A modernized rogue-lite ASTEROIDS with hella smooth arcade gameplay.
[ Steam | Cheerful Ghost | Project Page | PC Demo ]
The hustle never ends.
Over the last month, we’ve done a couple of experiments in publicity. Starship Rubicon was in the Bundle Stars Trinity 3 Bundle, we run a couple of Steam Visibility Rounds, started releasing Steam Coupons, participated in the Steam Exploration Sale, and put out a demo. My notes ended up being longer than I expected, so I’ve split things up a bit. Here’s my take on how the bundle went:
This whole thing started as an attempt to come up with a better control scheme for flying a spaceship around than in Asteroids; I liked its core economy of choice between moving and shooting, but it felt unwieldy. Rubicon is my response — I tried to preserve that core mostly-mutually-exclusive decision to steer versus aim, but make it easier to switch between the two.
I also looked at Geometry Wars and a couple of the other twin-stick shooters that it spawned. I didn’t learn a lot though, since it allows you to do both simultaneously.
Luftrausers showed me the form of juicy 2D flying + shooting.
I initially tried copying Mechwarrior/Gratuitous Space Battles with slots and whatnot, but it never felt right. The final version was cribbed almost directly from Megaman Battle Network, with my own addition of “addon” components and the bonus for symmetry (there are other shape bonuses too but they’re pretty trivial).
I copied a lot of the weapon/ability/enemy designs from Bastion+Transistor. They do an *amazing* job making equipment “swingy” (no +5% incremental improvements) and allowing different loadouts to generate novel gameplay.
Space Pirates and Zombies did a pretty good job of filling the design space of “what sorts of objectives can you have in a fly-around-and-shoot-things-game”. I didn’t end up using most of it (base defense, hunt, assassinations…) but it was a good starting point. Also, progress past escort missions not depending on the survival of your escort was a good call (you just don’t get their bonuses).
I mostly ended up with two core mission types (and enemy types, for that matter): shooting challenges and movement challenges (cryopod rescue).
PCG mission nodes:
FTL, obviously. Though I don’t like the lack of information in FTL, most of the time you’re just randomly choosing where to go. I pared it down and made things a little more straightforward. The creators of Spelunky put up a cool walkthrough of how their PCG engine works, which I based a lot off of.
I actually played around with making it a roguelike (contact enemies to zoom into battle mode) for a full month before scrapping it (KILL YOUR DARLINGS) as an uncontrollable too-complicated metastructure.
Randomly-triggered banter? Sounds like Bioware.
Badly translated English? Sounds like Zero Wing.
Unlockable stuff from the main menu showing up playable ingame? Sounds like FTL and Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Ever since I read Kidd Radd (a semi-animated online webcomic epic from 2002 – 2004), I’ve been conscious of games about violence for the sake of violence… whiiich is basically what I just made. The muddled morality that pops up in the game stems from this.
I was going to write a standard postmortem for Starship Rubicon— explain what we tried, show some stats, and pull out some lessons. I’ll do some of that later, but I think I’m starting to realize that any specific tips I can share is less important than something else I learned.
Steam traffic is a gigantic morass — having my game on the front page that first morning felt like timidly standing in the empty floor of the stock exchange moments before it opens. Suddenly, before I can take a breath, the wave of humanity hits. One million (1,000,000) views on the front page, Steam promises. It only took a couple hours. Store page clicks were two orders of magnitude lower than that.
Final sales? Two orders of magnitude lower.
Not gonna lie, I was disappointed. I’d seen the ocean and only felt a drop. Continue reading
Wick, or Wax as I know you by. I wanted to congratulate you on the launch of Starship Rubicon! you told me about it at camp this summer and today (July 13 2015) I bought it off of steam. P.S. It is really fun!
Thanks! I was halfway convinced that nobody was going to remember the name. (I’m going crazy hitting the refresh button right now)
I think our traffic graph speaks for itself. We had a huge initial surge (I assume from being on the front page of Greenlight for being “recently submitted”) which QUICKLY dropped off over the week as we moved further and further away from the front page. The later minor spikes came from exposure through Let’s Players and Twitch streamers (huge shout out to Stream Friends, Maris from GamerQuest, and many others).
Then came what is only known as the Dark Times, where we weren’t actively promoting it and were more-or-less sitting pretty at a steady ~40% of the way to the top 100. We were banking on getting more bumps down the line from doing some conventions and maybe a bundle. Then BAM! Out of the blue, Greenlit! So what on Earth happened??? Why did we get Greenlit when we did? Read on for our best guess:
Character portraits? CHARACTER PORTRAITS!
(Drawn by Jackson Lango : http://jacksonlango.com/)
Here we go, Rubicon is now an open-source project; you can now download its code, art, and music from Rubicon’s repository over at Github.
To compile the code, you’re going to need the proprietary Blitzmax compiler. You have to buy a license to create distributable executables, but they also offer a free version that you can use to compile and run the code for yourself.
Please forgive the comments, for the nights were long and the puns were many.