Archive for Development Blog

Anyone want some free Xbox 360 games?

I got given loads of codes with my Xbox 360 releases, however as found the experience of contacting review sites to never hear back just depressing and not worth the effort, they have went unused.

Until now I’ve occasionally thrown them up on Facebook and Twitter but I figured that as I’m happy giving away most my games for free, why not make my Xbox games available to folk for free – especially those visiting the site.

I’ve created a new page that contains a few codes for each of my games.

Unfortunately I have no way of tracking whether codes have been used so if anyone finds themselves out of luck with codes available for their game of choice, give me a shout on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll provide you with a unique code and replace the codes on here.

If you enjoy your free game then sharing it with your friends, Facebook feed or Twitter followers would be great!

Below are my first round of codes:

X-Orbtek II: BKV3V-4PK9G-DBXDX-HFF8G-9FK7M
X-Orbtek II: R38GX-C7XQW-V8X2F-CDFRC-PBM33
X-Orbtek II: P44GX-8Q4D3-JC7HX-CRTG9-G64QT
X-Orbtek II: BGRKB-CJVV8-DDDK8-WWQRJ-PD2X8
Adventures in Text: FRMFY-Q7MWY-V2RWR-TWH2R-2HMJG
Adventures in Text: PY49G-K6WRR-94TWY-QFC6M-GYKM8
Adventures in Text: GQGJD-D9CKX-M24WD-7W33B-W844M
Adventures in Text: K33GV-HB2MR-MPV7H-GWPH3-QP38D
Mashapocolypse: PTQT6-47GTW-Q8CW2-MF6TQ-KG8M8
Mashapocolypse: BMRPQ-YFBFK-26Q3P-QQRT7-XBGWM
Mashapocolypse: RQPVW-VBJ3H-KT2YP-GYBDR-F29JD
Mashapocolypse: XHC7D-TMFGQ-4F4GX-R2GTQ-KG8M6
Avatar Runner: FJ6KY-2VB37-DTJ6Y-HR86W-3X7KW
Avatar Runner: WWWC7-XKC2X-C7TCB-CK6P9-KKKDM
Avatar Runner: FJ6KY-2VB37-DTJ6Y-HR86W-3X7KW
Avatar Runner: WWWC7-XKC2X-C7TCB-CK6P9-KKKDM

Out now on Xbox 360 & PC: Adventures in Text

AdventuresInText-BoxArtI am delighted to announce that I have released a new game on Xbox 360 and also PC called Adventures in Text!

Adventures in Text provides a series of multiple choice text adventures that can be played with friends, including quick quests and also the longer quest through the world of Aeski.

Xbox Live Indie Games

How does the multiplayer aspect work? Well get your friends together when playing through the quests and together you can vote on which answer to take although you’ll want to discuss decisions first. If you fail to agree, the game will pick for you!

Additionally there are also three quizzes included to challenge your knowledge of Halloween, games and the world.

 

Xbox Live Indie Games

Available on Xbox Live Indie Games for the lowest price point (69p / $1).

 

Also available on PC for FREE!!! Xbox controller (or equivalent) still required on PC.

Aeski quest begins

Aeski quest begins

p.s. Please do not resort to violence when debating answers.

Invertical Touch out on Windows Phone 8 and Android

Invertical Touch will see you switch your colour between black and white, opening up new routes. Can you find the portal home?

Level9I’ve been very proud of my work with Invertical Touch so when friends ask if they can have a play of the game on their Android phone or whether I have it on my phone (Windows) it feels odd to say “no”. Building for Android and Windows Phone 8 is nice and easy with GameMaker so it isn’t a technical limitation, just there’s no plans for release of a paid version on these platforms.

However I’ve decided, well why not share the free version so yeah, I’ve released Invertical Touch Lite on Windows Phone 8 and Android! Whether we’ll see the paid version or not, I can’t say (not my call) but be sure to download the game and give it a go.

There’s about 15-30 minutes of gameplay, depending on how quickly you get to grips with the game with a variety of chapters to play.

WindowsPhone-68217A-175x25
Get it on Google Play

Still alive!

It has been a while since I’ve really done anything of note. So far this year has seen Invertical Touch get launched with a whimper (despite being a game that I’m very proud of) and then Invertical Touch Lite.

I’ve been primarily working on an unannounced title that has proven to be a heck of a lot more work than I planned. The game is coming along really well and I’m quite proud of it, however it is proving a little dry to work on. It isn’t easy to go “tonight I will sit down and figure out and implement this complex feature” after getting back from a day job of just that. I end up just playing games. Or blogging. Just like now, I’m avoiding work. Any pointers on keeping focused are welcome!

Battle-25July

I didn’t post this…

It is an odd one because I really want to finish. Partly because this will be arguably my best game yet and also because I’m desperate to work on new games… but I really can’t be arsed! Just very tired and looking at the mess of code gives me a headache. Perhaps one key factor is the lack of design input. Working on a port of a board game (*spoiler*) means that I’m primarily looking at turning physical rules and stuff that you count in your head, or hold to the side, into a slick UI that works across browsers is a bloody hard challenge! However it isn’t the challenge of figuring out how to make the game more fun. It will be fun because the board game is fun (and hard!). As I say, an odd one.

192To try and reignite my desire to make games I have tried working on a few side projects. I spent a couple of nights looking to make a simple game called Frown Upside Down that would be suitable for very young kids ahead of Dare to be Digital, however I lost interest in the project and don’t see it going any further. Maybe at most I’ll just stick it on Android with an apologetic description.

I’ve been keen to revisit The Really Annoying Game for a while now, in particular a mobile port. However I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d want the controls to work and as I’d want the whole level to be visible, this brings in aspect ratio issues. Due to the complexities and level of design, work on this as a “fun project” was put back onto the backlog.

Squeebles is another game that I’ve looked at revisiting, or more specifically finishing. To be honest the core gameplay was boring but I liked some of my plans for silliness, in particular Fun Facts. I’m thinking instead that I’ll build a new game that is based around very simple puzzles, primarily basic key skills (i.e. basic science, geometry, numeracy etc), with basic platform gameplay. It would be very accessible to children but also inject a little bit of my “humour” and more adult references (as in 80s culture not sex references!). This will be really fun to work on, but perhaps a bit of a more substantial side project than I plan for now.

The same can be said about my sequel to Captain Getsu, which despite being close to finished at one point I ended up canning it. Such terribly written code! Working as a software engineer in my spare time has taught me a lot and I’m confident that if I restarted the project it would be a lot better. A big change I made in the design was to move from lots of story and missions to having a “survive as long as possible” game but with stages that had a range of objectives. Seems interesting I hope! However time is running out for a new XBLIG title…

#SKSP and Dare to be Digital 2015

I recently attended the Dare to be Digital Protoplay festival in Dundee, Scotland and wanted to take a few minutes to write down my thoughts on the event.

Before I get into what I’ve learnt, I would like to mention why I was there. It was actually two fold – partly to help promote Invertical Touch but mainly to get involved with promoting a 24 hour gaming marathon called Sick Kids Save Point (or SKSP). In October I’ll be going through a relatively grueling experience of playing a variety of games as a fundraising activity for a sick kids hospital in Scotland.

1024x1024LogoFor Invertical Touch the event was very successful. I’m not sure if I’ll get many extra downloads of the paid for or free versions of the game but money and sales isn’t my only (or main) measure of success. Knowing people have played and enjoyed the game is what I really care about and over the last weekend I’ve seen at least a hundred, possibly more (I wasn’t keeping tabs), people play Invertical Touch and really enjoy it. Some people returned for a second go, even a third or fourth. Some kids had to be practically dragged away by their folks to visit another stand.

Commercially the event is of course a loss (at best paying back for the bottled water I took along…) but I’d take getting to see one person really enjoying playing my game over 50 faceless sales earning me 30p each.

dareoa

It surprised me how many younger kids really enjoyed playing the game. The controls can be a little hard, especially for small hands having to make quick movements between jumping and inverting, but even then they failed the same bit several times the kids kept trying. We hear about dumbing down of games in terms of difficulty for the younger gamer but I saw plenty determination to beat a level!

Perhaps the argument that games are dumbing down is more that they no longer severely punish the player for failing. Playing many classic games, if I screw up I might end up restarting the WHOLE sodding game. In modern games you are if anything encouraged to try new things. Don’t worry about failing, just keep trying. Personally I much prefer this!

Hopefully my presence at the event was beneficial to the SKSP team. Obviously as a participant and someone who really believes in the cause it was easy for me to talk about the event (well as easy as it gets when you are a shy and socially inept individual) but also having the game present meant that I could introduce the kid to the game and then talk to the parents about the charity.

I’ll be posting details about my plans for SKSP 2016 in a future post, although to read more (and donate!) visit my JustGiving page.

Touching on an article I wrote on my gaming blog, it was interesting to play other people’s games but I preferred just watching. There were some very novel and fun games to play such as Johann Sebastian Joust, a great physical game, Advance and a bee game that I forget the name of (one player was a bear legging it from bees) but I’ve found that playing games at events can be a sub par experience.

With several people about you can feel a touch rushed plus you are doing the first impressions and learning the ropes with someone watching. Every time I mess up, especially if I found it tricky or didn’t fully understand the game, it felt a little embarrassing plus I feel like I’m making the game that someone has worked hard on look rubbish when its probably just me.

When playing games at home I am happy to try, die, repeat but less so with someone watching. The pressure I add on myself makes it a less enjoyable experience, therefore I would rather stick to just watching. I can understand the gameplay concept and identify what makes the game fun. Then I can go home and check out the game some more!

One thing I learnt from the event was to be more focused. As with 2013, I took along several games and if someone struggled with Invertical Touch or my tablets were in use then I’d try showing other games. Lesser quality games at that. Not only does this not show my best work, but stopping and starting things isn’t ideal.

Additionally as well as being focused with my selections of games, the posters and resources need to be focused on providing the best introduction to the game. Players are interested in the game, not the “studio” (i.e. me) therefore I shouldn’t be taking Oxygen Addict cards and resources to events – it should be “Invertical Touch”. Additionally instead of plastering the name everywhere or using different art to show off the game, posters should tell people:

  • The name of the game.
  • Very basic premise.
  • Controls.

The latter is so obvious but nearly no one does it. Telling someone about what key to press before they’ve started doesn’t help. Instead knowing they have to perform an action, looking up and seeing “Press B to do action” is desirable. (minor finding – most people hate being reminded how to play!).

I also found a very quick demonstration was very useful. For Invertical Touch I could take 5-10 seconds to visibly show the controls and the mechanism.  This was usually

  • “To start with I can jump on to the white blocks”
  • *jumps onto white blocks*
  • “but when I press this button I change colour and now walk on the black buttons”
  • *press invert*
  • “I can’t change when I’m in front of blocks”
  • *press invert* nothing happens
  • “But if I jump then I can change”
  • *jump and invert”
  • Player goes “ahhhh I get it” and away they go.
  • I bugger off and leave them to it

Before I started doing that, I blurted out the premise (you change colour and that changes what you can walk on) and watched them have a go, get a bit confused then help them out. This gave them an introduction and let them get into the game without the awkwardness of being watched.

(FYI – tips were turned off as they got annoying, particularly if they repeat what I had just said verbally)

dareoa

The final thing about Dare that I’d like to discuss is the one negative that I have. The audience was one very distinct market. 99% of people at the stands were young kids with their parents. Don’t get me wrong, they were all lovely with very polite and friendly kids and it was an absolute pleasure to share my game with them. However it would be nice to see more older teenagers, students and young professionals there. Given Dundee has a large student population for a small city and a thriving development community, it is a bit of a shame that so few of the 18-30 year old gamers made it out. Many of the games there would probably appeal more to folk from this age range and we wouldn’t want the games that go to Dare to be too focused on young kids.

Sentimental about Invertical

During my time as a hobby game developer I have put together many quick projects but there’s one that I keep returning to.

PrototypeIt was 3 years ago today when I put together a very small prototype of Invertical. Strangely despite knowing that I wanted to do with the game with path finding puzzle gameplay, the prototype was heavily focused on jumping, despite being pretty awful to control (to be fair, this was an afternoon’s work!).

Those who played it liked the concept enough to encourage me to develop the game further.

Unlock bonus levels

Objective based levels

A few months later I released the game but I’ve never been happy, making several updates and trying out new ideas such as the Invert World section and bonus levels. Much of the newer levels being added were in mind for a mobile version and more objective based gameplay.

Whilst the bonus levels don’t have much story, there is a bit of thought behind each of the characters. For a period I had been playing about with a mobile version, building it up from the beginning and focusing on small levels and a series of stories. I have a few character ideas in mind and liked the idea of having small levels similar to the Invertical bonus levels but they’d be linked together. Many of my designs were about unique gameplay as well, including runner levels and very different puzzle styles.

The Vine-al Chapter

I released a “proper game”!

However when meeting the chaps from Hunted Cow they were keen to get involved and helped bring the original Invertical to mobile with a port the more desirable option than a long term project. Working on Invertical Touch has been an interesting project as the standard has been much higher. The artwork provided by Hunted Cow gave the game a whole new look and whilst it was sad to see Simon depart and his backstory fade, Qube is cute and the game had a lot more polish. It was a proper game! The first time that I’ve really felt that.

So far Invertical Touch hasn’t had the success we’d hoped, which was absolutely crushing, but the market is a lottery and there’s some cool changes coming. I’m still determined to make a success out of Invertical! This is partly because of the money invested but mainly to share my idea and passion for the project. Maybe once my current projects are done then I can make the Invertical game that I’ve really wanted!

If you’re interested in knowing more about the development, read more articles on Invertical and if you manage to 100% the PC version of the game there’s a hidden extra.

A Gamer’s Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is upon us and soon we will all be enjoying gifts, hopefully including wonderful games, consoles and gaming merchandise. 

It is a wonderful sign of the way that the games industry has evolved from a geeky thing for boys and err, adult boys to something open to all age ranges and genders. Whilst the kids play the latest adventure on their Xbox, Dad might be on his laptop enjoying a strategy game and Mum playing a puzzle game on her iPad. Such diversity and accessibility in games means that many people who would say “oh I don’t play games” actually play a lot, although the misunderstanding that playing games on your mobile somehow doesn’t mean that you play games still needs working on. Yes, Call of Duty is a game but so is Angry Birds! Just because there’s no blood and gore it doesn’t mean you’re not playing games.

However what most interests me and the main reason for blabbing on in this post is how the distribution of games has impacted on Christmas. It is increasingly common to get credit or points for your console or tablet in order to make in app purchases or buy games and download them. This doesn’t seem right to me. I do love online distribution and the ability to buy games quickly in sales. Heck, I would have never been able to sell a single one of my games if I had to distribute physical copies. However when it comes to gift giving I am not sure that I like it. It is one of the times of year where shops like Game and also online ones like Amazon make a difference. 

Buying a physical copy of a game makes a much better gift. It is wrapped, requiring unwrapped and means that you are giving something more tangible as a present. Not only that but if your games console is elsewhere or requiring updates… Or it’s time to all sit round the TV for an awful film then you can read the box or the manual, building up your excitement to play this new game.

Perhaps the fact that we can buy games so quickly and cheaply nowadays, especially with the number of free games available (including in my site…), the personal value of a game has gone down. In my younger days when I lived in the countryside and had my allowance for lunch, savings and stuff I wanted (games) it meant I may have only gotten a handful of games a year but I really loved those games. I’d play them again and again. It seems today has a much more dispensable approach to owning games. Steam sales and humble bundles spring to mind as a major reason. I have about a hundred games I haven’t played. Crazy! I do kind of miss having a few games to cherish. Next year I expect to only buy one or two games and ensure I appreciate and enjoy them… Not just filling my actual shelf or online library.

Another thing that I think gets lost on Christmas is that first boot up. Plugging in your new PS4 and then waiting an hour for it to update. Then you excitedly put in your new game and wait for that to update. That, to me at least, loses some of the magic of the moment. “Back in my day” I could go from the buzz of unboxing straight to playing my new game. Let’s hope that any updates are only done if absolutely critical at this time if year. By that I mean game breaking bugs only. 

Well I’ve rambled enough. One final thing is when giving and receiving presents, don’t forget the true meaning of this holiday… A pagan holiday. Be sure to sacrifice a goat, your youngest born or whatever the customary offering is, whilst dancing naked around a tree. Or just have some egg nog.

Merry  Christmas!

Trick or Treat released on iOS

Trick or Treat has been released on iPad and iPhone, just in time for Halloween.

Get your spook on when trying to make your through this free puzzle platform game. You won’t be able to get all of the goodies in the land of the Treat without venturing into the scary Trick world, which is full of monsters and other dangers.

Can you find the route to each item and the portal home?

4-puzzleplatform

Avatar Runner… oh well

Avatar Runner was the game that I was hoping would be pretty fun to play, obviously not setting the world alight but fun to play and also actually get enough sales to meet the minimum level of revenue for Microsoft to actually pay you. It would have been wonderful to at least make back some of my game dev costs. Alas it hasn’t quite panned out.

I’ve been mulling over whether I can salvage it and of course reflecting on some of the main issues that people may be having. As part of that I took myself back into my mindset for coming up with the game.

You’ve had a long and stressful day at work with an infuriating demand. After being stuck in traffic on your way home and burning your dinner you just want to relax and play a game. Been there before? I have. The only problem is on days like that I more often than not die a lot or fail to spot the part of a puzzle to progress. I just want to relax, brain off and do something chilled. This is why I made Avatar Runner.

The core gameplay is of course based on HexStackIt, which is a reasonably twitch based game. With Avatar Runner I wanted to create something a bit more chilled. Something with mellow and relaxing gameplay that you can whistle to (well if, unlike me, you can actually whistle) and play without sweaty palms or rage quitting. Something that even with a hangover you won’t get beat. It does the job quite well in my opinion. Okay, it isn’t a pretty game but when I just want to slump on the sofa and play a game that doesn’t require focus, it is great. I enjoy it and it mellows me out a little. I also enjoy playing the intense difficulty runs that are bloody hard, especially with the songs Sports Shop and Dirty Blonde (i.e. songs not by me >_<).

Unfortunately by creating a game that intentionally allows everyone to get through a run pretty much intact, it has given a very poor impression for people expecting something with a bit more intensity from their gaming. There’s plenty runs in there if pace is your thing, but that first run is easy.

In total there are 30 runs with 7 available at the beginning. It makes sense that if you’re unlocking runs then the more intense and difficult ones should be the ones that you need to play a few times to unlock. Also they should go from easy to hard. It would be odd finding a random ordering of difficulties!  This however has meant that on your first couple of plays, you will be playing easy levels. These are kind of boring. Well mellow is what I’d rather think of them as but if you’re expecting something exciting and intense… these first levels are boring.

In hindsight I should have kept the initial runs down, just providing a small selection of runs to give players a taste for the difficulties and also meaning that the many players who’ll want the hard or insane difficulty runs have one to play straight away! Perhaps more people playing the trial would have bough the game if they were readily exposed to the more challenging gameplay.

Going forward my code is going to make this a tough one to fix as I can’t touch the order of the runs. The plan now is to make the first runs more challenging and engaging by increasing the spawn rate between items, making you react that little bit quicker. The player is already running a speed that would make Usain Bolt jealous so I won’t be touching the speed!

There’s one more big issue with Avatar Runner that needs addressing. When you skip the instructions and don’t read the game description, it isn’t entirely obvious that you’re meant to build a combo. I’ll be brash and honest… if the gameplay video commentators were playing someone else’s game, I’d be having a giggle at them. Alas it is my game that they are (in my biased opinion) giving unfair abuse so I kind of need to do something about it. I can’t quiz the player to test that they read the instructions and it is an incredibly simple game so a tutorial is pointless. I feel dirty but in the next release I am adding pop up messages to guide the player when they are being dumb.

Ah well. One day I might meet the minimum revenue to get my monies from Microsoft. Doubt it though.

I know I probably should be more professional but in truth I bet that just like my games, this ramble / moan / self-harm of word vomit will get no hits.

Avatar Runner: Coding to the beat

I won’t hide the fact that I love Audiosurf and it is no doubt one of the major influences in why I wanted to create Avatar Runner. The look, vibe and scoring are all of course very different with Avatar Runner having a (hopefully!) cheerful feel to it but at the heart of it, the game is about playing along to music.

Audiosurf works by analysing the entire song and building up the track. Whilst the XNA framework does provide analysis of audio, it requires the song to be playing. Unfortunately for in order to know what is coming next and create a nice and exciting run I would need to play through the entire song first. That is some loading time!

With the songs currently in the game I was able to analyse the music myself and plot turns of pace, increased spawning and colour of items. However that isn’t possible for the Custom Mode where you can play any track from your music library. I would imagine many people would find this mode an attractive option therefore I still wanted to have some way of slowing down the player when there’s a lull in the song as well as providing pace for the more exciting parts. To achieve this I’ve done a few calculations based on the visualisation data provided by XNA and have been able to tweak the player’s pace and spawn rate to match the song. It ain’t the perfect solution but it still provides a great gameplay experience, unlike anything currently on Xbox Live Indie Games.

Checkout this video of me playing along to two great tracks on my personal Xbox Music Library!