2021 Retrospective

Overworld is the shortest roguelike in town. Studies show the brain can only focus on a few things at once. So to progress in a game, and get good at games, at some point in the granularity we wave our hands and say, “I will ask and expect approximately yay much out of that concept”, be it whether steel will be researched by the time the Mongols arrive or how many rounds you can hold off using that health potion.

This implies that, while they add a delicious flavour or nuance to the equation, parts of some mechanics are not contributing directly to outcomes based on the player’s expectations, but merely selling processors or at worst misleading the player on how their inputs are impacting things. Now what if we tried to pare away the fluff and strike at a genre’s core and immediate tactical outcomes? What if, at the same time, we tried to strip away any excess complexity or numeracy that might only to serve to cloud a deterministic interaction with the world? What if we designed the UX for the very young and the very old? What if we did it on technology so basic, it would be unto the stone tablets of the digital age, as long as tech still existed?

But seriously folks. I just wanted somewhere I could go and not feel bad about choosing the turtle leather over the fragrant buttercups on level 4, or not timing the chest open just right mid-game. Quick, casual, mobile, exercising my gaming knowledge, jam-packed with meaningful decisions. That’s all I’m tryna do over here. My inspirations are original rogue, nethack, brogue, CDDA, just now getting into CoQ (im old).

So it’s basically an F2P roguelike. Total oxymoron, but hear me out: The only locked material is playable characters (heroes). Once you’re playing you’re getting the same experience as everyone else. EXCEPT, you can pay diamonds to rewind! I know, you stopped reading. But it’s so creamy satisfying, and so totally ok to ignore, like: It’s your decision whether it’s a berlin roguelike or not. And no ads. I sleep night, friends. And there’s a $10 pass to unlock all the heroes for play.

Anyway, that unpleasantness aside, on with the retrospective! Overworld is a bone simple roguelike currently in beta on Android. The goal is to get past the gatekeeper. It has good replay, challenging puzzles, deterministic play, and a solid apparatus supporting its core loop. Developing for mobile is not the same as the PC development you may have gotten used to in this subreddit, please be kind.

2021 Retrospective

Quick history: 5 years prior to 2021 I started work on Overworld. Deceptively simple in appearance, the low poly mechanics have been honed over many years. That bun you just ate? Integral to the foundation of every mechanic to come! Learn to time your eating of it precisely, and that knowledge will serve you forever.

The game was designed to run especially on mobile devices, because the author didn’t find a mobile rogulike yet that really met his expectations. The game was written in javascript, because javascript runs anywhere and has node.js. Each game is validated on the server using the same code run on the client. The server is backwards compatible with old clients, as are scoreboards and demos.

It’s fast and easy (for me) to develop for. It uses all boring low-tier open source technology: vanilla js, pixi.js (canvas mode), closure compiler, npm ionic and capacitor / cordova libraries, Digital Ocean, mongodb back end. I have been working on the Android pipeline on and off the whole year. I can point the interested at some technical posts I’ve made.

Main concerns:

  • Auth went through some contortions before becoming reliable, now we use federated firebase for play services. Bring on iOS.
  • Struggled rendering pixel graphics reliably. This consumed many days and forced me into using canvas mode instead of webGL.
  • Code stinks from organic growth.

Overall, it was a pretty terrible idea not to use Unity or something more standard. But the fact that the client runs fine in any browser window says something, even if the product isn’t tapping into it at the moment.

In October of 2020 I moved with my family from the US to Canada. Just seemed like a good time really, I sleep better up here. The lifestyle is so hectic down there! Anyway, that’s how I happened to have time to spend with family during this kinda nightmarish time of human history, and to work on my li’l side project.

Here’s a summary of new features for 2021. I’m proud of my work and only moderately care if it’s dead on arrival for the mass market, refer above to the stone tablets material.

  • Difficulty levels (Easy through Impossible)
  • Tutorial mode with a hostess offering tips on regular play (easy mode)
  • Full meta: challenges to unlock each hero, win streak and xp system to level them up and unlock stats, bio, and difficulty (non-impacting of game balance per roguelike convention)
  • Sound, music, trailer, intro video
  • UX remodel for inventory and actions, compasses
  • Bigger visible map area (3×3 to 5×5)
  • World map
  • Player guide
  • Live replays and demos, scoreboards where you can watch entry the game
  • Riding, swimming, and flying animation. Spell animations.
  • World tile blending (so that grass flows nicely into mountain), new and alt tile sets for caves and buildings
  • Progress castle (as you gather medals for items and beasts, a castle is slowly built up)
  • User selected palettes
  • (Un)surprisingly little but some new content: new heroes, beasts, items, quests, areas. This is the part I like doing most!

2022 Outlook

Unfortunately this shindig will have to undergo some sort of transition early 2022 for financial reasons. Either updates will become modest and sporadic (maybe just fun content again!) or it’ll prove itself and get funding for a Unity remake. I’d so like to try accompanying a small team to glory and stop doing this alone, but it’s gotta pay the bills right? Sigh!

Fortunately I have a squinch of runway left, so it’s time to get this jalopy airbourne. Here’s a list of my action items, roughly in order:

  • Story mode (brief: gently introduce new player to characters, world, mechanics)
  • Soft launch
  • Global launch
  • Accept fate and fade into the west

The soft launch will be to try some paid traffic before going all in. There is a new trailer and new suite of sound effects in the works, early results look good. Maybe a 2-3 hundo karma post, just guessing.


Oh yeah that’s the other thing I did last year, set up all this media. Gotta have it! I can almost add Blender video editor to my resume, what do you use? So hard to get twitter to accept a video!!! :_D

Play the Android Beta! https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.overworld.app

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Website https://redasteroidgames.com/overworld-press-kit/

Tinsel Tutorial
Hero Mugshots
Cat Lady – Cat Man

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