Pushing the button

It's Sunday evening, so time for a recap.
A majestic Unicorn

We've finished. We've spent the day playing through the game and fixed the last few niggling things*. Over the past couple of days, I've veered between gripping terror and incredible joy. Gripping terror when confronted with a problem that I don't know how to fix. Simple bugs to a programmer are a nightmare for someone like me. There was a crash related that only occurred once you'd bought the Mage License that I was having all sorts of problems tracking down. I was even considering calling up some of the Boss Aliens to see if they wouldn't mind coming over for a bit of a debug session. Thankfully, I was able to eventually track it down and, as you'd expect, it was nothing to do with the IAP code but rather something that I'd neglected to hook up. Cue incredible joy.

Anecdotal sidebar - my first proper coding gig was on Gene Wars. I wrote the base AI, the plant AI and the multiplayer lobby screen. Towards the end of the project, the project lead asked me if I wouldn't mind awfully not doing any more coding as he was spending more time fixing my bugs than actually getting on with coding the bits he needed to.

We've had some serious crunch days, but they've been excellent. Elective crunch, you see, is a whole different ball game to involuntary crunch. One night, I just couldn't sleep. As if I didn't have enough on my plate, my wisdom tooth has decided to explode and it now causes me incredible pain. Whilst waiting for the co-codamol to kick in, I decided to get out of bed and make myself useful. That turned in to an all-night coding session in which I saw off most of the remaining quest content and monster implementation. Also, in went the final bosses and the end game screen.

Similarly, the other night, Leanne was rudely awakened by Sproglet, who had decided that he simply had to kick whatever organ happened to be in the way at that moment. She got up around 5am and I followed her half an hour later. Apart from a non-eventful dentist appointment in which nothing was really fixed, that turned out to be an exceptionally productive (if incredibly long) day. I also imagine it's good practice for next month when an uninterrupted night's sleep will be a mere fantasy.

Spin on to this weekend and we reach the point where we're not really adding anything else. In fact, most of the changes we're making are largely cosmetic. This is the tinker / polish phase. It's a great place to be. In theory, I could press the button now. Send it off to Apple and start the whole submission process.

Absolutely the hardest thing stage in any project is actually finishing it. The stick-it-in-a-box-and-ship-it phase. You'll have everything else in place and the game will feel done. You'll be tempted to press the button and fire it off in to the void. But wait. It's too early. It's always too early. We reached this point last week. The game felt done. Everything was in place. All of the content was there. At least, we thought this was the case. It turns out, there was a whole load more stuff to do, not least of which being bug fixing.

Leanne's in the middle of a playthrough to see if there's anything else. I've finally tracked down and fixed the bug where if you were in the middle of a status effect and you blind the enemy with smoke and it misses it's next attack it all goes a bit weird. Leanne's got one more sprite to update. Other than that, we're good.

We're ready to press the button**.

Tinkering

There have been some adventurous changes late in the day. Reversals, for example, now no longer increase your chain but they don't clear it either. Instead they do double damage and are a great way of 'dismounting', if you will. It makes it a little trickier in the end game and will require the player to stock up on more potions to get through some of the fights. To that end, we've also increased the healing rates of said potions to help out.

This sort of change is a risky one. There are plenty of things that could go wrong. It could be that we've made the end of the game impossible as your damage output is reduced. On the other hand, maybe the end game was too easy before and needed cranking up a notch*** It does mean that a slightly different strategy is called for, and that's no bad thing. The key thing is that we've thought of the ramifications and weighed it up as best we can.

Absolutely the best thing about this whole endeavour has been the freedom. There has been no-one telling us that we can't do something. If we think it's a good idea and we can pull it off, it goes in. Granted, several people have expressed concerns about certain aspects while they were playing it and, for the most part, we've listened and adapted the game accordingly.

But that's where the skill comes in. Working out which of these ideas are good and should be implemented, which ones might be okay and need to be tried out first and which ones are just crap and should be ignored. With unlimited time and budget you could try everything and make an objective assessment. Of course, you will never end up releasing anything and it'll cost an absolute fortune.

But that doesn't mean you just discount everything people say. You can't possibly be expected to have all of the best ideas. Also, the people giving you these opinions are fresh. They haven't yet developed the rose-tinted specs that enable you to gloss over that niggling little feature that has never quite worked from the start. They will pick up on this stuff and force you to defend it. If you feel uncomfortable during that defence then it's probably the wrong thing to defend and you should bin it off.

A rat. A mean one.
Freedom doesn't just translate to gameplay mechanics. It's across the board. We've had the freedom to implement some things and set the tone of the game how we want. If you pick up a copy, you will be subject to plenty of references to all sorts of things - some subtle, some not so much. If you work for a big company, it's a big ask to try and slip this sort of thing in. Kudos to people like Gearbox for getting as many references as they did in the Borderlands series. But we're under no such constraints.

Nor are we taking ourselves too seriously. Glyph Quest isn't trying to be high fantasy. There's no Game Of Thrones intrigue here. No Skyrim**** world-saving. Just a good-old, light fantasy adventure that riffs off the genre wherever possible. The first creature you meet? Rats. It's always rats. It just is. We try and bring the fun. Sure, it's not Ron Gilbert, but hey.



All in all, we're pretty pleased with the game and how it has turned out. It's an enjoyable romp and the glyph-matching mechanic is very compelling indeed. Then, a way through the game, you pick up the Combination Spell modifier and it completely changes the way you look at the board. Being able to switch your mindset to pick up on potential combinations is key as they are much more effective at dealing with tough enemies. The trade off is that you effectively level up slower as you're splitting the glyphs between two elements at once. But then again, that also makes you a much more rounded character.

It's unusual for a game to do this. Normally, they establish the rules early on and the only thing they change are little special effects - such as denying the use of a particular power or making special blobs that alter the player's moves. The patterns that the player is looking for remain the same.

As an example, here's something for you to try. Play Puzzle & Dragons until you recognise the configurations of blocks and the moves you're required to do to match them up. Then switch to Bejewelled. The board looks pretty similar and it takes a while for your brain to re-adapt to finding the patterns you need. A pattern that works in one game absolutely does not work in the other.

What this translates to is a slowing down. As soon as a player attains the Combo Spell, he is a lot more deliberate in his spell casting. Which is okay as there is no time limit. Everything feels a lot more tactical.

Finding these gameplay evolutions is fun and Glyph Quest has a few of them. Sadly, some are only really noticeable when someone else tells you about them.

Web Presence

Thankfully, we now have a website which, once it's done with the marketing side of things, may well become a repository for tips, tricks and other handy things to do with Glyph Quest. Possibly some kind of wiki. A small wiki, but a wiki nonetheless. Of course, the best thing of note about said website is the address. None of this glyphquestgame or glyphquestthegame or stuff. Actual, full-on, glyphquest.com. Does that help with search engine stuff? A cursory googling reveals that we're on the front page at least and and image search turns up even better results.

Now all we need is Tera to stop having both Glyphs and Quests and we'll be golden.

The red scarf is entirely coincidental
*That is, the last few things that we're actually going to fix.
**Okay, we're ready to find out how to press the button. I imagine, standing in our way, there's a bunch of provisioning profile crap to deal with first.
***To those of you that are worried that I might "Trowers" this game and make it too difficult for mere mortals, you needn't worry. That person is long gone. Now it's merely quite hard. Hey - you still have to earn it.
****Still tempted to have those Goblin archers shoot you in the knee though. In fact, give me a second here...


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