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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
I went with number 12.
I’m pleased to announce that me and my wife are working on a new game due to release in September 2015. We’ve been working collaboratively on the new title and it will have been in development for approximately 9 months upon release. It’s a co-op survival horror game in which you have to endure sleepless nights and constant nappy changes. It’s a 3 player game and we’re eagerly awaiting player 3 to join us :)
Lesson #01: Keep an eye-out for cool jams
Twiny Jam – Make a Twine game in under 300 words.
I read the Tweet and was immediately intrigued. I’ve always wanted to take part in a game jam and although I’d made attempts in the past, they’d always been unsuccessful. I’d also always wanted to make a Twine game, having read about the tool and even played a few games made with it. 300 words wasn’t a lot either and I think this is what ultimately led me to take part in this Jam. The 300 word limit made creating this game unintimidating as I felt it could probably be done in a few hours. On top of all of this it was Easter weekend and my wife was working long shifts, so I’d be in the house alone, free to jam for a couple of days.
Lesson #02: Try something new
I set to work, firstly learning the toolset. From what I could tell, twine has 2 versions, the older desktop version and a newer in-browser version. I opted for the desktop version as a part of me didn’t trust using the in-browser version to save my progress. Twine is a great bit of kit, easy to pick up and simple to use. Plus there are a bunch of helpful tutorials and resources online. Once I had a handle on Twine I started brainstorming ideas for a game.
Lesson #03: Don’t settle on the first idea you think of
My first idea drew inspiration from my time working in a call centre trying to sell PAT Testing. The game would be a series of dialogue options that would lead the player to make a sale or the person on the end of the phone would say nasty thing to you and hang up. When they hung up, the player would *sigh* and make another call. The game would be an endless loop just like my days in that call centre. Call after call after call. Every call would go one of a number of ways and the game would reflect that with only the slimmest chance of making a sale. I quickly ran over the 300 word count for this game with dialogue options, I would have to think of something else.
Lesson #04: Be inspired by the work of others
I started playing some of the existing Twiny Jam entries and played one where you were in a tiny dungeon and you had to give a kettle to a dragon before you could win. This got me thinking about creating a miniature role playing game and my mind drifted to past RPGs that I’ve played. Games like Golden Sun, Final Fantasy and Pokémon sprung to mind and I found myself thinking about that place I had always gotten to when playing RPG games: Wandering around some cave grinding to Level Up. I thought about how this mechanic (although it’s more of a side effect really) was present in a lot of RPGs that I has played. I thought about how even though killing low level enemies to gain XP sounds intrinsically boring, there is an element of fun to it, it’s almost therapeutic. This is what I decided to make my game about.
Lesson #05: Be prepared to drastically downsize your game
Initially entitled ‘Every RPG Ever’ the idea was that you started in a village and progressed through grasslands, mountains and eventually a dark castle to reach a boss at the end. The different locations would have increasingly difficult enemies, forcing you to level up by grinding against lower level enemies. You would have bare minimum dialogue and battle options, but enough to feel like an RPG. After implementing the first area into the game, I realised that I would have to cut a lot of planned content in order to land within the 300 word limit. Initial plans to include numerous items that increased HP, armour that increased DEF and weapons that increased ATK, multiple areas and a boss that had 3 final forms where all scrapped and the game was now a mere third of the original scope. I instead I chose to focus on making the game appear non-repetitive.
Lesson #06: Randomness is your friend
I included a lot of random elements to the game. Whether you find treasure, nothing or an enemy while exploring, the type of enemy you encounter, should it be a Rat (Oblivion), Spider (Skyrim) or Boar (A reference to that South Park episode Make love not Warcraft), the damage dealt by an enemy as well as enemy HP, the number of XP and currency found at the end of a fight are all randomised between a certain range. This allowed the game to at least feel different for every playthrough, while still having the player doing essentially the same thing.
Lesson #07: It’s never too late to research
After a quick google to see if the working title would clash with anything existing I came across an infographic entitled ‘Every RPG Ever’. It’s a pretty accurate representation of RPG games (my experience at least) and I even took a few things from it such as having an inn that replenishes all HP, having to go on a quest for a Questitem and I even managed to fit a plot twist in there, all in under 300 words. Because of the infographic I decided to change the name and went through a number of name ideas including Micro-RPG, Mini-RPG, Twiny-RPG, RPGrind, but eventually settled on RPG-ish as the game isn’t quite there in terms of a full scale RPG.
Lesson #06: Seriously, you’re going to cut a bunch of stuff from that initial idea
In regards to the word count, I went through the game quite a few times to cull any superfluous words where the space could be used by a more useful word. I also looked for any repeated sections which could be avoided by using the same passage within Twine and referencing it from another passage. The stats shown within the game for example, display before a fight, after a fight, when you level up, etc. but each section merely references the ‘stats’ passage, so this kept the word count down.
Lesson #07: Think of ways to quick polish your game
One important aspect for me when making this game was to make sure it didn’t just look like a default Twine game. I had seen some really cool examples of games made with Twine and although I knew I didn’t have a lot of time, I focused on trying to get the game as far away from the default template as possible. I used the Final Fantasy menu system as a base and found a suitable font, replaced the cursor icon and even learned some CSS to get that Final Fantasy blue gradient colour. Sound was also an important factor when distancing the game from other twine-made games. I didn’t make the music, but found some very good RPG-ish sounding things on Newgrounds by some talented people who are credited on the game’s pages.
Lesson #08: Be prepared for criticism (but also nice things)
I made the game across 3 days in chunks of a few hours at a time and submitted the finished result to itch.io and Game Jolt. I didn’t expect an adoring reaction from the indie game community, but I figured someone from some corner of the internet may appreciate it. When I checked the pages the next day, I found the odd comment stating that the game wasn’t for them and a couple of people had rated the game 2/5. I must admit it was a little disheartening. It sounds ridiculous really, I mean, I only spent a few hours on the game and knew it wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, but there’s still a part of you that gets a little upset when players don’t enjoy your game. Later I found someone comment on how impressed they were with the game given the limitations and they enjoyed the random aspects. The comments on the games Jam page were really supportive, discussing how a lot had been done to say it was made with Twine, which I’m really happy with.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. I had never taken part in a Jam before, never used Twine, never used CSS, and never made a game that was playable in a browser. It might be far from perfect, but I’m proud of what I accomplished in such a short space of time.
The reason I think that I was successful in finishing a game for this Jam comes down to the limitations. Knowing that I only had 300 words made it easier to cut things from the game and reduce the development workload.
Over the weekend I took part in a Game Jam called Twiny Jam, where you had to submit a Twine game using less than 300 words. This was my first time using Twine and the first time I successfully finished a game for a Game Jam. Although the end result is pretty basic, I’m happy with it considering the limitations and time constraints.
RPG-ish is a Micro Text RPG which takes inspiration from the Final Fantasy series. Try to be at least Level 5 before fighting The Dark Lord and stock up on plenty of potions.
Or play it over on Game Jolt!
I’ll probably right something about the development of the game soon, but for now give it a try!
In 2014 Scared Square Games re-released Entrapment which went pretty good. Entrapment Managed to get 5720 plays on Game Jolt, 1441 on scaredsquare.com, but only 87 on itch.io. Giving it a total of 7000+ downloads. Compared to Time Stone’s 2500 total downloads, Entrapment was downloaded by more than double the amount. This will always be strange to me, as I feel that Time Stone is the better game. Better story, better puzzles, better characters, better graphics, better everything and yet Entrapment has more downloads? I did find a Let’s Play of Entrapment by Cinnamon ToastKen which received over 150,00 views which may have helped, but I just wish I knew the true reason for this.
After Entrapment was released, the only other thing I did last year was start work on Gravity Box. I’m happy with the direction that Gravity Box is going in and I hope that it really turns out to be a good game for people to play.
Other than that I’ve been going through a lot of stuff personally. We moved into a new house at the start of 2014, which we’ve been redecorating and that’s been taking up big chunks of time. I’ve also started a new job where I was promoted to a position with additional responsibilities, which requires a lot of hours spent on stuff from home and takes up a lot of brain space. In addition to this there have been some other things which I’d rather not talk about on here, but suffice it to say, 2014 has been a busy year. This explains why I’ve been so quite lately towards the back end of the year, but don’t worry, I haven’t gone anywhere and am still slowly working on things, they just may take a little longer.
I thought that the start of this new year would be a good time to look at the goals I laid out for Scared Square Games in the first ever post and see if I’ve managed to achieve them:
RELEASE TIME STONE [CHECK] Time Stone was released in late 2013.
RELEASE OTHER ADVENTURE GAME THAT WE’RE WORKING ON [NOPE] I felt this game, although it had some good puzzles, ultimately had a boring story and so I’ve decided to drop this for now.
RE-RELEASE SOME OLDER STUFF [CHECK] Maze Defender and Entrapment were both re-released
MAKE A COMMERCIAL GAME [NOPE] Well, at least, not yet. I am looking to turn Gravity Box into a commercial game, even if it’s only for a few quid, so I’m still working on this one.
TOUCHSCREENS! [NOPE] Not even close to this one. That being said, Gravity Box was designed to work with touch devices, so maybe eventually?
Not as bad as I thought…
But I’ve still got a lot of work to do, so here’s my New Years Resolutions for Scared Square Games in 2015:
RELEASE GRAVITY BOX
Not sure when this will happen, but I’d like to release Gravity Box this year, so this means I need to pull my finger out and get cracking on with it!
RELEASE AT LEAST ONE SMALL GAME FOR FREE
I’d like to continue to release smaller freeware games as I enjoy making them and I have a few in mind that I’d like to develop over the next year.
TAKE PART IN A GAME JAM
As you may recall, I failed miserably at Ludum Dare in 2014, so this year I’d like to take part in and submit a game for a game jam.
That’s it, and that last one is really more of a bonus resolution. I don’t want to give myself too much to try and do if the hectic busyness of the last few months is anything to go by. Maybe I’ll find myself in a quiet period and I’ll be able to post more regularly, but until then, have a great 2015!
Just a quick post to show you the Scared Square Pumpkin (though its more round than square).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!