Translation missing: ja.general.language.dropdown_label

Translation missing: ja.general.currency.dropdown_label

0 Cart
Added to Cart
    You have items in your cart
    You have 1 item in your cart

      Game Development — roguelike

      Navigating Steam Deck Development: Challenges and Opportunities with Maximum Apocalypse

      Navigating Steam Deck Development: Challenges and Opportunities with Maximum Apocalypse

      Once upon a time, getting your PC game on Steam was key in getting the distribution and return on your title. While AAA developers used the Steam platform to reach even more gamers, indie developers saw it as the only way they could ever compete with the big boys. 

      In 2022 alone, nearly two million Steam Decks were sold, and estimates of over three million in total sales since its release make it a revolutionary release in PC gaming. While the Nintendo Switch has captivated casual players, the Steam Deck allows PC gamers their own unique opportunities to take their adventures with them, forever changing the landscape of the gaming platform entirely. As a game developer, I find it a trend that’s impossible to ignore.

      Courtesy of Steam Deck

      With the advent of the Steam Deck, it’s not only more important than ever for every indie and AAA developer to be on Steam, but the title has to be as optimized for the new platform as possible. Simply being on Steam isn’t enough anymore. For big publishers, this simply means more resources and manpower must be deployed for optimization. However, for small studios, being fully Steam Deck compatible is essential for the game to be playable for as many people as possible.

      In the case of our upcoming title, Maximum Apocalypse: The Video Game, based on the award-winning roguelike table-top adventure, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that the game performs the same way on your PC as it does on your Steam Deck.

      The alternative would be that Maximum Apocalypse wouldn’t “feel right.” That “feel,” however, starts with the game’s look, and that’s where our team got started in development. In order to encapsulate the fun, we first had to understand what made the game special. Knowing the strength of the award-winning board game's visual style, we instead clamped down on an accessible visual style that actually lent itself to “maximum” playability.

      “The video game being 2D allows us to have a smoother development for the Steam Deck,” our Associate Producer, Dennis Paulo Delgado, said. “The hardware limitations of the Steam Deck and with the game being only in 2D and not being graphically intensive, allow us to be ready to easily ship the game to the Steam Deck. In addition to this, the game is developed in Unity which allows for the game to simultaneously be built on Windows/Mac/Linux. These factors allowed us to be ready to develop with the Steam Deck in mind.”

      Now, onto the real “feel.”

      Have you ever played an emulated or ported game where the controls aren’t exactly how you remembered them, or the buttons feel like they are in the wrong places? It happens a lot more than you think, and especially in the Steam Deck arena, many developers haven’t made the needed modifications and are forced to hope the game handles just as well on the Steam Deck as it does on PC.

      Luckily for board game fans and anyone else who wants to dive deep into this nifty tale, we’re committed to ensuring Steam Deck functionality for Maximum Apocalypse. They’re literally hard at work like there is no tomorrow, providing a seamless experience for players.

      Steam’s definition of Controller Support for the Steam Deck is pretty basic, as every game on the platform must support Steam Deck’s physical controls. The default controller configuration must allow users to access all content. Players must not need to adjust any in-game settings in order to enable controller support or this configuration as well. This may seem trivial to many players at this point, but again, the number of games that don’t play the same way on the Steam service as they do on the Steam Deck was concerning enough for Valve to create a team to test the compatibility of as many games as possible to ensure how well they play on the Deck.

      At Mega Cat Studios, we’ve taken this a step further and made sure during the development process that the game controls just as well on the Steam Deck as it does on PC. 

      “Maximum Apocalypse is ready to be played on a controller. In the PC version of Maximum Apocalypse, the player would just need a mouse to navigate through the controls of the game,” Delgado said. “In the development of the game for the Steam Deck, our plan is to maximize the Steam Deck controls to provide a smooth experience in interacting with the several elements that exist in Maximum Apocalypse (ex: Equipment/Map/Cards). After the controls are implemented, we just have to make sure that all interfaces that would’ve shown any Keyboard and Mouse Glyphs are replaced with the Steam Deck glyphs.”

      Now that the game looks solid and controls well on the Steam Deck, it’s time to add quality-of-life adjustments. Clouded Saves are A MUST.

      For games that allow saving, Valve recommends enabling automatic clouding of saved games: users should be able to save their game on a Deck and resume on a different PC, and vice versa, without manually transferring files. While this seems like the norm for many games released today, several smaller publishers and independent games don’t offer the feature. We, however, are adamant about making sure players can take the title from the Steam Deck, back to their PC and vice versa whenever they want.

      Are online modes working? What about Offline Mode?

      Maximum Apocalypse has it too.

      Valve strongly recommends that all single-player content is accessible without an Internet connection and that Maximum Apocalypse will have an offline mode. You can test your game without any online connectivity, including the first run on a new Steam account. This feature is especially valuable for Deck customers, who may have more sporadic network access than a standard gaming PC. It’s also great when you want to play games the old-fashioned way, by yourself, for pure relaxation.

      With full Controller Support, Cloud Saves, and an offline mode, Maximum Apocalypse not only encapsulates what made the original tabletop game fun and accessible but will also provide the same type of fun on Steam and, more importantly, that sexy Steam Deck of yours.

      “(With) The project being on two platforms, we had to consider the player playing on both platforms and having their progression on said platforms being synched. Value has provided developers with tools such as the Steam Cloud to sync the player's progression between platforms (Steam Deck and PC),” Delgado said. “The project team also had to consider the portability of the Steam Deck and tested the game to be played on single-player so that players could play Maximum Apocalypse on the go.”

      Providing It All, Just in Time For the End of the World… Maximum Apocalypse is Steam Deck Enhanced.

      Don't miss your chance to be a founding member of the wasteland! Support Maximum Apocalypse: The Video Game on Kickstarter in its final days and secure exclusive rewards. Wishlist it on Steam to be ready for launch day!

      Proc Gen My Friend

      Proc Gen My Friend

      If there’s one genre that’s taken the world of indie games by storm in the last few years, it’s the rogue-lite. Or, perhaps, the roguelike-like? While the specifics of what to call these games is often argued, most of them are addictive, replayable, and challenging thanks to the magic of procedural generation.

      Procedural generation is a technique that game developers employ to create content that generates its own unique challenges. This means it can reduce development times and costs, and thanks to its unpredictable nature, sometimes surprise both players and developers.

      What Is Procedural Generation?

      Simply put, data of any sort is procedurally generated when a mathematical algorithm is responsible for its creation. In the world of gaming, a wide assortment of things can be procedurally generated. For instance, a developer could create level assets like pits, enemies, obstacles, story elements, and power-ups and then, using procedural generation, set these things to appear at somewhat random locations throughout a level.

      The advantage of using this method is that potentially thousands of unique levels could be created without human intervention. This drives endless replayability. A procedurally generated game could be enjoyed for ages longer than a game with traditionally generated levels thanks to players enjoying “new” levels years after the game’s development has ended.

      Where Is Procedural Generation?

      As mentioned earlier, the procedural generation has its place in a level generation. However, good procedural generation is more complex than our illustration may lead one to believe. When used to fill out a video game level with obstacles, for instance, parameters still need to be determined in advance to keep the game both fair and fun. What if a poorly coded procedural generation algorithm threw an abnormally large number of enemies at the player in the first level? It’d certainly make the game more challenging, but it’d also make the game less fun for new players. A game can’t enjoy longevity if it has no early life to speak of!

      One deservedly well-loved rogue-lite that balances procedurally generated content with pre-determined elements is FTL: Faster Than Light in which players guide a ship through a galaxy full of hazards to deliver a message to the far side of the galaxy more or less in one piece - and then to defeat a massive, incredibly powerful enemy ship. While FTL can itself be beaten in a couple of hours (technically), the overwhelming majority of playthroughs end in death. Yet, players come back to the game over and over again, thanks to its use of procedural generation. There aren’t an amazing number of enemy types or items, the game’s story is neither lore dense nor dialogue-heavy, and yet it’s a game that keeps people hooked.

      Every new run in FTL presents new possibilities. It’s a bit like gambling, really: you could be blown out of the sky in the first sector or, thanks to random chance and skill acquired through playing, you could make it all the way. The random elements in FTL keep it challenging and replayable. However, they’re not the only reason why the game works - it’s also well balanced, carefully crafted, and manages to be challenging in other dimensions without being unfair and frustrating.

      Putting It to Work

      For our own game, Bite the Bullet, we recognized the value of procedural generation and, early on in the development cycle, put it to work. Bite the Bullet is a run-and-gun platformer with RPG eating elements. Choose a class based on your diet (like the vegetarian Slaughter of the Soil or the carnivorous and blood-soaked Gorivore), eat your enemies to turn them into XP, and unlock powerful abilities (like Appetite for Destruction, which lets you eat incoming enemy projectiles). This set-up opened the door for some procedurally generated systems.

      For example, there are plenty of side quests, bonus modes, and hidden areas in Bite the Bullet, but getting to them is a quest in itself. See, in BTB, side quest locations are randomized, so where you found that rideable hamster at a certain level isn’t where you’re going to find it the next time. Although the core of each level is designed by hand, this procedurally generated content keeps the gameplay fresh and engaging.

      One of the most exciting possibilities that procedural generation offers is in terms of equipment that becomes available to the player. In FTL, you’ll occasionally receive weapons and ship upgrades, each with their own pros and cons - each new combination of items opens up fresh gameplay possibilities. In Bite the Bullet, we take things a step further: weapons can be combined with mods in order to change their effects. Love your missile launcher? Well, you can combine it with a mod that allows you to shoot multiple missiles simultaneously. Not enough for you? That’s alright, it wasn’t enough for us either - you can find an incendiary element that sets fire to your foes.

      Worth It?

      We knew that for Bite the Bullet, procedural generation offered a lot of advantages, but it also came with some risks. The technology is brilliant, but it does have its limits. For instance, procedural generation is not well suited to creating strong puzzles. That’s why Image & Form, after having used procedurally generated levels in Steamworld Dig ditched them in the sequel, in order to create puzzles that procedural generation wouldn’t.

      Similarly, we were concerned about how procedural generation would impact the core mechanics of Bite the Bullet. We wanted levels that showcased all of the player’s abilities - jumping, dashing, and (of course) EATING. For example, the game’s calorie meter is drained for significant player actions, encouraging the player to keep gorging himself on his foes. If the procgen system didn’t sprinkle enough tasty enemy treats throughout, players would be a starving, weakened mess. This was another reason to design the levels by hand.

      Game design is undoubtedly a tricky business. What on the surface looks like a small decision can, with poor management, turn into an imbalanced and precarious catastrophe. Creating video games is as much an art as it is a science. Procedurally generated elements, exciting as they are, do not come without the ever-present element of risk.

      And yet, we are driven to include them. The magical spark of possibility that they open up to players is too powerful to ignore. At Mega Cat, we’re taking the risk, and we’re putting in the work on Bite the Bullet to create a game that you’ll love for a long time.


      Ready to chow down? Wish list Bite the Bullet on Steam! You can also step into the kitchen and help test the game by joining our Discord!