Don't look back

Wed, 05 June, 2013 - 20:15:41

I the last month I have enjoyed a break from game development. In the interim I have been pondering what to do next. Ultimately I have decided not to continue with Holey Moley. Though I do hope that one day I can lost something I don't want to spend any more time trying to fix up a project that I have lost interest in. Instead I am going to take what I l;earned from the experience and move forward.

My next project is going to be a relatively simple game that will use a game mechanic that I came up with a couple of years ago. It is a cool idea but I have had trouble trying to think of a way of making it into an entertaining game. However, I now feel like I have a good idea I ca work with. I will be coding it in object oriented as3 without using any game engines. My aim is to produce a simple but fun game with about an hour of gameplay with the hope of getting it sponsored and distributed.

So far I am at the brainstorming stage with an aim to have the entire game planned out before I begin writing any code. This should avoid me running into problems and having to make gameplay decisions on the fly later. I am being realistic on timelines and aiming to have the game finished by the end of August this year. I will be making regular updates on my progress so check back soon.

Project Sand - Post Morterm

Fri, 12 April, 2013 - 14:58:16

Back in October last year I blogged about my intention to enter the Player.IO Epic Flash Game Contest. Two months after the closing date I thought it was about time for an update!

I started work on the game in October and dabbled with it on and off through to the end of 2012. I had some initial problems with overthinking some of the game features, spending time on things that weren’t necessary. But by the end of the year I had a working prototype of an online two player game. After New year I stepped it up a gear spending the majority of my free time adding features, artwork, sound and generally building the game up. This culminated with three weekends of hardcore Red Bull fuelled development pulling 18 hour days trying to get the game to a point where it met the competition criteria and was ready for submission. It is probably the most complex game I have created so far. The client side was programmed in object oriented as3 using FlashDevelop and the server side with C# which I had to learn on the fly. Luckily it was pretty intuitive given my knowledge of as3. The whole game was an educational experience. I had to pull in everything I had previously learned and learn even more. The player.IO code library was the only one I used. It handled the messaging between the server side and clients as well as handling player data and the in game store.

The game is called "Holey Moley" and is a turn based treasure hunting game where players must face off against each other on a grid based map and search for treasure whilst battling each other. The game features character creation, lobby chat, achievements, unlockable content and microtransactions. Some of the features are more polished than others and need expanding slightly and the visuals need improving. I also didn’t have time to add sound effects. That’s said I submitted my game satisfied that I had put in a good effort and I crossed my fingers. Unfortunately the game had a flaw...
I hadn’t programmed a single payer mode. Seems obvious right? Do'h! Holey Moley is an online multiplayer game and Player.IO had promised that thousands of beta testers would be testing our games and giving us feedback through the 1 month test period. I hadn’t even though of the possibility that people would start up the game and find an empty lobby! The thousands of testers didn’t materialise... or if they did they didn’t play my game and so I didn’t do to well in the ratings. After a month I had less than 30 ratings and only two comments, both complaining that there was no single player mode. Browsing the other 50 or so submissions showed that there was a wide range of quality in the submissions. Some were pretty poor but others were very solid games featuring great gameplay and lots of polish. In fact some were sequels to existing games with established communities of players. After seeing the other entries I wasn’t hopeful of winning!

The winners of the competition are listed here. As you can see Holey moley is not there! :(

Given the quality of the competition I can’t complain about not being among the winners. The competition has still been a positive experience. I have learned a great deal and I feel I have made a big step forward in my journey to creating great games.

As for Holey Moley itself, I am still deciding whether to pursue it. It seems like a lot of work to finish it off at this stage. It will need a single player mode added which means server side AI. No small task. There’s also plenty of polish to add and a lot of the features could use improvement. As usual, the next idea is already bouncing round my head and it’s tempting to draw a line under the whole thing and move on. It will definitely appear on here in one form or another. The main problem will be that the free license for player.IO which was made available during the contest has now expired and a number of game features will no longer work. As soon as I have made a decision, I'll post an update.

2012 in review

Sun, 30 December, 2012 - 17:37:14

Its been a busy 2012 on!

I have added Five new games to the site. Six if you include Chinese Skateboard Guy! (I won't!).

The great thing about keeping a blog is you can see exactly what you were doing a year ago! I can see from my first post of 2012 here, that I was hoping to be more prolific than in 2012 (I was!) and that I was looking forward to seeing if the new Xcom game would work on my old gaming PC (it wont!).

The first few months of the year were spent working on Infiltrator though I didn't finish it until later in the year. In April I entered my first Ludum Dare which and created My Little Friends. It was a great experience and really showed me what I can achieve if I put my mind to it. I also got married in April! After being bitten by the competition bug I started creating a game for a mochi competition around the theme 60 seconds. I missed the deadline but Sixty Second Search is the result. The game received some really good feedback, my favourite of which was "Congrats. This game is addictive, fun and bloody frustrating... all the aspects of a great game." I would love to expand the idea into a bigger game in 2013. Next I dug through some old work looking for projects that I had started but not finished. I found a side scrolling game with a little tank that hadn't gone anywhere. I reused as much of the code and artwork as possible and put together Recoil Tank, a little defense game in which you rely on the recoil from your cannon to move your tank around. In August there was another Ludum Dare. This time I had a bit of trouble coming up with an idea but eventually produced Universal Adaptors. The game was playable but buggy and far from finished. It received some positive feedback and right now it will sit on the back burner with a view to fixing it up sometime in the future. After the summer I created a reusable xml driven quiz game called recyclo-quiz. With the Olympic buzz still in the air I posted a demo to the site with Olympic themed questions. And then, finally, I finished and released Infiltrator, a game that had been far too long in the making. Luckily it was worth it as the game has received some really encouraging feedback. Since then I have been working on "Project Sand", my entry to the Epic Flash Games Contest. All I can reveal at the moment is that Project Sand is a Multiplayer Online game and that I'm really enjoying working on it. The closing date for submissions is February 18th so I expect to be working on the game right up until that date!

What else happens in 2013 is anyones guess. It largely depends on how Project Sand fares. I'm putting all my effort into it so fingers crossed it does well!

Project Sand

Thu, 15 November, 2012 - 10:22:07

What the hell is Project Sand?

Project Sand is the working code name for the game I am creating for the playerIO Epic Flash Game Contest. I had to come up with a working title as Ive been tweeting about my progress and writing "Epic Flash Game Contest Entry" was taking up precious characters!

I'm pleased with the work Ive done on the game so far. At this point I have login and registration screens and a working prototype that allows two players to play a very simple game against each other. Getting to grips with the playerIO APIs has been a little challenging at times but the results have been fantastic. I initially looked at creating the game using Flixel. However, the game I have in mind is entirely mouse controlled and Flixel is just not suited to it. In a way this is a good thing as I have been worried about relying on Flixel too much. I am coding this project in AS3 using FlashDevelop so the code will be Object Oriented. Thisshould help me brush up on my core AS3 skills and hopefully help me learn some new ones.

Going forward I have a notebook full of ideas and features I want to add, with a roadmap of what to implement next. I'm really enjoying working on the game at the moment. I just have to make sure I dont get bogged down in the detail. I have to remember to take a step back at times and stay motivated.

One place I have found inspiration recently was at GameDevTuts who recently ran a great postmorterm of Super Adventure Pals. I cant believe they did the whole thing in AS2!

Entering the multiplayer world

Wed, 24 October, 2012 - 20:04:44

Now that I have finished and released Infiltrator and had a little break, its time to think about what to work on next. For the last week or so I have been choosing between four options.

Option 1: Continue to work on my Ludum Dare entry, Universal Adaptors.
Option 2: Work on an entirely new Flixel game, focusing on making it as marketable as possible.
Option 3: Continue working on my first Android app.
Option 4: Work on a Multiplayer game and enter it into the Epic Flash Games Contest.

All four options are things that I am keen to work on, but as I have learned from past experience, I need to choose one and focus on it.

Option 1 is deceptive as I think the amount of work required is probably greater than I have anticipated. Although much of the game is already done, to bring it up to scratch would require new visuals and animation, music and sound effects and a new map design. It would also require a not insignificant amount of coding to fix bugs and improve gameplay. Although I don't rule out doing this in the future, right now I want to do something new.

Option 2 is appealing because it gives me the exciting prospect of making a completely new game. Also, I have some good ideas for creating a game that might make me some money! But it also means using Flixel which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand I have a fair bit of experience using it and so the process would be fairly easy. On the other hand I feel that I should learn something new. My last few games have been created using Flixel and I don't want to become a one trick pony!

Option 3 would definitely require me to learn something new. I have already played around with creating an app for my android phone. I have a simple idea which is currently a work in progress. I have shown it in its basic form to a few people who think it has potential and I'd love to take it further.

Option 4 is the most appealing and is in fact the option I have chosen. Creating a multiplayer game looks like a lot of fun and will certainly be a challenge.Not only will I get a new game but I will be learning something new. I'm really looking forward to learning principles of multiplayer games. There will be plenty of challenges with separate clientside and serverside code (which I have to write in C#) and the synchronisation of events between players. Also, I will be getting to grips with the tools which include a micro-payment and player data storage systems. The competition has some big prizes and even if I don't win anything, there is still the opportunity to look for sponsorship. The closing date isn't until February 18th so I have just under four months to work on the game.

I have already set up the test environment and have some ideas worked out on paper. Once I'm happy with what I want to do I'll start coding. As always, I'll keep the blog update with my progress.

Ludum Dare 24 - Scores

Sun, 07 October, 2012 - 18:49:21

The scores for Ludum Dare 24 were revealed a couple of weeks ago. You can see the full results breakdown here.

The overall winner was Evoland by ncannase. His awesome game is a cross between Legend of Zelda and Upgrade Complete. You start playing in a very minimal retro environment with limited control. The game "evolves" as you play and unlock new features. These features both improve the look and feel and allow you to progress through the game.

So what about my game, Universal Adaptors? You can see my scores here.

In the overall rankings I was placed 292nd. This doesn't sound great I know, but this is from a field of 1400 entrants. As with Ludum Dare 23, I was in the top 25%, but this time I improved my overall placing, beating my previous best of 328th. My best score in a category was 52nd for theme. Given the point of the competition is to make a game that fits the theme, I'm pretty pleased. However, I think in the future I might not take the theme as literally! I placed 204th for humour which is lower than the 104th I previously achieved but I think humour could be something I should focus on in future competitions. I placed 379th in fun which is ok but could use improvement. Graphics and audio scores were much the same as last time and I'd like to improve those drastically in a future competition. This should be possible by planning my time better and ensuring I create a game with a scope suitable to the time available.

As previously posted, I dont want to waste the work done over Ludum Dare weekend, so I plan to make some improvements to the games code and graphics and release a more playable version in the near future.

Encouraging Feedback

Mon, 03 September, 2012 - 19:09:01

So far Ive had some great feedback from other game devs reviewing Universal Adaptors. Generally, they like the idea and the gameplay, though its a little short. The issues they have raised are a bug in which the player gets stuck, the linearity of the game and the lack of polish. The feedback has been positive enough that I am going to work on a version 2 with improved graphics/audio and bug fixes and a much larger game map. So far I have been playing around with the graphics. Here is a sneak peak:

Improved sprite graphics:


I was also very pleased with the feedback I got for Sixty Second Search. The game received over a 100 likes on facebook and some great feedback in the comments both on this site and on b3ta and newgrounds. The consensus seems to be that the game is difficult and frustrating but also addictive and fun! With the overall response being positive, this is another game for which I can see myself creating a new version, perhaps with levels with increasing time gaps and a never ending 'survival mode'.

R.I.P. Tweetbreaker?

Fri, 17 August, 2012 - 9:20:09

In the last couple of days Twitter have announced plans to launch Twitter API version 1.1. See details of the changes here.

In summary, Twitter are increasing the control they have over who accesses their data and how that data is presented. This is to, "ensure that Twitter users have a consistent experience wherever they see and interact with Tweets". Part of this includes a new set of Display Requirements intended to ensure that whenever a tweet is displayed, certain formatting conventions are adhered to. For example, making it clear if the tweet is a retweet and making @tags clickable so that readers can access user profile pages. Another change will be the requirement for authentication when requesting information via the Twitter API. This means that any application accessing the Twitter API will have to sign in first.

The changes themselves are fair enough in my opinion. Twitter want to protect their brand and ensure that their business is not abused by third partys. The unfortunate side effect for me is that, in around 6 months when the changeover period from API 1.0 to 1.1 finishes, my game Tweet Breaker will cease working. It will also be in violation of the display requirements, given the way that tweets are shown. I am not the only person affected of course, Tom Scott posted just today that his parody of Klout, Klouchebag will be allowed to die. There is plenty of debate on twitter itself and some people, such as Marco Arment of InstaPaper are understandably concerned about of the changes.

Still, I have 6 months to decide whether I want to update the game. I had always planned to revisit the idea of a Twitter game but with a different play style. I think a fast paced space invaders style game would work quite well as it would allow you to clear the tweets much more quickly. Tweet Breaker itself however, may be retired.

LFPUG July 2012

Fri, 27 July, 2012 - 10:26:21

Last night I attended another meeting of the London Flash Platform User Group (LFPUG). This month it was hosted at the very nice ustwo offices in Shoreditch, London.

After grabbing a beer the group settled down for Gyppsy aka Tony Dones of ustwo and his talk "How to be Pixel Perfect" in which he introduced ustwo's Pixel Perfect Precision guide. The guide outlines various methods of ensuring good, clean and consistent designs and, while I was pleased to find that I already adhered to the majority of its recommendations, I still learned some new techniques. In particular I will be disabling colour profiles in PhotoShop and I will start trying to think in terms of HSB rather than RGB.

After a short break and another beer, Rob Davis from Playniac gave us his talk "Beat the Post-Launch Blues: Your Game is Out, What Now?". This talk focused on what happens after you've released your game, a topic I am becoming increasingly more interested in. The talk used Playniac's own International Racing Squirrels as a case study to demonstrate how they tackled marketing, distribution, analytics and bug fixing. I was particularly interested in the way they used analytics to detect and fix bugs. They also touched on customising the game for different platforms, including the way they coded the game to react to being pirated. For a freemium game, piracy is a valid form of distribution so they simply added enticing links back to the official website. The presentation really brought home for me that finishing the creation of the game is not the end of the process and that what you do with the finished project is just as important.

The event was rounded off with a giveaway of some great prizes, the best being a full CS6 Master Collection! Unfortunately I didn't win but I did get hold of a squirrel badge!

Another great event. I believe videos of the presentations will be available on the LFPUG website but I recommend coming along person in the future!

Friendly URLs: part two

Sat, 30 June, 2012 - 16:44:17

In a previous post I described how I had improved the URL display format to be more 'friendly'. Having done this I was happy with all but one aspect. I had created a page that could be used to display individual posts and allowed the displaying and posting of comments. However this created a longer path. E.g. This wasnt ideal as it disrupted an otherwise logical URL path of mainsite > sub category > post.

This week I found a solution thanks to the people at eeinsider. I have done away with the comments page, which was capable of showing individual blog, game or idea posts. Instead, I have modified each respective category page to display either a list (as it currently does) or an individual post with its comments options. This works by looking at the URL 'segments'. If the last segment is empty, ee knows to show a list of posts. If it isnt empty, ee shows the individual post associated with that URL. The downside is that pagination and archive pages, which make use of the last segment to define the page number, break. Luckily there is a solution for this problem as well.

Switchee is a plugin that replaces ee's native if/else conditional statements with a more effecient switching solution. A bonus of this is that switchee supports regular expressions and these can be used to better work out which type of page is being requested. Switchee can then switches to the correct html for that particular page type.

Check out those beautiful URLs!

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