Monthly Archives: August 2013
“Kill the bugs!”, or, “How to do QA without a QA team.”
I am, of course, lying. It’s not like my brother and I were the only people who ever played TownCraft before it was out. We had some incredibly diligent testers along the way, including one who gave up his time for a pittance, for a days at a stretch if we needed him.
But it’s still not a QA department. When you’re an indie developer, it may not be too difficult to find a few friends & family members to play your game – especially once you hit that magical point where it starts being fun – but that’s not what QA is, really.
Seriously, good QA means repeating the same thing over and over to find obscure bugs. It means not just playing the game while munching popcorn, but getting people who are not only good at testing every little facet of your user interface and game, but also good at writing technical descriptions of the problem – and how to re-create it. They have to stress testing your AI and scenarios for all manner of discrepancies and woes. In the case of an action game with a linear path, it may mean repeatedly doing the same section until you’re so tired of it you just want to jump in front of the nearest Shambler while crying for mummy.
So, without a team of paid, professional game-breakers at your disposal, how the heck do you get your game to a playably stable state? Well, after much thought and putting together all the things I think we did right and wrong on TownCraft, here’s my list of things I would do again for our next game.
Some of you have been asking, so our character artist Justine has just finished the first design for a TownCraft tee shirt.
Or perhaps more accurately, you can now get this design as a tee shirt, kids’ wear, hoodie or as a sticker! YAY!
We’ve made it available through Red Bubble. It’s a tad expensive because they print each shirt on demand rather than printing hundreds of them and storing them in a warehouse, but since we’re starving little indies without any money we can’t really do it any other way!
We hope you like him (I think he’s adorable), and we’ll be rolling out the ability to also grab iPhone cases and more very soon!
Thanks again for all your support, everyone, and for the love thus far!
We couldn’t be happier with the response the game is getting!
A new update has just gone live for TownCraft which fixes a myriad of the problems you have all been reporting (and we thank you heartily for your patience and communication), as well as adding a new map.
The new map is the first in a series of ‘challenge maps’, which task the player with a different unique task in each one. There will be new maps rolled out over the next few weeks – the first is called Swamp Thing, and asks you to create a town with the highest possible town rating, with only 12 days to do it.
The map is mostly water! You’ll need to use space wisely and learn how to use bridges if you want to be able to make a thriving town in this water-logged marsh.
Enjoy, everyone, and do keep the feedback and any bugs coming back! We’re working hard to get on top of everything you send in!
Rohan has just written a piece for Medium.com outlining his thoughts on how and why it’s important to be ethical in the multitude of design decision one makes while creating a game.
Indeed, it’s something we’ve tried to pay particular attention to with TownCraft, but Rohan’s exploration of why he realised that the most minute of decisions were at their core ethical choices is very worth the read.
It’s everything from our business model (one payment only) to our treatment of trees and the environment in what is otherwise a quite benign game, one might assume.
Along similar lines, check out an article I wrote last year talking about how every decision we make is political, and the responsibility we have to wield that power with the weight it deserves.
So now that we’re actually out there, opinions are flooding through on TownCraft! It’s a weird experience for us, suddenly having so many people who we’ve never met letting us know what they liked and didn’t, asking for help or reporting bugs.
It’s gratifying, but such a bizzare feeling! Thank you all and keep that feedback coming. You keep playing it, we’ll keep updating it!
Anyway, I thought I’d wrap up Friday afternoon by linking to some of the press coverage we’ve received from our nation’s critics so far. There are still some big ones to come, but the first few reviews and pieces of general coverage from PAX are starting to trickle out. And here it is…
(Oh, and I swear these are all the reviews and coverage I could find – I didn’t just omit the bad ones. :p)
Capsule Computers: 9/10
“TownCraft is casual gaming to the truest extent.”
“There is no sense of urgency involved at all, allowing you to play at your own pace. The mechanics are simple and there is a fairly wide variety of objects to gather, mine and build. All in all, TownCraft is a game that lets you sit back, relax and enjoy.”
“TownCraft is easily the best game I’ve played so far this year. And I mean by a f#$king mile. It could quite possibly be the best game to ever come out of the Aussie development scene.”
“Flat Earth Games’ TownCraft is an amazing encapsualtion of the intent and reason behind the existence of video games, but more so… the reason we play video games.”
Impulse Gamer: 8.5/10
“[A]n unashamedly cheery, pleasant, relaxing, addictive experience where you can just jump in and enjoy. Flat Earth Games has basically removed all the little annoyances and kept in all the fun stuff.”
“A small gem has been crafted, and although not flawless, still manages to shine in its own little way.”
Digitally Downloaded: 4/5
“Towncraft is one of the most likable games out there…”
“Towncraft is another one of those indie games that makes me so very proud of Australia’s game development scene.”
“TownCraft had a solid showing which undoubtedly boosted its debut on the app store. While early players were busy building their first bustling towns, Towncraft was charging up the charts.”
Sydney Morning Herald / The Age:
“This is a great little game that will only get better as its small team of creators polishes it up further. One thing I really appreciate is that it has no in-app purchasing at all – the initial purchase price buys the entire game, and you will never be nagged to spend another cent after that.”
“My personal favourite indie game [of PAX] was TownCraft.”
“It’s a bit like Don’t Starve crossed with Sim City via Populous.”
“…it is clear that the 2.5 years of development was well spent, and TownCraft is worthy of the asking price…”
“…fun, but deep, with clear expansion capability in future.”
“The game is interesting – a sandbox building game with a twist, where the player begins to manage a host of workers as their city grows. At it’s core, it plays to the strengths of the genre it slots into – punching trees and rocks to get the materials to build things.”
* Indies to Watch
* Most fun games at PAX
“Final impression: a simple and relaxing game for any type of gamer.”
And I know it doesn’t count as professional criticism, but I feel compelled to put this awesome little 5/5 user review from Game Informer up here too. 🙂
The latest update to our YouTube Channel (which you can check out here if you haven’t yet seen the Aussie launch trailer or the Making Of video) is a ‘Let’s Play’.
It’s the first 10-15 minutes or so of a typical TownCraft game as played by me, so you can pick up a bunch of useful tips for how to get started, what to prioritise when thinking up a location for your town and that sort of thing!
Check it out and let us know what you think!