Hi everyone! On Halloween 2021, Sivlar released a small prototype for an upcoming mobile game that we’re developing called Barcode Beasts. It’s intended to be a game where players scan barcodes to capture and battle digital beasts. The idea was well received and we got a lot of great feedback, which we really appreciate. Later in this post, we’ve outlined the changes we’re making based on the feedback collected during that playtest. We’d also like to highlight one of the major reasons for our development delays. Therefore, this post is intended to communicate two things:
- Our delays, reasons for them, and our response options
- Current/planned updates
Our Current Delays and Response Options
The biggest complication we’re facing is the absence of the ability to utilize mobile device cameras on Android phones with our chosen game engine, Godot. Once the game releases, this would result in Android players being unable to scan barcodes without a 3rd party involved, whether hardware or software. For a game called Barcode Beasts, this would be detrimental to say the least. We don’t really want to force 3rd party options onto people in order for them to enjoy our game. We do have other options on how to respond to this challenge and we’ve discussed those options at great length.
We’ve discussed using a different engine that does have Android camera access support, but it would be much more expensive and add multiple years to the development timeline to change engines from what we’re very comfortable with. We’ve also considered finding an alternative way to interact with the game world instead of barcodes, but we believe this would negatively impact the core idea of the game, so we’d like to avoid it. That said, we’re still considering this option if we can come up with a great alternative, we just haven’t had any ideas compelling enough to move in this direction.
That brings us to our current decision, which has been to continue development of the game without access to mobile cameras at all and meanwhile hope that Godot/Android will “catch up” to our idea. At the very least, we can always release as an iOS-only game, though this is not our preference, as we would love to support Android as well.
Even after we resolve the problem of device camera access, we would still need to then detect and interpret the barcode itself, which is something we’ve never done from scratch before. Generally that type of thing is done using a plugin or library, but since this game would be a commercial product, those are less accessible to us. We’re still reviewing our options and welcome any advice or feedback regarding these hurdles.
Prototype Status – Where Can I See These Changes?
Before we continue we need to clarify one thing: the updates described in this post won’t be found anywhere else online and aren’t currently available to play, but we have plans to make them available just as we did with the previous prototype. Due to the scope of these updates and having learned a lot since the prototype release, this new build will likely not be an update of the existing project and would instead be an all new release. For the newest build, we’re prioritizing sustainability and longevity over quicker turnaround time, which is why it’s taking so long for us to release these updates. Please be patient with us while we work toward a version 0.2. We’ll give more details on this in the future. That said, here are the changes we’ve been working on and expect to release in the next version.
Battling Team/Pack Size Reduction
The battling teams, AKA “packs”, have had their sizes reduced from 6v6 down to 3v3. Here’s a few reasons why:
- It’s half the number of beasts, abilities, etc., which is easier for new players to learn
- Less beasts for us to develop, resulting in the existing ones being higher quality
- Beasts and game overall are easier to balance with less moving parts
- Things are easier to see; screen real estate is very important for mobile games
- Battles are shorter, easier, more casual/approachable, and better reflect our design goals
- Beasts feel more important and interesting
There are a few new mechanics that we’re trying out for the game and, while it’s still too early to be able to give all the details, we’re comfortable providing a short summary for a few.
- Advantage: Some beasts bring utility instead of raw strength. Those beasts can set your pack up for success by opening up opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist. In Barcode Beasts, those moments are represented by a mechanic called “Advantage”. Having Advantage lets your beasts do things like use their ultimate abilities, target the enemy back row, move first in speed ties, and possibly more.
- Buffs/Debuffs: We’ve introduced a variety of buffs and debuffs, such as Bleeding, Stunned, Burned, etc. We’ve added many of the typical and a few unique to us.
- Pressure: In an attempt to introduce slightly more strategy to the game, we’ve been testing a mechanic called “Pressure”. Many beasts now have moves that deal Pressure instead of traditional damage. A player can use Pressure to control the battlefield and pace of the game for a slower playstyle and later win condition. When beasts feel Pressure on the battlefield, it affects them negatively and allows the other player to gain an edge (or Advantage).
- Targeting: The previous targeting mechanics of the game were a major pain-point for our development. With the new 3v3 layout mentioned above, as well as new abilities, beasts that are “hiding” behind the front row tank(s) are more protected and harder to hit, but it’s also easier to select targets as the attacker. We’ll expand more on this in the future, but the take-away is that the old system was slow and confusing, and we think the new way will be a big improvement.
Multiplayer and AI Battles
One of the largest criticisms of the original prototype was that players could ONLY play against another local opponent, usually themselves, as opposed to AI or another person over the internet. We’re adding multiplayer support to the upcoming build, which is something made easier by switching from Unity to Godot. This will take time to perfect and will need more work in future builds, but it’s a step in the right direction. As far as complications go, at the very least we expect the hosting player to have to port-forward in order to allow an opponent to connect to them. As this is slightly too technical for most people to do, the final version of the game will not require this, but it takes time to set up that solution; time that we feel is better spent on other features. Playing a bad game with other people doesn’t suddenly make the game fun.
Removing Light and Dark Tribes
We’ve cut Light and Dark tribes from the roster. We found it too difficult to design a unique playstyle for these two tribes that was dissimilar enough from the other 4 to justify them staying in the game. We’ve reskinned a few of the old Light/Dark beasts and moved them to one of the remaining tribes, but some beasts simply didn’t fit in the new roster, so they’ve been removed. We’re still working on the final list and we’ll finalize the roster in a later version of the game.
Kit Redesigns and New Abilities
Before, beasts had 4 standard abilities. We’ve removed one of them and added a passive and an ultimate that fits their desired playstyle. We’ve also reworked nearly all of the basic abilities to better reflect our design goals. All abilities work a little differently than they used to, with a special emphasis placed on targeting clarity.
Damage Buffs and Match Duration
The single biggest complaint from the prototype was that defense was way too powerful, which caused matches to take longer than desired and sometimes even gridlock into an unwinnable state. Recognizing that this is a mobile game, we’re aiming for battles/matches to take no more than 5 minutes to complete. To that end, we’ve changed the damage formula to nerf defense across the board and added a few new abilities that encourage offensive playstyles.
To wrap things up, we’re still making progress on Barcode Beasts and we really appreciate the patience and interest that you’ve all shared with us. We know we don’t post very often, but we’re always available to contact and we’re glad to share more information about our thoughts and progress on the game at any point. We’re happy to share progress on a per request basis if anyone is interested in a topic not covered here. Until then, and as always, we appreciate the interest in and support for the game and Sivlar. Thanks!