Initial Worries #2
 
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Hello Everyone!

This is another development post following up with the one last week. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can check it out here to get a bit more context. Just as a brief reminder, the issues presented in this post were some of the worries that I had going into Sigils of Kairos, even before I reached out to Jacob. Though I had a good idea of the core loop of the game, I was thinking through some of the design problems that came with an innovative genre bender like Sigils. So without laboring the intro…

Lack of Options

It may seem strange that I originally saw Sigils of Kairos as a fighting game at the beginning of development, but the genre has a lot of strategy in high level play. From a design point of view, well crafted fighting games become like a game of chess. Though I am personally not that great at fighting games, I’ve played enough of them (and watched some breakdown videos) to catch some of the nuances in a match.  Watching veteran matches in games like Street Fighter or Dragonball Fighter Z shows a fascinating dance of attack/counter-attack. Each player has a ton of options for attacking like dashing, jumping, projectiles, fake-outs, poking, or even just standing still and swinging.  If an attack lands, great! but if it misses, the player is left helpless to a barrage of counter-attacks from the other player.

I wanted this feeling for my game from the very beginning.  I knew that Sigils was going to be a competitive game so every choice had to build up that combative tension.  Unfortunately with cards, the broad range of actions and attacks gets reduced significantly. I saw this lack of complexity as a potential game-killer for a competitive game and was worried that the game wouldn’t offer enough strong and interesting options to players.

Over-Complexity of Play

The other extreme to the design challenge above is the over-complexity of the cards.  Sigils of Kairos was a strong concept because it marries a few strong game genres together, which opens up a huge well of potential directions to go. With so much to work with, it is very tempting to take up as many game elements as we can, but this would be disastrous.  Not only would the scope be out of hand for a two-person team, but every mechanic we add creates a barrier for casual gamers. These barriers make it harder for newer players to compete and become veterans over time.  

Card games have justifiably been correlated with complexity from the beginning. With a turn-based game, players have a chance to familiarize themselves with the rules and cards so they can plan out optimal plays. In a real-time setting, however, every moment spent reading a card or figuring out a mechanic is a big handicap.  Because of this, we tried to avoid adding any overly-complicated mechanics and wanted things to stay pretty straight forward. This is a very delicate design challenge as we have to find the perfect balance between an easy-to-understand accessible game and deep satisfying experience.


As with any project, we hit a slew of other unforeseen challenges in the making of Sigils of Kairos.  Still, I hope these posts show some of the hesitations going into Sigils of Kairos and sheds some light on some of our design choices that mitigate these problems.  Also, keeping these potential problems in mind still allows us to avoid pitfalls as we tighten up our gameplay.

Naturally, you’re probably wondering how we went about addressing these problems. The answer is: a lot of things. A big reason why I am posting these initial worries now is to help set up future posts on design elements that we’ve put in or taken out of our game over time. I hope that by doing this, it shows how thinking things through early on helped shape our design philosophy going forward. This might not be a very satisfying way to end the post, but please bear with us as we go forward and post more about our development.

~ Cedrick

Initial Worries #1
 
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A few weeks ago, I spoke about the origin of Sigils of Kairos. I knew that I was onto something unique with the game from the beginning, but the following days were filled with thinking through how the game would feel. Originally, I had seen Sigils as a mix of a Fighter game and a Collectible Card Game (CCG) and this is how I framed my ideas for development.  When I put some thought into the actual game loop, however, I realized there were going to be some glaring design challenges not native to either of those genres.  By adding a real-time element to cards, Sigils had to introduce a new way of pacing that was foreign to the turn-based CCG landscape. Also, by limiting actions to randomized card draws, Sigils removed a great deal of the freedom that makes fighting games so intense.  Below I'll discuss these design problems that I saw going into the game development process.

Hand Dumping

This is the first and most obvious issue that a real-time card game like ours would have.  In a standard CCG like Magic: The Gathering, the player has a resource pool (mana) that builds gradually turn by turn.  These resources are limited, so players have to choose what to play carefully. Every turn gives access to more mana, allowing the player to use more expensive and powerful cards later in the game.  This keeps the game in check by limiting the amount and type of cards a player can use early on, while slowly ramping up the power.

With our game, there are no turns and so I didn’t feel a resource system would work. If resources entered into a real-time game, both players would be sitting around waiting for resources before they could play a card.  I felt like this would break the flow of a game as players would end up waiting around for resources for most of a match. This style of real-time card game did end up being made years after Sigils of Kairos was conceived, and can be found in games like ‘South Park Phone Destroyer’. Though these games are fun in their own right, they still don’t have the same action-pacing that I wanted for ‘Sigils of Kairos’ due to the mana system they use.

By turning away from the mana-system, the issue of hand dumping became a worry. With no turns or resources to wait for, there is nothing stopping a player from just unloading all cards in hand from the beginning of the match to the end.  This would make for horrible matches as it would remove all strategy and the game would be a glorified dice roll.

Hand Size Limits

This is a design challenge that I was really worried about, that seemed like less of a problem as the game evolved.  Using a sheet of paper as a rough for dimensions of the screen, I wanted to give enough space for readable card descriptions without eating up a lot of the room.  This gave about 6 or 7 cards maximum, which would normally be a decent sized hand for most CCG's. Unfortunately with our game, a team would be comprised of three characters with their own distinct cards.  Instead of having all of the cards available for use at all times, a players hand would get clogged up with all the different character cards. This was on purpose, as it encouraged players to switch up their characters, but with no actual demo to play, I wasn’t sure if the 7 cards would be enough buffer for players to build a strategic hand.

And that’s where I think I’ll leave it for today. Next week will be the second part of this post where I’ll chat about more of the initial design problems that I was anticipating with the game.

~ Cedrick

Ottawa Geek Market: Post Mortem
 
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Hello Everyone!

It has been almost two weeks since the Geek Market, and I thought it would be a good time to break down the event and share what we learned. It was an especially eye opening experience for us, as it was our first time running a booth.

Ottawa Geek Market is something that has been on my radar well before our game got started. I actually attended some of the early shows over 5 years ago, back when it was still a small trade show. Fast forward to last week and we were there showcasing our game to a packed house. In this post, I’ll talk about what we did to prepare for the event, how we went about displaying our game, our takeaways and how they will inform us for future shows. If you saw us for the first time at the event, welcome! I hope this is an interesting peek behind the curtain for everyone.

Preparations

First, when we reached out to the Ottawa Geek Market folks, we did it politely and professionally. Be nice. This point cannot be overstated. We actually ended up applying late, but there was a waiting list for latecomers in case there were any cancellations. It was only a little while later that we got picked to exhibit, giving us only a few weeks to get everything ready to go for the show. With this in mind, we took a step back to take stock of the situation.

The Ottawa Geek Market is at its core a festival for all things geeky. This vague classification actually tells you a lot about the people going. Unlike focused gaming conventions like the CGX show we attended, the Geek Market was going to have an audience with much broader tastes. This isn’t a bad thing, but it told us that we needed to cater towards a casual crowd. The attendees were going for a more pop culture driven show and weren’t all necessarily gamers. Also, being held near the subarbs of Ottawa, we also anticipated a lot of families passing through.

So the question became, how do we get started. Luckily, I had come across a GDC talk called ‘You Suck at Showcasing Your Game’ which was an immensely valuable resource for start up exhibitors like ourselves. In the video I got some great tips from how to stand out as an exhibitor to a checklist of things to bring to a show.

Set Up

We began by discussing how our booth would be set up given the 6x8’ space that we secured. We settled on having two monitors, each with its own mouse for players to use. Behind the monitor would be one large screen in the back running a continuous AI vs AI game loop. To really push our name out there, we logged onto Vistaprint to get some T shirts, mousepads and a large banner ready to go. This was relatively inexpensive considering we could reuse all of these for later shows.

 
Our nearly-completed booth

Our nearly-completed booth

 

As we began working on that, we started to review the build to see what needed an update and what could be showcased. With most of the core game done, our demo was actually be quite robust. We sketched out a new simplified UI that had an emphasis on the Tutorial game mode. There was also a Practice Mode, a CPU match, and the ability to have a LAN match for any players that wanted to delve deeper into the game. To offer more information, Jacob implemented a move list that could be triggered just by right clicking. I think this was a crucial feature for some players and avoided a lot of confusion.

I want to give a very special thanks to our friend Tareq, who did us a major favor by helping us out at the booth. By helping us out, he allowed Jacob and myself to rest up or check out the rest of the show. Also he’s genuinely a great guy.

What we Learned - The Good

Diving right in, the show was a real success. We had heard that the show was going to be busy, but 11,000 attendees came out!!! That is a huge number for our first venture out and it got a lot of eyes on Sigils of Kairos. I won’t bore you with the quick and dirty estimates from our game stats (which were being tracked during the show), but each computer had about a 50% downtime overall. Since we had two machines, that means we could have had someone playing on one machine non-stop for the entire 15 hours of floor time!

The one thing that surprised me the most, was how many kids gravitated to our booth. Now when I say kids, I mean truly young elementary-aged kids. With Sigils of Kairos being a card game, I thought that it would be too intimidating for children. To our delight, kids as young as 5-6 were jumping into the tutorial and picking things up with minimal to no help. This was really great to see considering how much work we put into the tutorial and UI overhaul. All of our effort towards becoming more accessible definitely paid off.

Without going into the nitty gritty, we met some absolutely amazing people that weekend. All of the people who stopped by were very nice and supportive, which we are truly grateful for. Also, we made some great connections with people excited for Sigils of Kairos, and saw a lot of repeat players coming back for more. Our booth mates were very nice and I personally began to feel a kinship with the other exhibitors. The icing on the cake was the fact that it really was great to see so many people enjoying the project we’ve spent so much time on.

 
It’s me!

It’s me!

 

What we Learned - The Bad

With the overall show being a success, it should be mentioned that it was incredibly exhausting. With a constant stream of people in a loud space, my voice gave out halfway through the first day. I brought two bags of lozenges for the show, and went through a pack and a half almost completely by myself. The post-show wiped us out, with con bugs and con drop being a real thing.

In terms of the game’s stability, there were some small bugs that reared their heads really early in the show. Only a couple of hours in, we realized that anytime a LAN game was finished, we would have to reboot the game on the host computer. When watching people play, we also found a snag point in the tutorial that confused a lot of players. Though most people figured it out, the confusion lead to a break in the flow of the tutorial.

Lastly, we had pretty positive feedback for the game overall, except for the name. This has been causing us havoc in the past week as we have been bouncing back and forth on the pros and cons of revisiting the name ‘Sigils of Kairos’. Being so close to the game we naturally fell in love with the title, but it became pretty clear to us after the show that it is really hard to remember or latch onto.


Looking back, we got off pretty lucky with nothing close to being a disaster. The system was overall very stable, and the LAN issue was not much of a problem since the game loads pretty quickly. The tutorial confusion is an easy fix, as we can touch up a small part of the UI to fix the problem.

The game title not being liked seems like a negative, but really it was much better to get this feedback now as opposed to later. If it had come up after we reached out to media outlets, we’d basically be too far in to change the name if necessary. At least at this point, we have the option to switch things up.

Wrap Up

If get to do this show again, I think we’d change very little. We brought plenty of food/water and had everything we needed to showcase strong. We could definitely jazz up the booth next year, and I’m thinking it would help to have more interesting cards. I know for sure that I would pace myself out more to try to preserve my energy and my throat.

Overall we took a lot away from the Ottawa Geek Market. Building a game involves a lot of speculating what the player would like. We have confidence that Sigils is fun and engaging, but with no feedback there’d no way to be sure. This show proved to us that our project is on the right track and it was very heartening to see people enjoy our game.

Lastly a big special thanks to all of the organizers and volunteers that put The Ottawa Geek Market together. The entire process was very easy for the exhibitors and everyone was incredibly accommodating. It is no small task to run a show for upwards of 11,000 attendees let alone doing it with everyone involved still liking you after it.

~ Cedrick

In the Beginning
 
The original sketch for a game that was to become ‘Sigils of Kairos’. See if you can notice all the design changes made since this was drawn.

The original sketch for a game that was to become ‘Sigils of Kairos’. See if you can notice all the design changes made since this was drawn.

 
Image from the original Plants Vs. Zombies from ©PopCap Games

Image from the original Plants Vs. Zombies from ©PopCap Games

As this is one of our first posts talking about our actual game, I suppose I will delve into the genesis of Sigils of Kairos.  The idea that would turn into Sigils actually began from a minigame in Plants vs Zombies. In this minigame, cards would scroll onto the screen and players would use them as they became available.  Having played Collectible Card Games like Magic: The Gathering, I felt like this would be an interesting twist on the genre.

The idea kept burning in my brain for the next few days and I was scrambling to find a framework to incorporate as many of my ideas as I could.  I strayed away from summoning minions and complex mechanics because I was hoping for a faster paced game. I settled on having cards played as attacks using a set character for the player.  After a while I realized that having only 1 character for each player wouldn't work for a few reasons.

  1. Each player would run out of cards right away and it would turn into a spam-fest of cards as soon as they were drawn.  

  2. Both players might draw at the same speed (negating the need for the real time)

  3. If one player picked an avatar that draws faster than another, it would be infinitely frustrating for the slower player.

Instead, I looked at games like Marvel vs. Capcom, which swapped characters in and out.  I also incorporated class roles, which would give players reasons to switch characters often and for strategic reasons.  

It was now time to get a rough layout of the game.  I drew out my idea onto some scrap paper, and it hasn't changed much throughout the entire development.  Obviously inspired by the old JRPG games of my youth, this rough drawing became all of the inspiration I needed.  Weeks passed and the more I stared at it, the more everything seemed to fall into place. This of course brought on unique design challenges which I’ll delve into on some upcoming posts. If you’re reading this as I’m posting and are in the Ottawa area this weekend, please drop by the Ottawa Geek Market happening at the Nepean Sportsplex. It will be our first time running a booth and we would love any support you can give.

Ottawa Geek Market
 
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Hey everyone!

This is just a quick post letting you all know that we will be setting up a booth over at the Ottawa Geek Market on March 23 & 24. This marks our first opportunity to showcase the game to the general public as well as our first time tabling a booth. We have our set up planned and a cool new banner printed and ready to go!

As far as what we will be showcasing, we currently have a working and stable prototype with a full tutorial, AI bots, and customizable matches. This means that at the drop of a hat, we are able to jump into an event like this with plenty to show.

The challenges ahead of us come with a streamlined and presentable UI for newcomers. Our aim is not to have the best looking UI ready to go, but to make sure that it can be navigated clearly. Also, we are working to get a build of the game that will have CPU battles running in the background. This will allow us to present the game on a larger TV screen for passersby. By having the game itself run a loop of random CPU matches, our game will let people lingering around the booth to see all aspects of our game and what is included.

Lastly, there are the general headaches of planning for a booth. Since the event is going to have about 8000+ attendees, we have to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. This means setting up early, anticipating hiccups (backups backups backups) and trying to account for any number of unknowns coming our way.

Despite this, I think this is a great opportunity and a fun way to finally showcase our game. We want to thank everyone over at the Geek Market for not only hosting the event, but having faith that our game will be a worthwhile addition to the festival.

If you’re in the Ottawa area and want to see first hand what we’ve been working on, please drop by and say hello!

~ Cedrick

Introducing: Sigils of Kairos
 
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Back once again!

Today I would like to take some time to introduce Sigils of Kairos!

This is a passion project created by the two man team (mainly Jacob) Hot Sauce Bread Studios. Sigils is a project that has been in the works for a while and is finally ready to be displayed to the world. But what is Sigils of Kairos?

Sigils of Kairos is a strategic card game that is played in real time.  This forces players to think up strategies quickly in an action-oriented match.  Players build a team consisting of three heroes, each with their own role to play.

To avoid messy card collections each of the three heroes have a set of moves which get shuffled into a deck together. The gameplay in Sigils of Kairos thrives on how these moves interact with each other and asks players to constantly shift their gameplay on the fly. Adding to this depth, only one of the three heroes can use their moves at any given time. This pushes players to shift characters frequently and find openings throughout the match.

To keep things simple in this fast paced game, Sigils of Kairos strips away the complicated rules and keywords you’d find in most CCGs. Instead, Sigils sticks with interesting and easy-to-understand mechanics. This allows Sigils to be a fun skill-based game without becoming overwhelming or frantic.

We hope this has piqued your interest! Going forward this blog will become more focused on developmental aspects of our game. If you want to see more, you can check out the Sigils of Kairos link above or follow us on Twitter to see screen grabs periodically. In our next post we will have some exciting news to share for anyone in the Ottawa area.

~ Cedrick

The Long-Awaited Relaunch
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Hello Everyone,

In case you haven’t noticed, the website has officially been relaunched! With it comes our new section where you can find out more about our upcoming game Sigils of Kairos!

We have kept things close to the vest for a long time (perhaps too long?), but we’re very excited to present SoK to the world. On top of this page, you may also notice that we have a revamped About page, where you can get a brief rundown of our origin story.

Our original launch was very rushed, and was put together in less than a week. This resulted in a frenzy of booking URLs, creating a company logo, setting up social media accounts, getting business cards together, and setting up a launch page. We basically tried to put together a company in time for the local show CGX. Though it didn’t really pan out the way we expected to, we proved to ourselves that we could really push ourselves out there when we needed.

We are now about a half year past that point and things have changed both for our company and our game. We have a new cleaner look, a much more refined game, and a clearer plan going forward with Sigils of Kairos.

We hope that you join us on our path to bring Sigils of Kairos to the world and you can help support us by following us on Twitter and spreading the word. This is truly the beginning of our journey and I really can’t express how grateful we are for any early adopters to our project.

Thank you very much!

UpdateCedrick Lui
Changes!
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Hey everyone,

As you might have noticed, there are some big changes happening behind the scenes that are starting to drip onto the site.  Admittedly our first foray into the public eye was a bit rushed, and we are working hard to present ourselves at our best.  Along with our new site redesign, we are preparing to show off what we've been tinkering with.  Until then, keep an eye out on our social media for our upcoming announcements!

UpdateCedrick Lui
Canadian Game Expo - CGX 2018
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Hello everyone,

We had a chance to attend the CGX this weekend and had an absolute blast checking out the gaming scene here in Ottawa.  Keep an eye on some great upcoming games from local studios like Massive Dmg, Kitfox, Hyroglyphik Games.  Also there are some games in development from Plateau and Oddly Made Games that are shaping up to be really neat.   We met a lot of really cool people and got to see a bunch of cool games, definitely more that we can list here.

While there, we sat at a bunch of different panels that had us thinking a lot about our design choices and how we can improve our game as a whole.  Most importantly, we were able to have some one on one feedback with some folks in the industry that was incredibly valuable.  It's great hanging out with other developers and getting some constructive criticism to help us to evolve our game.

Lastly, even though we didn't get a chance to chat with her, we wanted to thank Jillian Mood for organizing the event and making it easy for indie developers like us to meet and grow.

That's it for now folks, expect a bit of a delay until our next post as we have a lot of new and exciting things to work on with the new insights we've gained.

The Beginning
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Hello Everyone!

This marks our very first post as Hot Sauce Bread Studios, an indie game developer based in Ottawa Ontario.  Currently, we're quite busy developing our first game and are focusing our attention on that for now.  Stay tuned as we will provide screenshots, videos, and information on our upcoming project when we are ready to part the veil.  Also, we are planning to give a behind the scenes look at our designing process and discuss some of the different challenges we've faced in the future.

If you are interested in joining our community, please give us a like or follow on one of our various social media.  You can also hop over to our 'Contact' and send us a quick message.  Be sure to 'opt in' to our community updates if you want the latest information on what we're up to here at Hot Sauce Bread Studios.

UpdateCedrick Lui