The Propahverse: Episode I

This is a copy of the first devblog for my new game “The Propahverse: Episode I” that you’ll be able to follow up on itch.io over the next few months. Please take a moment to read it!

Check out the project on itch.io here!

When me and my friend Will Bryce were  much younger, we used to sit around making films. Weird films. Experimental kiddy films with no budget and an improvised plot that didn’t make much sense at all. We made little stop motion LEGO films on a normal camcorder – painstakingly pressing the record button over and over to recreate frame-by-frame animations without any editing equipment. We made such wonderful films as “Gulp: The Movie – School Edition” and “The Mad Zombie Fishy Fish” and they were fun and good. People used to laugh at us and make fun whilst we did it, but we never stopped – because it was what we loved to do.

As we grew up and matured into immature and reasonably problematic teenagers, the love for making films, comics and games still burnt brightly in our hearts. By this point we’d assembled our high-school friendship group and we were interested in making some new videos. YouTube was a thing, we could send our stuff out to the world – it was going to be BRILLIANT.

Thus began four wonderful years of Propah Job Studios – our film studio. I was the director, we never wrote scripts. Most of the time we’d just grab the camcorder, go out into the fields near my house and come up with a story there and then – which reflected pretty obviously in the quality of our content.

We came up with a tonne of random characters and strange situations for them. We had John McCullen – the owner of McCullen INC – an american businessman who grew his fortune via Liquocheese, a cheese flavored fizzy drink. We created Doctor Robert Maria Smedley, a man so cruel, twisted and narcissistic that you couldn’t help but have a soft spot for him.  We created John M’Blobnimnabob – the world’s friendliest dictator and ruler of Happystan. It was good fun.

We filmed and created a series called LeftPOORDead, where the characters of Reginald and Tippy fought off hordes of poor people in the zombie apocalypse. Every episode of the series the quality improved, and we learnt more and more about the characters we were developing. I had so many ideas in my head about where I wanted the characters to go and what I wanted them to do… but we never had the budget or the time.

After LeftPOORDead series one was completed, we took a small break. One day I was sitting in the park with Will, Mitz and Mark (Butler, Tippy and M’Blobnimnabob, respectively – don’t worry… you’ll learn about them when you play the game…) and we decided upon our next series – a horny time-travelling genius called Captain Fabulous – the idea sparked and within several minutes we’d ran out of the park and ended up in the nearest charity shop so we could buy his outfit: we bought the most obnoxious clothes we could find.

After filming several episodes of Captain Fabulous it became clear that we were all starting to get a bit too busy to film things. It got harder and harder to get the gang together. People were too busy with university and work. It was disheartening at the time – filming things with my friends was one of the things that really gave me a sense of self-worth and belonging.

I started filming things at university with my friends there, I set up a weekly Propah Job Radio show too – which got quite a few listeners! We had a small but loyal fanbase who had really enjoyed our videos and were looking forward to more. Hell, someone even took the time to make us a TV Tropes page!

Unfortunately, we just didn’t get around to making any new videos. We were just all too busy.  Even the radio show was getting in the way of my studies. The time of Propah Job Studios came to an end. The website was shut down and the forums were closed. It was all a distant but fond memory glowing in the back of my mind.

It was sad to think that the story of Captain Fabulous would never be completed.

It was even sadder to know that Reginald and Tippy’s second series wouldn’t ever happen.

In my third year at university I felt compelled to finish the story of Reginald and Tippy – so for a whole week I locked myself away in my room and wrote the story down in a novel. It was never proofread and I didn’t look back at the chapters as I wrote… I just needed to get the story down on paper before it was lost forever.

But, as I started to write the story of Reginald and Tippy, other characters from our videos started to rear their odd little heads. All of our characters had been crafted with such pure love of entertaining others that it felt a shame not to somehow include them all…

…and so, The Propahverse was created.

Now, after all this time I’m making the story into a set of three games spanning across a multitude of characters, both old and new. I’m giving the characters the chance they deserve to be loved by others, and to get their story out to the world. At some point in the near future, you’re going to get to play through a story that is eight years in the making. A story that is incredibly important to me as a person. A story that defined a large chunk of my life.

I really hope that you’ll enjoy it.

-Sean

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A MAZE 2017

I’m currently sitting in Berlin Schönefeld Airport, my feet are aching and my eyes are very tired. I’ve just wished my girlfriend bon voyage on her return flight to Quebec and there’s a pain in my stomach from missing her and everyone else that I’ve been able to hang out with this week.

But I’d do it again, for sure. It was amazing.

So, A MAZE is an ‘International Independent Games and Playful Media Festival’ in Berlin that basically allows cool people to get together, share ideas and have a generally excellent time all while under the influence of copious amounts of German beer served in steins that hurt my wrist if I held them for more than a few moments.

I played a bunch of weird and wonderful games, both traditional and VR-based and I’ve come out of it inspired to make more cool things in the future with the people around me. I am very impressed by the curation that the event had, and I look forward to what they have to offer next year!

I also had the chance to meet up with Joonas to discuss more of the new game we’re working on. I am not gonna say much about it right now, but it’s gonna be one hell of a crazy ride when we start posting about it!

The lovely Adriel and I also started formalising some ideas for a game we’re working on too. It’s going to be a small thing, but pretty funny and we’re really excited to show you it soon! It was great to see them and spend time with them too, I’m looking forward to spending a weekend in Paris with them this month. Oh, and I also got to spend a heck of a lot of time with the wonderful Kate before she heads off to Canada tomorrow!

(What is it with people I like fucking off to Canada, eh?)

The food in Berlin was fantastic. Lisa and I ate more food than we probably should have ranging from fancy sushi to a cheeky (and very delicious) doner kebab on the way home from a good night out. I’ve really unlocked a love of different food experiences recently and I’m looking forward to travelling the world and trying more food out.

ALSO I WENT TO THE ZOO. IT WAS GOOD. I REALLY MISS BEING A ZOOKEEPER. I HAD A LOLLYPOP.

That’s about it, really. I’d write more but I’m tired.

BYE.

Oxy’s Top 10 Of 2015

It’s that time of year again for me to put together an arbitrary list of my favorite games from this year. Please remember these are the games I most enjoyed playing and I’ve not played everything that came out this year and as such this is a very personal list that probably won’t have everything you’d expect on it (for example Undertale as I’ve not played it yet).

Splatoon

Genuinely the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game in some time. It was the reason I bought a Wii U and I don’t regret it at all. I love the way the ink looks too – whoever programmed that shader needs a medal.

Bloodborne

I suck at this game, but I adore everything about it. I love the enviroments, lore and the fact that it has done survival horror with Lovecraftian elements so damn well.

Party Hard

Who’d have thought a game about murdering obnoxious people at a party would be so cathartic? I went into this game not knowing much about it, but I had a lot of fun with it and still haven’t unlocked everything.

Mushroom 11

I first played Mushroom 11 last year at Eurogamer, I was instantly captured by its unique control system. It is a beautiful little game that you should totally check out if you have the chance.

Until Dawn

This game takes all the wonderfully cheesy tropes of teen horror films and turns them into a grand adventure where each choice can lead to a horrific death. I am very happy that I had the chance to play through this with friends.

The Magic Circle

I’ve sang praise after praise for The Magic Circle. I loved it. You can check out my thoughts here.

Fallout 4 & Fallout Shelter

I’m a massive fan of the entire Fallout series and Fallout 4 did not disappoint. The ruins of Boston are really cool to explore and it develops so much lore that I’ve been theorizing about ever since Fallout 3. I’ve lumped in Fallout Shelter here too because it was potentially the only free to play game I’ve not felt conned into spending money on.

Downwell

Simple and elegant. Cheap and cheerful. Thoroughly enjoyable! This little rogue-like should be on your phone or computer immediately.

Cities: Skylines

This game is everything that SimCity should have been. It’s perfect. I have sank many an evening into building grand cities on this wonderful game. I’m so glad it exists.

Nuclear Throne

I FINALLY BEAT THIS DAMN GAME. YOU SHOULD ALL GO BUY IT. #BuyNuclearThrone

 

#LudumDare34 Post-Mortem

So you know how I take Ludum Dare pretty easy most times around? I do an hour every once in a while and eventually get a game done? This time around I think I hit a pinnacle of laziness that I can’t possibly exceed. This time around I spent roughly six hours max on my game… and it shows.

19104-shot2-1450130083-png-eq-900-500

The two themes for this Ludum Dare were Growth and Two Buttons – so I thought why not literally grow two buttons? The first idea I had was a farming sim where you have to grow new keyboard parts for customers, but I didn’t have the time or patience to create that, so I went with something simpler.

The game I made puts you in the role of Sprout the Scout. Sprout is from a race of aliens whose technology relies entirely on plant-matter. He’s crash landed on rather inhospitable planet where the local animals have a rather voracious vegetarian appetite. You have to call for help, but need to grow buttons before you can, these buttons need to be defended from the caterpillar creatures that live on the planet.

I was inspired by the game Rain World to create some kind of creepy bug creatures that moved using some kind of constrained ragdoll physics, so I made a caterpillar that tries to fling itself towards it’s prey. It looks really cool and I like the emergent behaviors that have come from a surprisingly simple piece of code.

I also had the pleasure of working with Magnus “SoulEye” Pålsson of VVVVV fame (albeit it very briefly… as we were both kinda busy this weekend.) It was great to chat with him on Skype as I’ve not seen him in ages and he’s a super interesting person.

Sprout Scout’s Situation was supposed to be a little bit grander and feels really incomplete, but I just didn’t have time to work on it properly. Magnus’s music was probably the coolest thing about it. However, my experiments with rigidbodies and connections to make procedural monster animations were a great success and I shall be using these techniques in the near future.

You can play the game here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-34/?action=preview&uid=19104

My Thoughts On: Euclidean

Rudimentary creature of blood and flesh. You touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding.

Euclidean is a wonderfully macabre little game that I came across on Steam recently that does something that a lot of other games attempt (but fail) to do. This game presents the otherworldly existential terror of Lovecraftian horror in a rather excellent set of ways:

  1. You are not a hero: You don’t win this game, really. You’re pretty much doomed from the very start and you’re barely clinging onto life in a ridiculously hostile environment.
  2. You don’t know where you are: The environments you find yourself in are strange, alien and unnerving. There is a constant haze surrounding everything, which you occasionally glimpse through pulses of energy that ripple through the landscape you’re floating through.
  3. You can die easily: Every nasty sounding creature swimming and writhing through the games levels are out to get you. You’re essentially a tiny little snack that doesn’t really matter at all.
  4. Everything is Alien: You have no idea what things are or whether or not they are something that will hurt you. All the monsters in the game look strange and otherworldly, and you’ll only ever get occasional glimpses of them as they phase in and out of your perception of reality. These creatures and objects hum and pulse with monstrous energy – they’re all weird and impossible to explain.

If you’re into existential terror and dread, I’d give this one a try. It’s a bit short though, so you’ll have to weigh up if you can spare the money for about half an hour of gameplay with weird and wonderful alien terrors.

 

#LincJam 24 Hour Game Jam

Hey everyone! Just a little post to let you know I’m running a game jam soon!

LincJam

Ever wanted to try your hand making a game in 24 hours? Find out by joining us for #LincJam at the University of Lincoln! Game jams are an excellent way of quickly prototyping games in a friendly and enthusastic enviroment. You’ll learn so much about game development in a ridiculously short space of time!

How does it work? You (or a team of up to five of you) come along to the jam in Complab B(3rd Floor, MHT Building) and at 10:00am you get given the jam’s theme – at this point you’ve got 24 hours to make something cool! These games will then get judged at 12:00 on Sunday by a panel of experts, they’ll then hand out awards for:

  • Best Use of Theme
  • Most Innovative Game
  • Juiciest Game
  • Best Overall Game
  • Best use of The Wildcard

There’s also the chance to be the first winners of the Hitpoint Trophy – which will be decided by Kieran Hicks and Sean Oxspring, developers at Hitpoint Games Ltd.

You can vote on potential themes via this link: http://poll.fm/5gxvn

LincJam is graciously hosted by The University of Lincoln School of Computer Science

You should be a university student over the age of 18+ to participate in this game jam! If you are a developer and want to come along then please contact the event organiser (Sean Oxspring) as soon as possible to ensure you are allowed to participate!

The main jam is at the University of Lincoln, but if you want to develop a game for the jam and upload it to the itch.io jam page from somewhere else in the world, feel free! Making games is fun afterall, and this jam is all about making games for the sake of making games.

If you’re a university student and you want to come along to the Lincoln site for #LincJam then please sign up for a ticket on this Eventbrite Page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lincjam-24-game-jam-tickets-19636258578

You can vote on the themes for this jam here:

ProcJam 2015 Talk

Kieran and I had the pleasure of being invited down to speak at the opening ceremony for this year’s ProcJam (Procedural Generation Jam) at Imperial College London. It was an awesome event and I thought I’d do a little blog detailing what I remember of the day so I have it here for posterity.

Procedural Game

4:30am last Saturday morning, I awoke from my slumber to an obnoxious alarm and a cat sitting on my stomach waiting for food, it was at this moment I cursed not reading the event’s start times and booking us train tickets to get us into London for 9:00am. I crawled out of bed, checked my emails and then walked down the hill to find Kieran.

(At some point during that I also got dressed, can’t remember exactly when though.)

We got to the train station and had a wonderful first class voyage down to London. Normally Kieran goes in the standard class coach because he doesn’t have a railcard, but we just finished some client projects so I thought “why the hell not, we deserve some luxury.”

Once we got to London we had about four hours to kill, so we went in search of food: it’s surprising to me that in the capital city of the UK it was actually quite hard to find somewhere to get something decent to eat that wasn’t a Nandos or some other fancier restaurant. We eventually gave up and went to a Starbucks, then decided to head to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum. We had a great time walking around looking at halls of dead animals and awesome artefacts from the history of computer science. One thing we got kinda irritated about was the lack of inspiration in some of the interactive exhibits at the museums were, it was kinda disappointing and we spent far too long critiquing them and suggesting improvements to an invisible museum owner in the sky.

Eventually we got around to the ProcJam and it was AWESOME. So many inspiring people talking about making things that make other things. I got to meet Kate Compton in the flesh and have some really interesting chats with some of the developers behind No Mans Sky. I learnt more about Markov chains that I ever thought was possible, Kieran and I really want to make some Twitter bots using them in the near future.

We did our talk on the pros and cons of using realtime data to produce games, we discussed the development of Hashtag Dungeon and how it went from early PCG to UGC over time. We told everyone about the downfalls of using data like Wikipedia that fluctuates on a daily basis and real time weather data that is as unpredictable as… y’know: the weather. We also had the pleasure of discussing our newest game Satan’s Hole and the plans we have in the future for using procedural generation for creating hellscapes. I think most people enjoyed it and had a good laugh, and that’s what counts really.

I’ve seen some really cool stuff come out of this week. I’m super excited about the future of procedural generation in games and I’m looking forward to going back to the ProcJam opening ceremony next year to see what’s on offer!