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Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
Party RTS for all ages on Wii U. 4 players on the TV team up with 1 on the gamepad to build, fight, strategize & win! PC/Mac/Linux too!
2,294 backers pledged $86,946 to help bring this project to life.

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The Home Stretch

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Good day, Heroes!

Lately we've seen some apprehension from a few of you, but let us reassure you, Hex Heroes has been moving faster toward release this year than ever before! We will be releasing on the Wii U and PC, as originally planned, so read on for details about a certain new console.

We've been silent since the Switch announcement because it raised more questions for us than it answered. In addition, we've been trying to get as much development information from Nintendo as possible, which hasn't been much.

Let us be clear, at this time, Prismatic does not have access to the Switch development kit. Few devs do, in fact. We met briefly with Nintendo at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco but they didn't go into specifics about how to obtain a dev kit. As they've been saying publicly, they're being selective and want to curate the content on the Switch more. If you're concerned about our absence from the Nindie showcase, fret not - Nintendo will pretty much only feature games that have already made their way through, or are in the middle of the certification process.

Nintendo's presence at the GDC 17 Unity Booth
Nintendo's presence at the GDC 17 Unity Booth

Nintendo is being specific about Switch releases: No ports within the first ~6 months/launch window. This is somewhat of a plus for us because Hex Heroes cannot directly be ported to the Switch anyway; it will require some design changes.

We're speculating that Nintendo will be more amenable to talking when we've pitched them on a Switch version of Hex Heroes. We want to get the ball rolling this month and we do that by delivering a build of the game to them.

Release Plans

We currently plan to begin the certification process within a few weeks! In order to meet that deadline, we’ll be cutting back on some classes and other content as a result, to be released over time for free (think Splatoon). Hex Heroes will launch with the Knight, Worker, Rogue, Scout, and Mage classes, while the more complex classes, the Seraph, Necromancer, and Elementalist will be rolled out later, one at a time, into a more balanced and stable build. Five worlds were planned for release as well, but we’re scaling that back to 3 for launch, with the other 2 being free to download as well.

Think of HH on Wii U like a work in progress as we implement polish and balancing while we prepare Hex Heroes for Switch. With the various classes, monsters, and ways to play, there’s a considerable amount to fine tune. We also want to simultaneously launch HH on Steam through their Early Access program. This would further enforce the idea that the game is being tweaked and balanced and updated frequently. (And to our beta backers, we’ll still get a build out to you before we release on Wii U and Steam)

This method of launch will ensure the Switch will see the most polished version with all past updates and even some exclusive content to make it more than just a direct port! We’ve heard your concerns about how some of you have since sold/traded in your Wii U’s and we’re looking into an upgrade program - either allowing users to directly change their Wii U backer key to a Switch one, or by offering a discount for the Switch version if the Wii U one is owned. That decision rests with Nintendo.

The last year has actually been incredible for HH on all fronts, visually, performance and design-wise. We still won’t be comfortable discussing a release date because certification can take time, but believe us when we say this is the home stretch. Next update we’ll be sharing a lot more gameplay footage! Thank you so much for your support.

 

Combat Commentary!

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Happy New Year, Heroes!

A couple updates back, we talked about the rough road to figuring out just how to handle combat in Hex Heroes.

Since then, we’ve been plugging along and have made some strides we're thrilled to share. Watch the commentary video below, complete with footage of Hex Heroes running on the Wii U in a slick 60 frames, and tell us what you think!

What you'll see in this video:  
Updated visuals: new trees, textures, fog effect
Movement while in combat
Some combat UI 
Combat styles: Snap and Free Move
Multiplayer combat

Thank you, everyone! We'll be back after Nintendo's Switch announcement on the 12th to discuss more about the platform.

Can Hex Heroes make the Switch?

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Did you see the big reveal?!

 We’ve had this update ready to discuss Hex Heroes’ place on the NX (Now the Switch) for a while now, and while we will be guaranteeing Hex Heroes on Wii U, it’s fun to speculate about the future. It’s also one of the questions we get the most, so let’s dive in!

First off, Unity support is promised, which is critical. Only time will tell, however, how easy it is to port from Wii U hardware to Switch hardware. The work we do ironing out one feature for Wii U might not translate exactly to the Switch, and we won’t know for certain until we get our hands on it.

Second, based on the trailer, it doesn’t appear that one Switch can perfectly mimic the Wii U’s ability to display different visuals on the TV vs. the gamepad. Two Switches, on the other hand, could. One Switch for the commander, and one switch docked to the TV for four player split screen. This makes an assumption about the Switch being able to support up to four players, though - the trailer has only shown up to two (granted, they were on the portable screen, not the TV). At best, two Switches can offer the Wii U experience, and at worst, three Switches will be needed (for 5 players). Again, time will tell.

It’s worth noting that Hex Heroes is being built for ALL control schemes on the Wii U. We don’t want to bar players from joining in the fun just because they only have Wii remotes. This early decision will serve us well, if we can make the move to Switch, given that each mini-controller has roughly the same amount of buttons.

Another positive is the performance. Even if the Switch has exactly the same hardware as the Wii U (it surely won’t), offloading at least the commander to a different Switch will free up some power. In fact, the more Switches you have (let’s say everyone playing has their own), the smoother the game will run, which is exciting!

There is one big, gigantic elephant in the room though: network programming. While the trailer makes it look like the Switch can pair with other Switches locally really easily, we have no idea how difficult/time consuming it would be to implement that kind of connectivity. It’s said in the biz that adding networking to a game (in the online sense) automatically adds a year to development (which is why we’re not promising that). We can just hope that the support is there. Who knows, maybe setting up local networking will be as easy as mapping controls. Maybe it’ll be identical to how the 3DS handles local connectivity and so there’s lots of documentation on making it work. We won’t know until, again, we get our feet wet with the system.

All this said, we know many of our backers have sold/traded in their Wii U’s. Because of this we would be completely open (as long as Nintendo is as well) to allowing backers to swap their Wii U copies for Switch ones before release. We’ll do an update specifically for that when the time comes, so don’t worry.

For us, the trailer was exciting, but raised more questions than offered answers. Will you be able to transfer digital Wii U games? Will previous controllers work? Is there a camera, accelerometer/gyroscope, microphone, 3D (hey, some of us still use it on our 3DS)? How many controllers can pair to a single system? Surely the screen is a touch-screen, right?

What do you think of the reveal and how do you think Hex Heroes will fit on the Switch? Let us know in the comments! We’ve got such a great community of Heroes, we’ll join in on geeking out :D

Combat Story

28 likes

Hey Heroes,

It’s been quite a while, but we’re excited to share our breakthrough on combat!

But first, we're announcing Prismatic's return to GaymerX this weekend! We're proud to continue sponsoring this convention that promotes inclusion and safe spaces in gaming. It's honestly the friendliest convention we've ever attended. We always get great feedback on Hex Heroes and meet a lot of Nintendo fanatics like us.

Now, let’s dive into combat.

In our efforts to get the game running on Wii U, our programmers had to rebuild the way our levels were rendering from the ground up. We went over it in our last update and the changes have been paying off. We’ve hit some little quirks along the way (Wii U development is tough), but on the whole, this lets us incorporate a lot of the feedback we've been receiving from testers. The last month was spent experimenting new capabilities and it's time to share what's come out of it.

Hex Heroes was always meant to incorporate real time combat, not turn based. So when it came for drafting up ideas, we used games like Zelda, God of War, and Dynasty Warriors as our inspiration. We were sure reinventing the wheel was a bad idea, and so we tried for simplicity. We also wanted Hex Heroes to be a game for everyone, where newcomers could button mash and more seasoned players could enjoy honing their skills. We decided on a rhythm based combat mechanic, where players would have to time their button presses to get the most out of their attacks.

1... 2... 3!
1... 2... 3!

It looked ok on paper, but after a few conventions, players weren’t picking up the rhythm mechanic as smoothly as we’d hoped, and it was something that wasn’t the easiest to teach. But we put that on the backburner and turned our focus toward how enemies behaved.

At first, enemies attacked whenever possible, and it was apparent right away that combat was too shallow an experience. That’s when we tried out the telegraphing concept we showed off in our “Combat Refined” update.

Look out, Rogue! Oh... nevermind...
Look out, Rogue! Oh... nevermind...

Enemies would telegraph their attacks, allowing players to see upcoming danger. The only way to stop it was by interrupting enemy attacks with a well placed slash, causing them to flinch. As with the last situation, conventions taught us we weren’t heading down quite the right path with this idea. Players would mash to interrupt attacks until the enemy died - the possibility for skill was there, but there was no need. Combat was becoming a serious obstacle, and it’s the biggest portion of the game!

Finally, at Casual Connect last month, we had an epiphany. It was staring us in the face the whole time - use the grid! Like we’d mentioned earlier, we still wanted HH to be a real time game, not turn based, but now we knew how to strike the right balance.

Players will still move freely out of combat like you’ve seen, but once they either trigger combat or are seen by an enemy, they’ll be locked into the grid, like this:

!!!
!!!

While you’re locked in, both you and the enemy telegraph to one another by lighting up their respective hexes. Also, dealing damage to enemies won’t interrupt their attacks, it’ll be up to you to bob and weave. Most importantly, now you can button mash away - no awful rhythms to learn! (Don’t mind the silly appearance and jarring camera, our programmers slapped this together in a weekend :P)

Bob and weave
Bob and weave

Now the skill comes from moving in and out of danger zones while keeping your combo counter up. You rack up your combo counter by landing successful hits. Each class will have different abilities that are activated when their combo counter reaches a certain level, so avoiding damage is more imperative.

This is the first time combat has felt good to play and there’s lots of great potential for more epic battles. Before, enemies could crowd you and wreck your life (see the gif above in which the rogue’s life is wrecked). Now, players have more control both in dealing damage and navigating the battlefield, so dying won’t feel like a cheap trick the game pulled.

Our different classes can really shine in this new setup too. The Knight, with its wide slash will hit multiple hexes in front of it. The Rogue will only attack the hex directly in front, but be able to move quickly to the enemy’s backside to deal high backstab damage. The Mage can chill in the backline, hitting precisely where they need, but will also have to pay special to attention to keeping out of the way of their allies who do more dodging.

Whew, ok. We know that was perhaps a lot to read, but thanks for taking the time to read through it. Combat has been a thorn in our side, but we’re thrilled to finally make such a large dent in it. We originally set out to copy from the masters, but it turned out we needed to blaze our own trail. It’s smooth sailing from here! Let us know your thoughts about the new system in the comments and we'll see you after GX!

Hammerin’ Away at the Wii U

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Hey hey, Heroes! We're back to fill you in on our progress since the Game Developers Conference. The last time we updated you we set our plans to banging out the Wii U version. It had been giving us headaches in the past so we'll give you a complete look at what's been going on.

A few months ago we brought in a team of developers who have experience with Wii U development. It's especially nice because they are local, and even more exciting they are backers! We want to introduce them to you.

BNC Design Studios published its first game Gemology in October of 2015 exclusively on Wii U.

Jake Taylor is the owner and creative director of BNC Design Studios. He has published Gemology for Wii U; developed Scoop! Around the World in 80 Spaces for iOS; and is currently working on Scoop! Around the World in 80 Spaces for Wii U.

Chris Rodriguez is Lead Developer of BNC Design Studios. His published games are Dimstar and RUIN for PC.

Excel Ortega is Assistant Developer of BNC Design Studios. He has published A Game of Cat and Mouse for PC and won an award at IGDA ASU Game Jam 2015.

Wii U Progress

It's no surprise that the Wii U is less powerful than a PC. We build Hex Heroes on a computer using the Unity engine which lets the game play on both PC and Wii U. However, the size of the game and all of its components determines how much memory is required on a device to allow it to play. The sheer number of hexagon tiles, trees, and other objects in the game continually made Hex Heroes unplayable on the Wii U, at least in the way that we originally built the game. In order to get it running, we had to revisit the very foundation of how the game is built.

Without getting too technical, our first job was building the map tiles automatically with efficiency. Originally, each hex tile was its own model. Now, the game creates only the visible portions of hexes, so that any sides of the tiles that would have been underground or obstructed by another hex aren’t created in the game at all. This is known as culling, and by not rendering what isn’t seen, we can really free up space.

With the map being built dynamically, we also changed the way objects (like resources, enemies, etc.) relate to the map. Each hex now knows if it has a resource, or if a Hero is standing on it, or if an enemy can move to it. It's a much more deliberate method of keeping track of all objects in the game, and it offers us some interesting ways to use this feature in the future.

Although we finally got the map to run on the Wii U, there were still some problems with the way it looked. Unfortunately, what’s seen on our computers isn't always what we’ll get when we run it on the Wii U. Here's an example of how our hexes first looked when we ran the Wii U build. They’ve since been fixed ;)

Blech!
Blech!

We've also cranked up some effects that help the game run better, like model LODs (level of detail) where objects far away have less detail. You can see this in the trees farthest away in the picture below. They look a little strange but it's necessary for performance, so we develop a camera trick to obscure those low LOD trees behind "fog" which you can see in the picture after.

 

We're slowly adding more of the full game to the Wii U version and seeing great results. There are still some effects that we've been unable to implement for the Wii U but we're trying our best to find the solutions. We’ve even reached out to a very special developer for some help (we won’t name names right now, but we know you’d be happy to know they’re in our corner). With some determination and luck, we’ll soon have the Wii U version of the game at the same point as the PC version we showed at GDC! And from there, it’ll be much smoother sailing!

Indie Prize and Casual Connect

Speaking of the game demo, Hex Heroes was accepted into the Indie Prize competition at Casual Connect in San Francisco next month! We are really hoping to have a good portion of the game ready on Wii U to bring with us. We'll be showing as a work in progress, but having Hex Heroes on the Wii U will make it so much easier for players to "get it" as soon as they start playing.

Casual Connect is not a typical conference that we'd apply for. It's focus is on casual and social games and the business of the game industry. But entering Hex Heroes gains us more exposure and we as developers can continue to expand our network. That's always been important to us and has really helped us since the Kickstarter, which was how we were able to get many of the cameo appearances. Not to mention, we’re hoping to reach as many people as we can with Hex Heroes through the multiple roles the game offers - if the game’s a hit there, we know we’re doing something right!

Shoutout

If you like 2D brawler games, be sure to check out Buck

 

Buck combines action-adventure gameplay with classic noir story telling set in a post-apocalyptic world. You can even download the demo on their page!

 And that's all for now, Heroes! As always, thank you so much for your support. We'll be updating you with some news from San Francisco next month to let you know how it's going!