Shyft was in the works across 2010-2011, and we finally decided that we were happy enough with it to release it to the world and move on. Please do note that it is still far from a definitive ‘final release’ build, and that (while not completely plagued with glitches) it will still play up at times.

Download it here: Shyft. The map editor can be found here:

It started off as more of a technical exercise than a plan for a fully-fledged strategy game. We had a load of things floating around that we wanted to get working: LAN multiplayer, a map editor, pathfinding, music… the list goes on. For a long while we didn’t think much would come of it, but in the end we were pleasantly surprised. Shyft has turned out as a nice, clean and simple turn based strategy game with a lot of potential for casual user-end customisation, balancing and modding.

Notable Features:

  • LAN/Online Multiplayer (note: it is a direct connection, so the host will need to forward port 25565 if not playing over LAN)
  • Custom Map maker support
  • Easily editable tilesets
  • Hotseat mode for two players at one computer

We would recommend you start up a game for yourself (if you’re wondering which map, Snowy Peak is a personal favourite) and play a friend. Having them run straight into your carefully planned artillery trap is definitely one of the more satisfying moments you can experience. The game involves a lot more strategy than you’d think at a first glance, especially on a well made map, so you might want to have a go at that as well. We’d love to see any custom maps you come up with, so just drop by our forums. A quick tutorial on how to make maps can be found here.

In theory there is still a lot you could add to Shyft: A campaign mode, a custom campaign maker, single player AIs of varying difficulty, animations, more sound effects… But getting carried away with more and more features is what pushed this release so far back in the first place. Well, that and breaking hard drives, university applications, A-Levels and what have become fairly intense school lives. Please forget that we ever even mentioned an April release. We don’t plan on leaving Shyft here and moving on, there is still the truckload of tidying that comes with all the bugs you find in a beta release, as well as a few other things we have thought of but didn’t get around to implementing. That said, it’s also a great weight off our chests to finally have a fun, stable, working version. It was a lot of fun to make, and we hope you enjoy it.

Yay, screenshots!


Old article during development:

We will be releasing an alpha version of Shyft in the near future. When we do, you’ll be able to find it on this page.

Currently, this game is 100% multiplayer, whether over LAN or on the same computer. The aim is to direct your troops to secure a battlefield’s key locations and destroy the enemy’s forces. Players take turns moving their units and attacking, allowing each unit to move and attack once before their turn is over (or the time for their turn runs out). To win the game, players will have to use the correct units in the correct locations: securing chokes with long-ranged units like artillery, blocking the way with heavy tanks and gathering intel by scouting with air units. The landscapes are varied and have different effects: some tiles will provide you with additional cover, giving you a defense bonus when under fire, and some terrain can be harder to cross (or impossible for some units, like boats on land). The key locations are marked by large towers. Depending on the towers you control, you will get bonuses: increased damage, greater line of sight, reinforcements… Shyft has a great enough variety in its unit, building and terrain combinations to make for a game with fairly strong strategic depth.

Shyft is also very easy to customise, even if you don’t know any Java. You can make your own maps in Tiled with the game’s tile-sets. You can even make your own tile-sets, your own units, or reskin the graphics to your liking with Tiled. The interface for editing maps is very intuitive (actually quite fun, and nothing like the map editing in The Calling of the Seals, we promise). We are hoping that if Shyft becomes in any way popular, there will be a large amount of custom maps in circulation that anyone can play. And if you’re worried that you’re joining a game that you don’t have the map for, don’t worry: some genius server code takes care of that for you.

Shyft was born in the summer of 2010: after Callum had worked on the Android platform for a little while making Orb-Wars, we decided that we needed some more experience before we could produce a game that would be marketable as an app. Because it was more in the actual ‘making-of-a-game’ field we felt needed to progress more, we moved back to the standard Java platform ready to make a new game. We weren’t quite sure what type of game to make. We quite liked tile-based games and we weren’t so keen on having everything animate, so we eventually settled on an Advance Wars style tiled based strategy.

The two main things that we would be gaining from this were multiplayer support and a more efficient way to handle the production of maps. Callum single-handedly produced both a hefty chunk of server code and an attribute loader. The multiplayer works both over LAN and in hotseat form. The attribute loader reads files that can be edited entirely in Tiled, so it’s very easy for pretty much anyone to make a map for the game (provided they set up Tiled in a specific way, which has caused us a few troubles in the past).

The graphics of Shyft have changed significantly throughout the course of its development. Charlie originally made all of the graphics himself, but we soon decided that if we wanted to make this game a solid long-term project, they needed to be of a higher standard and there needed to be much more of them. Luckily, we stumbled upon an abandoned gaming relic from 1992: Hard Vacuum. This was a real time strategy game that was never released, and so the team artist (Daniel Cook) decided to release the graphics royalty free so that they wouldn’t go to waste. The tile-set linked on the site was incomplete in many places, with transition tiles missing and only half the units and buildings shadowed, but the artwork was perfect. The style was exactly what we had been hoping for. Everything wasn’t formatted just right, and it all needed putting into a tileset, but that was taken care of easily enough. We went from 41 tiles to over 700 and from 7 units to 12. Charlie also tore apart the GUI, originally made for tiny 420*300 px screens, and used it as a template for the final interface. Shyft is by far the prettiest game we’ve ever produced.

The funny thing about Shyft is that we could, given infinite time and patience, just keep adding to it. It’s already pretty much playable, but there is so much more that could be done. We could add AI, smooth motions, a campaign mode, team games, alternate game-modes, more units, maps that went around in circles, special abilities… This project is only really going to end when we say ‘Stop. It’s time for something new.’