I’m still hammering away at Free Company, even though the blog updates have been even more sporadic than usual. Mostly the reason for that is that nicely functioning UI menus, vital though they are, don’t particularly make for thrilling screenshots to blog around.
I’m still working principally on the campaign strategy layer of the tiered game cake that this thing is, though I have recently dipped back into the tactical layer a couple of times to fix a few bugs and keep myself appraised of roughly where it is at. I find in a large creative project like a game it is often easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of a small part and forget the whole. That rabbit hole for the past couple of weeks has been the Company creation screen, in which you put your initial stamp on your newly minted group of mercenary minions. Formerly it was the most primitive of affairs, featuring a text box into which you could input the company name and another button to get-on-with-it-and-start-the-game-already. Now it has been ‘dramatically’ expanded with options to pick some company colours for use in the game UI, a company battle standard (coloured in your company colours) and a starting theme for your company that determines roughly what introductory, buildings, resources and mercenaries you’ll start out with.
The whole idea of this screen is to give the new player a better feeling of agency and creative control over their company and also set them more quickly on the path to their chosen style of imagined mercenary company. Hopefully it’ll do that a lot better now than before. I’ve been pondering other ways to ease new players into the game world on top of this screen, perhaps some general setting flavour text that gives more narrative to the largely free form strategic gameplay ahead. I’ve also been considering the other end of this spectrum, how to bring the game to an ending. Multiple types of objectives in the manner of civilization seem a certainty but what exactly those will be and how to give the player an overview on progress toward them are still problems to be solved.
What you can do right now is ‘level up’ your bunch of mercenaries through playing a series of randomly generated dungeon type tactical battles. and accumulate cash for doing so. Cash can be spent on building a bunch of buildings at your base which – right now – don’t do that much beyond allowing you to construct a few basic items. BUT, but it all just about works as an endless game loop without crashing (that often).
What’s next? There are a couple more broad ‘screen concepts’ I definitely want to work into the strategy layer; ‘lore’ (a tech tree type of thing), ‘finances’ (tracking your money), ‘trade’ ( a fancier version of the current shop), victory condition progress tracking & something, something with graphs. Plus I want a simple popup notification type system to try and tie it all together, it will alerts you to happenings across the world and in the other screens as they occur from the main screen while the clock is running (switching from turn based to real time is another change that I want to make in here). Then there is the main map screen itself, its a visible thing now but I want to tie the abstract screens into the map now so that your base exists *there* and the contract is taking place over *there* and your iron ore mine is over *here* so that’s another job for the list.
Then there are the mostly missing systems that cut across both layers of the game cake; mercenary skills and mercenary injuries too big broad topics that will need a lot of work to feel right. And.. loads of other stuff, too much to list.
Anyway, as always feel free to ask any questions via email or the comments.