Turn based games have been around for decades, but the steep learning curve, patience required, and often difficult gameplay mechanics have often pushed gamers away for equally as long. Tabletop gaming, much like video games, has an enormous fan base of passionate players, many of which are looking for a unique experience. Developer Hit the Sticks hopes to take some of their most sought after features from tabletop favorites and implement them into a video game of their own, Just Tactics.
The team initially began as only three people – head designer Jordan Brock, along with an artist by the name of Oleg and a programmer, Aubrey. They all work locally, within a confined office, while their sound engineer, Dave, works from his home studio.
When I pegged Brock with the question of where he got the idea from, his response was one I was very familiar with as a PC gamer myself.“I use to run Counter Strike tournaments online, but I stopped because you can cheat at FPS games on the PC, easily. Aimbots. I wanted to make a game on the PC that you could play competitively without any cheating.” Having always had an interest in tabletop games such as Warhammer and Battle Tech, the idea for a turn based strategy game like Just Tactics seemed natural. For now the team is focusing on the PC for a number of reasons, namely because they are a small team working on a minimal budget, and it’s their first game together.
To make the process of portable to multiple platforms, the team used a Java engine called Jmonkey. This free tool has allowed them to perform everything they were looking for, so in return they’ve made quite a bit of their code open source and available at their dev blog.
A key component of the game is determinism, or the conditions used to determine an outcome. Movement and combat are deterministic and governed by action and hit point stats, whereas the card system takes the opposite approach. The number of cards drawn each turn, cards available in the deck, and when a player can play his or her cards are all determined by the number of controlled Satellite Uplinks the player has on the map. Brock believes that their title offers finely balanced gameplay, stating “between determinism, which allows the most skilled player to win, and uncertainty, “does my opponent really have another hard counter in their hand?”’
In regards to a pricing strategy, the team has taken an approach similar to Mojang and their hit title Minecraft. “As Just Tactics gains more content, we will continue to up the price until the game is “done.” Although, even after it is “done” we plan to keep adding more units, Cards, etcetera,” Brock articulated to me. He finished with “When the price of the game rises, anyone already in the community is still good to go, you do not have to pay for DLC , thus there is an incentive to buy sooner than later.“
The recent release of Firaxis’ X-COM may have breathed new life into a genre that was slowly fading, despite its rabid poplarity in the 90s with titles like Fallout: Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Final Fantasy Tactics. This may be the perfect time for a release such as Just Tactics, considering a new batch of gamers have suddenly acquired a taste for the genre. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as things unfold and their strategy comes to fruition. Until then, let us know what your favorite tactics or turn-based games have been, tabletop or otherwise.
You can play a free demo of Just Tactics on their site right now.