‘STRACO’ is Like a Whole New Game

STRACO: Episode One (of three planned) has effectively been re-launched after debuting in November of last year, to the point that my original review really no longer applies. To start, the bare, tileset graphics and character sprites have been revamped. Their plainness was not necessarily a critique before, but it was possible to lose enemies against the background in certain situations. The cleaner, sharper environments certainly make that a non-issue with the update.

Not happy with just rebooting the visuals, NVO Games has gone back and overhauled both the HUD and UI, making each much more appealing and simpler to use. All of the vitals and pertinent information are now easily readable and accessible, and just getting from one option to the next is smoother, cutting down on confusion / click-throughs. General difficulty and the game’s balance have been tweaked as well. Enemy fire is noticeably slower, giving the player more time to react to incoming waves and counter. These fixes also carry over to the Survival and TD modes that now support online leaderboards.

While the emphasis is still a proactive (think almost twin-stick shooter) approach to tower defense, an RPG aspect (mining gold for credits that functions as experience points) has been introduced, adding permanent, unlockable upgrades not just for the player / vehicles, but for a ready-set allotment of deployable turrets. Less a random purchase from a ‘store’, consider these turrets more as personal extensions of your own abilities. You can assign and reassign each as needed, opting for light to heavy firepower, or mining / repair. Leveling up these ‘sidekicks’ also permanently adjusts their effectiveness, with boosts to health, shielding, number of cannons, etc.

The story still may not be your type, relying on cheap humor and bizarre avatars to carry the typical alien invasion tale, but there’s no doubt the gameplay side of things has seen a huge boon to its playability. Even if you’ve gone through the game once before, you’ll essentially be playing a brand new one after applying the update. And for those of you that missed or passed on the game in November, this new version is undoubtedly the better starting point.

The much-improved format is good news for STRACO: Episode Two, which is in the early stages of development with a planned release date sometime in the summer. You can follow NVO Games here.

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STRACO Ep1 - DLC Screen

STRACO Ep1 - DLC Screen2

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17 thoughts on “‘STRACO’ is Like a Whole New Game”

  1. Wow, what a transformation. Everything is much easier to understand now. The game always had promise but it seemed impenetrable to the point of being offputting. These updates make a huge difference.

    1. That’s the word I was searching for, I think. Offputting to the trial user. The new version starts you off on Survival to get straight into the action, too, instead of being dropped into the campaign. I’m glad he decided to overhaul and -conflate- (<—- Facebook humor) the existing ideas into a more-streamlined core. The series is in a much better position for Episode 2 now.

    2. Thanks! 🙂 I’m so appreciative of all of these positive comments. Not that the negative comments weren’t inspirational too. Without those I would have just plowed ahead with EP2 and that wouldn’t have been good…

      Impenetrable, too difficult, ugly background tiles, bad box art, those light trails… the list goes on and on. But hey, at least I’m learning from my mistakes right? 😉

    3. Isn’t that the truth. Keep up the good work. I’m enjoying your game!

  2. I’m (Bio) shocked to see you get this out so soon. I wanted to point out that if you go to their YouTube channel you will see where they were 2 years ago and in my opinion this game looks like a labor of love. And usually when you see that you end up with a good game and in this case that is a fact.

    1. Ah yes, Ken Levine would just love your BioHumor. 🙂

      Labor of love is the perfect way to put it. It’s really great to see that too, putting in all the work on the -original- game. He could have just as easily abandoned it to start work on the second, but now there’s a solid base to work off of for part two, and owners of the original won’t feel chumped or let down. Always nice to champion games / developers that go the extra mile to make things better.

    2. I was told that I was being stupid on more than one occasion. That I should either put the work into EP2 or create a whole new EP1 “HD Version” because EP1 wasn’t going to see additional sales at this point.

      In the end, I felt this was the “right” thing to do, even if it doesn’t make much business sense. I never was very good with money. Also I didn’t want to have people like EP2 only to go try EP1 and find a completely different (and uglier) game.

      I do feel a little bad about the 2 people who bought the game 2 days before the new version. Hopefully they like the changes and aren’t too upset at the loss of their saved games…

      FYI, EP1 has exactly 120 sales as of March 23rd. The sales report seems to be stuck on that date right now so I don’t know the effect the update has had so far.

      Oh and there are 3 episodes planned. Hopefully I can get them all done before XBLIG is discontinued. 😉

    3. Eh, you know, none of us here, writing / reading / making the games themselves, are very bright. We’re dealing in an archaic, no longer being developed / improved corner of the video game market (XNA and XBLIG). True, most developers are also working on PC versions and tapping into other, more-profitable markets, and from a business perspective, XBLIG is typically not a sound move. For the startup Devs and others that just want to say they’ve released a game on console, it’s worth it, but most would think you’re crazy to focus on XBLIG as a viable business move.

      That said, we’re all doing it for the love of the games / market, however small it may be. Sales are nice, but putting out a product of love and / or continuing to improve upon a existing release are what it’s really about.

      Money talks, however, and most of us will listen. You’re not the first Dev I’ve heard from with lower than expected sales. That’s disheartening to hear, and I’m sure it’s even harder for you, since you’ve put in the time / effort. I don’t know how much articles like this can help a game that’s already been released / passed over, but at least you know you’ve done the right thing and made a better game because of it. It’s all lessons / part of the experience.

    4. You can say that again!

      I’m not surprised that my game didn’t sell well. I made a ton of rookie mistakes, and not many people hit a home run the first time at bat anyway. I’m taking this as a huge learning experience, not only in game development but also in how the marketplace works.

      Poor XNA and XBLIG. Without them I’d still be thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if…” rather than have my game on a “real life console”! I’ll always remember them fondly.

      I’ve been looking into Monogame for my Post-XNA future. So far it seems really promising. The idea of putting my game on Mac and Linux is really appealing as well.

    5. Yeah, first time out is -usually- for the experience. Finding the right genre / style is key, too. For XBLIG, that means boobs and guns. It’s also sad that Microsoft never really pushed the program as hard as it could have.

      You’ve got the right idea, though. Make a good game, then push it to as many platforms and get it in front of as many eyes as you can. 🙂

    6. Or perhaps even boob-guns?

      Heh… Mommy’s Best sure knows how to make an inside joke! At least I think it’s an inside joke…

    7. Still one of the breast… er, -best- box art designs around. That’s how you sell. Mention ‘Boob Guns’ in your pitch to me, and I’ll fund that project myself!

    8. Wow, I’ve not looked at those old videos in a long time. Has it really been two years? Time flies!

      Thanks for giving my game a shot! It’s awesome to hear from people who enjoy the thing I’ve been working on for so long. You give me the strength to carry on! 🙂

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