ScaredSquareCast EP 01 – Technobabylon

I got the podcasting itch again. You may remember my ill-fated ‘I Suck at Games‘ Podcast from last year, well this is a re-brand as the ScaredSquareCast. It’s pretty much the same thing: Each episode I’ll focus on discussing a particular game that I’m playing in order to inform my own game design knowledge. The podcast is recorded on my phone in the car during my commute to and from work (as well as other locations).

This episode focuses on Technobabylon – A cyberpunk point-n-click adventure made with Adventure Game Studio. The episode is a bit sporadic as I started recording it in January and finished in June, so bare with me. Thanks!

Twitter Bot

Hello

Just a quick update to say that I’ve been wanting to create my own Twitter Bot for a while now, but never had the knowledge on how to make one. Then I discovered Cheap Bots Done Quick which is great tool for making your own automated Twitter Bots. The tool uses basic programming language Tracery.

The Bot I made is Insult Bot. A Twitter account that randomly generates a silly insult aimed directly at you!* Here are some examples:

Having lots of fun with this. Maybe I’ll create more in the future. I like the idea of creating games out of Twitter accounts. A good example is autoflâneur which posts random directions every hour with the goal of getting lost. You start at the top of the feed and work your way down. A really cool idea.

Anyway, follow @InsultBot_ and prepare to chuckle at a humorous taunt

*maybe I should make a compliment bot to balance things out…

Massive Update on the past 12 months (ish)

Okay, phew! it’s been a while since I updated this…

Why that is? Because I’v been very busy. Within the past few months I’ve got a new job, we decided to move house, oh and we’re expecting our second child in July. Also I had to prepare students for a programming exam, I planned a residential for 20+ students to visit Berlin for the A MAZE festival and planned a visit to Paris (we drove there from North England. On top of that I had some Masters assignments due in Dec and then again in April, so there’s been that as well.

*Cor, you don’t do things by halves do you*

No, no I don’t.

Though now I’ve started my new job, the exam, trips and assignments are out of the way things are a little quieter. Things at home are a little hectic waiting for the moving in date for our new house and the arrival of a second bundle of joy, but things are quieter than they’ve been for a while.

So, let’s split this post into what I’ve been up to and what what I’m *hoping* to do next shall we? Here we go:

What have I been up to?

Towards the back end of last year I spent some time creating a Patreon account for game development and writing, but then decided that actually why should anyone give me money for this? If you want to support me, then buy Splodey Vaders or Pay-What-You-Want for Time Stone or Temple of Adventure…

So yeah, I wasted a lot of time there. Out of the back of that though I focused a lot on writing things about games/game related things and posting them on Medium. I wrote these (among re-posting older things I’d written):

Have a read if you like. I was particularly proud of the ‘Trying to buy a VR headset in Currys’ story.

Some things I haven’t spoken about yet, I attempted Ludum Dare in July 2017 for the second time and actually managed to make something this time! The theme was ‘Running out of Power’ and so I made a game where you play as some Mafia mobsters about to go out of business called Fugetaboutit.

The idea wasn’t too bad: See how many days you could last in the dying times of the mafia, however the end result didn’t have enough scenarios in it and you would end up seeing the same situation repeated a lot. In the example above THREE of your family members die of dysentery. Now that’s unfortunate.

After this I started learning/teaching Unity. I first made this crappy Space Invader clone called Splatt Invaders. The idea here was that the more enemies you shot, the more the screen would fill with their remains and make it difficult for you to spot further enemies. It was fun to work on as a small project.

Another prototype I made in Unity was:

S   C   A   L   E

A first person puzzle game prototype which allows you to alter the scale of objects to help you progress.

This was a cool little project and helped me learn a lot about working in Unity. The prototype can be completed but is broken in some areas, but check it out if it sounds like your thing.

Other than that I made a couple of other little things (including 2 games made with Bitsy, but I’ve talked about Swiss Cottage before), but one last game I will mention is Pizza a game I made in an hour.

It’s made using Flickgame. A cool online tool for making interactive stuff that uses images and colour to progress through it. I like the limitations of this a have a few ideas of some other Flickgame things I could make in the future.

Phew! There we go all caught up on games I made. if I missed anything, it will probably be on itch.io

What am I gonna do next?

Well one reason why there are so many games I made last year is that I set myself a secret challenge to make 12 games in 12 months. I only just achieved this:

  1. Super Diarrhoea Baby (Nov 2016)
  2. The Game Design Idea Generator (Jan 2017)
  3. Mexican Wave Simulator (Jan 2017)
  4. TEMPLE OF ADVENTURE (May 2017)
  5. Secret of The Tree Garden (July 2017)
  6. Fugetaboutit (July 2017)
  7. Splodey Vaders (Sep 2017)
  8. Unfinished Novels (Oct 2017)
  9. Splatt Invaders (Dec 2017)
  10. Swiss Cottage (Jan 2018)
  11. Pizza (Jan 2018)
  12. Incoming Transmission (Jan 2018)

Well, sort of achieved. I wanted to write an article about this and so hopefully that will show up soon.

I’m also making more games, yes… a couple of things on the go at the minute ideas wise, but starting to focus more on a Twine game which is based on my personal experiences of dealing with grief, regret and a family member suffering with addiction. It’s a laugh a minute! And if you bothered to read this far, I’ll tell you an exclusive secret. The name of the game. I haven’t told anyone this yet, but the game will be called:

Death of a Zombie

Like anyone cares…

 

Swiss Cottage

recording (1)

We lived at Swiss CottageOne day it snowed. Only 2 days into 2018 and I made my first game of the year! Swiss Cottage is a game made in Bitsy in under 24 hours for the BitsyJam theme “Snow”.Swiss Cottage is a game about Cottages, Snow and KFC. If you like those things then please play this game.

PLAY IT HERE

>> https://scared-square-games.itch.io/swiss-cottage<<

HOW TO PLAY

PC – Arrow Keys to Play

Mobile – Swipe to move and interact

CREDITS

Game Design by @Stuart_Lilford

Music by Deephod

 

5 Common mistakes made by students making their first games and how to fix them

Game by Jack Rawson (student)

As a lecturer in game design I see and play a lot of student games. These are often the first games these students have ever made. I have seen some really talented students develop their first games and I’ve noticed a few recurring mistakes in some of their early work (even the really talented ones).

Obviously everyone’s first few games are awful, mine own included (see: The Adventures of Turquoise Macdonald), but I believe that with a little sprinkle of polish over some of these areas, student games can overcome these common mistakes and their games could evolve from awful to almost-good.

YOUR GAME DOES NOT NEED A MENU OR THE ABILITY TO PAUSE THE GAME

Every year I teach students how to make games and inevitable I am asked the question “how do I add a menu” or “how do I add pause functionality to the game”. It is clear that students begin their journey with primarily mainstream references for what a video game should be. I try to break these pre-defined ideas of video games and show students examples of games beyond the mainstream.

Some of my favourite games in recent times have been experimental, quirky games made for game jams and, primarily due to time constraints, these games rarely need a pause menu or even a front end menu. They are not 40+ hour campaigns with the ability to tweak the graphic settings and offer 4k support. They are short, sweet experiences that focus on gameplay and design and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a time and a place for adding menus and pause functionality to a game, but your first experimental prototypes are neither.

YOUR GAME HAS NO SOUND

As we learn to make games, it’s easy to place the sound effects and music for the game to the back of the to-do list. Particularly if you have no experience of producing music or know where to find music for your game. Many students however, seem to forget that music and sound even exist and leave it out of their game completely.

Just a few basic sound effects can add some much-needed juice to your early games. Sound effects are an easy way we can give feedback to the player. The more feedback you can give the player through sounds, animations and screenshake, the more they will feel like they are making an impact on your game world.

I tend to use BFXR to create simple sound effects for small prototype games: https://www.bfxr.net/

For sound effects beyond blips and beeps, I usually turn to freesound.org. You need an account to download sound effects, but it’s free and once you’re signed in you can download any sounds you need. In the past I’ve grabbed “door opening”, “elevator bing” and “buzzer press” sound effects from there and they’ve worked just fine in simple prototypes.

For music, I tend to use Newgrounds as there’s a wide mix of audio on there and again, it’s free to download. Just be sure to credit the author for their work.

Find out more about royalty free sound and music or how to create your own here: http://www.pixelprospector.com/sound-music/

YOUR GAME IS TOO HARD

When making a game, you are going to be playing that game A LOT. You’ll make tweaks and test it instantly and you’ll have longer play sessions where you’re just getting a general vibe for the game. Naturally, towards the end of your development cycle you are going to be the BEST person in the world at your game. You know it inside out and you’ve played it more that anyone else, so don’t be too surprised when you pass the game to someone new and they keep dying, get frustrated and start to complain that your game is too hard.

This is where playtesting early and often comes in handy. Get people who don’t know your game and haven’t played it to try it out and offer feedback on difficulty and gameplay. If they are struggling, then you may need to make some changes.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO IN YOUR GAME

Tutorials are a contentious subject. Most of us dislike tutorials, but they are necessary for players to get to grips with the game.

Again, play testing is key here. Get players who are unfamiliar with your game to play it from start to finish and this next bit is important — YOU CAN’T TELL THEM WHAT TO DO. It will be hard for you. You will want to interject and say “oh you just need to click here” or “you can actually exit the screen here to another location”, but you have to keep quiet. If the player simply cannot finish your game without your input then you have failed as a designer and you need to make some changes. Imagine that you publish your game and upload it to the internet somewhere and someone over in another country downloads your game to play it. There’s no way you are going to be able to turn up behind them to give them instructions on how to play (it would be very creepy if you did).

Players need to know what to do without the designer telling them and the best way to do that is a tutorial, which eases the player into the different mechanics of the game, one at a time. There are a number of ways to do this (I’ll probably save that for another post), so make sure a tutorial is included in your game in some form.

YOU HAVE OVERSCOPED YOUR CONCEPT

This one comes back to predefined ideas of what a game is based on playing games that have been made teams of 10+ to 100 people over the course of a year or longer. You are making a game on your own in just a few weeks, so maybe having a JRPG style game with a turn-based combat system and an epic storyline with multiple locations, enemies and boss fights is aiming a tad too high. They way to approach this is to have a scalable design to your game.

This means getting your game complete from start to finish as early as possible by defining what features are absolutely vital and then building on that over time. Jetpack Joyride could be a good example of this. Chances are the game started as a player that moved up and down and you had to avoid obstacles and see how far you could get travelling faster the longer you play. This concept is a good start for a finished game, however once developed, we can build on this idea by adding additional features and content. Perhaps the next version included different vehicles you could use, then the next version added coins and a store to buy upgrades, then the next one added more obstacle types, then the next one added a level up system and so and so forth.

In the JRPG example mentioned earlier. Maybe start with a character that can move around in an environment and interact with other characters. This would be a good start for a narrative game. You can then build on this premise by adding combat, then adding quests, then adding additional areas, etc.

SUMMARY

· Don’t get hung up on predefined ideas of what games are with your first few games, experiment. Don’t fret over pause menus and front end options

· Use existing sound effects and music or use generators to add audio to yourgame and improve game feel

· Get others to test your game and adjust difficulty accordingly

· Make sure people can play thegame without your input (again, this comes through testing)

· Don’t overscope — have an iterative design that you can build on

The Secret of The Tree Garden

I attended the AMAZE Festival in Berlin in April and a particular game caught my eye there which was called The Berry Garden by Menno Stas. It was a large print on a wall that you could “play” by using a website using your smart phone. This game made me nostalgiac about the paper-based game that I used to play as a child in the back of the car during long journey’s. There would be things like mazes, join the dots and hidden object games, but one of my favourites was decoding secret messages. A part of me was a little disappointed by the fact that this playable print required the addition of technology to play it and I wished that there were more attention given to solely paper-based games. And so, the idea of PaperJam was born!

jam

I hosted a game jam over on itch.io which was called PaperJam! A game jam which required participants to devise and produce a game using a single sheet of paper that could be printed off and played.

The description of the jam is as follows:

Create a printable game using one 1 sheet of paper. No coding experience required! Just grab a sheet of paper and get designing. Use Twitter Hashtag #PaperJam2017

The game jam had over 100 people register for it before games could be submitted, but only 23 people managed to actually submit anything. 75% of people that were interested in the Jam couldn’t find the time to submit (myself included). That seems like quite a high statistic. It would be interesting to see how that compares to other game jams.

Still, the turnout was quite good and I also conducted a PaperJam LIVE at Feral Vector, which is an independent games and playful media festival located in Hebden Bridge. I also did a talk there, but I’m hoping to discuss that in a separate post. There were some interesting games made during the jam and I prototyped what would become The Secret of the Tree Garden, a playable print/downloadable paper game about uncovering a secret message by travelling between different trees in a garden.

You can check it out here:

I hope to have a go at making more of this type of game in the future, but I really recommend checking out the entries of the PaperJam in the mean time!

Impostor Syndrome: I’m not really qualified to write this article

I recently attended Feral Vector – an independent games festival in Hebden Bridge in the UK. It’s a fantastic event if you’ve never been, I recommend it. This year I wanted to get involved with it, so I did short talk on Imposter Syndrome which focused on mental illness and creativity. It was an honour to get up on that stage and for a hall full of people to listen to words that I said.

Afterwards I received a lot of positive comments on the talk from a lot of wonderful people. They mostly seemed to like the slides that I produced, but the content of the talk resonated with quite a few people. I thought it would be a good idea to write up the talk in a nice article and share it here. I didn’t use notes or a script, so I’ve tried to stick with roughly what I said, but with a few bits of extra information added in.

My name is Stuart Lilford and I guess I would describe myself as a game designer. I worked for studios for 3 years in QA/Design roles before making games independently and lecturing in game design in a Yorkshire-based college. Most recently I made The Temple of ADVENTURE for the Adventure Jam and I’m currently working on Splodey Vaders for Android and iOS.

But enough about me. Let’s find out something about you. I want to begin this article by asking you a question: “Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?” Have a think and put your hand up if you did. I asked this to the audience at Feral Vector and there was a steady stream of hands raise around the room, so a number of people have had imaginary friends when they were younger.

So I *did* have an imaginary friend, but he appeared in my life when I was a bit older (around the age of 14) and is still around now. However, he was less of an imaginary friend and more of an imaginary asshole. His name is Jason.

Jason is an asshole because he’s one of those people that are always putting you down. Whenever I decide to try and make something creatively, Jason pops up to question why I’m even bothering. Whenever I put something I’ve created online, be it a game or some artwork, Jason will arrive to suggest that I shouldn’t have done it and that I look like an idiot. Whenever I receive some praise or recognition for something I’ve done, he’ll be there to tell me that I’m a fraud, I don’t deserve the recognition. I’m not as good as other people doing the same thing as me. The person praising me has made a mistake.

Jason appears all the time, but there are a number of occasions when he’s had a really negative impact on my mental state. Here are some of the main examples of when Jason has appeared in my life:

This is me when I was just about the start my first job as a Game Designer. I would be working at an independent studio working on games published by Sony.  I was incredibly excited. Ever since I was a child and the first time I played Super Mario All Stars I wanted to be a game designer. I was well-aware of how difficult it was to get a job as a designer when you’re inexperienced as I’d read many an article on the subject. I felt extremely lucky to be offered the role. I’d been to University to study it and now I’d be doing it as an actual job! This was my dream and I couldn’t wait.

But then, Jason turned up

“What do you think you’re doing? You’ve got no experience designing games and now you’re going to go into a job doing it? You’re University wasn’t even that good. It was run by a graphic designer who didn’t even play games and you only got a 2:1. You’re going to screw up. You’ve no business having that job”.

Despite Jason’s whispers I did the job for around a year, but the contract was a 3-month temporary role that they topped up at the end of each 3 months. One month came when I was told that the contract wouldn’t get rolled over and I found myself no longer employed in the industry. I took this as an affirmation of Jason’s whispers and I told myself that he was right, rather than it simply being a business decision. I had no place in that role, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t belong in that industry.

I decided not to apply for roles in the industry again and I stopped making games full stop for a while. I turned my back on it and instead went into working in the exciting world of business-to-business sales. I sold non-ferrous metals at a stainless steel and aluminium stockholders to fabricators and engineers. Sales wasn’t for me and I hated my time working thee. It wasn’t long though before the itch to create came back to me and I started making games again.

I made Time Stone, a short point and click adventure game made with Adventure Game Studio. Desperate for a change in career from sales, I used this as an example of my game making skills when applying for a job to teach game design to 16-18 year old students at a local college. At first this was just on a zero-hours contract, but within half a year I was employed as Curriculum Leader for Game Design.

I was excited for the role. It was a permanent, full-time job and I was enjoying teaching game design to students. The role offered me the security that was missing from my roles in the games industry and I would be working with a subject I loved (as opposed to sales which I hated). But I wasn’t that experienced with teaching and it wasn’t long before Jason showed up again.

“You got a job as Curriculum Leader where you’re overseeing an entire course? You’ve not even been teaching for half a year and you’ll be overseeing people with more experience than you! This must be some sort of administrative error.”

I felt like a huge fraud when I got that job, but I stuck with it and I’m still there 3 years later. I love the job and feel like my input has improved the provision in a number of ways which I’m proud of. I’m glad that I got the job, but it took me a while to feel like I deserved it.

More recently, I was looking to attend Feral Vector. It’s an event I’ve been to before and I wanted to do more than just attend. I was interesting in doing a talk or helping out running a workshop or something.

I sent an email to the event organiser proposing a few ideas for talks and just generally wanting to get involved. But no sooner had I clicked send on the email that Jason appeared on my monitor whispering at me through my speakers.

“I can’t believe you just sent that email. Why would they want *you* to do a talk. Nobody even knows who you are? There are going to be much more qualified people giving talks there and then you’ll get up and everyone will think ‘who’s this bozo’ and switch off. You’ll break under pressure and they’ll soon realise that you have no idea what you’re talking about.“

I panicked and was up late worrying about this until I read an article called ‘Living with Imposter Syndrome’ by a chap called Danny Moore. He’s a game writer and discussed his experiences with Imposter Syndrome and the article and it really struck a chord with me. I started reading more and more about it and found myself nodding and agreeing and thinking to myself “that’s me!”

So, just what is Imposter Syndrome? It’s essentially the feeling that you’re a fraud and that you’re not a successful, competent or smart person – you’re only imposing as one, despite any evidence to the contrary. You’re constantly worried about being ‘found out’ for not being smart, talented or hard-working even though you’re probably all of these things. The games industry is made up of a lot of smart, talented, hard-working, creative people and so naturally we can assume that many individuals within it have had these feelings. Though there’s little definitive information on imposter syndrome, there are some recurring themes when it comes to symptoms. These are a few common ones:

Periods of avoiding creative work

Feeling like an impostor can make you feel as though you shouldn’t bother and it can lead to long periods of avoiding creative work. In Danny’s case he was asked by a colleague if he had dyslexia when receiving feedback on some of his writing, this really knocked his confidence and he took some time out of writing. With me, when my contract wasn’t renewed when I worked as a designer, I took this as confirmation of my imposter feelings and didn’t create anything for months.

Not putting yourself out there

When an opportunity presents itself to you, such as applying for a job, submitting your game to an event or sharing something you’ve created. Imposter Syndrome can also lead to you feeling that the thing you’ve created isn’t worth sharing, your game isn’t good enough, you are not good enough. The feelings will naturally cause you to not put yourself out there or take risks.

Stress & Anxiety

It can cause a lot of anxiety as you’re convincing yourself that at any moment you will be ‘found out’ and over the long term this can lead to depression.

Understating your experiences

In the very first lines of this article I said “I guess I would describe myself as a game designer” using words and phrases like “I guess” and “I would describe myself as” already sets yourself up as an imposter, even though you aren’t. Sufferers of Impostor Syndrome will struggle to accept that any praise they receive is genuine and will downplay any of their personal accomplishments.

Attributing your successes to luck

Another symptom is that you can attribute much of your success to pure luck rather than hard work. I hated the majority of the time I worked in sales, but there was something that my manager once said that stuck with me. She is a successful woman, with a high status job and a good salary and she told me that her brother often acted envious of her. He would comment on her nice house and expensive car and say “you are so lucky”. Her response was “It’s funny isn’t it, the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get.” This is something that I try to remember whenever I attempt to attribute any of my own success to luck.

Being nervous about meeting apparently successful people in your field.

After Thimbleweed Park recently released, I saw a lot of people sharing this screenshot from the game. It features a character from the game who is a game designer too afraid to talk to seemingly successful game designer at an expo.

People shared this image usually with a comment about how they could relate to it. A lot of the people that shared this are likely creatives themselves and are comparing their own success to the perceived success of others and feeling fraudulent about their own talents. This would be enough for anyone to think there was no point in talking to this other individual, that they were probably not worth their time.

 

What can we do about it

There are a number of ways that folks can combat Impostor Syndrome. I’ve narrowed them down to my top 5.

1.

Imposter Syndrome happens when your invisible Assholes like Jason tell you that your work is no good, so one way to combat this is for a whole bunch of people to tell you that your work *is* good. If we admire someone’s work, we should get into the habit of telling them. I understand that sometimes it can be awkward in social situations to tell someone you like their stuff, but even something as simple as favouriting, retweeting or preferably commenting on someone’s animated GIF of a game they are working on that you think looks neat, you are helping to drown out the voices of the Jason’s in the world.

2. 

This comes back to attributing your success to your own hard work and rather than focusing on the negative aspects of a project, look at the positives.

Take a recent example of mine – a game I made for the Adventure Jam 2017 called The Temple of Adventure. So this is a game I made in 2 weeks with some artist friends of mine so that I could learn to use Unreal Engine 4. The game is buggy, unpolished and unfinished. It wasn’t selected for the top 12 nominated games and some of the comments on the game stated that it was too similar to an existing game.

But actually if look at the positives and focus on the achievements of the game – it was featured on PC Gamer’s best free games of the week, it was featured in a list of 25 best games from the jam (number 24, but it still counts!), there are a number of let’s plays – 2 of which have over 10K views, it placed 19th overall in the Jams final votes (out of 122 games), but is the 7th highest rate game with the AdvJam2017 tag on gamejolt and it received 3rd place in the dialog category.  When I consider that we only worked on the game for 2 weeks around work and other commitments, plus I was using an engine I had little experience with, that’s not bad going, in fact it’s pretty good.

You need to consider your own acheivements this way, possibly keep a list. All those things I just mentioned could be written up into my own ‘achievement list’ which I can refer to. Whenever you feel like a fraud you can look back at this list and it will help you to continue doing what you love and putting it out there.

3. 

Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you shouldn’t bother when presented with an opportunity. I’m not really qualified to apply for that job or my game isn’t good enough to submit that competition/expo, etc. Everyone suffers from self-doubt, but allowing that self-doubt to grow and take control over your decision-making is lose-lose. If you don’t apply for that job you are potentially losing out on a great job and the employer is potentially losing out on a great hardworking, creative employee. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t happen. If you don’t grab opportunities when they present themselves to you, then you could be robbing the world of a great game or a great member of a team.

4.

When you are stood in a room with a 20-year veteran with multiple awards under their belt and is just a terrific person in general, then sure you are going to feel like a fraud in comparison, but this doesn’t mean that you have nothing to offer. This is where that list of achievements I mentioned earlier comes in handy, if you’ve done this already then you will have actual proof that you provide something of value to someone.

If you compare yourself to leaders and veterans in your field then you are going to feel that you are not good enough, but these are apples and oranges. You are most likely comparing your inner self, with the outer self of others. You are comparing your insecurities, your doubts, your impostor feelings with the successes, the confidence and the experience of that other person. Ultimately you don’t know how that other person is feeling on the inside. If anything success can amplify the impostor feelings and they may feel that they are an even bigger fraud than you do. Compare apples with apples and stop comparing your inner self with other people’s outsides.

5. 

I’m really grateful towards Danny for writing his article on imposter syndrome. It really helped me at a time when I was filled with self-doubt. At this stage of my talk I asked the room how many people had had feelings like the symptoms of imposter syndrome I had described and the majority of the room put their hands up. Some studies suggest that around 70% of people have felt this way. That’s why I wanted to do a talk on it, that’s why I wanted to write this article. We need to share these feelings more, so that when people have them they can realise that when they have these thoughts that they should question them. Are you really a fraud or did you work goddam hard to achieve all that you’ve done? Find people that you can say “I feel like an impostor” to and how likely is it that they will agree with you?

When I read Danny’s article it helped me to do this, it made me think and question all of the murmurs that Jason had been whispering in my ear and I looked at Jason and I thought “hang on a second”.  I looked at Jason differently and I decided that I had had enough. I removed Jason’s hat and his Groucho Marx glasses and his overcoat to reveal the ugliness underneath…

Jason was nothing more than a weird slug monster thing that had been posing as my own thoughts. He had been wearing a disguise this whole time.

So when you have these thoughts that tell you you’re not good enough or that you shouldn’t be here or that all of your successes are down to luck, question whether that’s true or whether you may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome and just remember who the real imposters are, it’s Jason and imaginary asshole’s just like him.

Thanks for reading!

Apologies to anyone called Jason.

Additional Reading:

http://www.wygamer.com/blog/living-with-imposter-syndrome

https://thehustle.co/why-70-percent-of-millennials-have-impostor-syndrome

http://impostersyndrome.com.au/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/119129-12-signs-you-might-be-suffering-from-imposter-syndrome-fellow-perfectionists-im-looking-at-you

https://startupbros.com/21-ways-overcome-impostor-syndrome/

The Temple of Adventure

AdventureJam is a game jam that I’ve always wanted to take part in, but haven’t been able to or perhaps simply couldn’t be bothered to… yes, that’s probably it. The jam has always appealed to me as adventure games were a big favourite of mine growing up and I have made a small number of adventure games in the past. What’s that? Oh yes Time Stone *did* win the 2013 AGS Award for Best Short Game. Come again? You’re right it *was* also nominated for two other awards including Best Puzzles. Thank you, I never tire of people pointing out how brilliant my games are. Anyway this year I found myself with a bit of free time to enter the jam, but I also had something else on my to-do list – Learn Unreal Engine 4. I used the game jam as an excuse to make a small project within 2 weeks in UE4. I would need help however, as I wasn’t about to learn 3D modelling as well. No no, that would be silly.

screenshot (11)-jigajrfa

I recruited some of my colleagues Tom Clayton, a 3D Artist about to take a break from teaching to complete his degree, James Bennett-Hill who graciously found time to stop working on doing up his house (which he doesn’t like to mention) in order to help out and Ben Sutcliffe of No Sky Visible who provided some illustrations for the game along with design support. We riffed from an initial idea I had of a first person exploration game that had a similar style of gameplay to Firewatch, Gone Home and Everybody’s gone to the Rapture.

We worked really hard on it when we could around work and other comitments, but managed to pull it together and submit the game before the deadline. The game came 19th overall in the results of the Jam, but is the 7th highest rated #AdvJam2017 game on Game Jolt. The game has some brilliant voice acting and understandably received 3rd place for dialog and came 9th for music, due to a fantastic score.

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The game has received a lot of praise and attention including 2 separate let’s plays on YouTube with over 10K views which we’re really chuffed about.

I can’t really say too much about the game without spoiling it, so I’ll leave you with the game description which should hopefully entice you to try it out!

“The stone slab door slowly closes behind you. The sound of stone grating on stone can be heard until the door finally slams shut with a loud THUD. Afterwards there is dead silence. You take this opportunity to look around the great temple hall reaching out in front of you. A cavernous room with huge pillars that reached into the darkness above, detailed carvings etched on all sides. You stand at the top of a set of stairs leading down the labyrinth that makes up the lower levels of the hall. A beam of light catches your eye far on the other side. You reach for your binoculars to take a closer look and as you focus on the light you catch your breath. There it is. What I’ve been searching for. The Tigress Emerald. It won’t be easy to get to. You have the maze to contend with plus if the legends are true there will be chambers filled with puzzles, each one trickier than the last. But it will all be worth it … for her. Mabel’s medical bills were piling up. When that mysterious Baron offered to pay the cost of her surgery it was impossible to say no. She wouldn’t have wanted me to come. She would have begged me to stay with her. But if I have a chance to save her…

A sound from he maze below brings you back to reality. You raise your binoculars once more to see if you can identify where the sound came from. You see shadows. Moving shadows. Someone or something else is in that maze.

It’s too late to turn back now. “

The Temple of ADVENTURE is a first person exploration game set in an ancient mysterious Temple. If you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider or Uncharted and love first person exploration games filled with action, adventure and mystery then this is the game for you.

  • Find the Tigress Emerald
  • Uncover the ancient secrets of the Temple
  • Solve the Temples countless mysteries

A game made for ‘#AdvJam2017‘ in Unreal Engine 4.

Splodey Vaders Update #06: Play Expo

I’ve not posted an update in a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy! Check out below for what I’ve been up to.

Splodey Vaders Updates

LevelUp UnlocksMenu

LEVELLING UP & UNLOCKS – This is something I wanted from the start and had pretty much decided to drop, but then, against my better judgement, I went and implemented it into the game. At its core, the game is a high score chaser. You have a game, get a score, and then try to beat it on your next go. But I wanted the game to be more than that. I wanted a reason for people to keep coming back to the game other than just to beat their high score. I’ve been playing a lot of Downwell recently and that game has a levelling up system which is tied to unlocks that I really liked and so I’ve decided to add a similar system. The unlocks are purely aesthetic (you can unlock new colour palettes for the game – which was a pain in the arse to implement, or you can unlock new ship designs – less of a pain in the arse). You level up as you earn XP which is tied to the score you achieve, the higher the score the more XP you gain. People who have played the game with the new system seem to really like it and although the unlocks are purely visual, players seem to enjoy choosing and changing these to their favourite ones.

I actually got in touch with the developer of Downwell to ask if I could include Downwell’s colour palette in the game! He said yes 😀 what a cool guy.

Downwell

ACHIEVEMENTS & LEADERBOARDS– One requested feature was to include a leaderboard, so that you could see what kind of high scores people were getting. I added this along with achievements into the game. There are currently 5 achievements in the game (5 is the minimum amount of achievements required by Google), these are:

  • Achieve a Score of 500
  • Achieve a Score of 1000
  • Achieve a Score of 1500
  • Achieve a Score of 2000
  • Kill a total of 10,000 Vaders

As you can see I was feeling particularly creative on the day I added achievements into the game. That last one exists because Google offer an option to have incremental achievements which increase by a percentage every time you perform an action in the game. The maximum number you can have for this though is 10,000 which is why I went for this number. Achievements and Leaderboards are functional on both Android and iOS

iOS BUILD – Oh yeah! I coughed up the £70 required by Apple in order to have the privilege of developing for the platform (Google charge around £12) and spent a nightmarish evening trying to get the game working on my iPhone 5. Here are some of the things I needed to do in order to make this happen:

  • Register as a developer
  • Add my iPhone as a test device
  • Create and upload a certificate request to be a developer
  • Create and upload a certificate request for distribution
  • Download and verify developer certificate
  • Download and verify distribution certificate
  • Upgrade to the latest version of macOS
  • Download Xcode
  • Download Application Loader
  • Own a Mac
  • Have files shared between Mac and PC using Game Maker

There were probably a bunch of other things I needed to do, but yeah it was a tiresome process and a version of the game is working on iOS. Yipee!

PAUSE MENU

Another often requested feature is the ability to pause the game. If you tap the top half of the screen the game will pause and you can press play to start the game back up again.

Play Expo Leeds

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I showed Splodey Vaders at an actual gaming event like a proper developer and everything! The event was great. Tons of people played the game and I got some really great feedback. I remember reading a quote which said something like if you want people to treat you like a big shot developer, then act like a big shot developer, so that’s what I did. I took the game on a big screen TV (which I borrowed from the college I teach at), I had a huge poster printed out (also done at college), I had a bunch of freebies made up (some cool badges and stickers) and held a high score tournament where the highest score won a copy of Halo: The Graphic Novel, which I bought years ago and never read. The winning score was 2090, a great score. Loads of people said they liked the game and one little girl kept coming back to try and get onto the leaderboard (she managed it early in the day, but was soon knocked off, bless her) her Dad downloaded the game on Android there and then, so hopefully she’s still enjoying the game at home. Here are some choice snaps from the event:

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The ‘I Suck At Games Podcast’

I think I’ve decided to knock this on the head. It was a good little distraction while it lasted and I love the idea of doing a podcast, but one of things I enjoy about the podcasts I listen to is the back and forth between presenters and although I’ve enjoyed some podcasts that have a single host, I think I would prefer to record one with someone else. I also think that people would rather hear me talking about game development and what I’ making rather than my thoughts on games that I’ve played. Thirdly, I don’t get a lot of free time to play games these days as I’m choosing to spend my time making them instead. So there’s a bunch of reasons why I’ve stopped this, but as I said it was fun while it lasted. I’ll leave the episodes up on soundcloud in case anyone wants to have a listen. Here’s Episode 2 about my experiences with VR:

What’s next?

The thing is, I could keep updating Splodey Vaders forever. There is still so much I want to do with the game. Power ups, mainly, but also multiple enemy types, different wave formations, animated sprites, etc. Plus the list of little tweaks and fixes here and there seems endless. I’ve decided to heed the advice from some fellow developers and just release the game. The people that have downloaded the Alpha and played it like it, the folks at Play Expo said some really nice things about it and I feel that it’s ready to just get out there. As soon as the iOS version gets approved by Apple I’ll be setting a final release date and then pushing for marketing/reviews/let’s plays. I will most likely continue to update the game after release with some of the things mentioned above, but the game is done and needs to be out. I’ve been working on it for too long and it’s time for a change. Hopefully the next blog post you see will be one with a final release date for the game. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Splodey Vaders, Game Jam, Game Design Idea Generator & Podcast!

Hello! Boy that blog title makes it sound like I’ve been up to a lot. Since the last blog post it’s been a hectic Christmas-New Year period, but now we’re halfway into February and there’s been a few things I’d like to share with you.

Splodey Vaders Updates

First up is progress on Splodey Vaders. Updates on Splodey Vaders have been a bit slow since December. There’s been some bits and pieces that I’ve done such as adding in a nice transition when they player moves from menu to main game. I’ve also included a handy little animated tutorial image as a lot of people when first playing the game didn’t know how to control the ship.

Tutorial

Something that’s been bugging me a lot is how to deal with what happens when the player allows Vaders to go past the bottom of the screen. Is it game over? Do you lose points? Do the Vaders respawn at the top of the screen, but faster? Do the Vaders explode? But, I think I’ve finally got a solution that will work which I need to implement and this will be rolled out in the next update. I’m not going to talk about it too much here as I feel like I could write a whole article about that design choice.

Global Game Jam

Global Game Jam is a game jam that takes place every year in January and I organised for the college I teach at to take part in the Jam. This year the theme was Waves and we had some really cool ideas from the students, but I also took this as an opportunity to make something small. So I made Mexican Wave Simulator in around 4 hours.

Game Design Idea Generator

Prior to this I made less of a game and more of a web tool using Twine. This was inspired by the annual BAFTA Young Game Designers competition. They provide a card game which had different environments, rules, goals, genre and a wild card and the idea was to generate ideas using randomly selected cards. I took this format and made it digital. My tweet on this probably got the most likes I’ve ever got!

Experimental Podcast: I Suck At Games

I’ve been listening to a lot of Podcasts in the car on my commute to work lately. This got me thinking about how I’d love to make a Podcast in which I talk about games, game design and general game stuff. Then I figured ‘I’ve got an hour-long commute to work and a voice recorder on my phone, what’s stopping me?’, so I recorded a spew of thoughts about the most recent game I played, which was the HD remake of Shadow of the Colossus. I uploaded it to Soundcloud, so you can have a listen to it there.

 

I’d much rather have had someone else to talk to in the podcast as I feel like multi-person podcasts are more entertaining to listen to. Sadly I was all on my lonesome, so had to make do. I called it ‘I suck at games’ because I genuinely feel that I’m not particularly good at playing games.

Wow, when I write everything down like that it looks like I’ve been really busy, which good I suppose. I’d love to hear your feedback on the games I’ve made and I’m particularly interested in hearing what you think of the podcast and if I should make it a regular thing. Please get in touch via Twitter if you’d like to share anything with me. You can find me on @Stuart_Lilford

TL;DR