Well, I did it. I left my job with the sole intention of working full-time on my own games independently – while the money holds out at least. And today is the first day at it!
My hope is to get something to mobile by the end of October, in some part using the Ludum Dare October challenge (if that still happens) as some extra motivation to give me momentum in pushing for a release. Now, that is not very long at all from now so indeed I will not be starting some ambitious project but rather looking to my recent past for this one…
I will say a lot more as this project starts to take shape but what I’m aiming for is something of a compilation of three of my previous little games, polished up and expanded a little. They will be tied by a theme and hopefully something a little more, but I haven’t entirely worked out how that will be yet. I do not expect mainstream success of any description with this but I like to think there are people out there that would be interested in a small set of brief narrative experiences looking at the human condition. A change from grinding gems and coins perhaps?
Final word of thanks to NaturalMotion for providing me employment for almost three years prior to this moment, it really was a cool place to work.
I should start with a word on the lack of a “July” post for One Game A Month… So yes, I have failed in my mission to release a new game each and every month. With moving home (AGAIN) and other upcoming life stuff (TBA) to deal with I had to sacrifice July. Bit of a shame. However! Here in August we had the latest Ludum Dare last weekend, so I have a game for the month!
Back to Flash and Flixel, I took on the task of making a game on the theme “10 seconds”. I couldn’t believe how popular this theme was, dominating the vote. I didn’t hate it, but it feels like one of the more mechanical themes. I tend to prefer taking inspiration from something… well, that is actually a theme. But anyway, I’ll work with what I get.
I settled on something of an endless runner in the sort of spirit of Canabalt. The 10 seconds come in as an interval between which a series of missile attacks are launched at you. I spent quite a bit of time getting visuals I was happy with here: particularly with the colour palette and the character animation. Visual quality is something I often let slide with such limited time so it felt good to arrive at something I was quite happy with here. It has been suggested the game is a bit slow to get going for a runner, which is probably fair. I was trying something a bit more tactical and cautious. Overall I felt pretty happy with my weekend’s work.
Play “Barrage Trigger” here
(The competition entry page with a little more info and the option for follow entrants to vote – for the time being – is over here!)
June… what happened in June. I went to Rezzed! I think it’s the first games show like that I’ve attended and I enjoyed it. How I would surely like to have something to show at such an event in future!
Getting back to my self-imposed challenge of releasing a game every month: I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this was another very time-limited month. I made a go of trying to finish the little match-3 puzzle thing I started the month before. It’s incredibly simple and by the time I uploaded it on here I was just happy to say I’m done for now on it. It was an interesting exercise but I don’t even particularly recommend playing it, but you are welcome to if you wish.
No idea what to get onto for July!
Presently I hold down a job in the actual salary/desk job games industry and as such am prone to sudden bouts of overtime requirement. This has really held back my efforts over the last month (and this month isn’t likely to be much better…) But enough of that, onto what I actually have achieved!
Catch the Light
My initial plan was to knock up a little puzzle game. However, between fighting nasty little rare logic bugs and building up the mechanics it became clear in my few spare hours it wasn’t going to come together. Hopefully I’ll get back on that for this, the month of June, but what I have managed is an ultra-quick little game for May!
The self-explanatory “Catch the Light” sees the player in a standard first-person perspective chasing a hovering little ball of light around a stark monochrome environment. How many times can you catch it in a minute? A game of reflexes, orientation and observation. It would have suited the last Ludum Dare really, in its minimalist ways!
Play “Catch the Light” here
Not the name of my new band but rather a matter of fact description of this post, having finally shoved the timelapse for my work on Pyramid up the YouTube.
The game is over here.
…Was the theme for the 26th and latest Ludum Dare, which came and went last weekend and which once again I participated in. Minimalism is certainly a very useful theme for a game jam in that it encourages you to drop the baggage of detailed artwork or superfluous features, but I could see it being dangerous in enabling excuses too…
I’ve threatened to make a roguelike a couple of times before. In fact one previous effort got quite far before I abandoned it. So what better time to finally get one out of my system than a game jam about minimalism? Roguelikes have always gone for a minimalist graphical approach anyway, right?
My fourth game of the year, then, is Pyramid: a minimalistic roguelike. Things went quite well on balance: I actually went with my first idea, which is often a bad move but it allowed me to get good and focused early on. The pyramid motif comes from the level progression: level 1 is merely 2×2 squares, and indeed looks very minimalistic! Each subsequent level expands the size of the layout by 1 in both directions. Gradually a vision fog comes into play more and wandering spirits (the coloured blocks) appear and will attack you without a second thought.
I’m quite pleased with the clean visual style. It certainly helped having the simple graphics (although getting that highlight on the top and right edges of the squares took far more investigating than it ever should have… there’s always something).
So now we’re into May already! Four games in four months achieved, but my day job is going into overdrive this month leaving me with concerns over what I can do. I have this fishing thing in the works, hopefully I can find enough time to make it a game. We shall see.
Play “Pyramid” here
And I almost forgot – I’ll stick a timelapse of development up soon but I just haven’t got around to compiling it yet. Busy busy…
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”
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 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”
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
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”
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!