Changes to Supporter Tiers

I’ve made a few changes to the reward tiers to hopefully provide better value to supporters.

Firstly, I noticed some people were happy to support us at the Worker tier, but had no interest in getting their name in the credits. So I thought, what could I offer instead?

One of the unique things about This Grand Life is the city maps you play on, which are created from real cities. I go through a special process to create them and it took two months to figure out how to do it.

I thought I could offer an insight into this process, so I wrote a manual describing how to create the game’s maps using satellite data. You can even follow the instructions to create your own home town!

The manual will be available to all Worker tier supporters and above.

Secondly, after a request I have added a tier called ‘The Manager’. In addition to the other stuff, it also gives you a custom portrait in the game of you, your friend or your pet. You get a high resolution version for your personal use as well.

That’s it for now. I’m still working on changes to the Education system, which I’ll talk more about next time.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |June 22nd, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Alpha 1.2 and Subscription Services

Alpha 1.2 of This Grand Life has been released. There are two new major features. The first is Collectibles, which was shown in the previous video. The second is Subscription Services, which is demonstrated in the following video:

Subscriptions provide useful information and services that help you achieve your life goals. For example, the Lively Livin’ sub gives you a weekly tip on how to play the game. On the other end of the scale is the Grand Groceries sub, which delivers fresh groceries to your door every 4 weeks. It’s more expensive than buying from the Shopping Mall, but it means you won’t have to travel there every month to buy your own. There are currently 5 subscriptions in total and I’m still working on a few more.

Each subscription costs money, and the price increases with inflation. So you have to think about whether keeping a subscription is worth it. The Collector’s Corner subscription is useless if you’re not interested in buying collectibles, or have completed all your collections.

I’ve also updated the weekly summary panel, and now you can click on each goal to see a breakdown of your progress towards achieving that goal.

The latest version is available from Itch.io. Here’s the full list of changes:

New Features

  • Implemented auction house at Town Hall
  • Added 5 different collectibles
  • Added Social Services Manager occupation to Town Hall
  • Added second gameplay track and implemented song switching
  • Added 50% off clothing coupon
  • Added Subscriptions to Weekly Summary
  • Added Lively Livin’, Grand Groceries, Collector’s Corner, Ester’s Estates, TV PlusPlus subscriptions

Gameplay Changes

  • Auction now only starts once player submits starting bid
  • Real estate prices now change with economic growth, rent prices change with inflation
  • Reduced Groundskeeper hygiene decay by half
  • Removed spending time required to go to real estate auction
  • Increased health recovery from exercising
  • Increased fun from watching sports game
  • Significantly increased base time taken for education courses
  • Major readjustment of experience requirements for some jobs
  • Lots of rebalanced health and hygiene actions
  • Becoming tutor now requires a bachelor of science

Fixes/Improvements

  • Removed Fine Jewellery from Shopping Mall
  • Added sound effects for auction
  • Added experience provided by each occupation to tooltip
  • Changed tutorial Shopping Mall to MallWart
  • Updated logo
  • Fixed missing Security Uniform from Clothing Store
  • Hide extra space on business panel when tip not being shown
  • Clicking on profile buttons while window already open now closes it
  • Reworked weekly summary to include breakdown of each goal
  • Updated second tutorial with new weekly summary details
  • Doubled speed of location text
  • Trait needs now editable from xml
  • Fixed graduating from shopaholic and alcoholic courses not removing needs effect
  • Fixed life goal sticking when going to start scenario and then going to start custom game straight after
  • Added short description for cities on city select screen
  • Made InfoNet searching case-insensitive
  • Cleaned up InfoNet navigation
  • Added Education courses provided by locations to InfoNet and search
  • Fixed missing Diploma Of Security Mgmt from Trade School
  • Decreased main menu/resuming loading time by ~66%
  • Fixed study action not disappearing straight away when completing education
  • Fixed property taxes amount charged in cents
  • Removed jobs with no openings from Apply For Job page
  • Added button to location panel to view all possible jobs

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |June 14th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Buying Collectibles At Auction

A new feature in the next version (1.2) of This Grand Life will be collectibles. I’ve made a video update demonstrating this feature:

To start a collection, firstly you have to purchase a container from the Shopping Mall. For example to start collecting Stamps, you need a Stamp Collecting Book. I found requiring purchasing a container was the best way to do it, as it allows the player to completely ignore collectibles if they’re not interested in it.

Once you have something to store collectibles, you can attend auctions at the Town Hall to start bidding on them.

If you win the auction, the item gets added to your collection. You can only have one of each collectible, even though there may be multiples of the same item up for auction. Each item has a different rarity and prices that reflect their rarity.

In total there are currently about $50k worth of collectible items, ranging from Doll, Coin, Stamp, Video Game and Jewellery Collections. They all contribute towards your possessions life goal, so they provide an alternative to buying Fridges and TVs in working towards that goal.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |June 2nd, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

This Grand Life – Alpha Access Available Now

This Grand Life is entering alpha development. I’ve created a Let’s Play style video to demonstrate how to get started with a custom game:

Purchasing the game will give you access to all future versions up to release, as well as a Steam key if we get on Steam. You can do so from Itch.io:

If you want to try it out, there is a demo which includes the current tutorials you can download from Itch.io
or IndieDB.

And finally, remember to vote on Steam Greenlight to help get the game onto Steam.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |May 19th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Going Forward in This Grand Life

It looks like we’re not going to meet the Kickstarter goal, I guess I went into this without a big enough fan base. I’d still like to say a big THANK YOU to those of you who have shown support for the project.

I’m still going to finish This Grand Life, but with a different timeline and priorities. I’ll be ditching the scenarios, which would have required the most custom art assets that the Kickstarter was to partially fund. Instead, my efforts will go towards adding features to the custom game mode that require a minimum amount of new art. As an example, one of these new features I’m currently working on is an auction system and the ability to invest in real estate.

Once I’ve updated the current tutorial and made the custom game playable from start to finish, I’ll be entering Alpha development. The game will then be purchasable from Itch.io. Alpha will be about adding more content, features and improving the core game. More in-game music will also be added if we get enough funding during this stage.

So that’s the plan. I feel like I have something special here, and I hope you’ll join in the development journey with me! For regular updates, you can follow me on Twitter and for major updates, sign up to the newsletter.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |April 26th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Celebrity Concerts, Steam Sales And Other Special Events

Special events can occur each week depending on city locations, possessions you own and the scenario/custom game you are playing.

One special event is the Celebrity Concert, which has a small chance of happening at the Stadium each week. When a Celebrity Concert is happening, you can pay extortionate amounts of money to go see your favourite pop star. The benefit is that you get a massive increase in your Fun and Happiness needs.

One of a PC gamer’s most popular events is Valve’s Steam Sales – now you can participate in them virtually! If you own a PC computer, there is a chance each week of a Steam Sale occurring. Similar to the celebrity concert, you can greatly increase your Fun and Happiness needs by buying games at ridiculously low prices. However, one drawback is your Health will suffer slightly.

There are ‘negative’ events too, like your Aunt coming to visit and using up part of your weekly time before you’ve done anything useful. These things happen sometimes and you can’t control them, just like in real life.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |April 10th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Character Creation – Traits And Privileges

Traits are one of the interesting aspects in This Grand Life’s character creation. Your character is given a starting number of privilege points, which can be spent on positive and negative traits. The number of privilege points you start with is determined by where you were born.

The Silver Spoon is our flagship trait, where your wealthy parents give you money each month to spend however you like. Good for beginners, the extra cash makes paying bills much easier.

One of the more interesting negative traits is Alcoholic. This trait adds an extra needs bar (in addition to Hunger, Fun, Hygiene, Health and Happiness) that you need to satisfy. Logically, you can satisfy the need by drinking alcohol. It adds an additional challenge to balancing your budget when you need to keep feeding your addiction.

It doesn’t need to be a lifelong addiction, but it won’t be easy to cure either. You can apply for the Alcoholics Anonymous course at the Town Hall, and if you successfully complete it the Alcoholic trait will be removed.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |March 29th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Creating a realistic job market for This Grand Life

In this article I will talk about the research that went into creating a realistic job market for This Grand Life.

Just as in real life, there are different careers and occupations you can pursue. Some are harder to enter than others. As an example, to become a University Professor you need a PHD and years of experience, while a Janitor requires no experience. Of course, this difference in requirements is reflected in their respective salaries.

The first step – work out the career path from the entry level position all the way to the highest and most presitigious occupations. This was pretty straight forward, just visit careers websites and read some of their advice. For example, the education career path in the game goes something like this: Tutor -> Lecturer -> Research Scholar -> Professor. The next step was looking for the relative real life salaries of each occupation. I used websites like SalaryExpert which provide a nice overview of salaries in the US.

Based on these salaries, I could tweak the requirements and opportunities of each job to balance gameplay. For example, did you know a Janitor gets paid slightly more than a Kitchen Hand? I could bump up the experience requirements for a Janitor slightly to reflect this, or make the Kitchen Hand -> Chef career path more rewarding. I came across some pretty obscure sounding occupations during my research, like the Digestor Operator:

Some jobs even have multiple career paths. In the banking career path you can get an entry level position as a Credit Analyst with a Finance Degree. Or you could start as a Loan Officer if you don’t have a degree yet, but have lots of sales experience. Eventually you will need to get that qualification to progress to higher tier occupations, but in the meantime you could start off earning a higher wage while studying at the same time.

To further make things more interesting, your Fun need decreases at a faster rate the more stressful and higher paying your position. So if you still have a crappy TV but work as an Investment Banker, expect to spend a lot of time each week satisfying the Fun need. Consider buying an expensive VR headset to satisfy that Fun need, or go watch Sports Games at the Stadium more often. It’s OK, you can afford it!

You can download the free prototype from Itch.io, IndieDB or MediaFire and give it a try.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |January 14th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

This Grand Life prototype now available!

You can now download the free prototype from Itch.io, IndieDB or MediaFire.

It includes three tutorials explaining the basic game mechanics, set in the town of Tutorialville, located in the great country of Tutorialstan! The prototype also includes a work-in-progress Custom Game mode. It currently has a limited number of locations and includes the Chef career path, as well as some more ordinary occupations like janitor and salesperson.

You can also select your avatar and select some traits. Your starting traits is one of the important themes I want to highlight in the game. I want your starting conditions to have an impact on how difficult life is for you as the player. So hopefully you find that it’s much harder to have spare time when you are an alcoholic and need to drink all the time. Or find it easier to pay the rent when your rich parents give you free money each month.

I’ve found it challenging coming up with a cover image that represents the game accurately. At first I thought using a real-life city as the game map was a really cool game feature, but no one seemed to care! I spent hours and hours getting it to work! So I decided to go with something cleaner. As part of the design process, I came up with four key words to describe the tone of the game – humourous, personal, financial, choice. Then I looked up other life simulation games to see how they designed their cover art. Eventually I settled on having three characters, each representing a different part of the game. I commissioned an artist to create it for me:

The woman with the shopping bags represents buying and owning possessions. The man with a bag of money represents accumulating wealth. The student with books represents gaining knowledge through learning. These are the three main objectives in the game, along with the fourth objective – lifetime happiness.

So remember to try the prototype, which should give you an idea of what this game is about. It’s still rough around the edges and there isn’t much content, but the core mechanics are there. If you find it interesting, you can join our mailing list to receive news.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |January 2nd, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

This Grand Life – New game announcement

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update, I had to take a break from writing after the roller coaster of releasing my last game on Steam. I’ve been busy working on the prototype for my next game in the meantime. At first I experimented with making a business simulation game. In this game you were a corporation. You would build businesses, purchase goods and try to sell them for a profit. It would be backed by a deep supply/demand and economic simulation. It was an interesting concept, but not immediately and obviously fun. I also realised the scope was too big for a solo dev, so put that project to the side.

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I was still interested in making some sort of economic simulation game, and was inspired by a game from my childhood, Jones in the Fast Lane. So I ended up with another prototype, this time with the player represented by a single person instead of a corporation. The player travels around a map based on a real life city, trying to satisfy their needs (hunger, fun, health, etc). At the same time, they must work in order to afford shelter, pay their bills and achieve their Life Goals.

Now this was a prototype I found interesting to play, and so This Grand Life was born.

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This Grand Life is a tactical life simulator with a focus on personal finances and time management. Cruise your way through life with a silver spoon, or struggle endlessly to find employment as a convicted felon. You cannot control your past, but you can change your future.

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Your life is divided into weeks. You try to accomplish as much as you can each week while economic conditions and special events create interesting choices to think about. Do I go to work this week, or take part in the Hot Dog Eating competition at the park? Should I spend time looking for a better job, or stick with my current job until economic conditions improve? There are lots of choices you can make that will determine your path in This Grand Life.

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I will be releasing the free prototype some time in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can sign up for the mailing list to receive news!

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Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |December 5th, 2016|GameDev|0 Comments