The sixth of June is a significant day for me personally. In 2004, I spent the entire of the day in hospital. I remember the 60th anniversary commemorations of D-day on the TV in the background, as I sat beside my wife, in labour with our first child. I became a father an hour after midnight on the 7th June; my son becomes a teenager tomorrow.
Twelve years later, in 2016, I spent the entire of 6th June glued to Steam watching and waiting whilst my first game Sol Trader was released to the world. This was a career dream come true: since I started programming at six years old I’d always wanted to create and ship my own games. Sol Trader’s release was ultimately a painfully formative experience for me, which I wrote about at the time and was interviewed about recently in GamesIndustry.biz.
Over the last year, I’ve been keeping busy doing two things. One is to support Sol Trader as much as I can with countless updates and patches. I’ve also been very busy working on a new game, Ealdorlight, a medieval RPG-style take on Sol Trader’s mechanics, with turn-based combat, realistic damage and great graphics. I announced Ealdorlight in March and demonstrated it at Rezzed, strengthening my hope that the idea was a good one.
I decided fairly early on that I wanted to take Ealdorlight to Kickstarter. Sol Trader’s successful Kickstarter was a brilliant experience. The Kickstarter community is one of the kindest, most positive on the Internet. I also needed funding for this game: Sol Trader was self-funded through many long evenings and contracting work, and for Ealdorlight I need a bigger team to realise the vision. It’s built in Unreal Engine 4, which simultaneously saves me loads of development time and means I need a bigger team to pull off the realistic art style I’ve gone for.
As time came near to launch, the first anniversary of Sol Trader’s released seemed an appropriate day to launch the campaign. So today, 6th June 2017, I will spend the entire day glued to Kickstarter as my campaign goes live at 4pm today.
There’s plenty more about Ealdorlight on the campaign - head over there and read all about it! A huge amount of work has gone into it, and I’m very grateful for all the support and help I’ve received from the team I’ve put together, and for friends and family who have given me endless encouragements and feedback.
This post is a little earlier than 4pm so that you can watch it go live if you want. Earlier backers get lower edition numberings on some of the rewards, so you might want to be there from the start!
As we head towards the Kickstarter campaign launch on June 6th, I want to talk a little about the story behind Ealdorlight works.
The basic story stays the same for each game: you are discovered wandering through a remote village at a young age, and realise your destiny is to overthrow the King. However, like in Sol Trader, every person you meet is randomly generated. This means that your real identity will be different every time, and you’ll have to discover it all over again every time you generate a new game.
The trick is layering a great story on top of a generated world with random characters. Building empathy with the main character and his family when all characters are generated is hard, and hinges around being able to hook the story in at the right moments.
My plan is to write plenty of tightly connected story arcs that are triggered on events that happen during history generation. These will in turn trigger future quests the player can undertake. Not all story-arcs will appear in every game: it will depend on how the history generation goes. I will constrain things such that there is always a route through the game, and that players always have a way to overthrow the King, even if that might be easier or harder depending on the starting setup. These story-arcs then should interact with each other, hopefully producing a unique path through the game.
Ealdorlight is set within a low fantasy world, and there’s no traditional magic. The player gets more powerful through discovering key pieces of knowledge about their past. These insights into of your real past feed directly into your character’s stats, skills and abilities.
I’ve long been fascinated with identity: knowledge of who we truly are affects many areas of our lives for the better. In Ealdorlight I wanted to tell a story which takes this to an almost supernatural level. By removing the player from their birth family, they start as an entirely normal person within the world. It’s only after their early game encounter with the Ealdorlight and the discovery of their past that things begin to change.
Much more on this to come, but in the meantime, here’s a glimpse of our story’s beginning.
I am now back from some extended time away after Rezzed, both on holiday with the family and training some clients away from home. I’ve released Sol Trader 1.3 today, and set the Kickstarter for Ealdorlight to 6th June.
Rezzed was fantastic: it was great to see lots and lots of people wearing our Ealdorlight crowns. We ran out of crowns on both days, with some creative head displays on offer:
Yes, I know I said May :) I’ve decided to go for a 31-day campaign, starting on the 6th June, for a few reasons:
I’m excited and nervous about this Kickstarter campaign: my third one to date. After succeeding last time I’m really trying to take my time and get it right.
Now that I’m back, I’m able to support a new release of Sol Trader: 1.3 is now finally released after a length beta period.
Here are the highlights:
Your steam copy should automatically update. I’ll be releasing an updated downloadable version to SendOwl in the next few days.
I’m very excited to be able to announce my new game…
Ealdorlight is a single player RPG set in a low fantasy kingdom where you must influence, cajole and fight your way to the throne.
Players travel the land, meet characters, perform quests and attempt to discover their true identity, different every game. Learning about the pasts of other characters gives the player influence over them, and learning who they truly are allows a player’s character to become more and more powerful. Along the way they will discover ancient weapons with hidden pasts, recruit allies, fight those who get in their way, and finally build a strategy to overthrow the King.
Ealdorlight generates centuries of history and society each game, giving players a whole kingdom of characters and relationships to explore and exploit, with turn based story-focused combat and an open quest structure.
Find out more info on the website!
The plan is to put the game back on Kickstarter in May. Kickstarter was awesome last time for Sol Trader’s campaign - I think that the Kickstarter community is one of the best on the Internet for encouragement and positivity. I also want to check in with gamers to make sure the game I’m planning is the one people want me to make.
I’m building this game in Unreal, although parts of Sol Trader’s engine will make it into the game. Using Unreal has been a great experience so far. I’ll post tips and other learnings here as I go, as well as some thoughts on why I chose it.
I’ve already had some very helpful feedback on the idea and am looking for more - what thing about Ealdorlight most draws your attention?