because of its steep learning curve and high complexity. We wanted to make a game we could play with friends who weren’t necessarily RTS fans.
We're ourselves are also fans of the new wave of couch multiplayer games like Samurai Gunn or Towerfall, game which are very easy to pick up and play over the course of an evening. We figured it would be an interesting challenge to combine the two: to make a couch-based RTS, to create a something that's easy to pick up in a couch-multiplayer setting but still an awesome real-time strategy game.
We agreed on a set of constraints that would serve as guidelines for the design of the game. To paraphrase Dino Dini “design is constraint management (...) constraints are what give a game its identity”. These were the constraints we chose for Soul Harvest, long before it was called Soul Harvest:
- Local-multiplayer: everything should be displayed on a single screen and gamepads should be the preferred control method.
- The game should support micro-consoles such as the Ouya, so shouldn’t be too system-heavy.
- It should be a “real” RTS: with resource and army management, territory control, … etc.
After a few days we already had a little prototype which looked like this :
It wasn't very glamorous at the time but it kind of worked. You controlled a flying commander who could build structures using resources drawn from deposits. There were 3 building types that could be placed:
- one that spawned resource harvester (H) units,
- one that spawned static defender (D) units,
- and one that spawned attacker (A) units that ran towards the enemy.
Okay yes, we do enjoy making things spawn. This may be what inspired us to choose a demonic theme… well, that and our love for games like Dungeon Keeper and Solium Infernum. Demons have all kinds of powers that make a lot of sense for an RTS, from summoning units (spawning things, yay!) to casting spells and corrupting their surroundings, so why not?
The three buildings that could be created formed a short of rock-paper-scissors: attackers would cripple an opponent’s economy unless they built defenders to protect it, but building up your economy would allow you to break through a defensive position through sheer attrition. So basically harvesters beat defenders who beat attackers who beat harvesters.
We wanted to get player feedback early and often (in order to follow Jesse Schell’s “Rule Of Loop”), but we felt that the lack of graphic asset might prejudice player-opinions. Check back soon for the part two, where we add graphics and give the game a baptism of fire!