Inspiration/motivation for creating PTF and being a hobby game developer

In the past I’ve briefly touched on how Play The Field was inspired by classic Real Time Strategy games such as Age of Empires and Starcraft. I was especially into the latter of these for many years (including expansions and follow up games), and for me when I really enjoy something I tend to want to make my own version of it.

Taking something like Starcraft, which typically takes several hundred people (including artists, developers, sound engineers, testers, managers, etc.) several years to make, honestly I would never have a chance to make anything close. Having said that, I enjoy game development (and software development in general) to the extent that whether my game would be popular is secondary, and in my college years I created a pretty detailed RTS game for the PC. In retrospect, it wasn’t that great but if you search around you may be able to find it online.

Now that I am into mobile development, it was only natural to try and make a RTS game for the iPad, but this time around my time is mostly taken up by my great job and my great family. However, I still have an hour or two in the evenings, and some time on weekends, so I decided on creating a very minimal game which captured some of the essence of RTS games. The fact it was made on a shoestring budget (both in a money and time sense) is why the graphics are also so simplistic. And due to the smaller scale and shorter timeline, I decided to group this game in the “RTT” (Real Time Tactics) category rather than RTS.

Just as with my RTS games on the desktop (I actually made a few if you go back far enough), the joy of coding a game is my primary motivator, but if people happen to download and enjoy my game, all the better. The game is completely free with no ads or in-app purchases.

To be honest, with a app store oversaturated already with nearly every type of game and app imaginable, I count every download as a tiny miracle (:

At some later point, I may talk in more detail about how I developed the game quickly with limited time, as it may be of use to some aspiring game developers.

[PTF on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/play-the-field/id985621862?ls=1&mt=8]

Gameplay element: warp-in time

In this post, I’d like to focus on a gameplay element from my mobile game Play The Field and see how it helps improve the game’s overall balance and sense of fairness.

In traditional Real Time Strategy games (like Blizzard’s Starcraft series), each unit type can only be created at a specific building, and there is a time delay between the time the user decides to start building a unit and when it is finished. The opponent typically doesn’t know what unit is being built, but in some games like Starcraft 2 there is an indication that something is being built.

In Play The Field, in other to create new opportunities for tactics and avoid the extra work of maintaining buildings, units can be played anywhere on the map, given there is sufficient funds. The only exception is a few boards which have one or more red region(s), at which units cannot be placed.

In order to balance out for this extra freedom in unit placement, I made each unit take time to ‘warp-in’. During that time there is a visual indication that the unit is coming in and the enemy player can begin attacking the unit even before it is fully warped in. While a unit is being warped in it cannot attack or movie.

By adding this game element, the player has to have a good idea about the maximum attack distance of each unit and put more consideration into placement, which adds depth to the game. Placing haphazardly can lead to wasted funds and possibly even loosing the stage.

As with most gameplay elements, ideas only go so far – you have to test them. After playing a bunch of stages with this element enabled, I felt confident that it improved the game’s challenge in a fair way. It also helps to balance units that do spread damage to several opponents at once, since they cannot immediately appear in the middle of a enemy crowd and do damage before they are taken down.