The RogueWare Project

"Game Recklessly"

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FreeHolder Early Access on Patreon

Posted by Matt Crooks on August 21, 2015 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (1)

 This has been a long time coming.


We've reached a point as a company where we need to start turning to the community for support. The partial funding we privately raised has just about run dry and we've pushed FreeHolder about as far as we can get it on our own. So we're going to bring shareware back like it's the 90's! A free demo will be launched to help drive an Early Access campaign. We've chosen Patreon as a platform for this campaign.


After numerous engagements with various publishers we decided the best course of action as a new game developer would be to self-publish. Riskier, no-doubt, but we're confident enough at this point that we have a fun and engaging game to offer our fellow gamers, and that every dollar given to the project should be funding the production and completion of FreeHolder, not lining the pockets of a financier. We know it'll be slower going on our own without the marketing support a publisher could offer, but we think the game is compelling enough to float on its own - we just need to get it out there!


To that effect we had examined numerous crowdfunding websites, and discussed what made the most sense for an Early Access campagin, and without a doubt the Patreon model makes the most sense. As opposed to Kickstarter where the funding model is all or nothing, we prefer to scale the games final 1.0 form to the level of interest and support it can draw from the community. Patreon allows us to start small and work our way up gaining subscribers who can pay smaller donations over time.  For $3 per month* you will get the latest Alpha update.  (*if an update takes longer than a month you will NOT be charged until we launch an update). Anyone who pays a total of $15 over the course of their patronage will be entitled to all versions of FreeHolder through 1.0. We will be offering all sorts of cool perks as well for higher tiers of support.


Most importantly, this is our chance to really get to know you. We want to know what draws you to the game, where it needs the most improvement, and what would you like to see added or changed in it. We intend to have the production of this game driven by its patrons and it is our hope that this will help us forge a great roguelike game together.


T-9 Days until Launch.

RogueSpeak #4 - VR

Posted by Matt Crooks on January 22, 2015 at 3:45 AM Comments comments (0)

In this RogueSpeak we prattle on for almost an hour about the infinite possibilities and limits of VR in games.

We have a guest in this one as well, an old classmate of Chris's -  Michael Allen, whom you'll get to know over the next few RogueSpeaks. (We've got two more on deck that I plan to release before the weekend).

There's some funny stuff on this one - Check it out! :)

Dropbox link:

Alpha Testing for FreeHolder has begun!

Posted by Matt Crooks on December 30, 2014 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello, one and all!

We have some exciting news for those that have been patiently awaiting the day when we might let some of you have a look at the nice new alpha of FreeHolder we’ve been working on. That day has arrived! We are beginning a very small open alpha today, and will be incorporating more people in over time. This will be a continuous process and we will be looking to add more people as quickly as possible, based on progress and initial feedback.


We are thrilled to be able to finally start getting the community involved in the development of this unique game, and look forward to giving more of you a chance to play and tell us what you think. This will truly be a community-driven project, and hope you will help us make FreeHolder everything it can be.



RogueSpeak #3 - Artist Interview

Posted by Matt Crooks on December 4, 2014 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

For our third edition of RogueSpeak we have a Skype interview with our talented artist Haley Friedmann!

It's in mp3 format and runs about 30 minutes. You can acccess it here: 

You can follow Haley's twitter @HaleyFriedmann and checkout some of her concept work at


FreeHolder OST Preview Tracks

Posted by Chris Crooks on November 4, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Until and unless it turns out that Blue Mage is actually Blue Mage(TM), a trademark of Squaresoft, I (Chris Crooks) have long wanted to use Blue Mage as my composer name because it represents what I attempt to do, or can't help but do, or pretend to do as a music composer.


In many Final Fantasy games, a character with the class or abilities of a Blue Mage could learn skills from different monsters by getting attacked by them. Thereafter, you could use the ability of the monster whenever you wanted, although quite often in a form much less mighty than the original.


This is a perfect analogy for me. I have listened to hundreds of game soundtracks sometimes dozens of times, and have all sorts of different things I like about the many many composers that I have heard over the years, and have attempted to imitate what I like about them in an attempt to make music that makes me feel similarly. Unsurprisingly, this wide exposure has had a large impact on the way that I write music and I have learned to hear the influence of many different composers when I analyze something that I have written. It hasn't been a conscious procedure...yet. I'm hoping that I might be able to actually formally create these lovely melanges of style that represent what I consider to be the premier art format of post-post-modernism: the pastiche, or collage.


So many musical trails have been so thoroughly blazed in so many directions that I stand not as an explorer on the edge of an unknown frontier, but rather as a bookish librarian overwhelmed by volumes of excellent work coming in from all sides, and my task is not to create something "original" in some grand sense, but pick out the bits and pieces that resonate with me and put them together into something that I enjoy, or at least fits in with some scene or mood in a game that I'm making. I almost feel that my role is part historical, and part critical, even though I should probably be primarily concerned with simply writing some music.


In other words, I'm spoiled for choice: either the Muse sings so loudly through the ten of thousands of hours of fantastic game music that the inspiration of local Muses is patently unnecessary, or perhaps I have found something that has replaced her, for better or worse, in

case my inner ear has been inured somewhat to her quiet voice.


I suppose the only difficulty I run into when presenting myself in this style is the risk of unintentional plagiarism. After all, I can't always remember whether

some riff I came up with was used by somebody before - the chances are fairly good it has been even if I "came up with it off the top of my head." And of course, I'm not here to present anyone's work as my own - I respect everyone who has influenced me too much to do something

so unworthy. Furthermore, the community is highly sensitive to such things and public censure would outpace any sort of legal action by an order of magnitude.


Rather, as I said before, I want to present to you a nostalgic patchwork, old nuances and motives woven together in novel ways, in a deliberate attempt to connect to what made the original music so great while presenting new material. I want to be a musical Blue Mage - wielding the styles of many but using them in fun combinations and adding a few innovative tweaks whenever I can manage.


If it wasn't for all of the amazing video game composers that I've heard over the decades, I sincerely doubt I would be a music composer and I may not even have had the patience to stick it out as a pianist if I hadn't spent all that time arranging my favorite SquareSoft songs on piano. Who can say? As far as these composers are concerned, they did all the work for this

soundtrack. Ultimately, they should get the credit. AllI did was bliss out on wonderful music for most of my life.


Here’s my first pass at the top 3 composers who inspired for each of the two preview tracks I posted. Some of them are more obvious than others. This is probably useless for most people but thankfully having an online community such as ours means there are other fanatics like me who are intensely interested in such things.



Elements of:

Yuzo Koshiro (Legacy of the Wizard)

Hitoshi Sakamoto (Final Fantasy Tactics)

Motonaki Takenouchi (Shining Force 2)



Elements of:

Hideaki Kobayashi (Phantasy Star Online)

Hideki Naganuma (Sonic Rush)

Motoi Sakuraba (Valkyrie Profile)


My hope is this list is not pointless vanity (truthfully, I wish I could be a third as good as any of these composers) nor some sort of brash challenge for someone to scour the material ruthlessly for these elements, though I would be delighted if anyone with a similar familiarity with these composers cared to support or refute my delusions. In some cases a composer influenced my instrumentation, in others the melody, in others rhythmic or harmonic elements. Keep in mind that these are unfinished works in progress and I may tweak them greatly, slightly, or not at all depending on a variety of factors including your feedback.


Thank you, and please enjoy. Comments, criticisms, outright accusations, you know how to reach me. And if you don't - crack the case, Sherlock!






Games, Aggression, and Civilization

Posted by Chris Crooks on October 28, 2014 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)

To clarify the rather general-sounding title, I mean civilization, the word denoting the concept describing the thing we appear to be living in, to various degrees depending on where and how one chooses or is forced to live. In this entry, I am attempting here to blend together games and philosophy, which isn’t too hard to do given how much time and money legions of people now invest in this electronic pastime. Regardless of whether this is the road to hell, or whether there may be some pavingstones to be salvaged enroute, or whether it will yet provide a means to “save” us (in the broadest possible sense) is immaterial from a philosophical standpoint. It clearly means a great deal to a great many people, and hence is worthy of examination.


I recently reread His Master’s Voice by Stanislaw Lem. I grasp so much more of it now when I read it like ten years ago, but I only mention it because the main character claims that philosophy is necessarily representing only the personal viewpoint of the philosopher, and the idea that one can take oneself as the standard measure of the thought processes of all humanity is ludicrous on its face. His argument gives me fantastic cover to blather on about my own personal thought processes and yet be performing philosophy as well as it can be. Lovely.


As a male human, I have been subject and witness to the aggressive impulses characteristic of my gender specifically and male primates generally. Some of these impulses are channeled in a healthy way - despite some major issues with sports cultures worldwide, I think we can all agree that channeling competitive impulses towards entertainment is at least more neutral than towards outright warfare, brutal though that entertainment might be. Nevertheless, given the neverending wars waged between men who, though apparently acting at the behest or on behalf of a supposed populace or nation, are mostly just trying to smash each other with clubs and take the resources from that place and bring it to this place. Aggression is rarely subtle. Anger is rarely subtle.


It’s a truism to say that one who lashes out at others is really lashing out at oneself, but this can sometimes be so obvious as to be absurd. Considering how little good can come of war, it seems strange that these wars just keep coming.


I point, as I always do in this situation, to the Iroquois peoples (I hesitate to use the word nation because it’s terribly loaded and it was our concept) who settled tribal territory differences with games of lacrosse, because, they reasoned, no one ought to get killed over such a thing as which parcel of land could be used by which tribe. The land was really the Earth’s anyway. They were just borrowing it. Did I mention this society was run in large part by women?


Instead, at this point, endless bloodshed is justified in pursuit of the right to say that some chunk of land belongs to them all nice and legal in triplicate on special paper, proving it to God and the Universe that really they do OWN it, regardless of the fact that such a thing is prima facie absurd in the face of cosmic eternity. But apparently, such a thing matters enough that people ought, in great quantity, to be killed over it.


I submit to you that we are already capable of sublimating these reptilian impulses into games. Witness every person who has gotten angrier at a stupid game than at virtually anything else in their life. I sure have. In my case, its because I’ve compressed the control freak aspect of my personality entirely within the area of “gaming.” But it also channels some of my desire for confrontation and competition, but without any bones being broken or good clean exercise. The latter is certainly to its detriment. As soon as virtual reality takes off, I submit to you that gamers will be the most fit people on the planet. At least, some of them. Running around your block and waving to Mr. Johnson and his little Schnauzer is about as fun as poking yourself in the eye with a plastic straw. Running from zombies or alien hordes or screaming ninja pirates? That’s guaranteed to push you to new levels of physical performance with sheer adrenalin.


I guess as long as people believe that violence is justified there will always be Very Serious People sitting around and crossing out and re editing the Rules of War, nodding gravely as if they aren’t really just playing the most grotesque game of all with real people as the playing pieces.


It may be impossible to completely appease our animal natures with semi-frivolous entertainments. On the other hand, I recall from anthropology class in college that the Trobriander island tribes play an incredibly complex ocean-crossing necklace customizing game/ritual called Kuhlau, or something like that. It could take a person’s entire life, and probably provides a level of satisfaction the likes of which few of us can fathom, because we have never engineered culture through gaming or attempted to harness its benefits on a social level, because the Very Serious People believe that all such activities are frivolous, mostly there to keep the Plebes in line. All of us in the gaming community, though, know very differently. Imagination is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal, and if we could actually take games seriously - really seriously - it might be possible to achieve social results the likes of which we’ve never seen.


Have you ever played the game Assassin? I only managed to organize and play it once. All participants except a possible game master have a randomly chosen target. Each person knows who they are after, but does not know who is after them. Assassination can be performed with toy guns, “contact poisons”, and other fake weapons. When you kill a person, their target becomes yours and the game continues until but one assassin is left standing: the winner. The honor system is required for such a game, but in truth this is true of virtually any live in-person game, even sports. With video games, someone has to go to the trouble of hacking in order to break the rules. In-person games definitely enhance people skills and fair-mindedness, because you are not some anonymous twerp online but subject to the admittedly sometimes useful forces of socialization.


While under the influence of the game of Assassin, my normal perceptions of the world had an additional depth of narrative flavor and intrigue. After all, if you were an assassin and your target could not recognize you, you would just walk around acting normally until an opportune moment to strike, and then you scarper. As such, simply going about living my normal life (we were on a school trip at the time) was at the same time in perfect keeping with my Assassin persona! Playing the game throughout the trip did not distract me overly much during the trip (frankly it was the most fun thing we did) and provided a delightful relief from boredom, since one always had to be on the lookout for kill opportunities and potential assassins.


Perhaps a game this intense is too distracting to use a cultural overlay. But let’s go with it and imagine an extraordinary high school, for example, where one of your classes is simply this game. Your whole class will be layering this on top of all of their normal activities; in the game class, they learn all the rules, how to be do things safely, and all the necessaries to play, and then every week between classes you play a new game. For all those easily distractible kids for whom sitting quietly in neat lines and book reading is tiresome and uninteresting, they can focus their energies on the game element that is constantly overlayed, like a meta-level, and it’ll still be for a grade ultimately. The scope for inventiveness, cleverness, athleticism, and the ability to bring virtually any skill to use in such a game guarantees that it could be a catchment for kids that don’t fit the usual stodgy criteria at school, and could even be used as a way to identify them. Furthermore, it should, ideally promote classwide social bonding and fair mediation of conflicts - since everyone who witnesses an assassination attempt is also playing the game, everyone is invested in seeing the rules enforced. In theory, at least.


Those that would argue that such a class would merely distract the children from serious studies have, unsurprisingly, missed the point of my article completely.


I’m not sure if I’m talking about something truly amazing or just really fun propaganda, but I’d like to see game coders take a crack at social coding, and game players take a crack at social play. The Old Guard are such insufferable bores. Don’t you agree?

FreeHolder: From Prototype to Game

Posted by Chris Crooks on March 3, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello, my rogues! Ye may well approach with skepticism the news of significant tweakage to the game, and this may cause you to worry unduly that whatever magic ye had detected in FreeHolder may have ye vanished. But I assure you, this is not so. The vast majority of major changes have occurred to the somewhat underdeveloped town map screen, trying to centralize its function to significantly reduce confusion, speed gameplay, and provide clearer objectives. But let's back up a little and talk about changes to the central part of the game - assigning workers to tiles on the main screen.

1. Hexagonal Land Tiles w/ Randomized Characteristics and Bonuses

Partly for aesthetic and partly for mechanical reasons, we are changing the tile plots to be hexagonal rather than square. The square choice was originally one of convenience and we never really examined the tactical implications since surveying land was a gamble and claiming the land was automatic. Now, every tile borders on six more which will give the player many more choices of lands to survey and furthermore lands are no longer automatically claimed when surveyed, allowing you to spend time picking just the right tile to claim. Claiming itself will be an untyped minor action, meaning it can be done with any minor action type, so it can be a good way to use up that last extra Agricultural or Construction action. You must claim a tile that is adjacent to at least one non-Lake tile that you own, so even though you can scout as far as you like, the lands you claim must be contiguous with your own.

This has also brought the perfect opportunity to significantly upgrade this very basic component of the game with random bonuses, characteristics, or possible squatters. I'd been thinking about this for a long time and a while ago our member 12_Foot_Robot had commented on how significantly this would improve the excitement of one of the core aspects of the game. Now most tiles will be generated with one or more random bonuses - sometimes you get the bonus just for surveying the land, like discovering a patch of wild wheat as you move through a new meadow. Other bonuses only take effect when the land is actually claimed by you, and still others provide powerful ongoing benefits, like farmlands that water themselves with natural springs or a great lake with an extra gather point available each turn. This significantly increases the excitement and reward of surveying. Furthermore, there may be opportunities to interact with tiles that are not claimed by you, like the Ranger's Forage ability, and some tiles may be purchasable or have enemies that must be fought off in order to claim them. Plus hexagonal tiles evoke more of the board game aesthetic that I want to include in the feel of the interface, and we have instant appeal to Civilization players, Settlers of Catan players, and others simply because of the familiarity of presentation.

The town map, or overworld view, I still am not sure what to call it, will also be hexagonal and simplified. I'll save that for a separate section. The villa building screen will still be built out of square rooms - it's simply a convention for tracking and using land - there aren't any issues of spacing or adjacency.

2. Reduction/Simplification of Goods/Currency

Having played a number of resource-oriented board games recently, I had some thoughts about this, I feel like it is inherently simpler for people to work with small amounts of resources and less types of them. To that end, we're going to scrap the modius measurement for bulk goods and the difference of scale between "single" goods and bulk goods. Now everything is simply an abstract unit, i.e. 2 Wheat, 3 Lumber, 4 Leather and it is either "heavy," which mean it requires shipping to move it, or it is not. Heavy resource tokens (for now) are square whereas others are circular. The third type of item, equipment, will have a different token shape or no token. This change brought a number of implications and suggestions to work through.

A. Players will be harvesting fewer crops per field (say 8 tokens as opposed to 60 modii or some such) so those crops must be worth more, both in terms of sell price and nutritional value.

B. Perish rates may have to be adjusted since the effect of perishing is worse with higher NP food.

C. Wheat should probably be completely inedible. This is the objective good so you should be able to eat it only by processing it into bread, and the rate of food return should be pretty good as a result. Right now, mass growing of wheat is a viable strategy although the wastefulness of it does hurt the player in the long run. This will encourage diversification of crops grown, which ultimately will help the player make more money with the new market system. More on that presently. But you will have to invest in a Bakery (or possibly add an Oven to your Kitchen) in order to make use of Wheat as food.

D. I'm axing the arbitrary shipping can only be used one-way rule that really never made any sense. I thought it might make shipping decisions more interesting, but it defies common sense. Now each mule will provide room for 5 outbound and 5 inbound heavy goods, and as many regular goods as you like. However, now the market can only be visited once per month in a single run, so you must make execute everything in one trade order. This is because the market has been centralized, which I'm getting to momentarily.

E. Less coinage follows from this so less money overall will be needed - silver denari are now 10 sens, whereas a gold cent is 100 silver denari. That means you'll be working mostly in silver and bronze and a gold coin represents a truly significant amount of wealth.

Obviously reduction in scale creates other changes that have to be worked through, but I think people will understand everything a bit easier if everything is smaller and simpler, and the needless complication was due to insufficient abstraction of the original idea, I think.

3. Centralization of Town Functions: The Market, Black Market, and Tavern

Once again inspired by outrageously great board games, I wanted to capture the feeling of everything being "in reach" on a board game and simplify the map screen and town interactions.

We've merged towns and roads into a single tile. Tiles can be occupied by enemies and hence access to that tile (and all tiles behind it) will be blocked. You can now not visit towns directly (except to visit the resident) but they have significant effects on the centralized market and you depending on your reputation at the town. Town reputation is now a central part of the early game - you'll be filling market orders (essentially demand quests) for towns in order to build reputation with that town, unlocking extra goods to be sent to the market, getting free goods shipped to you monthly, and ultimately the town resident, the local person of note, will offer their special skills to you if you help their town enough. Town reputation can also be gained by Patrolling the tile, using the Influence Espionage action (Espionage had to be greatly altered to fit the new town map, vastly for the better in my opinion), and assisting the militia in town defense. Town reputation gives a much more focused feel to the early game, as players work to win over the towns they think will benefit them most.

You'll note that in addition to the ring of starting towns, there is a market, black market and tavern tile. These each represent a centralized area for legal trade, illegal trade, and information gathering/recruitment. These tiles can be occupied by hostiles (except for the Black Market, which operates differently) and, except for the tavern, can only be visited once per month; essentially, you have to take a discrete Market action (although it does not cost actions, similar to attacking). I could write a separate article about each of these "new" systems but they are mostly a much-needed abstraction and centralization of game concepts that were a bit unwieldy and confusing in their past incarnation. I will summarize as briefly as possible.

The Market

The Market is essentially a storehouse for goods that the player can buy. Each season, all open towns will send a certain amount of different goods to the market based on their town type and size. The player can freely buy these as they become available, and the market will store goods up to a maximum number based on the town sizes of all non-blocked towns in the market. These goods will also be subject to a perish rate, as other interested parties snatch up the goods. Market events are represented by goods suddenly becoming depleted, or abundant, and the price changing. During a wood crash, the market might suddenly have a stack of 10 cheap wood to buy, or during a stone spike all stone might suddenly disappear from the storehouse. Market events will be fairly common, and predictable in a number of different ways.

The market demand mechanics have been replaced with market orders. Rather than simply receiving a boost on sale prices from demands, each town will put an order for a specific number of needed goods directly to the player. The player can choose to fill any, all, or none of these, and when filling the order receives extra money for each good shipped (same as greater demand). If the player completes the market order before the end of the year, they receive a completion bonus, usually a chunk of money and a small reputation boost at the town. This system combines an economic model with quests to focus the player towards building town reputation and producing certain goods. Really it's a hundred times more elegant than the clunkfest I had originally cobbled together.

Last but not least on this note is that the player can only sell up to 4 of any one type of good each month, and receives less money for each successive same good sold. That means the player only gets full money for the first type of the good sold each month, then about 3/4, then half, and then 1/4. This immediately encourages diversity, and letting goods trickle out slowly, since you will make more than 3 times as much money letting 1 wool go to the market each month for 4 months then selling them all at once - but if it's the end of the year, or you can't spare the shipping, or you have way too much anyway, you have the option. This makes shipping much more precious because you want to be able to ship a little of everything as much as possible. This elegantly mimics reducing demand in a predictable way that player can strategize for. So much better than messing around with market saturation calculations and price decay rates. :P

Black Market

The Black Market is a specialized market that can only be successfully reached if it is both active and the character traveling succeeds on a smuggling roll. Let me tell you immediately that gone is the two-separate-rolls overly complicated smuggling thing from before. Now you simply make a single roll ahead of time, and either fail and reap the consequences, or succeed and can take your time to ship as much as you like without fear. Assuming you succeed, you now have access to a smaller market that offers Black Market Contracts - smaller quests that are like market orders but change rapidly and have greater rewards. Some Black Market contracts may also require an Espionage roll to complete. In addition, the Black Market sells a small selection of discounted rare goods. These contracts and goods can be cycled by the player with the Influence action, and skilled Agents may even be able to choose the next from two or three possibilities. The Black Market has no interest in buying goods generally, so you may only sell goods directly by Black Market Contracts, and buy what is on offer.

The Black Market starts the game active, and is occasionally raided by Roman authorities, temporarily inactivating it. Under ordinary circumstances, the Black Market is unavailable while inactive, and randomly reactivates a certain amount of time after a crackdown - this can be influenced by both Agent abilities and special events. It can never be occupied, except perhaps under very unusual conditions...


The Tavern is a centralized place to gather information, receive quests and hire workers and mercenaries. You can also interact with visitors by buying them a drink, or buy a round for the workers or mercenaries in the hopes of increasing your guild reputation or getting a hiring discount. You may also buy a drink and have a private chat with the Tavern Keeper, an information broker who can help his friends find the right people in the right places. The Tavern can be visited any number of times per month. Visitors and mercenaries are constantly changing and cycling through. The Tavern is a place of activity every player will want to keep an eye on for opportunities. It is also rumored that the Thieves' Guild works through the tavern and those with enough clout with the Guild can even hire thieves and assassins here.

That sums up my intentions on this town map redesign fairly well. Some stuff probably looks brand spanking new but honestly most of these ideas were in the game design in some way but didn't make it into the prototype explicitly.

We're also taking another crack at the combat system, simplifying and en-safening it for main characters, with the addition of robust mercenaries and town militias taking some of the absurd risk out of early combat.. We definitely want it to be decisive, and have a rogue-like feel, but we're removing a lot of the complications and automation in favor a command driven interface with some hidden depth. We've got so many facets, you don't even know what facets are. :) And that's not even talking about the faction towns, which you can see on the graphic there but I won't get into here, not least because they were a non-factor in the prototype and hence are unknown to the vast majority of you. We've come up with much more of the endgame than ever before (which is good, considering we're a week away from starting this build!) so stay tuned for more dev blogs, podcasts, and other fun stuff as we live the dream of creating impossible worlds. Thanks everyone for your support!

Breaking News: Partial Funding Secured!

Posted by Chris Crooks on February 24, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello to one and all! Sorry about the lack of updates to the site but it has been in service of the cause: Matt and I have been engaged this new year in scaring up investment capital, and we have landed some of what we need, and we are anticipating an additional dose of funding in the future. As such, we are gearing up to go into full production mode on FreeHolder, digging in with Unity and building a truly slick game engine. Since we have funding for approximately 3 months of production at this point, our goal is to have the entire prototype rebuilt, minus some art assets, by the end of this time, and we should have an alpha or near-alpha to get any additional funding we might need, since it should be mostly a question of getting the media assets incorporated into the game at that point, plus scads of playtesting, debugging and tweaking.

We are doing a revamping of some core FreeHolder gameplay conventions. Having had some time to step away from FreeHolder the game and focus on the business side of things, I've come back rejuvenated and devised a myriad of tweaks that should increase ease of learning and play, including a centralized market, black market and tavern instead of each town having their own, using a hex-based tile system (and changing the way that Survey works as a result, more on that later), and a simplifying of the resource system - we're doing away with modius in favor of simply abstract units, which will be represented as tokens, like 1 Wheat or 2 Stone. Bulk resources still require shipping (and will probably have a different shape to the token to indicate this), but other than that there are now simply "goods" and "items" (equippable that is). Isn't that difference so perfectly clear? Isn't English grand?

I've been obsessively playing board games on iPad and these digital adaptations have given me more or less the basic interface scheme for FreeHolder, which will seem more like a board game, albeit an animated one, with you dragging and dropping tokens onto tiles and so forth, also making adapting the game to tablet a much smoother affair. No more clunky lists of menus, and we'll also try to iconize everything as clearly as possible, but have in-depth information available just under the surface.

Stay tuned - now that we're in full production mode our community-building project must be ressurected and sustained so expect updates and extra content as part of this effort. Thank you all for your support and ideas, o my rogues. We may be only a few short months from something truly remarkable crystalizing out of this two-year journey. And remember....

Live Carefully. Game Recklessly.

Year-End Aims and Goals

Posted by Chris Crooks on December 1, 2013 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The final month of the year is upon us, and a flurry of development is in progress, with an overall goal to make the game pitchable to publishers by January. As many of you have correctly observed, dropping expectant gamers into the middle of an experience with no tutorial and little instruction is a significant barrier to entry, and so I'm currently developing four in-game tutorials that will slowly introduce the myriad concepts of this game in small, easy-to-digest sections, peppered throughout with essential advice from Gaius and Lydia. It was always our aim to do this, but getting the prototype to actually run at all had been our primary concern. Now we are trying to add the accessibility this game needs to reach a wider audience. As always, your ideas, suggestions, complaints, and feedback are appreciated and solicited. I will be posting the update with the first tutorial soon, which I have already finished.

Furthermore, there is going to be intense playtesting and debugging as we try to polish this thing up to respectability. I'm going to revamp and spruce up the battle system, as well as iron out the many obnoxious glitches that seem to plague the visitor/quest system and market. If we have time for additional content, some more narrative elements will be added as well as a random element to surveyed land, with a possibility of finding supply caches, magical sites, or even squatters who must be driven off. I also want to add the ability to collect firewood directly from forests as opposed to the time-consuming chopping of timber which is fine but hardly the only realistic option. The amount of firewood gathered will be randomized based on a Survival roll, but the time-saving aspect of not having to spend more actions chopping it up should be handy during those hard winters. As a little more icing on the cake I'm going to attempt to add a bit of music here and there if I find time to actually write it. I will likely be posting some of my prototypes on piano regardless, so you can get a flavor of what I'm going for musically.

As a final noteworthy goal for all you patient rogues who are alarmed at the lack of site activity, it is our mission to publish two updates a week - one related to the FreeHolder prototype and how it is progressing, including a possible update of the prototype itself, and a second, content-based update that will vary but should give you more information on how our mind-gears are turning. It may be game reviews, or a podcast, or a piece of music, but whatever it is, you should weekly have a little something to get your fix. I've written two game reviews already and will most likely be publishing them today or tomorrow.

Thank you all who keep an eye on this site and who wish us well in our journey of game development. It's an exciting time in an exciting field and I feel priveleged just to be able to participate. Talk to you soon!

Post-IndieCade Update

Posted by Chris Crooks on October 8, 2013 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Well gang, IndieCade came and went in a pixelated blur, and there is much to report. Good news as far as our primary goal was concerned: we found a likely artist plus a few others, and we secondarily we do have an Ouya and hence a dev kit, but as far as funding goes, IndieCade does not appear to be a good place to find investors. Gaming press, fellow devs, artists, sound designers, yes, but I guess it's too low-notoriety to attract much in the way of big money. No worries, we got a lot of advice about how to get the game ready to pitch to publishers, and a lot of advice on building a community for crowd-sourcing. We plan to have FreeHolder "pitch-ready" by the end of the year, so we can hit the ground running, providing I can suss out any potential publishers and make the all-important contacts. Failing that, we are going to triple our efforts in building a community so as to have some sort of leg to stand on if we go the KickStarter route.

Overall, Matt and I came away immensely energized. Having an actual working demo merely in need of a great deal of polish instead of months of grunt work put us ahead of the game compared to at least 75% of the devs there, who "want to make games" but have no product. Most people seemed astonished that we hadn't already starting pitching it or what have you because we're quite near to the point where that is usually the case, our somewhat niche target market aside. I maintain we just have to find the right set of eyes.

We saw some great talks: the writer for Bastion talked about making that game and transitioning to their next target, one of the creators of Myst mused about that phenomenal franchise, Jonathan Blow dropped some wisdom re: puzzle game design, and a slew of other useful seminars ranging from getting onto the Nintento e-Shop to managing public relations. It is an ideal starting point for newb developers, but only a starting point. The low cost of entry is a major plus, but the buzz was that the Independent Games Festival is a better bet as far as investment is concerned. We shall see.

More thoughts forthcoming, but during the Game Slam when I pitched the three concepts behind roguelike games that I found most compelling, another developer named Tyriq Plummer, owner of FourBitFriday, showed off his 2-year roguelike platforming project called Catacomb Kids, which blew my mind something fierce. I'd been toying with the idea of a procedurally generated platformer, and what do you know this guy has been working away at this very thing for a long time! He coded and drew everything himself, it looks great, and I'm excited as all hell about it. Check out his site:, and show him some support! Talk to you all soon.