News

Battleheart 2 Fall Update

Here’s a quick update on where we’re at.

Progress continues steadily, though it’s become clear that shipping this year was… not realistic.  As is always the case, we’ve run into speed bumps here and there, from software acting up to head colds and wildfires!  And of course, some things take longer than planned, or grow in complexity.  Still, we’re wrapping up our 10th hero this week, the Samurai, and we’ve finished several basic enemies since our last update.  The current task is to have the remaining heroes and the remaining basic enemies done by the holidays.  With those pieces in place, we’ll start the new year with what is essentially a fully playable game, ready for tuning.  We’ll be playing with damage numbers, enemy groups, and all the other knobs and switches we have to dial in the combat difficulty in January.  This should quickly get the game to a near-final state… all except for the boss encounters, the last really big task.  Bosses are already designed and at least partly implemented, but require a decent amount of extra art and animation.  I honestly don’t know how long they will take.  In some ways, they’re easier than basic enemies because they’re generally immune to crowd-control effects, so we don’t have to do a bunch of animations for being knocked down, terrified, set on fire, etc.  But they have extra abilities and some complex behavior, so it’s a bit of a tradeoff.

We’ll have a better idea of a real release date after we get one of the bosses implemented.

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Summer Time

It’s hard to believe it’s already summer!  Here’s a quick update on where we’re at with Battleheart 2.

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The latest milestone is that our main menus are all complete.  They may not seem that flashy or cool, but its a LOT of work to build all of the UI that you interact with between battles.  It should look familiar to players of prior Battleheart games, but we’ve introduced some new systems as well.  You can manage your inventory, change the party’s equipment, and buy new items with gold acquired from battles just as before.  Aside from simple attack and defense stats, items can provide things like critical hit chance or life draining effects, and this menu includes a very detailed summary of all of those bonuses, so you never need wonder what your total stats are when many different sources are effecting the same thing.

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In addition, we built an interface for enchanting items.  Enchantment can be performed with “crystals”, another currency that can be awarded from battle.  Any item can be enchanted to boost its stats, and enchantment can be performed repeatedly on the same item.  However, the cost is higher for more powerful equipment, and increases exponentially with each application.

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Looking beyond your heroes’ equipment, you’ll find the “talents” page.  Like the original Battleheart, each hero can wield up to 3 activated abilities and several passive bonuses, but the way you acquire them is slightly different.  In the original Battleheart, new skills were simply unlocked every 5 character levels, and you would occasionally get a choice between 2 competing options.  In Battleheart 2, you’ll instead acquire “skill points”, another currency shared by the party that’s used to unlock active and passive abilities for your team.  Rather than the occasional choice between 2 things, you’re free to select among a whopping 20 passive talents for each hero.  You can spend your skill points heavily on one or two heroes, or distribute them more evenly, the choice is yours.  And fear not, your choices aren’t permanent – it’s possible to refund a talent purchase and distribute your skill points elsewhere if you make a mistake.  Like enchanting, skill point costs increase rapidly the more you invest them into the same hero.

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Between skill points, crystals and items, there’s a lot of ways to differentiate your heroes.  However, we decided to reduce distinction in one area – experience.  Your heroes don’t gain XP individually anymore, but instead share XP and level as a single unit.  This makes it relatively easy to switch your party members and experiment with different compositions, even if you’ve been playing with the same group for many hours it’s not a huge chore to “catch up” a hero you’ve neglected if you want to take them for a spin.

So… what’s left?  More heroes and bad guys!  The next task on the agenda is the remaining 4 heroes I’ve committed to for launch – a Samurai, Necromancer, Frost Mage, and Battle Priest.  After that, lots of enemies, playtesting and tuning.  I’m 100% confident that by winter, we’ll have the game mostly complete, perhaps with the exception of the boss battles.  I don’t want to rush those, so if anything pushes us out of 2017 it’ll be those.  We’ll have an update later this year for sure as we approach the finish line.

 

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Battleheart 2 Spring Update

Hey, it’s almost spring!  We haven’t talked about Battleheart 2 since last year, so here’s a quick update on where we’re at.

The majority of what we’ve been working on since our announcement of the game is enemies and heroes.  This mostly involves art/animation, since our core systems are already pretty robust.  Occasionally some new code is required to support an entirely new mechanic (like, say, summoning a temporary ally) but most of that kind of stuff is already in the bag.  By the end of this month, we will already have as many heroes and items finished as the original Battleheart.  The final hero count we’ll ship with is undecided, but we currently have a nice split so far between returning classes/abilities along with totally new ones.  We’ll ship with at least 12, but I’d like to get to 16, so there would be 4 of each major archetype (tank, support, melee and ranged dps).

When it comes to enemies, we also have a bunch of those done as well, with most of our usual suspects making a return from prior games.  We’ve got a half dozen or so that we still want to add, but we already have about as many enemy types as the original Battleheart completed, excluding bosses.  Boss encounters are still to come, we have a list of boss concepts designed but haven’t started building them yet.

So, between now and release – the rest of the bad guys and heroes, a bunch of background art (we’re working with at least one contractor, maybe another if we can find a good freelance painter) and our menu systems are the main chunks of work remaining.  I still can’t put a release date on it, only that we’re aiming for this year.

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What’s Next?

This has been a busy year for us at Mika Mobile. We launched our latest game, Lost Frontier. We’ve dusted the cobwebs off our back catalog, and revived our old android games. So what are we up to now?

After shipping Battleheart Legacy, the answer was simple – lose a lot of sleep and care for a newborn child. It’s no secret that our studio is an indie family affair, and when 100% of your staff is on maternity/paternity leave, not a lot happens.  

I’m going to be candid – it was a struggle getting inspired and back to work after being a full-time parent for months. Battleheart Legacy was our biggest game yet, took over 2 years of our lives, and that was before adding a time-consuming infant into the mix. There was a time a couple years ago, sleep-deprived and creatively drained, when I wondered if we’d ever ship another game.

Obviously the creative juices did eventually return. Lost Frontier ended up as a departure from our past games in many ways, and one of those was scope. It was conceived in terms of “what would be a fun genre we haven’t tried yet?” while also considering “what can I do now that my time is more limited?”. A turn-based strategy game seemed like a perfect intersection of fun, novelty, and approachability from a development standpoint.

I wouldn’t call developing it easy, but compared to some of our previous games it came together pretty quickly. It was the perfect project to get back into developing games after the seismic life-change a baby brings. That isn’t to say it wasn’t also a step forward for us as developers – Lost Frontier’s AI was a unique challenge, and we pushed the envelope with how many sprites we could fit on screen. Still, we knew when it was done we’d be ready for something a little more ambitious and crazy again.

So we’re tackling Battleheart 2. A true sequel to the original Battleheart.

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Battleheart Legacy was bigger and more elaborate than its predecessor, but also fundamentally different – the shift to playing a single character, the change in art direction, and trying to focus on dialog and exploration brought with it pros and cons. Obviously we’re immensely proud of Legacy, but with this title we wanted to revisit the core experience of the original Battleheart, and polish it to a mirror sheen. That means the return of managing an entire party of heroes, crisp and appealing 2D graphics, and the goal of making fun, frantic combat the main attraction. The core ideas for this iteration have been simmering for a long time, and I feel it will marry some of the best elements of the two Battleheart games, bringing the foundation we established in the first Battleheart into a more refined and feature-rich form.

Although we’re still early in development, we’re committing to a couple exciting features that I can talk about today. One is a whole new level of 2D art and animation, as seen in the screenshot above. We’re trying out a more “painterly” look rather than the flat line-art we’ve been known for, and I think it’s turning out great. You’ll definitely still recognize it as a Mika Mobile game (especially when you see it in motion), we’re just raising the level of detail a couple notches.

The other big feature we’re very excited about is co-op multiplayer. We dabbled with this in Zombieville 2 many years ago, and learned some lessons on how to handle (and not handle) things. It’s a tricky feature, but we think it’s worth it. Doing battle alongside a friend or two, where you divide up responsibilities and control different party members is already playable at this stage and very fun. The game supports up to 4 players, with each nominating 1 or more of their individual characters into a communal party. Want to group up with 3 pals and have a little mini-raid? That’s the idea.

Lastly, we plan to launch on Android simultaneously (or very nearly), and multiplayer will be cross-platform. A PC release is something we’re also strongly considering. This will be the definitive Battleheart, and we want everyone to be able to play it.

This is the earliest we’ve announced a game before (we’re only about 3 months in), so be aware that this isn’t something you’ll be playing for a while. We’re already through R&D mode, during which we’ve built tools and workflow improvements, experimented with art style, and generally learned some new skills. As of today we’re full steam ahead with production, rapidly adding new heroes, abilities and bad guys. We have our core systems complete, but a lot of art and animation left to do, so look for a release some time next year.

Keep an eye on our twitter (@MikaMobile) for future announcements.

 

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Maintenance Time

The last few years have kept us pretty busy.  Between Lost Frontier, Battleheart Legacy, and having a child, we’ve been spread pretty thin.  This has lead to some cobwebs forming on our older games, in the form of compatibility and features withering due to changes in modern iOS and Android versions.  Since we’re between projects, it seemed like a good time to take care of some of this.

First on the list, Zombieville USA 2.  Over time, multiplayer functionality has been spotty, randomly failing to work for some users.  This has been particularly frequent since iOS 9 launched, which also introduced some music playback issues on some devices.  Further, we never made an Android version, in part because the multiplayer feature was powered by the Apple-exclusive Gamecenter.  It didn’t make sense to launch it with one of the key features missing.

We’re killing two birds with one stone.  Zombieville USA 2 is launching on Android today, with multiplayer and all other key features intact.  This necessitated migrating to a new multiplayer system, which replaces Gamecenter in the newly updated iOS version, also launching today.  Besides being more reliable, this system is cross-platform, so players on both versions can play together wirelessly.

Another one on our list is Battleheart for Android.  It’s no secret that five years ago, we had given up on the platform.  There were some annoying obstacles for us back then that soured our experience with Android, but those are a thing of the past today.  Part of it is the platform, storefront and our tools improving.  Part of it is simply us learning from our mistakes (we are human!).  Our last two games, Legacy and Lost Frontier, have been pretty painless to develop and support on both platforms simultaneously, and we plan to continue that tradition.  Still, the original Battleheart remained a constant reminder of our rocky history with Android.

For quite a while, it’s been lacking some content we added to the iOS version, and it’s also no longer functional in Android 5+ due to being built in an ancient version of Unity.  I’m happy to report we’ve finally gotten around to bringing it kicking and screaming into a modern Unity release, but there’s a not-so-small issue… we don’t have the keystore file required to sign updates to the app anymore.  What this means is that I can’t update the app, I can only resubmit it as an entirely new app, and existing owners would have to buy it again to get the new version.  This is 100% my mistake, so there’s no way I’m doing that.  Neglecting the app was bad, asking anyone to buy it twice would be salt in the wound.

The only proper way I saw to solve this was to release the app as a new version, and make it free.  If you’ve been waiting forever to play Battleheart again on a modern android device, you can grab it right now.  This new release also includes the two classes (ranger and paladin) that have been long missing on android.  Sorry for the wait.

The same issue applied to the original Zombieville USA.  It was authored almost 8 years ago, and was no longer compatible with modern android versions.  This too has been resolved, and for the same reasons above, has been re-released as a free app.

With these cobwebs dusted off, we’re ready to focus on our next game.  Til next time!

 

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