Sunday, 29 September 2013

On Eurogamer and Visiting 22Cans

Some of you may be aware that I went to Eurogamer on Thursday and then went to visit everyone at 22Cans on Friday before coming home.

Eurogamer was pretty good. It was the very first gaming convention that I have ever attended and so I was pretty excited about being there. The vast majority of the day was spent chatting with my fellow students and the tutors at the Train2Game room in the press area of the Industry Fair. I learned quite a bit and got some great feedback on the game I am currently designing.

The games on show weren't very exciting, in my opinion. The triple A games were mostly cookie cutter games (e.g. "Football Game 14" and "Racing Game 6" and "Go Kill People 7"), which is great for the fanboys/girls but extremely boring and samey and not at all exciting. The vast majority of the interesting games were in the indie area. Sir You Are Being Hunted, Off Grid, Dream and Murdered Soul Suspect were the three games which piqued my interest the most in the entire convention.

I also had a nice chat with the people at SpecialEffect, a gaming charity which helps disabled kids to be able to play games, about a game idea I have. They liked the idea and invited me to send them a game concept when I get one working.

 My visit to 22Cans studio was very fun. Everyone there is really nice and they all made me feel very welcome. Unfortunately, the coffee machine was broken (again) so I didn't get to try "the best coffee in the world". Luckily though they did have a cafetière, which Sam was kind enough to fix coffee in (twice) and it was very good. I got to play the 1.3 build and have to say that the changes they've made are really good and are comprised of some suggestions from the backers and beta players. The wait for the update will be well worth it!

Now, most people, when attending a game convention, will buy prints, t-shirts, posters and so forth. And most people, when going to a gaming studio, will ask everyone for their autographs and take loads of pictures. Well, I'm not most people. For starters I didn't buy anything at Eurogamer. In addition to that, I didn't take any photos of the 22Cans studio or ask any of the devs for their autographs. What I did do, however, was notice an oak tree not too far from the studio. I spent 5 minutes walking around said tree until I found an acorn which was unblemished, not cracked, and still had it's cap attached.

This is the acorn. And I am such a huge geek.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

June's Game: Paddle-Putt Island

Paddle-Putt Island

June's game was done as a collaboration between Calalaera as the Senior Programmer, and myself in the Junior Programmer role. It was done completely in C++ using CodeBlocks and SFML. 

Paddle-Putt Island can be thought of as a spiritual successor to Golf, the well-known Atari 2600 game from decades past. The playable, one level demo gives a nod to greyscale mode. The full game will contain the following:
  • Nine holes
  • Eight bits of glorious colour
  • Weird and wacky level design
  • In-jokes up the wazoo
  • Easter eggs, of which greyscale mode will be one
  • And expansions to come!
We are also working on release date DLC which will be made available once Paddle-Putt Island gets through Steam Greenlight. This DLC will be another 9 hole course which will, we hope, put the "silly" in "silly golf".

Go take a look at the demo online - or better yet, play it yourself!

Please let us know what you think of the game. We realise that this game will not appeal to the majority of people. Rather, it is specifically aimed at those who enjoy very simple retro games. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

May's Game: Guilty Pleasures Chapter One

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, my plan for this month was to take the first chapter from the book Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton and rework it into a text based game. My hope was to enable the player to play as though they are Anita Blake, yet keep the energy the original author put into it. I think I managed to do this.

Guilty Pleasures Chapter 1 Text based game

The basics of the game are pretty self explanatory. You simply read the text and click on a link at the bottom. Some pages have more than one option. Some will give you some background information to the story and world, others will allow you to skip past the detail. Those of you who have read the actual book will notice that I've added a few things to the story. Hopefully these don't detract from it.

If enough people like this chapter, I might do another from a different book next month. I'm hesitant to do any further chapters from Guilty Pleasures as I don't want to run afoul of Fair Use laws nor do I want to detract from Ms Hamilton's hard work. So if you like what I've done, I strongly recommend that you purchase the book and support this wonderful author.

To play the game, simply click on this link, download the html file and double click on it. It should open in your web browser.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

My Next Game Project

As most of you who read this blog will know, I am attempting the One Game a Month Challenge. My first four games were all different games done with different engines and/or different programming languages.

Starting this month (May), each month's project will be part of a larger project. The next eight "games" will be based on chapters from the book "Guilty Pleasures" by Laurell K. Hamilton. Obviously, this is a fan project and all of the respective copyrights (characters, storyline etc) belong to Ms. Hamilton and as such, it will not be sold. Ever.

Why do a project that I will never be able to sell? There are a few reasons. First, I'm neither a game designer nor an author and as such could never make anything like this on my own. Second, I'm a huge fan of Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake series and thought it would neat to try to make a visual/interactive game based on one of the books.

Saying all this, I'm still not certain how to approach this project. Do I turn it into a storyline based RPG type similar to Elder Scrolls (but in 2D) where the player chooses conversation lines? Or do I give it more of a "bookish" feel where the player basically watches the story unfold and is only given control to do things like click various items for back story/more detail and battles?

Each approach has its pros and cons. An RPG would give the player more freedom, but they wouldn't get the detail and back story depth that an interactive "book" game would give.

Also, I'm not certain how I should make the game itself. Do I make it in C++ or should I use a game engine like Construct2? I have no idea how to use graphics in C++, but I would be able to type the code itself fairly easily. While with Construct2, using graphics is as easy as double clicking on the screen, but I find the code itself a bit difficult to use - especially with complex ideas. Ah, if only there was a game engine that handles graphics as easily as Construct2 does and uses C++ as well! The closest I know of is Unity, but that uses C# and is for 3D games/graphics.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

April's Game: Spring to Space

Spring to Space

This month's game for the One Game a Month Challenge is called "Spring to Space" and comprises three levels. The game starts deep underground and your goal is to jump up to the moon, hence the title. Each level has enemies to avoid, hit one and you restart the level. There is no way to kill the enemies, avoiding them is your only option. Once you reach the highest point of the level and go through the portal, the next level will start.

You may have noticed that the graphics are very simple placeholders in this game instead of the more polished sprites in most of my previous games. The reason for this is simply because I've spent the last three weeks trying to learn the basics of the Construct 2 game engine. For some reason, I've found it to be quite difficult to get my head around. Since I didn't want this month to go without a game however, I took what I had learned and tried to make something simple and working.

You can find the game in my public Dropbox folder. Simply download the zip file, extract the contents and double click on the springtospace.exe file. This release is for Windows only. If you have Linux or OSX, let me know and I will release versions for them as well. Be warned that I've only tested the Windows version though.

This next month I'll be learning more about the Construct 2 game engine so hopefully next month's game will be better.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Are Game Devs Getting Lazy? published an article today talking about the upcoming new game in the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty: Ghosts.

After reading the article, the following question came to mind: "Are game developers and designers getting lazy?"

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy FPS war games as much as the next bloke, but I can't help but notice how similar they all are - especially in long running series like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare. The story lines often feel as though they are tacked on afterthoughts, put there only to very loosely tie the events together. This results in the game feeling shallow as though the designers just wanted a game in which you go from checkpoint to checkpoint killing everything that gets in your way.

"The game is said to be set in the future, but a major plot event forces the characters to use modern day weaponry."
Part of me wants to give Infinity Ward the benefit of the doubt here. I'm not a professional game critic and thus haven't seen any game play or information other than what can found on the internet about this game. Saying that, the above quote from the CVG article makes me think that the reason they've made this "major plot event" is because they couldn't be bothered to design and code new weapons, opting instead to just reuse the weapons and code from previous games.

If they're going to do that, why not go all the way and force the characters to use World War 1 or 2 weaponry or, even better, American Civil War era weaponry (i.e. muskets, muzzle loaders and flintlocks)? Do something unexpected; keep the series fresh.

Will I buy this game, despite my apprehensions? Probably, but I won't pay full price for it, instead waiting until it goes on sale or is available cheaply pre-owned. Unless of course, Infinity Ward makes this game really stand out from the rest.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

March's Game: Chest Work

This month's game is finished!

I decided to go along with the optional theme on the One Game website and made a very simple, very short roguelike.

The premise is as follows: You're a rogue and have found yourself in a room with no doors or windows. Said room contains six chests and three traps. Your goal is to unlock all of the chests without dying, collecting whatever treasure is found within.

Sounds simple, right? It is. There is one small thing though - there's a one out of six chance that any given chest will be trapped. If it is, and you fail to disarm it...well, let's just say I don't envy your fate.

This is a typical retro-style roguelike, so the 'graphics' are ASCII. That is, everything is represented by a standard symbol. The rogue is 'R'. Chests are 'C' and 'c', for unopened and opened chests respectively. Traps are represented by 'T' and 't' (armed and disarmed). Finally, the walls are marked by the '#' symbol. Movement is done using the 'W, A, S, D' keys ( W - up, A - left, D - right, S - down).

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, this is the first game that I've done in C++. As such, it's only available as an exe file and can only be played on Windows (as far as I know).

The exe can be downloaded here and if you would like to have a look at the cpp file, you can find it here.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

A huge thanks to any one who plays this game, gives feedback on the game and/or the code, and especially to 'Calalaera', who helped me with the code syntax and layout.