Much progress has been made with There Will Be Ink this past month, making this perhaps the most significant update yet for the game. And so we are drop our Alpha undies to the floor and pull on our Beta short shorts!
The latest version of the game can be found on itch.io and is currently part of their summer sale. Older builds of the game can still be found exclusively here on IndieDB for the time being (likely to be replaced with a demo version of a newer build in the future).
I had my finger on the trigger, er, mouse button, a couple weeks back to release the game on Steam Early Access but decided to hold off until later this summer. Aside from being worried the game would be lost in the frenzy of the impending Steam Summer Sale, I found that the audience on Steam (based on page views and wishlist adds) is significantly larger than on any other platform and I want to give the game a little more polish and a proper release trailer so to make a good impression. In addition to that I have another commitment that will keep me busy for all of July and didn't want to be splitting my attention between that and TWBI. The game is on Steam as "coming soon" and can be wishlisted and followed. Check it out! In the meantime I didn't want it to look as though no progress was being made or that I'm "holding out" on anyone, so I'm dropping the latest build on itch and giving this status update.
First off, I've put together a short gameplay video showing off a new level and a few new elements:
Now, onto the things!
Behaviours and Map Editor Enhancements
Recruits can now be customized with three different behaviours. First, there are aggressive units who will charge forth to the nearest enemy unit and attack at will. This is the default behaviour and the one found in previous versions of the game. Second, we have defensive units, who will hold their position and their fire until either they are fired upon or a nearby unit is fired upon and calls for assistance. Defensive units will pursue their attacker and then return to their starting position once a threat is neutralized. Third, we have units who will hold position. These recruits will not move but will attack any enemies that come into their range of fire. These behaviours can be toggled in the map editor. Additional unit customization has been added to the editor, including having a unit start the mission by paradropping in, starting with no ammo, or starting the battle wounded (or any combination of those). Map objects can now be repositioned by dragging them with the mouse, and all items can be shifted by using the ASDW keys (hold shift for fine adjustments). There is now also a timer in the map editor, so "countdown" style timed missions can be created. These new customizations make for much greater variety of missions.
Reworked Weather System and Terrain Variety (and Lightning!)
The old weather system included "sunny" and three levels of "rainy", which were implemented with a pretty basic visual effect. I've redone the weather system to include the following four weather states: sunny, cloudy, rainy, and stormy. Gone are the old blue rain lines of yesterday. In their place is a particle system with gradient, semi-transparent raindrops that fall and make little splashes. Long live the blue rain lines of today! The battlefield is also slightly darker in rainy and stormy conditions, and I've added a particle system for cloud shadows that drift and fade across the battlefield. Clouds and rain are also affected by the wind speed and direction. Pretty fancy stuff for notepad doodles, right? Oh, and watch out for lightning during stormy times! Trees are most likely to be struck and set aflame, while buildings are somewhat likely to be hit, and on occasion unsuspecting units will be turned to little piles of ash. The weather can now be set in the map editor. Check out some lightning (and a new tree variety and the new fire system) below. Krakow!
Story Text and the New Campaign
The game will now display optional briefing text before a mission starts. I've started on a new campaign from scratch that incorporates the new story feature. It is a work in progress but hopefully adds a little character. At present the new campaign has five missions, with more missions and campaigns (official and hopefully unofficial too) to be added. There is also the option on the main menu to toggle between available campaigns, and I've included the Alpha campaign for good measure.
Pro Tip: Although the Campaign Editor is not yet built into the game, player-created campaigns can be made by simply dropping alphabetically ordered .map files into a specific folder and the game will pick them up (and you can add .txt files for story if you wish. The mechanism used is that the game looks for a .txt file with the same name as the .map file, and if found it will go to the briefing page before advancing to the mission, making it very easy to add, remove, or update story text.). Simply open up File Explorer and browse to %localappdata%\ThereWillBeInk. From there, create a folder called "Campaigns", in which you'll place a folder with the name of your campaign, and within that a "Maps" folder that contains your files. Map files made in the editor are found at %localappdata%\ThereWillBeInk\Maps. For instance, a "Kitty Cat" campaign would look something like this!
Powerups are a new type of ability that are unlocked and spawned automatically based on player actions. Wounded with no medics nearby? Maybe a crate of medical supplies will parachute down! Just ran out of ammo? Maybe an ammo crate will save the day! Powerup unlock requirements and descriptions can be viewed on the Barracks page. So far there are two in place, with more to come. The following is only a minor spoiler:
- Emergency Medical Drop: Unlocked after twenty player deaths. Once unlocked, there is a 20% chance per level of rank (eg 0% for new recruits, 80% for top ranked units) for a medical crate to be dropped near player-controlled units when their health drops below 50%. This check is only made once per unit but is reset if the unit gets the "vengeance" reward.
- Emergency Ammo Drop: Unlocked after the player runs out of ammo twenty times. Once unlocked, the check is similar to that above but occurs when a player-controlled unit runs out of ammo, and the reward is of course an ammo crate.
Those are the major changes going into Beta. There are many smaller updates, fixes, tweaks, and enhancements as well. I won't list all of them, but here are a few of the more significant ones:
- New Sounds: Added sounds for the vengeance reward, longevity ability, lightning, and shotgun.
- Upon receiving the vengeance reward, the colour-coordinated skull&crossbones icons will now display above the player as powerup icons
- Shotgun: The shotgun has been reworked both mechanically and visually (and has its own sound as per above)
- New Assault Infantry Ability: Shotgun Cartridge Density - Doubles the amount of pellets that the shotgun fires. Ability is only available once the shotgun has been unlocked.
- New Rifle Infantry Ability: Grenade Satchel - Grants Rifle Infantry an additional 3 grenades. To balance things out I've reduced the starting grenade count for RI to 2.
- New Sniper Ability: High Velocity Rounds - Increases the speed of bullets fired from the sniper rifle, making them harder to dodge and less affected by wind.
- Balance: All units are now unlocked by destroying a single instance of that unit. This saves from the grinding that was previously required to unlock unit types.
- Balance: Leg shots now do a small amount (33%) of damage in addition to causing wounds.
- When precision-aiming with the gamepad (hold down right analog), the sight line turns red and is easier to see.
- Aiming HQ abilities with the gamepad now takes into account the value of the analog stick, allowing for more precise aiming. Aim is now bound within the battlefield as well.
- When a player-controlled unit dies, the player is now reassigned to the nearest free unit. This is a small change but it smooths out the flow of the battle a lot.
- A yellow "!" now pops up over ammo crates when a player-controlled unit tries firing while out of ammo.
- In addition to the new tree type, I've added a small river (creek?) variety to the map editor.
- Added "paper scrap" GUI items for player quick-join during battles. To keep things tidy they slide up and off the screen after ten seconds, but players can still join after that. Players can also now join the Blue team in campaign missions if that mission has been previously won.
- AI: Units of rank 2 and up will now switch to their secondary weapon (if available) when they run out of ammo.
- Balance: Reduced the cost of ability points by 50% for most units (unchanged for RPG & HMG, as they tend to accumulate points quickly)
- Bug fixes: Very many of these! Although some were due to recently added features, I'm counting 39 fixes since alpha 5.1
- Optimization: I spent a good couple days working on optimization. Things should bog down less in really big battles thanks to some background trickery, and unit AI has been made more efficient.
- The game now pauses when an active gamepad is unplugged or the Steam overlay is brought up
I'll continue to add more abilities, powerups, and missions to the game, while polishing up some of the existing mechanics and graphics to get things in order for Steam EA. There is a lot of untapped potential in mission variety that I'd like to get to with the new campaign. I'd also like to flesh out the Engineer's abilities some more and possibly work in some new weapons. There won't be much going on in July, but I'll be back at it come August. Pew pew!