This is not only a review, but my highest recommendation of what I believe to be the most comprehensive text written on the Japanese game industry in the 80’s and 90’s. At least in English! ;) The book I’m talking about, as you might’ve guessed by now, is the following…

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The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers by John Szczepaniak available on Amazon.com

Yes, the title is a mouthful. The book itself has a lot of writing as well at over 500 pages, so I’ll try to keep this short. If you have an interest in knowing what the Japanese industry was like “way back when,” or you want to know the story behind some of the cherished and/or niche titles you grew up loving, this might be the only place for you to get a glimpse of that world. >>Continue reading post…

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I recently wrapped up a project I worked on for the fine crew at Wildlife. It was a web application involving compositing a user’s name and photo into a video in realtime, so I’m describing this as realtime compositing! My bad if this sounds misleading to ya! Read on if you’re interested in finding out what this is all about.

 

 The Spell Caster

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Created for the TV show, Witches of East End, the spell caster allows users to create a spell with their favorite character from the show. After the user logs in with their Facebook account, the application plays out like an interactive video. The user selects an ingredient to mix, their photo is added to the cauldron and stirred by the user, and finally presented with a potion bottle that displays their name on the bottle.

To create the illusion of the user’s photo and name being in the video we developed a sort of realtime compositing system. This isn’t too unbelievably different from something that you’ve probably seen in Flash before but that didn’t make it any less difficult. The goal was to make this seamless with the live action video and visual fx, also handled at Wildlife. With this project I got up close and personal with the quirks and limitations of HTML video — especially with regards to cross platform and cross browsers compatibility.

In Javascript, I developed a system that basically functions as a custom video player. It generates a playlist based on the user’s selection, with certain videos being tied to tracking data that’ll draw the user’s photo and name into the scene as a texture.

Here’s my explanation for how it all works.

>>Continue reading post…

Hello ya’ll!

I’ve been neglecting this place. I haven’t even been announcing our games officially on the blog. (by the way, we stealthily released The Crazy Program on Android!)

For the past year or two I’ve been hacking away at HTML game demos on and off. Thinking about it, I never followed through and released something. For a time, I was thinking seriously about doing a Japanese styled mobile card game, similar to the now famous Puzzles & Dragons but I sort of hit a wall with my approach to using 3D with CSS. But that ended up just turning into a blog post outlining a CSS3 technique.

I decided to release this new project as early as possible and get something out the door, no matter how rough it was. Introducing…

RUSH-D (alpha)!

Play it at http://www.rush-d.com

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RUSH-D is a Sokay game series that never got quite off the ground. I started designing RUSH-D as a side-scrolling space shooter (SHMUP) fashioned after some of my favorite games — Einhander and UN Squadron. I created a simple Flash prototype while I was working on Thugjacker and in those days, that was enough to completely sidetrack me away from my main project.

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Here’s a screen shot of RUSH-D (aka Sokay Rush) prototype.

Since this was back in the day (around 2003), I thought I was clever planning to use pre-rendered 3D art to wow all of the Flash game audience. My expectations grew and I never got really far with the project outside of a few design docs and concept art. >>Continue reading post…

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Donut Get! running on Windows Phone 8

Earlier this year I jumped into Windows Phone 8 when I got a Nokia Lumia 920. I’d been using an iPhone 3G for about 4 years and was ready to move on to something a bit more… modern. While Windows Phone has its crappiness (you mean I can’t save image attachments from e-mails???), iOS had its fair share of crappiness early on as well (no copy & paste???).

It was great to have a new fancy phone but I had an empty place in my heart because I couldn’t play my Sokay Games on my phone… :(

Bless the gurus at Unity for bringing the Windows Phone 8 exporter to Unity 4, and for free as well!

A couple weeks ago I tested out the WP8 exporter by doing a quick port of Donut Get! I got it working within an hour. I still need to polish it for release, but it was surprising how little extra it required me to get it running. In this post I will cover some of the process and the gotchas I encountered along the way.

>>Continue reading post…

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Facebook leaderboard as seen in The Crazy Program on Android.

 I got a lot of feedback from my friends testing our new mobile game The Crazy Program. One thing that came up a few times was a request to have a high scores table to compete with your friends. I created a quick Facebook App version of Donut Get! last Fall and knew it wouldn’t be too much work with Facebook’s built in high scores functionality.

Facebook allows you to save high scores for your app without needing any backend. The caveat is that you can only save one score per user. So this works decently for a global high score for your game, but not so well if you have different levels and different modes. Facebook’s scores API will also return a list of your friends that are playing, in order of rank. This makes it very easy to hit the ground running with some social features.

Prime31 Social Networking Plugins for Unity

I decided to purchase the Prime31 Social Networking plugins to handle the communication between Facebook and Unity. I had a good experience with their in-app purchase plugins and the support was good. There were other options for Facebook plugins but they either weren’t for both Android and iOS or I couldn’t tell whether or not they could handle posting high scores. Some plugins seemed to just handle basic Facebook connect features, or at least this was the impression I got.

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Prime31 Social Networking demo scene

I started development on Android. The example scene is straightforward and I got connected with my Facebook App fairly quickly.

>>Continue reading post…

Since using Unity, I’ve been trying to replicate a pipeline that’s similar to Flash. Being able to use Flash’s environment for hand-polished 2d animation just can’t be beat, unless you count custom developed tools. LWF from GREE shows promise in allowing you to bring your Flash animation into Unity, but there is some work involved in getting it to work!

donuts_lwfDemo made with LWF in Unity.

With the mobile version of DONUT GET!, I tried a homemade Sprite Animation approach. This worked reasonably for the requirements of the port but it was more trouble than anticipated given the size of the texture sheets needed for so many frames of animation. Sprite sheets ate up RAM like nobody’s business and easily crashed lower-end devices.

Late last year GREE announced a godsend, LWF. It’s an Open Source tool to export Flash animation from SWF’s into Unity or HTML5. This was around the time I released DONUT GET! on mobile (which was GREE integrated) and I was excited to try it out. Unfortunately, the first release required you to compile it yourself and the only info I could find was in Japanese. Later on I found out that GREE posted more information and a super helpful video walkthrough on the Unity forums.
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I ported DONUT GET! to OUYA with the hope of it being a OUYA launch title. I anticipated that it would at least help bring a bit more attention to DONUT GET!, especially since it didn’t get as much coverage as expected. Fortunately DONUT GET! was listed as one of the 104 OUYA launch titles, and mentioned on sites like Destructoid.

We’ve made our download stats available for DONUT GET! on OUYA. It’s a totally free game — there’s no in-app purchases.

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Our DONUT GET! OUYA Download stats are available here: http://www.donutget.com/ouya-stats/

 

A large problem within the OUYA community is that the company is slowly trickling out the ~60,000 Kickstarter units. For developers it’s a bit unsettling with the low download numbers, and the myriad of other software problems we’re dealing with. >>Continue reading post…

A few weeks ago I attended the Unity LA Meetup OUYA talk. There was a talk and lengthy Q&A with some people from OUYA. The event cleared up a lot of questions I had about the project.

Representing OUYA on stage was Raffi Bagdasarian, who left product development at Sony to join the OUYA team. He explained that OUYA was originally known as Boxer8. He also brought on the Unity plug-in developer Tim over Skype to talk about some technical aspects of the Unity integration.

Developers can sign up for the OUYA developer program for free at http://devs.ouya.tv . There you can download the SDK, view the actively updating documentation, and lurk in the forums. They’re still ironing out the upload process so you’re not able to upload to the OUYA online store yet.

Ouya Unity LA MeetupUnity LA Meetup (photo courtesy of the Meetup page!)

And now some bullet points:

  • The console will be running Android 4.1 Jellybean.
  • The SDK consists of in-app purchase and controller APIs.
  • Games are required to be free to play, but features can be unlocked with in-app purchases. This apparently is also a method to curb piracy.
  • There’s the typical 70% (developer) / 30% (provider) split.
  • They’re focusing on app discovery for the OUYA store, aiming to organize the shops by more detailed metrics than “highest grossing” or “most downloads.” Using metrics such as most played, longest played, etc.
  • Approval process will have guidelines — not total free for all. Initially they’ll be reviewing every game manually. Eventually they’ll work peer review into the process, similar to Xbox Indie Games.
  • As far as the style guide, they were working on prepping an official one. But in the meantime, feel free to use OUYA name and branding as long as you’re not presenting yourself as sanctioned officially by OUYA. Also, it’s supposed to be spelled in all caps! haha :)
  • There won’t be a content rating system like ESRB, but they’re planning something similar to Google Play.
  • Online matchmaking, achievements, Xbox Live features, etc. Not at launch, but planned for eventual release. Until then, feel free to roll your own systems.

More Stuff, Etc…

  • With only 8 gigs of built in storage, game sizes should be developed with that in mind. They’re working out what the hard limits should be as some games currently in development are a few gigs.
  • They recommended tools like the Unity asset store’s APK Splitter, to give a quick initial download from the store and load in assets as needed during the game.
  • They’re looking into cloud storage. At the time they were apparently debating it.
  • Looking into system level integration of Facebook and Twitter. I’m assuming for viral sharing games, and another metric for surfacing content.
  • Developers won’t be restricted from accessing websites from within games, should be able to pull any kind of data.
  • No access to Android Google Play store from within OUYA.
  • They’re open to accepting apps that are outside of games, like video players, etc.
  • No vibration with controller, mouse + keyboard are allowed.
  • They’ll have store analytics available to developers at launch, supposed to be better than Apple’s minimal dataset.
  • Piracy – since every game is free to play, they’re relying on in-app purchases API calls to unlock things.

>>Continue reading post…