Category: Indie

Inaria Super HD High-Rez Total Remake Revamp HD Edition in HD

So I’ve been thinking about my projects lately.

As much as I love the concept of Planitia, it seems like nobody is going to want to play it. It wasn’t going to have a huge single-player component and the odds that it’ll become a breakout multiplayer hit areā€¦slim.

So I’ve been focusing on Inaria. My initial goal was to simply get it on Steam, and to that end I did things like revamp the layout so that it works better on 16:9 monitors. I also upgraded the font to an excellent one from Chevy Ray’s Pixel Font pack:

The Slorn still aren’t nice.

I think that looks rather spiffing. But the more I work with the game, the less I want to put it on Steam. It’s so primitive, even with the upgraded graphics. The mechanics are uninspired and there’s only one character. I tried to make Ultima III and ended up making Dragon Quest 1. Just about every element of the game needs work; the maps especially look (to me) terrible, since I Cannot Art.

One of the big things I wanted to do was expand the party to at least four members and add party-based combat. Again, my original goal was to make the game more like Ultima III (or maybe IV. Or V. One of those.)

But the thought of working out the mechanics didn’t appeal to me, so I wasn’t really motivated to do it. And now I think I’ve figured out why.

And now it’s time to go off on a HUGE tangent. Sorry!

I’ve done extensive research into tactical turn-based combat systems over the years and I feel that they fall into three general categories, which I’m going to name based on the original games that created them (to my knowledge).

The first is the Dungeons & Dragons system. As any schoolkid knows, D&D was adapted from a miniatures game called Chainmail, which itself was adapted from older board wargames. In the original board wargames, a single unit actually represented a large number of people – a column of tanks or a detachment of soldiers, for example. The scale of the maps was much larger as well. In general, the number of options allowed was limited – you moved and/or attacked and that was it. This limitation propagated through to Dungeons & Dragons, where every turn you could move one space OR make take one action (like attack, use an item or cast a spell) – and that was it. This makes combat feel very choppy and if the two parties are far away from each other, it can take several turns before they even come into combat range. Still, this combat system was highly influential, used in dozens of early computer RPGs, including the Ultima series, the Bard’s Tale series, the Wizardy series, etc.

The second is the Snapshot system, designed by Marc Miller. This uses an Action Point system, where characters have a number of points based on their stats, and can perform actions on their turn by spending those points. This system allows great flexibility while having somewhat unrealistic outcomes; a character with a high number of action points can step around a corner, make multiple attacks, and then step back around the corner so that enemies can’t retaliate. This system was later adapted into many tactical combat games on computers, including X-COM and Jagged Alliance.

The third is the Fantasy Trip system, designed by Steve Jackson. This system gives characters a Move score, denoting the number of spaces the character can move in a turn. However, a character can’t make an attack if they move more than half of their Move score in a single turn. A character can only make one attack per turn and if they make that attack, they can’t move afterwards. This is much more realistic but also much more limiting, and requires more rules to cover some edge cases (what’s half my Move if my Move is 7? Is it 3 or 4?). A lot of tactical games use a revised version of this system where you can move up to your full Move, then do one action. Final Fantasy Tactics uses this system.

Now, you may know that I read the CRPG Addict’s Blog extensively. (I’m getting to my point, I swear.) He’s played a bunch of games I’d heard of and read the manuals for, but didn’t get a chance to play myself since I didn’t have an Apple II or Commodore 64 growing up. In particular, SSI‘s RPGs intrigued me, especially the tactical ones. Over the course of three years, SSI published four RPGs with tactical combat created by two different teams of programmer/designers: Wizard’s Crown and its sequel The Eternal Dagger, and Shard of Spring and its sequel, Demon’s Winter.

Now here’s the amazing thing: the two different lines of games use the two different combat systems! Wizard’s Crown and Eternal Dagger use the modified Fantasy Trip system, where characters can move up to six spaces and then take an action. Shard of Spring and Demon’s Winter use an AP system, allowing characters to move freely and attack multiple times per turn, realism be damned.

And you know what? I don’t like the Dungeons & Dragons or Fantasy Trip systems. While I love Ultima, it’s combat has always been its weakest element and I believe this is why. It doesn’t help that most combats take place on a single screen, in a cramped 11×11 arena.

I like the Snapshot system. Actually, I LOVE the Snapshot system in just about every incarnation I’ve discovered it. I love X-COM (and XCOM even though the system isn’t quite the same) and I love Jagged Alliance 2. (I actually started playing the game again recently after seeing a surprisingly hopeful trailer for Jagged Alliance 3).

Which leads me back to Demon’s Winter. After making this discovery and reading the CPRG Addict’s blog posts about the game I decided I wanted to play it myself. While the game is no longer downloadable, it can still be played on’s web DOS emulator. I was amazed how easily I was able to get into the game even without reading the manual. You use the arrow keys to move your characters around and press the key for the action you wish to take, with a complete list on the right side of the screen. Arenas are also much larger than the screen, allowing for truly huge combats on extremely varied terrain. Compared to other early RPGs, it’s a model of playability and clarity, although it’s not very pretty.

Horrible tiles and black text on a red background. The things we gamers put up with in the 80’s.

“So what does this have to do with Inaria?!” I hear you shriek. Well, it should be obvious. I’m going to add tactical, party-based combat to it and I’m going to use the Snapshot system to do it. I don’t know of any other indie games that are using a system like this so hopefully not only will I be using the system I want, I’ll be making the game more distinctive as well.

Of course, it’s not all peaches and gravy. AP combat systems can have serious flaws, which I’ll get into in my next blog post.

More Heroes!

Wow, I can’t believe I forgot these guys. Mike Hommel and Seth Robinson are two friends of mine who I got to know better during the Indie Conversation.

They have conspired to create a game called Growtopia, which is a collaborative creative MMO on iOS and Android (Seth claims desktop versions are Coming Soon). It is apparently the business and has generated tons of sales for them, which makes me very happy. Seth wrote an excellent postmortem for it, which you can read here.

Andy Moore, who is apparently the only remaining contributor to the Conversation, also had a recent big hit with Monster Loves You. MLY is published by Dejobaan Games, one of my favorite “indie” publishers. (I still want a sequel to A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, guys.) Again, you can read a postmortem of Monster Loves You here on Gamasutra. He also took MLY to Pax and wrote up a great article on how to take your game to Pax if you’re an indie.

So, while I was unemployed and feeling sorry for myself, my friends were out doing great things! I should follow their example.


It’s interesting to track my own metamorphosis as a game developer.

Not too long ago, if you asked me who my heroes were when it came to game development, I would mention people like Warren Spector, Richard Garriott (de Cayeux) and Peter Molyneux. These guys all started their work when game development was a very nebulous endeavor – no one knew what would work and what wouldn’t. They hit upon winning formulas, allowing them to become well-known and at least moderately wealthy.

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the “rules” of game development at the upper end are now set in stone – or at least in ballistic-grade gelatin. Add the fact that the cost of game development has skyrocketed and the fact that the industry is so volatile that it’s almost impossible to have a “work for 20 years at the same company and then retire” kind of career, and you’ve got an industry that makes games I like to play, but one I don’t find myself wanting to work in as much.

Which brings me great sorrow, but such is life.

So who are my heroes now? Who is Doing It Right? Who do I want to emulate?

My heroes now are mostly indies – guys and gals doing it hardscrabble fashion, showing lots of talent, doing whatever they want and almost certainly not getting compensated enough for what they do.

For instance…

Jeff Vogel. I’ve talked about him before. Since I wrote that article, he has since found further success on Steam and iOS devices. Again, he’s doing it just the way I’d like to – making the games he wants and making a good living at them.

Christer Kaitila. He’s a huge game jam fan – to the point where he wrote a book about them. He’s a longtime Ludum Dare contributor and composed my favorite LD Keynote ever. His star is currently rising as the creator and maintainer of #1GAM – the One-Game-A-Month project. The response to this has been overwhelming, the site has tons of entries and the new IRC channel is as busy as #Ludumdare usually is.

Jay Barnson. I’ve mentioned him before and I’ll probably mention him again. He’s a longtime friend who is currently working on a sequel to his successful game, Frayed Knights. He, like I, spent many years doing professional game development before going indie.

Sophie Houlden. She’s an absolute master of Unity, doing crazy awesome things in a frighteningly short amount of time. Unfortunately, a lot of her games (Swift*Stitch in particular) appear to be underrated.

Sos Sosowski. Not only did he design his own website, which is awesmoe, he developed the crazy/fantastic McPixel, which was all over YouTube after its release.

Daniel Remar. Yeah, yeah, I talk about Daniel all the time. I can’t help it; I’ve loved everything he’s done. And he somehow manages to make games while holding down a full-time job and then release them for free.

I also read recently about a woman who wrote a dozen books, one a year, while home-schooling her autistic son. I think you can see how a setup would be attractive to me.

I need to rekindle the dream of my own independent game development…and as far as I can tell, there’s only one path open to me. More on that later.


Well, I guess this was inevitable. Peter Molyneux is attempting to remake Populous. Which means that Planitia could easily become superfluous.

Now, I don’t resent Peter one bit for this. In fact, I kind of knew it was coming. A few months ago I watched a presentation Peter gave about the development of the original Populous, and at the end, he showed off a multiplayer version he’d been working on with massive islands. That drew a great deal of applause, so it was fairly natural that Peter would try to go forward with that project.

What I don’t like is what is happening to the project. Godus, at this rate, will not get funded.

There are a lot of people who feel that Peter has broken past promises and thus can’t be trusted with this project. And Peter isn’t helping anything by making similar promises for Godus; he swore there would be a tech demo out on Friday, for instance…it has not seen daylight yet. And if it doesn’t come out within the next couple of days, it will be too late for that tech demo to sway people into supporting the Kickstarter.

But the general consensus I’m getting is that people are effectively punishing Peter, in a sort of inverse to how they rewarded Tim Schafer. That makes me…uncomfortable. It seems a little unfair to punish everyone at Peter’s company – as well as the many people who would love to see a Populous remake – because of Peter himself. In this case, I think Peter can be trusted. It’s a small company making a small game for a relatively small amount of money. I’d like to see more people take the risk and fund Godus.


Once, long ago, there was a game. It wasn’t just any game. It was an excellent game, a forerunner, a game so far ahead of its time that most people who play its descendants have never heard its name.

That game…was Herzog Zwei for the Sega Genesis. It is considered by many to be the progenitor of the real-time strategy genre, but actually obtaining and playing a copy is quite difficult.

Now, Carbon Games, the creators of the excellent Fat Princess, have gone straight back to the source for their next game, AirMech. Because the original Herzog Zwei incorporated design elements that would later be used in games like Defense of the Ancients and Tower Defense, the design feels very fresh despite being a case of “everything old wins originality awards eventually”.

You can get into the AirMech beta pretty easily by going to the Carbon forums and posting in the “I want to be in the AirMech beta” thread. The following video should inform you why you should do so.

Cardinal Quest

Okay! I’ve sold exactly one copy of Inaria through BMT Micro, which is enough because I wanted to find out what the experience was for the buyer. The buyer was one Ido Yehieli, who just happens to be an indie himself. After quizzing him on how BMT Micro worked for him, he then sent me a free copy of his game, Cardinal Quest. Which is actually a pretty good little Roguelike with modern features. I especially like the scrolling combat text – I was attacked by a succubus with her special power; the scrolling text told me I’d “Lost 3 Attack”. I killed her and a few turns later saw “Recovered 3 Attack”, which made it VERY clear that her spell had worn off. THAT’S the level of clarity I need in my Roguelikes. (I’m talking to you, NetHack. I don’t care how famous and beloved you are, I still think you’re a crappy game.)

Anyhoo, you can buy Cardinal Quest for a measly $5, and unlike my game there’s actually a demo so you can find out if you like it before you play. So check it out!

The Man Who Chases Two Rabbits Will End Up With None

Okay, so the reason I haven’t been posting (other than general laziness) is because I’ve become terribly conflicted over what to do next. I know, we already had this conversation, but there’s some other factors in play here.

First, I have a game. It’s called Inaria. It’s almost good, and some people know about it. If I spend the time necessary to improve it, I can effectively re-launch it with another round of press releases (which will hopefully get some traction this time) and possibly turn what was a mediocre game into a good one.

Plus, Inaria is content-driven. While there’s lots of fun and funny stuff in Dungeons of Dredmor, it’s not as story-driven as I want Inaria to be.

Plus…remember when I said that one of the failings of Inaria was not enough middleware? Well, I’m fixing that for good and all. I am currently learning Unity 3D, and I believe that it will help me make the 3D RPG that I’ve been wanting to make for so long. It could also help me finish Star Kittens and revive Planitia; that would give me three very different games (an RPG, a sim-game and a networked multiplayer RTS). For the record, you can sell games made with the free version of Unity without having to pay any royalties (a crazy, crazy bit of craziness on their part that I intend to take full advantage of) and the games you make can play on the web (with the Unity web plugin) or standalone on PC or Mac. Which means that I can make web-based demos of my games and then sell the full versions as standalone products.

But of course, first I must learn it. I’m going to devote the next month to doing very little but learning Unity. I’ll chase that one rabbit and then use it to finally get the others I’ve been wanting for so long.

Getting it Together

I’ve been away because a) my job-job has been heating up and b) I’m re-assessing my indie situation. That’s not to say I’m giving up; far from it. I’m just looking at what I’m doing and figuring out how I can do it faster and more efficiently.

I’m probably going to switch away from ClanDestiny to Star Kittens. I believe Star Kittens could be a really big game for me. Plus, my daughter bugs me about it every night. So expect to see some Star Kittens stuff both here and at very soon.

Push Back

Don’t…don’t give me that look. I can feel your look.

Yes, Inaria is getting pushed back. But there are several good reasons.

First, the deadline was my birthday. How stupid was that? I want to spend my birthday relaxing, opening presents and eating a hamburger as big as my head, not frantically coding.

Second, the game might still be ready on time, but the website is not. I Are No Artist, so my website design skills are limited. I’ve already figured out how I’d like to do the layout, but actually making it look nice is a bit beyond me. Plus, I have to set up everything so that the game can actually be purchased.

Third, if I do get the donations from 8-Bit Funding, I’ll need time to actually use them, since I stupidly put the donation deadline on the same day the game was to be released. (Whether or not I get the donations from 8-Bit Funding depends on whether or not I hit $250 in donations within the next two days. If a project does not raise at least 50% of the money requested before the deadline, all donations are refunded, no exceptions.)

The new date is March 31st. I think this is realistic enough that I might actually come in early.

Don’t worry. You’ll be taking on the Slorn army single-handedly in no time.

The October Challenge

I was hanging out in #ludumdare like I do when a regular there by the name of PoV posited a challenge to us:

Make a game and sell at least one copy (or license it) by the end of October.


I’ll be taking him up on that, and the game I’ll be making is the long awaited Star Kittens! Needless to say I’ll be blogging the entire process.

And if anyone else wants to join in, here’s PoV’s original challenge post along with tips for success!