Above the Fold is in Alpha, Coming to Steam

Above the Fold is a video game where you play the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. Back in spring, I introduced this new project to the world and now the game has just entered alpha, which means that most of the basic gameplay features are in, or at least planned out.

The game lets you build a newspaper from the ground up, hiring reporters, assigning them stories, picking up advertisements and shaping your content to cater to specific demographics. Along the way you have to make decisions based on both random and historic events, your reporters will get their own ideas, accidents will happen. Mistakes are made. Fun is had by all (or at least the person playing the game, one would hope).

Build a profit, invest in upgrading everything from your access to sources, to setting up your own email server – but do so wisely. Each upgrade comes with its own advantage, but spend too much, too fast, and you might run into trouble come pay day.

While the game was still in pre-alpha, I made this little teaser …

There is of course a website associated with the game, as well as a Facebook page and a hashtag you can follow for more regular updates on the progress. I also want to mention the mailing list, which is only used for major announcements and for recruiting playtesters – so if you want to play the game early and give some feedback, that’s how you get a chance to do that. Sign up on the website or through this link.

The next call for playtesters goes out a week from the day of writing this. Just saying!

Still a work-in-progress, The Office is where you go between new issues to manage your newspaper.

Above the Fold is a Passion Project, as in I am making it for myself first and foremost. It’s a game idea I have had for years, and I am finally good enough at the craft of making games, that I can take on the challenge.

That was my main motivation when I started, but besides that, working on this game has also helped keep me both sane and focused while hunting for a job in real world. Having a somewhat ambitious project to work on has not only helped to keep me mentally stimulated, it has also worked as a way to maintain a schedule and task- and project-based mindset. Passion Projects are good that way.

Even though this game has been a solo project* up until this point, I am still using tools (trello, Jira, MS Office, Confluence) as if I had a team. Not only is it good practice, it’s also going to make life so much easier, if and when I do bring on other people to work on the game.

If you’re curious about the plans for the next few versions, take a look at the Development page on the website, which features a roadmap of the next several versions, and which features will be focused on when.

Above the Fold will be available on Steam eventually, likely in Early Access before final release, but there’s no date yet.

*I say solo project, but in reality about 8 people have already assisted with feedback, playtesting and ideation. I’ve done all the development, but their help has been/continues to be super valuable!

The Building of a Village Builder

What started a few weeks ago, as a pure experiment, evolved into a prototype of a village builder game. To clarify, it’s a video game, where you build a village by acquiring and investing resources, attracting settlers, traveling merchants and eventually even barbarian raiders to your settlement.

You begin as one person with a camp. From there, you can start gathering wood, food, stone or gold. You’ll need these, to add buildings to your settlement, starting with a hut. Each building serves a purpose. The hut, for instance, houses your villagers and thus sets the maximum people that can settle with you.

The goal is simply to get through 365 in-game days, and see how much you have accomplished in that time. It is possible to end the game before then. If you mismanage your village, starvation might get you, or villagers may even rise against you. And of course there were those barbarians, I mentioned.

The game scales with your village. Visiting merchants have bigger, better offers, the stronger your village economy is. Likewise, hoarding gold will increase chances of getting raided. Besides buildings and resource gathering, the player can invest gold in technology, thus improving on the village in a slightly different way. For example, increase the technology for housing, and each hut can hold additional villagers. Increase farming technology for additional food yields, and so on.

The experiment that started it all, was to prove myself wrong. A while back, I experimented with making a similar type of game using Gamesalad. I fairly quickly got stuck, however, and decided that the engine was to blame, for not being well suited for this type of game in the first place. Since then, I have learned a lot about designing the relevant mechanics, and so I wanted to see if I could do it now. The result, while still very primitive, is already both more sophisticated and better balanced than my first attempt ever was.

There is still far to go, before I would even call this an “early release”. It’s a prototype evolving into a pre-alpha. For one, the game has no art or sound at all. It’s just buttons and text in black and white boxes. There are many bugs and things that need tweaking and rebalancing, and I really want to integrate some sort of procedural storytelling device, which I will likely tie in with the villagers themselves, somehow. I haven’t fully developed that layer yet.

Working in layers has been my approach all along. The resources you gather is one layer, buildings add another, the technology and trading represent new layers as well, and so on. I try to design each layer to be as independent from the others as possible, to make things easier to balance and change, as the game evolves. This is where I felt that Gamesalad fell short before, and though it does have its limits, working within them adds a challenge and structure too. I often find inspiration from having to work within a limited space, regardless of whether that space is technical or creative in nature.

Along the way, I tweet updates and occasional screenshots (I’ve included a few examples in this post), both as a log of how things progress, but also to put it out there for early feedback, support and a feeling of having committed to the project. Last time, I gave up when things got tough. This time, things just seem to be get more fun as I go…

My first Kickstarter will be a Space Trader game

Salvage Trader, behind the scenes.
On the day the pirates came, the small colony you grew up in was destroyed. In a manner of minutes your loved ones were dead and your home going up in flames. Without any hope of victory, you put your faith in an old shuttle from the junk yard you worked in, hoping it would hold together long enough for an escape. It barely did, only now you found yourself alone in space, without a home or a family, but with a burning desire for vengeance. Only one group holds enough power to take on the dreaded pirate kings, and so you set out to build a new life for yourself and join the Salvager’s Guild… Continue reading “My first Kickstarter will be a Space Trader game”