A Mixed Month

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It’s been a good while since my last blog post and a bit of a mixed month in terms of game dev. Plunder Push is kind of there and Jay has now added the forty levels we had, so after some bug fixing we’ll be testing as soon as we can. We need another twenty levels of the more difficult variety to have sixty overall ready for release. Once the initial testing has been done I’ll make sure the level difficulty and progression is balanced and get on with making those levels.

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I also made a few more backgrounds for Plunder but they can’t be used due to the way the game is structured, I’ll chuck them in this post so you can have a gander. We’ve also been working on our first console/ PC game and something Jay has been working on in one form or another for the last few years. I produced a bit of concept art to reskin the game but it didn’t quite work so we’ve now settled on another aesthetic which I’m currently working on.

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Jay is getting the level editor for that project done so I can get in there and start building an immense amount of levels. Sorry for the vagueness of that game thus far but more details will be forthcoming once we get a load of new assets and levels sorted. It’s the way of game dev and why new devs should make sure they have patience when developing a project. Some concepts work, some don’t and you must be willing to iterate until something grabs you. Oh and I did some quick top down thing with birds as well, go figure!

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On a side note and a little before my birthday, my wonderful fiancée bought me a Wii U with Mario Kart 8. I haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the N64, although Kez did have a GameCube for a while. Being mainly an Xbox One and PC gamer it’s been pretty weird diving back into the crazy and often saccharin sweet world of Ninty. Mario Kart 8 is certainly a return to form, my friends and I are all huge fans of the N64 iteration (many a night at Uni was spent drunk while playing it) and most began with the first on Super Nes.

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I truly despised Double Dash and missed out on the Wii version so for me returning for Mario Kart 8 has been cracking, especially playing with Kez and online. The absolute focus on gameplay and having fun rather than narrative or any deeper meaning is so evident in what Ninty does; it’s been quite refreshing to get back into. I’ve also grabbed a few SNES and GBA games on Virtual Console that I didn’t ever play when they were originally released.

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Super Metroid for instance is one of the very few SNES games I didn’t play back in the day, yes I know, shock, gasp, horror and all that. Hopefully my next blog post won’t take quite as long and Plunder should be close to release, so keep an eye on our Facebook www.facebook.com/DropDeadInteractive and Twitter @Sleevesoft. If you haven’t yet check out the first gameplay vid of Plunder Push here:  Oh and tis summer time, yeah! :-D

Plunder Push Ahoy!

 

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Yes I did just say ahoy, I know I know. Anyway, much news to tell you about this time around; Jay and I have been working pretty hard to get our first game together up and running and it’s time to give you some info. So after changing the art style we also decided to change the name to….Plunder Push, as it’s a touch puzzler about a fish collecting treasure. You push the fish to the next piece of treasure but only have a certain number of moves and a time limit to do so.

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Jay has been working on the GUI, menu and in game effects, while I’ve been getting on with the assets and sound which are pretty much done now. We have forty levels already built so probably another 20 are needed to make a total of 60 for release. I think I’ve found an art style that suits me and I can do reasonably well and I’ve found it incredibly easy working with Jay. Decisions and communication between us have been a breeze so I’ve really enjoyed working with him on our first game together as Drop Dead.

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We intend to get it out on iOS first, then Android and Windows Phone, if it proves at all popular we might just do some levels packs but we’ll see. I’ve learn’t a huge amount over the last few months in terms of game development, I’ve worked on games before but never been this involved. I’ve gained loads of experience in Photoshop and plethora of new techniques for my 2D art which I hope will only get better with each game we make.

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Something else I’ve noticed is we’re both damn quick workers, we make sure we know what we need to do and it generally gets done pretty sharpish. That means we aren’t procrastinating over silly unnecessary things too much but rather getting stuff done, an excellent way to develop I think. Next we obviously need to get some testing done and thus feedback for improvements and difficulty balance etc, those extra 20 levels, plus Jay will add the animations and polish Plunder until it shines as best it can.

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I’ve never enjoyed making games as much as I am right now and if any prospective dev is reading this wondering how they should get started, well, that’s the fundamental thing you shouldn’t be doing. Don’t think about how to get started, simply start. The best way to get into making games is to, yup, make games. Only seriously hard work and practice will you get you there, if you’re a beginner then grab Construct 2 or Game Maker, go online and follow some video tutorials and build something basic.

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Go and download Gimp or Paint.net and again look for some tutorials to help you create your own basic art. From there it’s all about putting the hours in and iterating upon your designs, but start small and with simplicity. I hope you like the screenshots of Plunder Push and we’ll be working to get it released fairly soon on most mobile and tablet platforms. In the meantime check out the gameplay vid below and keep an eye on our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for the latest Drop Dead game news. Thanks for reading game dev types!

 

Make a Move

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Ah game development is a thing of such beauty, you begin with that idea, the one that won’t go away, that sticks in your mind until you start designing. Jay and I have been ploughing away on our first game together and I’ve got to say I’ve never been happier. I’ve obviously worked on several very successful games before with my bro but that was only level design, finding sound, marketing, a bit of writing and making trailers. Now while that was cool only elements of the game design were really mine.

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Now as I’ve said before I’m no artist, my art education ended at 16, by nature I’m a writer but the one thing I’ve wanted to achieve is some decent level of visual design. So when I release a game my contribution is explicit and I’ve put part of myself out there in the world. I’m still not exactly wonderful or anywhere near the professionals of this industry but I think I’m steadily getting better. Jay codes, I make art and we both design, which has given me greater focus, more time & freedom for art.

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So what the hell am I blathering on about, well Jay and I currently have three games in various stages of development. Two mobile/ tablet titles and something a touch bigger, Jay has essentially built one of the mobile titles but we haven’t been able to nail the right aesthetic style. The last two weeks or so I’ve tried a plethora of styles and techniques, such as abstract neon in space (bad idea) but nothing has stuck. A few days ago I was playing around in Photoshop, and I think I may have stumbled across a style I could be good at with some serious practice.

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I showed the assets to Jay (bear in mind they didn’t take long to produce and require a shed load of work to improve) and he rather liked them so we have the look for our first game as Drop Dead; Make a Move. MaM is touch based puzzle game, it was Jay’s design concept and reminded me a little of the old plastic slider puzzles I played as a kid. I will tell you that it involves a fish but that’s all for now. As this our first game together we’re keeping it simple, bold and most of all fun but with increasing difficulty.

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So I hope you like the sound of Make a Move, despite the somewhat vague details thus far, and some of the very very early art. We’ll show some of the actual gameplay over the coming month and intend to release on Android, iOS and Windows Phone. I like to think I’ve found that one thing that I knew I was kinda meant to do all along, make games, but we’ll see how it all goes. Lots to get done but it’s the best use of time I could ever imagine, well, except maybe playing games. Oh and I will finish Flight of the Bat, at some point, maybe ;-)

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Drop Dead Reborn and Flight of the Bat

I’ve been all over the place the last few weeks but that’s typical me, I was rather lazy after creating the first concept art for The Curious Construct as well. I’ve been back at it though and the first thing I decided to undertake was to get Bat Flap finished albeit not in quite the same guise as before. I didn’t want to just waste the little bit of time I’d put into it so instead I iterated in a basic sense, no longer is it a straight up Flappy Bird clone with a bit of shooting.

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I essentially started again & created a game more like an endless flyer, gone is the tap to flap mechanic and in its place is touch to fly higher, don’t touch to fall. The game speed increases over time while less bug boosts are spawned, collecting bananas adds to the overall score. There’s a range of enemies to avoid; Owls, Crows & storm clouds and top ten local high scores. I had to resize all of the assets to suit the new scale (960 x 640) and this game plays in landscape rather than Flappy Bird’s portrait view.

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Flight of the Bat is very almost done, and will as promised be free on my site for all to play in time for my next blog post; it’s only a silly little game but it’s nearly finished & playable so yeah! At least now I can say the bit of work I put into it hasn’t been wasted. Ok so that’s that then, Bat is almost there. My focus is now back on The Curious Construct.

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I need to set up a demo scene with some placeholder assets and get my head around Adventure Creator in Unity. I’m under no illusions that making a point & click on my own will be quite the mammoth task; I can’t code, I’m certainly not a professional artist & music creation is a bit beyond me. I’m learning fast though; I think I’m improving on the art front and Adventure Creator negates the need to code.

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It’s been an interesting few months and as I move towards the summer I need to flesh out Curious in terms of the script, puzzles, characters, assets & of course plenty of scenes. My next blog post will hopefully feature a finished Flight of the Bat andat least the demo scene for Curious along with a few more bits of art; steady progress is what I need. Anyway that’s me, have a sweet Easter holidays all, I know I will!

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Update: How quickly things change in game dev land! A few days ago, due to a change of circumstances Jay of Drop Dead Interactive, who I was helping to make Soul Machine, let me know that Drop Dead was back on! Jay & I have decided to establish a two person team to make small & hopefully unique games. We’ll both design and he’ll do that whole coding thing I’m not so good at while I focus on art.

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I think we complement each other very well in development terms and both tend to prefer PC/ Console games so that’ll be our long term aim, although we have a few touch based game concepts as well. Ah things tend to work out in the end, Drop Dead is back & I’ll have much more news about the puzzle game we’re working on soon!

Check out some Flight of the Bat footage:

The Curious Construct

I’ve been rather quiet of late; a healthy dose of you don’t know what the hell you’re doing reality definitely slapped me hard in the face. I obviously threw together Bat Flap very quickly for #flappyjam but after that was weeks of messing around trying to get it to export & get it running run on emulators. That didn’t happen as you may have gathered from my previous blog post and it left me a bit disheartened. I know it was a silly little game that was hardly going to set the gaming landscape alight but I very much wanted to get it working on mobile.

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Edit: It has worked! Huzzah! I tried Intel’s XDK again and Bat Flap is working absolutely perfectly on every emulator regardless of platform. Hell yeah! It’s only taken around three bloody weeks to get the damn thing working but hey I’ll take what I can get. At least that now means if I do have a simple game idea, I can quickly prototype it in Construct 2, and if it’s any good even release it. However, as you’ll see when you read on I had another idea…

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Alas a few weeks of failure are never good but it has refocused me. What am I capable of making? What skills do I have & what is clearly lacking? Coding, that’s what’s lacking. If I stopped everything else now and concentrated solely on say C#, in a year, maybe two, I’d be reasonable ish. I just don’t have the time for that along with a full-time job, so then what to do. Well I’ve been playing with Unity quite a lot recently & a few days ago I came across Icebox Studios (Chris Burton) Adventure Creator, essentially a framework for creating point & click games.

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It’s still complex enough for a non-coder like me but as soon as I saw it a game idea hit me, I’m also fairly well versed in Adventure games having begun with Granny’s Garden on a BBC Micro at school. I’ve played all the usual Lucasarts classics & have enjoyed the recent resurgence of the genre primarily from Telltale. Although my point & click high point has always been Westwood’s sublime Blade Runner, still one of my favourite games.

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I know how much work this game will be in terms of narrative, graphics, sound & scene set up but it’s definitely something I can do. The idea is quite simple; after a ludicrous number of years in space (457 to be precise) a probe sent to search for life in the universe, stops, and for the first time thinks. The probe becomes sentient and starts questioning who they are, what it is their doing and where they belong. The probe will discover weird planets, crazy aliens, odd robots & maybe, just maybe, find their place in the stars.

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That’s my beginning then, so over the next few weeks I’ll be setting up test scenes, getting some basic graphics done & starting to piece together the narrative. This won’t be a quick, here you go game is done type affair, rather, I hope, something more substantial. I must be aware of the game’s scale & to not over reach in design terms but I think I finally have a concept for my first solo game. As I said the work required will be quite robust and it’s going to take a little while before I’ve got anything decent to show. Hard work is fundamental to creating something to be proud of, and I hope The Curious Construct, for me, can be that thing.

The Curious Construct

Aaarrrggghhh! Screw you Hyper-V!

Last week my blog discussed Bat Flap’s development & releasing it for free on my site, along with moving exclusively to Unity from Construct 2 & GameMaker. I didn’t do any of that, which is pretty typical of me & I’m regretting it a hell of a lot! Instead I worked on exporting Bat Flap to Android & Windows Phone 8 with absolutely no joy and mounting frustration. I tried to export Bat Flap to Android using Intel’s XDK & Ludei’s Cocoonjs, after many days of following tutorials and messing around I still hadn’t got it working.

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At first I tried Intel’s new XDK, designed for exporting to Android & other platforms with included emulators. That hasn’t worked at all yet, the game components load fine but all the emu gives me is a black splash screen. It’s still in beta so I’m sure it’ll improve but right now I can’t figure it out. Then Cocoonjs; the game uploaded to Ludei’s server successfully but the launcher app required a code which I still haven’t received. That was 4 days without any game development & I was getting rather pissed off.

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I left Android exporting alone and moved on to Windows 8 & Phone, the exported SLN file worked perfectly in Visual Studio 2013 as a Win 8 app but then more problems. Hyper-V has been my Kryptonite for a while; when I was helping to develop Drawtopia I had the same problem and couldn’t figure out how to get the damn emulators to work then either. My googled solutions mostly did bugger all but I finally worked out how to use switches. I created an internal virtual machine for the Win Phone 8 emu and then a bridged virtual machine for the wireless network adaptor.

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Voila! Bat Flap was running on the emulator! I also fixed my wireless network adaptor which had stopped working a few months prior, double win! Well actually no, in fact no win. Today I turned on my PC & Hyper-V wasn’t working as it had been so once again the Win Phone emus weren’t either. I tried to replicate what I did the previous night but it’s just not happening. I had a few ideas of how to flesh out Bat Flap & intended to maybe release on Win Phone 8 & Android.

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Sod that! It’ll be free on my site with a high score & a few tweaks as soon as I can, after that I’ll do exactly what I said I was going to do in my last blog. It’s time to get back to Unity & make a PC game. Hell I might even make a shooter called Hyper-V! Yes I’m frustrated, I feel like I’ve wasted well over a week on utterly useless stuff that could’ve been avoided. However, to fail is to learn and for now I’m just glad to be back to actual game development, the mostly fun stuff!

Edit: I might try PhoneGap for export to Android before I totally give up on it. You know because I’m a bit crazy!

Focus, Damn You!

I’ve been a touch missing in action over the last few weeks, so sorry for the slightly later than usual blog post.  Over my week off I’d been sporadically building a game for #flappyjam, called Bat Flap. This kind of halted my Unity progress as the prior weeks had been focused on getting better with that engine & PlayMaker/ uScript. I essentially followed a few Construct 2 tutorials to build a Flappy Bird inspired shooter, which was at least a bit different from Dong Nguyen’s ludicrously simple yet massively popular mobile release.

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I created the basic gameplay mechanics, art assets, animations & sound while adding a few other bits such as touch controls and particle effects each day. My problem came at the end of that week off. Although people liked the aesthetic I felt like I was about to finish a game in a few weeks and release it for the sake of it. This is clearly not the way to go with your first or any other game project. The iOS & Google Play stores were already swamped by Flappy clones including Flappy Bat & Bat Flapping amongst others.

Beyond this I’m not actually a massive fan of mobile games despite helping to develop two prior games for phone. I have always been more of a console & PC gamer, so why was I initially intent on releasing a Flappy Bird clone with a few variations? Well to get a game out isn’t a good enough reason & of course if it isn’t good enough it would inevitably effect your reputation as a developer. So then, what next?

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I basically decided after chatting to a few developer friends (thanking you!) that releasing another Flappy esque game in the currently inundated market would be less than great for my first game release. It’s time to knuckle down & spend the time to fully learn Unity & PlayMaker; I’m 34, have a full time job & am doing this game stuff on my own so time is incredibly precious. With this in mind learning C# right now just isn’t viable but PlayMaker & uScript certainly are. I already know how to use most of the 2D functions in Unity so that’ll be my future focus.

I enjoyed making Bat Flap & might simply chuck it on my site for people to play for free rather than spurn the effort into oblivion, if people like it enough maybe then I’ll release it on mobile. However, I want my first proper game to have some depth & time taken over design rather than releasing a game made in a few weeks without any longevity. It’s time to move on from Construct 2 & GameMaker for a bit, to focus on Unity, rather than my constant dabbling which obviously isn’t helping me to build the games I want.

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I, like many other part time or upcoming indie devs am desperate to establish myself & make games full-time. However, that shouldn’t come at the cost of depth, quality & some sense of originality. Rather than releasing something of a throwaway & somewhat generic nature on mobile I’d rather take more time to create a game with greater complexity & uniqueness. From this blog forth, I’ll mostly be writing about my experience of learning and building a game in Unity for PC. No more flip flopping between engines, it’s time to get some serious work done. Wish me luck gaming types!

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