Monday, October 26, 2009

Clockwords: Prelude story so far

I just wanted to give a rundown of the short history of Clockwords, for those who are curious.
Clockwords started as a mini game we wanted to make for a larger game around a year and a half ago. It started with a similar core mechanic, "shooting" words at incoming enemies. The enemies were groups of word lengths, like a 4,5,6 letter words. To 'kill' the enemy you had to make 3 words with those specific lengths. It was too constraining. Later we came up with the 'power letters' idea, based around earth, fire, wind, water. Fire and ice(water) seemed to be the most unique and useful, and earth survived later as 'splash' effect.
So later we decided this word idea probably warranted it own game. For theme, we started with the concept of a modern wizard, but who really wanted to write dime store novels. So the game was about using his magic typewriter to fill pages before they got to his editor.(ala ) He would have to write novels around different genres and super lame titles. 'Paperback Writer' and 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' were an inspiration here. Eventually this turned into the current steampunk/inventor theme.
So as we started to build the game out, we wanted a cooler story, so we hired Emily Short, of interactive fiction fame, and she came up with a great story.
We built the game on some new programming paradigms, "component-entity" programming, and pre-rendering vector art, and using copyPixel to help performance (alot!).
In the middle of development we just plugged away - polished as much as we could and tried not to add too many features.
A big takeaway is the good ideas need time to cook. Some of the best ideas for Now Boarding and Clockwords came after many months, often right before release. (and even some after release) Here are a list of features that came into clockwords late. In roughly chronological order.
Features that came in really late:
Boiler/deckbuilding as the upgrade system
Dynamic music
Jade letter power
Microtransactions to sell letters
Activating chambers in game via using all letters
Naming letter powers with precious stones

Don't be worried if a great idea comes after launch. Try to make your development iterative, so you can change based on feedback. And there are always sequels ;)