The road to our second game, part 3

After the last two prototypes for a town building game we were feeling a bit stuck. We liked the idea of working on that type of game but were missing inspiration for which direction we should go with it.
So, we tried something entirely different!

Garret suggested that maybe you should be able to control a character in the town builder.
We gave it a try and suddenly in a complete change of direction we were working on a 3D platformer :)

3D Platformer

Working on this was so much fun!
We built a huge playground to test all kinds of gameplay mechanics and moves.

The thing with developing management games is that they don't really feel fun to play for years. It's only towards the very end of development when all the systems, content and balancing are in place that the game actually feels good and interesting.
With an action game it's very different - moving the character and jumping around was super fun within the first day. It still takes lots and lots of tweaking and adding interesting moves, interactions and level design to turn it into something good of course, but it's a lot easier to see if something works or not.

This prototype did excite and inspire us immediately and we went much farther with it than with the others.
We came up with an interesting setting and story, ideas for the overall design and layout of the world, gameplay mechanics and had some concept art done.

And yet... we cancelled this idea as well right before moving into proper production!
This was a really tough decision though and hurt, because we did enjoy working on it and spent a lot more time on it (roughly half a year as opposed to a couple of weeks for the town builder prototypes).

What we learned

  • the project felt risky because we had never worked on a platformer game before, which made it difficult to judge if we would be able to make something good and if there's a market for it. None of what we learned from Parkitect would apply to this game. In retrospect all of this was true when we started with Parkitect as well though. Also this prototype felt like a pretty good start, so we might have been a bit more scared than we should have been
  • it was relatively easy for us to make the movement feel good and to come up with interesting moves and mechanics, but we had a really hard time designing interesting levels. Maybe the moves we came up with weren't that great for level design? But most likely this was due to inexperience with level design, and also because we had no good tools for level building. We tried a few different one but they were all awkward and slow to use and didn't allow us to quickly make changes and test them in-game. So what we probably should have done is spend more time on creating good level editing tools and maybe that would have fixed the other problems over time
  • we noticed fairly early on that this type of game would require a lot less time to program and a lot more time for art and level design, which didn't work very well for our team composition. We would have to find more artists and new tasks for Patrick and Sebastian

Parkitect - Free Content Update

we've got a free content update for Parkitect today!

Late last year tristar from the Parkitect community suggested that we should hire him to update a bunch of old items to be recolorable, which we gladly did!
Over time the project grew a bit larger and now we've got a pretty nice update that also includes a good amount of new deco objects, two new entertainer costumes, and some wall and roof shapes to complete existing building sets.


  • a number of objects have been updated to be resizable
  • some objects have been updated to fit together more nicely
  • the water color on water rides can be changed now
  • running ad campaigns appear in the ongoing events list so you don't have to constantly check the ad campaign window
  • the attraction overview list can be sorted by average queue time

Have fun :)

The road to our second game, part 2

After the previous experiment with a town builder we came to the conclusion that we didn't really like it if you can place buildings wherever you want, in whatever rotation you want, without any sort of restriction.
It felt like it made it too easy to quickly plop down a bunch of buildings without putting too much thought into it.

So we gave it a second try but with everything on a grid!

Town Builder, Hex Grid Edition

We still wanted to experiment with things we had not done before, and thought a hexagonal grid might be a good fit for a town builder.

It has all of the restrictions of a grid but allows to build things in a slightly more organic looking way.

Something we haven't really touched on yet were the visual challenges for these prototypes. Both of them would require detailed, bespoke assets for buildings, resources, large amounts of land and of course the characters. Some of these we are familiar with, but others would have been a challenge for us to accomplish well.
You can see in the images we created some placeholder objects to represent buildings, and this was causing problems with scale. We weren't sure if we wanted to make these massive buildings, and thus the people would need to be tiny, or to stylize it and fudge the scales of different things.
We also had issues with art style, which would become a recurring problem for most of our prototypes except a few near the end of our experiments. While art style comes into play after a prototype a lot of the time, it can help inform a number of important decisions early on. It can be handy to have concept art or sketches to pull from, and we didn't have that for these. This leads into another problem of feeling engaged and passionate about an idea, and we weren't sure yet if we liked what we were doing, so a solid theme and setting never materialized.

In the end, due to game design issues as well as artistic issues, we decided not to move forward with this prototype either.

What we learned

  • just adding a grid didn't really make the game interesting enough to inspire us to keep working on it.
    There have been enough town builders that work just like this and we were missing something unique that would make the game more interesting.
  • we felt that in addition to gameplay we should think more about setting and art from the beginning as well
  • committing to a multi-year big game project based on a tiny prototype is hard!

The road to our second game, part 1

"Having an idea for a game is easy, but making the game is hard" is a phrase that I have heard many times from other game developers.
I don't think that's entirely true. For me, I find the "having an idea" part is hard as well - or at least having a good idea is.
Making a game can take many years. I want to work on games that excite myself, and that keep me excited for all these years. We're working on our games as a team, so everyone else needs to be excited to work on it too!
Also, you need to eventually sell the game, so it should be something that gets players excited as well! To do that it probably helps to be something somewhat unique that stands out from other games, maybe with a cool art style or a unique setting or some clever gameplay ideas.
Oh and it also helps to somewhat predict what the market is like when your game finally releases. Maybe everyone is super into deck builder farming games with puzzle mechanics now, but what about in a few years?

So, that's all a bit overwhelming, but you need to start somewhere, and we do that by building prototypes.
A prototype is a small, fairly unpolished slice of what could eventually become a game that is supposed to give you some ideas about what does and doesn't work. We only want to invest as much time into them as necessary.
It could be for testing many things, like the gameplay loop, or a single game mechanic, or a technical detail.

Once Parkitect 1.0 was released we started working on a few different prototypes in parallel to working on the Parkitect DLCs and multiplayer update.

They aren't pretty, but I thought it would be interesting to take a look at them!
Here's the first one, and we'll show others in future posts.

Town Builder

I really love games with lots of tiny people running around and doing their thing in the environment you've created for them.
I also enjoy working on games that have lots of simulations and systems interacting with each other in some way.

So naturally it made sense to give another management simulation game a try, and I thought a town builder would be a good idea - I've always wanted to make one and had prototyped 2-3 different ones before. They never got very far, but maybe this time things would work out :P

There was no clear idea for what the game would be, other than a town builder - so there was no setting or theme or gameplay mechanics. The goal of the prototype would be to figure out what we like and dislike in a town building game, and hopefully along the way it'd give us some inspiration for answering all these other questions.

It was pretty much a very basic version of Settlers III, with stacks of resources, buildings that create and request resources, and people running all over the place transporting the resources around.
Obviously it would have been fleshed out eventually to turn into something more unique, but the goal for this was to figure out whether this alone is interesting and fun, and what the technical challenges would be.
To learn some more new things that we didn't already know from Parkitect, there was no grid in this prototype, buildings could be placed and rotated freely however you wanted, and we wanted to have a large, smooth terrain.

What we learned

  • distributing resources between buildings in a way that makes sense is quite challenging because there's so many things to consider! You don't want workers to walk from one end of the world to the other just to deliver something. Ideally a resource should get picked up by a worker who is fairly nearby, and get delivered somewhere that isn't crazy far away. At the same time though this could cause some buildings to never receive resources, which feels wrong. Also, maybe some buildings are more important than others because they produce something essential, so probably there also needs to be some priorities for that?
  • having a large, relatively complex area to pathfind across seemed challenging but there are already some good solutions for it that work well (i.e. Navmeshes)
  • simply plopping down buildings everywhere if you have unlimited space and can place them freely however you want is not very interesting. It gives a lot of freedom in how you design your town but if you always have room to squeeze in a building pretty much wherever you want it feels like you don't have to put a lot of thought into placement