I’m showing Thugjacker and L.U.V. Tank during the Download Los Angeles Art Walk this week. A friend arranged getting a booth and I joined in, been scrambling to get things prepared!Looking forward to seeing the games out in front of people again! The stats say that lots of people play our games, but it’s always a different story seeing people experience them.
A Downtown Los Angeles WC ad wants to put us out of business! Nature is the largest competitor of the Video Game Industry.
Here are some folks crowding around Skulls of the Shogun. I didn’t get a chance to play it but will probably play it on Xbox 360 soon enough.
Here’s the StarDrone station, swingy game for PSN.
Deepak Fights Robots. I heard this described as “Bubble Bobble meets Bollywood.” Didn’t play but it looked fun. Looked like single room puzzles where you have to find the correct way to defeat or avoid evil robots.
The Indiecade game festival is going on this weekend in Los Angeles, California! It takes place October 8-9. We didn’t even bother to submit anything this year due to a complete lack of response that we received last year. The show does make for a good environment to meet up with other developers and see what interesting things are going on.
I just beat Cave Story. It was the best game I’ve played in a while.
Being “late to the party” is even an adequate enough way of putting it. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally play this game, in spite of all of the great things I’ve heard about it. And read about it. Even on this very blog, Chris’ post on it in 2007.
Cave Story was an freeware hit from 2004. The game was created by a 1-man army. It has recently been released on Wii Ware by Nicalis, and a 3DS version is on its way. Inspired by reading a great interview with the creator, Daisuke “Pixel” Amaya, decided to play through it during this 3-day weekend.
Christian Nutt conducted a great interview with Pixel on Gamasutra, giving some insight to his motivations and process he went through to make the game. I felt the passion in the words and knew that I had to finally see what the game was about. In the interview, Christian mentions that he feels that the “indie game movement” began with Cave Story. And playing the game, I totally feel that. Most indie games I’ve seen have has this same kind of retro style, visually and aurally. I don’t think there were even many games in the 16-bit era that used a style like this — to me they were trying to get as far away from 8-bit as possible.
One reason I had been putting it off was that I didn’t think there was a Mac version. There was a Mac version done before I even heard of the game. So I didn’t have to jump through hoops to finish.
I don’t know what more to say. The game feels amazing. It’s like Metroid, but it’s got a charm to it that’s reminiscent of games like Earthbound. The game’s got an incredible sense of exploration, it grabbed me, had me anticipating what would happen next. The game also plays like an action shooter, think something like Metal Slug or Gunstar Heroes. The action-packed boss battles definitely kept me on my toes.
I managed to make it to E3 this year, though I had to dip in and dip out real quick. I met up with Chris and we had lunch basically as soon as we got there. I owed him a drink for going through with a pitch for a crazy game concept at work and getting them to actually accept it — I figured it might be too nerdy for the world of “social” games, haha. I guess you never know till you try!
So as we scooted around the floor, avoiding long lines, we eventually walked past Eufloria — a PlayStation3 downloadable title. One of the developers, Alex May, coerced me into playing by placing a controller in my hand. I feared for my life so I started playing. I was confused and how no idea what was going on at first, but after a few minutes of practicing the controls (i.e. mashing buttons) and following Alex’s instructions, I was up and running. From what I understand, Eufloria is a bit like an abstract RTS. Your units spawn from trees on asteroids and your objective is to generally destroy the units of another team or conquer a certain asteroids. Something like that…
Chris and I talked with Alex and the other developer, Rudolf Kremers, about the game for a while. They explained how they had competed in some competitions, selling the PC version through Steam and currently working with Sony on Playstation. It was inspiring to talk with these guys first-hand about their experiences fighting the Good Fight. Additional evidence that you can get it if you really want.
The next day I was able to meet up with the homie Nathan Fouts of Mommy’s Best Games and check out Serious Sam: Double D. Through a mix up involving me not knowing what Nathan looked like, haha, I ended up playing a bit of Serious Sam 3 at first, which was good because it introduced me to what Serious Sam was about. I started in the middle of the desert and it wasn’t too clear where I should go, but as I played I ended up following the path of swarming enemies coming at me. I remember a part where I was lost and saw an enemy coming over a dune, I went after him and saw my next objective. From what I saw, I liked that the map was very open and lured me to where I was supposed to go with enemies.
Serious Sam: Double D by Mommy’s Best Games
Next I played some Double D, which is a sidescrolling shoot ’em up created in XNA. The game pretty much plays like Weapon of Choice, which was released for Xbox Indie a while back. You run and shoot, and can aim in any direction with the right analog stick. The major difference to me was the pacing and linearity of the stages, I remember Weapon of Choices stages being a bit more open-ended. You’re constantly being bombarded by enemies, I found myself dying a lot and scrambling for health. As I got a feel for the aiming, I had fun with it. There was a good amount of variety in the stage that I played.
After that, Nathan introduced me to Ian Stocker and his homeboy James. Ian created the Soulcaster games for Xbox Indie, which I had read about but haven’t played. We got to chitchatting about how there was so much variety and exciting unique games at E3 or something like that. Nathan chastised me for saying that I may not charge for Donut Get when it’s released and we had a bit of a discussion about that. He gave me some points of reference, some games that have tried some different payment methods. It’s definitely got me thinking and shown me the value of being able to discuss these things with others. Also, Ian let me play a bit of Escape Goat, which I thought was a pretty awesome from what I saw. Random artwork, but the game mechanics are really fun. I’ve got a soft spot for this kind of adventure game.
I ended the work week with checking out the Joystiq event at the La Cita bar in Downtown LA. I got drunk and watched people play Dance Central. I learned a bit about Retro/Grade, with the sweet visual effects. I watched and played a bit of Retro City Rampage — Brian Provinciano gave me a bit of a rundown of the game. It looks super fun and easy to get into. Talked a bit with James Silva, he gave me some good stories about he’s been doing the damn thing with The Dishwasher and Z0MB1ES. Got confused with Monaco. Saw a lot of people waiting for Spy Party. I bumped into Rudolf again, chillded for a bit, drove home through traffic, and passed out.
If all I knew about games were what I had read, I would believe them to be the revolutionary, new zenith of human culture; a marriage of man’s greatest accomplishments in art and science. The problem is I’ve played them too.
Most recently I played Jason Rohrer’s new Inside a Star-Filled Sky. Rohrer’s been a key figure in the ‘games as art’ discussion since it first gained momentum and I’ve admired his aims. I enjoyed Inside a Star-Filled Sky too. I have my complaints, but that’s no shocker. What should come as a surprise is how few criticisms target the pseudo-intellectual banter that surrounds Rohrer’s work and projects like his.
The games industry, including and especially the so-called indie game movement, appears to be suffering from what I call ‘premature congratulation.’ Games without the depth of a poorly written soap opera are regularly applauded for their artistry while patronizing speeches are given by industry moguls patting themselves on the back for the snail’s pace of the art form’s maturation. Universities had no trouble constructing game academia overnight by cutting it down to meaningless abstractions and inventing predictions on the future of gaming despite their disconnection from actual game development. In this market, talk is real cheap. Continue Reading…
Fun does not belong in a discussion of games. Fun is useless. Stop talking about it.
I catch a lot of “game development tips from the pros” and am shocked by how many of them have the balls to say “make your game fun!” You can cite countless podcasts, articles and books for these quotes, “The bottom line is, a game should be fun!” You can tell they’re smirking like it’s so obvious and easy. “Just make it fun,” they say as if begging for an elbow in the teeth. I just pray that one day that elbow will be mine.
Need an example? No problem, because this rant was inspired by a recording of 57 flash game developers giving tips: http://www.flashmindmeld.com/. Don’t let my complaints lead you to believe that there are not numerous helpful tips throughout the mp3.
In the context of video games, fun is an ill defined term used simply to mean “good.” “Good” as oppose to “bad,” “+” as opposed to “-“, no more informative than a single bit of data. On a scale of 0 to 1, this game is a 1. Stop using it and learn some damn adjectives.
I was looking into XML Tile Map editors a while ago and I found Tiled Map Editor. The site looked nice and was recently updated so I thought it looked like a good one to try. I recognized the demo maps displayed in the editor screenshots, they were from The Mana World. I contributed a few tiles to the project back in 2004, about midway through my journey through college.
During that time I was trying to figure out how I was going to be able to make games for a living. Although I was developing games like Thugjacker in my free time, I never believed there was a career in doing Flash games. I was preparing to become a 3D environmental artist, hoping to break into the game industry by designing a Half-Life 2 map. But I’ve always had the urge to explore different 2D art styles — I had a huge fascination with pixel art. During that time I would browse the Pixelation forum. The pixel art there was inspiring and I wanted to get in on it, but it was kind of hard with no direction. I just wanted to make some assets and learn the craft, not do all the characters and everything else. Shortly after that, I found a post recruiting people for The Mana World.
The Mana World is a free and open-source 2d MMORPG. It runs on the eAthena server, which is open-source software that emulates a Ragnarok Online server. I thought the game looked cool. It looked like Secret of Mana which was one of my favorite games growing up. It also reminded me of Ragnarok Online, which I didn’t play much but thought was super cool (I loved the art). So I jumped in.
Back when I first saw it, the game was super rough. Laggy. Buggy. But I loved being a part of it, the team was dedicated. It was exciting to log in everyday and see what changes were made while I was away. Most of the game development discussion was done in IRC chat rooms. There were many contributors. And good number of enthusiasts as well, which mostly played and gave feedback.
These are the tiles that I contributed to The Mana World.
I ended up dropping out of the project shortly after finishing these tiles. I had to devote more time to finishing school and my own projects. Looking back, it was my first experience working in a game development team that wasn’t just me and Ricky. I got some practice with working remotely with a team that was based in Europe. I got to feel the pressure of having to deliver game assets and the joy when everyone enjoyed what I contributed. It was also my first exposure to the concept of SVN — which saved me from feeling dumb when I first started using SVN at work.
I think it’s important to remember there’s always a game team out there that could use some help. People in school or just trying to break in the industry can look for these opportunities to gain some experience, and hopefully that leads to more confidence and some good portfolio pieces. From my experience on this project I knew that I could handle tiled pixel artwork. I wouldn’t revive this ability until 2007 on LUV Tank.
I participated in the Global Game Jam last year after Chris peer pressured me. The game jam is where you meet up with a bunch of friends and strangers and work to knock out a game in 48-hours. I enjoyed the spontaneously creative environment and the new faces I met. Our game last year, Triune Soldierwas something that wouldn’t have been made without the Game Jam so I wanted to see what would come out of it if I did it again.
This year, Chris wasn’t able to participate because he was caught up in moving into a new apartment. That was a bummer but my coworker Alex was joining in so I was planning to work with him and whoever else I met along the way. I showed up late again this year and wasn’t able to find my coworker. When I made it to the GamePipe Lab, I found my teammate from last year, Gabriel, and his team working out the game concept. I decided to jump right in.
The theme for this game jam was “Extinction” — like what happened to the dinosaurs. They were working out a concept involving a guy swatting mosquitos. The game was being created in Unity 3D. When I got there, Gabriel was pitching a sort of departure from the concept, trying to simplify the idea and abstract it to make it something more reasonably attainable in the short 48-hours.
The concept was less literal. Instead of mosquitos, the players were destroying these docile “white balls”. The personality of the balls was to be communicated by how they reacted and animated. Gabriel wanted to communicate the story through the movement and sound design similar to what’s exemplified in the Heider-Simmel demonstration or the classic Chuck Jones animation The Line and The Dot. This direction was majorly influenced by Gabirel having to pull an all-nighter last year to finish up the artwork and animations for Triune Soldier. I supported the direction to go abstract. We were working in 3d and didn’t have time to create, setup, and animate assets. And we were working in Unity, which none of us had created any finished games with before.
This new direction created a divide within the team. Our lead programmer was set on creating a literal concept. And even when explaining that the gameplay would remain unchanged, just the presentation would differ, he couldn’t agree to work on something with an abstract direction. The argument against the literal direction was basically scope related: we didn’t have assets, mosquitos would be hard to read visually in a 3d environment, there’s more expectations of what the player could do (jumping, collision with objects, environment, etc.) He insisted that wasn’t gonna be a problem but if there’s anything that I know to be true, everything in 3d takes way longer.
I strongly backed Gabriel’s idea because it was fully conceptualized. He drew up mockups of the style, rendered a short 3d Studio Max animation of gameplay, created a first pass at sound, and the story had a beginning and end. This was hard evidence for his concept. My support for the abstract direction was a bit of a surprise to Gabriel as I was adamantly opposed it last year (“I don’t want any abstract bullshit I wanna see some characters and a story!” haha ), but I was more open to it now that we were working in 3d and he already drew up mock-ups for the concept.
So anyway, shortly after I joined, I broke off into another team. We were wasting too much time arguing and we needed to move forward confidently. I booted up Unity and began setting up a scene for Gabriel’s concept.
I had mentioned briefly that none of us had completed a game in Unity before — Flash is my area of expertise. I’d done some tests and tutorials before and between the arguing I was giving our developers Jacob and Vishak a primer of what I knew about Unity. Basically how to setup a scene, link code to objects and instantiating objects. Jacob was set to do AI for the game, he’d done a lot of stuff in C++ and C# and was planning to implement some concepts he learned from an AI book. The split of our team didn’t affect him much because his AI code could be used for both projects, as the concepts were practically the same!
That was the first night. The next day, I came in with a basic demo of the game. There was a player with movement, enemy spawning, and some basic shaders applied to them for a graphic look. That morning we got an e-mail from Jacob saying that he wouldn’t be making it back but he sent the AI code he created. I spent an hour or two implementing the enemy code. Throughout the day I worked to get enemy targeting and destruction working. Vishak was handling UI and sound related things. One of the game jam organizers, Mihir, served as our tech-support and goto guy for Unity help as he was in the lab with us and he had finished some Unity projects before. That night Chris H. made it to the game jam and joined our team, offering a variety of abiltiies.
On the 2nd night, I punked out and went home early. I wasn’t intending to burn myself out over the game jam, because that sorta negates the benefits of it for me. Overnight Mihir joined the team officially and took over — working to implement all of the features that weren’t in there. A proximity based enemy targeting system, new modes of enemy behavior, sound and more. When I returned on Sunday, the game transformed a great deal.
On the final day, the rest of the team mostly polished bugs. Working out the enemy movement, sound effects, adding the title screen and whatnot. I pretty much just sat back and watched, and uploaded it when it was done. The result was great and it was great to see everyone pull it off and smile at the result.
I’m looking forward to Game Jamming again next year!