Category Archives: Developer Diary

Splodey Vaders Update #03: Boring Menu Stuff

Wow! Was it really APRIL when I last posted about this game? Well I will blame that on the fact that I am a full-time lecturer at a college and it was the back end of the academic year, which is the busiest time for us due to marking and visits from external moderators and such, but you don’t want to know about that, you want to know about the GAME! Work on the game is slow as I’ve also been on holiday and it’s difficult to juggle work, home-life (which includes a wife and 10 month old baby daughter) with games development, plus there’s games to play, TV shows to watch and books to read, there just isn’t enough time in the day. Here’s what’s been happening since the last post:

MORE NEWS FROM GAMAYO

Although GaMaYo was a while ago now, there have been a few things posted online since my last update. You may recall I mentioned I was interviewed and that interview is now available online for your viewing pleasure (if you’re into that sort of thing). You’ll be able to see how much of a dork I look and sound like. But seriously, there’s some gameplay footage as well as some info about the game revealed in the interview, so take a look.

There were also a bunch of photos released from the evening. You can see them all here (scroll down on the page), but I’ve selected a few choice ones below:

I hadn’t built high score saving into the game yet and wanted a way to retain the score if I had to close the game down for any reason. My genius solution was to just write the top scores down on a white board with Twitter handles next to it.

I was quite proud of the crowd that the game was attracting. All the people at the front of this photo (and a few behind) were all watching/queuing to play Splodey Vaders. I felt a little rushed off my feet at times, which is a good thing.

Here is an action shot of someone sat enjoying the game with me stood in the background like a goofball holding the Android version. I’m not sure why, but I appear to be watching the screen intently.

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE GAME SINCE THE LAST BLOG UPDATE?

Quite a lot actually. You can keep up-to-date with all the main changes on the games Trello page, but here’s the low down on the main additions.

Integration with Game Jolt High Scores – Game Jolt users will be able to sign into Game Jolt within Splodey Vaders and post their high scores to leaderboards. This was a little tricky to get working right and I’m still not 100% happy with it, but it works for now. This will hopefully pave he way for the inclusion of achievements/trophies in the future.

Lots of BORING front end stuff – Splodey Vaders now has a menu rather than jumping straight into the game. There’s all the amenities such as stats, settings, credits, etc. Really exciting stuff.

The game will save your high score – Not only that, but it will also save your stats too. There’s also a menu option to delete all saved data on the game, so you can start a fresh.

Settings_GIF

WHAT’S NEXT?

There a few more menu and score tweaks to be made, but after that I’ll be looking to produce some new sprites and artwork for the game. The current Metroid and Galaga rip offs were only ever meant to be placeholder, but I just haven’t got around to updating them yet.

I want to game to be a little more than an arcade shooter with no overarching goal other than ‘Achieve High Score’, so I’ll be looking into adding longevity by including unlocks such as new ship designs, special power ups and enemy types. This will work something like how in Super Crate Box, when you unlock character designs and new weapons.

I’ve also been thinking about the release of the game. The current focus is to complete the PC version first and release this on online stores like itch.io and GameJolt. Although I originally intended this game to be free, I feel as though with the additional features I’m looking to add, I’m going to charge a small fee. Current thoughts are that the game will cost around $2.00. It would be good to hear what people think about this. I’ve wanted to release a comercial game for a long time now and I feel that Splodey Vaders could be a game worth paying money for (even if it is super cheap).

Please tweet or email me if you have any questions about the game and also follow me on there as it’s where I post the most updates on the game.

Splodey Vaders Update #02: GaMaYo

GMY10

I showed  Splodey Vaders off at GaMaYo last week. GaMaYo stands for Game Makers Yorkshire and is a networking event held twice a year where game developers from across the region and beyond get together, have a few pints and play each other’s games. I’ve been to GaMaYo a few times and have even shown some games there, but never on one of the big screens like I did at this one. It was a great experience and I recommend anyone to give it a try if you’ve got a game people can play. At one point there was even a kind of queue for Splodey Vaders, which was awesome. A big thank you to everyone who came and played.

IMG_4210

I got some great feedback for Splodey Vaders from a bunch of people. Most of the comments where positive with some people seemingly becoming addicted, which was great. These people from Clubit TV came round and did a quick interview with me about the game, though I haven’t seen any of it surface online yet. I was showing the PC version on the big screen, while walking around shoving my NVIDIA Sheild into peoples faces to play the Android version.

IMG_4206

What’s Next?

I want to get the game uploaded to Game Jolt, ideally in a state which integrates with Game Jolts high score system, so that users can compete to become top of the leader board. I also need to get the game to save your score after you shut it down rather than resetting every time. After that, I want to update the sprites for the player and the Vaders (the current sprites are placeholder) and make them animated. There’s all kinds of additional features planned, but as usually, you can check what’s planned on the game’s Trello: https://trello.com/b/jTalmHfR/splodey-vaders

Splodey Vaders Update #01 – Preparing for Ga Ma Yo

Gameplay

As I mentioned in the original post about Splodey Vaders, I’m planning on showing it at an event targeted at local game developers. I’ve never done anything like this before, other than Adventure X back in 2011. I plan on writing a post detailing how the event went, but before then I wanted to write an update on the progress of the game and outline some key features:

Score Multiplier

In Splodey Vaders when you shoot a Vader, they Splode. When they Splode, chunks of Vader go flying around the screen. If a Vader chunk hits another Vader, they Splode. This mechanic allows the player to create chain reactions where there are explosions happening all over the screen and multiple enemies are being killed. In the early stages of development, you would receive 10 points if you hit a Vader. If the chunks from that Vader hit another Vader, then you would get a score multiplier. This would times whatever the current score multiplier was by 10, in this case, giving you an extra 100 points. If the chunks from *that* Vader hit *another* Vader, then it would times the score multiplier by 10 again, giving the player 1000 points. This could get out of hand very quickly with some players getting scores of 10,000,000+. I decided to add a cap to this and reduce the amount your score can multiply by. If you shoot a Vader you still get 10 points, but if the chunks from that Vader hit another Vader then you get a multiplier of X2, giving you 20 points. You can then get X5 and X10 score multipliers by causing chain reactions with Vader chunks (you also get a nice pop up and sound effect telling you you’ve done so). All subsequent Vaders hit would be capped at X10 meaning that the maximum points you can get from any one Vader Sploding is 100. The score multipliers and chain reaction of explosions is a core part of the game. I also made the score pulse whenever you add to your score as an added visual que that you are earning points.

Trails

Sort of related to the score multipliers is the trail effects added to the Vader chunks. These can be different colours and the different colours correspond to whichever multiplier you have achieved. Initial chunks have a blue trail and if they hit any Vaders, the player will receive X2 score multiplier. The chunks from that Vader will have a red trail and the player will receive X5 score multiplier. The chunks from that Vader will have a white trail and the player will gain X10 score multiplier. The pop up text you receive for X2, X5 and X10 are also colour coordinated to match with the trail colours.

Controller Support

I’ve never added controller support to a game before, but it was incredibly easy to do in Game Maker. I decided to make it so that you can use D-Pad, either Analogue stick, shoulder buttons, trigger buttons or face buttons for movement to allow the player freedom of choice.

Penalties

In the game, Vaders can go past the bottom of the screen and it’s not game over. It’s only game over if you get hit by a Vader or a chunk from a Vader. However, I wanted to add some form of penalty to the player for letting a Vader get past. My initial idea was to have the Vader respawn at the top of the screen, but slightly faster and moving towards the player’s location like a homing missile. This idea came from Super Crate Box, where enemies will respawn at the top of the screen faster than before. This doesn’t penalise you in terms of your score for letting enemies past, but if you DON’T shoot them, the game will become harder. I also toyed around with the idea of having Vaders explode when they reach the bottom of the screen, but this proved too difficult to avoid the chunks firing out of the Vader. At the moment, nothing happens when the Vaders go past the bottom of the screen, the only penalty is the loss of potential points you could have got had you shot the Vader, but I may change this later on.

Difficulty

A lot of players seemed to find the game too hard to begin with. To combat this, I’ve made the base speed of the Vaders slower, made less Vader chunks fly out when they explode and reduced the maximum speed that a Vader chunk can have making it easier to avoid them. After showing the game to groups familiar and unfamiliar with the game I think I’ve found a good balance.

Other Changes

  • Fixed bug where text was misaligned
  • Made it more obvious when you die (red flash appears)
  • Stopped the infinite Vader spawning on Game Over
  • Improved Game Over Screen
  • Background speed now increases with game speed
  • Fixed bug which caused all objects (including the Vaders and Player Ship) to disappear when Score Multiplier text faded out.

If you want to see the current road map for Splodey Vaders, I’m using Trello to track changes, fixes and features for the game. It’s an awesome site that allows you to easily track the development of a project. Splode Vaders Trello: https://trello.com/b/jTalmHfR/splodey-vaders

What Next?

Well Ga Ma Yo is on Thursday and I’ll be showing the game off there and hopefully gaining some good feedback from the cornucopia of developers there. After that I’ll be creating a PC version ready to make available on websites like Game Jolt and itch.io. The next major features to be added will be saving high scores after a session and beyond that some art updates and maybe different enemy types and power ups! In the meantime, here’s a video which shows off some of the gameplay from Splodey Vaders:

Subtraddition Update #02: Should I retain the Gameboy inspired colour palette?

Most of the changes made to Subtraddition over the past few weeks have been aesthetic. I’ve redesigned the first world layout and spent a lot of time playing around with pixels to make it look nice. As I’ve said before, I’m no artist (I’m no programmer either) so trying out different designs for tiles sets was pretty challenging. This is what the game looks like now:

NightSky

This screenshot is by far the best looking screenshot I have taken of the game so far. The bridge alone went through 3 iterations before it got to its current look and I’m quite pleased with how the game is coming along visually.

But there’s something I’m worrying about internally. Mainly: Should I retain the Gameboy inspired colour palette? I initially went with this style as I wanted to practice using only 4 colours and the Gameboy palette seemed like a good place to start. I always intended on keeping this palette, but lately I’ve been asking myself questions like “Should I allow the game its own identity rather than piggybacking on something already known” to more absurd ponderings such as “If I ever wanted to port this game to a console, would publishers want to avoid the game as it has associations with Nintendo?”

Strangely enough, Just as I was about to write this update I posted the above screenshot on Twitter and someone responded with “I love the atmosphere the color palette creates (Gameboy-inspired? Nice!). So the game is already getting people liking it due to how it looks.

I sort of feel in my gut that I should probably just keep the colour palette I’ve been using as there are commercial games out there which use these colours and the game is looking good, but I’d like to open it up.

A note on worlds

I mentioned ‘worlds’ earlier, so let me explain how levels are structured in Subtraddition. You start in the Start Zone which will mainly exist to teach the player the basics of the game. From here you navigate to the Hub Zone which contains all doors leading to the game’s main worlds. There are 3 worlds and within each world there are 5 rooms/levels which contain a core game collectable. Each room/level will be it’s own unique challenge to complete, but if the player finds themselves struggling they can exit and try out one of the others and come back later. There are 15 unique room/levels in total and I will probably try to include some sort of final level as the games climax, but I’ve not thought that far ahead.

Enemy Sprite Update

I’d like to do a post about the different enemy types that are found in Subtraddition (they’re not traditional enemies. They’re not alive or anything. Mostly just objects that can kills you) but for now, I’ll just show off some updates sprites. First is a weird fire breathing head thing. Before the update it was just a brown square that fired red squares (and no I don’t mean the Russian vodka), now they conform to the colour palette and the fireballs are even slightly animated. This GIF would have looked better if the other sprites were updated, but still.

FireFaces

Next is the thwomp block. Before the update, these were just red squares with a scary face drawn on them. Anyone recognise the new sprite from somewhere?

Thwomp_Blocks

How about that screenshake! Screenshake is something I’ve added into the game to make it feel as though there’s a lot more going on in the game world than there actually is. I was inspired by this talk aptly named talk “The Art of Screenshake” from Jan Willem Nijman of Vlambeer. Worth a watch for some ideas on how to help your game better connect with players.

There are lots of other visual updates I’d love to tell you about, but I’m hoping to write something about how I created some of the tile sets within the game and I’ll cover a lot of it in that. I also implemented some parallax scrolling into the game which makes the game look and feel a lot better.

What’s next?

My current to do list contains a few more aesthetic changes including finally adding a door into the game (currently you walk into a big white rectangle) and creating some decorative background and foreground tiles to make the levels less boring. After that I’ll mostly be fine tuning the start level and Level 1, so that I can hopefully send the game out to people to try out.

Subtraddition Update #01: New tiles & checkpoints

It’s not been long since I introduced Subtraddition, but I’ve updated a few things since that I’d like to share. Firstly, a new tile set. The area is supposed to look like a mossy cave. I’d like to do a post on how I created the tileset at some point in the future.

Sub_Tilesin_Large

Next I finally updated the sprite for the checkpoint instead of it looking like a horrible pink box (see above GIF). The idea is that the sphere is a resurrection stone and when you die you are resurrected at the shrine. The GIF below only shows the shrines being activated and not put into practice.

Subtraddition_Checkpoints

I mainly started working on the visuals for the game because I was generating level designs and it was becoming very time consuming and I felt that my brain needed a break from it. I updated the images for the tiles in the  first area, the block that you can move around and the spikes (these feature a lot in the game). Now that the checkpoint doesn’t look so much like a hideous pink obelisk I think I will get back to getting the level layout completed for the rest of the game.

 

Introducing: Subtraddition

I’m making a game! I started working on it just after Christmas I think? Anyway I was toying around with the idea of making a puzzle platformer and then I started working  on a prototype and now I’m going to be making it into a full game.

This is the core mechanic of the game:

 Subtraddition

The game is being made with Game Maker: Studio.

Hang on, I thought you were making a game called Gravity Square or something?

Gravity Box is currently on Hiatus at the moment. For some reason as we got closer to Christmas I started to lose interest in working on it and ultimately stopped all together. This isn’t to say I don’t want to make the game at all… I’m just more motivated to work on this puzzle platformer game. Plus I’ve since learned a lot about game development that I can use to create a better version of Gravity Box than the one that I was working on.

So what’s so special about this new game?

With Subtraddition I actually made a small prototype last year before I started working on Gravity Box. The prototype saw you placing blocks to help you navigate the level and as I worked on it more, the more I began thinking up puzzle/level designs for the game. I was also really inspired by playing Fez around that time and loved the sense of exploration that the game made you feel as a player. I also began to think about old platformers I used to play as a kid that I loved like Banjo-Kazooie and Jak and Daxter. Essentially, Subtraddition caught the attention of my imagination more than Gravity Box ever did and I think that’s why I’m running with it instead.

skecthbook]

What is it about?

The core mechanic as shown above, is that it’s a 2D puzzle platformer in which you can remove and place certain blocks within the level in order to allow you to use them as platforms and reach new levels. They’ll also do other stuff like protect you from damage, reach new heights and jump across distances you would otherwise be unable to reach.

The game is also about exploration. You start of in a starter level, which leads into a hub world with multiple levels and multiple puzzles to solve and a butt-tonne of secrets.

Subtraddition Key Features

4 COLOURS – I’m doing the art for the game and as I’ve said previously I’m not that great at art. I mean, I do okay… I get by. So I felt that limiting myself to only 4 colours would mean that I had less chance of making it look shit than if I made a colourful mess with a bunch of colours. I’m also working to quite a small resolution, so I’m practicing my pixel art with this game. I find that it helps to give yourself restrictions/limitations as otherwise you can overscope.

SECRETS – After my recent playthroughs of Fez, I loved how the game is filled to the brim with secrets. Although my game won’t be anywhere near the scope of Fez, I still like the idea of including little hidden secrets that will reward the player for exploration. Which brings me on to my next point:

EXPLORATION – As I mention above, one of the things I love about video games is exploration. It unfortunately means that it takes me a lot longer than it should to complete games. I mentioned to someone the other day that it took 6 hours to complete Gone Home and they were all like “SIX HOURS :O … You can beat the game in 10 minutes!” But I like to take it slow and explore every nook and cranny of the world. I was the same with Bioshock Infinite. I’d spend ages just wandering about looking at stuff and this is something I’d like players to want to do in Subtraddition even though I suppose it largely depends on the type of player.

Where is it at?

Subtraddition is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the level designs for 2 out of the 3 worlds that the game will contain. I’m currently working on updating the graphics for the game and implementing tile sets into levels. Navigation works, the character movement works, the block removal/placement works and there are a few levels to run around in with puzzles and platforming to complete. I have no idea how long the game is going to take, but I’m using every spare minute I get before the big life-changing event happens. September is my deadline! More updates soon.

In other news…

A couple of our games are being placed on Indie Game Stand’s Free Games section. You can find Time Stone HERE and Entrapment will be on there soon.

You might have seen the recent ” game” announcement and yes, it was an over-elaborate metaphor for me and my wife having a baby! It’s our first child, so I’m going to have a lot to learn about becoming a father. It also means that my hobby game dev stuff will most likely be taking a lengthy break come September.

BONUS ART TEST FOR SUBTRADDITION DUDE:

B-YaRXWIgAAA8HI B-ZEvhiIcAA448Y

I went with number 12.

Gravity Box Update #02: Happy Halloween

Gravity_Box_Screenshot_141027

Happy Halloween everyone. It’s been two weeks since my last update and I’ve had a bit of time to work on Gravity Box. After my last update, I thought to myself: What intrinsic thing is missing from the game, something that would improve the overall experience with one simple feature. Then I thought of the one thing that would add so much to the games experience:

Added Explosions

You may have seen these red objects appear in some screenshots from Gravity Box. These are the games enemy. These are the spikes/goombas/balls of flaming death that populate some of the levels and their only purpose is to kill you. There are a couple of different types of enemy: ones that move and one’s that don’t. The one’s pictured below are static enemies and you have to carefully manoeuvre around a particular corner in order to avoid them. In the early prototype, the level would simply reset if you touched these red death traps. I felt it was important to offer feedback to the player as to why this happens when you touch them and the answer was simple: They explode.

dswda

So one of the first things I did when I had time was to make these little red buggers explode when you touch them and in turn, the box explodes and restarts the level. It was a simple thing to implement, but it made so much difference to the game. I also added a nice sound effect to really make it pop.

The Game now shows Gravity Direction

As I said in my previous update, I wanted a way in which to give the player feedback on which way the gravity was currently flowing. I thought about having smaller objects in the background also reacting to gravity and have them loop if they fly off the edge of the level. This ended up being too much to implement and I’m not too sure how to code something like that, so instead I added a background texture which scrolls in the direction the gravity is pulling towards. It seems effective and works for now and was inspired by the types of background textures that appear in VVVVVV. I’ll see what feedback is like for this feature when I get people to test it next.

Added More Levels

The game now has around 25 levels. I said I had 20 in my original post, but I removed some of the levels as well as adding new ones in. Some levels I removed because I felt that they were boring and weren’t adding any thing to the game and I removed others due to altering the mechanics of certain objects slightly, which meant some of the levels no longer worked. My aim is to be able to say that the game has over 100 levels (I’m just thinking ahead for my key features section of the game description) and I think this will be achievable. I have a lot of level designs still on paper and some additional mechanics which I may or may not add in, which would add to the number of levels. That being said, I managed to speed-run the game in under 6 minutes, so I’m going to have to see how long it takes others to complete these 25 levels.

I’ve been designing levels intended to appear towards the start of the game in order to ease players into the mechanics of the game and for them to learn how to play the game. Of course, I won’t really know if the game succeeds with this until people who haven’t played the game before tests it. I also accidentally created a couple of super hard levels that even I struggle to finish. I’ve put these in a folder marked ‘Bonus Levels’ for now.

dedf

Added a Crude Menu

The game has a very crude menu at the start, but eventually this will work properly (currently only start and quit work, the rest do nothing.)

This was made by following a tutorial by Shaun Spalding. He’s an indie game developer and video-tutorial maker who’s Game Maker video tutorials have been invaluable while I’ve been learning to develop games using Game Maker myself. I recommend checking out his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/999Greyfox), especially if you want to make games with Game Maker. They’re mostly platformer-related, but you’ll learn a lot from following them.

What Next?

That just about brings you up to speed with Gravity Box’s current developments, but where do I go from here? Well I’ve updated my list of tasks and it includes implementing 2 new mechanics which will then need levels designing and creating around them. There are also a number of things I’d like to play around with within the game aesthetically, but these things aren’t too important for the time being.

I also need to update the website with a section on Gravity Box, which I can update as I add more screenshots/videos. There are few other things I’d like to update you on such as Scared Square’s new digs, but you’ll just have to keep your eyes out for that one.

Gravity Box: Update #01 – New Art Style & Preparing for Ga-Ma-Yo

It’s been over a month since I introduced Gravity Box in my last blog post and in that post I said I wanted to be as transparent as possible, so I thought it was time for an update on my progress. This is officially the first ” for Gravity Box, since the last post was more of an introduction. Any following updates will use the Update#XX title. So what’s been happening with Gravity Box?

Gravity Box Game

Player Feedback

I’ve had a couple of people play a very early prototype of the game and have found out some  interesting things about my game. The first thing I found out is that some of the levels ARE REALLY HARD. This is an easy trap to fall into when developing your own game. Obviously, you know how the game works and you test it every 5 minutes, so you know the controls so much that they basically become an extension of yourself. The problem which occurs is that new players will not have that same knowledge and experience and so when they are struggling on a level which you find so easy, you need to think about introducing interim levels to allow players to gain more experience with the mechanic, make the level easier or moving it to an optional bonus level. People seemed to have fun at least trying to complete levels though, which is good.

The other thing people was suggested was some form of visual representation of the flow of gravity. This had occurred to me already, however having someone suggest it reaffirmed its need in the game. The current plan is to have a texture in the background which moves in the current direction of gravity, but this is something I can play around with further down the line.

Art Style

I was recently playing VVVVVV my Terry Cavanagh. It’s an awesome action puzzle platformer in which the player can switch the direction of the gravity. Due to the game mechanic it’s an obvious source of inspiration for Gravity Box, but there’s something else I really liked about the game: the art style.

VVVVVV

The graphical style of VVVVVV is heavily influenced by the Commodore 64. In an interview with indiegames.com, Terry said that he lacked the technical ability to make his games look good, so he worked within his own narrow limits and had only 5 shades of colour for each room in the game. His feelings towards his artistic ability mirrors my own in a way. I know I’m not a great artist and so I wanted to use an art style that would be easy to work with and quick to produce.

This also got me thinking about these for some reason:

lite-brite-heart

Lite-Brite is a toy created by Hasbro that allows users to create glowing designs by inserting coloured pegs in to a matrix of holes which illuminate to create a lit picture. I have vague recollections of playing with something similar as a child, but my main knowledge of them comes from pop-culture references in various TV shows.

Adam+we_58f4bb_3796905

So I somehow had this mixture of VVVVVV’s art style and the Lite-Brite toy and wanted to produce an art style that took inspiration from both these things. After toying around with ideas and mock-ups in Photoshop and getting some advice from Ben (Ben304) Chandler, I eventually produced these mock-ups:

GravBoxMockUp03

The style I’m going with is number 1. These mock-ups are obviously WIP and I plan on doing as much as possible to polish the game visually. Number one is the image which most closely represents the Lite Brite style and the final game will look something like it, but much better!

As I said in the previous post, Gravity Box is going to be a Sci-Fi game. I think that Lite Brite already has a Sci-Fi feel to it, so hopefully with a few adjustments, the art style will suit the tone of the rest of the game.

Ga-Ma-Yo

Ga-Ma-Yo stands for Game Makers Yorkshire. It’s an informal network of people that make video games in and around Yorkshire, England. A few times a year they hold an Ga-Ma-Yo event where these people who work with games meet up, have a few drinks, network, listen to a few talks and show off their games. The next event is the 13th of November. This gives me just under a Month to update the game into a standard that is fit to show off to people. The event will be an ideal opportunity to receive input and feedback on the game and one that I can’t pass up. With less than a month to go, I need to prioritise what needs to be done and do it fast! I also need to work on a way to pitch Gravity Box.

That’s about it for this update. Hopefully I’ll have more to share soon as I crunch on a version for Ga-Ma-Yo.

Introducing: Gravity Box

So this is what I’ve been working on since the release of Entrapment. It’s an idea that I’ve had for a little while now and something totally different from my previous releases. For starters it’s not an adventure game, it’s a physics puzzle game. Secondly it’s not being made with Adventure Game Studio, it’s being made with Game Maker: Studio.

GravBox

Why I’m making it

At one of my previous jobs I used to work in sales and I hated every minute of it. Every day was the same mixture of repetitive, monotonous phone calls and tedious boring paper work. My only solace was an hour-long dinner break that I had, in which I would sit and play games on my iPhone.

The type of games that I like to play on iPhone or any touch screen device are games that I think suit touch screen the best: Puzzle Games. I’m not saying that a Platformer, RPG or Action game can’t be done well on a touch screen (there are many games), I’m saying that these types of games aren’t best-suited for a touch screen platform. If someone were to say to me, you can play Sonic using a game pad or a touch screen, I would opt for a game pad every time. The genre that I feel suits a touch screen really well are puzzle games. I think Adventure Games do pretty well on that type of device, but I would still rather play it with a mouse. Also tower defence is pretty good on there. Anyway…

So on my lunch times I would sit and play games such as Where’s My Water and Cut the Rope and it was around this time that I started thinking of a game design that would work really well on a touch device and this led me to start thinking about Gravity Box.

What it’s about

Gravity Box is a game where the only thing the player can do is to change the direction in which gravity is pulling. For example, if the player swipes upwards on the touch screen, then all of the physics enable objects in the level will be pulled upwards. If the player swipes to the right, then gravity will pull all of the objects to the right.

This is the only thing that the player is able to do to affect what is going on in the level, much like how in the early stages of Where’s My Water, the player can only move away dirt. That’s it. The aim of each level is to alter the gravity in order to guide a box through the level to the exit, but it won’t always be simple.

GravBox2

Key features

Here are some important things about the game:

Focus on Level Design

The key focus of the design behind gravity box is going to be making sure that each level is unique, fun, challenging and engaging.

Lots of Levels

The current goal is 100 with around 20 already designed. I’ll perhaps maybe add even more into the game if I come up with additional mechanics that warrant more levels.

Sci-fi storyline

Although Gravity Box isn’t an adventure game and is essentially just about flining a box around various rooms, I’ve still managed to come up with an idea for a story. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but some things that inspired the story are the movie Event Horizon and the adventure game 7 Days a Skeptic.

Quick level restart

I’m currently working on a prototype for the game. If the player dies, the level resents itself straight away in a similar way to Super Meat Boy or Flappy Bird. I think that this is a key thing to take forward with the design.

Puzzle Mechanics & Progression

With early testing I can already see that the game is currently WAY TOO HARD! One thing I want to do well with Gravity Box is to ensure that new puzzles mechanics are introduced in a way that the player can easily understand them before progressing them onto levels where the same mechanic is used in a more difficult way.

Its current state

I recently finished a build which has 20 levels in it. This is a prototype version, but it has many of the core puzzle elements which I want to include in the final game. Next thing I want to look at is maybe the art style. I’ve already got a few ideas around this and want to try them out before committing to one. I’d also like to implement some form of Interface.

Why I’m talking about it now

Tom Francis is the developer behind Gunpoint and who is now working on Heat Signature. As soon as he started developing Gunpoint, he started to talk about it and this helped him with promotion, feedback and keeping motivated. I’m hoping that writing about it will do the same for Gravity Box and I hope to release GIFs, Videos and developer diaries along the way. So if you’re interested, make sure your following Scared Square Games in some way. You can do this using one of the methods shown underneath the ‘Get Social’ heading near the top of the site.

Want to help?

I’m looking for people to play the aforementioned prototype and offer some feedback. The game is currently Windows only, but if you’re interested then get in touch!

Stuart.lilford@scaredsquare.com

My first Ludum Dare and how I failed miserably

This is a list of advice that I want to write to my future-self, in case he attempts to take part in a game jam again.

The Condensed Version:

Don’t waste time

If the majority of your time isn’t spent on actually developing the game, you’re doing it wrong.

How much Time Do you Really have?

Yes the game jam is for 48 hours, but how many of those hours will you actually spend making the game? Plan accordingly.

Don’t make an adventure game

Adventure games are all about pace, exploration and investigation. The design process is the same and therefore not suited to be done in 48 hours.

SCOPE! SCOPE! SCOPE!

Make something super basic to start with and build on it over time.

The Longer Version:

This Bank Holiday Weekend, I attempted Ludum Dare for the first time. For those of you that don’t know, Ludum Dare is a Game Jam in which a person must make a game within 48 hours on their own. I failed miserably at it. the following is what I think went wrong.

Wasting Time

For Ludum Dare I attempted to make an adventure game. I got as far as having 4 backgrounds, 2 character sprites and barely any functioning puzzles. How did I manage to have so little by time the competition finished? Well, I tried to keep a timesheet to monitor my progress and this is pretty much how it went:

07:30 – Got up, looked at the theme. It was “Connected Worlds”. Rather then jump straight into making a game, I thought about it over a cup of tea and discussed it with my wife before she went to work.

08:15 – The wife just left for work leaving me with the whole house to myself… And my 2 dogs. I should probably walk them. During our walk I thought more about what game I could make for the theme. I came up with the basic idea for an adventure game.

photo 1

09:40 – Arrived home. Had breakfast: Porridge [pictured] for energy. Set up my work space. Looked at Ludum Dare Website whilst eating for inspiration and to nosey at other peoples work in progress. Realised that shit… some people are actually really far ahead.

photo 2

09:50 – Started fleshing out my game idea.

10:00 – This idea is going nowhere. I know, I’ll start making the basic game and add in the details after. I used Ghost’s BASS Template for Adventure Game Studio (http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=48441.0)

10:07 – Remembered Ron Gilberts Puzzle Dependency Charts article (http://grumpygamer.com/puzzle_dependency_charts), so had a quick read through to see if it would help. It didn’t.

10:33 – So far, all I’ve done is add basic navigation to the game with placeholder art. Still no idea what puzzles to include in the game. My notes say “Maybe something with a tree?”

10:54 – This note just says “DESIGNERS BLOCK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

11:10 – Okay, got a few puzzles designed now, making tracks

11:25 – This note just says “This is Hard. FUCKING SHIT THEME.”

12:05 – Spoke to a developer chum over Skype. We pitched each other our ideas. Thinking ‘He’s a proper coder, so he’ll probably finish.’ However, I managed to complete my puzzle dependency chart!

photo 4

13:08 – By this time I had now added some of the basic puzzle mechanics into the game as well as adding in the additional characters with placeholder images.

14:17 – Ran into an issue where I needed the game to know which character was currently the player character and I thought it would be a simple thing, but ended getting confused with it. My not here says “BULLSHITE!!!!”

Outside

16:06 – By now I spent some time in Google Sketch Up creating basic environments for me to paint over. I also started to think about my colour palette. Having never worried about a colour palette before, I used this website: http://paletton.com/#uid=73G1f0kmjsEaSqPgosKsGvoEIxS to come up with one for me. This was my work in progress background before I remembered that I needed to go to shop:

Progress002

16:43 – Got back from shop and figured I should probably tidy up some of the days mess.

19:11 – All the time before this was spent painting all of the backgrounds. Now that they’re all done, time to start work on character sprites.

19:28 – My notes here say “Feeling Broken. Adventure Games are a bad idea for game jams.”

19:58 – Stopping for today

Progress003

And I never went back to it. I wanted to try and figure out where I went wrong with my time and so if we break it down in to a chart where we can see where the majority of my time was spent.

Time01

We can from the chart that the main time was spent painting backgrounds, creating 3D models, designing the game and actually making the game. Which sounds okay, but if we look at it like this:

Time02

I wasted a lot of time making art assets, which didn’t even look all that good. The time I roughly spent on actually making the game is almost equal to the time I spent not doing anything related to the game at all. In the future, I think that the biggest chunk of this chart should be actually making the game. The art can fall into place around that.

Adventure Games Are a Bad Idea for Game Jams

The reason I like playing adventure games is that they have a steady pace, exploration, beautiful art work, hand-crafted animations, intriguing dialogue, clever puzzle design and a gripping story. The design of an adventure game should be exactly the same. You should go at a steady pace, explore ideas, spend time on creating nice art, painstakingly create each frame of animation pixel by pixel, think carefully about the dialogue, spend time thinking of innovative puzzles and create a story and game world that the player wants to explore and interact with. These things should not be rushed. I think that an adventure game CAN be created in 48 hours and I have played ones that have worked and played well, but they were made by more than one person and much more talented people than me.

So avoid adventure games, pick ANYTHING else! Make something really simple and build on it over time.

Be aware of how much time you really have      

In my head I was thinking that I had 48 hours to complete a game, when actually I had 12 hours or less. For some, they can easily spend near-enough the full 48 hours making a game. But for me, I have certain responsibilities, a house, a wife, two dogs and I wouldn’t be winning husband/owner of the year if I ignored my family for 2 days straight. If I’d of taking into consideration this factor and planned accordingly, then maybe I could have achieved something.

SCOPE!

Time Stone took 3 months to make. It contained 1 background, 1 playable character and 6 core puzzles. My game for Ludum Dare was going to include 4 backgrounds, 2 playable characters and 10 core puzzles and would need to be finished at the end of a 48 hour period. When I write it out like that I realise how much of a big stupid idiot I am and am even mad at myself for even attempting to make this game.

I teach game development as my day job and I always tell the students to think about Scope. Here I have completely ignored my own advice and tried to make something too big. I’d like to tell my future self to think along the lines of Space Invaders or Pong and build upon that over time.

 

There you have it. I hope that future-me listens to my advice. I think there’s another Ludum Dare in December and after failing to meet the deadline for MAGS (Which became Time Stone) and this Ludum Dare, maybe third time’s the charm?