A look back at 2012
The previous year has been a very exciting one for me as I’ve been able to prototype and create many exciting projects. Whilst they might not be commercial successes, I am very proud with what I’ve been able to achieve and hope to build on that over the coming years as I gain more experience and technical knowledge. I’d like to take a short while to look back at my various projects, hopefully with a bit of critical analysis as well as sentiment!
At the turn of the year I had several projects on the go (HexStackIt, HexStackIt 2D and The Really Annoying Game) and soon started another, Captain Getsu. At that point I was starting to work really hard on my games, with several projects in development side-bu-side.
HexStackIt was the first released and still to this day I am quite pleased with it. There are probably three failings to the game through. First of all, the player ship looks crap. As a result the entire game visually looks a little rubbish despite Unity providing some nice effects for the environment and at high res, it does look quite nice. Second of all the UI is just appalling. You can tell that I wanted to get the game released so just wacked on a front menu. I still believe in the game design and would love to make this for a console at some point. One day I’d like to further explore it for Facebook as being able to post scores to your wall and have an online highscore is a great thing and personally I think that games like this are something that would be very welcome on Facebook, if anything to show games aren’t just resource sims, pictionary or puzzles!
At this point HexStackIt 2D got shelved as I much preferred the 3D version and didn’t feel as though it brought anything to the table. Captain Getsu became my main focus, a game based around using the colours of Xbox controller buttons to deal more damage. I do love my horde shooter games and was excited to have a go at making my own. I didn’t want it to be just another run around and shoot with the same very limited controls as usual. Instead I wanted to use more of the controller. Initial progress was good but I don’t think that I ever really got the balance right. What I wanted was to combine risk and danger with damage but it didn’t really pan out. Perhaps one of the issues was that with the larger maps to make the missions more interesting (mainly hunt down planets and blow them up), it meant that having enemies on hand to fight required them to really fly at you. I think better AI would have helped with smaller maps. Missions could also have been more diverse and the instructions were just walls of text, which I feel dirty for doing. Perhaps the worst part of the game was the controls. A true horde shooter should be using both sticks but to try and keep gameplay on a similar level to using keyboard or a basic PC controller I limited it. I plan on remaking the game for the Xbox but need to think long and hard about how missions AI and colour all tie in together. There’s certainly some potential though!
The Really Annoying Game was an interesting project. I’ll admit that I was drunk when I came up with the idea. The goal was to create a simple and suitably frustrating-yet-enjoyable puzzle game that was wrapped up in a big piss take of many games out there, from the viral tactics of CityVille to games with annoying repetitious “tips”. I also had grand ideas of spoofing the strawberry jam effect used by modern FPS games, demanding friends of GTA games, god awful voice acting of… well too many games and piss-poor attempts at co-op. However in the end, I stuck to limited puzzles deciding to release extras if the game was ever successful. It wasn’t.
To be honest I thought some of the humour was okay, if a bit childish at time, and the puzzles themselves were pretty decent but the main issue was presentation. I was far too lazy with UI and deservedly suffered. However as with the previous two projects, it is something with potential. What I’d really like to do is strip out most of the deliberately annoying UI then create a level editor. It would be very interesting to make a puzzle game where you can create and share your own puzzles online! Now that would be social gaming, not spamming your friends with requests. Perhaps one of the reasons why I’m attracted to working on this again with a level editor is that I really enjoyed working on making the puzzles and want to share that experience with people.
My final game of the first quarter of the year was Captain Getsu: Survivor. This was just looking at creating a simple horde shooter but using the colour mechanism of Captain Getsu. In truth colour proved pretty useless but as a horde shooter it was a lot more enjoyable. I think that the Xbox version of the Captain Getsu series will be a mix of the two as I found it a lot more intense. Adding in the various controller support and multiplayer both really helped as well!
After the really of these four games things became a bit erratic for me. I put out some half-made games made for a specific occassion, namely Get Mi Haem and I Protest, then started working on prototypes. In truth I really enjoyed working on these prototypes as I get to try out new game ideas and get to do more of the “fun parts” of making a game. I really enjoy working out how the gameplay should work, getting the character moving around, picking up items etc. I got to create prototypes for a variety of interesting game ideas such as BODMASter (a maths game!), Paint It Jack and Invertical.
After running a poll, Invertical was selected as the next full game that I worked on. It was an interesting game where you would change your colour to collide with different platforms. The idea actually came from a shadow art music video for the song “Bad Apple“, which was made famous by the Touhou game series. I decided that I really wanted to make a go of this game and ended up pouring hundreds of hours into developing it. I am rather pleased with the results. Okay, so it maybe isn’t as slick as Super Meat Boy or charming as Fez but the core gameplay can be really enjoyable and I feel that the simple visuals work well. There are certainly things I’d do differently if starting over, namely adding in more exploration (a bit like a Halloween game I half-made, Trick or Treat) but overall this is a solid title and I’m a bit gutted that I failed to promote it to success. That said, it got a wonderful review on Indie Game Magazine which is probably the highlight of my year!
This was shortly followed up by X-Orbtek. In truth this wasn’t an original idea for 2012 as I’d made something similar before but I really built upon the game. The main thing that I wanted to do was global highscores and this really makes the game worth playing. I do love simple games that you can play for a minute or two and try to get the high score, then play again and again. The simplicity of the concept means that getting to grips with what you have to do is easy enough but of course the game gets more and more challenging. Those that played it really seemed to enjoy it as well with both Games Shrine and Wrathkai giving positive write-ups! It even made the Game Shrine Game of the Year collection! Perhaps its failure to take off was a combination of two things. Firstly, a lack of effort on my part (although to be fair, I have a day job!) but also the simple graphics. Personally I never felt the game needed, or even wanted, flashy graphics. The gameplay is “old school” so it should look and and feel like a game from old arcade machines. However it does mean that screenshots aren’t the most compelling when people browse a store.
Since the release of X-Orbtek things have went rather bitty. I worked on games for a full weekend as part of a charity marathon, read more on that here, plus of course the previously mentioned Trick or Treat. I’ve also been working on an actual freelance project, which could lead to some exciting future announcements, started my Xbox game (but it is very very early in development!) and also… made a new game! Yes, in a couple of weeks I threw together a completely remade HexStackIt 2D. It hasn’t been properly released yet, although it is on Steam Workshop. Expect an announcement later today. 🙂
So all in all, it has been a very exciting and busy year. Invertical has been my pride and joy from the past year and I have loved working on it, along with all my other games. Here’s to more of the same in 2013, although hopefully reaching more people!