On the stream yesterday, we announced that if Rami got a giant pile of work done, we’d release on Nuclear Throne through Early Access today. It is with pride that the entire team and us announce that Nuclear Throne is now available for Early Access!
We’re announcing today that Wasteland Kings, the project of which we’ve been livestreaming development for the past few weeks, will from now on be named “Nuclear Throne”. It’s a bit of an haphazard announcement, with Justin Chan’s beautiful artwork above still not being finished, without us having a new logo and before we’ve been able to properly change the name on all the platforms officially, but we thought that if we’re doing open development we might just as well be open about it.
After announcing the game for PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita during Sony’s press conference at gamescom, we were contacted by a Dutch employee of InXile Entertainment, the studio behind 1988 title Wasteland and the recent Kickstarter for Wasteland 2. They explained that InXile CEO Brian Fargo and some of the team were worried about possible brand confusion and argued that Wasteland Kings could be misinterpreted as a title in the ‘Wasteland’ franchise.
We’ve been through a lot of trouble with people riding on things of ours, and we understand that American trademark law is pretty strict in that not defending a trademark weakens it. We realize that both games are set in a similar setting, that the names are similar and that InXile obviously felt the need to reach out. Although we aren’t sure Wasteland Kings and Wasteland are confusing enough for this to be an issue, both us and InXile really don’t want to spend development time on arguing over trivialities.
Most of all, we appreciate that the first contact between us was by a normal employee, and not a lawyer. There was no extravagant Cease & Desist-letter, nor a threatening letter in an envelope labelled ‘URGENT’. The e-mail we received was short, amicable and to-the-point. It was followed up by a quick conversation on Skype, in which we established that it would be the right thing for us to change the name.
This is the way business should work nowadays: between people, not companies, not lawyers, not departments. There’s so much paperwork between one and another that it’s easy for people to forget that they’re dealing with people instead of numbers and dossiers. Things can be friendly, rather than formal for the sake of formality.
We’ve spent the past week debating names with Paul, Jukio, Joonas and Justin. We’ve had amazing suggestions, such as ‘Genetic Miracles Fish & The Gang Vault Runners’, Trash Monarchs, Kingstarter and ‘GUN GODZ: Legend of Yung Venuz: Originz’. After almost 90 emails, we decided upon the new name, one that we felt did not only resolved the trademark issue but is also more gender-inclusive. We then made sure Sony, Steam and Humble were up to date and wrote this announcement right after the new title reveal at Eurogamer Expo.
So, we’re announcing Nuclear Throne, our top-down action roguelike-like about mutants in a postapocalyptic future. We’re extremely proud to be working with Paul Veer, Jukio Kallio, Joonas Turner and Justin Chan. The majority of development will be livestreamed over at nuclearthrone.com on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1PM CET until 5PM CET. Nuclear Throne is launching on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC through Steam and Humble.
Nuclear Throne will be available through Steam Early Access and Humble Store in early October at an Early Access price of $12.99.
This post is a bit late as Jan Willem has focused squarely on streaming Wasteland Kings and moving places and Rami just landed from his crazy trip to GDC Europe, gamescom and PAX. It doesn’t help that August was one of the craziest months in our existence as Vlambeer and was concluded with our third birthday on September 1st.
As you might’ve noticed, LUFTRAUSERS has been delayed again. The short version is that it’s going to be at least a month before it releases from now. The long version is: it turns out that certification is harder than you expect even when you have been warned that it’s harder than you think. This is our first ever console release, and it turns out the process that they call ‘Technical Requirement Compliance’ is weirdly intricate, with different standards in different territories and long arbitrary delays between submissions, so we want to get things right. This is not a dig towards Sony, who have been absolutely great towards us and are absolutely accomodating and trying to help us out, it’s just a reality we’ll have to deal with for now.
Devolver Digital kindly hired an additional QA team to help us out and check the game pre-submissions, and we’re wrapping up the final items on the list at the moment. Sadly, the game going through certification doesn’t mean it launches immediately, it means it’ll get ‘slotted’ at a certain date a few weeks later for launch. We’ve promised everybody – fans and platforms – that it’ll launch simultaneously on all platforms, and we’re never making that promise again. It just feels bad to have four perfectly releasable builds sitting here, just waiting for the last one to clear certifications.
We really ought to stop estimating release dates that early in development. It doesn’t really work with our style of development: we keep tweaking and fixing things until the game is as close to perfect as we can get it. Slamming a date onto something like that isn’t really helping anyone.
The Wasteland Kings stream is way closer to how we actually develop. It’s sort of chaotic, we have no clue when it’ll be done and we have fun adding a lot of crazy things to it. If you’re not watching the stream, we’re streaming every Tuesday and Thursday from 13:00 until 17:00 CET over at www.wastelandkings.com.
We are really excited about Wasteland Kings, though. The PS4/PS Vita reveal during gamescom was one of the most nerve-wrecking moments in our recent history and the reception it got at the Penny Arcade Expo was overwhelming. As for everybody asking, yes, we’ll start selling the shirts in our store as soon as the Level Up Studios guys get home.
The Super Crate Box iOS update has been delayed again as well. We got Rami a Macbook to finally fix that update with his crazy travel lifestyle (he could only work on our Mac Mini in the office before now) and then when he turned it on in Seattle, it plain out didn’t recognize the device’s harddrive. We’ve sent off the Macbook to some Apple support place as Rami prepares to leave again for a bit, to South Africa this time.
Then, all of a sudden, Vlambeer turned three years old, which – as we were on seperate continents – led to celebrations as excessive as the e-mail exchange above. As a birthday gift, we finally made GUN GODZ available for free, after it had been a Venus Patrol exclusive for a while, and we released the MOJAM prototype of Wasteland Kings. On top of that, we announced the Vlambeer & Friends Art Book project. You can grab all of those gifts at our birthday website.
Thanks so much to everybody who contributed to the spontaneous surge of Vlambeer OST sales during our birthday. We super appreciate all the kind words, merchandise sales, fan art and gifts.
Don’t forget to tune into the stream in four hours or so, 13:00CET at the Wasteland Kings website.
Today also saw the announcements of the Indie MEGABOOTH, where we’ll have LUFTRAUSERS, Ridiculous Fishing and Wasteland Kings all playable – with Ridiculous Fishing also being a PAX10 nominee. Wasteland Kings actually got nominated for what is likely our favorite event every year, so expect us in Austin for Fantastic Arcade with the game as well.
Wasteland Kings is a game we made in three days for MOJAM. It’s an action roguelike about mutants blasting their way through dangerous areas while searching for powerful weapons and growing new limbs on the fly.
Because we had a very limited timeframe to make this game (and JW doesn’t know any maths) everything was made with super fast, hacky, dumb logic. Our level generation was made in a couple of hours, but turned out very decent, supplying players with an infinite amount of very playable levels. This post is about how we did that.
Take note that our solutions are all hand-tweaked for this particular game. Some things might not make a lot of sense or have any reasoning behind them, but that’s just how we make games. Massive thanks to Paul, Jukio and Joonas, because respectively their art, music and sound effects really made the game what it is today and kept us inspired and working hard all the way through this project!
Let’s get started.
STEP 1: make some floors Every area starts by creating a FloorMaker. Every iteration a FloorMaker will move 1 tile forward and make a Floor. Depending on what area (Desert, Sewers or Scrapyard in this case) it is generating there will be different chances for it to turn 90, -90 or even 180 degrees. For example, the Scrapyard has no 180 degree turns and thus moves straight forward more frequently, giving it a lot of long, straight corridors.
STEP 2: make some rooms
To allow for more interesting gameplay, FloorMakers have a chance to place Floors in a shape. In the Desert there is a 50% chance for it to place 2×2 Floors. This will create more open areas. In the Scrapyard there is a 11% chance for 3×3 Floors to spawn, creating little rooms, perfect for interesting shootouts and tight dodging.
At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (we’ll have a write-up on GDC and PAX soon) JW talked to Beau Blyth about his game Shoot First, one of the many inspirations for Wasteland Kings. It turns out he used a very similar technique for his levels!
STEP 3: splitting the corridors We wanted players to do some exploring. Every frame a FloorMaker has a small chance to create a new FloorMaker. The chance of a new FloorMaker to appear depends on the amount of FloorMakers already active and the area we are in. Sewer for example has a lot of corridors, because we allow it to spawn a lot of FloorMakers. If more than one FloorMaker exists, they get an increasingly large chance to destroy themselves, to make sure the levels don’t have too many long hallways heading in different directions.
STEP 4: placing chests There are three types of chests found in levels in wasteland kings. We have Weapon Chests, big Ammo Chests and Experience Canisters. Usually one of each is found in every area. We wanted to spawn these in interesting places (mainly dead ends) in the levels, to reward players for exploring. The way we did this is horrible but effective.
Whenever a FloorMaker turns 180 degrees, it spawns a Weapon Chest. Whenever a FloorMaker destroys itself, it spawns an Ammo Chest. Whenever the level is reaching its final size, FloorMakers spawn Experience Canisters.
After the level generation is done all but the furthest (with a bit of a random offset) chests of each type are removed.
Fun fact: When making the animated gifs for this posts we found out that the weapon chests are placed after turning 180 degrees and moving one tile, instead of on the tile of the turn itself.
STEP 5: level size
The game counts the amounts of Floors. In our case, the max is 110 Floors per level. When a FloorMaker notices there are more than 110 Floors it does one more step and then destroys itself. The amount of Floors divided by 110 is the percentage shown while the game is loading.
Because we still place one more set of Floors after reaching 110, the game usually loads to 101%. We kept that in to show the world we put a lot of extra effort into our games.
STEP 6: placing the Player, Enemies and Walls WARNING: The way we did this is very dumb.
The Player is simply spawned on the place we spawned the first FloorMaker.
Enemies can spawn anywhere far enough from the Player as long as there are no chests there. We just check all the Floors and give them a random chance to spawn some Enemies depending on the current difficulty. Enemy type and rarity depends on the area. For example: a tile in the desert can spawn either a Bandit, Maggot, Corpse, Scorpion or a group of unwise Bandits warming themselves around an explosive barrel.
We then place Walls around all the Floors. Every Floor has a small chance to spawn a Wall on one of it’s 4 corners. Finally, there is a 14% chance for a Wall in Scrapyard to become a firetrap.
It later turned out these randomly spawned Walls were able to block corridors. We tried fixing it in the last 7 minutes of the jam but it turned out we failed. Luckily, occurrence of this is super rare, seeing we were testing the game for three days but only saw this happen once.
STEP 7: graphics Every Wall side, Wall top and Floor has 4 different versions per area. The first graphic is very common, second or third are shown 22% of the time. The fourth one was supposed to show less than 1% of the time, but the code for that was broken and nobody ever saw these. Sorry.
STEP 8: gameplay Finally and most importantly, make sure your gameplay is suitable for these kinds of levels.
Our enemies drop experience and sometimes items when killed. These drops and experience disappear over time. This encourages people to move into places they normally wouldn’t need to go.
Our exits spawn when the final enemy is killed, this allowed us to not have to worry too much about exit and start placement. A problem with this was that sometimes people missed some items because they were sucked into the exit. On the other hand, this also generated some cool gameplay when people where already being sucked into an exit, but still managed to shoot an experience canister, leveling up just a split second before going to the next level. (Our exits also suck in experience and smaller pickups to let people not have to deal with that manually after beating a level.)
Our classes use space in an interesting way. Fish rolls, crystal can shield himself from damage, plant can create choke points and pin enemies down and eyes can move enemies and enemy projectiles around. Melting even uses enemy corpses as a resource (blowing them up), which suddenly makes positioning them relevant.
Enemies are always moving around a bit, even when the player isn’t anywhere near them. Some enemies charge at you, some flee, some just dance around. They fill spaces differently.
Shotgun bullets bounce, bolts pierce, melee weapons can be used through walls but have less reach.
The way you and the systems interact with the level is way more important than the shape of the level itself. The level is just there to bring people what they want. In this case we brought them an infinite wasteland filled with monsters, weapons and treasure. We wanted them to have fun.