And it's even more fun when you're hunting for them in your own game, since you've no idea yet what they will be. Of course, there are the standard achievements like 'start a multiplayer game', 'finish the campaign' and 'spend 1000000000 power'. But the fun is in finding the real challenges; the goals that are hard to reach in a thinking kind of way instead of in a grinding kind of way. You get to explore your own game and find some hidden gems in there.
So what did we find in Powargrid? There are achievements that require insight into the game and good strategy on the player's part. like the achievement for the mission 'A Piece of Paradise'. Normally, this mission is quite winnable because you get the chance to break the alliance between your opponents. To get the achievement you'll have to win without breaking that alliance, which presents quite the challenge. Other achievements become more like puzzles, in that there are only a few paths to getting there. Examples of this are winning the mission 'Seeing Red' in 5 turns and winning 'Dam It!' without any damage done to the dam.
Especially this last one was a fun achievement to look for, since we weren't even sure beforehand whether it was doable. It took us seven or eight tries before we figured this one out, so we think it's a nicely difficult achievement :). What came to mind when trying out this achievement is that we still like to play our own game, even though we've been seeing it up close for so long. This is a good sign, since it's probable that there are people out there who share our taste in games and who will probably enjoy Powargrid too.
The last step in creating the achievements is thinking of names for them. Best done with a cold beer in hand :).
We've added the achievements to the current build of the game, so go ahead and give them a try if you desire a challenge!
I've just finished a short tutorial video for Powargrid. It's aimed at people who really know their way around games and can absorb a lot of information about game mechanics quickly. The reason for making this video is to add it to an upcoming press page for Powargrid. Since most game reviewers are far too short on time to thoroughly dive into every game they're asked to review we thought of ways to speed up the process for them. A video seemed to be the most straightforward option. So I set out to see how quickly I could explain all the relevant rules in Powargrid, while demonstrating them in a video.
Turns out two and a half minutes is the answer to that question :).
- Willem -
The Powargrid campaign contains quite a lot of dialogue, so it's about time for a blog post about that. Nearly all of the dialogues were written by me (Willem), but Michiel and I have discussed them a lot. Part of that discussion is about language and wording, but we often also talk about the amount of dialogue in there. Michiel is worried that there may be too much dialogue for (as far as I know) two reasons. First off, there are lots of players who don't read dialogues and don't want to be bothered by them either. Secondly, writing dialogue takes time and building a good game is already such an incredible amount of work that we should be reluctant to add to that.
We still disagree on the second point. For now, I'll just keep on spewing out more concept-dialogue until all the missions are covered. The good news is that I have at least a rough outline for each mission now. We'll still have the occasional 'OMG, we're making a game, not writing a book' versus 'if you want me to write less, it will take me even more time' discussion, but I firmly believe this is one of the things that makes Powargrid a much better game in the end. As an aside: this is somewhat unusual, since Michiel and I usually find common ground quite quickly if we have a disagreement. Our discussions usually amount to something like this: 'I think X.' 'Oh, I think !X.' 'Ah, well I really think X.' 'OK, but can't we make it explode and then go for !X?' 'Sure, if it's a really satisfying explosion, !X it is.'
On the first point, that dialogue shouldn't get in the way of players who don't want to read it, we agreed from the outset. This led me to condensing the dialogues as much as possible, which actually led to them becoming better*. And that worked, since we've gotten quite a lot of positive feedback, but it wasn't enough. Luckily, the solution turned out to be simpler than we'd thought (and pretty obvious in hindsight). I'd already written the dialogues in such a way that the shortest route through them became somewhat clear from the text of the reply, but that was way too easy to miss. Michiel eventually suggested to add a little text balloon to the dialogues with '...' in the balloon that carries you more dialogue and 'X' in the balloon that gets you back into the game.
Another thing I've made sure of is that you can get out of most dialogues in one click, with the exceptions being mostly the dialogues that explain game mechanics or other important stuff like mission objectives. While the text balloons help to guide players through the dialogues they don't want to read, they do nothing to get them to read the few dialogues we do want them to read. So we added two different markers to the dialogues. One is a black and yellow border for dialogue nodes that are important to read and the other is highlighted text for the essential bits in those nodes. That way even people who don't like to read dialogue can't miss the game mechanics and the mission objectives. Or almost everybody. Our good friend Marnix would rather spend an hour cursing that 'this stupid WoW quest is broken!' than spend three minutes reading the quest text. Why would you even want to know you have to use your Gnomish demorphification ray on those froggified dwarves when you can brutally murder them (and then skin them) as they're happily croaking the song of their people?** But for others, those simple adjustments made quite the difference.
We also have future work planned on the dialogues, besides finishing and polishing them. We'd like to make sure that the choices you make in the campaign feel relevant. The missions in Powargrid don't lend themselves very well to branching storylines (and neither does our limited time for that matter), but we can make sure that dialogue choices made in one mission are referred to later in the campaign. The technical term here is the feeling of agency. For a good explanation on how this works in games, I recommend you watch this excellent episode of Extra Credits.
That just about sums up what I wanted to tell you about the dialogues in Powargrid. I could go into the storylines they weave, but that will have to wait for a future blog post.
* I feel a disclaimer is in order here: the dialogues beyond the fifth mission need some more work and mission 8, currently the last one playable in the demo, needs an extensive overhaul. I'm not one to be quickly satisfied with what I've written.
** Totally made-up WoW quest example. It's been a while since I last was in Azeroth :).
We're Michiel and Willem. Hi!