Siralim of Old (Part 3)

Welcome to the third and final part of our look back on Siralim’s early development! Last week, we took a glimpse at the game’s music and sound effect design, and then proceeded to make fun of the user interface.

I think today’s post is going to be the most interesting of the series because it contains a bunch of features that were cut from the final version of the game. Let’s get right into it!


 Crafting

The Blacksmith offered the following options:

  1. Forging. This worked the same way that it does now.
  2. Salvaging. Instead of yielding materials, this function simply gave you some resources.
  3. Venturing. You could purchase a completely random artifact. This was meant to be similar to “gambling” in ARPGs like Diablo 2. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way in practice and led to lots of inventory clutter and frustration.

The Enchanter offered the following options:

  1. Enchanting. You could simply choose from a pre-defined list of properties to add to your artifacts.
  2. Augmenting. This added a completely random property to your artifact, but the values were much higher than if you had used Enchanting instead. For example, Attack might have had a maximum of 500 when you were enchanting, but it could have been 700 when you were Augmenting. In other words, you sacrificed control for power. So yes, this was bad and no one used it.
  3. Disenchanting. Same as always.

As you probably guessed, “Venturing” and “Augmenting” were removed early on.

When the game entered beta testing, I added a new type of item called “Materials” to the game that work the same way as they do now. The game started with 250 different materials, which made loot a lot more interesting!

Unique Artifacts

You could sometimes find unique artifacts that I pre-defined by hand. They had unique names and offered unique stats and traits that you couldn’t find anywhere else. If you’ve played Diablo, Path of Exile, or any other game that utilizes this type of itemization system, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Right before the game entered beta, there was a bug that caused artifacts to always be unique, so players were able to acquire god-like artifacts after farming for only a few minutes. Fortunately, unique artifacts were removed shortly after the bug was fixed.

Weird Artifact Properties

You were able to find artifacts that had several properties that were later removed. These properties were difficult to balance, unwieldy, outright useless, or a combination of the three. Here are some examples:

  • Replace Ability With – this property replaced your creature’s ability (trait) with a different one.
  • Increased Quantity of Treasure
  • Increased Rarity of Treasure
  • Chance to Not Consume Scroll Charges (even the name of this property was bad!)
  • Increased [STAT] While Defending
  • Increased [STAT] While Provoking

Artifacts – No Limits!

In early alpha, players were able to enchant their artifacts an unlimited number of times. While the resource cost increased with each subsequent enchantment, this “feature” caused the game to quickly spiral out of control in the late-game.  Artifacts pretty much made all other parts of the game obsolete because the increase in stats eventually made most traits and spells obsolete.

Luckily, during this time, players couldn’t add traits to their artifacts.

Randomly Generated Artifact Names

Artifacts were automatically assigned a name based on their properties. For example, if your sword granted a large amount of Attack and Defense, the artifact might be called “Sharp Rapier of the Turtle”. The prefix of each artifact was based on the artifact’s highest stat, while the suffix was based on the artifact’s second highest stat. The object name (Sword, Rapier, Katana, etc) was chosen at random based on the type of artifact.

Unfortunately, this system turned out to make artifact management really tedious. There were so many words for players to read in each artifact name that your inventory list looked like an essay.

Spell Woes

Some spells cost Power Balance instead of Mana to cast. As you might imagine, that was incredibly annoying, and no one ever used those spells.

Some of the spells that cost Power Balance were able to be cast in the overworld. One spell, Farsight, still exists in Siralim. Others, such as Summon Death, which caused a fight to immediately start with a pack of Death creatures, were changed to have in-battle effects instead.

Another interesting note is that Spell Power didn’t exist at first. Instead, your spells’ damage was based on a percentage of the enemy’s Maximum Health. In other words, no matter what level the enemy creatures were, your Fireball spell would always deal damage equal to 40% of their Maximum Health. This caused pretty much all stats to be ignored in favor of collecting spells, which is why Spell Power was later added to the game.’

Spellcrafting

This feature was never released to the public, nor did I ever mention it before now: players were able to collect components to craft their own spell scrolls.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. Collect Parchment. This is a component that determines the core function of the spell. There was different Parchment for each main function that a spell could have: damage, healing, buffing, etc.
  2. Collect Ink. This determined the potency of the spell. Different types of Ink yielded different potencies: weak, average, strong, etc.
  3. Combine your Parchment with your Ink, and choose the spell animation and sound effect that you want to use.
  4. You could pay extra resources to increase the number of scroll charges.
  5. The mana cost of the spell was calculated based on the function of the spell and that function’s potency.
  6. The name of the spell was generated similar to the way artifact names were randomly generated.

It was a fun concept, but it wasn’t actually that great in practice. Ultimately, this idea resurfaced in Siralim 2 and 3 in the form of randomly generated spell gems.

Siralim of Old (Part 2)

Last week, we took a look back at how Siralim’s graphics evolved over time.

It was interesting to hear everyone’s responses to the post. Some people assured me that the game wasn’t as ugly as I made it out to be (thanks, but there’s no need to lie on my behalf!). Others seem to really dislike Oleg. As it turns out, we’ve all known an “Oleg” at some point in our lives. My advice to you is to cut that son of a [email protected]#$% out of your life and let him drive through his own [email protected]#$ing snowstorms.

Ahem. Sorry. I don’t normally lose my composure mid-blog post.


As promised, I’ll continue this series today with a look at how the game’s music/sound and user interface came together.

Music and Sound

I enjoy music. So much, in fact, that I originally decided that I’d record my own music for Siralim. After all, I used to play the trumpet (first chair, might I add) in junior high school, and no, I never got beat up for it. My craft was a careful balance of trying to fight off asthma attacks mid-song and knowing when to unleash my spit valves all over the nearest carpeted floor. In many ways, that was the peak of my existence. There was something about playing Jingle Bells for my cat as she desperately tried to claw her way out of my bedroom that made me feel like a real artist.

Fortunately for you, I quickly realized that most people probably wouldn’t want to listen to 15 different tracks that consist of nothing but trumpet blasts of the first 10 notes of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy while they try to play a game. That’s when I decided to post on the GameMaker forums and seek out a professional music composer.

Now, do you see the problem with what I just said? I tried to put “GameMaker” and “professional” in the same sentence. Knowing what I know about GameMaker now, I’m surprised that I received anything beyond a bunch of 13-year old Zacks trying to peddle their trade as master trumpeters.

Instead, I received a very professional e-mail from a guy named Tim. He included a link to his portfolio along with a link to his company website, Northgate Productions. Immediately, I fell in love with the music samples he provided. Plus, he had a picture of himself on his website and it turns out that he looks just like me, which was enough to convince my inner narcissist that Tim would be a perfect fit for the job.

Fast forward a week, and Tim submitted the first-ever Siralim song: the battle theme. Within the first few seconds of the song, I was immediately flooded with nostalgia. The song boasted the perfect combination of Mega Man X’s hard rock elements, combined with Final Fantasy’s SNES-era prose. Actually, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I do know the song was great.

Since then, Tim has composed music for both Siralim and Siralim 2, along with hundreds of sound effects for both games. I’m pleased to say that Tim isn’t just another Oleg, and I still work with Tim to this day. Right now, he’s working on our upcoming game, The Negative, and I think you’re going to be blown away by what he’s come up with this time. We’re trying something new with The Negative’s music that I don’t think has ever been done in a game before, and I can’t wait for you to see (and hear) how it turns out!

User Interface

Designing a user interface (that is, the menus, buttons, and other on-screen elements that communicate information about the game to the player) is hard work. It’s more of an art than a science, and each game calls for a different UI, so it’s difficult to learn from other people how to draw them “correctly”. They’re extremely tedious to implement from a programming perspective as well. Out of everything in the game, implementing Siralim’s UI was the most troublesome for me.

Imagine you’re tasked with drawing our solar system on a piece of paper. The paper is the size of your computer’s monitor, and you need to try to fit as much detail into the picture as possible: every planet, every star, every thing. If you succeed, no one will notice, which is the best case scenario. Fail, however, and your family will be murdered and your house will be burned down. That’s exactly what it’s like to design a user interface.

You see, there’s a lot of information to keep track of in an RPG, but especially so for a game like Siralim. There are hundreds of creatures to collect, and each one has a unique set of stats, traits, lore, and much more. There are also hundreds of spells and items that all need to be explained with as much detail as possible. If these explanations are unclear, players will become overwhelmed, quit the game, and leave me a bunch of negative reviews on Steam which will put me out of business, causing me to run out of money and become homeless.

But I also have a limited amount of space on your screen with which to work. I can’t write a novel about every single creature and item, because it just won’t fit. And if it does somehow fit, you’re not going to be able to read it because it’s going to need to be written in size 2 font.

This means that something has to give. I can’t possibly fit every single detail about every single aspect of the game on your screen, so I need to pick and choose what is most important and either leave the rest out or place this information in a different location in the game. Easier said than done.

When Siralim first launched on Android and iOS, I proudly handed my iPhone to my father and said, “Here it is: Siralim. People can play it on their phones now!”. With a smile, he took the phone from my hands and started to play. A few seconds later, however, I watched as his smile twisted into a frustrated frown. The muscles bunched up around his eyes, and a thick vein popped up near his left temple.

“I can’t read this. I can’t see anything at all, actually,” he said with regret. I reclaimed my phone dismissively, deeply saddened at the sudden realization that my father’s eyesight was starting to fail at his old age. Fortunately, I was able to read everything on the screen without any problems at all, and I knew everyone else would be able to as well.

Except they couldn’t. No one could. As it turns out, most people don’t have perfect vision, and not everyone has the same size of phone that I have. But hey, it’s an easy fix, right? All I need to do is increase the font size by changing a single number in the game’s code, and the problem will be resolved. That’s what the experts who left 2-star reviews on the Google Play Store told me, anyway.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. When I increased the font size, fewer words were able to fit on the screen at a time, so I had to re-word and shorten just about every piece of text in the game. Worse yet, some text didn’t fit in the UI panels at all anymore, so I had to re-size the entire UI to accommodate the new font size. In total, I spent a full week of non-stop work just to increase the game’s font size. That’s precious time that could have been better spent on other things, such as adding new content to the game or fixing bugs. On the other hand, it was only a week, so in the grand scheme of things it was for the best.

I launched an updated version of the game on all platforms that included the increased font size, eager to watch all those 2-star reviews turn into 5-star reviews as people praised the game for its endlessly-complex gameplay, brilliant soundtrack, and nostalgiac graphics.

But nope. The 2-star reviews turned into 1-star reviews instead.

“I still can’t read anything! You suck!” shouted just about everyone. At that point, I had to agree that I pretty much sucked. I wasted all that time trying to fix the problem, and somehow, I didn’t do it correctly.

I re-worked the UI again, this time increasing the font size so much that I needed to re-word everything in the game an additional time. At that point, I had to abbreviate certain words and even remove words at random from item and ability descriptions just to make it all fit. Still, I managed to get the job done and submitted yet another update for the game.

“I can finally read the text now, but the font is so ugly, wahhhhh,” read a particularly dramatic review as accurately as I can remember it. Unfortunately, the majority of players agreed that the font wasn’t very easy on the eyes, and I received an overwhelming number of requests to change the font to something different.

By now, I think you can predict how this story ends: I had to change the font not once, but twice before everyone was satisfied. In other words, I’m not very good at designing user interfaces.

Here are some other problems with the old UI that were fixed before Siralim launched on Steam:

  • You weren’t able to hold down a directional button to scroll through lists. For example, if you wanted to scroll through your list of creatures at the stable, you had to repeatedly press a key to scroll through every single creature.
  • When you received items, they didn’t appear on the screen like they do now. Instead, a simple message appeared that said something like “You received a Happy Meal”. Then, you had to open your inventory and track down the Happy Meal to see what it did.
  • Creatures didn’t have health bars in battle, so players had to read strange health ratios such as “1238 / 4883” to determine how close to death their creatures were.
  • You couldn’t force the in-game dialog to finish by pressing the confirmation button. Instead, you had to wait for the game to write it all out, which was ridiculous considering a lot of the dialog was repeated hundreds of times throughout the game (imagine breaking 10000 vases and waiting for “You received 50 Brimstone” to appear every. Single. Time.)
  • If there wasn’t enough room in the UI to fit all the text I needed to include, the game would display part of the text, wait a few seconds, and then display the rest of it in the original text’s location. For example, a creature’s trait might say “This creature deals extra damage to…”, and then after a few seconds, the game might replace that text with “…anti-vaxxers”.

Thanks for reading! In next week’s third and final post, we’ll take a look at some of Siralim’s features that were cut or radically changed before the game launched on Steam.

Siralim of Old (Part 1)

This is the first of a multi-part post about the origins of Siralim. It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time now, and I hope you’ll find it interesting!

 

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably played a Siralim game before. What most of you don’t know is that the first-ever Siralim game started out much different from what it is today.

Did you know Siralim was first released for sale via the Humble Bundle widget, and people were forced to purchase the game using that widget directly from our website? That’s because Steam wouldn’t accept us on their store. Yes, that was back when you couldn’t simply throw down $100 and immediately gain the right to sell your game on Steam. Back then, we had to run a Steam Greenlight campaign not unlike running for Prom King or Queen, where fledgling developers over-promised and under-delivered on their offerings with the hope that gamers would give these games enough positive votes to catch Valve’s attention.

Siralim was in the top 10 best-voted games for nearly 8 months before Valve decided to let us through. Other games with a fraction of the votes were accepted before Siralim was, and all I can figure is that Valve knew the game was too rough around the edges even for their low, anime-porn-game standards. And frankly, I can’t help but agree with them.

Let’s start with a game trailer you’ve probably never seen before. In fact, this unlisted video only had about 500 views before I tore it down in embarrassment. Don’t tell anyone I’m sharing it with you, ok?

 

Damn, right? Every now and again, whenever I start to feel a slight tinge of pride for my work, I like to watch this video to bring me back down to earth. Nothing keeps a man humble quite like realizing he created this… thing.

As you can see, the spirit of Siralim has always been there – but it was so rough around the edges and had so many strange design decisions that I had no choice but to give the game a complete overhaul. While I waited patiently for Valve to accept Siralim on Steam, I worked 80 hours per week for 8 months to improve the game.

Let’s start by taking a look back at the most apparent issue the original game had: the graphics.

Graphics 1.0

The graphics were originally drawn by one person who goes by the name “Bynine”. I contacted Bynine about this project before I even wrote my first line of code for Siralim. I found some of his work on DeviantArt, and a lot of his samples included his own versions of Dragon Warrior Monster sprites – perfect for Siralim since that’s what the game is based on.

I still prefer many of Bynine’s creature sprites to the ones that are in any of the Siralim games to this day. They perfectly captured the retro feeling I was hoping to attain, and I think those creatures looked like something you would have found in another Dragon Warrior Monsters game on Gameboy Color. Most people seemed to enjoy these graphics as well. Unfortunately, aside from the creature sprites, everything else was really… rough. As you can see, the overworld sprites had strange proportions (take special note of the Fiend in the arena shown in the trailer above), the realm graphics were hard on the eyes, and just about everything else was inconsistent with the rest of the game.

Please realize that I’m not writing about this to talk down on Bynine’s art style – in fact, I’m pretty sure I specifically asked him to draw them that way, and regardless, I still keep tabs on his work and am amazed at how far he has come as a graphics artist since he worked on Siralim so many years ago. He was still in high school when he drew all the art for Siralim, and it’s amazing that he managed to find time to balance schoolwork, graduation, and to create art for a massive RPG all at once.

Unfortunately, all that remains of Bynine’s work in any of the current Siralim games is the Dumpling. It was his own, custom creature that he created when we first started working together. I wanted to keep that creature as a tribute to the artist who helped bring my childhood dream to life.

The only art that Bynine didn’t draw were the spell effects for Siralim’s 100+ spells. Those were instead drawn by JC, who I’m still happy to work with to this day. JC has worked on every single game I’ve ever created. Right now, he’s working on art for another game we have in the pipeline called The Negative.

Graphics 2.0

Eventually, Siralim was selling enough copies on Humble Bundle that I managed to scrounge up a decent enough budget to hire a “professional” (those are ultra-sarcastic quotation marks) artist. His name was Oleg, and he did some great work for Siralim. Most of his art is still included in all the Siralim games to this day. He drew all the castle tiles and all the objects/walls/tiles for the original 8 realms.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out with Oleg because, despite allowing him to name his own price on everything he drew, I had to literally beg him to get any work done. He also wouldn’t accept PayPal or anything like that, so I had to wire the money directly to his bank account. Unfortunately, he lives in Russia… so for security reasons, I had to drive all the way to my bank, wait for a banker to become available, and then sit there for up to an hour while they grilled me with questions about why I’m sending money to Russia. That’s not a fun process when you live in an area with snowy, icy winters like Ohio. It’s also not fun to be treated like I fell for a Nigerian Prince scam every other week.

Eventually, I got tired of both pleading with Oleg to do any work and needlessly driving to the bank in the middle of a snowstorm, so I decided to part ways with him. Oleg caused more stress for me than any other aspect of my career, and I can’t even begin to describe how relieved I was to find a replacement for him.

During this time, I also found another graphics artist named Andreas who would re-draw all the battle sprites and overworld sprites for the creatures in Siralim – over 200 in total! That was no small undertaking, especially since I needed these to be done in a hurry – after all, I could only convince my friends and family for so many months that I wasn’t working on a dead-end project. Andreas worked hard to deliver the goods as quickly as possible, and I’m very satisfied with how most of the creatures turned out. The majority of his work is still found in all the Siralim games, as he drew hundreds of the original creatures found in Siralim and Siralim 2.

And, since I have no sense of moderation, I also asked Andreas to draw another 100 creatures to be added to the game as a free, content expansion update. I like to think that all 18 players really enjoyed that update.


 

If you enjoyed this post, check back next Thursday for part 2! I’ll talk about why I originally thought the Siralim soundtrack was ripped from a Final Fantasy game, and discuss why I had to re-draw and re-code the user interface 6 different times.

Game Development: Dealing With Negativity

Whenever you share something you created with a public audience, that “something” will be judged by other people. This is a universal truth for just about anything: video games, books, music, paintings, and even smaller compositions such as a post on your favorite forums.

Sometimes, you’ll receive positive judgment for your work: appreciation for your effort, a quick note about how it improved someone’s day (or week, or life), or if you’re especially lucky, you might even receive some constructive criticism that you can apply to your next creation.

Other times, you’ll receive negative judgment for your work: destructive criticism (“these graphics suck” or “I could have shat on my kitchen floor and ended up with something better than that”), bouts of entitlement on how you should change your creation to match that person’s exact expectations, and even much darker responses such as personal insults and threats.

After only five short years of working as an independent game developer, I’ve seen countless examples of everything I just mentioned – and then some. As you might expect, positive judgment is what fuels my passion to improve my games and create new ones. I hungrily accept constructive criticism because I know it will make for a better game in the long run, even if it does take a bit of extra work to make it all happen. And who wouldn’t love to hear a sincere note of appreciation every once in a while? But let’s not forget about the other side of the coin: negative judgment, otherwise known as “negativity”.

Negativity is like a black hole that will inevitably suck every last ounce of motivation and passion from your mind. It leads to aspiring game developers (both independent and AAA alike) quitting their jobs just to avoid feeling so poorly about themselves, and that’s all thanks to the obnoxiously-vocal minority of people who just can’t seem to be nice. Negativity is painful because, in order to create something that’s actually good (games, music, etc.), you need to be passionate about it. And when you become passionate, you also become protective. Your creation becomes a very important part of your life, and it feels terrible to hear someone talk down on it.

Early on, I took to heart every negative review, comment, and tweet about my games. Even in a sea of positive feedback, one snide remark was enough to spin me into a short-term depression in which I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything for the rest of the day. At one point (especially when I published Siralim for PlayStation), these comments bothered me so badly that I self-medicated with alcohol just to avoid dwelling on this mindless prattle that ultimately served no one other than some nameless keyboard warrior’s ego. But soon after, I realized that I was letting these people take away the thrill of what should otherwise be a fun and rewarding job.

Something had to change for me, and I’m relieved to say that it most certainly did. I want to share what I learned about dealing with negativity to help other creators who will inevitably find themselves in this same situation. Pardon the long introduction, but this is a topic that I’m extremely passionate about.

Before we begin…

I want to start by reminding you that there is a difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Even if a player doesn’t particularly enjoy your game, they’ll often provide useful feedback about what you could change about it to better suit their wants and needs. That type of feedback is extremely valuable, and I am not advocating that you ignore feedback from your players. Your game isn’t perfect, and it never will be, because there’s no such thing as a perfect game.

This post is about dealing with internet toxicity – the kind of stuff that serves no purpose other than to bring other people down.

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Be careful about what you choose to read online.

If your game becomes popular enough, you’ll be able to find comments about it everywhere: in reviews, forums, social media, YouTube comments, and more. Back in the day, I used to intentionally seek out as many of these comments as I could find. After all, I wanted to know what people thought about my game!

The majority of the feedback I found was positive, which motivated me to work harder and to release more free content updates for my games. I don’t care how humble you think you are; when someone praises your hard work, it’s impossible not to feel good about it.

Unfortunately, I also came across a few really nasty comments about my games as well. Even after reading hundreds of nice things about Siralim, all it took was one bad review or one personal attack to erase everything those nice people said about my game. This sapped my motivation and ultimately caused me to produce less content over time. You can’t be motivated to work when you have things like that weighing down on your mind.

I know there are some people out there right now who are rolling their eyes and saying “Ha! Really? You get to make video games for a living. If I were in your position, I wouldn’t let a few negative comments get to me!” But until you’ve been in that position, you can’t possibly understand. Before I started making games, I said the same thing, and I now realize just how wrong I was.

The solution to this issue is a simple one: don’t read these comments at all. You might assume that it’s useful, for example, to read the negative Steam reviews about your game to obtain feedback. In most cases, however, you’re not going to get anything valuable from these reviews. Usually, if someone genuinely wants your game to succeed and they have something useful to say, they’ll get in contact with you and let you know. They won’t slam you with a negative review without talking to you first. Sometimes that does happen, but not very often.

Of course, there are some instances where you need to read these comments. For example, I welcome suggestions and bug reports on my forums, so of course, I need to read my own forums. But my forums are where I’m in control, and the trolls know it. They’re probably not going to waste their time telling me how much I suck at life when they know I will just delete their post and ban them. This is a valuable takeaway: in general, focus on reading comments only on the platforms you control. You’re far more likely to find useful feedback on these platforms and far less likely to find harmful comments. And, if you manage these platforms correctly, you’ll slowly grow a helpful and mature community of players who you look forward to interacting with every day.

On the other hand, I stay away from platforms that I can’t control. For example, I often find posts on the /r/iOSgaming subreddit about Siralim. Most of the time, people are recommending the game to players who are looking for an RPG with certain criteria. That’s awesome. But I don’t read the responses to those recommendations, because I know there’s always going to be that one person who couldn’t manage to get the game running on their iPod Touch from 2002 and they somehow believe that’s my problem.

When in doubt, ask yourself, “If I read this comment, will I be better off for it?”. If the answer is “no”, and most of the time that will be the case, just ignore it and move on with your day.

 

Don’t try to change other people. Change your outlook on them.

No matter how hard you try to avoid negativity, however, you’re going to stumble upon it eventually. It’s inevitable, and you need to be prepared for it.

Unfortunately, as much as we might want to, we can’t jump out of someone else’s computer screen and strangle them with their own headphone cords. In fact, we can’t do much of anything about what other people say about us. Critics have the luxury of hiding behind anonymity, and that is a fact that will never change.

So, if we can’t change other people, we need to change ourselves. Or, more specifically, we need to change our outlook on the matter.

Even now, whenever I read something that I don’t like, I still feel my blood pressure rise a little. But soon after, I remind myself that I know just as little about this person as they know about me. For all I know, they just got fired from their job, or maybe they recently found out that a family member has a terminal illness. Maybe they had to euthanize their dog last week. It’s even possible that they have a mental illness that causes an otherwise friendly person to say terrible things sometimes. I have no idea, but I do know that most people aren’t complete assholes for no good reason. That person is likely dealing with something bad in their life, and talking down on me or my game is how they’re choosing to cope with it. That doesn’t mean what they’re saying is justified, but it does help me to understand that their negativity is a problem on their end, not mine.

With that in mind, we can start to fight back a bit – but not in the way you might expect. No, we’re going to learn how to lovingly hug these trolls and turn them into our greatest advocates.

Give them a hug.

It’s a lot easier to shrug off negative criticism when you realize that these comments aren’t your problem. Maybe you’ll even become sympathetic to someone’s situation, even if you don’t know what that situation is.

If you’re brave enough to respond to someone who seems angry, violent, or all-around nasty, do it in the kindest way you can. More often than not, they’ll take a step back and realize that they were in the wrong and apologize. Some people will even feel so badly about what they said that they’ll change a negative review to a positive one, or even buy an extra copy of your game for a friend. Other times, you’ll gain the respect of onlookers who see how you handle even the most obnoxious of critics. In other words, use this negativity to your advantage.

Here’s a YouTube video someone made about Siralim 3. I’m still not entirely sure if they truly hated the game or if they were just employing an unbelievable amount of satire in their video (which they’re well-known for), but I invite you to watch the video and then take a look at the top comment, as well as the responses to it and the number of likes that comment received. It would have been very easy to respond to the criticism in the video (they barely finished the 5-minute tutorial and had several key facts about the game all wrong), but that wouldn’t have helped anyone at all. Instead, I gave them a hug and was immediately embraced by their viewers.

Whatever you do, don’t respond to negative comments with more negativity of your own. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and speak your mind. “How dare they talk down on my creation? I’ll show them just how wrong they really are.” But that will only make the situation worse.

When I get really annoyed with someone (which, fortunately, has lessened over time as I’ve adjusted to it), I’ll write a response to them in Notepad, and then save it to my desktop. The next day, if I open it up and still want to send it to that person, I will. But I almost never move forward with sending it, and when I do, it’s heavily edited and a lot more professional than when I first wrote it. This has saved me from a countless number of PR issues in the past. After all, no one will remember the obnoxious 11-year-old kid with pink Kool-Aid stains around his mouth who said I suck at making games, but plenty of people will remember whatever I said to him in response.

Remain focused on the bigger picture.

I’m pretty sure that no one has ever made a game that every single person hates. At worst, no one cares enough about your game to comment about it at all. In most cases, however, you’re undoubtedly going to interact with some great people who play your game. They’re passionate about what you do, and they want you to succeed – after all, if you’re successful, you’ll be able to create even more games for them to play.

Embrace these people. Listen to their feedback, thank them for taking the time to talk to you, and even befriend them if you want. Make your games for these people. They’re the only ones who matter, and they’re the ones who you’ll want to keep around for the long term.

Exalt the good, discard the bad, and you’ll grow something amazing together.


Thanks for reading! Despite what I wrote about not reading comments, I want you to know that I will most certainly read any comments about this post. Your feedback is always welcome!

If you want to read more about this topic, I highly recommend Jeff Vogel’s take on this subject. Jeff is the owner of Spiderweb Software. You might know him as the creator of the Avadon, Avernum, and Geneforge series. His post was instrumental to help me understand the motivation behind people’s negative behavior and how he deals with it. And, if nothing else, it’s great to know that you’re not the only one who deals with these issues on a daily basis. Misery loves company.

The Evolution of a Game: How Siralim 3 Was Born

For Thylacine Studios, last year was meant to be what is called a “growth year” in the business world. My goal was to devote most of my time to The Negative while I worked on a few smaller projects on the side. One of those projects is called Learn Kana The Fun Way!

… and I probably won’t be making anything like that again. I don’t even play puzzle games. I hate them. RPGs are my niche, both from a gamer’s perspective and a developer’s perspective, so I’ll probably stick to that genre from now on.

Another smaller project I had up my sleeve was tentatively titled “Siralim 2.5” – a sequel to Siralim 2, but not. The idea behind this game was that I would take Siralim 2 and radically change some core game systems that I thought could use some work. The changes would be drastic enough that I wouldn’t be able to simply release it as a content patch for the original Siralim 2 for fear that it would upset a lot of players. For example, I wanted to streamline the chef/cooking system since it turned out to be nothing more than an annoying chore for most players. The entire concept of Power Balance also started to feel like a mistake to me, so I wanted to remove that as well. But Power Balance is a huge part of the game, so that would take some serious restructuring and re-balancing to get things right. I also thought it might be nice to change all the NPC and player sprites, since let’s face it: they’re ugly. These are merely examples of some of the things I wanted to do for this not-quite-a-sequel.

But then, I also decided that Sigils could be more interesting. What if, instead of spawning a single battle, they created an entire realm for the player with a set of random properties? This could serve as the bulk of the end-game content for players. And in order to keep things interesting and allow players to always feel like they’re progressing, I could add a new type of item called Talismans which players can upgrade forever to continue gaining new benefits.

And you know what? The user interface could use some love. The base of the code for the UI was created when I had only been using GameMaker for about a month, so I was very limited with what I could do with it. A good example of this is the sound/music volume options – you’re presented with a list of 11 options numbered from 0% to 100% in intervals of 10% in order to select your volume. That’s ugly and unintuitive. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal back then, but looking at it in 2017/2018 makes me realize just how awful it really is. So hey, Siralim 2.5 should probably feature a revised user interface as well.

Ah, and another thing that I count as a mistake: auto-casting spell gems. Players simply stack as many “Cast On Hit” or similar properties on all their gems, then mindlessly rush into every battle without caring about the party composition of their enemies. Personally, I was so lazy that I stacked 6 Djinn Pyromancers with as many “Cast At the Start of Battle” gems as possible, allowing me to steamroll my way through all of the game’s content. Good luck removing those properties without seriously upsetting 90% of your players, though.

I spent several months continuing to tweak systems like the ones I just mentioned before I realized something: I have almost a whole new game on my hands now. Slowly but surely, I’ve tweaked or overhauled almost every single aspect of the game: artifacts, spell gems, breeding, nether creatures, avatars, realms, gods, and so much more. The only thing that’s missing is a new storyline. And you know what? That could have been better in Siralim 2, so let’s fine-tune it as well in Siralim 2.5. No, no, let’s re-write it entirely, and add all new bosses, and…

And suddenly, I realized that I had accidentally created the plans to develop a full sequel to Siralim 2. That same day, I contacted the necessary people to get a whole new soundtrack, sound effects, graphics, marketing assets, and more… and then I started grinding away at the programming end of things.

Things have snowballed quite a lot since then. For example, early on in development, I decided that I should find a writer to create lore for every single creature in the game. That’s over 700 creatures. And I didn’t want some short, generic Pokedex descriptions like “Springtime Aspects often startle people by throwing coconuts at them”. I wanted some fleshed-out and interesting lore for players to really sink their teeth into – I wanted it to be something players could sit and read for hours. In the end, it was Umaro (an active member of our community) and his friend who stepped up to the plate and wrote over 55,000 words of lore for the creatures in Siralim 3. They completely exceeded my expectations on this front, and I cannot wait for you to read what they’ve come up with.


Siralim 3 is just around the corner for Steam Early Access, and late May seems to be a very likely release date. I can’t wait to share this game with you and improve it with the help of your feedback. Thanks for your patience and continued support!

Maintaining motivation as a self-employed game developer

I’m normally not one to dive into topics like this one, but yesterday, someone who likely wishes to remain anonymous told me that they’re struggling to stay motivated as a self-employed game developer. I, like every other game developer out there, have struggled with similar issues at some point, so I offered my advice and they gladly accepted. I decided to post this information to the public in case it will help anyone else out.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on this subject by any means, but I’m now at a comfortable point in my career where my low-motivation days are few and far between, so I feel like I might have a few good tips to offer. Feel free to agree or disagree on any of these points, and if you have any advice of your own to offer, I encourage you to leave a comment at the end of this post.

I could probably write a book about this subject, but I’ll try to keep things clear and concise for this post. Again, this post is aimed at the self-employed game developer who struggles to maintain the discipline to work every day. We’ve all struggled with procrastination at some point, and others get so burned out by this that they stop development altogether. And even if you’re not a game developer, I hope you’ll find some of these tips useful. Let’s get started!

Make a checklist for absolutely everything.

And I mean everything. You should have a Notepad document open on your computer and smartphone at all times that allows you to quickly add and delete lines to keep track of your daily progress. Pick one day per week to plan out every day for the next 7 days. Add one task per line, and break up larger tasks to make them seem less intimidating. The goal is to be able to delete a line after every 15-20 minutes of work, so break your tasks up accordingly.

I add absolutely everything I need to do for the day to my checklists. Yes, that includes showering. It doesn’t matter what the task actually is, as long as it involves you doing something other than wasting your time on social media or watching Netflix.

Here’s an example of my checklist for tomorrow:

  • shower
  • brush teeth, floss
  • workout
  • walk the dog
  • write a chapter of my book
  • take vitamins
  • meditate
  • go to bank and make a deposit
  • read books [note: I read one chapter from each of these books per day. I just give each book a nickname on my checklist to make my life easier]
    • bach
    • money
    • mentors
    • meditations
    • knight
  • dishes
  • laundry
  • unity lesson [I’m a GameMaker user, but I’m learning Unity on the side for future projects]
  • implement runewords for Siralim 3 [This is a huge task, so I’ve broken it down. Runewords belong to 1 of 5 classes in the game, so I’ve decided to break this task down into 5 smaller ones]
    • chaos runes
    • sorcery runes
    • nature runes
    • death runes
    • life runes
  • design new Pandemonium Token effects for Siralim 3
  • implement new Pandemonium Token effects for Siralim 3
  • re-write looting script for Siralim 3

These tasks aren’t in any particular order. Order is irrelevant. I just want to jot down everything that I need to do; even the trivial things that I know I’ll do every day like take a shower. That way, I can pick an easy task, complete it, and delete the line. That gives my brain a tiny blast of endorphins…or dopamine, or really, who cares what it is. The fact is, completing one task drives me to complete another. And another. And yet another. And before I know it, my task list is done for the day and I can do something fun with my free time, guilt-free. And on a much larger scale, this snowball effect carries over to the next day, and I’m much more likely to complete my tasks for the following days and even expand my task list to take on more work over time.

Yes, this tactic is all about your personal psychology, but it works wonders. As an added bonus, you’ll never forget about appointments or deadlines ever again. When utilized habitually, the checklist is a life-changing tool. Give it a try for a few days and you’ll notice immediate results.

Start a morning routine.

Create a short list of things to accomplish each morning, and follow through with it every single day. These things shouldn’t have anything to do with game development – it’s all about getting yourself ready to have an excellent day. You’ll likely have a lot of overlap between this list and the checklist I mentioned above, and that’s even better – it’ll only help you to feel more accomplished early on in the day when it matters the most.

It’s important to repeat these steps every single day to turn them into habits. Here’s what mine looks like:

  • Wake up at 7:00am. [If you’re one of those people who sleeps for 12 hours until noon, stop. The earlier you can wake up without sacrificing your health, the better off you’ll be.]
  • Brush and floss teeth.
  • Drink a liter of water. [By the way, make sure you stay hydrated all day.]
  • Workout for 30-45 minutes.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes.
  • Start a pot of coffee.
  • Shower.
  • Eat breakfast and drink coffee.
  • Take vitamins.
  • Do the dishes.
  • Read for 45-60 minutes.
  • Learn Unity for 30-45 minutes.
  • Now that I’ve accomplished a lot, and my body and mind are primed and ready, it’s time to work!

Obviously, not everyone has time for all of this, and you’re probably not going to want to do the same exact things that I’m doing. Feel free to adjust your morning routine according to your own lifestyle. Just make sure you create a routine and stick with it. You’ll be much more likely to do more work if you follow organize and follow a schedule like this one.

Fight depression and stress.

Whether you’re suffering from severe depression or just a little stressed out, I believe everyone has at least a little bit of depression building up inside of them. It’s important to keep this depression away because it is what will ultimately rob you of your motivation. Here are some ways to relieve depression and get rid of stress. Ideally, combine all these steps to ensure you’re always feeling energized and upbeat.

  1. Stop ruminating. We all have a habit of thinking negative thoughts. What if my game doesn’t succeed? What if no one likes it? What if people leave bad reviews about my game? I didn’t get much done yesterday – I’m so unmotivated. Or, from a more “real world” perspective, you might be thinking about some injustice that a person did to you in the past. Stop it. Rumination is a habit, and a bad one at that. You need to break it. You’re wasting time dwelling on a past that can’t be changed. If you’re a chronic ruminator, this will be one of the leading causes of your depression and stress.
  2. Get some sun. I don’t have the time or space to give you the scientific breakdown about why sunlight is so important for your brain, but I know there’s not a single game developer out there that gets enough sunlight. This is awful for you. Try to get some exposure to the sun, and if you absolutely can’t do this for whatever reason, consider a Vitamin D supplement since I can almost guarantee you’re deficient, and that causes depression.
  3. Exercise. This is not an option; it is essential for both your physical and mental health. You don’t need to go to a gym or anything like that. Just go for a walk if that’s all you want to do. In fact, if you want to kill two birds with one stone, go for a 30-minute walk outside and you can get some good exercise while also drinking in the sunlight.
  4. Sleep. You’re probably not getting enough sleep. Shoot for at least 7 hours per day, and make sure you’re not waking up in the middle of the night. Your room shouldn’t make any sudden noises (so make sure you silence your smartphone) and there shouldn’t be any lights at all (including the LED lights on your alarm clock or cable modem). In terms of temperature, keep your room a little on the cool side – you’ll sleep better that way.
  5. Take Omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Again, there’s not enough room for me to break down the science behind this, but I’ll provide a link to deeper reading about this later on. For now, trust me that you need to find a good, Omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Some people are afraid to take these because they make you burp up strange odors, but if you shell out a couple extra dollars for a good supplement, this won’t ever happen.
  6. Social activity. I don’t care if you don’t have any friends. Go to the grocery store. Walk around the mall. Be around people and you’ll feel more energized. This will show you that there’s a much bigger world out there aside from the confinement of your little office room.

These tips were taken from a book called The Depression Cure. If you’re curious about the science behind these tips, check it out. And no, that’s not a referral link – I’m not writing this post to make 36 cents off of referral hits; I’m writing it to hopefully help others.

Meditate.

No, I don’t mean for you to sit on a cushion in the middle of a candle-lit room with your eyes shut and fingers pinched together. Of course, if that’s what you want to do, that’s fine, but I’m talking about something a little different.

It’s important to take a few minutes out of your day to turn off the phone, the computer, the television, and any other distractions and focus on yourself. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and slow your breathing for 10 minutes. Acknowledge whatever comes to mind. Don’t try to think about anything in particular – let the ideas come to you. I’ve found that this is not only a great way to decompress when I’m stressed, but also to come up with new ideas for my games that I would never have thought about if I hadn’t taken the time to give my brain the opportunity to think freely.

After 10 minutes are up, open your eyes. You’ll probably feel energized as if you just woke up from a nap, except you won’t feel like a zombie. You’ll feel rejuvenated and be brimming with creativity.

Cut back on drinking alcohol or consuming recreational drugs.

I get it: you’re stressed. You want to wind down at the end of the day. But in the end, alcohol and drugs are simply hurting your ability to produce. I used to drink heavily every night once I was done with my work, but then I realized how much it was hurting my business in the long run. It caused me to gain weight which sapped my motivation, health, and quality of sleep. It also gave me brain fog the next day. This caused me to feel very negative, so I’d drink some more to make myself feel better, and the cycle continued. It’s better to spend your time and money on something more worthwhile.


Hopefully you’ll walk away from this post with a few ideas about how to stay motivated while you’re working on large-scale projects such as video game development. There are countless other ways to become and stay motivated, but the ones in this post are the ones that worked best for me.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of these points? Do you have any tips of your own to share? I’d love to hear about them, so feel free to leave a comment here.

Siralim 3: Perk Design, and Death Mage Perks Revealed

In Siralim 3, perks – the bonuses that you can allocate to your character in exchange for Deity Points – will be designed in such a way to make every class feel more distinct than ever before.

First of all, there won’t be as many perks available for you to choose from in Siralim 3. Siralim 2 had too many “filler” perks that weren’t very exciting, and some were practically useless. Aside from that, since some concepts like rituals do not exist in Siralim 3, it is unnecessary to offer so many different perks. I’ll probably add additional perks over time, but I want to make sure each one feels useful rather than mindlessly adding new ones to inflate the list.

Secondly, perks no longer increase in costs as you continue to allocate points toward them. Getting a perk from rank 1 to 2 costs the same number of points as it takes to get from rank 49 to 50. A minor change.

As I said before, my ultimate goal is to make each class feel as distinct as possible. To start, I decided what core concepts each class should focus on when it comes to battles and party composition. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Death: focus on summoning temporary creatures, debuffs, and stat-decreasing effects.
  • Nature: focus on dodging and adaptability – a “jack of all trades” class.
  • Sorcery: focus on casting spells better than any other class in the game.
  • Life: focus on healing and survivability.
  • Chaos: focus on dealing critical damage, attacking, and taking control of battles.

Aside from that, I decided to take a lot of perks from Siralim 2 that every class had access to and allocated them to only one class in Siralim 3. For example, as you’ll see today, Death Mages are the only class that receives a boost to the amount of Granite they gain from winning battles. Such a subtle change will drastically affect the way you play the entire game since you will have an abundance of one type of resource and a scarcity of all the others. One class might always have access to the best artifacts and enchantments, while another class will be able to breed their creatures more efficiently. Keep in mind that the new Goblet of Giving allows you to convert your resources into different ones (for a price), so you won’t be completely out of luck when it comes to finding a different resource.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s take a look at the Death Mage class!


Below is a list of perks that Death Mages can choose from. In italics, I’ve added my own commentary as needed. Numbers surrounded in {brackets} increase as you invest additional points into its respective perk.

1) Granite – Increases Granite gained from battles by {5%}.
2) Defense – Increases your creatures’ Defense by {1%}.
3) Saia – Gives you exclusive access to Saia, the Grave Leper.

Saia cannot be given a nickname. It always has a unique artifact equipped called Death’s Edge which is more powerful than normal artifacts. It cannot be bred and therefore has no level cap. It cannot become a Nether Creature. As Saia kills enemies, it feeds on their bodies and gains additional base stats – permanently! If you change your class or reset your Deity Points, Saia will disappear, so don’t try to cheat the system.

4) Stat Decrease – Increases the potency of your creatures’ spells that reduce enemies’ stats by {2%}.
5) Living Nightmare – Your temporary summoned creatures have {2%} more Health, Mana, Attack, Intelligence, Speed, and Defense.
6) Necromancy – Your creatures have a {1%} chance to resurrect as a random Death creature with {4%} Health when they die.
7) Unholy Night – When your creatures are resurrected, they gain {1.5%} Attack, Intelligence, Defense, and Speed.
8) Horror Show – At the start of battle, your creatures cast their Summon spells. These spells are cast repeatedly until you have 6 creatures fighting for you, and they cost 0 Mana.
9) Damnation’s Edge – Saia’s artifact is upgraded to Damnation’s Edge.

This is a better version of Death’s Edge. It has more stat slots and even more powerful effects. In addition, the rate at which Saia gains base stats from killing enemies increases thanks to Damnation’s Edge.
10) Blood Spatter – When one of your temporary summoned creatures die, enemies take damage equal to 20% of its Maximum Health.
11) Nighttaker – Saia gains a new trait called Nighttaker: Your creatures’ attacks afflict their targets with a random debuff.
12) Daybreaker – Saia gains a new trait called Daybreaker: This creature has access to your temporary summoned creatures’ traits and Spell Gems.


What do you think about the Death Mage class? What class are you excited to see revealed next week?

Siralim 3: User Interface

Siralim has always been a complex game, and with these complexities comes a major hurdle for me as a game developer: designing a user interface that provides players with adequate information to play the game to its fullest potential while maintaining ease-of-use. It’s taken me some practice, but thankfully, Siralim 3 has a much more accessible user interface than its predecessors.

I’ll start by saying that no single user interface is going to make everyone happy, especially with a game like Siralim. We need to keep in mind that players of all ages and gaming experiences will try this game (you’d be surprised at how many players are over the age of 60), so while you might want the informational equivalent of a Wiki available to you at every point in the game, I don’t think that’s necessarily what Siralim needs. There must be a balance to provide players with as much information as possible, but it has to be presented in a way that isn’t overwhelming. That’s why, for example, I will never add access to the game’s library to the battle menu. There’s always going to be a more elegant solution instead of that – one of which you’ll find toward the bottom of this post.

The goal of any user interface designer is to minimize the number of “nested menus” that players need to sort through in order to get where they want to be. For example, how many buttons do you need to press to equip a creature with an artifact? How many buttons do you need to press to attack an enemy in battle? For obvious reasons, the fewer times a player needs to press a button, the better.

Aesthetically, I still want to maintain the old-school NES/SNES user interface style of a black background with white text. After all, Siralim is meant to remind you of those games. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a classic-inspired game to have a decorated interface for no apparent reason. So no, there still won’t be any scantily clad succubi peeking out from behind your creatures’ health bars like you’ll find in a game like Diablo 3. It’s just not that kind of game.

Let’s start with the very first screen you’ll see when you start the game and get past the Thylacine Studios logo.

I know, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out such a simple control scheme, but isn’t this infinitely better-looking than the primitive white-on-black screens found in Siralim and Siralim 2? This is the first game element that any player sees, and I think the old one had an immediate, negative psychological effect on a lot of players that made them say to themselves, “Damn, this game is cheaply made”.

The biggest change to the user interface is the main in-game menu, so we’ll discuss that next. Let’s take a look at a few screenshots.

Excuse the weird look of the castle – it’s just a chopped up version of Siralim 2’s castle right now, but it’ll be entirely different soon enough. Anyway, this is the first thing you’ll see when you press Q to open the menu. Not much has changed here, but you’ll notice that the resources are now presented a bit more consistently than before. In addition, when you choose any of these menu options, instead of another menu popping out to the right of the main one, the options will simply change in the original menu instead. Here’s what happens when I choose “Character”:

Immediately, with one less press of the button than before, you have some quick access to your character’s information. You can scroll up and down using the W and S keys as before, but you don’t have to press E again – the panels on the right simply change as you “hover over” one of the menu options.

Here’s a better, animated example using the “Creatures” menu:

The Library interface is now sorted much better as well. Now, each library book has been categorized as either a “List” or a “Guide”. Lists include things like the creature bestiary, the spells you’ve discovered, and your breeding recipes. Guides are informational and serve as a reminder of how certain game mechanics work.

One of the most commonly-requested features is to allow players to view detailed information about their creatures and enemies in battle. Therefore, in Siralim 3, the “Inspect” command is now a lot more useful:

This new feature allows you to view the stats, traits (yes, even the temporary ones you can sometimes acquire mid-battle), artifacts, spell gems, and many other things about any creature in battle. You’ll also notice that when I targeted the Yeti, there’s a + next to the “Inspect” text. This means that, since the Berserker Fiend (Chaos) is inspecting the Chillbreeze Yeti (Sorcery), it’ll deal extra damage to it. There’s a + next to all the command text, including attacking and casting spells. That way, it’ll be easier for you to choose the best target based on the enemy’s class. Similarly, you’ll see a “-” sign next to the text if your creature’s attack will deal less damage due to a class weakness.

Which gaming platform makes developers the most money?

In previous posts, I discussed what it’s like to develop and port games for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. Clearly, some platforms were much more difficult to develop for than others. But does the revenue earned from iOS and the PlayStation systems offset this frustration? In this post, we’ll take a look at how much money each platform makes for Thylacine Studios. Keep in mind that these values are very unlikely to be indicative of every company in the market – after all, we produce very niche games which probably appeal to a much different market than others.

These numbers are based on our most lucrative game, Siralim 2.

Windows (Steam)

Siralim 2 for Windows, distributed on Steam, accounts for the majority of our sales at 58%. This shouldn’t be at all surprising considering Windows is the most popular operating system. There’s really not much to say about Windows – it’s easy to develop for, and is the most lucrative. If I had to pick only one platform to support, it would be Windows.

Most revenue comes from sales – most notably the Steam Winter Sale as well as those that I run on my own. Most other Steam-driven sales aren’t very useful – for example, I’ve only sold a couple hundred copies of Siralim 2 during the Steam Autumn Sale. Not only is there a lot of competition with so many games on Steam now, but most people are definitely holding out for the Winter Sale which will inevitably have lower prices for all games across the board.

It’s also interesting to note that none of my games have ever been featured on Steam. Despite having higher sales and more positive reviews than other games (Siralim 2 has 94% positive reviews), we can’t seem to find our way to the front page during flash sales or other sales. I’d imagine Steam would account for much more of our revenue if this were to ever happen.

Mac (Steam)

The Mac version of Siralim 2 accounts for less than 1% of our annual sales. While that’s obviously quite low, it’s also very easy to port a game to Mac. In most cases, it’s as easy as clicking the “Compile for Mac” button rather than “Compile for Windows”. There’s a little more to it than that because Apple is a horrible company, but it normally only takes one day to test, debug, and prepare a game to run on Mac. I’d say it’s definitely worth supporting this operating system as long as you’re using an engine that makes it easy for you, such as GameMaker or Unity.

Linux (Steam)

Much like Mac, Linux accounts for less than 1% of our annual sales as well. Linux is a bit more difficult to support since it’s a lot more likely that users might be missing some required runtimes and other software, but it’s really not a big deal either way. It’s just as easy to port a game from Windows to Mac as it is to port from Windows to Linux, so I think this platform is worth supporting as well. It also generates some decent press from Linux-based gaming websites, and as you know, any press is good press.

Android (Google Play)

Google Play accounts for a little over 6% of our annual sales. While that might not seem like a lot, keep in mind that Android also helps to sell the game on other platforms because our games all support cross-platform cloud saving. Many of our players purchase our games on multiple platforms so they can play them both at their desk and in the bathroom. And regardless of that, 6% is nothing to scoff at – this amount of revenue is almost enough to cover development costs of the game itself!

Android (Amazon)

Stay away. Stay far, far away. I’ve attempted to distribute our game on two different Amazon platforms so far: the Amazon App Store and Amazon Underground.

The Amazon App Store works like any other Android store. Users simply purchase the game and then they have access to it forever. The problem is that, despite being the second largest Android store, Amazon doesn’t have enough market share to garner a decent profit. Aside from that, they have some pretty annoying technical requirements that make development a nuisance. The Amazon App Store earns less money for us than any other platform or store.

Amazon Underground is interesting. It allows people to play your game for free and access all DLC and in-app purchases at no cost. Developers are paid for each minute users play your game. The problem is that Amazon Underground only pays out $0.002 per minute. Yes, that’s 1/5 of one cent. That means a player needs to play your game for over 8 hours to earn developers $1. Most games don’t even last that long, but luckily Siralim will last most players far longer than that.

Unfortunately, that also means that I need thousands of players who are willing to play the game on Amazon Underground in order to make any decent amount of money, and that’s simply not practical for a niche RPG. In fact, I’m guessing that’s the case for most games. Aside from that, Amazon Underground has some pretty ridiculous technical requirements that make it an absolute chore to develop for. Right now, the Amazon Underground versions of Siralim and Siralim 2 don’t run very well on some phones, and crash for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, I also can’t remove these games from the Amazon Underground program – Amazon simply doesn’t allow me to do so. Right now, Siralim has a 3.5 star rating on Amazon, while Siralim 2 has a 1.5 star rating. Cool.

As you might imagine, Amazon Underground earns so little money for me that it’s not even worth providing you with a number.

iOS (App Store)

I’ve done enough complaining about Apple lately, so I’ll spare you from me repeating it again here. iOS earns about 1% of my annual sales. Not bad, but definitely not good, and it’s absolutely not worth the time it takes for me to port the game to phones. I think a lot of it has to do with the game itself, though – a lot of people don’t like on-screen virtual controls. Still, it’s strange that Android earns so much more money for me than iOS despite having a lot more apps and games that people need to sort through in order to find my own. Siralim 3 and The Negative will have much more intuitive touch controls, and I’ve also learned a lot more about creating higher-quality storefronts since I released my last few games, so we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out for iOS in 2018.

PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita

The PlayStation platforms account for the remaining ~31% of our annual sales. These are huge, largely-unexplored platforms for independent developers. I don’t think it’s necessarily worth the time it takes to learn all the intricacies of developing for PlayStation just yet since in the time it took me to launch my games on these platforms, I could have made a whole new game. But now that I know how to do it, it’s a lot easier and I’ll continue to support PlayStation 4 and all future Sony platforms for as long as I can.

However, I’ve been in talks with a company called Limit Run Games this year, and it sounds like we’ll be releasing a limited supply of physical copies of Siralim and Siralim 2 for PS4 and Vita in early 2018. Sales are projected to be so high that it’ll nearly double my total revenue across all platforms. In that case, PlayStation is by leaps and bounds the most lucrative platform.

Siralim 3: Story, NPCs, and a discussion about general gameplay!

As you might expect before we dive into the details about Siralim 3’s gameplay systems, we should talk about the story and the game’s characters first. At the end of this post, I’ll also talk about a pretty big change coming to the way the game “feels” when you play it. Let’s get started!

The Story

Although the game is called Siralim 3, you won’t be ruling over Siralim this time around. Instead, you’ll take charge of the kingdom of Nex, one of Siralim’s closest allies. You see, as you might have noticed in Siralim 2, the king was kind of an asshole. Those bosses he mercilessly slaughtered were simply trying to protect the world from his mad ideals. His people, including his most trusted friends, were loyal to him only out of fear. But after a while, bullying his own kingdom wasn’t satisfying anymore. He decided to attack and invade other kingdoms, not caring whether they were friend or foe. Countless kingdoms succumbed to the king of Siralim’s wrath, and as it turns out, Nex is the only remaining kingdom in Rodia that hasn’t been completely annihilated. But the hour of war is now upon us in Nex, and we must rally our people to try to fend off the attack.

You’ll start the game in Nex, which is under attack by a preliminary force of Siralim’s army. While the people of Nex are quite familiar with summoning and using creatures in small-scale battles, a century of relative peace has left your kingdom with its guard down. Very few of your people will survive the attack, and even if you manage to fend off the invaders, re-building your castle requires time that you don’t have to spare. If you manage to repel the attack, waiting around for recovery is not an option. You need to take the battle to Siralim and destroy the king and his army once and for all.

Even the gods no longer believe in the king of Siralim, and they regret placing trust in him to use the Nether Orbs for good rather than evil. As you might have expected, they’ve come to you to help Nex overcome this war. They will serve a much larger role in this game than they did in Siralim 2, and their personalities are now a lot more fleshed-out and interesting.

 

Sidenote: if you choose to be a queen in Siralim 3, the antagonist will be the queen of Siralim instead of the king.

NPCs and Castle Upgrades

Well, spoiler alert: most of the people of Nex will die within the first 10 minutes of the game. You had a blacksmith, but he was beheaded. The tavernkeeper was eaten alive by horrible Nether Creatures. And the enchanter? Well, you don’t want to know what happened to her.

In previous Siralim games, you could unlock these NPCs and other features by completing castle upgrades. However, that isn’t how it works in Siralim 3. Instead, you’ll meet and recruit these people during your travels as you seek out a way to destroy Siralim. Some of these people simply might be looking for a kingdom to join, while others might be under attack or give you a task to complete in exchange for their undying loyalty. Others might even be defectors from Siralim.

From a gameplay perspective, I think this will make the game flow a lot more smoothly. The castle upgrade system in previous Siralim games presented an illusion of choice; after all, when would you not want an enchanter in your kingdom? Aside from that, rituals made this system feel even more cumbersome, so those are not in Siralim 3 at all. Now, you’ll simply unlock these NPCs as you progress through the game’s storyline. After moving in to Nex, many of these NPCs will have side quests for you which will unlock even more of their potential. For example, the blacksmith will give you quests that, upon completion, unlock new artifacts for him to craft.

A Classic Game

In some ways, Siralim and Siralim 2’s progression feels kind of cheap. For the most part, you and your creatures leveled up every battle or two, and while resources may have been scarce early on in the game, you probably had so many later on that you didn’t know what to do with all of them. Aside from that, the levels of your creatures didn’t seem to matter that much – a level 300 creature could fare pretty well against a level 350 creature.

In Siralim 3, leveling up will take a bit longer than before. Don’t worry, the pacing of the game will remain the same – I’m not going to make it more of a grind or anything, but I want each experience level to have more of an impact on your successes and failures than in previous games. Aside from that, creatures will gain stats exponentially when they level up. For example, in Siralim 2, each level simply granted a creature +20% to all of its base stats. In Siralim 3, each level grants a creature +20% to all its base stats as it did before, plus an additional amount equal to a function of its level. With the help of these changes, leveling up should feel a lot more rewarding and impactful.

You’ll also find that the resource system is more balanced than before. Power Balance has been removed from the game, so there’s no need to worry about that anymore. In addition, Power is now considered a normal resource just like Brimstone, Crystal, Essence, and Granite. Each resource will still be used for different things, and I am trying to make sure that players value all resources equally.

Another major change is how the death penalty is handled. In Siralim 1, you lost a percentage of your total resources when your party was wiped out. I don’t really like that since it had a tendency to increase the game’s difficulty simply because you died. That feels really inconsistent to me. That’s why in Siralim 2, the penalty for dying was a loss of Power Balance. But not only is Power Balance not in Siralim 3, it also caused players a lot of frustration because Power Balance was so tedious to maintain. The worst part about both of these death penalties is that because of the way the math works out, these penalties either annoyed players or players simply didn’t care about them at all, so they were happy to recklessly charge into a realm without considering the consequences of death.

Instead, here’s how the death penalty works in Siralim 3: every item you acquire in a realm (aside from resources) will be added to a “Pending” category in your inventory because they’re all tainted by Siralim’s corruption. These items cannot be used while they’re “pending”. After you find the Teleportation Shrine and teleport to a new realm or back to Nex, the Teleportation Shrine will dispel the corruption from these items so you can add them to your inventory. If you die in battle, the items will be lost forever. This death penalty will add a bit of tension to the game because if you find an extremely rare item a realm, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to keep it if you die in battle. And since enemies now continuously spawn in realms, you can’t try to cheat the system by clearing out all the enemies and then opening up the treasure chests. This death penalty only applies to realms past a depth of 10. Huge thanks to Umaro on our forums for this idea!


What do you think of Siralim 3 so far? Are you excited? As always, if you have any suggestions for the game or want to talk about this post, please leave a comment here or check out our forums!