We have been working on Shadow of the Moon for a few months now and using HacknPlan daily. So far we are really enjoying it! For those who are unfamiliar, HacknPlan is a unique game production tool which bring game design documentation and project management together to provide a systematic way of organizing, planning, and tracking the progress of game development. Although we only have a few months of HacknPlan under our belts, we have learned a lot and it has made a huge difference.
In addition to our specific trials and tribulations of Shadow of the Moon (and of the Indie Game Dev grind in general!) we also want our Indie Game DevLog to share our experience of HacknPlan with other game devs so they can learn the strengths and weakness of this tool. Even just using it for a few weeks we have found some helpful customization which we hope will assist others as well. AND if you have any HacknPlan tips for us or for the Indie Dev Community, please share in the comments below!
Shadow of the Moon is an Indie Top-down Roguelike Action-Adventure RPG video game created by Apotheosis Studios.
The story follows Zera, a young warrioress who is trapped in nightly recurring dreams in which she desperately tries to rescue her kidnapped sister Kasha who Zera believes is held hostage in the dark and deadly Tetragar Tower.
Zera witnessed her sister’s violent abduction, and—although her memory is confused and conflicted—she relives the terror with greater clarity in every nightmare. Each night, Zera’s infiltration of Tetragar Tower feels as real and painful as the waking world, and with each subsequent “death”, she learns the skills and abilities necessary to defeat the Tower’s minions.
Shadow of the Moon Key Features:
Deeply immersive storyline and expanded franchise tie-in, starring an intriguing heroine and a diverse cast of emotive supporting characters;
Epic role-playing & action-adventure gameplay, including real-life martial arts, a dynamic slow motion combat system, and customizable abilities and equipment;
Semi-permadeath that balances loss of progress with persistence of upgrades, and other roguelike mechanics;
Immersive, procedurally-generated environments, with high risk/reward exploration;
Vivid pixel art focusing on dark, magical-surrealism aesthetic, feeling both nostalgic and unique;
High replayability with native Twitch Integration optimized for Speed Runners and other Streamers.
Shadow of the Moon is set in the same world as Apotheosis Studios’, The Rune Chronicles, a series of Fantasy/Sci-Fi novels by Founder and Creative Director Jamison Stone. The Rune Chronicles is a world where magic, nature, and Nano-technology have lost all separation. Humans and variations thereof inhabit this mystic land where you can learn the secrets of the universe from angelic Guardians, and the mind is the most powerful force in existence.
The Rune Chronicles series includes Rune of the Apprentice, published by Inkshares in 2016 and it's sequel Oath of the Apprentice with expected publication of 2019. Although no experience with The Rune Chronicles is needed to play Shadow of the Moon, this game weaves seamlessly into the larger framework of Rune of the Apprentice and its sequel, giving this game’s world, story, and characters unparalleled depth.
Back to HacknPlan: As Rock Paper Shotgun puts it, here is "wot I think" so far!
HacknPlan has been not only profoundly helpful, but also a lot of fun to use. Although subtle, it brings an element of "gamification"
to the game dev process which, at least for us, is awesome. The joy of finishing "Milestones" and "Tasks" has never felt so good!
On a meta level, HacknPlan has a very useful "Milestone" feature which allows high level tracking of all "tasks" within the project.
Our team has Milestones set up for things ranging from:
- First Draft of our GDD/GDM (Game Design Doc)
- Implement and Outline Base Structure for Demo
- Convention Booth Preperation
- And even tracking this blog series!
- (You can see more Milestones in the image to the right)
The tasks themselves are highly customizable. Seen to the left was our first test task of learning how to utilize HacknPlan.
We now have become proficient and are able to tailor our tasks not only to each team member, but each aspect of the multifaceted endeavor that is indie game design.
Currently, most useful is how tasks align with the GDD, which HacknPlan calls a GDM, but more on that in a sec.
Something that is very useful is that tasks can then be visualized on a board which tracks their progress to completion.
One suggestion we have is adding a "Final Review" tab which can be seen in yellow on the task board. It has helped us a lot.
We currently have a team of 6+ people working on Shadow of the Moon and those testing a feature are not necessarily the ones who can greenlight it to completion. Because of this having another tab has helped us streamline our operations.
HacknPlan Game Design Model and Task Integration
Ultimately, one of the most impressive features we have encountered is what HacknPlan calls the GDM (Game Design Model.) All game dev teams know the importance of a GDD (Game Design Document) and the GDM is a powerful new tool, that when combined with HacknPlan "tasks", allows clear communication and agile game development for everything from story to features to engine.
Previously, we had been using a shared GoogleDoc for our GDD, but the HacknPlan GDM has proven to be far superior due to its ease of use, cross platform integration, and flexibility. You can upload images right into the content, add comments, easily move things around, and have multilevel alignment across the entire project from character development to in engine items. In addition, everything is linked within the system for efficient navigation. Best of all, however, is how the GDM uses tasks. Here is an example:
While working on our "Character Description" Task for Meesu (a kick ass blacksmith at Castle Rahu), I had an idea for our Twitch integration feature for our speed running timer. I pinged our Slack channel (oh yeah, Hacknplan also has Slack integration, but more on that later) to see what others thought of the idea. I imminently got some great feedback from the team:
Jude, our Twitch PR "Intern" said, "That's awesome, will totally help with getting some early traction with fellow streamers and speed runners"; Richard our programmer said, "I can totally code that, even in the demo!"; and Joe one of our writers said, "That's perfect, now need to add it to the GDM! Jamison can you make a task for me and link it to Slack?" Took me all of 3 min to get instant feedback.
Well, EZPZ! I made a new task to outline the speed running feature in the GDM and assigned it to myself. Next, I made a task to add said feature to our "Key Feature List" and assigned that to Joe. Took my literally 2 minutes to do and it auto linked back into Slack where Joe could see it (along with a quick link that would bring him right to the task.) If that's not agile, I do not know what is!
Shadow of the Moon Programming Update
On the programming side of things we set up our Gitlab Repository and connected it to HacknPlan (had a few hiccups there, but it has integrated smoothly now) Richard, our programmer extraordinaire, has been kicking ass on our engine and already implemented:
- SDL Initialization Routines
- Basic Outline for Movable Object Class
- Basic Outline for Static Object Structure
- Program Specific Doubly Linked List
Next, Richard will be Implementing:
- Interpolated Sprite Class
- Wrapper Timing Class
- Static and Moving Object Mapping
And soon will have a video showing our basic gameplay! Yay!
HacknPlan Features and Our Suggestions/Tips
Another really cool feature of HacknPlan is the time tracking features. You can see on many of my screen shots above I am even tracking the time it takes for me to write this blog post! That time is going towards my "task" for this Indie Game DevLog #1 and its corresponding "Milestone" for the whole Indie DevLog series. Even better, all of my hours for each blog post will be tracked by the system and integrated into my personal profile and work footprint which can be viewed as a spreadsheet or pie chart!
This is a huge help to know how much time you and your team are dedicating to various aspects of development. You can track many categories (seen below) ranging from Programming, Art, Writing, Bugs, and "Management: (a custom category I personally added.)
Strangely, HacknPlan didn't have a default Category for any form of project management but I easily created one and populated it with subcategories (seen below) ranging from Fundraising, Creating New HacknPlan Tasks, to Email Correspondence.
For me, as Creative Director and Head Writer, it is invaluable to know exactly where every minute of my time is going so I can know what I am over and under prioritizing in the project (basically, where I am wasting time.) Indie Game Devs (and anyone who leads a startup company, really) need to be very judicious with their time, so tracking all they do to make sure they are not wasting time is invaluable! Because of this, I highly suggest setting up this "Management" Category and populating it with relevant SubCategories.
I have a long list of suggestions for both the HacknPlan Dev Team and HacknPlan users, but I will save those for Indie Game DevLog #2. All in all, though, I am VERY impressed with this tool. Even though HacknPlan is only a few months out of beta, it has been a real pleasure to use. HacknPlan truly brings game design documentation and project management together. It's in a very unique game production tool that provides a semantic way for our team to organize, plan, and track the development of Shadow of the Moon.
The entire Apotheosis Studios team and I are super excited to be sharing our journey of making Shadow of the Moon with you all! We will have our Indie DevLog #2 filled with more HacknPlan info, suggestions, and tips out soon, so keep an eye out. We also will be sharing additional Shadow of the Moon art, and engine progress! Make sure you Subscribe to our Mailing List so you don't miss it!
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UPDATE: We purchased a non-exclusive license from WLOP for the concept art of one of her characters long before posting this. WLOP's art is great and we are using it, as our contract states, as the template for our character during this early dev stage. Our character Zera already has large deviations in our GDD compared to WLOP's work but we need an artist to implement them!
Any artists interested in joining our team and help us make Shadow of the Moon? You can email us HERE or on our Contact Page to get in touch! Please include a link to your portfolio and past work! Thanks and looking forward!