Preston’s Diamond Wars is the new team-based, resource-hoarding arena battler that’s taking dot big bang by storm. Around a year in the making, it evolved significantly over time, with weekly playtest sessions becoming hotly contested events within the dbb team. We caught up with lead developer Anders Elfgren to talk about the development process, evolution, and release of Diamond Wars – and to ask if there are any killer strats the world is still sleeping on!
Hey Anders! First: could you tell us about your role in making Preston’s Diamond Wars?
Hi! I started working on Diamond Wars back in April 2022 as the sole developer, and have worked on it full time since then. As a result I’ve written most of the code and set up most of the objects in the game – and so, as a result, I introduced most of the bugs, too! But of course the game was very much a team effort. We had at least five people working directly on the game, and Preston’s Fire Games team provided invaluable feedback and guidance.
After around a year of development, how did it feel to see the game being played on stream by Preston, his friends, and thousands of players?
That was honestly a very crazy feeling. I’ve been in the games industry for 17 years now, and while I’m lucky enough to have been part of many successful launches, I’ve never had a release quite like this. To see one of the largest YouTubers playing it as a launch event – and then the number of players growing every day – it’s something most developers will never experience. I’m really happy it’s been received so well.
Making this game seemed to be quite a journey, from the initial demo with teams and bridge building, to a game with various intertwined systems like perks, multiple currencies, a range of structures to build, pinging teammates, and so forth. Did the scale of the game snowball over time?
We knew from the start roughly what we wanted to make – a multiplayer game where you collect resources to buy upgrades and buildings to protect your base, and expand throughout the map. But the path definitely didn’t go directly from A to B. There was at least one large pivot where we changed trajectory quite significantly, and there were times where we cut back and streamlined the game.
When you plan out a game like this, you try to think of all of the things that you’ll end up doing – and without fail, there will be a lot that you miss. I initially thought we could have a releasable game in Q3 or Q4 of 2022, but as we realized the game’s potential, the desire to change, polish, and improve the game meant the process got longer.
The game developed visually over time, too. How does it feel as the developer, when final visuals start making their way into the game?
I did make the original 3D assets for almost all of the items in the game. Now, the thing with dot big bang is: due to its voxel based approach, even I – someone who’s not very good at making art – was able to actually make assets that looked half-decent! Much better than I would have been able to in a traditional 2D or 3D engine.
I definitely felt some pride in that, and when the time to replace it came, some sadness. But it also came with a lot of joy, seeing the game slowly going from half-decent to very pretty! And now I can show the game with even more pride to my family and friends.
Playtesting seemed central to development for this game – and the dbb team got some serious rivalries going! Aside from spotting bugs, what role did playtesting take in developing Diamond Wars?
Oh wow, the playtesting was just absolutely crucial to making the game good. Sometimes, you can think you’ve made a really cool thing – only for nobody to use it, or understand it. At that point you need to either make it more clear, or remove it altogether.
In one playtest the trampoline was incredibly popular, meaning wherever you ran you were almost guaranteed to be yeeted out of the map. That was fun… for five minutes. So we made it more expensive.
We also had problems with people not playing very aggressively, leading to rounds taking 40 or 50 minutes to play out. This led to the introduction of things like the building limit, increased building cost, rubies spawning mostly in the centre, the sudden death phase, and more.
Were there any big hurdles that came up during development that the team had to get creative to overcome?
Early on I realized that, for performance reasons, we couldn’t let the players freely place blocks, as you might in other games, to get around the map. But we knew that building your way around the map was a core feature. So, I took the time to add the bridge planning mode. This let us keep the number of entities down. We also colour-coded bridges to indicate the owning team, gave them that slight hang, and made them feel like a unique aspect of the game. The way they get destroyed created that fun Indiana Jones-y feeling when you run across a falling bridge.
The game runs on computers, phones, tablets – anything with a browser. This means different screen shapes for the UI, and different input methods for players – mouse keys, controllers, and touch screens. Was it a challenge making sure people can play on such a diverse range of devices?
Both yes and no. Adding gamepad support for example was quite easy, because controllers map well to a mouse and keyboard. Making sure you could play it with touch was a little bit trickier because it required us to think a bit more about how games are played on mobile devices.
All in all it’s not a particularly UI-heavy game, so there weren’t too many changes – but our UI system is still quite barebones, and there was definitely some pain involved in making sure the UI looked good on the screen. The good news there is that it’s high up on our list of things to improve. I’m also working on improving the engine’s input scripting interface, which will allow for more natural gameplay code.
dot big bang is an ever-evolving platform, with new features and engine upgrades being deployed regularly. Did anything that was released mid-development prove useful?
Definitely. The editor in general has just become so much better over time, in all areas. The fact that we have a proper template editing with a diff is just so helpful. The arrival of terrain is another huge one – it just makes the game look so good! We also got host migration support in, allowing the game to continue even if the assigned host of the game leaves.
Are there any features of the game that you’re particularly pleased with, or abilities and mechanics that you think players are sleeping on?
I’m quite happy with the way the upgrade store in particular turned out. They’re fully 3D in the game world, with nice juicy animations and effects that feel really satisfying. The plantable bomb is also ridiculously over-animated, but I had fun doing it. I think the animations work well with the sound effects, and – of course – the gameplay.
As for mechanics that players are sleeping on… I’m just going to say that there is a certain something you can do with portals that almost no-one knows about, and it is super powerful! Figure it out and use it before it gets nerfed!
What’s next for Diamond Wars? Can you tell us about anything that’s coming in the future?
I don’t want to promise anything game specific, but friend support is eventually coming to the platform and being able to matchmake together will be a great addition. Also, what is the deal with a game being called Diamond Wars – and not yet having diamonds in it…? 🙂