Tag Archive for SKSP

#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.

#SKSP Game Dev Marathon – Day 3

I am spending my weekend working flat out making computer games, all in aid of charity. Several people who donated provided game ideas and the games developed over the next 50-60 hours will be based on these.

Each day I will have a new blog post and I will update it as the day goes on. There is also a live stream running. Refresh this page to get the latest blog update!

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00:08

With only a few minutes on the clock I managed to finish Elephants Vs Monsters. Unfortunately I never finished the remaining suggestion on the list but I think 5 games is pretty good! Some of the games I’m happy with. Some, well not so much. I will do a proper write up tomorrow. For now I’m happy to relax knowing that I’ve put in a fair bit of effort and have some decent results.

I’d still like to polish them up a little, we’ll see. I don’t see any reason why the projects should just be abandoned because the marathon is over! Could maybe get some collaboration on the go, who know!

Check back tomorrow to see my writeup and download the games!

19:10

It is now 48 hours since I opened GameMaker Studio,ready to start the marathon. Since then I have created four games with the fifth coming along nicely!

This time with art

As you can see the game looks a lot more like an actual game now! Quite a lot  of the artwork is just free stuff provided either by GameMaker or one of the books. That is actually the case for a lot of the assets I’ve used. There’s still a lot of gameplay to do such as new enemies, new elephant types and scoreboards. Hopefully I can get it finished by 9-10pm tonight. This will give me time for a quick go at the digging game.

I’m still in good spirits although I am really looking forward to tomorrow when I can watch a DVD and play some FIFA!

I’ll still be ensuring that the games are uploaded though. A task for the afternoon then the evening off sounds like a plan!

15:30

Some high quality art assets there

I’m working away on Elephants Vs Monsters, although at the moment it is more “Squares Vs Squares” as I decided not to spend ages faffing about with sprites but instead use squares, get the gameplay working then I can prettify everything, create different units and so forth. Its going okay. I’ve not used GameMaker’s path finding before but it was dead easy and for the most part works quite well. My concern of course is that this could be quite a complex game to make in terms of UI. I’m likely to limit myself to just one level and have it as a highscore table affair – ie keep playing until you die.

It is also quite an interesting game to work on as I’ don’t really play many tower defense games. I loved Plants Vs Zombies but a key part of that was just the comical notes, amusing characters and general Popcap awesomeness. I’ve also got the South Park Tower Defence game which is probably more “old school” from my understanding. I’ll probably be more like the SP version.

I do still hope to have a go at the final game, Muncher. As with Elephants Vs Monsters, its a genre that I’m not so familiar with. I do love Minecraft but that is more about the building and I’ve only played the 2D digging games very briefly… as in 5-10 minutes.

13:20

The final leg of the marathon is here! Having spent 25 hours straight working on games, plus 8 hours prior, I am through four of the six games on the list. People can be saving kids in the digital world along with the real world for fellow SKSPers and folk who have donated. There’s koalas who crash landed in space and need rescuing and a ninja who harnesses the power of gum. Finally we’ve stepped inside the mind of a beagle.

Next up I need to decide, do I dedicate the next 12 or so hours (depending when my body says “no more”) to Muncher –  a digging game through food, or shall we have elephants with laser cannons in the game Elephants Vs Monster? Tough choice! Check back shortly to see what I decide.

#SKSP Game Dev Marathon – Day 2

I am spending my weekend working flat out making computer games, all in aid of charity. Several people who donated provided game ideas and the games developed over the next 50-60 hours will be based on these.

Each day I will have a new blog post and I will update it as the day goes on. There is also a live stream running. Refresh this page to get the latest blog update!

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11:15

What’s the beagle up to now?

Well I’ve passed the 24 hours solid mark! This is of course on top of what I’ve done before. I’ve managed to create 3 games in this time with the final one just complete… well as complete as I plan for now. Next up is a power nap if possible (I’m buzzing!) then this afternoonI’ll back on task.

The most recent game, Watch Out – Beagle’s About, didn’t quite end up as was originally planned and you can probably complete it in a minute (yup, for every a minute’s gameplay I’ll have spent 5 hours on it. However I’m hopeful that the person who requested it will still like it! The game delves into the mind of a beagle when home alone. You’ll get 6 clues and you have to figure out what a beagle would do here. By “do” I mean go up and press space. It’s APB all over again! Graphics are exceptionally crummy, which is worrying as most my dev time was creating them. I really do suck at art!

Well I’m off to bed… although I guess I’ll be up for lunch soon. See you later in err, today’s blog.

08:57

Plodding along with Watch Out – Beagle’s About. In truth this game is shaping up to be pretty rubbish. Unlike what I had planned I’ve set it in a living room and so that the whole thing didn’t look completely out of proportion the room is now too cramped for gameplay. What gameplay there is will involve being given a “quest” that is effectively walk for a second and press a button. Hopefully they’ll be amusing though and you’ll have to keep an eye out for rampaging sprouts. Maybe the end game could be ruin each household item & eat 5 marshmallows. :s I want to finish it in just over an hour which given I’ve only done the sprites might be a challenge!

I’m a pretty sleepy but not too bad. Fair enough considering I’ve now spent about 30 of the past 36 hours making games and of course this was on the back of my usual working hours. I know technically Sunday is the third day of the marathon so most these entries should have been in the day three blog but I’m breaking them up by sleeps!

06:22

The Gum Ninja in all its glory

Well around the time of my last update I decided no more than an hour on The Gum Ninja. It is now four hours later and I’ve just stopped. The game is actually quite tidy for something that I only started working on around 9 hours ago! The jumping is quite buggy and as with Extreme Koala Super Rescue In Space there’s a lot I really wanted to improve and add to but even if I spent the entire weekend on one game I wouldn’t be happy.

Beagle!

That said, despite it being short and buggy I’m hoping folk will find it enjoyable enough! I’d actually be quite keen to turn it into a “proper” game at some point.

Next up will be “Watch out – Beagle’s About!”, based on the game idea by my wonderful girlfriend. My artwork skills will be an issue here no doubt but the main meny and any dialogs will be made awesome with photos of my folks’ dog, a beagle. Got a text today to hear that they are going down to get their new pup tomorrow, well today. An extra incentive for me to visit! Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up soon 🙂

02:10

The Gum Ninja in a sticky situation

The Gum Ninja is quite fun to play. Not sure on quite how far I’ll take the game. Obviously it is playable and has a few minutes gameplay but its hardly an epic campaign! I want the games to be enjoyable but do I axe a game or two to create loads of levels and enemies? Probably not.

This brings me onto something thats been nagging at me… distributing these games. Obviously host on my site as per usual with prototypes / demos but I mean packaging them up. By default they are built into an installer that needs artwork and well… is a probable hassle. Might build them all as zip files then also provide an installer for the lot of them… or just a zip file. Be interested to hear if anyone has preferences for these things?

Gonna make myself a microwave curry soon before I start gnawing on myself (again). The 24 hours wasn’t mandary in my plan but hopefully this’ll help me with the next err,  8 hours. Naturally after a “power nap” I’ll be cracking straight back on.

23:47

Not even 14 hours into today’s game dev spree and I have to admit, I’m knackered. Working on Fergie: The Gum Ninja, which is of course a terrible setting for the game. I’ll maybe just axe the Fergie reference and have it as jus The Gum Ninja.

The Gum Ninja

The development isn’t going too badly. I pulled the jumping mechanism out of Invertical, which I know wasn’t the greatest but it would take me a reasonably bit of time to get another done – and that might not be as good. My little dude is running about (albeit with only one subimage), he can fire gumballs and jump against them. Its not perfect but it least I can get a feel for the game. The aiming is working nicely enough, even if I did need to find myself pencil & paper, do a quick sketch and jot down SOHCAHTOA!

Going to create a handful of little puzzle levels with just static nasties (traps, spikes etc) and see how we’re doing for time.

21:30

Extreme Koala Super Rescue in Space

Work hasn’t been quite as quick as I hope and maybe needs to be in order to get through all of the games on the list. However I have finished Extreme Koala Super Rescue in Space which is great news! I know that I’ve been a touch slow with a few bugs and niggles. It ispretty decent and whilst obviously not quality for a commercial product, I hope some folk will enjoy it! However I need to up my game and get working. Some good music should help!

Just starting on Fergie: The Gum Ninja. It will be a puzzle platformer where you have to use gum to block up some holes in the defence perimeter for the main character “Fergie”. I actually decided to use Fergie before today. As a United fan I was pretty gutted when I read the result. Bit off topic but the last time I missed a United home game they lost to Blackburn. The time before that they lost to City. Here’s hoping they aren’t playing at home when I’m doing my 24 hour gaming marathon!

16:40

I’m approaching the sort of time where I ought to be looking at moving on to another game. So far Extreme Koala Super Rescue has a few levels but it doesn’t have the space monkeys. The actual movement of the koalas is pretty poor as well if i’m being honest, in particular how they react to the arrows. However I’ve just realised there’s a simple solution. I’m a numpty.

14:00

Really enjoying working on Extreme Koala Super Rescue in Space. Got the Koalas working fine, end points and a trap. About to test the the aliens that I’ve added!

This should be quite a fun game, especially for fans of chu chu rocket (albeit a single player version).

11:30

Forgot how unstable this software is and wasn’t saving. Looks like I’m starting over.

10:15

FIFA13 and a RASPBERRY PI will have to wait

Oh Royal Mail, you tease. This morning I got two deliveries, both of which I *really* want to play with. Yes, thats a Raspberry Pi. Must resist. I’ll actually be turning my Raspberry Pi into a games console. If I get it working that maybe sounds like a cool SKSP prize for the future.

I’ll have to admit this is just over an hour later than I planned to get started but then again I didn’t get to sleep until about 4am! My first game today will be Extreme Koala Super Rescue in Space, based on my favourite puzzle game – Chu Chu Rocket. Bit groggy right now but I’m sure once I get going I’ll be rocking!