October Challenge

Good day! Last week I briefly stated what I was up to in terms of working towards the release of a game to market, and now I can be a bit more clear with my plans. After all, tomorrow marks the beginning of October, and so Ludum Dare’s October Challenge!

The October Challenge started a few years ago as a motivation for the Ludum Dare community to take a little game that step further (such as the thousands produced every 4 months in the compo/jam) and sell one copy. That’s it. But getting to that point for the first time gets you through a lot of faffing around that would eventually be required anyway. So it has always been my plan to use this month, and the challenge, to spur me towards a first release. Anyway I should really say something about the game itself, so I hereby welcome back my entry to the 37th mini-Ludum Dare jam of about a year ago: Stargazing!

Stargazing - new and old

Stargazing 2012 in Flash (above) and Stargazing 2013 in Unity

This was one of my little Flash game ideas that actually felt like I’d hit something interesting and different. It’s a very simple concept at heart but that’s ideal for my first project. And I see it as a great fit to touch-screen devices, which will be my market of choice. I intend to attempt submitting to both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store by the end of the month (*gulp*), with the actual release following thereafter.

I’ve moved the old Flash game into Unity, which wasn’t actually that painful a process at all. Everything from the Flash version is in place here (except audio for now). I think a big challenge now is making the game a worthwhile enough experience for someone to throw a bit of loose change at. For certain there needs to be more content (the Flash version can be finished in no time at all). I will be adding more areas of sky, and in fact there is already a second “stage” implemented with a bunch more constellations. I’m happy to say I have moved to data-driven definitions of stars and constellations as opposed to the many hard-coded lines in the original Flash game…

I’ll update my progress here as well as at the Ludum Dare site. Here’s hoping this time next month I have a mobile game in submission!

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.

Something of a rainy day

So I thought I’d throw up something I spent my Christmas playing with. Yes, that’s right – as I sat in the bedroom of my childhood in my parent’s house, having filled myself with more turkey than would ever really be necessary, I spanked out some ActionScript and drew some vague imagery in GIMP. I love GIMP.

The intention was to make a little game, but I decided to let myself be driven by visual goals (a bit unusual for me). As such it never got remotely close to being a game, but ended up as a little experiment in making rainfall with good ol’ Flixel.

I wasn't clinically depressed. Honest.

It was interesting to see how quickly the raindrop collisions started racking up the time for each update iteration on my laptop. I’d still like to make it into a game somehow, but haven’t got the faintest idea how really. It wasn’t envisioned as a game, so maybe that just isn’t to be.

Anyway, here’s a link to the swf (it has a menu screen, but for no reason other than I always start with a “menu” and “game” state with these Flixel projects). One more thing: it features a fairly heavy handed use of FlxG.Flash, meaning the screen flashes white, potentially quite frequently. If that’s likely to bother your eyes, steer clear.

http://megaswf.com/simple_serve/1010637