Archive for Games Development

Oxygen Addict and reviews

For a while I’ve been planning on writing something about this topic and briefly touched upon it in my latest blog post. Given the frenzy around IGM’s review policy and the fact that I’ve changed my approach, it feels like the right time.

Craving Attention

Getting a game coverage is hard, in particular when it maybe isn’t the prettiest (yup, I know my artwork sucks) and when you are unknown. There’s a lot of games out there and getting attention isn’t easy. Usually as my game is ready for review or to be announced, I’ll start off with sites that I actually read and feel may be interested and then expand to sites that may also be interested. In truth I hate this. I don’t feel too comfortable sending the mail but even worse is the wait for replies that don’t come. It isn’t fun and can be very demoralising.

Occasionally I’ll get people contacting me wanting to review my games. One or two times I’ve been asked a few questions, which is great! A few times I’ve given out keys/links only to never hear back, which really sucks. However most of the time after a few emails back and forth I get asked to fork up money. Ha!

At a Cost

When most my games are free and I’m making them in my spare time, do you really think I’d pay for a review? Be better putting it on Greenlight, which is an expense I can’t justify as a hobby developer. If the stats are anything to go by, even the most positive review I’ve received haven’t led to many hits and no doubt fewer sales.

The other thing that I dislike about companies approaching me to pay for reviews is that they probably have no interest in the game. If they did really want to review the game, they would just review it. I suspect that they’d gather information and just dump it on the site, barely touching the game. I’d feel very hollow with that. In fact one review out there I actually pretty much wrote myself. It was a free thing to do where I was putting in a review request and filled out a questionnaire. The review was then a copy paste. Imagine being charged for that!

It was a real shame when I read that one of my favourite sites, and one that has given me great coverage in the past, has chosen to charge developers. I do like the site and if there’s any I’d pay for, this might be one… however as mentioned this is an expense that if I’m being honest, won’t pay for itself and there’s better ways to invest money. Its not like there’s a shortage of sites, although IGM was one of the few that actually responded to my emails!

I do get their reasoning. Their staff have always been great and I agree they do deserve to earn money. When I think about it, Invertical probably takes 8 hours to complete when you’re new to it. To do that whilst analysing it, then write a review… $50 it sod all per hour. I also believe IGM and their writers would still be impartial, unlike the dodgy emails I get. Nonetheless, IGM is a no-go for me.

Could Be Worse

Obviously there’s some ethical questions here but perhaps the worst I’ve encountered is a few companies trying to charge me for them to download my free games or provide 5 star reviews.

I never replied

I never replied

I can see why developers might go for it. To be successful you need to be in a good position in the stores. To get that you need success…

I turned it down.

New Avenues

Nowadays there’s an increasing number of ways to get attention. Obviously via social media you can share game news but that of course requires people to follow you first. Of course there’s traditional advertising etc but what I’ve grown fond of is IndieDB. Through there I can post up screenshots, videos, news and more. It gets plenty hits and I can distribute my free games through there as well! Excellent.

You’ve also got GameJolt. I can upload my game, get it shared with the world and whats more I can even get a cut of the revenue. Awesome!

What I really like about sites like this is that I can straight provide news to gamers beyond the narrow audience on Facebook / Twitter. It also makes like a little easier with timing. When I’m wanting to share with the world, I can. No doubt over the coming months I’ll learn about more great places where I can connect with players directly.

My Plan

Due to the effort this all involves and lack of results, I’m just not bothering. I make games for fun as a hobby, so why make it incredibly stressful? If someone reviews my game and it gets a positive write up, well that’s just an awesome bonus! The same goes for announcements, updates and other news. Of course they won’t be silent launches. I’ll still post on here along with Facebook, Twitter and IndieDB. Where possible I’ll submit games for download on various sites (eg GameJolt).

If any writers are interested in my games then I am more than happy to provide artwork, free copies or just email back and forth. Just get in touch. I know that I’ve effectively said that I want to go straight to gamers, but as a gamer myself I can appreciate the value of reviews. In particular I love articles that aren’t just reviews. Things like round ups, interviews and articles there to stimulate debate… love it both as a gamer and developer!

Quick Final IGM Note

I hope the reputations of none of the writers suffer and also that IGM doesn’t get too much abuse. I get the “why”. I just think its flawed and worry it may hurt them.

New ways to buy Invertical

There are some great new ways to buy the puzzle platform game Invertical.

As well as Indievania and IndieCity you can now buy it from two of the most well known sites around! Amazon have introduced digital downloads and Invertical is now available on Amazon.com for just $2.49. USA only though!

Many gamers will be familiar with the site and store “Desura”, probably the second biggest gaming market out there. Invertical is now available for purchase on Desura for £1.99 with options in a range of currencies. Buying on Desura will ensure that you’ll get all patches providing fixes and new content.

Finally if you don’t want to go through a third party client, why not get the direct download? This will give you the installer that can be straight installed.

All the links are on the Invertical page or to the right here. Regardless of where you get it from, Invertical provides hours of great entertainment for next to nothing!

 

Desura Digital Distribution

Buy on Amazon.com

clean_design_custom_logo

Invertical gets a major new update

The latest update to Invertical is now available with loads of new content as well as a host of improvements!

Better Control
Invertical now supports controller input. It has been designed to work with the Xbox controller but ought to be compatible with most game controllers, however the button layout may not be quite so logical. For many people using a controller is a more natural experience so if you’re uncomfortable with using the keyboard controls, this is for you. So long as you have a controller plugged in before launching the game you can freely switch between using the keyboard or controller. On the note of keyboard controls, you can now use the Up key to jump and down key to invert. This way if you’ve a large keyboard or for the younger gamer, smaller hands, this means less stretching!

New Start
The very first level has been completely changed. It will now introduce the player to the gameplay concepts of how and when to invert, rather than training the player on jumping. I’ve also changed the artwork so it is a little less of an assault on the eyes.

Unlock bonus levels

Unlock bonus levels

Bonus Levels
There are 150 collectible items within the many levels of Invertical, but why do you need to collect them? Well now you have an answer. Collecting all the books and scrolls in the chapter will unlock a unique bonus level. These levels have an extra objective to complete along the way, such as arming up to scare away a monster or retrieving Mrs Gragglepot’s cats.

Exploration
The old Great Big World has been replaced by a new area called The Invert World. Here you will find 15 rooms to explore and lots of books and scrolls to collect. Unlocked when you complete the main story, it is an extra area to potter around in and release your inner urge to collect.

Invert World

Alternate Ending
In the previous version of Invertical there was a right and wrong answer once you caught the final portal. This meant that you might not unlock the Invert World (or Great Big World as it used to be). Now this has been changed to an alternate ending that explores Simon’s character.

Getting to Know Simon
Simon has always longed for adventure, much like many of us (partly why I play games!) but what would you do if thrust into this situation? Would you suddenly become a hero or cower in a corner? The introduction to each level has been expanded to explore this and give you a greater insight into Simon’s state of mind.

And Much More!
If I keep going this post will be far too long but there’s been many more improvements. From fine tuning levels to an improved front end, you’ll find Invertical is a much better experience than before… and it was already a fun game to begin with!

Buy it now!
You can buy the latest version of Invertical from IndieCity for just £1.49. If you’ve previously bought the game on there just use the IndieCity client to update it!

Invertical Delays

Unfortunately the re-release of Invertical may be a little behind schedule.

I had hoped to release the massive new update to Invertical very soon and whilst I’m 99.9% happy with it, there’s a crash bug in the software that I use for developing Invertical that is preventing me from creating new builds & testing. Once its fixed I’ll be able to verify everything is fixed, create a new build and release it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing knowing there’s a couple of bugs that I’d want fixing.I am also travelling for a short while and this will no doubt delay release a bit further. Not much I can do about these hold ups I’m afraid!

Regarding X-Orbtek II, that is in the final stages with the XBLIG version hopefully available in the next few weeks and the PC one around the same time.

Indie games press… I will be in touch soon 😉

New Invertical Demo Released!

Invertical is a unique and very enjoyable puzzle platform game where you will have to invert your colour between black and white to open up new routes.

SS_IndustrialChapter5

Invert your colour

The monochrome art style gives the game a simpl yet charming feel whilst giving a clear indication of the platforms. As with the full game, you will encounter several different themed areas with books and scrolls to collect. If you manage to find them all then you will unlock a special bonus level!

Bonus levels are new to Invertical and provide a nice new gameplay variation.

At just under 9Mb it is quick download and no installation is required.

You can also play the Invertical Demo in a browser, although please be aware that performance may not great.

Play In Browser

Controlling X-Orbtek II

Probably the biggest change in X-Orbtek II compared to the original is that it now plays a lot more like a twin stick shooter. This has a huge impact on controls.

In the original game I built it with the intention of being played with a controller and provided keyboard controls for those who prefer that sort of thing. In hindsight I should have given more love to keyboard as people will play with weaker controls and then come away with a negative opinion. I like that Super Meat Boy is quite blunt that you’re better using a controller and I’m likely to do the same on the PC version of X-Orbtek II.

That said, not everyone has an Xbox controller on hand and I don’t want to make the same mistake of having a game get reviewed by someone on rubbishy keyboard controls. I plan to do a lot more work here to refine how you play the game. One change is that WASD/arrow keys will move the player up/left/down/right. There’s no turning. Direction will be based on where you are aiming, which will be controlled with the mouse.

This provides precise aiming and negates the issue of the turn circle that affected the original so heavily. However it does still have one of the same issues. Keyboard controls are on or off. This means there’s no moving slowly and much more importantly you have limited angles of movement. Movement is limited to 8 directions and is very rigid. With a controller you will be weaving smoothly between enemies (unless you’re rubbish at the game) but it be more challenging for keyboard users.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot that can be done. My only other option would be controller only but that cuts the player base and there’s no guarantee that those reviewing the game for online stores (eg IndieCity) will have access to a controller.

On the Xbox players may have a range of controllers, however I don’t imagine playing X-Orbtek II with a guitar or steering wheel will be much fun. To avoid people judging the game when played with devices that aren’t up to the job I’ve deliberately limited what you can use. This means if you plug in your guitar it will show up as unavailable. Originally I never showed this information but this led to two issues. Firstly people might be confused as to why only 2 of their 3 signed in profiles are showing up. Secondly, which unfortunately led to a failed review, it caused a bug. The bug itself was fixed to but it was clear that we want to convey this information.

Well that wraps up how I’ll be handling controllers in X-Orbtek II. I don’t believe it applies to all games but I feel that for a game designed for twin stick controls you need to ensure that your end users have the capability to play.

The Legendary Tales of the Heroic Dan McSpikerton launches on Android, PC & HTML5

I’ve gone for a simultaneous cross-platform launch of a new game called “The Legendary Tales of the Heroic Dan McSpikerton”. Just rolls off the tongue.

Some call him a loose cannon. Some call him a renegade. A few say he’s a really nice guy when you get to know him. There is one thing that everyone can agree on though. You do not mess with Dan McSpikerton. However it seems that The Anti-Hedgehog League didn’t get that particular memo.

In a bid to provoke the United Hedgehog Empire they stole the first born son of every hedgehog out there. As they readied themselves for a large scale battle, little did they know that their days were already numbered. Dan McSpikerton was on his way.

The Legendary Tales of the Heroic Dan McSpikerton is a runner, of sorts, where the player must rescue their child from enemies such as Captain Peckham and Lewis “Death Bite” Usagi.

Download it for free today!

Android app on Google Play

 

 

 

Play in browser

Invertical: Should players be able to skip levels?

Whilst work on X-Orbtek II is going at a pretty solid rate, the remake of Invertical has slowed down a little bit… after all there’s only so many hours in the day (curse you day job and sleep!). However there has been progress and I’m hoping on looking at a June re-release of Invertical with the Linux version out just after (or at the same time!).

With the new levels all built, just needing plenty playtesting & bug fixing, my coding focus now switches to the user interface. One of the key things that I’ll be introducing is a pause menu. This will include a few options that you can toggle and the option to skip the level.

The original intention here was to be for players who have already completely the chapter and are replaying for collectibles, or just the fun of it. However I’m rather tempted to just have it as an option all the time. On many games I have came across that one level, jump, puzzle or bad guy that I can’t beat. As a result I may have stopped playing and that isn’t a particularly great situation. The game developer has all this great content in the game yet I’m blocked from accessing it over one bit of gameplay. I’d hate for that to occur in Invertical.

On the other side of things, if I’m allowing players to just skip through the game then surely that devalues that whole achievement of playing through a game? The skill requirement and challenge is what makes players better at the game as well as providing satisfaction when they win.

Could this be a bad move or will it allow players to experience more of the unique and interesting levels in Invertical that they otherwise might not get to play?

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Invertical and the new types of levels

In my previous “Blog A Week” I reflected on the Great Big World. Previously as a reward for completing the story you unlocked one HUGE level but that had its flaws. To tackle this I’ve looked to create a series of smaller rooms.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Each room has a portal to save your progress (I may replace this with your classic disk sprite) and collectible items. The design is very much about puzzle solving your way to the books and scrolls then moving onto the next room. Each room is styled based on the main chapters in the game so you could climb up from the underground areas and enter a city level or go along to a castle.

I’m rather liking it and this could well be something that I look to use in future versions. I’ve actually had a play about with Invertical as a mobile game. A lot of the levels involve inverting whilst jumping diagonally. Unfortunately this is a bit too fiddly on a mobile device. In order to make the game work on Android/WP8/iOS the levels will all need redoing. However I feel that the design and structure of the new bonus and Great Big World levels are the foundations for a great mobile game.

Lets not get ahead of ourselves though. This PC version (definitely Windows, likely Linux too) has to get finished first and X-Orbtek II is shaping up rather nicely!

Invertical and the Great Big World

After completing the main game in Invertical you unlock “The Great Big World”, which is a huge level encompassing aspects from all of the different chapters. This allows for more in the way of exploration, however I’m not sure whether I like it any more.

Does this need replacing?

Does this need replacing?

On one hand being able to take your time and explore the worlds is an interesting and enjoyable experience but it can be hard to navigate your way around and there are performance impacts. I like the way that saving works so rather than being stop / start you have to find the portals. If you die, you lose everything. That said, you don’t really die. In fact I’d be tempted to remove all stuff that kills you! In fact I’m tempted to remove the whole damn level.

Obviously I don’t want to re-release Invertical with less content than there was originally but if I’m making major changes then coupled with my current improvements, I could just you know, redo everything and make it a sequel. However I’ve other projects on the go and I’d like to get this done. Decisions, decisions. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter (@OxygenAddictUK).