Friday, August 5, 2011

MustEatBrains - Update 1

In the olden days, software was bought in a real physical store, came in a physical box, and was written onto some piece of physical media.  If that software had problems with it, or lacked important features, then there was no real way to get an update out to the consumer.  I think once or twice I had a game with such bad defects that they mailed out replacement floppy disks, but it was exceedingly rare.  In general the mantra was "get it the right the first time, or don't bother."

Today's culture is incredibly different.  Digital distribution has become  the norm.  Even if you bought a box in a store, you're invariably going to get updates pushed to you from the internet.  Software has become a living, breathing thing.  And it's changed both how people develop software and how they consume it.  The mantra has shifted to "release early and often."

Given that my game lives on a internet connected device, I opted for a modern development strategy.  I don't bring any of this up to say that I rushed something unfinished out the door.  Not at all - I think my little game is awesome.  But I don't see it as a product that is done - I see it as the beginning of things to come.

For the first release I knew that certain things needed to be established.  I needed to solidify a visual style, and I needed to have the core gameplay be tight.  As long as it was fun, and looked like something I wanted to play, some details could wait.  If I tried to do every thing I wanted in one release then I'd never ever finish.

The point:  I am happy to announce that the first update for MustEatBrains is now available!

The game as it exists today is essentially a little action game where you try for a new top score.  But without being able to compete with other people there's not much meaning to that.  So it was clear that the first thing I needed to add was online leaderboards.  With the new update you'll be able to submit your scores and see how you compare to the top scores for the day or the top scores of all time.

Of course with this focus on score I wanted to give the player more info on how they got to the score they did.  So I implemented a little post-game summary page that breaks down what carnage you inflicted and how you inflicted it.  Nothing too fancy, just a little info to satisfy the data nerd in all of us.

I was really happy with the Living game mode at launch.  And I thought it was cool that you could turn things around and play as the undead.  But the Undead mode suffered from a lack of variety.  The living player has multiple weapons at her disposal, and has to keep moving around tactically in order to stay alive.  The undead player merely had to keep up an aggressive chase to maintain a steady supply of brains.  Compared to the dynamic gameplay of the living player it just wasn't fun enough.

After sitting on the problem for a while I decided the zombie player needed a better way to close the gap.  Less time chasing, more time doing what zombies do best.  So I gave the zombie a leap attack.

I wanted to keep the ravenous lust for brains a key part of the game, so I put the leap attack on a stamina system.  Leaping takes a lot of stamina, which will slowly regenerate over time; however tasty human parts will refill that meter much faster.  So as a zombie player you're always on the look out for edibles.  It adds the slightest bit of resource management, but not too much.

As it stands the undead mode is pretty hard.  I'll likely tweak that with future updates, but on the whole I'm happy with how it feels.  As a zombie you're an underdog, both working with and competing against your undead compatriots for whatever human parts are available.  It's hard, but it's thematically hard.

So, that's what's in the update.  It also includes various balance tweaks (especially around the late game) and interface refinements.  But the core features are what's listed above.

What's next?  Well, the feedback is pretty clear.  The next features people want to see are:
  • Sound
  • More varied environments
So those are definitely in the pipeline.  As well as some more fun stuff that I'll share with you soon enough.  Until then, sit back, relax, and eat some brains!