Category Archives: Games

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

The Background Art of Time Stone

Or ‘How I cheated to get the right perspective’

The following may shock you, but… I’m not that good at art. I mean, I get by okay, people tell me they dig the artwork in my games, but when I look at the art I can just tell it isn’t that good. People say that as a designer, you’re your own worst critic and maybe that’s true, but I don’t really think about things like colour pallets, perspective, shading etc and I feel that my artwork suffers for it.

One of these things that I’ve managed to find a way around for, a cheat if you will, is perspective. Yeah, sure you can sketch something out on paper or in Photoshop or whatever and have vanishing points for perspective and then create your background based on that perspective adding in objects to the room and such, but what if you do all that and it still doesn’t look right to you? This happened with me quite frequently when creating backgrounds for Entrapment (which was one of the things I mentioned in my Entrapment Post-mortem). I would create a rough draft of the room using vanishing points and perspective and place a character sprite in it and it just wouldn’t look right. Especially if you moved the character around the room and the scale would look all wrong. Then I would have to start from scratch with new vanishing points/horizon lines which was really frustrating.

For Time Stone, I tried something different. I thought, instead of messing around with all that perspective stuff, why don’t I just create my scene in 3D? That way I can move the camera around to get the right angle and my perspective will always be right. I can also move objects around when I please to change the composition without compromising the perspective like it would in Photoshop. So I did just that. Google SketchUp is free and simple to learn if you’ve never used 3D modelling tools before. You can use it to create really simple 3D interiors using an effective toolset, but the best thing about it by far is components. Components are basically, a collection of 3D models that people have already made and shared so that anyone else can download and use them in their 3D scene. Need a bed? There’s a ton that people have made. What about a bookcase? Yup, got that too. But you would think it would be difficult to find more obscure things like a giant birdcage, cauldron or a crystal ball? What? They have those too? Of course, they have just about any object you could think of. From random items of furniture to whole buildings! Even a football stadium!

Now I’m not saying that you need to find the exact item that you need for your game, you’re just using this to get the right perspective. For example, the bed in the scene above is different to the bed which was drawn for the background in Time Stone. I simply used it as a base when painting the bed in, in order to get the correct perspective for it. You also can’t rely on the lighting from the Google Sketchup image as you may have light sources in different locations. You need to think about this carefully when you are painting over the objects from your 3D scene.

beds

Once you have created your room and added in all of the key objects for your game then you can set up the camera and export an image of the current camera view. This would work from any perspective. Side on, top down, some weird perspective from an awkward angle if you’re going for a certain style. For Time Stone, I chose a side on view of the professor’s house. Below is the final camera view used or the background in Time Stone:

It contains all of the essential items from the room. Any object that would warrant me needing to get the perspective right for it such as the bed, the table, the fridge, the bird cage, etc. But notice that I didn’t bother with the paintings on the walls or the tapestries. These were added in later using the existing objects within the room as a guide for the perspective. The reason for this is that I know enough about perspective in order to draw these items myself. I also included a handy scale model, so that the character art and background art would look correct in terms of scale. The only thing I wish I had done is adding in foreground  features. Maybe next time.

After that it was simply a matter of painting over the scene to create the background for Time Stone. This Gif shows roughly the steps taken.

1. The base image, before I started to paint over it.

2. I blocked out most of the colour and detail for major objects

3. Coloured in the rest of the image

4. Added in some smaller objects for detail

5. More detail

6. Lighting and shadow (also made some changes to a few objects).

Some things missing from the background are the objects. This is anything that needs to move/animate in the game. For example the main door and the blanket over the cage are missing. These won’t have been painted as part of the background as they would have to move and so there obviously needs to be something behind them. These were done on separate layers to appear in front of the background.

Something that is easy to forget is to make sure you remember your interface. That’s what the black space was for at the bottom of all of the images. You need to think ahead and figure out if your interface is going to take up any of the screen. You don’t want to waste your time and effort and creating an awesome part to your background only to cover it up with the GUI.

There you have it! A few insights into how I created the artwork for Time Stone. So if like me, you have trouble getting the perspective right on your adventure game backgrounds (or artwork in general), then try out this method. It was a much more efficient method than the one I used for Entrapment and although it might be “cheating” in terms of not learning how to create a correct perspective, it gets me the results I want and who knows, using this method a few more times may help me learn a thing or two about perspective and scale.

We’re Back!

Hello! We’re back after our brief hiatus which included (but not limited to) camping trips, travelling across the country, changing jobs, spraining an ankle, flash floods, anniversaries and swinging around through the tree tops at a large forest (that last one is actually real!)

So what have been up to since our return? Well there’s a few things to announce.

New Version of Time Stone

Yes Time Stone Version 1.1 has now been released and you can download it via the game’s page, Game Jolt or Itch.io. The new version has fixes to some bugs that were pointed out to us during shortly after the games release in November, but we’ve only just got round to it now. Better late than never I suppose! The changes include fixed typos, fixed audio issues and fixed graphical problems.

 

Donations Upgrade

We’ve updated our Help Us Page in order to incorporate the option to donate by “buying” our games via itch.io. Essentially our games such as Time Stone and Entrapment are free, but you can buy them from Itch.io on a pay-what-you-want basis. Meaning that you can spend anything from $0.00 up to whatever you see fit to donate. Any help you wish to give us would be GREATLY appreciated.

Donate to Scared Square

Tumblr

We’ve found that we often want to post things that may not necessarily be related to the development of games. They may be a bit of artwork here or a photograph there or maybe even an article or two that wouldn’t fit on the Scared Square Games site. Now Stu’s got his very own Tumblr! He’s even imported his old blog so that you can see his old short stories and game design competition entries. Please follow us there for a behind the scenes look at development and other shenanigans.

http://stuartlilford.tumblr.com/

That’s all the news for now. Next we’re going to be busy working on our next project which we will hopefully be unveiling shortly!

Bye for now!

Entrapment Postmortem

It has been over a year since Entrapment’s initial release with the AGS Bake Sale and this space of time has allowed me to contemplate on the development of the game. As I recently released a slightly updated version of the game it seemed like the ideal time to write a postmortem of the development behind the original game. This article was featured on Game Career Guide as a Student Postmortem as the game was created initially during my time at University. In it I discuss the good and the bad elements behind the development of Entrapment.

Introduction

I was probably 7 or 8, when my older sister’s boyfriend gave me his Super Nintendo Entertainment System. He was into sports and racing games and so had a couple of driving games and golf, I think, but I was never really into sports. I found the games dull and boring and so it wasn’t long before I went to my local Gamestation and bought something with brighter colours and a familiar face. When I first put the Super Mario All Stars cartridge into my second hand SNES I was blown away. What appeared on screen was a world that I could explore, characters that I could manipulate and interact with and secrets that I could discover. What I witnessed resonated with my childhood self and left a voice in my brain that would echo around my head for the rest of my life. ‘This is it’ it said, ‘This is what I’m going to do with my life’.

From that day on I was obsessed with the notion of making games. I drew characters, I invented worlds, I wrote detailed scribbles on game mechanics and began coming up with stories rather than having them read to me at bed time. Throughout my education I strived to cater my subjects to courses that would benefit me in my dream goal of becoming a game designer. This eventually led me to the University of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, UK, where I would study a degree in Computer Game Design. In my final year I started work on my major project, which started off as a demo for an adventure game, but within a year grew into a short game that was included in the AGS Bake Sale Bundle and helped to raise over $4000 for Charity.

This is the story of Entrapment, but more importantly, it’s the story of the lessons I learned from making it. I will be covering the good and the bad, but let’s start with the good part first.

Screen01

What Went Right

 

1. Using the Right Tools

I’m not a programmer by nature. Throughout school, I much preferred making my ideas come to life through words and concept images, but that will only take your game so far. When I hit 17, I decided it was time to actually make a game instead of writing them down or filing ideas away in my brain. I opened my laptop and began searching for a FREE game creation tool. The idea of having to program something really scared me and I kept being put off by phrases like ‘programming language’ and ‘code’. I began to feel that my search was fruitless as I had no idea what I was looking for, until I stumbled upon a game editor specifically for Adventure Games. I should take this opportunity to mention that I. LOVE. ADVENTURE GAMES. Even before they made their come back, I was always fascinated by games like Broken Sword, Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer. With this Game Engine I could create my very own. What I proceeded to make was an abomination called ‘The Adventures of Turquoise Macdonald’. I returned to the game engine years later to make a few games for University. When it was time for my final project, I had accumulated enough basic AGS programming knowledge to create a decent demo. I then felt comfortable to continue the project and make it my first fully finished game (not counting Turquoise Macdonald). Selecting the right tools for the job is essential for development. By all means, try new things out from time to time – it’s the only way to make sure you are using the right tools – but for something like a final project at university, you need to ensure that you go with something you’re comfortable with. Choosing the right engine to make Entrapment in was a vital factor in it seeing the light of day.

 

2. Reaching out to the Community

I was working on Entrapment pretty much on my own. As well as being an awesome tool for making games, Adventure Game Studio also has an excellent community.  The forums are full of friendly people who are willing to help out whenever you need advice on your code or the best way to do something or even something totally non-game related. As I was working alone, I felt it was important to reach out to the AGS community for feedback on the game. I posted screenshots of artwork asking for improvements, I asked people what they thought was the best adventure game interface as well as looking and offering comment on other people’s work. This brings me to my favourite thing about Entrapment, the music. I don’t have a musical bone in my body and when it came to putting music into Entrapment I didn’t want to take some random loop I found on some website, I wanted it to be tailored to the game. I was looking for a way I could find someone who would be willing to make music for the game for free, and I thought what better place than the community of people who are interested in creating things with AGS. I added a post on the forums asking if anyone was interested in helping out with the game and within a week I had a number of replies. Because I reached out to the AGS community, I went from having no music in the game and no idea how to make it, to having someone who was talented and dedicated to creating an original soundtrack for the game. I asked Brian ‘SwordofKings128’ Carnrike to make the music for the game and he did a spectacular job. He also offered some valuable input on the game itself and without him and the AGS community I believe that Entrapment would have nowhere near the creepy atmosphere that it has.

 HallwayLivingArea-1

3. Joining the AGS Bake Sale

To begin with Entrapment was just going to be something I put out there for free on the Adventure Game Studio website and that would be it. It would probably be played by just a handful of people and it wouldn’t have received very much exposure.  Around a month before I was due to release the game, I heard about the Adventure Game Studio Bake Sale. The AGS Bake Sale was going to be a bundle of games made with AGS where players could pay what they want for the games and the proceeds would go to a worthy cause. Initially, this cause was going to be helping out the cost of maintaining the AGS website and forums, however this was scrapped in favour of donating the money to charity. I felt this would be an opportunity to give something back to the AGS community, gain some exposure and help out a worthy cause. I offered Entrapment up to the Bake Sale and it released in January 2012. Managing to get Entrapment to be part of the AGS Bake Sale offered exposure I wouldn’t have thought possible otherwise, appearing on The Escapist, Rock Paper Shotgun and Indie Game Mag. It also felt amazing when I heard that we had managed to raise over $4000 for charity. Joining the Bake Sale also gave me an awareness of the importance of seeking out opportunities for your game to gain exposure, even if it is a free one.

 

4. Including Humour

Initially I wanted Entrapment to contain very little to almost no humour due to the story and themes of the game coming from a very dark and creepy place. As soon as I started to write dialogue for the game I felt as though the exclusion of comedic elements was going against every adventure game I had ever played. From Monkey Island to Broken Sword, all these games included elements of humour, even if it played only a small part. Writing heavily serious dialogue for Entrapment felt wrong and so it wasn’t long before the odd joke began to slip in. Once I had written the dialogue the game contained hints of dark humour. Looking back, I’m happy that I made this decision. I feel as though the inclusion of humour allowed players to enjoy the game a lot more. Otherwise the game could have ended up being a dreary depressing mess. I believe that as long as your game isn’t focusing itself on a deeply serious topic, then the inclusion of humour can never be a bad thing and, if done well, will only enhance the player experience, just as those adventure games did throughout my childhood.

Pitch Board

5. Listening to Feedback

I think it is a good idea to gain feedback on your game as soon as possible. When you have a playable prototype, send it out to people that you trust and get them to give you feedback. With Entrapment, I got a lot of feedback from Brian who worked on the game’s music and it was him that suggested that I include some allusions as to Sam’s backstory and the possible reasons why he was doing what he was doing (could you believe I had an almost complete version of the game without coming up with this?). So I included the conversation at the start of the game to give a hint to players as to what was the cause of Sam’s *ahem* issues. Getting others to play your game and offer feedback is also crucial when it comes to testing. Listening to the feedback of others will ensure that your game doesn’t contain any serious flaws that players don’t understand or might not agree with and catching this early on in development is much easier than trying to fix these aspects further down the line.

 

What Went Wrong

 

1. Too Much Exposition

Looking back I realise now that the introduction to Entrapment is WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. The series of cutscenes that start off the game are long, tedious and annoying. When you boot up a game, you want to be able to play the game. Take The Secret of Monkey Island for instance, Guybrush walks onto the screen, says “I want to be a Pirate” and that’s it, the game starts. If I had taken this approach with Entrapment and just let the player explore and piece together the story as they played, I would feel much better about the start of the game. When I watch people playing through that opening sequence it’s excruciating and not something I ever plan on having in a game ever again. Time Stone’s introductory sequence was tiny in comparison, but even then people felt as though it was too long, so imagine what people thought of Entrapment. People want to play games, not watch them and this is important to bear in mind when thinking of including cutscenes for your game.

 

2. Lack of Motivation

Throughout Entrapment’s development I had periods where my motivation was running thin. I would sense a feeling of ‘I simply cannot be bothered’ which led to poor animations, puzzles being cut and almost no polish to the game at all. The end result was that Entrapment lost some of its initial soul which it had when I started creating it and that then led to being less motivated as I felt I was working on a lesser version of the game I had envisaged. I’m not sure what caused the lack of motivation for Entrapment, but I didn’t do enough to maintain it. I should have given myself a clear development timeline with deadlines and interim deadlines so that it felt as though I was achieving things along the way. Take time to discover and reflect on what motivates you when working on a game and bear that in mind during development, otherwise you can lose steam and struggle to regain it.

 

IMG1

3. Art Frustration

I don’t consider myself an artist, even though I did the artwork for Entrapment and Time Stone. I DO think that my art has improved with each game I have made. I had a lot of frustration early on with Entrapment due to the fact that I couldn’t seem to get perspective right. I would draw out a layout of a room on paper using rulers to get the perspective right, then scan it in, put a sprite of Sam over it and see if it felt right. If it didn’t, I would start again with different perspective point locations. At one point I even made a small scale model of Sam Drake to put against these drawn out images to see if the scale was right. This may sound like a convoluted way around to do it, and IT IS! It took many attempts to find one I was happy with and it was a frustrating process. Now I have a much simpler method of getting the perspective right for my adventure game backgrounds. This method consists of creating simplistic 3D models of locations and then painting over them in PhotoShop, which is much easier than the method I used with Entrapment. My lesson here was to practice my art and read up on art techniques that could have saved me some time and frustration. Alternatively, there may have been someone I could have asked to help  out with the artwork, but for me, I wanted to practice my skills. In a way, I could look at the art frustrations as a positive, as they helped me hone my skills and find new ways of trying things, but at the time there was a huge amount of stress involved for me with trying to do the art for Entrapment when I doubted my skills as an artist.

 

4. The Ludicrous Storyline

This is my biggest regret with Entrapment. I could have spent the time creating a wonderfully simplistic story that still had elements that hinted at a bigger picture, much like Time Stone. Instead I chose to create a game about a man who is trying to frame himself for murder. When I write it out like that I honestly cannot see what I was thinking. How would anyone ever think “You know what, that sounds like a really gripping story” and it is. If you’re talking about it gripping hold of your gonads because it’s so painful! To make matters worse, the reason behind this character wanting to frame himself for murder is utterly ridiculous. The story for Entrapment is probably the worst thing about the game. I may be coming across as being really critical about it, but it’s just something that I feel really strongly about. I feel as though I have learnt from the experience and now know to think carefully about story and to get feedback early on to avoid making the same mistake again.  Games don’t *have* to contain a story, but if your game is centred around a story – as a lot of adventure games are – then you need to make sure it fits well and doesn’t detract from the gameplay.

The Letter 3

5. Long Gaps of No Work

The development of Entrapment suffered from long periods of no work being done on it. It could have been University, work getting in the way, personal life or lack of motivation as I mentioned earlier but, for whatever reason, I was unable to spend any long amount of time solidly working on the game and I believe that game suffered for it. What could have been completed in a matter of months ended up taking over a year to complete outside of other commitments. Sometimes gaps would last months and this may have contributed to the lack of motivation point from earlier. It meant that I would lose touch with the game and the longer I was away from development, the less I felt inclined to work on it. In the future, I feel as though it would be important to ensure that I will have time to work on a game before I start making it. The last thing I would want is to be really excited with an initial prototype, only to not work on it until months after and have lost all enthusiasm for it.

 

Summary

Entrapment started as a bunch of doodles in a sketchbook based around a simple game idea that I wanted to use as my final project at University. The end result was something I was only partially proud of. I like to think that players enjoy the music and the puzzles from the game, but I feel a little disheartened that I allowed myself to get as carried away with the story as I did. Here are the 10 lessons I learned from Entrapment in a handy list form. May you take away from them what you will; no doubt you will make your own mistakes as everyone does. Just make sure you learn from them.

  • 01: Choose the right tools for the job
  • 02: Reach out to the community when you need help
  • 03: Never miss an opportunity to increase exposure for your game
  • 04: Include humour where possible. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone
  • 05: Listen to feedback and get feedback early
  • 06: too much exposition can be damaging to your game
  • 07: Keep motivated
  • 08: Practice your art skills
  • 09: Revise your story until it feels right
  • 10: Stay on track during development

 

Entrapment Details

Developer: Stuart Lilford

Number of Developers: 1, with help on music from Brian Carnrike

Length of Development: 1 year

Release Date: January 2012

Development Tools: Adventure Game Studio, Adobe Photoshop, Fruity Loops

Platforms: PC

Time Stone & Entrapment now available on Itch.io

 

I just realised that it’s been over a year since I started working on Time Stone. Since then I’ve also re-released Entrapment and in that time my games have won awards and been featured on a number of sites. It’s been a crazy year and I’ll have to write up something about the year to come. But that’s not what this post is for.

Time Stone and Entrapment are now available on Itch.io. Why is this newsworthy? Well, Itch.io allows players to easily make donations to the games’ developers. Time Stone and Entrapment have both been on there for a couple of weeks and already someone has donated $5 to Time Stone. I found this amazing to say that I never even announced that they were on there! Someone must have found the game, played it and liked it enough to give a little something back to the developer that made it and I just found it heart-warming. It’s also hugely inspiring and even though it’s a small amount, has increased my motivation for making games.

So, If you have played either Time Stone or Entrapment and enjoyed them and feel as though you want to contribute something towards the future developments of Scared Square Games, then head on over to Itch.io and help us out by donating.

Scared Square Itch.io Page

Thanks to all the fans of Time Stone and/or Entrapment

10 Things That Inspired Entrapment

It’s been just under a month since the rerelease of Entrapment and it’s received some good praise from around the interweb. It was featured on GameJolt and Indiegames.com and was number 2 on Game Addictz Top Free Indie Games of the Week. Some people also left a couple of Let’s Plays around YouTube somewhere.

One thing I found interesting about the rerelease was the number of downloads Entrapment had compared to Time Stone. Here’s how the Gamejolt figures look:

Time Stone

TimeStoneNumbers

Entrapment

EntrapmentNumbers

So Entrapment has less profile views that Time Stone, but over a thousand more downloads. I’ve been struggling to try and explain this, because of the two, Time Stone is the much better game. Maybe it’s the artwork related to Entrapment that people found more appealing, maybe it’s the synopsis, I don’t know. There’s a lesson to be learnt from it, but I’m still not sure what that lesson is. Oh well.

Anyway, to celebrate Entrapment’s mild success, I thought I’d rehash this old article I wrote on the many things that inspired it, including references to them within the game. WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!

 

1. Fight Club

01FightClub

I remember seeing this film when I was young and most people seem to see the ending coming, but not me. I was blown away. The film itself contains such dark and mysterious content about what’s going on, it kept me guessing the whole way through. It took the film to get to the part where the main character is out looking for Tyler Durden and people are saying that HE IS Tyler Durden for me to start piecing things together. After seeing the film I became intrigued with the concept of Dissociative Identity Disorder in story lines.

Reference in Entrapment:

There are two! The iconic pink bar of soap on the metal tray in the Bathroom and the Graffiti on the side of the Hotel towards the roof says “Tyler”.

 

2. Adventure Games by Ben Chandler

02Hope
You may or may not know this, but Ben Chandler has made a ton of cool little adventure games using Adventure Game Studio. He is a fantastic artist and also a really great game designer. All of his games are available on Adventure Game Studio, but the one that really spoke to me was the game ‘Hope’. Ben Chandler and Steven Poulton created Hope in 48 hours and it’s a great simple adventure game. Its simplicity is the reason it caught my attention so much, it showed me that an adventure game doesn’t have to be an epic tale, it can be short and sweet and still give the player a feeling of satisfaction.

Reference in Entrapment:

Well, the receptionist  is named Ben after the inspirational designer behind all of these games.

 

3. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

03Jekyll
I read The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde while I was still in the designing phase of Entrapment. It’s a great book and was really the first story to investigate the disturbing psychology behind split personality disorder and the human conflict of good and evil. This is something I wanted to get across in Sam’s character and the book also introduced the idea that split personalities would take on a different physical form, which I also used for when Sam turned into Sam 2 as I dubbed him, or “Evil Sam”.

Reference in Entrapment:

If you look at the book case in the bedroom, Sam will say there are books by Robert Louis Stevenson before claiming not to know who he is.

 

4. 5 Days a Stranger

045Days
Easily one of the best series created with AGS, the Chzo Mythos games were created by Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw, now mostly known for his work on Zero Punctuation. It was mainly the art style that I took from this game, but it has a great story, atmosphere and great puzzles. It also involves a serial killer, which is also an important them of Entrapment.

Reference in Entrapment:

The Bathrooms in the two games share the odd item of furniture (The toilet, the sink, the rug).

 

5. Two Face (Harvey Dent)

052Face

Another Character that explored dual personalities, Harvey Dent is a tragic figure and embraces his psychological disorder. When working on the story for Entrapment, I realized that nobody ever has two good personalities? There is always one nice one and one really really bad one. I wanted Sam’s evil side to show on screen and using Two Face as a reference helped with that.

Reference in Entrapment:

Two Face – Harvey Dent – The Dent Hotel. I didn’t just make names up you know, I put a lot of thought into naming conventions.

 

6. Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes

06LifeOn

These two fantastic British Television Drama series focus on the lives of people who have accidents and wake up back in time. The theme I took from this is the waking up, filled with confusion as Sam Drake does when we first see him in Entrapment. If you haven’t seen Life on Mars (The British Version), then I definitely recommend it.

Reference in Entrapment:

The main protagonists in the series are Sam Tyler and Alex Drake, a mash up of their names gives you Sam Drake.

 

7. Technobabylon

07Techno
Another great series made with AGS. Technobabylon is a series with great characters and a great story. The first game is also an escape the room game, so it draws similarities with Entrapment in that respect.

Reference in Entrapment:

When testing the game, it was made clear that the player needed more insight into why Sam had this psychological disorder. The opening of Technobabylon Part 1 involves a mysterious conversation between unknown people. I used this mechanic to add a small back story to Sam’s past (although you don’t connect this until later).

 

8. Sin City

08Si
Frank Miller’s Sin City is a phenomenal graphic novel series. It explores a dark gritty world, which is mostly conveyed through internal monologue. I used a lot of internal monologue within Entrapment for Sam Drake and I like to think that I kept Sin City and other graphic novels in mind when writing down Sam’s thoughts.
Reference in Entrapment:

Sadly, there is no direct reference to Sin City within Entrapment, maybe the black and white video tape section could count?

 

9. Doctor Who

00Doctor
I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who and it wasn’t the brilliant science fiction elements that I took from it for Entrapment (as there are none), it was the strong female roles within the series. The Doctors companions (usually female) all have strong characters. Martha is the only female in the game and I wanted her character to come across as a strong compassionate one with her conversation with Sam. I looked to Doctor who for that.

Reference in Entrapment:

I used the first name of one of the Doctor’s companions, Martha Jones, as the name for Sam’s wife as she was meant to come as strong as the character from the series.

 

10. Saw

10Jigsaw
Horror films aren’t usually my thing, but I really enjoy the Saw films. The whole mythology around the Jigsaw killer and the games that he makes people play are brilliant. I totally used the idea of a serial killer that traps you in a room and you have to escape. I love the whole Escape the Room genre such as Crimson Room and Entrapment is basically an escape the room game, with serial killers.

Reference in Entrapment:

As well as being an important point in the story, the camera in the bedroom closet is a nod to the Saw films.

Well that’s it, an extensive list of inspirations to me when I made Entrapment.

 

Entrapment OST Is Now Available For Download

The original Soundtrack for our creepy adventure game, Entrapment, is now available to download for FREE!

This bundle of Entrapment tunes contains 7 wonderful tracks by Brian Carnrike:

1. Menu

 

2. Creepy Title

 

3. The Body

 

4. Trapped

 

5. Airvents

 

6. Revealed

 

7. Credits

 

You can download the full track on Entrapment’s Gamejolt page right here:

http://gamejolt.com/games/adventure/entrapment/24537/

Or you can download it HERE!

 

Entrapment Release

Entrapment-New-Logo

Entrapment started out as a project that I created while at University studying Computer Game Design. I eventually turned it into a fully playable short game that I was planning to release for free. At the time, the Adventure Game Studio community created a pay-what-you-want bundle of games to raise money for charity called the AGS Bake Sale. I put Entrapment forward to be a part of it and the bundle ended up raising over $4000, which was pretty neat. A year after the bundle, I was free to release Entrapment as I wished, however I wanted to update it a little here and there before I did so. After a couple of months of working on bug fixes and some gameplay improvements, Entrapment is now available for you to play again:

Head on over to the Entrapment page for download options, or download direct below:

“My name is Sam Drake… and for the past few months, someone has been trying to frame me for murder.”

Sam Drake keeps waking up in Hotel rooms with the bodies of dead girls in the room and the police never far away. He has no memory of what happened to him the night before. He thinks that someone is secretly drugging him and then trying to get him framed for murder. He can’t think of anyone who would want to do this to him. He has had some lucky escapes, but this time, the killer has made it harder for him to get away. He’s determined to see Sam behind bars.

A short Adventure Game created with Adventure Game Studio which features a gripping story with plot twist and a drama thriller theme.

Entrapment was designed and created by Stuart Lilford. Original Soundtrack by Brian Carnrike.