Let’s talk commanders and modding – Mutant Gangland Devlog

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One thing I really love about board games is how different the same game feels when played with other people. Everyone has their play style, everyone thinks and acts in a different way and this affects not only the outcome of the battle, but also the way it unfolds. Playing against an AI opponent most of the time leads to a somewhat similar early game in most TBS games and this is something I’m trying to avoid or, at least, make it less visible in Mutant Gangland. And I think I’m heading in the right direction with the latest additions from this week: Commanders.
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Let’s talk Irene – Developing a good enough TBS AI

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Disclaimer: I haven’t dabbled much in Artificial Intelligence before beginning this project. This article is aimed at developers starting out to develop a TBS game with no prior experience, looking for a place to start their journey. I’m not claiming this is the right way to handle AI and I won’t vouch for the sanity of the code (or anyone reading it).

Welcome to part II of my ongoing attempt to document my progress in designing a “Good enough” turn based strategy AI for my upcoming game Mutant Gangland. In this article I will focus on documenting the improvements I added to Harrold (the 8th AI iteration). This new version will be dubbed Irene and she will, hopefully, play a even better game then her older brother did. My focus in this iteration is on smart unit creation. Till now I only worried about getting the AI to move the units across the map and accomplish each units goal. One thing I notice from play tests, and from other people’s feedback, is that it’s easy to kinda rush the AI with a bunch of units early on and catch them of guard. Previously Harrold created his units pseudo-random, based on a few tables (or arrays) for predetermined situations. Continue reading

Mutant Gangland – v0.2.0 Devlog + level editor and gameplay footage

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October is now officially half way through. Doing my best to stay on schedule and get the game ready for the October Challenge. If I can make the deadline, then perfect, else I’ll keep working on it till it’s ready. One thing I’m trying to avoid is releasing it unfinished and unpolished. In the previous post I’ve talked a bit about how the AI works. I’ll have a new blog post soon with some updates and information on the next version dubbed Irene. For now, I will focus on the game editor and the goals I hope to accomplish with this game.

First of all, I would like to mention that I’m going indie. Actually I went indie 4 months ago, but Mutant Gangland represents the first game I will release that is developed for myself, by myself. I have no experience with releasing a game on any platform so I’m getting ready for one hell of a ride. I’m writing this blog posts for two reasons:

  1. To relieve some stress and tension that has accumulated during development.
  2. To ease you guys into the game and hopefully get some feedback before I release it into the wild.

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Developing a “good-enough” TBS AI – Mutant Gangland

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Disclaimer: I haven’t dabbled much in Artificial Intelligence before beginning this project. This article is aimed at developers starting out to develop a TBS game with no prior experience, looking for a place to start their journey. I’m not claiming this is the right way to handle AI and I won’t vouch for the sanity of the code (or anyone reading it).

Prologue: Mini Wars – #7DRTS and the AI in Pimps vs Vampires

Artificial Intelligence is, in my opinion, one hell of a Goliath – when you know nothing about it. Up till this point I was scared to approach or research it, thinking that the complexity that resided in it would be far beyond my skills as a need-to-be programmer, and, to some extent – is. The first time I tackled with it I had the luck of needing nothing more complex then an alzheimer behavior for my NPC’s. In Pimps vs Vampires, a 2D roguelike-like, my AI is nothing more then a simple pathfinder implementation and it works something like this:

  • Get the first movable Vampire unit
  • Find a random position on the map that is empty (no unit at those coordinates, no walls or other objects)
  • Find shortest path to goal
  • Movement loop: Is our vampire there? No -> keep moving. Yes? -> find random position, computer path, move towards it.
  • If player.x/.y is on a position inside that vampire’s path and distance between player and vampire is shorter then X/Y then set unit goal to position.x/.y in range of attacking.

And for a game such as PvV things seemed to work out well, especially with the Field of View. The fact that a Vampire would only notice the player based on distance check AND location inside a path unwillingly created the possibility for the player to hide behind a wall, hoping that the enemy will pass him.

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Announcing: Mutant Gangland – Coffee-break TBS

Elevator pitch:

Mutant Gangland is a fast, neat and simple turn-based-strategy game where mutants fight robots . Build units, Conquer buildings and use them to Fund your army. Battles are short but the game packs 11 missions, 30 quick battles and a level editor to design your own maps.

  • A fun and pocket sized game with a simple setup of making soldiers, taking buildings and getting money. These matches take little time so you can play them during you coffee break.
  • It’s fast: Most actions can be completed in less than one turn. The AI is fast, input is responsive and units can be built and deployed in an instant.
  • Constant autosaves feature ensures you can turn the game off and resume playing whenever you want.
  • Buy once, play forever. No IAP, No Freemium, No DRM, You get what you see: Simple fun combat strategy.

Obligatory gif tease:

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Totally biased opinion:

Work on Mutant Gangland (MGL) began  just after Mini-LD 44. It was meant to be an improved version of my #7DRTS entry, Mini Wars. Over the course of the following 3 months it grew bigger, prettier, faster and deadlier. After finishing the in-game level editor and play testing it I realized I might just have the perfect TBS to play during breaks. Since then my goal for the game was simple: Keep it small, keep it fast, keep it fun. It’s a streamlined Turn-based strategy game. Yes there are terrain stats modifiers, yes units can be built and buildings generate income. It has many of the core features from what people love in TBS’s but it’s also approachable for beginners. I’d like to think of it as the mutated-spawn of Desktop Dungeons and Advance Wars.

Maps range from 10×10 to 35×35 terrain units. Small enough to not feel crowded, big enough to play it between bus stops or when the compiler is under heavy duty. There are 2 factions with 4 units each:

  • A scout – perfect during early game when players rush for resources
  • A chainsaw wielding unit – the jack of all trades with good mobility, health and damage
  • A shotgun freak – for those annoying pests who keep trespassing your property
  • An artillery unit – because enemies on the other side of the gap can still take damage

Although each factions control similar units they are differentiated by stats, health gen, cost and mobility. Robots are cheaper and faster but their mechanical legs can be blown off. Mutants are brutes that can really pack a punch. Their health does not regenerate on it’s own but they have a higher chance of scoring a critical hit. Both factions can also acquire powerups such as:

  • Health Regen for the entire team
  • Damage boost for one turn
  • Increased movement range
  • Increased defense

The graphical elements and art direction are the work of Thomas Noppers, the man who’s twitter feed is always full of beautifully crafted pixel perfections. You can check out his Game design / Art blog here.

The game is currently under test on my devsofa channel. I plan on finishing it for this year’s October challenge and release it, at first, on the Android Market Place. A linux port will be available soon after that.