Archive for X-Orbtek II

X-Orbtek II released on Xbox 360

X-Orbtek II and Minecraft sat side by side on my X-box. This pleases me.

X-Orbtek II and Minecraft sat side by side on my X-box. This pleases me.

I’m delighted to announce that X-Orbtek II has been released on Xbox Live Indie Games!

X-Orbtek II is a new blend of arcade style gameplay. You’ll be chasing after orbs whilst dodging swarms of enemies. If all the orbs disappear it is game over so the game is quick paced arcade highscore chasing gameplay.

Be warned – the enemies will take shots at you but you’re not defenseless. Blast them back or use your mines, bombs or pickups to clear out enemies.¬†Alternatively choose one of the non-combat modes (or custom mode) to remove combat and just chase after orbs.

There’s also local multiplayer and with four players it can be insanely good fun! If you get the opportunity to play with a couple of friends, I’d recommend it.

You can pick it up now for just 80 Microsoft Points!

X-Orbtek II Single Player Trailer – Indie DB

X-Orbtek II set for PC release TODAY

Yesterday X-Orbtek II passed review on IndieCity. Rather than delaying release so I can tell everyone when its due out, I wanted to justify buying cakes to celebrate today… so it has been released!

You can pick it up on IndieCity for ¬£1.49 or $2.49. The IndieCity version includes achievements so if you’re up to the challenge, why no have a go at getting 100%! If you don’t want to use a third party client to download the game then follow my Twitter (@OxygenAddictUK) feed for the latest news. Highscore tables will be the same no matter where you buy the game from!

The Xbox Live Indie Game version has been delayed slightly. It will be out when it is out…

IndieCity support in X-Orbtek II

IndieCity is a growing online store for Indie Games. As well as being a portal for buying games, with assorted features, they also provide a SDK that gives the developer the opportunity to use their Achievements and Leaderboards systems. I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss my thoughts on this with X-Orbtek II.

I fully intend to support IndieCity achievements. In fact if you looked at my profile on there you may see that I’ve unlocked a few already!

I had three lines of thought when coming up with the list. I could:

  • Come up with some tricky things to do.
  • Have long terms goals to achieve (like X-Orbtek on Android has).
  • Encourage the player to play the game in certain ways.
I’ve mainly opted for the latter so using the custom game mode, challenging yourself with difficulty and playing multiplayer unlocks achievements. Then I’ve also got a few gameplay based achievements. Some may be easy enough for a skilled but for some it involves staying alive for a ruddy long time!

Before I started IceLib integration (Indie City stuff), I already had Leaderboards. I don’t think it really makes sense to have two sets of leaderboards but it would be nice to have full IndieCity support! I see four alternatives:

  1. Stick to my own leaderboard system. You compete against the same players, regardless of where you bought the game.
  2. Axe my own and use IndieCity’s. This would be a USP of buying it on IC but detrimental to people buying the game elsewhere.
  3. Use both with options to view either in game. This seems horrible from a UX point of view.
  4. Use both with IC hidden. Seems extra work for no benefit…

And Finally…
On the Xbox version it was easy to come up with the pkayer’s name… use the profile. On PC the Xbox Gamer Services aren’t available so I allowed you to edit your name. Through IndieCity I can take the player’s name. Sorted!

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.

X-Orbtek II set for summer release!

I am excited to announce that X-Orbtek II will be available in summer 2013!

It will be released on Xbox 360 via XBLIG as well as PC.

There is no exact date at this moment, much of this depends on getting through review processes and times here can vary from days to weeks. Whilst I will target releasing on both platforms at the same time, if one is proving significantly slower to market then I won’t hold the other back!

To get you in the mood, here’s a trailer of the single player gameplay!

Highscores in X-Orbtek II

I’m currently looking at the options available for high scores in X-Orbtek II.

I figure that for local high scores, you don’t care about beating the 7th placed score. As a result I plan on keeping to one “high score”. When I first build the game it had two modes and then single player and multiplayer versions of those. This lead to four “High Scores” (i.e. one top score per mode). A little clunky but possibly explainable.

However now I’ve gone and expanded that. Effectively I could have 8 different forms of gameplay with 5 difficulty levels, which of course opens up a horrible mess of highscores. “You beat your top single player score on Easy difficulty with Classic orb collection and combat enabled”. Hmmm. I think not.

I’d like to reduce that but should that be reduced to just one highscore or have a couple for specific configurations (eg single player / multiplayer, combat / no combat, classic / survival). My concern is that it may be exploitable and there may be a specific configuration that allows for near unbeatable scores.

Saying that, this is for local highscores only. The goal of a local highscore is to get you trying to better yourself and making the best of any specific unbalanced selection only really applies in the online world. Also if the game becomes popular enough for an exploit to be known, well I’ll take that and address it later. Of course I hope to balance the game as much as I can before release, although there’s only so much playtesting that you can do!

I don’t expect to provide any form of online highscores for the XBLIG version* of X-Orbtek II, in large part because you can’t. Okay, there’s ways to fudge it via P2P communication but I’d rather only implement it if I’m doing it properly!

Anyway… here’s a video:

* As opposed to …?

X-Orbtek II Playtest Feedback: Game needs more modes

This weekend I ran a playtest of X-Orbtek II, my forthcoming XBLIG. Overall people had positive things to say about the game and it has shown to be an enjoyable game in single player or multi player. Playing for longer than an hour to two hours is maybe a bit too much, but the game was always intended to be one for shorter sessions.

There was plenty useful feedback, new bugs found and it was a great session but there was one thing that I maybe didn’t expect. There were plenty suggestions for further game modes. Obviously doing all of them won’t be viable and some are maybe better saved for other games, perhaps some of the variations could be achieved by having two or three modes then providing an element of customisation.

Theoretically I could even have no game modes and allow for full customisation of the gameplay, although that would involve delaying the project by a month plus of course overwhelming the player when they first play! This would probably be just as bad as providing five or six pre-defined game modes. I really want to keep things simple for the player and avoid unnecessary complications. It is a pick up and play title after all.

It will be a chunk of work and of course more reflection and evaluation of potential variations in gameplay is required at first, but providing more ways to enjoy the game, as well as the ideal experience for the player, sounds good.

Why X-Orbtek II has a key focus on local multiplayer

One of the major changes in X-Orbtek II over the previous releases is the introduction of local multiplayer.

Two player action

Two player action

I’ve always been a fan of local multiplayer over online multiplayer as half the fun is simply the banter with your mates. Friends mocking each other is completely different to any online discussion and its generally good fun. A great game just makes the experience even better. The other benefits are that you don’t have to deal with people quitting out mid-game or struggling to get an opponent on a quiet day. I’ve often found the process of going through logins, lobbies and having to wait on other players remembering to ready up can be infuriating. Imagine in X-Orbtek if you had a 2 minute wait and crashed within 20 seconds? Rage quit time! So yeah, X-Orbtek II is sticking to what I feel suits it best – local multiplayer.

That said, one of the difficulties that I’ve found with local multiplayer is that skill and experience can lead to the same result over and over. What really exacerbates the issue is that a lot of games are quite complex to pick up or require in depth knowledge to compete. For example in most fighting games, someone with a bit of experience will know a move or two. They will obliterate someone who can only button mash or do basic attacks every time. Equally they’ll get destroyed by a pro. This takes a lot of the fun out of the game.

I am looking to avoid this with the multiplayer in X-Orbtek II. The game itself is a simple concept. The same applies to the various multiplayer modes and this means that new players can come in and straight away start playing. Okay, they may make a few judgement errors at first by firing off bombs needlessly or trying to squeeze through gaps that aren’t there but a few games in and all players should be up to speed. Of course there is still a big skill demand to “master” the game so I’ve looked to ensure that the top player gets more attention from the enemies.

On both the new main mode and Classic mode it requires co-operation. When you work together it will be possible to keep collecting orbs for much longer than in single player. Because the game becoming increasingly difficult, as you start getting overwhelmed as the game goes on with ever increasing numbers and difficulty of enemies then you are really going to want your mate there to lend a hand! The session, and ultimately your score, will certainly keep going longer if you can support each other.

From my early playtests this proved good fun. You always push to do as well as you can for your score but at the same time you want to keep others going. You may even find yourself giving up that extra life or ammo to your fellow player as they struggle to keep up. I am very excited to do further playtesting with different people, different mindsets and different skill levels.

If saying “Go team!” isn’t for you and you just want to lock horns in a battle of skill then this can still be done in the main mode and Classic mode, however there’s a third mode that is available only for multiplayer. The “Survivor” mode will be much more competetive. The rules here are very similar to Classic with one life and no weapons, however unlike anything in previous versions of the games, it isn’t game over when the orbs disappear. The game keeps going until you are all dead, ensuring there is at least one orb available at any given time. Rather than having everyone chase the one orb around the screen, this mode gives players their own orbs to collect. This should bring a real competetive element to the game and some new tactics.

There’s still plenty playtesting to go in order to refine these modes but I’m very excited about playing X-Orbtek II with friends and hope others get to enjoy it as well.

Getting to grips with C# and XNA

Since starting my “Blog A Week” policy, most of what I’ve written is about how I’ve improved Invertical. Whilst I find the ongoing improvements very exciting and hope you’ll love the end result, I thought I’d take an alternate approach this week. Instead I’m going to reflect on how a newbie can pick up and create games for the Xbox.

X-Orbtek II is being written in C# using XNA, which provides a huge library of game functionality and is proving a great backbone. I was a little nervous about making a game for XBLIG as the language, API etc was new to me and it had been quite a while since I’d used a “proper” programming language. For the previous few years most of my games were made using GameMaker’s GML, Javascript through Unity and also browser games written in PHP. However I’m loving it.

Being able to step through code is invaluable and I really missed it with GameMaker. Visual Studio is of course very powerful and I do like the fact that I can press “.” and I’m away! One of the favourite things that I’ve learnt is partial classes. The amount of code I have in my main function is pretty crazy and it is really nice to be able to split it up. Maybe thats a sign that these ought to be unique classes but one thing I’ve found is that I want to keep my list of objects in my main game class, eg list of player, list of orbs, list of enemies etc. However often I want one list to access another so that all needs to be in the main game class!

Not everything is amazing about moving away from GameMaker. It is certainly slower to get everything working. Perhaps the hardest part when moving from GameMaker has been creating different modes & menus. Everything of course runs through your main game loop. I’ve got a state machine in place to monitor whether my game is in main menu, game, options etc and update & draw that accordingly. Personally its a bit, well ugly. I do like being able to create rooms and just say, okay lets go to options.

So in summary, for prototyping I’ll definitely be sticking to GameMaker but X-Orbtek II is unlikely to be my last C# or XNA project. This has certainly reignited my love of programming! Now I’ve just got to improve.