Checkmate is BACK!
Hey, everyone! How are you all doing today?
As the title suggests, Checkmate is back in business. It already has been for a while on Gamejolt, but I've finally decided to claim back the IndieDB page and give it a good update! Today, I wanted to talk about why this overhaul was made, how far the progress of the overhaul is and why this is such a great thing!
Oh, I'll also be updating IndieDB from now on, so make sure to press that Follow button to remain up-to-date with all the newest and latest changes!
Why the overhaul?
The previous version of Checkmate, now called the "legacy version", was pretty full of feature creep. Chock-full, to be precise. There were way too many features and it was very hard to keep track of the hows-and-whys of the project. I already knew that there was a bunch of feature creep, but I figured it wasn't such a big deal, however, as players started playing the first alpha builds, all that I got back was "it's alright, but it's not super fun".
Now, that's a bad statement right there. "Not fun" is the last thing you want your game to be; That's why I make games in the first place: To have fun and to let other have fun! So... if I that's not what it does, than.. what is it?
I gave the whole thing a thought or fifteen and I finally decided (after a year of doing nothing) that it'd be best to revamp the whole game. Brand new code, starting from the base that I built with the previous game. A more simpler design to keep the fun part and ditch all the excess "fat".
And that's what I did.
Above you can see one of the first builds. It's actually already fast-forwarded a bit in time, as the pieces used to be different (and they are now aswell, don't worry!).
Scrapping the old stuff
For the new design I went ahead and thought about what was fun in the legacy version. I decided to keep those elements and bring them into the new design, scratching all the other stuff in the process.
One of the first things that just had to go was the realtime stuff. The easiest option is to shrink the board all the way down and making everything turn-based. I made this decision based on the fact that I enjoyed moving the pieces a lot, but waiting around in realtime for your researches to complete; That way pretty garbage.
After that was gone, I noticed that there was no more point for research trees, as the board was now too small. I decided that short play sessions would be the go-to here, more like in the original Chess, where playsessions of 10-15 minutes are already enough to determine the winner. This meant I could scrap big things, like exploration, random board generation, etc.
The new design
In the end, I kept two things: Building stuff & moving pieces. I wanted to encorporate them into the new design as flawlessly as possible. So: I came up with the following solution:
There are three options:
- Skipping a turn (yielding one ore in the process)
- Building something (from the ore yielded by skipping turns)
- Moving a piece around the board
Each player takes turns and makes a decision, then executes the made decision. The interesting choice here is the one where you can now skip a turn. Moving your pieces is very important and if the enemy makes a move, you'll have to move. However, you cannot gain ore when you move, so it's very important that you judge when to skip turns properly, allowing you to build powerful buildings!
On top of all of this, you get a simple timer down at the bottom of the screen (the aqua-colored "tiles"). As time ticks away, you have to decide quickly, or your turn will be skipped automatically! This is also a difference from Chess, where you instantly lose if you run out of time. In this situation, simply nothing will happen.
As you can see, the piece models also got a bit of an overhaul. The reason for this, is that I felt like the original pieces were actually harder to distinguish from one another. They were all in one solid color and when a few of them overlapped, it immediatly became very hard to spot the difference between them. Using simple shapes, the new design makes it much easier to recognize each piece. It may not be very clear at first, but after you've seen the pieces once or twice, it becomes very clear, allowing you to pick out the pieces on board in an instant.
Finally, the board model itself was updated significantly. You can see the last few changes I've made in the image above.
The board was resized to a 6x6 grid in size and the world model was coloured to allow for a more distinguised look. It also adds a light-weight feeling and makes it all look like a true boardgame. Finally, some optimizations were made to the ore display to allow for seeing how many ore you have left more easily.
Now, let's talk about the buildings implemented thus far! There are three main categories of buildings: The attackers, the spawners and the resources. Each category does exactly the thing it sounds like it does, so I'll jump right to explaining each of the buildings in the game, as of the right now. There aren't many, as it's still in early alpha, but it should give a good overview!
Let's start with the resources!
The resources are the actual management part of the game. To make your buildings run, you'll need to make use of one (or a combination of) the resources layed out in the picture: Hay, Water & Oil. Oil is used for most attacking machinery, where Hay and Water are mostly used by the spawners.
The resources spread their goods in a radius, automatically, each turn. However, they will only supply one resource each turn, so if there are two buildings which both require Water, but there is just one supply available, the supply will alternate between these buildings, prioritizing the one with the lowest amount of the resource available.
And that is exactly why these buildings are the 'management' part of the game: You'll have to carefully pick where to place these resources, so that they're located most optimally. You don't want to create too many, but they also run out eventually and will need replacement, which costs you ore to do so. It's a simple, yet effective layer of depth.
Next up, the spawners!
Currently, there is only one type of spawners, called the Training Camp. This building will require a lot of Hay and Water, but allows you to spawn either a pawn or a knight (horse) on the board. This is an important building and you will only have to buy it once, however, you will have to time your spawns correctly to make sure that you spawn the pieces in at the right times!
Ideas for more spawners are currently things which influence pieces on the board, and therefore aren't really "spawners". I still need to find a proper word, but something like "Controllers" would be the thing I'd go for. Either way, one of the scheduled ideas is to make a "Wizard Tower", which would be very expensive, but allow the player to pick one of two, or three, spells to perform after X amount of turns (provided resources are sent into the tower). This could have cool effects, like swapping the place of two pieces, or transforming into a different piece!
Now for the attackers.
The attackers will kill anything that ends up in it's path. This includes not only enemy pieces, but also your pieces, dependant of the building. Of course, you'll have control over when to activate each building, so the chances that you will kill your own pieces are slim, yet possible.
As stated under the 'resources' part, you'll need a lot of oil to keep these machines running, and most of them are also very limited, having just a few uses. You're going to have to place these things at the right time to make the most out of them!
There are two attacker buildings at the moment. First up, is the spike trap. The spike trap is the only automated building, but is therefore very cheap in use. This one is great to prevent a pawn from moving to the back rank and promoting into a queen; Something that could easily happen on such a small board!
The other one is the catapult, which is much bigger than the spike trap! You can see it in the image below. The catapult is expensive and has only one use, but, it has full fire control and when activated, will wipe out anything on the center squares of the board. This is a very powerful tool to clear the center of the board and force pieces to move out to the side. If you're familiar with Chess, by putting pieces in the center, you gain quite the advantage, as your pieces will have more reach over the board and thus more potential power. Therefore, being able to take away this power from the enemy would be very useful!
Now that you're all up-to-date with the status of the game, let's talk about what is coming up in the future. The current first plans are to start making a game menu. With the menu implemented, the game will get into a fully playable state, ready for some playtesters!
Well, almost. There are still some things that need to be done to the AI, as it currently has a few bugs which can be exploited. It also doesn't have a building AI yet, so winning becomes very easy. I'm also planning on adding a few simple music tracks and sound effects in the first build already, in order to enhance the quality of the first playtests.
I'll keep you all posted with the progress whenever something new happens! The plan is to get an alpha build up quickly, so if you're interested, make sure to Follow and remain up-to-date! You can also follow my Twitter (@Quackertree) for day-to-day updates!
Have a great day and I'll catch y'all later!