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Spies & Soldiers Playtest update for 29 April 2021

A Look Back At The Last Few Years

Share · View all patches · Build 6617923 · Last edited 24 June 2023 – 16:41:41 UTC by Wendy

Patchnotes via Steam Community
This build has not been seen in a public branch.

We’ve been posting regular game updates on here, but we wanted to get everyone up to speed on the big picture of where the project is at overall. So we sat down and wrote up a quick 'previously on...' post. Turns out a lot has happened over the past few years! Here's a (somewhat) brief look at what we’ve been up to since we got funded, and how the game has been progressing.

After we received funding from Film Victoria in 2017 we brought on a couple of new part-time team members. Luis Van Slageren to help build out the multiplayer server side of things, and Matt Dodd to work on creating an AI opponent. Murray Lorden even joined us briefly as a project manager to help get things off the ground.

We also started our own company! Welcome to Ghostbat Games. This was a prerequisite for receiving the funding, but also an important business step that was well worth getting sorted early on. Hot tip: do not underestimate how much paperwork is involved in achieving this!

Meanwhile a lot of the core systems in the game were rebuilt, which took a bit longer than expected and was a lot of technical work. We basically took our hacked together prototype and made something that was functionally the same, but now worked reliably and could support further development. This is pretty normal in game dev, but doesn’t really make for interesting updates. With the focus on getting development up to speed, this was when we really struggled to find time to keep posting dev blogs and fell into radio silence.

An old screenshot from the early prototype we submitted to Film Vic for funding.

It was around this time that things changed up a bit, as Ben started a family with the exciting arrival of a baby girl. To make sure he had the time to enjoy life as a new dad we had to vary our usual work schedule. Subsequently, with everyone now working part time and juggling other commitments production slowed considerably.

After working this way for a year or so, it became apparent that we would need more hands on deck to get the game done in a reasonable time frame. So Luis joined the team full time as the lead programmer, allowing Ben to step back and focus on a few core systems. With Luis now lending his formidable skills to the project full time, we’ve been able to expand nearly every aspect of the game in one way or another, and keep up momentum.

But we had no idea that a global pandemic was about to turn the world upside down. Up until then, we’d been doing regular hot desking at The Arcade, along with occasionally working from the Robot Circus office space, thanks to their wonderful generosity and support. With the world now living in lockdown, we’ve spent this last year working remotely; our work days revolving around a discord work channel and regular video meetings. The pandemic has been a rough time for everyone, and it’s a real testament to our team that we’ve kept up steady progress on the game throughout this hellish year.

The team during a morning kickoff meeting, adapting well to the ‘new normal’ under covid.

By this point we were really happy with how the core mechanics were working, so we turned our focus to the first-time player experience. We knew we had an engaging game once people got into it, but it took a fair bit of effort for new players to get to that stage. So we tackled the problem in two ways: rebuilding the tutorials to help teach the game in easy pieces, and adding more contextual information to the UI to help surface more of the games mechanics clearly. This has made the game much stronger overall, not just for new players. It’s a long road though, and we still have a lot of work to do on that front.

To help with this new focus, we were lucky enough to have a third Batt brother, Tom Batt, join the project part time! Tom initially joined us to help with some much needed QA, but has since stepped up to work on the design and scripting of the new tutorials, and on tuning the AI.

With the game build in a stable place we ran a small beta test, and launched a discord server. Seeing the game through the eyes of new players really gave us a fresh perspective. Our main takeaway from these sessions, aside from the need to focus on engagement for starting players, was that while the core multiplayer game is solid, a lot of people still really want a single player experience.

We had never planned on much more than a practice mode against the AI, but our biggest shift during the last year has been the decision to add a campaign experience. This single player mode utilizes the procedurally generated nature of our maps, and pulls together a series of games into unique generated campaigns, that can be played through repeatedly, each one different from the last.

First pass at the campaign system!

At the end of 2020, the game was invited to take part in the beta for Steam’s new playtest feature. The game is currently still available to playtest, if you haven't already joined, you can just sign up on the Spies & Soldiers store page. Meanwhile, we’ve been slowly growing a community and compiling feedback to make the game better and better.

So what’s next? We’re doing a big push on the game right now which means the team has expanded again. With single player now more of a priority, Matt Dodd is back with us part time, working on the already impressive looking AI 2.0. Maddy Rose has also joined the team, to help spread the word and ensure that we don’t go radio silent again.

Throughout all this, Film Victoria has been wonderful. They have supported our production decisions at every turn, offering excellent advice and much needed morale boosting. We couldn’t be happier with our experience, they have been a staunch ally throughout. The games production grant as provided by Film Victoria is truly a unique and special thing, we feel very lucky to have had the chance to be a part of it.

We’re extremely proud of the team for holding it together through a very challenging year, and of this game we’ve been making. There are some big plans in the works, and we look forward to sharing more of it with you soon!

In the meantime, join the playtest or tell your friends. And wishlists are always super appreciated!

To keep up with the latest updates you can follow Ghostbat Games on Twitter or come hang out in the Spies & Soldiers Discord server.

Stay safe, friends.

Changed depots in development branch

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Spies & Soldiers Playtest Content Depot 1475281
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