A few events have recently occurred, with a few more on the horizon. Thus it is time to replan work for the next couple months. First the important stuff - what I’ll be doing. Then I’ll explain why.
Concealed Intent 1.2 Update
It has been too long since touching the Concealed Intent codebase. I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. Over the next month or so I will start work on an update to Concealed Intent. Aiming for around 3 weeks worth of work, plus testing. Assuming I haven’t forgotten too much, it should be out by the end of March.
The first and main task of this update will be producing a version of the game without Steam DRM. Then a couple of new gameplay features will be added (a truly random map option in skirmishes, new drones). I have collected a few good suggestions to improve the UI, and I hope to get them done too. If there is still time after that I’ll just keep going through my list.
What is Steam DRM doing in Concealed Intent?
Concealed Intent uses Steam DRM to identify and authenticate players. This information allows the game to automatically login players into the online system without the need for a username or password. This is why you can start Concealed Intent and immediately play online. The problem with Steam DRM is that it locks the game to the Steam platform, which is not a bad thing for people playing the game on Steam, but means I can’t sell the game on other platforms.
Considering the potential impact of Steam Direct (see below), I think it is important to loosen this restriction on myself. Players on Steam will not notice any difference, but it will mean I can sell non-Steam versions of the game. These non-Steam versions will have online registration, logon and password recovery screens (and players will need to login before playing online), but will otherwise be the same.
Steam Direct will be Valve’s replacement for Steam Greenlight as the method to get a game onto Steam. Coming in a few months, it will require a flat fee be paid to Valve in return for each game added to the Steam platform. Estimates of this fee range from US$100 to US$5000. At the bottom of this range I fail to see how the fee will have desired effect (preventing exploitative games). At the high end of the range some small devs, like me, will struggle.
I should point out that I know Valve has every right to organise their platform how they want, and their stated goal is laudable. However, as a small indie dev it would be very easy to be crushed by any changes as an unfortunate, unintended and unnoticed side effect. Although I think it likely that the fee will fall towards the low end of Valve’s range and I will probably be ok, it is still a wake up call. At the moment I am completely dependent on the Steam ecosystem and Valve’s benevolence. To protect myself, I am going to start looking towards other platforms. Thus the non-Steam DRM version of Concealed Intent as an initial learning exercise and start upon this path.
So what have you been doing the last couple of months?
After taking a break over the holiday season, I have started work on a new game. I don’t have a name yet and it is still all developer artwork (amazingly ugly!). So I am not ready to show people or talk much about it yet, although I am happy with the way it is progressing. Right now it has reached a natural pause point. After finishing the CI update I will get back to it with some refactoring, prettifying and expanding out of the already completed vertical slice of gameplay. Oh, and decide upon a name. Then it was supposed to be time for Greenlight… not sure what will happen now.
I have also been playing games again! While developing CI, there was little time to play games, but now I set aside a couple of hours per week to play games of interest or just from my backlog. To help keep this up I record my sessions and put them up at A Gamedev Plays… on YouTube
What happens after Concealed Intent 1.2?
First, I will fix any bugs that appear. Otherwise I will get back to work on my next game and look to start promoting it. However, this will be affected by the fact I will be moving country around May. This is likely to also require me to find a new job as developing games will not pay the bills in the vastly more expensive country I will soon reside. I cannot make any guarantees as to what I can achieve in the the second half of the year. However, I hope to finish my second game and release another small Concealed Intent update.