Battle Wizards

Summary

Battle Wizards is the first videogame project that I created, made in Construct 3 engine and launched August 5th 2020. The game is a chaotic party fighting game, where the players pick up various powerful spells from their surroundings to use against each other. The focus of the game has been making every spell interesting and unique from each other. The game supports up to 4 players locally fighting.

Find the project page here

Mostly this game's purpose was for me to practice all aspects of game design (as I am interested in almost everything) as well as simply make a game I'd want to play myself. In the following projects I plan to focus more to the goal of also making the product more commercially viable. Since I made the project completely on my own, it will also helped me evaluate just how much I'm capable of doing alone.

The idea

At first, my idea was to make a game about monks fighting using elemental powers. You would either change between two elements or pick them up from the map much like the spells now, and that would change your moveset. Think of something like Avatar franchise as fighting game perhaps!

However, I quickly figured out two things. First, creating a meleee combat based fighting system would be very difficult to get right especially as my first project in the engine. And due to the fact I haven't played such games a lot for reference.

 

Secondly, after trying to come up with a character for this game I realised making animations for even only semirealistic human characters would take ridiculously long with frame by frame animation. I hadn't done any animations besides school tasks before so I knew the results for that wouldn't turn out well.

So I ended up designing a quirky wizard character that would be easier to animate, and shifted the game's direction to ranged fighting with powerful spells. For a while, the game's direction was still slightly unclear and bloated: I thought for everyone to choose their spells at the start of a match, and gain passive upgrades whenever they die. These ideas got cut out to make way for a more clean and refined gameplay experience, which is faster to learn as well. Going for the tried and true pickups spawning around the level experience also created another fun main gameplay loop, where the players have to race each other to get the spells first.

Early prototype from June 2019

Designing the abilities

Finally the gameplay landed to having 24 different abilities belonging to 4 different categories. These abilities randomly drop to the level to be picked up. You can carry 1 spell of each different type at a time allowing for different combos. Once you start casting the spell, it is gone even if your animation is interrupted and it won't go off.

I attempted for every ability to create situations requiring different actions from the players to make the gameplay interesting. For example, one of the spells allows the player to move around a fiery sphere that deals damage when on top of your opponents. The opponents have to pressure or hit the player using the sphere to stop them, while the player casting the spell is incentivised to find a safe position before using the ability. 

Many abilities also knock around players, creating fun moments both with trying to make your opponents fall out of maps or push them into spells that linger around. All the disabling effects like this are however quite short and the player can try to save themselves with a dash after regaining control.

Some abilities showcased

Having this many unique spells has some problems. Players have a lot to learn in both how the spells work, and which buttons correspond to which spells. Some might also feel that having so many different options at once randomly spawning might be too chaotic.

In the end, I let the players themselves decide the spells available each round. You have the option of choosing random 12 (3 from each category) or manually pick which of them are enabled or disabled. Players who prefer to have all the spells available can do so, while the 12 random spells comes in handy for creating more variation. You can even have fun matches with just one specific spell enabled in a map that suits it well!

As for easing the learning curve, I made a system where the players start out with just 4 spells and unlock more simply by playing the different levels. This worked out very well.

UI choices

I wanted the game's UI elements to be very small to not take space away from the action. For this the player's health bars and spells are close to their character instead of a fixed point on the screen.

 

First the spells collected were just a circle formation behind you, but feedback from playtesting was to perhaps try making the spells match the controller's shape. This turned out to work very well, as the player can simply look at the shape to figure out which button launches which spell if they do not yet remember the controls by heart.

As the game is competitive multiplayer, I don't think there is a great solution to helping players figure out what each ability does apart trying them over and over. I did however make a tutorial level for the game where the players are taught the controls and can try the spells out as long as they want. And ultimately, I feel like having to learn the spells by trying fits the game's premise of little wizards training at the Battle Wizards academy. The unlocking system also helped to ease this issue.

Lessons learned

I knew from the start this game didn't have serious commercial potential; I wanted to focus on learning the things I really was excited about, so I didn't do as much marketing and research as needed. I also was making a game for local multiplayer on pc only, which is just about as small of a niche you can choose to design for.

 

However, what I did not think as far was that this also meant there is only a very, very small amount of youtubers/streamers of this category for sending game keys to. I only managed to send about 25 emails, when you would need to reach a much higher number as only a small percentage will get interested. So I ended up not getting video coverage by content creators unfortunately, which I was counting on for my small scale "marketing". 

As for the game itself, I don't have too many regrets! I would probably make something entirely different if given the choice now, but I'm very happy with the end results for it being my first one. But definitely for the next game project, going singleplayer and having proper planning and research in place before starting development is the way to go.

Mobile card game prototype

While keeping a short break of Battle Wizards, I created the framework for another game idea using the Construct 3 again. Pretty much all digital card games are just one versus one games, so this game would break that mold by being a heads on fighting card game for multiple players at once. The idea is each player would simultaneously play a card which has a speed, and then all the cards would be resolved in an order according to that speed.

 

I researched how viable Construct 3 is for online games, and found a plugin named Photon. After some practice, it seemed like a fairly easy to use tool for the job, and I got a working prototype done. I found out many things from this short test: ways to create any sort of cards based game in construct, the multiplayer functionalities of Photon and some steps of making a mobile based game as I did make the prototype work on mobile from the start. 

Prototyperunning on two browser windows

However, since creating an online game would require the investment of actually running a server and paying for it, this project will probably not continue. I also ended up in the conclusion that the type of game I was thinking about would fit board game audience better than the mobile one, as the game could also work as a board game with some limitations to the possible mechanics available to players.

Either way, I now have a good idea of many parts of the Construct 3 engine that I did not utilise for Battle Wizards and will definitely use some of these findings in future games I'll probably make in the engine.

ReRecycle

In rapu game jam 2019, me and my team made a card game about recycling and reusing, which won the game jam. The theme of the game jam was circular economy, and the organisers hoped for something that might become useful addition in promoting and working with it. We decided to go for a physical card game that could be used to make the subject more concrete to tackle, for example when teaching about the subject at schools. 

ReRecycle is co-operative, having the players work together to fulfill needs of people without running out of resources to do so. Players have to recycle materials and reuse already made items as materials again later to win, as well as make efficient trades with each other.

Cards laid out for Tabletop Simulator import

To prototype the game fast, we used Tabletop Simulator on Steam. The game turned out very nicely in the short time we had to make it and with small team size of 3. We used only simple stock graphics to save time, so obviously the game would have a more pretty look if made into an actual product. The rules could still perhaps use tiny tweaks, as when the players have grasped the optimal way to play the game it becomes a bit too easy to win. Although it always feels close!

You can find the rules and assets here 

Copyright ©Arsi Liimatainen 2019

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