Archive for Games Development

Telling a tall tale

I’ve been making some decent progress with Paint It Jack, with some art improvements and additional gameplay elements. It is a pleasing, easy going experience and I’m looking forward to building upon it.

One thing I’m hoping to do is include some story.

Jack: “Who am I?”

So who is Jack? I’m still working it out but I’m liking the idea of him being a little dorky. He’s never been accepted or liked but he still has a very positive outlook and has a cheerful spirit about him. He wants to help other people, although perhaps no one has really wanted his help, or even his presence in their lives. But still he’s happy to do his thing.

With the whole paint and colour thing, I’m thinking that a bit like nature, being bold and colourful is hugely important for his kind. Both the world and creatures are very bland. As a result the creatures would absorb colour (paint) to make themselves attractive and interesting. In fact one of the largest industries involves mining for resources to make “paint” to absorb.

Sadly poor old Jack has never been able to retain colour leaving him plain and grey. This is why he is shunned by his kind. He’s a sub standard weirdo. However he has a realisation that rather than being a curse, it means he can “spread” the colour to the world around him. His mission then is rather than focusing on bringing colour to himself, like everyone else does, he is bringing to the world. Awww. How terrible and cheesey.

So how exactly do I convey this? I’m not going to be making long animated videos because my artistic skills are terrible so I’ve no chance of creating a cool video, but perhaps a few storyboard screens? Well as a player I’d be spamming “NEXT”, “NEXT”, “NEXT” so why inflict that on others?

Instead I’m thinking of sharing the story and background on the world, creatures and Jack through short little bursts as you play. Before starting I’ll give a bit of context, with a quick one page storyboard, just so you know that Jack is on a mission to bring colour to the world. Then the level complete screen would give you a little bit of information about the creatures and Jack. Most would be irrelevant to the storyline but would help paint a picture of the “world”. On top of that I can have the odd screen here and there which fills in more story.

Hopefully this way I can share the story and provide some personality to the game but in a much more casual way. Afterall, the story won’t be integral to the gameplay, nor will it be the most exciting, riveting tale (the initial release can be probably played through in ~30 minutes).

Placeholder level complete to play about with Fun Facts.

p.s. I’ve not got a decent name for the creatures yet. Both my placeholder of Squeebles and current name “Takogaki” are kinda rubbish. Weird octopus like creatures that exist on land, have one eye and are a relatively advanced species…

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

#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 picks up the pace

avatarrunner-boxWith Avatar Runner I always wanted to create a game that you can play whilst chilled and relaxed. However at the same time there needed to be some more intense levels for twitch players and those that love speed and the “rush”, with myself being one of those. The spread of gameplay styles and difficulty was done through different runs. In total Avatar Runner has around 30 runs, mixing difficulty, background, music and also to some extent gameplay (some levels encourage switching colours more than others).

However to unlock more of the harder, intense levels you did need to play some of the easier levels, or the same harder difficulty one over and over. Similarly if you’re doing a tournament with someone of a different skill level, finding runs to be enjoyable to all may be a challenge. As such I added the ability to speed up / slow down via the trigger buttons. This led to pretty much three things:

  1. Players don’t like letting go of the trigger to go faster because that is what you do in racing games, which have similar controls.
  2. If you provide the option to go faster, players will take it – regardless of whether their skill level is up to it.
  3. The turns of pace based on the music may become unbalanced or not be felt.

As such I’ve removed this feature and have been working to create the game more challenging. There will still be plenty chilled gameplay but with an easier progression system than before (i.e. new runs are cheaper and rewards increased from better designed runs) to provide quicker access to the more intense runs, which will be balanced and feel a lot more solid. As I (as the designer) have got full control of the player’s speed again, it allows me to really push them when the music picks up pace, without worrying about “what if they are already going very fast?!”.

I’m nearly there on releasing the game. Hopefully soon I’ll demo a custom run, which has also had some changes of late. The hard part is finding a song that I can use in the video for free without you know… getting sued.

Diversity in Avatar Runner

Avatar Runner was introduced with a healthy dash of samba and sun as a game that was perfect for slobbing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. However not all runs have a relaxed feel-good factor to them. The later, faster levels will have you gripping the controller tight as you find yourself nearer to the edge and more prone to mistakes.

Not only will there be differences in speed and the gaps between items, but the environment and music will have its differences. One run might be an easy going plod through the desert or down a beach with flutes playing and the next will pick up tempo as you head through a more fiendish setting.

The custom game mode will give players the freedom to set their own difficulty whilst running to their favourite songs on their Xbox. If you want to listen to some tunes and keep yourself busy at the same time then stick it on an easier difficulty and go for a run. Want to have a go at playing the game to a heavy metal song? Crank the difficulty up all the way and see if you can cope!

I’m still working on the balance and spread of levels (how many easy? how many hard?). For the speed nuts and hardcore gamers, mainly the more intense levels will appeal but there’s certainly a place for the slower, more relaxed levels. They provide a good entry for people who maybe aren’t as nimble with the controller and I also enjoy them when just wanting something to do when my mind is too numb to focus on more difficult gameplay.

Perhaps the biggest challenge here is providing access to these levels. I don’t want to force a very skilled player to play through all of the easy levels first, but then do I limit the amount of easier gameplay, or bury away. Equally that first level should be the easiest right? But it needs some pace to hook in those looking for at least the promise of a tough challenge.

I will explore this in my next blog… but for now enjoy this new video.