Steelbound Sky

Steelbound Sky is an iOS game developed with UDK under the company name Witherwood Studios. The game’s intent is to allow players, whether casual or experienced, to engage in the intricate challenges of traditional Shmups without the need of an additional, physical and accurate input device. It was released on February 27th 2016 on the App Store.

The concept of the game started years ago after the smoke of final projects and exams of university had cleared. There was an idea to utilize the strengths of modern touch devices with the backdrop of the tried and tested Shoot’em up formula. Rather than using a ship to control and fire player’s own projectile’s, player’s would use wind created via touch gestures to deflect and manipulate projectiles.

It was simple, it made sense. The simplistic touch controls of the addictive swipe and slash games like Fruit Ninja melded together with the excitement and in depth gameplay of classics like Ikaruga. With that Steelbound Sky was born.

Early development was encouraging, as many members were contributing multiple ideas and content to the venture. An early prototype of the game’s core mechanic brewed in the first few months and the design document flourished. But as time progressed, so did people’s attention and commitment to the game. (Including my own in these early stages)

Early concepts were encouraging

As I moved down to a different city for a job, the progress of the game continued to slow, and eventually came to a complete stop. I rekindled the project after about a year after, but meetings had to be done remotely online. Though some content was quite promising, consistent work contribution was also varying to maybe a few hours each month. The game had entered development limbo.

Starting near the beginning of the 2015, with team members looking forward to other ventures, and me looking for a game to complete, I decided to take full control of the project. I envisioned a complete game with multiple levels and challenges as oppose to a tech demo. At that time the project had only one scene for a level. There were some 3D models in the background, along with four 3D enemies modeled/animated but there were no official enemy waves properly designed or implemented. However, the core game was still there and I saw potential in the project. I didn’t want my work go to waste, so I pressed on-wards on my own.

The state of the game near the beginning of 2015

Continuing to utilize UDK; programming, enemy wave design, UI, lightning, AI, and marketing were completed by myself while enemy patterns, environment design/placement, QA, assembling the game together, and many general ideas were mostly my solo work. By working independently, I was actively engaged in every aspect of the project’s development life cycle.

This experience had two main challenges:

  1. Sourcing, assembling and maintaining all the content while learning something new very often.

  2. Making lots of decisions.