One Game A Month: March

And now for something a little different! After mentally exhausting myself in February I took it a bit easier this time around – at least on the code/art side of things – and took some time to learn Twine and write myself a little story.

The convention in a lot of text adventures is to address the player in the second-person as “you” – “you are faced with a choice”, “you walk North towards the badger sett” and such. So my little twist on this is a sort of role-switch: the story mainly consists of a dialogue between two characters; your character is the one addressing the other in this manner. You suggest to him which choice to make, and you hear his response to these instructions.

This is structured within the setting of a hypothetical hypnotherapy session, where you are able to heavily influence your patient’s dream-like thoughts. There are three endings, although they don’t differ hugely. Three months in, three games out: going to plan so far!

Play “Mr. Eck”

One Game A Month: February

It would be fair to say I over-reached a little with my February concept… For the shortest month of the year I started late due to my January effort overrunning and then chose to make an art-heavy game. I’ve never produced this much art for a little game before and I had planned to do more! I only just about had time for the absolute basic story scenes with no animation beyond the player walking and a couple other frames.

(The Morning After) The Night BeforeThe concept is one I came up with some time ago – really enjoying the way I can revisit concepts with these monthly games – where you find a guy waking up hungover in a house and by searching around you recover his memories of the night before. I would have put a lot more fluff items in, and more secondary characters, but yeah: time.

The art style is something specific I’ve tried out: I imagined the game looking like a picture from one of those school textbooks we used to have, which creatively seemed to only use one ink colour per page. So I’ve got solid outlined, filled vector art with those gradient backgrounds. I think it’s quite consistent if not beautiful (art remains my weakness as a developer).

Needless to say I will be mindful of the time-consuming nature of such art in March, and as such I fully intend to make some interactive fiction with Twine. One extreme to the other!

Play “(The Morning After) The Night Before”

One Game A Month: January

Okay so technically I missed January, but as the entry system over at onegameamonth.com was relaxed for the month I’m definitely still claiming it! As you may or may not know I have pledged to release one game every month of this, the year 2013. So without further ado my first game is here, and it is yet another hybrid curiosity – I’ve had a few efforts at mashing RPG mechanics into other styles of games, and this one takes most of its cues from Minesweeper of all places!

Warden of the Planes

Warden of the Planes

This is “Warden of the Planes” and is a sort of stripped-back dungeon-crawling RPG, but as if played on a minesweeper board. Not mines, monsters! There is some clunkiness and imbalance to it, but feedback has been quietly encouraging. I certainly haven’t ruled out further work on this to get in some much needed accessibility and prettiness. One for another month perhaps.

Now I need to get onto something for February already, which could become my first look at making a graphical adventure game in Unity, something I’ve been planning to try for a while.

I’d be delighted if you’d try my little game out: the title screen comes loaded with a block of text hints to hopefully help a little (e.g. start by exploring around blank tiles to not die immediately). Any feedback is welcome!

Play “Warden of the Planes”

Harold won the mood category!

ld25mood

I’m a few days late mentioning this here but look at that!! My previous best category rating, I believe, was about 49th in humour for Jack. So imagine my shock upon seeing this result on Tuesday! It was enough to get Harold is an Executioner a spot on Indie Statik’s round-up too! As a long time would-be contender (see: this entire blog) I am absolutely delighted to break into the top end of the voting. The game also placed 8th for my use of the theme “You are the villain” (and optionally, goats).

The weird thing is I don’t even feel like this is the best thing I’ve done, but I suppose as an experience it is more focused in its intent and delivery. It actually gets a message across to people (even if it is pretty straight-forward). I have upset people greatly with my miserable interactive tale, and have reaped my reward.

It feels like the perfect start to 2013: a year that I am promising myself will be a very important year for me and my work. So without pause for breath the next thing to note is my participation in the surprisingly popular One Game A Month movement, which I fully intend to keep up with. I’m off to India for a little jolly shortly, so my January game will be simple and finished right at the end of the month. In which case, I better go get some work done!

Role Reversal

Not long ago I was quite determined I would not be able to make a game this past weekend but somehow I worked around two pub visits and a meal outing to finish up something I’ve descriptively called Harold is an Executioner.

The theme this time around was “You Are the Villain”, which pretty much sealed the deal on me entering. I am sometimes guilty of whinging about uninspired Ludum Dare themes but this is a great one! So I crafted this game telling the tale of an unlikely executioner doing his job to put food on the table as the horror of what he does every day washes over him.

It’s got to be the darkest thing I’ve ever produced and was almost at times a little uncomfortable to put together. But none of this is supposed to be gratuitous and I’m hopeful that shows. Sometimes life sucks. Harold’s life sucks. This game is not “fun”. Here’s hoping the “mood” category helps me in the voting!

Play Harold is an Executioner here

And as per tradition, a time-lapse appears!

And if I’ve not spoiled your mood too much, do have a good Christmas and New Year! I will return soon, possibly with something relating to this phrase: “One Game A Month”…

A new (not-)game

Hello again! I’m afraid I haven’t touched Project Prophecy since the last Ludum Dare compo but I have continued to tinker around with Flash things. This weekend was Mini-Ludum Dare #37: I hadn’t especially planned to enter but the theme called out to me. Not making a game; or more accurately, making a not-game. A chance to forget reward mechanics and arbitrary challenges in favour of crafting a specific and personal experience for the player (if we still call him or her that) to take in.

It is literally full of stars

As you may not be aware I have always held something of a fascination with space and the universe: I actually studied a masters degree in Physics with Astrophysics while I still decided what to do with my life. And while I’ve long forgotten most of the hard maths I tried to absorb those years ago, this vague fascination formed the basis of the game I made this weekend. In it you are presented a fairly accurately mapped section of the Northern Hemisphere sky (thanks to this neat site) where you can pick out constellations amongst the stars. There is a little incidental dialogue from the out-of-shot stargazing couple to accompany your little exploration. I’m quite pleased with it really, I hope it can prove a pleasant distraction!

Play “Stargazing” here

Evolution!

Evolution! The theme seemed destined to forever look on from the ranks of Ludum Dare’s final voting round only to see another take the honour; but this time somehow Evolution pushed past “Parallel Worlds” by the smallest of margins to finally get its weekend in the Sun. Surely after noticing this theme time and time again I would be full of ideas to crack on with. Well… not quite. I couldn’t really get past the whole “evolve your character to be gradually better” idea that I ended up rolling with. Turns out this was actually a really difficult theme to properly dig into.

So, my entry then is an arcadey little top-down shooter. I figured something really managed and mechanically straightforward was a good idea, and in a sense it probably was. I think the 2 main reasons I ended up a bit disappointed with this are as follows:

  1. I struggled on Saturday. I had a few drinks Friday night but it wasn’t that, I just got distracted easier than usual, for which I could blame a number of things not least the fact I’m moving into a new flat imminently and have a lot of stuff to arrange. But yeah, excuses excuses.
  2. I didn’t love the idea. I don’t think it’s enough to just have a small, focused idea. Not if you want to make something of real value. Everything was a bit mechanical with this and my motivation suffered for it. Next time I’ll try to take this on board and go for something I can imbue with a little more passion.

So there it is – mixed feelings but as ever with these things, I reckon I’m better for it. Back to Project Prophecy! (I really need a better name for that at some point…) Oh and here’s the timelapse from my time doing LD 24:

Play “Mutation Flight” here

The Passive Battle Conundrum

Hi there! Today I’m going to spew a little consciousness stream on maybe Project Prophecy‘s most exciting feature, but also perhaps it’s most challenging from a design perspective: the battles. Oh and here’s some relevant art I knocked out over the last few days!

A bit of fun concept art. A wounded battle-mage prepares a fire spell in the hope of avoiding a fatal defeat.

I’m no artist really but had fun with this – makes a change from the more functional work!

So: battles. Bread-and-butter of everything that comes from the fantasy RPG mold: and after all, Prophecy is supposed to capture that feel while offering the player a different perspective on events. You are the head of a school: you will carefully guide these plucky students through their training, but when the time for battle comes they are on their own…

This presents an obvious challenge. People like to “play” games, right? How much fun could watching a game play itself be? I haven’t truly come to a solution on this yet, but my hope is it won’t be as much of a problem as it seems. If I can ensure the player engages with these little guys and gals as deeply as possible through guiding and customising their development and learning why they are each individual, then I hope the pleasure derived from seeing your charges flinging themselves at enemies will be worthwhile in itself. This is the gaming emotion of naches (i.e. the “Pleasure or pride at the accomplishment of a child or mentee.” – XEOdesign pdf “Why We Play Games”) and I think it can be a very powerful thing.

But I feel that this alone still leaves the risk of losing a player’s engagement. I plan this to be a mobile/tablet game (in the first instance, at least) and want it to be playable in small bursts. If the player has to sit through a 2 minute battle with nothing to do – however much naches is running through their veins – it might not be enough. I’m toying with the idea of having a timing-based critical hit micro-game accompanying student attacks. Something that isn’t essential but is there to keep you engaged in the event unfolding. I guess I’ll just have to try some stuff out and see how it feels.

Finally, on a different note, the weekend after this is Ludum Dare! Once again I intend to enter: the contents of this site probably give away my fondness for the competition. And it will be good to have a little break from thinking about my little students! Till then! x

Project Prophecy

Alright, it’s getting high time I said something about my latest and current attempt to make a real game that takes more than 48 hours to make and I could maybe even sell and stuff. So having closed out my first “milestone” leaving me with a functioning prototype, I’ll take this chance to summarise what it is and where it came from.

The original “Prophecy” for LD19

As 2010 drew to a close Ludum Dare 19 happened bringing into existence lots of little games along the rather vague theme of “Discovery”. This was the second event I entered. I made a game called Prophecy that I will freely admit was nigh-on unplayable due to a pretty awful key-driven, list-heavy interface. Yet the core idea felt sound: you “discover” the latent talents in a group of young, unskilled students before sending them out to battle great evils. One fellow entrant actually dug into my code to find how to win it (it was comically difficult to win unless you know what exactly to do).

So it was a bit of a failure, but it was the best kind of failure. It had obvious issues but yet a certain charm and promise still found a way to shine through. Fast-forward to this year and I sit down and think about how I would do it with hindsight and more time. This is what I’m referring to here as Project Prophecy.

First look at “Project Prophecy” with placeholder art

I like this idea as a mobile game. I’m quite a fan of Kairosoft’s mobile sim games (there are some parallels here with Dungeon Village in particular, perhaps) and think they really work on that platform: although I see Prophecy as something markedly more considered and complex, the idea of putting in short bursts of play appeals. I’m developing this with my new favourite thing Unity, which will allow me to dump it onto Android and iOS with relatively little hassle. Hurray! I’m testing it on my Galaxy S2 as I go, and so far so good!

Naturally I still have a lot of work to do on this, presently it is really only a prototype for a more fully-featured game; but things are going in the right direction. I do have a day job so I’m making no promises on dates but the scope of this game is deliberately small so I might even finish it before we have hovercars. Here’s hoping “milestone 2” will come to me without much resistance!

I will attempt to update this blog with more information and thoughts as the project progresses, otherwise I continue to mutter about this and anything else that occurs to me over on Twitter.

Jack and the Giants

Unbelievably the Ludum Dare 48-hour games competition has been knocking around for all of ten years now, though I’ve only been involved for the last couple of those. The near-exponential growth of games continues: 1000 entries was inevitably broken in the competition itself and the total finished just over 1400 including the Jam. Incredible. At this rate by LD 30 there’ll be more entries than stars in the sky.

Anyway! This time I went wild and made… a pixel-arted platformer! So cliché, I know, but it’s actually the first game of this kind I’ve personally put out there. The theme “Tiny World” once again didn’t fill me with delight, but here’s what I came up with: giants are threatening the Tiny Kingdom beneath them and you, as Jack, must defeat them! Obviously this is deriving from Jack the Giant Killer/Jack and the Beanstalk etc. It has a silly sense of humour, no less than 3 pieces of music I somehow found time to compose and can be finished in less than a minute.

Play “Jack”

And of course here is the timelapse. Ooh look, Windows 7!