I skipped posting here last week mostly because I couldn't be bothered. That happens sometimes. Life's too short to get all tied up on some deadlines.
The past two weeks have had me wrapping up a lot of the loose ends for Exoloper's Alpha phase. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't satisfying as all heck to tick the last box in the pre-alpha phase. project management: satisfying at best
With gameplay more or less sorted for combat and meta-game inventory, the last part that needed unfolding from its prototype phase was the campaign. There were a couple systems missing from the campaign but I honestly had no idea what exactly they were, only that the campaign lacked any kind of tension. It was mechanically easy to complete the objectives and extract, and there didn't seem to be any real challenging decisions along the way.
So I played the living heck out of the campaign. I spent half a monday playing through campaign after campaign after campaign to get a feel for what worked, and what didn't. I found a couple things
And voila, I now had a plan for the things that needed to be changed. So now, when you start a campaign, a mechanic not unlike Darkest Dungeon's recon system reveals the contents of nodes that are close to you at semi random intervals, a new rare and limited resource (UAV's) has been added to allow you to fire this recon at will, paths between nodes are hidden (though not inaccessible!) and decision nodes have been hidden entirely. Now it really feels as though you're traversing unknown territory and finding your way through a dense colonial cityscape, and you're always at risk of spending too many resources on going the wrong way, or running blind towards your goals. The one concession to all of this extra difficulty is that at any point you can choose to leave via a spaceport/space-elevator, and that you always start at one. undiscovered nodes sit alongside objectives, and discovered nodes
Beyond the campaign, another critically missing piece was the games tutorial systems. Interloper launched to an extremely lacklustre, and text heavy tutorial. This time I want to give the players time and space to figure the game out at their own pace, whilst also reducing the amount of text I throw at them out the gate.
The main goal here is to get the player to learn the combat games basic controls using level design as a main teacher. I monitor the player unit's condition for things like "current speed", wait for trigger boxes, or enemy destruction and change the state of both the tutorial and the UI accordingly, revealing new controls as the player completes objectives. The tutorial level's layout from above. The tutorial kicks off with just the throttle available.
I'm proud as punch of what I've built so far and It'll be much harder to introduce concepts in a similarly progressive way for the campaign and for the exo builder, but I'll figure something out. I fully imagine what I've built so far isn't going to be anywhere near final, but it's a starting discussion point for the alpha community.
And then the final piece of the puzzle for Alpha. Monetisation.
I've been avoiding this topic here because my decisions around monetisation have flown in the face of every game I've released under the Anchorite banner. I strongly believe that the App Store deserves high quality games where you, the player, do not have to think about money after you pick the game up. Thats how I grew up playing games, and I find most games with micro-transactions to be insulting in that the purpose of the game blurs from an entertaining product to a wealth extraction/generation machine.
With that said, Interloper has to this date sold 31 thousand copies. I'm incredibly proud of this number, but it's netted me a living wage of averaged out to AUD $34K / annum (which incidentally is under the minimum annual wage in Australia, of 39.9K).This is despite having a worldwide feature at launch where over 50 miillion people saw its app icon, and a continual set of minor features that net approximately one million views each week. Thats still 34K that I've earned from my work and as I say, insanely proud of it, but it's not enough (literally).
With all of that context: Exoloper will be free to play. But.
I still want to create a game that treats it's players with respect, and so the monetisation strategy is as such:
The core game, with a single campaign will be released for free. That's more or less what the Alpha is right now. All the existing weapons, utilities, enemies, and so forth are included in this base game. Thats a lot of value for literally nothing. If you so choose though, there will be three additional campaigns built for the game. One will be available at launch, and two more post launch. Each will include a new campaign map, new biomes, environments, combat maps, weapons, utilities, exos, weather and more. These will be priced at $2.99 (USD) each. Anything you unlock for one campaign can be used in any other campaign.
And thats it. My hope here is that instead of trying to convince new players to spend money on the game out with a couple screenshots and videos, I'll do that instead with what I'm actually good at, which is making a compelling simulator experience.
I'd love feedback on this idea, so if you're reading this and you have thoughts, please feel free to reach out to me.
There's one last thing I'd like to cover today though, Interloper Discord member NoLeternox made some incredible, industry quality fanart for Interloper a while back, and I just couldn't resist asking them to draw up some sketches for Exoloper. What they've come up with is absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to turn some of these into Exos / tanks in the game!
You can find their work here: https://www.instagram.com/leternox/