Tribe of the Accord DevLog - Introduction

Cover Image for Tribe of the Accord DevLog - Introduction
Shaun Michael Stone
Shaun Michael Stone

Hello, and thanks for joining me as we explore the development process for Tribe of the Accord, my stone age survival game. My name’s Shaun, and I’m a tech lead in London who also writes and develops games. This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to my latest game and novel: ‘Tribe of the Accord’. In this series, we’ll dig deep into the design process, delving into areas of interest such as story, game design, art, programming, and audio. In this first post, we’ll walk through the major concepts of the game, my take on the survival genre, and how I used a Game Design Document to structure my plans for the game. Let’s get started!

Main Menu of Tribe of the Accord

What is the game about?

Tribe of the Accord is loosely set during the Stone Age, in the time of the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. I’ve always been intrigued by survival in a time where you couldn’t just pop down to your local supermarket to get your essentials—you had to earn it. It was a tough time, no matter how you look at it. There was a constant need for food, clothing, shelter, and fuel for fires. They had to deal with wild predators, extreme weather, and other, competing tribes. In addition to this, they had to worry about disease, injury, and infection, all without modern medicine. It was a true test of strength, endurance, and courage.

Campsite gameplay in Tribe of the Accord

This franchise is my take on the survival genre, introducing a captivating story alongside an exciting game. My primary focus was always to tell an engaging story with interesting and strong, yet flawed characters. The game takes place just before the novel and focuses on Adira, our protagonist. She has grown old enough to venture out into the wild alone, and wishes to prove to Torion—the one who raised her—that she is tough enough to endure the dangers of a demanding world, as well as life itself.

The original idea for the game stemmed from a story I’ve had in my head for many years. Stephen King once said there are some ideas that stick around in your memory, and this, for me, is one of them. This idea would never be easy to execute because of its ambitious nature, and the story has been iterated many times to get to where it is now. Good things take time, and, in a way, I’ve been quite lucky to have the time needed to develop the story, characters, and game properly without having to rush due to a budget or deadline.

Who is paying for it?

I’ve personally funded this project, and while I’ve done much of the work myself, I’ve budgeted for hiring those with skills that are outside my capabilities, most notably: artists. I worked on the code myself, which is probably the most expensive part of building an indie game. Juggling all the areas of game development can be challenging, so I created a ‘Game Design Document’. This served as the game blueprint, allowing me to define the scope of the game and guide the direction of the project. It also acts as documentation for any potential freelancers I take on in various focus areas. I wanted to be quite thorough with this document, and having it online and accessible makes the development process and communication with others a lot more seamless.

Someone writing with a pen

You can use any co-editing online tool, such as Microsoft Word online or Google Docs, but I chose Dropbox Paper for its simple markdown style. My ‘Game Design Document’ started as a single page, and then I segmented the pages into their own areas of concern as the project grew. Some examples of subpages are: contributors, an overview of what the game is about, the aesthetic style of the game, and other popular and successful games that inspire me. I created a summary page to link all these so viewers can get straight to the area that they are interested in. We’ll be exploring these areas further in future episodes.

Throughout the entire planning process, there was something I always had in the back of my mind to ensure I was managing my own expectations, and that was scope creep. This is basically a concept where a project keeps changing or growing in an uncontrolled manner. All games have the potential to fall into this trap. Managing scope is extremely important in the software business. One must establish what the project requires to make sure you don’t fall into an endless cycle of iteration, which can result in never completing or releasing the game you’re working on.

There is this concept introduced by Eric Ries called the (MVP), for Minimum Viable Product. It involves ensuring that a product—in this case, my game—has enough features to attract early adopters. So, I plan to build the most barebones implementation of my game that is still playable and fun, and then only after releasing it can I start adding newly requested features, gathering player feedback along the way. This way, I can ensure the direction of the game development matches what the players want.

For example, what if I were to create a complex weapon system—which would take a lot of time and effort, as well as money—and it doesn’t work well or the players don’t care for it? That would be a waste of resources and would only delay the release even further, possibly to the point of it never being released at all because of the copious amount of extra work. If, on the other hand, I concentrate on the fundamentals such as the main game loop and the core mechanics, I can lock down the scope and feel more confident about timelines.

How do you keep motivated?

Developing a game is a huge commitment, and my other responsibilities keep me from working on the game full time. Tribe of the Accord receives half a day, or sometimes a full day on a weekend. Every aspect of the game, no matter how small, demands time. For example, I may need to create a new animation for an enemy sprite sheet in the game code. During the week, an artist may work on the sprite frames while I’m busy with my day job. Then, the artist sends me the assets at the end of the week so I can integrate them into the game over the weekend.

Passion led us written on the floor

Without passion, motivation, and dedication to the project, it would not be possible to see Tribe of the Accord—or any indie game, for that matter—to the end. I understand now how some developers might have an amazing idea and begin with an injection of motivation, but after some time, the project falls apart. That initial excitement ebbs as the demands of the process and other, external factors take centre stage.

Many might fail or fall out of love with projects, and the competition is more demanding than ever. Even though I must budget the time I spend on the project, I’m committed to seeing it through to the end because I am passionate about the project. Also, I expect to see it through because I’ve tempered this passion against realistic goals and expectations. I hope that over the course of this series of posts, you become as excited about Tribe of the Accord as I am. I can't wait to share more details about the game itself with you soon!

Thank you and see you in the next post, where we’ll be exploring the research that helped form the world of Tribe of the Accord!

Book Adaptation

The book adaptation of the game is available in the following stores:

Please share if you enjoyed it