To the wire

'Terrifying' wouldn't fit in the banner
We are close. Very close. So close, in fact, that I can almost taste it. I can almost taste the sensation of releasing a game - the first in a very long time indeed. Because of this, my definition of 'close' may be a little out of whack and I might have underestimated what actually needs to be done.

I can almost taste fatherhood. Ew. That sounds wrong, but we're very close there too. Leanne looks like she's fit to burst and could go at any moment. Something tells me it would be wise to have a calm, stress-free environment, if only to prolong the pregnancy for as long as possible. Calm. Stress-free. That sounds like crunch, right?

I can almost taste bankruptcy. We have run out of money. It's time to start hawking non-essential things and / or find a job. Does anyone want an unused iPhone 5s? Or a designer?

It's going to the wire. In the final few furlongs I'd say it's Impending Insolvency a nose ahead of Gold Master with Bundle Of Joy preparing a late surge.

To Do List

The other night I was kept awake with the chilling realisation that it was very possible (if improbable) that the player would be able to get themselves into a situation that would lock the game up. This morning was spent trying to fix it.

The problem was that certain enemy attacks cause the player's glyphs to become invalidated. That is to say, the player will be unable to use them to form spells. This is a result of things like Petrification when fighting things like Basilisks or Medusae or Webs when fighting Spiders. It makes the game a lot more interesting to play. The thing is, the player must always have at least two glyphs available to take his turn. Otherwise it'll just sit there, waiting for him to cast a valid spell or, at the very least, choose two adjacent glyphs to swap out. If you've only got one glyph remaining, you're boned.

The solution is to check the status of the board after status effects have been applied, meaning that after every attack that messes with the validity of a glyph, ensure that there's at least two adjacent glyphs left for the player to select. If not... well, then there are options, most important of which is to move the game along and let the monster have another go so that the pair of you aren't just sitting there like numpties. In the end, I went for a bit of extra damage as well. Of course, it's not just glyphs - a cure potion in your inventory will also allow you to have a valid turn, so I had to take that in to account. In fact, any damage-dealing item in your inventory will also allow you to play. And so the criteria widens.

The code for this is simple - or at least it should be. It still took me ages to figure out why it wasn't working though. Time I did not have.

Halfway through the head-desking, I decided to go for some small wins elsewhere and come back to the problem later. So now we have a functioning Options screen and a Save game - both useful if you decide to close the app down for whatever reason. I've also fixed some minor things such as scrolling too far on the Monster Manual and Spell Books. Finally, I've added a level cap for if you don't have the Mage License.

Only the best get the license
The Mage License represents our monetisation. It's a fancy word for getting people to pay for this thing that they like. It's a one-off payment. A Tier 2, one-off payment to be precise. That's £1.49, $1.99 or about 21NOK. Buy it and the rest of the game is yours.

With a little help from our friends

Getting IAPs set up is a convoluted process to say the least. There's some real chicken and egg stuff in there - having to almost submit the game before it will let you set up the IAPs which you need to submit the game and so on. It's an order of magnitude simpler to just pick a price point and make a paid app.

Thankfully, I was able to call on the services of a friend to write that bit. Likewise, we have another friend who has been helping Leanne with some of the graphics. As it stands, I have more graphics to put in the game. Plenty of new monsters to go in. That's the fun bit, or, at least, it would be if we hadn't run out of time.

A source of frustration

This is nothing new. I used to quite enjoy crunch periods back at Bullfrog. It was when the game saw the most rapid development and was actually fun to play. Then someone would come up with a neat idea to put in and in it would go, making everything that much better. You could see real progress over the course of even a single evening*.

It's very entertaining and it gives the game you end up with a wonderfully 'crafted' feel to it as opposed to a 'implemented' or 'factory' flavour. Personally, I think it's a great way of doing things.

Sadly, it's only really applicable if you can adopt the "It'll be ready when it's ready" standpoint. This is a luxury we do not have. In fact, we never really had it back then either. Or, at least, we shouldn't have. Right now, we've crossed the "Stick it in a box and ship it" line - that point in development where you have to shut down your natural urge to add cool stuff and save it for the sequel.

This is very hard to do if you're in any way creative. It is also one of the reasons why someone who has actually shipped a game is so valuable. That and their understanding of just how many things you have to take into consideration when doing so.

Feature complete?

But we're there now. I don't think there are any new features to go in. Leastways, none that are going to make submission. I'd love to have an Endless Mode with Game Centre leaderboards and the like for when you've completed the quests, but... Stick It In A Box And Ship It.

There's still a load of monsters to go in - no small task. I might be able to streamline the process a bit by using basic effects and tweaking them, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

The thing currently baking my noodle now is the money. Let's say we do manage to submit on Wednesday. Allow, say 2 weeks** to get through submission and hit the App Store? Then let's say the world and his wife buy the game. Not even that - say we shift 10,000*** units. Apple take their cut and send the rest to us. Happy days.

Except it's not.

Just because people have bought the game and given Apple their money does not mean our troubles are over. These big companies don't exactly react swiftly when it comes to them paying out what they owe. A realistic estimation would be a good 2 months before we see any of that money and that causes all sorts of problems.

It's all very well knowing there's some money coming in, but that doesn't help you at the supermarket. Bridging the gap between release and first royalties could well prove problematic.

As well as cathartic - we could do with a bit of a de-clutter around here. Anyone need a pair of never-used front tyres for a Ford Mondeo?


*Other elements available
*Note 'evening'. This can also be taken to mean 'middle of the night' or 'by sunrise'. Crunch comes with a downside the size of Nebraska.
**Standard, Games Industry unit of measurement.
***A figure that we would be more than happy with.

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