Saturday, 18 October 2014

Airship Dragoon Updated And On Direct Sale

Airship Dragoon  has been updated to version 1.5.2.

There's a fair few changes but here are the main ones.

Players requested more hotkeys, apparently some people have to use their mousehand for work all day and could do with giving it a break during game time. So the camera can now be controlled seperately via the WASD on the keyboard. Inventory, map, reload and troop selection are also now available as hotkeys, and all hotkeys are customizable and can be remapped and saved for personal preference. Look in "Options / Controls".

Whilst we're in the Options screen, there is now a new "Mods Selection Screen". Being an old school modder/dev I'm used to editing files and even breaking into them with hex-editors to alter code, but some people apparently aren't, so now mod selection is available in-game by the click of a button. The Realism_Mod can be enabled/disabled here. Note, when selecting dedicated mods the game will require restart to activate them.

The Realism_Mod has also had an update and the latest version is available for download from If you're using the Steam version, then you don't have to do anything as it's already updated and included.

For a full list of the changelog, go here:

Airship Dragoon has not been on Steam long enough for them to allow it to be discounted, however there is a 75% Sale on if you buy direct from the developer, ends Nov 6th 2014 and comes with a free Steam key!

This is to commemorate ... or ... commiserate ... the dev being officially old and worn out ...

 If you're using Steam or the direct version, the updates are already there, elsewhere they have been uploaded, but may not be active till Monday.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Thoughts And Observations On Greenlight

The awfully nice wargaming gents over at asked me to contribute my thoughts to an article about navigating through Steam's Greenlight system. The full article including contributions from myself and the considerably more established people at Evil Twin Games is available at The following blog post is my own, unedited presentation. Expect a lot of text ...


I am "Steve_Yorkshire", also known as my developing/old modding/trade name "YorkshireRifles" (which is a play on words of "Eton Rifles", a 1979 song by The Jam). I am a lone indie developer (sometimes known as a "One Man Army" in certain circles of indie development) and I created an old fashioned, uber-hardcore, turn-based squad tactics and global strategy game called "Airship Dragoon", that has much more in common with titles from the 1980s and early 1990s than contemporary tactics games. It's a niche strategy game, densely complicated, with enormous campaigns, lengthy battles, and is pretty much the antithesis of modern fast-paced gaming. And it's available on Steam after getting through Greenlight.

Greenlight is reported to work with a simple algorithm; gain votes from the public members of Steam to get into the top 100 with a modifier depending on commercial popularity of the genre. Whilst this algorithm is not available for public scrutiny it would seem logical that "Action" is more popular than "Strategy", and thus strategy games would gain a positive modifier due to there being less of them.

Certainly some people vote "Yes" for everything on Greenlight, but I would expect that most people are honest with their interest. Greenlight is a "Big Thing" in itself, and clicking through new batches of games on a daily basis takes considerable time (to the point that with well over 3000 votes cast myself I wondered if Valve would consider handing out Steam achievements to incentivise for it) and it's fair to say that the vast majority of Steam's user base do not use it. Most voters on Greenlight are not going to spend more than a cursory glance at the page, simply stare at a few thumbnails, read the header, click "Yay or Nay" and move on.

Having a video of gameplay is a must, and as many screenshots as possible, preferably showing many different parts of gameplay or locations. Variety is the spice of life, but also shows that the game actually has depth and is more than just a half-finished concept or demo. If the genre is to the viewer's liking and the screenshots catch their eye they might linger long enough to read the blurb. I started off with a brief description ("Turn-based Steampunk squad tactical combat and global strategy with emergent gameplay.") and then a list of game features (which in retrospect was probably too long), before rounding off with a few embellishments ("Conquer the super-continent of Pangea with an invasion of Airships!", "Battle Dastardly Pirate Insurgents!", "Keep the locals happy or else they will be revolting!"). The important thing is to make it easy on the eye to read and avoid walls of text (which this paragraph itself is in danger of becoming!). Not long after putting this up I was advised by an old mate who has a much keener interest in marketing than myself that these last three "fluff lines" should be considered as advertising "hook lines" and moved to the very top of the Greenlight page so as to be the first thing the viewer would read.

The standard way of attracting attention is to send out review copies of the game. As this is the "standard" method, it means that likely sites, publications and YouTubers are swamped by hopeful developers. Expect to be ignored, not just by the larger media organisations but also the more established indie games sites (unless you have a gimmick, gimmicks get publicity). Once you've blanketed the big sites on the off chance that you may get some coverage, finding smaller, often genre specific reviewers appears to be the best way to go. Even many of these will be inundated. Out of 150 keys I sent out to possibly interested parties great or small, less than a quarter were ever used. Clearly some games work better with YouTubers/Long Plays than others, and Airship Dragoon, methodical and complex, was not going to be one of them. Directly mentioning your game in genre specific forums can also help, with the proviso that you make it clear that you are the developer. Alas I only found Grogheads late in the day, or more to say, Grogheads found me. I will happily admit to not being terribly good at the publicity side of things.

Having your game available elsewhere (demos are always useful) gives you some visibility already. I already sold direct via FastSpring (, and had been accepted on Desura (I simply set up an account on and then asked them if they were interested) and GamersGate contacted me after seeing it available elsewhere. The only other games portal I had contacted was GoG (Good Old Games) who said that they were not interested.

Once on Greenlight I was surprised to find that I rose to 30% quite quickly, with little to no attention gathering on my behalf ... and then views dried up. It was not a case of more No than Yes votes, it was a case of users not coming to the page because it was buried under all of the newer submissions.

Social media can help bring more attention to your Greenlight page, but this is very much dependant on your current standing on such things. A social media account with few visitors will attract fewer voters. I have always eschewed Facebook and LinkedIn (purely on personal taste) but would certainly not advise others to do so. concentrated on my own personal development blog ( and tied this in with a Twitter account ( Twitter has some useful features, mainly revolving around searchable hashtags. My personal favourite for posting messages, often with links to my development blogs or Greenlight page was #indiedev (there is also #gamedev). There are numerous bots on twitter which will retweet specific hashtags and indie game development certainly has a fair few. There is also #screenshotsaturday which is actually posted all week. It has an indie development bias, though that does not stop anyone posting under it and if you are running a live feed via Tweetdeck or some other program excluding the hashtag #nsfw minimizes your exposure to the amount of young ladies posting selfies of their private parts, which can be a bit of a surprise to see when you look up from working on code expecting to see pixel art. Remember to include links to your Greenlight page with your screenshot for ease of use, keep it simple for the audience to get the chance to vote. With a mixture of blog posts and twitter related screenshots my vote count slowly but surely crawled onwards ... with the emphasis on slowly. Images from #screenshotsaturday are also listed on for voting on as "image of the day".

This is were bundles help. Greenlight needs an audience, and bundles have them. Access to the most popular such as the Humble Bundle is out of the reach of most jobbing indie developers, but there are plenty of others. The condition is simple and constant, when you get on Steam, you provide free keys to those which bought the game in the bundle.

I found to be a great help. They are an indie games portal and indie games evangelists if you will, with a Pay-What-You-Want sale. They contacted me after someone in their forums nominated the game (they have a forum specifically for bringing games their customers/supporters would like to see available). Being on IGS raised my profile, and having the PWYW sale with accompanying interview (which took place at 4am my time when I was more brain dead than usual, available here for those interested really helped. This gave Airship Dragoon a massive 8% boost in the Greenlight charts after weeks of floundering.

Following IGS I was contacted by who work in conjunction with Desura. Initially I put them off and asked for a delay, not wanting to run another bundle so soon after the last one. The thinking behind this was that running a bundle was good for publicity when the previous influx of interest had waned and visits to the Greenlight page needed stimulus. They seemed quite happy with this and again contacted me sometimes later. Again this gave the game's Greenlight profile a huge boost during the bundle and also for some time afterwards before it dwindled back to the small but steady column of visitors referred from Twitter, development blogs, and #saturdayscreenshot.

The final bundle I was involved with was the Steampunk2 bundle from They had contacted me previously but having (once again) just organised the IGS deal I was reluctant to run another bundle whilst publicity was still good. Shortly before the Steampunk2 bundle went live they recontacted me looking for an extra game to go into it. With Greenlight attention once again waning I was more than happy to agree. Unlike the others, the Groupees bundles was a mixed media affair featuring games, music, comics, ebooks and film. This gave a much greater possibility of attracting new viewers and spreading the game's profile. In the end, around 10% of the 22000 sales voted on Greenlight.

After this final large jump in votes I was nearer the top of the Greenlight and began using the twitter hashtag #screenshotsaturday to regularly post images showing my progress charts. The thinking behind this was that people are attracted to success and that success breeds success, a basic psychology that people who may not normally bother to cast a vote would be more tempted to do so when they feel that their actions have a direct and visible effect. Being high in the Greenlight ranks also had a noticeable effect on sales on other sites, especially direct sales.

Steam's own change of policy regarding acceptance numbers also helped. Instead of taking a few each month, suddenly taking 75 titles certainly helped remove those ahead of me and for some time reduced the number of votes required to get into the top 100. Once into the mid-30s I was somewhat disappointed to not be selected in the next batch of 75 ... and mildly concerned that maybe Valve simply was not interested, but I continued to persevere and was eventually selected.

So to the conclusion ... Greenlight requires mass visibility. Some games are clearly going to be better at that than others due to wider appeal, and some ... such as uber-hardcore, niche strategy titles of the type which is not popular these days ... will require considerable more work. Bundles are a great way to get publicity and boost the game's profile. Twitter can really help to keep a steady stream of votes coming with liberal use of the appropriate hashtags and links to development blog updates. If a developer is good at selling themselves publicly, something which I am clearly not, than things are going to be much easier using direct advertising on related game forums. I had no particular strategy for my Greenlight campaign and played it by ear, what I would consider to be of most importance is the ability to be flexible and not afraid to try new things which may at first be unfamiliar. Always be polite to people who run bundles especially when you are turning them down, an explanation of why also helps (eg: you would like longer time between each of them so that you run a bundle when the current spike in interest has waned). Be tenacious and never, ever stop.


Full article available at

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Idea Fairy And The Next Game Concept

Airship Dragoon - walls now 0.2 world units lower!

Airship Dragoon has had a few fixes and tweaks since going up on Steam. I must say that Steam's updating system is great, literally pulling the changes from files and compressing them. I fixed an issue with the game not working on Windows XP, fixed a couple of strange bugs which had never happened before - and could not see what had caused them to happen now (fuuuuu-), and made a few general changes such as decreasing low walls by 0.2 units to make it easier to shoot over them.

Idea Fairy courtesy of

Whilst I have been updating and tweaking Airship Dragoon now that it's up on Steam, I have also been slowly doing the mental arithmetic of drawing up new game concepts for my next project. Frankly there have been a few ... a few thousand, because creative ideas and how to implement those concepts has never been an issue. Most get stored somewhere in the back of the memory banks whilst ones which are currently more interesting to my own whims and fancies, or seem to have greater viability are left to simmer in the subconscious at gas mark 3 (that's  160 Celsius / 325 Fahrenheit for those of you using electric brains). In the end, after much stewing, I narrowed it down to three ideas spread across three separate genres: Action, RPG, Adventure. And so, without any real screenshots, video or any actual visual reference for demonstration, I will attempt to explain my thoughts into some sort of coherent description which may or may not give a good understanding of what is bubbling away inside my head. CAUTION: TEXT AHEAD!

The Action Based Idea:

Top-down steampunk/dieselpunk flight-sim/shmup with open-ended/branching narrative campaign.

Descent Freespace (Volition 1998), Wings (Cinemaware 1990), Total Air War (DID/Infogrames 1998), World War 2 Pacific Naval/Carrier Battles

Freespace bridged the link between arcade-action and simulation very well with it's simplified space flight model, and originally the idea was conceived as a steampunk/dieselpunk Freespace, set high above the clouds. However it didn't take long for me to decide that I really did not want to make a flight simulation, no matter how Freespace-like. So I thought about removing the Z axis completely and having a top down camera. Gravitating more to an action-simulation than a shoot 'em up as I've never been much of a shmup player  due rubbish reflexes, a disdain of lots of flashing lights, low blood pressure and whatever the opposite of ADHD is.

Core Gameplay:
Sticking with many of Freespace's features, such as individually damageable locations, slowly recharging afterburners for sudden turns of speed (nitro fuel injection for the sake of naming in this case), and multiple aircraft types split into 3 main categories of interceptor/dogfighter/bomber with different engines (speed), aerilons (manoeuvrability), airframe/hull damage and armour (total hitpoints), and hardpoints for guns and rockets/bombs/torpedoes. All of which can be individually damaged to reduce their capacity, so hit an engine and overall speed drops, blast apart an aerilon and turning is reduced.

I would envision the ability to pull various evasive manoeuvres to avoid incoming fire on the 2D axis (xy top down) such as displacement roll/rolling scissors, high yo-yo/barrel roll and Immelman Turn. Each evasion would move the aircraft out of the line of fire (be invulnerable for a short time) and lose momentum depending on aircraft manoeuvrability and size of airframe (possibly allowing for the enemy to overshoot). Thus a small, high aeroloned (pretty sure that ain't a real word but considering what gets into the Oxford English Dictionary these days it hardly bears worrying about) dogfighter would be able to pull many more evasions than a large, poorly moving bomber. Drop speed below minimum and the aircraft stalls instead, spinning off with loss of control for a few seconds which should be enough for pursuing fighters to make Swiss cheese out of it. Bombs, rockets and torpedoes would have finite ammunition (only what you can carry) whilst MGs, 50 cals and 20mm cannons would have infinite rounds but with cool-downs.

I was thinking of having an aerial navy, hence the World War 2 Pacific Naval/Carrier Battles influence, but obviously replacing boats with airships and zeppelins, so once again somewhat like how Freespace saw it's own capital ships and cruisers. Each water navy type would have an aerial equivalent such as Carriers, Dreadnoughts, Cruisers, Destroyers, DD AA Escorts, Frigates, Corvettes and Freighters. All the big capital ships would be designed to fight each other with big guns, and thus find it difficult to defend themselves from smaller, faster fighters and bombers ("We count thirty Rebel ships, Lord Vader, but they're so small they're evading our turbolasers."). Throw in some sort of orbital/hovering installation to work as a sky bound airport.

Aircraft capability would be loosely based on a mixture of World War 2 equivalents and also Freespace's similar archetypes (light bomber, heavy bomber, etc). I am considering using a physics based formula for aircraft construction, each part having a certain weight and aerodynamic quality, more guns (heavy) increase firepower but reduce speed, more than aerilons (light) increase manoeuvrability with smaller speed loss but make the aircraft a larger target due to their additional size, armour is heavy which means a larger airframe and more drag, an extra engine adds x1.5 thrust not 2 because of it's own drag and the need for a larger airframe to accommodate it.

This is a quick concept I knocked up of a fast bomber based on a de Havilland Mosquito equivalent (air intakes probably need to go away). I was going to use it for a quick and dirty technical demo but then never had the opportunity/spare time.

Expanded Gameplay:
Campaign-wise I was thinking of something of a mixture between Wings and Total Air War, driven by player combat performance and off-duty player decisions.

Wings went through the whole of the First World War with one mission a week, inter spaced with news bulletins about the war, rumours around the airfield and of the historical aces of the time. New pilots would arrive to replace ones killed in action, for both Ai and the player, with survivors becoming familiar names in the squadron for the player.

Total Air War on the other hand had more player agency. Two African sides would square-up to each other, both backed by NATO/Soviet airforces. Missions would be randomly generated using an algorithm and the player could accept or decline them. Wiping our 3A made the skies safer for your own planes, as blasting airfields reduced enemy hostile potential. Players also had some command over airbourne jets and using an AWACs could divert assets to intercept.

I would envision multiple missions to select from, each with varying difficulties, the more challenging, the more likely the damage to enemy war effort in that sector. Do well get wider mission selection, do less well selection decreases. As the war rages new equipment and aircraft would become available. Many losses of these upgrades would cause a shortage in availability and mean falling back on inferior choices whilst the airforce restocked. The player's personal performance during missions would directly contribute to the direction of the war.

Like in Wings, there would be a between combat section, possibly displayed like a Visual Novel for interaction, where the CO or Ai pilots would have a chat, exchange rumours, post news, and the player might be able to request transfer to another unit which specialises in interceptors, fighters or bombers, thus giving more selectable missions to personal taste.

With interceptors, dogfighters, bombers, a wide range of variously capable zeppelins and floating airfields there should be a wide choice of missions.  Straight forward reduce enemy numbers by dogfighting, intercept the bombers, attack the airships whilst fighters protect bombers and target, escort freighters and protect the supply lines, raid the supply dump, hunt the carrier, etc, etc. Also old fighter planes look really cool if you turn them into pushers with the propellers at the back.

After Thought:
This should be the quickest of my game ideas to complete ... allegedly ... and a faster turnover would be much appreciated after Airship Dragoon took nearly 3 years (mostly due to 3 rewrites ... which we won't be doing again).

Links to other peoples' artwork which might help give a better visual idea: Lego!

The RPG Based Idea:

Narrative based, isometric RPG set in an open world, using real time movement and possible stealth, turn-based melee combat with a steampunk and orientalist aesthetic.

Various half-forgotten tactical RPGs ('90s), Suikoden Series (Konami 1995 onwards), Tactics Ogre (Square Enix 1995), Gunnm: Martian Memory (Yukito 1998), Shui Hu Zhuan / Outlaws Of The Marshes (Shi Nai'an 14th Century) aka All Men Are Brothers, aka The Water Margin, aka 108 Heroes Of Lang Shan Po, aka Suikoden

Originally conceived as an open world, roaming brawler with a stealth option for sneaking past enemies. Having not actually played one since the heady days of coin-up arcades with Double Dragon and the like, I decided to take part in the 2014 Seven Day Roguelike Challenge (7DRL) and created a quick and dirty mock-up. With a working isometric camera, rudimentary controls, randomized level/maze generation (it was supposed to be a roguelike), a completely broken stealth mechanic but I was more interested in testing the action-combat idea here, I quickly came to the view that roaming brawler was not for me, as I do tend to favour more thoughtful turn-based combat over panicky button mashing.

Here's the post mortem of that 7 Day Roguelike Roaming Brawler.

At least it has the isometric camera view I am thinking of using.

The player moves around an open world in real-time from an isometric viewpoint, picking up missions from NPCs met on their travels, and using a mixture of stealth and turn-based combat to complete said missions. Successful completion grants XP/skills/power-ups/new attacks/etc. Some missions would be tied to each other, so if you have helped NPC X, it could help making NPC  Y more benign later.

Core Gameplay:
Large open world which the player can traverse and explore as they see fit. Meeting various NPCs give the option of accepting missions. The player moves using standard real-time isometric movement (up, down, left, right) and can crouch for stealth and sneak through grass/bushes to avoid hostile NPCs. Moving very much in the same manner as Gunnm: Martian Memory (which I have never played, but I saw gameplay video and it was similar to what I had in mind).

Combat is initiated by getting close to an enemy at which point the action becomes turn-based. The enemy takes a stance (unless surprised/ambushed in which the player gets a free attack) which confers certain bonuses, and the player selects a fighting stance/first attack from those available, and then a follow up or a counter from another list. Choices would be a mixture of defensive and offensive manoeuvres. Combat is resolved asynchronously and if the opponent is still standing a new set of attacks and counters are presented for continuing combat (or fleeing if things are not going well). Think of it as an expanded rock/paper/scissors with additional modifiers. New stances, techniques, attacks can be gifted/taught to the player on successful completion of certain missions or by defeating certain stronger opponents (boss battles).

Extended Gameplay:
I mentioned Shi Nai'an in the inspiration section and his 14th Century telephone directory of a novel and one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. The story popularised the 108 heroes, and in gaming terms is probably best known as Suikoden. I came across the Water Margin when I was 4 (somethings I have a great memory for, whilst others, such as what day it is, do not seem so important) from the BBC2 version (1977) of Nippon Television's 1973 series (filmed on location in China ... during the Cultural Revolution ... must have been interesting for a Japanese film crew ... )which went out at 5.30pm and my mother let me stay up for. Though heavily cut for British tea-time audience and stuck on what was at the time the Beeb's arty channel, it still had plenty of claret splashing around, severed limbs and rape ... the latter not actually in the original book but you know what the Japanese are like (I'm surprised they didn't throw squid starspawn and a schoolgirl in there - or maybe they did and that was one of the bits cut for British TV), as our noble heroes battle government corruption to save the land. Thirty plus years later and I bought the box set on DVD, and a few years after decided to finally read the translation of the six hundred year old book. With 108 heroes being quite prominent in contemporary media culture (Tarantino, Suidoken, et al) I was somewhat surprised to find that their actions were not all that noble ... and that some of "their methods were unsound" ...

So I was thinking that as a narrative backdrop The Water Margin was rather interesting with a world in near anarchy and a corrupt governmental technocracy. Also working along the lines of Suidoken (which again, I have not actually player but read up on and seen gameplay videos of) where the player has to recruit the characters, I would envision the player completing 108 tasks, 108 achievements, and thus gaining 108 bonuses/upgrades/skills/etc. Missions would be structured with a difficulty setting based on how large the reward is and how much effort is involved. The  hardest missions would be those which traversed large areas to complete with many dangers in the way - but I would make sure that there was never any doubling back, no fetch and return quests because only masochists like that sort of thing. I would hope that many missions would be solvable with a choice of stealth or combat. For example "steal the sacred sword/smexy lewt/McGuffin from the palace/guard house/temple of badasses" gives the option of beating seven bells out of everyone who gets in the way, or alternatively sneaking through the long grass, bushes to get inside and then hiding in the shadows to avoid patrolling enemies before quietly escaping.

The more open violence employed, the more infamous the player, and the more the authorities will take note of the player which would make freely moving around more difficult; "walks into town, walks past the jail with bored soldiers hanging around - hey is that my wanted poster? Oh shi-"
The world would be open, with the player free to decide which missions to take when. There would be a day and night system, the latter giving much larger bonuses for stealth and the likelihood of having less roaming hostiles, but more bandits, robbers and wild animals/possibly monsters outside of protected urbanised areas. Missions themselves could have a good range of variety and styles from as simple as lay flowers on a grave at close by location A, to obtain McGuffin B from the bandit mountain, to rescue BroDude C from the fort at location D, to defeat big bad BroDude E, and so on.

An aspect of moral choice could also be developed. If you kill the corrupt priest who spies for the government, then who looks after the orphans? Obtain vengeance for someone but they want their enemy's blood line destroyed, how far are you willing to go? To (roughly) quote  from  the novel, "Heaven's vengeance for murdering one is the same for murdering one thousand". The player would still get the achievement for completing the main part of the mission, but may not gain personal reward for either being overly violent or overlay passive.

I would consider having a save game system based around safe houses, so the player would find a pub, chapel, graveyard depending on location and be able to rest up, save the game, hide from enemies or fast forward time until sunrise or sunset.

After Thought:
There would be a fair bit of art required for this one as well as working out the many missions, 108 achievements is rather a big thing - but it definitely has to 108 or the reference does not work. If you mention Suikoden/108 Heroes people have a better understanding of where you are coming from. The rudimentary controls work as tested in the 7DRL except for the turn-based combat. I'd consider making the actual game world modular for ease of reusing assets and things such as trees are now quite easily created thanks to the glorious Forester Pro which can randomly generate them in a few clicks. Using isometric and camera distance could really reduce the amount of objects on screen at any one time, thus allowing for higher tris counts in localised areas without hammering performance. I might also consider lightmapping the whole thing rather than using dynamic shadowing and spend the savings on more complicated poly modelling.

No real image galleries to show on this one as it should be fairly self-explanatory.

The Adventure Based Idea:

Third-person survival horror and exploration game where the player can interact with the environment by jumping, climbing and shinning/dangling along ledges.

Tomb Raider (Core/Eidos 1996), Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Frictional 2010), Dark Seed (Incentive/Cyberdreams 1992), Cthulhu Mythos (HP Lovecraft 1930s), Macabre Surrealism (HR Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Wayne Berlowe, Sibylle Ruppert)

Some years ago I replayed the start of original Tomb Raider and was struck by just how much the game left you alone. You could wander around, happily exploring to your heart's content without the game going out of it's way to force you to take part in the story. I was thinking along the lines of an adventure game where the player could scale certain vertical surfaces, jump across gaps/chasms, shin or dangle along ledges and generally free climb to explore the environment. Marrying this with the survival horror genre, the player would be unarmed and incapable of straightforward violence but could possibly leverage or knock over parts of the environment, whilst moving through ever more disturbing environments.

Core Gameplay:
The player explores, alone, unarmed and on foot. The emphasis is on environmental interaction and various surfaces throughout levels can be climbed. Often levels will have a puzzle element (usually just pathfinding) as a way of escaping them, though the prominence of the gameplay is on exploring. Thin ledges can be edged along or dangled off. Falling is generally considered bad.

Though this is survival horror, the stress is on the horror of macabre surrealism rather than a combat based threat. There would be certain times the player is directly hunted by creatures and have to escape via manipulating the environment or fleeing, but this would not be constant. More so the threat of bumping into something hostile whilst manoeuvring through increasingly disturbing aesthetics of each level would be key to building atmosphere and the sense of threat.

Extended Gameplay:
I am going to be a little coy about the narrative here, as the meat of a narrative based adventure is what happens in the story, and this is much more story specific than the other ideas so I intend to stick to explaining loose game mechanics. The game would start off in a contemporary timeline with the environments steadily becoming more and more horrifying. Along the way would be certain frescoes/statutes and the like which when activated would impart information via hallucination or actual animation depicting something to do with an alien narrative, somewhat akin to what happens in the story of HP Lovecraft's "At The Mountains of Madness" (1931) when the protagonist walks through the long dead city of the Elder Things. These objects would be supplementary to the main narrative. There would not be, under any circumstances, a game mechanic of find all of the scattered bits of paper someone had written notes on.

Apart from the exploration element there would be a certain amount of interaction with some physical objects such as pushing, shoving and knocking over, and it could be possible to treat these as weapons if done correctly.

The environments would be varied, with differing colour schemes. I much prefer artistically lit design for atmosphere rather than simple hard to see in darkness. I also prefer my horror to be subtly unsettling and build tension rather than opt for jump scares. Many scenarios would be about experience menacing rather than constantly running and hiding from it until it goes away and then attempting to move on again. Creature-wise, I am very much thinking along the lines of Lovecraftian nightmares, starfish alien, frightening abominations rather than the guy in a rubber suit concept. I am currently uncertain about having an "insanity" mechanic to the gameplay.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Amnesia: The Dark Descent, I did find the ending weak ... what do you expect me to do, just sit there until the very last moment - which I'm not sure exactly when it will happen - whilst naked floating guy summons unspeakable evil, or wade in and stop him as soon as possible? To this effect I imagine multiple game endings based not only on direct and obvious choices the player makes, but also on how aggressively or cautiously they play the game.

After Thought:
This is probably the most creatively challenging of the three concepts, and annoyingly, probably the most commercially viable - though I am not really basing on that on anything concrete beyond the words horror, explore and Cthulhu tend to attract attention. It would require a lot of art, and a lot of that art would have to be custom/specific rather than more generic, and easier to create, models like mere rocks and trees. Whilst I have a big library of motion captured human animations, modelling and animating monstrous Things is another matter and one that I can see being very consuming. Rendering-wise, I am imagining it to be somewhat high poly (in dev terms), using a lot of tonemapping for shadowing and colour effect. Dispensing with dynamic lighting could save a lot on performance and thus really allow for some high tris environments.

Links to other peoples' Macabre Surrealist artwork which might help give a better visual idea. Viewing before going to sleep not recommended ;)
Sibylle Ruppert Google Image Search (can't find a decent web gallery of all of her work).
Macabre Surrealism Google Image Search.
And anything written by HP Lovecraft but I do recommend; At The Mountains Of Madness.

So, those are the concepts which have been swimming around/festering in the back of my subconscious whilst I have continued to upgrade and fix Airship Dragoon. These three ideas are most viable of the many, many designs which form within the spongy bit between my ears, and constantly, incessantly, jockey with one another for position, and my attention.

Oh, omnipresent Idea Fairy, why will you not let me rest!? Oh, cruel Idea Fairy, a pox upon you!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Airship Dragoon v1.5 Releases On Steam

It's not everyday One Bloke, In His Bedroom, Making Indie Games gets above big budget indies like The Banner Saga and Carmageddon (a combined $1.34 million on Kickstarter compared with my any loose change I could find down the back of the sofa ... so here's the snap shot for posterity!

Airship Dragoon has released in Steam!

If you're in the middle of a campaign - do not panic! The Steam build uses exactly the same save folder so your progress will tranfer over easily. The only change is that the internal Achievement system now uses the Steam Achievements.

I've also had a quick test of the new Realism Mod for the environments, and it all seems to work fine with Steam for those of you who prefer extra quantities of pixels. As previously watch mixing and matching saved battles with it. Also note it uses a lot more CPU/GPU resources than the standard levels. Download

Airship Dragoon itself has been updated to version 1.5 and should be available everywhere it previously was either now or soon (Desura usual takes a few days).

As for bundle keys, IGS, direct sales, and Indie Royale should be available now, Groupees I have sent but have yet to hear back.

And just a reminder that there is a Steam Demo to try for free.

Thanks to everyone who voted for it on Greenlight.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Emergency July Blog: Fancy Ribbon FX: The Ribboning

No dev blog this July? Ah there were multiples last month ... but let's sort that out.

Some time ago I'd asked/pleaded/badgered (delete as applicable) Tim from MaxGaming Tech (whose mech combat game is on steam now) on their IRC channel (irc:// for some old code for attaching fancy ribbons to moving objects in a FreeSpace type manner. He duly obliged and after a cursory look at it all and some grumbling about a lack of code comments - I make gameplay, fancy C++ and rendering stuff isn't my area of expertise - I ended up being snowed under with other dev related things.

Originally I'd envisioned using the ribbon effect for a tech demo of another game concept but continued Airship Dragoon dev had put the kibosh on that.

However noting that Lukas of WinterLeaf had created a ribbon emitter based on the stock particle emitter. This was quite cool and a quick compile later I had a Nyan Cat trooper running about. Scrounging other peoples' code snippets is one of the joys of using an Open Source Game Engine! :P

Turned out he wasn't actually supposed to be trippy Nyan Cat colours after all, and the shader was taking the colour from the normals rather than the colour because the addresses in the rendering code were not matching order. I nodded sagely in pretense that I knew what any of this meant while other people asked me to swap code lines around and report the effects. That fixed, it was a pretty simple job to create ribbon types based on ammunition types for all weapons. Swag.

Whilst testing my latest build I annoyingly found that the instanciating file for arid level 2 had corrupted for reasons beyond mortal man's understanding (stares suspiciously at the stars and blames the Reptoids/Cthulhu/Ming) and whilst collision for troops was working it wasn't passing collision for raycasts or projectiles. Simply updating the file and resaving it fixed this annoyance. All this and a few other tweaks and fixes for minor issues will be finding their way into the next update/patch.

Right now I am mostly working on the forthcoming Steam build. My original trailer is now woefully out of date as the characters, animation, audio and various other stuff has changed since release. It's also boiling hot even in my dreary little bit of Yorkshire and my ancient PC coughs and splutters as I run Airship Dragoon full screen with the settings on high to try and get some decent video footage.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Airship Dragoon v1.4.8 And Realism Mod Released!

Airship Dragoon has been updated to version 1.4.8.

Airship Dragoon is a traditional, uber-hardcore, turn-based strategy and tactics game in the manner of Julian Gollop's Laser Squad or UFO/X-Com, or as I like to call it: a GollopLike!

Airship Dragoon v1.4.8 update is available direct from the dev at, IndieGameStand and Gamersgate now. The update for Desura usually takes about a week to filter through their system.

If you're using a direct download, you can use the patch!

The full changelog is available here and details some 60 or so updates.

Amongst the changelog highlights are:

Fixed a critical issue caused by a namespace change when introducing modding during the previous update (v1.4). (Thanks to Vincent for the report and supply his save files which helped with replication and hunting the issue down)

Increased the maximum number of veterans the player can have from 16 to 30 due to it being a popular request from customers.

Added an AutoSave function that can be enabled in Options->Controls due to it being a popular request from customers.

Added a hotkey for reloading in battle. Press "r" to reload without going into the inventory, again this was another popular request from customers.

Wounded troops now show on the map so they are easier to find and rescue.

Mountainous environments have had a visual makeover to give them a more wintery aesthetic.

Added Felix Westin's changes to the lighting shader code to allow normal mapping into shadows, making them appear less flat.

Updated to version 3.5.1 of the Open Source Torque3D engine, also updated to VS2013 for compiling the exec (previously still using VS2008).


Also released and compatible with Airship Dragoon v.1.4.8 and all future versions is the "Realism Mod Total Conversion" which swaps all of the models and textures in the standard environments for high resolution ones, for those of you whoe "like all the pixels". Personally I've always prefered an abstracted figurative aesthetic, which is why standard Airship Dragoon has always looked like it does.

When enabled this Total Conversion redirects the game to use the levels/battlefields within the mod. Please note however that due to differing pathfinding solutions and base terrains, the Realism Mod should not be used with previously saved games in Battle Mode, but is perfectly compatible to use with an existing saved game in either of the campaign Strategy Modes (eg: the hexagonal strategy world). If you've saved a campaign during a battle, I would strongly suggest finishing your saved battle and then returning to the Strategy Mode to save the campaign before enabling the Realism Mod. Full instructions on how the mod works are available in the zip file.

The Realism Mod Total Conversion is available for free: here.


In other news, Airship Dragoon has got through Greenlight! Many thanks to everyone who voted for it.

The next job in hand is to integrate Airship Dragoon into the Steam SDK. After this I intend to release a level editor/modding tools.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Airship Dragoon Has Been Greenlit

Just a quick blog post to say that Airship Dragoon has been Greenlit and that I am now an accredited Steam developer. many thanks to everyone who voted! In the end I got through with around 6500 votes.

Here's a little graph of what happened, the first curve is all my own publicity - what little I managed of it - until featured my in a Pay-What-You-Want deal and did an interview at some god forsaken time of night for the UK. Usually I'm bright and bushy tailed at 3am but not that night. ;)

IGS were extremely helpful and are nice blokes with a real drive for indie games. I would recommend that any indie developer contact them, regardless of whether you need a profile boost or not.

After that was the push where Airship Dragoon was featured in a bundle along side a number of other indie games. The Indie Royale is Desura based, but are more than happy to have your greenlight links and steam keys available for player choice (as does IndieGameStand).

The final jump was from the Steampunk2 bundle with which saw an eclectic mix of games, music, comics and film.

I also found some publicity from a hardcore strategy site Grogheads who gave me an interview - - as well as a lot of feedback.

I am currently working on the next update which has various tweaks and additions based on customer feedback and a fix for a potentially critical bug I accidentally introduced in the last update. (derp!) After this has been released I will begin to look at integrating the Steam client into Airship Dragoon.

In other Greenlit news, Frayed Knights: The Skull of Smakh-Daon also got through. Whilst Jay may have moved on to use another game engine for his future development, Frayed Knights was created with TGE 1.5.2, the for-runner of the Open Source game engine which I used for Airship Dragoon.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Airship Dragoon Mod Preview And Summer Sale

 Airship Dragoon, traditional turn-based tactics in the manner of hardcore '80s and early '90s strategy games (but in 3D) is on HALF PRICE with the "British Summer Sale - Grab A Brolly And Airship Dragoon 50% OFF! (2nd-14th June)". Buy it direct from the dev. (steam keys available once through Greenlight)

The next update for Airship Dragoon (1.4.2) will be available some time this month (June 2014)  and features a few requested functions such as being able to reload via a hotkey without going into the inventory screen, and the location of critically wounded troops will now be displayed on the map, so they're easier to find and get medical aid to. There's likely to be a few new character models for variation and some bug fixes for minor issues. On top of this the mountainous environments have been recreated to give them more of a wintry aesthetic.

Also available with the next 1.4.2 update will be the demonstration "realism mod". This replaces the standard missions with high res versions of objects and textures, and has been created to demonstrate the forthcoming mod tools.

The "realism mod" is complete, but only compatible with the next (and all future) updates. And if you fancy a closeup of the wintery, mountainous terrain here you go. Bonus points for anyone who spots the judicial use of parallax in the foreground. ;)

In other exciting indie dev news, Airship Dragoon is currently 16th in Steam Greenlight. More votes are very much appreciated, thanks!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Realism Mod Total Conversion And From Tehran With Love

Quick update on the current work on the Airship Dragoon realism mod/total conversion.

 Above: Before new grass and sky textures.

Above: After new grass and sky textures.

It's a total conversion of the original levels/battlefields, replacing all textures and models with more realistic/high-poly versions. Some of the work is created from scratch by myself, some previously licensed from other sources such as Ron Kapaun, GarageGames and Forester Pro.

Here's a few videos ... though youTube has frankly mangled the quality and introduced some annoying blurriness. Everything looks better in HD but you knew that already ...

In other news I had an After Action Report featured on Grogheads, a nice hardcore war/strategy game site.

Also, it appears that the Ayatollah is quite taken with Airship Dragoon, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard just can't get enough of it! Well ... I found a link to an Iranian pirate site which gave it a good review ...

Oh, and where torrents say "cracked" ... well there's no DRM, so what could all of those "crack.exe" files be containing? First guess that begins with the word "virus" wins a free internet.

Persian also seems to be a language which google translate knows fluently ... unlike some better known and more populous languages ...

Airship Dragoon is in the Top 100 games on Steam Greenlight. There's no legitimate reason you shouldn't vote for it ... except if you don't like traditional strategy games or you don't use Steam ... both of which are ... er ... perfectly legitimate reasons I guess ...

Monday, 28 April 2014

Mummzy Birthday Sale

Last year, Mummzy got a Viking broadsword for her birthday.

This year she got fruit ... which is kind of a come down on last year's present, I guess.

But Airship Dragoon is available direct from the dev on sale with 75% off until 8th May 2014.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Airship Dragoon Modding: Realism

Whilst currently working on documentation for the modding of Airship Dragoon, I thought it might be nice if I created my own "realism" mod. So here's a first look of the inital testing.

Realism Test #1

Muh Parallax! Probably needs calming down a little but it does look rather nice.

Trees are created using a specific tree modeling app called Forester Pro, created by some chaps with an interest in actual Earth Science and they scan their own leaves, bark, etc - except for endangered species, I liked how they mentioned that about some flowers. It comes with specific export for XNA, Unreal Development Toolkit (UDK), Unity, Torque3D and Dark Basic, as well as standard FBX and DAE export for most modeling apps. It also does LODs and billboards which is nice.

In other news, Airship Dragoon is now at 94% on Steam Greenlight with over 6000 votes.

More votes would be greatly appreciated, thanks! :)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Airship Dragoon BattleLog: Miracle Victory Unlocked

First up, let's get the blatant publicity out of the way.

Airship Dragoon is at 82% on Steam Greenlight and more votes are always appreciated, cheers!


Airship Dragoon Battle Log

With Airship Dragoon v1.4 released, I got back to playing my on-going campaign.

The Situation So Far:
Playing as the British Royalists (gor blimey guvnor, it's six bonger I say old chap, ilkley moor bar tat, ee-by-gum matey ...) I'd randomly started with a Dreadnaught Class Heavy Dirigible, which allows for a carry capacity of 15 troops (yay!) and a move range of 2 hexes (not yay ... ). I'd expanded territories quickly, before suffering a defeat in which I lost my top officer and a number of other veterans, and my dirigible had been kicked all the way back to my original fort. This rapid expansion had brought me into contact with the dastardly forces of the People's Collective (a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, placed in a box, thrown in a sack, burried in a churchyard under a new moon on Saint Crispins Day ...). They too had the advantage/disadvantage of a Dreadnaught class airship and had started to chip away at my more undefendable conquests near what I presumed was their main garrison. After swallowing up a number of my resource rich but population low arid hexes, they finally came into a temperate environment where I had the chance to deploy a few more troops against them.

Anti-pirate operations were about to be suspended as the distant enemy Dreadnaught came into view

Whilst my selection of veteran defenders wasn't anything to write home about, I did have one thing going for me and that was the weather. It was stormy, with low visibility and the majority of my available troops were of the close range class. This meant that they could return fire during the enemy's phase if a target of opportunity walked into their sights, and the poor weather would prevent them from being picked off at range.

 Not exactly the world's greatest elite shock troops :/

I equipped all Fusiliers with semi-auto light carbines, the lone Grenadier with a heavy semi-auto rifle, and the Recce and Militia Conscript with standard rifles. Every stocked up on grenades and health kits, and light armour was issued to all except for the Conscript. And with that, Sergeant-Major Kai Lancaster led his men out against an enemy force nearly 3 times larger.

Take the high ground and peer through the storm at the enemy objective

The enemy had established themselves on my territory, and so it was the job of the brave chaps of King George the Gouty to go forth into the raging storm and capture their flag. Moving quickly to take the high ground midway from the objective I could survey the terrain ahead and decide upon my tactical plan. It was pretty simple, move forward cautiously, Sergeant Archiblad Devon (Recce) on point to scan for enemy booby traps that the others may walk into unseen, keeping an arc of close range Fusiliers around the others for reactive fire protection and move down and use the hedges as cover.

Contact! Contact! Twitchy Bum Time!

No sooner had I started to move down the hill as there was incoming fire from a lone defender to the front. What appeared perfect time to blood my lone Conscript in his first ever battle proved otherwise as he emptied his entire magazine without scoring a hit. Sergeant Lesley Sheffield (Fusilier) records the mission's first kill. Moving slowly forwards in cautious mode Sheffield encounters and kills another defender without reply. Things going nicely.

Setting up an arc formation of close range troops ready for anything.

Moving down to the base of the hill I establish my defensive arc of Fusiliers and am about to set off for the cover of the hedgerows when all hell breaks loose. Sgt Major Kai Lancaster comes under heavy fire from from the centre with one round ricocheting off his armour and another lightly wounding him before green tracer of a heavy sniper rifle comes rushing down from the hill to the left flank. Sergeant Les Sheffield bears the main brunt of the attack from the right flank with scores of red tracer from light rounds landing nearby.

Lance Corporal Frederich Norfolk finds himself somewhat in the crossfire of all of these missing bullets, and though not actually hit panics, spraying bullets into the mist. Devon returns fire scoring a kill and Dick Scarborough finally gets into the action, winging an opponent who flees into cover. Les moves up only to come under small calibre automatic fire and responds by wounding his opponent. Conscript Weymouth continues to squeeze off shots with nothing to show for it. Sgt-Major Kai Lancaster, the expedition's imperious leader, fails to hit back and then fails to make it into cover. Everyone seems to be using a lot of ammunition up ...

... but it looks like it's working! The enemy to the centre flees and those to the flank panic enmass, pouring a huge amount of mostly innaccurate fire over the heads of my troops. Mostly inaccurate as both Les and Devon are struck by stray rounds. Deciding he's had enough of this, Les jumps to his feet and flees back up the hill to safety.

Break out the Aid Kit, it's where I keep my hipflask!

Wounded but still going, Devon moves up, wounds another defender who is in turn finished off by Scarborough. The enemy still seem to be in somewhat of a panic but large calibre rifle rounds keep coming down from the hill to the left flank. Norfolk has regained his composure enough to spray the hill with suppressing fire whilst Lancaster leads  a lone charge up the side of sniper hill. Conscript Weymouth tries to get into the firefight but continues to be unable to hit a bull in the butt with a bazooka, drawing automatic weapon fire his short lived advance turns into a route and he flees in panic.

 Cover! Get into cover!

Automatic light machine gun fire suddenly erupts from sniper hill. Norfolk returns fire with his large calibre semi-auto rifle, scoring a headshot on the fraction of the gunner that he can see. Nice shooting, Tex! However he is now worryingly down to just 15 rounds ...

Les patches himself up with a health kit before returning to the action, whilst Devon scores more hits on enemies to the right flank causing them to flee in panic. All the time Scarborough moves up unopposed and gets into the cover of the hedgerows, just short of the enemy flag.

Boom Headshot! End of the threat from Sniper Hill

Lancaster makes it to the top of sniper hill, ending the threat of the large calibre marksman with a nicely placed headshot. Everyone else presses forwards into the hedges where Scarborough waits, ready to launch the final assault. Which is just when an enemy walks around the corner and Scarborough shoots him dead at point blank range. Nice reactions there, sonny!

 Tip-toe ... through the hedges ...

Lancs moves along sniper hill and starts his descent to the flank of the flag before coming under fire, his armour stopping a bullet. Heavier incoming fire penetrates his armour though, and he turns and flees. Norfolk decides on a fast assault, but spotting four enemies camped near the base of the objective, he wounds one before withdrawing into cover. Sheffield moves up to support the attack and records his hat-trick, killing the defender who had wounded Lancs.

'Ave it!

As the enemy attempt to pursue the fleeing commander, they cross into the line of fire of Scarborough and Sheffield who pour down numerous volleys before Sheffield finally kills one. As Conscript Weymouth rejoins the battle after his soiling his briches in panic, Norfolk takes the opportunity to fire upon the now routed enemies. In utter disarray the enemy panics, fleeing, shooting wildly and at this point I decided it's about time Weymouth actual did something useful. Pulling a frag grenade, he pops the pin - hoping that no one is still lucid enough to shoot him before he has chance to throw it - and launches an assault on the enemy flag.

Weymouth always tried to look nonchelant immediately after murdering someone with a grenade ...

With the enemy truly routed, Weymouth takes the chance to record his first ever kill with the grenade before moving over to capture the flag. And the battle is mine! With no fatalities amongst my troops ... which ... was a surprise. Weymouth was promoted to Sapper class as a result and became one of my team's core veterans.

Achievement Unlocked!

A miracle victory! Which is also an unlockable achievement ... which was nice. :)

The victory really came about from a variety of random factors. The weather was one of them, with the view distance reduced my troops were safe from long range fire meaning that I could move towards the objective unhindered. Randomization of previously promoted conscripts had given me a glut of Fusiliers, making my choice of veterans unnaturally balanced to the short range class which was perfect for the reduced visibility. Armour repeatedly saved the lives of the troops and the final factor would be luck - there was an enormous amount of incoming fire which struck the ground at the feet of my troops, or flew just over their heads.

Promotions for everyone! - except the boss who gets shrapnel picked out of his arse ...