Monday 10 January 2022

Voyaging onward...

 A while back, we admitted that we've been more than a bit rubbish with our blog and social updates until recently... and we've only nearly gone and done it again! Blame a combination or Christmas, New Year, COVID and other family/life challenges - it was something of a perfect storm, apologies for a couple of quiet weeks!

On the subject of being rubbish with updates, would you believe that our last "year in review" type post was nearly four years ago? With everything that has happened in that time, it feels like a lifetime since then!

Anyway, let's lead off with some great news: welcome back, Stuart DeVille! Yes, the winds of life have blown in a direction that has seen the return of our original master of monsters, and between him and Chloe, we're now accelerating towards filling out our crew of minions and bosses.

Cap'n Krackerz brought a new vision for the enemy characters

Last year was a tough one, no doubt about it: all the plans for Play Expo Margate 2021 that we had started laying the foundations for over a year earlier were well and truely scuppered and our "life comes first" maxim was pushed to a level we had never even thought possible as the entire crew wrestled with the impact of the COVID pandemic. But even in the face of this leviathan, the voyage continued, and the calmer waters of the autumn was a most welcome break.

And despite us battening down the hatches for much of the first half of the year, a great deal of progress has been made: work on the defiance-mode stage with Queen Ella Gator, the fabulous carnival drag-queen boss of Salty Swamp was finally completed, giving us our second boss battle, so it's fitting that Stuart has re-joined us just as we have finished bringing his last creation to life!

Underwater arena "The Locker" added our fifth playing field: this was always envisaged as Bullion's "final stage", so the threat level has been dialed up. As well as fighting off tough crab-man enemies, players have to keep their air levels topped up, and also watch out for the giant squid tentacles that surround the arena. The overall atmosphere of the arena is one of deadly beauty, so full credit to Paul J and Chloe for bringing this together.

The Locker: Beautiful to look at - lethal to play!

The new voyage mode of play has added for longer and more varied matches as players fight it out across a number of islands in a combination of avarice-mode's flat-out treasure grabbing and defiance's boss battles. Similar to the "cup" mode of gameplay in many racing games, the overall winner is the player who claims victory on the most islands... but in true Bullion style, should the whole crew wipe out - on any island - it's game over!

Finally, there have been a host of other tweaks and enhancements across the board; the AI players now use the dash/rush escape mechanic, the ghost characters have all been upgraded (again!), and a whole slew of new visual effects, UI and cut-sequence enhancements have been rolled in. Our initial release platforms have been decided, and it definitely feels like everything is coming together.

Of course, the highlight of the year has to have been getting back out on the road and putting Bullion in front of the public. Having people at Play Expo Blackpool remember playing the game when we were last there (in 2019!) and commenting on all the improvements and additions we had made since was awesome, and being part of the very first GDLX and getting the opinions of other developers was similarly amazing. Getting to finally catch up with old friends - Badger from Stoffel Presents, TristaBytes, AsobiTech's Quang, the Replay Events team - was a huge morale booster, and having Stuart re-join is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Now, as we head into 2022, there are stormy clouds above us once again; like the villain in a bad movie franchise, COVID is back in its new omicron incarnation, and right now it's difficult to say whether we are heading back into the storm or if the skies will clear again. But we sail on with hope: every enhancement, every feature, every tune-up and tweak is a step closer to the finished article, and in the face of this uncertainty, it's reassuring to think about all the support we've had. As turbulent as 2022 may be, we are still confident that it's going to be a great year for Bullion - and be sure to keep an eye on our social media as we've got some big announcements coming up!

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