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Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on May 19, 2021, 01:12:37 PM »
Summoners Fate Wins Big in the Big Indie Pitch Competition
First off, thank you all for being so kind, patient and supportive during our development process. It means so much to get your personal messages of encouragement and know that you're still behind me in this journey we're on together. I hope this update brings a smile and some joy to your day.

Check Out Our Award-Winning Pitch
I'm pleased to share that Summoners Fate just won third place in the Big Indie Pitch competition! Not only did we get a chance to validate our game with veteran game journalists and publishers, we also take away a $3000 prize package in marketing and exposure with Pocket Gamer and 148Apps.

Here's a video of the winning pitch I delivered:

But, the build Ross, what about the build?!
As ecstatic as I am about our recent victory, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the release details for our long-anticipated single-player build.

When to Expect the New Build:

We plan to release the new build to prerelease players next month (June). I've just completed all the content planned for this release, and now it's just a matter of fixing known issues and optimizing the experience. I don't have an exact date. The timing will depend on final testing as well as review process for the Apple submission. My goal is ASAP, and I will commit to delivering before the end of June, whatever state it's in.

What To Expect in the New Build:

The next release of Summoners Fate is all about the single player experience. When you first login, you'll be transported to the forest realm where you'll once again help Sylvia, the Druid save the forest - only this time it will introduce our free-roam, open world mechanics including campsites, lore and fate encounters.

The Cosmic Tortoise invites you to relax by the fire and play Summoners Fate.

Upon completing this mission, you'll be presented with our new Play menu featuring the fan-favorite tortoise who has evolved into a key character within the game, carrying the burden of your growing card collection as well as opening portals to new worlds. From the play menu, you'll be able to choose the new Adventure mode or Battle mode (the gameplay mode you know and love from our earlier builds).

Adventure or Battle? Choose Your Fate

Adventures have three chapters, each featuring a different world. You'll choose a starting Summoner and begin your quest to defeat the three bosses. Worlds are populated with a combination of hand-crafted battles, fate encounters, shops, treasure and camp sites, selected through procedural curation to ensure you'll have a unique experience each time you play.

Note: For the sake of getting this build out to you sooner, there will be 3 different world biomes (dungeon, forest and desert), surfaced in a linear order, and with fixed bosses. For full release, I have plans for at least 2 additional biomes as well as up to 3 potential bosses per biome. For future builds, the biome order will also become dynamic (rather than linear) with the enemies scaling in difficulty according to the number of chapter the world is played on.

Another great feature in the upcoming build: You'll be able to switch between single player and multiplayer/battle mode at will. Battles and deckbuilding for multiplayer can be accessed directly from the settings menu, and upon battle completion, you'll return seamlessly to your current single player world. And with our new asset caching, load times between battles have been virtually eliminated.

Lore - Our Unique Way of Telling Stories
Battles in Summoners Fate are complimented by story presented through fate encounters and lore. In a previous update, I discussed how Fate Encounters will use D20 dice to determine the outcome of light RPG scenarios (ex: freeing a caged bear) to deliver story, activate events and unlock new characters. Lore is a new mechanic to Summoners Fate that I designed to help bridge the gap between these encounters and the story of the world and its characters.

Scrolls containing lore can be dropped by defeated enemies and discovered while searching objects. The text in these scrolls can:

Identify and provide flavor and depth to characters you encounter in the current world you are exploring
Reveal the identify of the world boss and tactics useful for defeating them
Reveal interesting insights about the world of Summoners Fate (this is called "universal lore")
We've found that lore can foster emergent story telling due to the random timings of its reveals with the encounters in the world. I think lore will also help further connect you to the characters you so diligently command in battle.

If nothing else, lore should ease any concerns you may have about the characters looking up at you

Until Next Time
I know you're all super excited to get your hands on the new build, and believe me, I am too! I can't wait to see our Discord and forums ignite with your feedback and ideas for new fate encounters and lore. I have a strong feeling the new adventure mode is going to spark some amazing creativity in our community.

See you next month for the release of Summoners Fate adventures!
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on February 02, 2021, 10:26:23 AM »
And so the prophecy foretold, a future generation of D20Studios developers would rise up and do great things... Ross's son Wesley and Peter's son Michael create a game together in their first game jam!

Ancient Blade

For those who aren't familiar, a game jam is an event where participants are challenged to create an entire game over a short period of time (in this case 48 hours) that meets a particular theme. For this year's Global Game Jam, the theme was "Lost and Found". My son Wesley pitched, designed and programmed "Ancient Blade". He worked remotely with a team member (Peter's son Michael) who created artwork for the game per the asset list defined in his game design document. Throughout the event, he took feedback from industry professionals and applied this to improve his game with each iteration.

I was in awe to see how fast his young mind works and how passionately he embraced the challenges he encountered to make his game the best he could. While it's no secret Wesley looks up to me and wants to be a game developer like his daddy, in these moments watching him, he was my inspiration and role-model to aspire to.

Play Ancient Blade at:
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on January 27, 2021, 01:28:00 PM »
How Randomness Contributes to Strategic Thinking

Today on Gamasutra, I argue in favor of randomness in strategy games and explain how randomness contributes to the development of strategic thinking. Wanted to share and also thank my community here for all the input over the years on why things like the dice are so important in our games.
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on January 11, 2021, 10:16:12 AM »
Let's Talk Tactics Game Design
Today I'll be making a guest appearance on Keith Burgun's game design show to discuss Summoners Fate and game design. Keith is a fellow tactics developer currently working on Gem Wizards Tactics.

Should be a lot of fun - join us at 12PM MT at Keith's twitch channel:
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on September 14, 2020, 01:57:27 PM »
Fluidity and Seamless Openworld

Hi D20Studios fans - I just posted a new dev blog discussing how I'm using "fluidity" to improve gameplay experience in Summoners Fate. Check out out some of the new features coming in our next update and more here.
Game Updates & News / Re: Dev Log
« Last post by RossD20Studios on September 14, 2020, 01:00:31 PM »
Dev Log 12: Fluidity and Seamless Open World

How we're using fluidity to build a better experience

Good day D20Studios fans :) I wanted to thank those of you who've reached out to me personally regarding updates on the game. It's very heartwarming and encouraging to know you're still excited about Summoners Fate. Rest assured, this project remains my top priority, and my communication remains sparse only because I'm so focused on doing everything I can to get the next build out. I don't have a release date for that yet, but what I can say is that it will be significant and hopefully deliver on your expectations. Here's some of the progress I've made to show we're moving in that direction.

In previous updates I've discussed that one of my goals for single player is to create fluidity in the moment-to-moment interactions as I believe this will significantly contribute to a feeling of joy as you explore the open world. To expand more on this concept, I define fluidity as a seamless connection between intent and response. Friction is anything apart from your own input that delays or inhibits your intended response or breaks your connection with the experience of the activity.

Oftentimes, friction is caused by poor controls or bad camera angle. But, the biggest friction culprit is undoubtedly waiting for the thing you intended to happen to happen; or, in the case where you made the wrong input, waiting to try again. Imagine trying to shoot a basketball into a hoop and improve your skill by gradually moving further and further from the goal. Each time you have to chase the ball, that delay causes a loss of focus that inhibits the joy you would otherwise feel in hearing a consistent sound of swishes. Now imagine how much better the experience would be if a ball magically appeared in your hands immediately after you took a shot. A consistent series of swooshes in a row is not only rewarding, but provides a meaningful sense of skill and joy in pure connectivity with the activity itself. And, even if you miss the basket, the removal of any delay provides immediate ability to try again so you can excel and do better. When there is fluidity, even failure can be fun because there is the joy of overcoming challenge and a feeling of growth in doing so.

Zero-Wait Retry
Summoners Fate has zero-wait time whether retrying a battle or undoing a command to try something else. If you fail a battle in the over world, you have the option to try the battle again immediately, or explore another area if you wish. Depending on your chosen game difficulty, retry may also exhaust resources to add further tension and strategy.

Fluid Controls
Eliminating friction may seem counter-intuitive for a turn-based game where "waiting for your turn" is undoubtedly one of the worst-case examples of friction that there is. But I think there is room for innovation to improve that experience. One of the ways I've already done this is by eliminating the waiting within your own turn. It's a very subtle thing - but players noticeably felt it and have commented during our public exhibitions: You don't need to wait for animations to complete to perform your next command. You can issue orders as fast as you want on your turn and the characters/cards will respond immediately (in some cases, jumping past previous animations to catch up) so they always respond in sync with your input.

Parallel Animation
It was among the pieces of the vision I had last year that this same principle could be applied on the opponents turn as well. I recall watching folks at conventions play the build and losing attention while waiting for the AI to move and attack its horde of skeletons one-by-one. Or, take for example a slow moving enemy like these withereds and having to wait for each one to slog its way over and attack before you get to take your turn again:

Sure, you can use the skip button to jump right to your turn, but then you're left trying to piece together what just happened to your team. Wouldn't it be a lot less friction if they just all moved and attacked at the same time? Here's that same scene with a new feature I've developed called "Parallel animations":

What once was a chore of slogging animations becomes a fast-paced onslaught that adds to the excitement of the battle. But what happens when something more complex than a series of move/attacks takes place? Well, the system is programmed with intelligence to automatically detect anything that might make watching the flow of battle confusing (a surprise trigger, multiple units attacking, getting killed on the same tile, etc.) and revert to serial animations on demand as needed. Players can also toggle parallel animations if you still want to see each animation one-at-a-time as they occur (which works great with the replay turn feature for when you want to study your opponents moves more closely).

Descending into a Dungeon
Fluidity is not necessarily about removing all waiting (which could be directly achieved by eliminating animations entirely), but delivering the appropriate amount of feedback to validate a player's input. Take for example descending into a dungeon from the over world. Putting up a loading screen between scenes is an example of the kind of friction I want to avoid. But, instantly jumping to the next scene also feels unsatisfying because it breaks the experience. So, I opted for an animation of the character descending the stairs with black fade to convey the players intended response and maintain the flow of the experience:

Mist of Mayhem
One of the harder design challenges I've had with introducing open world to Summoners Fate has been reconciling the seamless exploration with turn-based combat. The problems lie in when (and how) to communicate the transfer from one control type to the other. Is it the proximity to an enemy that triggers it, or the entering of a new map? And what happens to the enemies when you retreat? Folks who played our PAX East demo got to experience one of my earlier solutions where I utilized a blackout on unexplored maps, with a yellow "portal" ring that served as the entrance to the level. It served its purpose, but it introduced a lot of friction in that the portals diminished your connection to the experience: they looked unnatural with the environment and they restricted your freedom to enter the map where you wanted.

For our latest iteration, we've introduced a "fog of war" style design thats often employed in real-time strategy games. Kelly has more appropriately named this feature the "mist of mayhem" since you're not actually at war and the revealed maps need not contain enemies (they could be more whimsical encounters with a fairy princess or a goblin birthday party).

The basic idea is that the world is shrouded in a mist over all the areas you have yet to explore. When you enter the mist, it disperses to reveal new areas. If there are enemies in the area you reveal, the camera pans to the battle area and tints out the non-playable area outside the battle. When you initiate a retreat, the mist reforms over that area, allowing the enemies to heal and reposition themselves relative to where you re-enter that map.

This improves over our previous solution by providing the player with total freedom to enter a map from any direction and creating an aesthetic that feels natural in the environment. The border of the mist also signals where potential combat transitions could take place.

Keep in Touch
I remain diligently busy with completing single player for our next major build update. In the meantime, feel welcome to reply with any questions you may have. I am also available on Discord. Our verified server is: and my username is RossD20Studios. Hit me up anytime :)
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on May 22, 2020, 07:17:52 AM »
Fate Encounters

D20 Dice are back in Summoners Fate!

While I removed the dice rolls from the tactical combat in favor of more strategic control to the player, I always wanted to work them back into the game. After-all, we are "D20" Studios ;)

This video shows an example of a "Fate encounter" within Summoners Fate. Fate Encounters are mini-RPG sequences where the player encounters a situation and makes choices. The outcome of many decisions are governed by "fate" represented by the roll of a twenty sided die. During your adventures, you'll acquire dice - which you can then use to increase your odds of a successful fate encounter outcome.

Here's what happens if the bear is angered:

And when the bear runs away:
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by RossD20Studios on April 14, 2020, 11:06:27 AM »
Open World Exploration

In my Kickstarter updates, I've talked about two key elements I felt the single player needed to achieve the experience I envisioned for single player: fluidity in moment-to-moment interactions and overarching strategic planning - the sense of solving a grand puzzle. To this end, I've overhauled our game engine and transformed Summoners Fate into the first game of its kind to combine card mechanics, tactical battles, and seamless open world exploration. I passionately believe the end results will be worth the development time.

Here's a video showcasing the system in action:

How it Works:

  • Worlds will be procedurally generated with hand-crafted elements, providing unique adventures every time you play.
  • Worlds are persistent for the duration of your adventure(s) with your Summoner. This means any environment destroyed, shop keepers killed, etc. will be permanent until you start a new adventure.
  • Adventures are designed to be episodic: rather than commit 80+ hours to the same character, the idea is that an adventure can be completed within about 1-4 hours (depending on the size of the world) and completion will unlock new characters/adventures to engage your creativity.
  • Battles are played turn-based on a tactical grid that can be of variety of sizes and dynamically created from anywhere in the over world (which is a massive grid itself).
  • After battle, the game switches to "explore mode" and you can roam freely throughout the world by tapping or clicking (depending on your platform) where you want your Summoner to go.
  • Other characters within your party will automatically follow your Summoner while exploring.
  • While exploring, you can switch to tactical mode at anytime to directly control any of your units. You can also cast spells directly from your deck. This enables strategic preparation.
  • You can retreat from battles - an innovation I devised to curb the randomness of procedural and grant more control to the player. This allows you to circumvent or better prepare for difficult battles (perhaps attacking from a different side of the map or with different party members).
  • Retreat and resurrection (retry after defeat) will cost resources that vary based on the level of difficulty you're playing at. This makes it approachable for casual players and very challenging for hard-core rogue-like fans.
  • Worlds have exterior and interior locations and you can seamlessly travel between them. There is freedom to explore off the beaten path and find hidden dungeons and treasure.

Presently, I am working on completing our procedural world generator and finalizing the other single player systems. These updates will be included with the next build release that I aim to make available in the next several weeks.
Game Updates & News / Re: Daily Updates
« Last post by KellyD20Studios on March 11, 2020, 03:32:41 PM »
PAX East 2020 marks my indie team’s sixth major showcase of Summoners Fate, and each time, we do a write up to help ourselves and others learn how we can improve our marketing skills. This event was our most successful show to date, breaking our previous best show’s record (the SLC Game Con) in the first two days alone. In this article, we’ll explore the data, our experience and my key-takeaway for this show: gratitude...

To read more about Ross and Peter's experience showcasing Summoners Fate at PAX East, click here for the the write-up on our Forum Dev Log. This article was also featured on GamaSutra.

Game Updates & News / Re: Dev Log
« Last post by RossD20Studios on March 11, 2020, 12:00:40 PM »
Dev Log 11: PAX Rising - Our Data, Experience and Gratitude

PAX East 2020 marks my indie team’s sixth major showcase of Summoners Fate, and each time, we do a write up to help ourselves and others learn how we can improve our marketing skills. This event was our most successful show to date, breaking our previous best show’s record (the SLC Game Con) in the first two days alone. In this article, we’ll explore the data, our experience and my key-takeaway for this show: gratitude.

Our Budget
For our previous two PAX shows (West 2018, East 2019), we showcased as part of the Indie MEGABooth and opted for the 2-day MiniBooth for its lower cost, ease-of-setup, and IMB network event which continues to provide benefits long after the show. We have also done full booth setups in the past (Dreamhacks, SLC Game Con) though these come with added costs and responsibility to populate the 10x10 foot space. This year, we had the honor of being showcased with PAX Rising - and I would describe the experience as the “optimal middle ground” for small teams with prior showcase experience whose goal is to build further brand awareness and get feedback from players.

To get into PAX Rising, you apply via their website about 4 months prior to your target show date. Their staff hand-picks fourteen teams that they believe have the potential to “rise above their modest beginnings, by growing as a company, establishing a fan base or pushing the industry” and provides them a kiosk-style booth setup in a highly foot-trafficked area of the expo at a prorated cost. This setup includes power and creation and installation of artwork that you can see in my setup here:

The PAX Rising booth is a half-circle pod that includes power and artwork. You can bring your own devices or pay extra to have PAX provide them.

Here’s a breakdown on what it costs for a team of two to showcase with Rising at PAX East for four days:

  • Half-Pod Booth Cost: $1440
  • Airfare SLC to Boston x2: $520
  • Lyft Rides to and from Hotel: $200
  • Hotel and Per Diem: $593
  • Marketing Hand-Outs (x500): $66
  • TOTAL: $2819.00
This budget does not include cost of demo devices (we used our personal devices for showcase) as well as other accessories (such as our tablet mounts and cabling) which I purchased and have continued to use from past shows.

Our Data

Here’s what our booth looked like during expo hours.

I’ve been using telemetry to track data on our demos since our first showcase, and this has proved incredibly valuable in helping understand how players experience the game in conjunction with observation and asking them for feedback afterwards. Here’s what our session data looks like:

To count as a session, the time-stamp of the session start had to be during expo hours and had to be at least 60 seconds long (to rule out any setup tests we did on the devices). We had 719 total sessions with PAX Rising 2020, and our best record prior to this was the SLC Game Con (which was a three day show, 12 hour days) at 293 total sessions, and our previous PAX East 2019 was 149 total sessions. We were completely blown away by this number - and you can tell by the fact we gave away all of our hand-outs that we were not expecting this.

Tip: If you find that you are going to run out of hand-outs, keep 1 of them, put it in a display case and ask players to take a photo. This actually works out well and as a bonus the photo won’t get lost.

Here’s our take on factors contributing to our success:

  • We had an awesome location (and we are so grateful for that). PAX Rising is right along a major walk-way and we faced that walkway directly.
  • Our signage was appropriately designed thanks to my wife, Kelly, who taught me that “simple and bold is best”. To put in perspective, you can easily spot our humble indie pod from as far as the second floor sky-box thanks to the blue/gold contrast in the sky/logo and that super high-contrast red in the Battle Mage cloak. Numerous folk complimented the signage and told us straight-up that was what initially drew them in.
  • Crowds act like gravity - the greater the mass, the greater the pull - and we designed our booth for maximum crowd. Some folks will argue that a super large screen is paramount, and I was initially concerned about not having one at our booth. However, since my priority was maximum plays - I opted for smaller devices and was able to comfortably fit six demo stations using two laptops and 4 iPads on camera mounts. The artboard did the job of the big TV, and the iPads did the job of ensuring there was always a spot for someone to jump in and play.
  • We mastered our pitch and made players feel comfortable with our invitation to play and our sincere desire for their feedback. A number of folks told us they were hooked the minute they heard us ask someone “Would you like to hurl a squirrel at some orcs?” Others initially told us they didn’t play turn-based games - so I’d say “What games do you play?” and then I would suggest something like “Well, based on your current games, I would be really fascinated to get your feedback in particular, because then we’d know whether our game can successfully introduce this genre to a new player”. Probably one of the most validating moments was having such a player complete the demo, walk up to me afterwards, and then thank me for having the courage to invite him to play - because it turns out that he absolutely loved it and wouldn’t have discovered this otherwise.
  • Shorter demo, but more unique: We reduced our previous average session length from 11-12 minutes down to 8.5 minutes. Our previous level funnel data suggested our demo was about 2 levels two long. Additionally, there was friction that inhibited players from making fluid progress through the demo. This year, we made our first major changes to the demo by changing the flow and incorporating the design feedback we discovered in Dreamhack Dallas: We doubled-down on the mechanics that make us unique and removed the mechanics that made us feel derivative. This demo was our first public unveil of our “open world” system that allows players to seamlessly walk around and explore the world between battles to find cards, treasures, etc. Likewise, we removed all of the stagnant reward models and placed everything to find in the world itself. Player reactions and testimonials reflected these changes: Instead of comparing Summoners Fate to other games they had played and saying how we were like them, players would say things like “I play XYZ, and this is NOTHING like that” or “I’ve never played a tactics game with open-world exploration before”.

With our new open world, exploration is seamless and players loved their herds of squirrels and other animals following them.

Here’s the new level funnel data for our demo. It’s interesting to note that the demo actually has twice as many levels as prior (14 vs 7), but takes less time to play due to the overworld system and elimination of prior friction:

Oaks End Treasure Room is an optional (non-linear) level reached only via exploration and puzzle solving.

And win/loss statistics for the levels containing battles:

Another change we made for this demo was to make it so that players cannot retry the last battle vs. the Liche King. Instead, the demo ends and goes right into registration. Anecdotally, I think this helped us - at least in the case of one particular player who told us the next day that he stayed up thinking about how to beat the Liche King, came back to the booth, beat him then bought the game right at the booth.

Our Experience, Gratitude
Standing on your feet, shouting about squirrels for four days is an intense experience that takes a heavy toll, both physically and mentally - but I was fortunate to have such an incredible support network. Let’s start with our PAX Exhibitor assistance, Emma, who gave each of the indie teams there her personal cell number the first day and a “call-anytime” offer of support. There’s the enforcers - who I continue to maintain are among the best support staff I’ve yet seen at a show of this size and caliber. I thought it was a big deal that Kevin Brady, who heads up PAX Rising organization and selected us for rising personally came by to check on us during the show. Likewise with Krista who coordinated the artboard and Devin who did the printing and who both helped arrange for us to take the art home after the show.

When the days got particularly intense, I was grateful to have the AFK lounge, sponsored by Take This, an organization dedicated to caring for mental health in the game industry. They provide a quiet room to relax and recover from the intensity and stimuli of the expo hall as well as volunteers and clinical aides to talk with.

My fellow indies - who came to realize as we did that Boston traffic can be unpredictable and costly to morning setup time - were there and willing to exchange numbers so we could cover each other’s booth should the need arise. Shout outs to our friends at DNA Studios: Tower of Babel, Knight Shift Games: Elsie, Not Dead Design: Kana Quest, and Tripe-I Games: Hindsight 20/20. It was great having a chance to connect at dinner after the show on Sunday.

Peter Jones, Joe Lieberman, and me in the Tiny Build hat that was wrestled off a giant bear.

Our friends and fans - both new and visiting us again - made the show such a memorable and meaningful experience. Loved seeing Justin, Mike and others from the Creator Crew - a community of streamers we’ve been friends with for the past year, Benjamin Glover from Stellar Jockeys, Shane from Evil Villain Games, and of course, my longtime friend and supporter Joe Lieberman from Antlion Audio who I finally got to meet in person. Even those who couldn’t be at the show expressed their support and checked up on me throughout the week - thanks to our awesome player community, and my friends Chris and Ashley who’ve been helping us out.

There’s my friend and teammate Peter, who once again took personal time off work to go on this crazy adventure with me and to teach me what a good person looks and acts like in the way he treats everyone he meets with kindness.

Finally, I thought of my family a lot - my wife, son, daughter and mom put up with a lot of craziness from me in the months leading up to the show. They were always there cheering me on. With a support network like that, it almost feels inappropriate to call myself “indie” because I was never really alone. And that’s why my big take-away from this year’s event is gratitude: a recognition of all that is right, meaningful and important about the relationships I have in my life, how truly wonderful and amazing this is, and that I appreciate everyone so much for being there for me. So, thank you, everyone! And thank you for reading this article. May you take a moment and give thanks to those that have helped you on your journey.
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