Archive: Dev Blog

The AI of War

Hey folks, Tom here! Today I’m going to share my experience of working on the AI with you.

I came to the Wargroove team fairly late, switching over from Stardew Valley once work on the multiplayer update came to a conclusion. When I first joined the team, Wargroove already had AI, albeit AI that would commonly throw away a win, or miss an opportunity to escape defeat. My first major task was finding ways to make the AI smarter… a daunting introduction for someone who (at the time) couldn’t even beat the AI!

Luckily, I had help from Tiy (game design) and Armagon (level design), experts at handing the AI its ass. Together, they sent me dozens of situations where the AI was acting dumb. My job in each case was to step through the AI’s decision making using the debug output available in dev builds, and figure out why it thought a dumb order was a good idea.

This heatmap is one such debug tool. It visualises ‘threat’: the damage that the AI’s opponent could deal against a unit on any tile of the map. Also factored in is the potential threat against each tile on future turns, albeit reduced by a decay factor. The AI bases decisions on a collection of heatmaps like this.

The gradient of the objective map biases movement of the AI’s units towards areas of strategic value: capturable structures, and opposing commanders and strongholds, for instance.

The support map provides a generalised approximation of the AI player’s combat ability. The AI uses this to keep its units from straying into enemy territory without backup, and to decide where to retreat to.

The AI uses values from these heatmaps to score every possible valid order it could give next, and then chooses the highest-scoring order to execute. When you see the AI do something dumb, such as sending its commander into certain doom, it’s almost always caused by a problem with the scoring method. Some specific examples I fixed were the threat map not factoring in crits, and the AI not considering the effect of the next turn’s change of weather on the opponent’s range.

The best possible way to score orders would be to model hypothetical future states of the match, e.g. by simulating the order on a copy of the match, or by trying to predict the opponent’s next move. However, for Wargroove, we need the AI to be snappy even on low-end devices, which limits the amount of looking ahead the AI can do.

One of the fun things about working on AI is that it can do really unexpected things. Even though Wargroove is a perfect-information game, the AI has to constantly deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what its opponent will do. One example is if the AI’s opponent is able to spawn a unit on their next turn that allows them to land a crit on the same turn.

Recruiting a pikeman here would mean Nuru can be defeated this turn, even though the outcome relies on a unit that didn’t exist in Nuru’s turn.

Without the ability to actually simulate hypotheticals like these, the AI has to use cautious assumptions, such as assuming that certain crits always apply. However, in a situation where the AI is nearly defeated, overestimating the threat on a perfectly valid escape route can prevent the AI from being able to take it. The AI may just sit there, ignoring a way out of its defeat. So making the AI more cautious can counter-intuitively make it act less cautious!

A lot of issues with the current AI can be traced back to the sacrifices we made to keep the AI snappy. I could write several giant blog posts about its limitations, and the weird side-effects of the trade-offs we made… But to provide a balanced perspective for a moment, having smarter AI doesn’t necessarily make a game better: a good game provides a challenge that scales with the player’s skill level. That means relative beginners need a fair shot at beating AI opponents. For more advanced players, there are always optional extra rules (beating a match within a certain number of turns to achieve a rank, for example), and multiplayer.

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Soundtrack now available on all major streaming platforms!

Hello everybody!

It’s been great to see how much people have been enjoying Wargroove and its music. If you can’t get enough of those catchy tunes, I’m pleased to announce that the soundtrack is now available for streaming on Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer, Bandcamp, Google Play and iTunes / Apple Music respectively.

To celebrate the occasion we’re adding all of the remaining songs to our playlist on YouTube. In all, there are 25 fantastic tracks available to groove to right now!

Our time working with Phonetic Hero on Wargroove has been an absolute pleasure, and we’re happy that so many people are finally getting to hear the full breadth of his work. While I’m a little sad that there won’t be any more Music Spotlights for the foreseeable future, it has been a privilege to shine a light on the compositions of this most-talented musician, and I’m personally looking forward to seeing what else he makes in the future!

Don’t forget, if you want to own the complete soundtrack for yourself, it’s available for download on both Bandcamp and Steam! If you are more partial to having something physical, there are still some of the limited edition vinyls available for pre-order thanks to our good friends at The Yetee.

Wargroove Vinyl Soundtrack

Bye for now!

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Community Maps Spotlight #1!

Hello everyone! Can you believe it was just 1 week ago that Wargroove launched? Since then we’ve been completely blown away by the positive reaction and amazing custom content that you’ve all been coming up with. So today we’re going to highlight some of our favourite community-made creations, some of which feature epic cut-scenes and branching campaigns, others strategically sound with clever use of rules and some just plain old silly fun.

Before we start, don’t forget that you can enter your awesome maps into a competition to win a Nintendo Switch, 2x tickets to EGX Rezzed and a bundle of Wargroove merchandise (incl. a signed vinyl), which is currently being held by Nintendo Life. The competition is open globally, and closes midnight GMT on Thursday February 14th, so get in there quick!

Right, on it with the list!

1. Patsgroove by Caesar – Code: H48BVDRY

Patsgroove is an adorable branching campaign created by user Caesar in just one night. The story sees you following Caesar in his quest for pets from various other Commanders. It uses a clever question and answer mechanic to a very cute effect, and also features a shocking scene exposing the truth behind Tenri’s broken vase…

2. Twisting Rift by Siv – Code: Q85FCS86

If you’re looking for a fun free-for-all 2 player map to get stuck into, this one that was made by Twitch streamer SivHD and his chat is worth checking out. It features an awesome swirling island design, and just one lone Tower in the centre which is sure to cause some chaos. You should also download another of Siv’s creations, Oasis Ruins (Code: LH5CRDVH), which is a rather pretty desert 1v1 map.

3. World’s Tiniest Wargroove Map by Valdyr – Code: HGY22KA3

They say the best things come in small packages, and this skirmish map certainly fits the bill! You might think that Player 1 would generally have the advantage on this one, but from what we’ve played the second Player can also reign victorious depending on what moves are made. Perfect for short tactical bouts!

4. Simple Defense v2 by Sicilica – Code: 9GFKQJ9H

If you’re looking to take down waves of enemies in a horde attack mode, look no further than this fun little competitive scenario. Your objective is to outlive your opponent, but it won’t be easy – each time you kill a unit, it will respawn on your opponent’s lane. However, if you go too aggressive and let your own unit die, it will come back to haunt you! If you push your units to the top of your lane, you’ll be able to hurl them directly at your opponent. Different types of enemy units will become available as you progress through each wave, so make sure to keep an eye at the bottom for what unit is coming up next!

5. Puppy Bowl LIII 1 v AI by Jed – Code: EMRFN3K3

As a Brit I have a pretty limited understanding of American Football, but one thing I now know for certain is that every Super Bowl should feature dogs as the players on the field. Jed’s map sees you leading Caesar and his dog squad to victory against the AI, challenging you to get across the endzone to win. My personal favourite touch of this map is the adorable group of puppy spectators on the side.

6. Capture The Flag by Of Monsters and Ken – Code: FCC6ZECY

Another clever scenario map here, this one using custom rules to create a ‘capture the flag’ mechanic. By sending a non-Commander unit to the highlighted enemy flag zone, your unit will be changed into a villager in order to capture your opponent’s flag. You’ll then need to bring your villager back to your base to win. However, skirmish rules still apply, so you’ll need to watch out for any attacks on your Commander or Stronghold too.

There’s plenty more excellent examples of creative custom content on Wargroove’s servers for you to browse through, including some awesome recreations of classic Advance Wars and Fire Emblem maps, and even a few Pokemon and Stardew Valley designs! If you’re looking for somewhere to share your map online, feel free to post it on our Wargroove subreddit using the Maps flair – we can’t wait to see what else you come up with this month.

See ya next time.

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Story time!

Oh wow. Hi, internet.

Abi here, Artist and Writer at Chucklefish. I’ve come out of my hermit cave to give you guys a window into the writing of Wargroove! Let’s get right to it, as it’s bright out here and I want to get back to those sweet, mossy shadows…
Just like the art, design and code, the game’s writing was a team effort. From the outset we wanted Wargroove to be a character-centric game, so that’s where we started. We had meetings about the commanders’ personalities, their histories, their relationships and their goals. Eventually, out of the squishy clay of discussion and debate, more than a dozen characters were formed: colourful, complex golems brought to life.

Once they had life they needed something to do with it, which is where the campaign came in. We needed to figure out what order we wanted to introduce the characters, which characters needed to be added to the party, and exactly who was fighting who. From this intricate road map the story grew. It goes something like this:

A young queen, new to the throne, is plunged into war. To save her kingdom and vanquish her foes she must traverse a vast continent and seek the aid of her allies. While she is beset by trials along the way, nothing can dissuade her from her mission: to save her people and bring peace to the nations of Aurania.

Now we had the plot, drafting began. Oh, the drafting

There’s something close to 60,000 words in Wargroove, and all of those were written at least seven different times before we found the words we actually wanted. We had to get these characters right, otherwise what was the gosh darn point? The word wrangling wasn’t just confined to the main campaign either – the arcade campaigns also needed this care and attention, as did the Codex entries.

Moreover, in and around all that writing, we were building the script into the game. The cutscenes were staged and directed like a hundred tiny plays, and the in-mission dialogue was carefully woven through each individual battle. Then, once that was all done, everything needed proofreading. It was our spectacular localisation partners, Shloc, who proofread the entire game text (and then proceeded to localise that text into 9 additional languages, those magnificent pixies). For this, we are forever grateful.

So I’d like to say we sat down one day and wrote a single, perfect draft of Wargroove and then we were done, but as you can see that would be a terrible lie. If I’d thought of it earlier maybe you would have fallen for it, but it’s just too late now. Hindsight is 20/20.

In any case, we had a lot of fun doing all this and really I hope it shows. I also hope you enjoy playing Wargroove as much as we enjoyed writing it.

I’m going to go back to my cave now, the shadows are calling me. Until next time!

Wargroove is OUT NOW and available on Steam, Humble, Nintendo Switch eShop and Xbox One store. It’s coming soon to PlayStation 4, GOG and the Japanese Nintendo eShop!

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What’s next for Wargroove?

First of all, I want to say how humbled and thankful we all are here at Chucklefish for the incredible launch weekend. It’s truly been amazing, we’ve already covered the cost of development and are throwing ourselves into improving the game further.

So what’s next for Wargroove?

 

Really Short Term

We already have the first post-launch patch submitted and going through approval, this patch brings with it a number of bug fixes and other small improvements that we weren’t able to fix in time for release.

  • Fix bug that caused online multiplayer maps against AI to sometimes go into a broken state.
  • Fix bug that caused spectating online on Fog of War maps to not work correctly.
  • Fix bug that caused issues around resigning on matches.
  • Fix the display of some Japanese and Chinese characters.

 

Short Term 

We’re working on a number of quality of life fixes and hope to get them to you asap. It takes a little while to submit a patch on console, but we’ll try to get things done as quickly as possible.

Some of those quality of life improvements will include:

  • The ability to skip battle scenes more quickly. With various options on how this will work.
  • The ability to force fast map movement to ‘always on’.
  • Tooltips and more info for the effective/vulnerable charts.
  • In multiplayer, the host will be able to fill open spots with CPU players.
  • Display S rank requirements. (Tip for now, it’s always based on number of turns.)
  • Make it more difficult to accidentally end a turn.
  • Multiplayer Lobby improvements
  • Various bug fixes

Along side this, the Japanese e-shop version of the game is not far away!

Modding is also coming soon and of course a PS4 version of the game is in the works.

Long Term 

As we continue to update the game and address user feedback, we’re also looking into a larger content update, DLC and more. More info on this at a later date. But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

One more thing 

We love feedback and we’re constantly checking Reddit, Discord, the Community Forums, Twitter etc. So keep it coming.

We’d like to know how you feel about the difficulty of the game, and should you be able to earn 3 stars at lower difficulty settings?

Let us know what you think!

 

Thanks again for the amazing launch support and we hope you enjoy the game!

 

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Music Spotlight – Fledgling Queen

Tomorrow’s the big day that Wargroove finally launches on PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One!

We’ve found ourselves inundated with positive reviews from the press and the mood in the Chucklefish office is jolly all around. It’s been a long road to get here, so I thought it fitting that today’s music spotlight presents the track first featured in our debut trailer almost two years ago. It was the very first track composed for us by Phonetic Hero, and it serves as the theme for our story’s central protagonist, Mercia. Unlike the iteration of the song from the trailer, the one I’m sharing today is extended and completely remastered.

Additionally, we’ve updated the main theme on our soundtrack playlist to reflect the remaster it received towards the end of the project.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to these tracks as we’ve rolled them out, the soundtrack is now available to pre-order! You may also be interested to know Phonetic Hero was recently interviewed regarding his efforts on the project. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’d like more insights into the creative process behind these great tunes. We cannot thank him enough for all the great work he’s done!

Wargroove may be launching tomorrow, but there are still more tracks to roll out! You can expect a bunch more to be added to our YouTube channel not too long after launch, so do check back soon! In the meantime, I’d like to take this moment to personally say thank you to everyone who has followed along and supported us as we’ve continued to pursue our vision. We’re really excited for you to finally get your hands on the game and I’m especially looking forward to seeing all the awesome levels, campaigns and stories our incredible community will make.

See you on the battlefield!

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Role Call

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all as excited for the release of Wargroove next week as we are! Today I wanted to list Wargroove‘s voice cast, who have helped bring our commanders and characters to life with battle shouts and cutscene cries! It’s been such a great experience working with all these talented actors and they’ve brought so much to the project.

Tamara Fritz as Mercia
Tamara Fritz is known for her role as Eudico in Warframe‘s Fortuna expansion and has also worked on games like My Time at Portia and Heroes of Newerth.
Website Twitter

Jason Marnocha as Emeric
Jason Marnocha has provided the voice for an array of characters in animated media, Indie games and anime. He’s voiced Megatron in the Transformers Prime Wars Trilogy, Aurelius in The Wizards VR, Levant in Regalia: Of Men And Monarchs, Keicho Nijimura in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Amadeus Guildenstern in Never Stop Sneakin’, the Demon King in Seven Deadly Sins, Coach Nanbu in Megalo Box among others.

 

Sean Chiplock as Valder, Greenfinger Sedge
Sean Chiplock has been an avid participant in videogame culture ever since his childhood, so it’s no surprise that he enjoys performing for them just as much as he enjoys playing them. From Freedom Planet to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, his vocal adventures have taken him both on and off-planet – although none have been anywhere near as confusing or dangerous as California highway traffic.

Kimlinh Tran as Ragna
Kimlinh Tran is a voice actress based in Southern California who specializes in character voiceover and creature vocal effects, and occasionally assisting in casting for video games. Some of her more well-known roles are Snip & Clip in Nintendo’s Snipperclips, Fidget in Dust: An Elysian Tail, Ms. Fortune & Robo-Fortune in Skullgirls, and Valt Aoi in Beyblade Burst Turbo.

Elsie Lovelock as Sigrid & Nuru
Elsie Lovelock is a British singer and voice actress primarily known for her strong singing voice and versatile character voice-over range. Some of her roles include the theme song singer for the game Never Stop Sneakin’ on the Nintendo Switch, the singing voice of Charlie in animator VivziePop’s series Hazbin Hotel, and Tracer
in RoosterTeeth’s Death Battle series. She has voiced for YouTube channels such as Team Four Star and Aphmau, and will also be voicing in the upcoming games including PAYDAY: Crime War and Starstruck.

Dawn M. Bennett as Tenri
Dawn M. Bennett is a Dallas-based voice actress who has worked with FUNimation, Rooster Teeth, OkraTron 5000, ScrewAttack, GalaxyTrail, and now Chucklefish Games! Dawn can be heard in anime such as Dragon Ball Super as Kale & Kefla, Fairy Tail as Frosch, Black Clover as Sister Lily, Yuri!!! on Ice as Isabella Yang, Attack On Titan as Frieda Reiss, and My Hero Academia as Setsuna Tokage. She can also be heard in video games like Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, SMITE and Freedom Planet.

Aleks Le as Ryota
Aleks Le is an LA-based actor, known for his voice-over work in video games and English dubs of Japanese anime. His most notable roles are Dahar in Laws of the Universe Part 1, Alexis Doucet in Grancrest Wars, and Nightmarionne in Five Nights at Freddy’s: Ultimate Custom Night.

 

Amber Lee Connors as Koji
Amber Lee Connors is a voice actress who has played roles such as Nozomi in Keijo!!!!!!!!, Ms. Joke in My Hero Academia, Brandish in Fairy Tail, Toy Chica in Five Nights At Freddy’s: Ultimate Custom Night and Vernal in RWBY.

 

Featuring David Dixon
David has been voice acting for over 13 years. He has appeared in indie games such as Dust: An Elysian Tail as Blop, Echoes of the Fey as Heremon ir-Caldy, Battle Chef Brigade as Thrash, The Journey Down as Kito and you can currently hear him in the trailer for Battery Jam on the Nintendo Switch.

 

Featuring Rachael Messer
Rachael Messer has voiced over 300 video game characters and works in Anime for FUNImation & Sentai Filmworks. Some of the Games she’s been in are Smite, Warframe, Paladins & System Shock. Anime she’s been in include Black Clover, Tokyo Ghoul Re, My Hero Academia, Princess Principal and more.
Website Twitter
 

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Wargroove launches February 1st!

Wargroove is almost here!

It’s been a long time coming, and after several delays (typical Chucklefish) we’re proud to announce that Wargroove will be available on February 1st on PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, priced at £15.99 / $19.99 / 16.99€, and playable in 10 languages – with PS4 and news of the release date coming soon.

You can even pre-purchase (and pre-download) Wargroove on Nintendo Switch right now!

Wargroove has grown substantially since it was first announced and has become a massive, fully featured package that we hope you’ll love. Take a look below at the Cinematic Trailer we revealed in today’s Nintendo Indie Highlights Showcase, featuring an incredible animation from The Line and keep an eye out for the release trailer dropping on February 1st.

Everyone at Chucklefish is truly humbled by the support we’ve received throughout the development of Wargroove, and the encouragement to keep going until we were truly happy with the game. Wargroove is Chucklefish’s second in-house project and with the quality of its art, sound and technical achievements we’ve also seen our own progress as developers reflected in its outcome. We’ve come to realise that for a game to succeed it can’t be anything less than a labour of love. We hope Wargroove will challenge and delight you in equal measure.

As we see out the final days before release, join us on our discord server and hang out with the dev team! We’ll also be scheduling some livestreams in the run-up to launch, so keep your eyes peeled

Don’t forget – you can wishlist the game on Steam and pre-purchase the game and pre-download on Nintendo Switch today!

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Music Spotlight – Wild Flower

G’day folks!

Today’s song belongs to the Floran’s talented and most playful commander, Nuru. She may seem familiar to those of you who have played our first game, Starbound. Even among the Floran, her talents as a warrior are exceptional, so we really wanted her tenacious energy to come through in her track. As usual, Phonetic Hero has delivered on that vision with his usual skill and quality.

At this point, we’ve released all but one of the remaining factions’ tracks, so our soundtrack playlist over on the Chucklefish Youtube channel is sounding pretty good right now! With Wargroove’s Q1 release on the horizon, you can expect to hear the last of these tracks soon!

In another bit of fun news, our friends at Grasshopper Manufacture are releasing their new game, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes tomorrow! Not only is it from the mad mind of the fantastic Suda51 of Grasshopper Manufacture, but it allows for some fun player customization with tee shirts devoted to a whole bunch of indie games. If you squint hard enough you might notice a familiar someone from Wargroove making her digital tee shirt debut!

Don’t forget you can now wishlist Wargroove on Steam and take part in our Faction Quiz to find out where your allegiance lies on our updated website. Let us know your faction result!

Until next time!

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Speaking your language!

Hello everyone!

And hello Q1 2019 (eek!). It’s an exciting time here, with the team gearing up for Wargroove’s launch. I know you’re all excited to find out the exact release date, so expect more details on that very soon!

In the meanwhile, today we have a quick update on localisation. In our mega end of December blog post we announced that Wargroove will be playable in English, GermanSpanishFrench, Italian,  Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese!

We can now confirm that these languages are now complete, and will be available at launch – woo hoo!

Here’s a little teaser gif to see the localisation in action…

Wargroove’s localisation is being done by the fantastic team at Shloc, who some of you may recognise for their work on some of the team’s favourite recent games, such as the Dragon Quest series, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, The Last Guardian and Yokai Watch! We’re really pleased to be working with them, and can’t wait for you to get hands-on with the localised game soon.

It’s also worth saying that while these are all of the languages planned for initial release, we may look at adding more further down the line following player feedback, and of course depending on how the launch goes!

That’s it for now, if you haven’t already don’t forget to wishlist Wargroove on Steam and make sure to take part in our quiz to find out which faction you should pledge allegiance to ahead of the launch. We do love getting tweets with your results and seeing how many of you are necromancy-loving members of the Felheim Legion!

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