Performance and Games Network: Kickoff Workshop

On the 25th and 26th of March there was a workshop at The University Of Lincoln for the Performance and Games Network. This network is a collaboration between the Universities of Lincoln, Exeter, and Nottingham, Tiga, and Arts Queensland looking at how we can use the performing arts to examine the design of video games. Kieran and I were invited along by Patrick to participate in the workshop alongside people from loads of different places including De Gute Fabrik, Rare and the performing arts themselves.

We were able to take a look at the technology powering the new Kinect 2.0 as well. I was very impressed with how powerful the camera is now – at times it was like something out of minority report.

The workshop was designed to encourage people to work together in order to create unique and crazy games that looked at the idea of the performer. There were some amazing things developed and I was very impressed with the sheer variety of things that came out of it:

  • A physical game that uses office chairs and a Kinect where participants have to push and pull other people from one side of the room to the other.
  • A game in which participants strip in front of one another to score points (although they can’t actually see the other player accurately because they are wearing a rift.)
  • A game where a player takes on the guise of Godzilla and has to avoid missiles that people fire by sending tweets at a bot.
  • Mario Kart controlled by a VIOLIN!
  • Street Fighter controlled by pulling on strands of conductive yarn.
  • Mario Bros controlled by stirring cups of tea.
  • A motion capture game that looks at the idea of physical Chinese whispers and the Exquisite Corpse.
  • Using the Oculus rift and a cool camera rig to allow a user to see through the back of their head.
  • A wheelchair tank game that uses the Kinect in a very interesting way.

The workshop was incredibly inspiring and I’m looking at taking on some projects over the summer that centre around a lot of the stuff I learnt over those two days. I’ll definitely be looking at incorporating MakeyMakeys into my future work as I’m interested in using them to create some unique interfaces for games, I’d really like to do some art installations using them. I’m also hoping to continue work on the Godzilla game with Patrick and Alex over the summer and we’d love to try and get it on one of the big screens at Game City in Nottingham.

You can find out more about the network at http://performance-games.lincoln.ac.uk if you’re interested in learning more about what is going on! It’s awesome!

The Value Of Games

The cause and solution of all my problems...

There’s an increasing noticeable trend that games seem to be getting cheaper and cheaper. I can currently buy a decent indie game for less than the price of a pint at the pub. Why is a game that I will spend several hours playing less expensive than a drink i’ll have imbibed in about half an hour? Surely developers are selling themselves short? I think we are.

Recently I was discussing how much we’d sell Hashtag Dungeon for when it is first released. I feel as if it’s worth more than a few pounds, but it the current environment we’ve got to follow the trends and make things super cheap or we’ll not get any interest whatsoever. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and hope we get a lot of sales instead of just a few. It makes me sad we have to sell something we’ve worked on for ages for so cheap – but that’s just the way things are now.

I think theres a distinct problem with a great deal of gamers nowadays. The rise of the ‘Humble’ Indie Bundle and the ridiculously cheap Steam Sale has left them weary of games that have prices more than £5.00. They want to play interesting indie games but do not value the time and effort that has been put in by developers to create the game. They want the world but don’t want to pay for what its actually worth. They’re the kind of people who claim to be a fan of a game and then expect the developer to spend every waking moment working on it for them for no extra reward.

Games are pieces of art and you wouldn’t expect to be able to buy someones artwork without paying them a vast sum of money for it, right? It doesn’t seem right that someone should have to make their game super cheap just to be able to compete with everyone else’s ridiculous prices. They’ve poured their soul into their game… why do they have to cheapen themselves?

When is this maddening mass deflation going to stop? When all games are free to play and most self-respecting developers have gone bust because they can barely afford to feed their families? People need to realise that this current cheap-as-chips system isn’t good for anyone… it needs to stop before the games industry collapses in on itself and there’s nothing left but Candy Crush Saga.

Can Jam 2014

Can Jam Logo

Hey everyone! Just a quick blog post to tell you all about the upcoming Can Jam at The University Of Lincoln. It’s a 24 hour long game jam ran by students and staff at the university for the glory of game-making students everywhere!

It’s going to be starting on the 8th of March at 9:00am and any UK student with a valid form of identity is welcome to come along to participate. We’re really hoping that you’ll be able to come along and make games with like-minded people. If it’s anything like the last three it’ll be an awesome event. I will be there helping out and providing people with my homespun brand of passionate encouragement (until about 3am – then you’ll have to deal with grumpy Sean).

There will be people coming from both Crytek GmbH and Rockstar for the judging so it’s a great opportunity to network and show off your skills!

Also… this year we have a fancy trophy. I’ve yet to lay eyes on it because apparently it’s far too fancy for any one person to lay eyes upon. It’s really that fancy.*

You can sign up here! There’s only a limited number of places so make sure to grab a ticket quickly! Also feel free to share the details with anyone or anything you might think will be interested.

*I have literally no idea how fancy it is right now. But I can only assume it’s going to be pretty fancy.

Hashtag Dungeon: Thanks Guys!

Hey guys and gals!

This is just a quick little blog post to thank everyone who has tweeted, retweeted or blogged about Hashtag Dungeon so far. Myself and Kieran have been flipping out at every positive comment, response or article we’ve found. We’d like to thank everyone for the great interest in our game.

I literally squealed when I clicked on this video…

We’re working super hard to get the game out as early as we can in order for you guys to get your hands on it. I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am to see what everyone does with the dungeon editor – if it’s anything like the fancy stuff I’ve seen done by our alpha testers then I’m going to be so happy. I’m really looking forward to playing through your dungeons… hopefully you won’t make them too hard (I’m kinda sucky at not getting hit by stuff – especially goblins).

I’m going to get back to working on sprites now. The more enemies, items and traps I can cram into the game before we release the better. We’d really appreciate it if you guys continue to give us feedback and share around the game with anyone you think might be interested – that’d be super special awesome of you.

Also as a little thank you because you’ve decided to click on this blog page thingy here is an EXCLUSIVE picture of one of the enemies from the game – the fireball throwing Flame Mage:

Flame Mage

#GGJ14 Post Mortem

So myself and a bunch of the staff at The University of Lincoln decided to host an event for the Global Game Jam this year! It was very daunting as we’ve never done a whole 48 hours before – we’ve always considered 24 hours to be a pretty crazy feat on it’s own. We had students from a bunch of other universities and developers from outside the university come along too. It was pretty awesome to see so many new people coming to make games together over a weekend.

Not going to lie though “We don’t see things how they are. We see them how we are.” I didn’t really like that theme – I know for a fact that Alex was almost going to bail on me when he saw it.

Luckily we kept the band together and managed to form an idea for it with the help of a pint of alcohol and some good hard thinking. We looked at the idea of propaganda and how it pushes people to form somewhat inaccurate opinions of the world around them. We decided you’d play the role of a person employed to put up posters around an area for the government or those who opposed them.

GGJ14Screenshot

Myself and Alex decided it’d be cool to revisit the country of Happystan that I created along with some of my friends back home. It’s a dictatorship ran by a crazy man who expects everyone to be CONSTANTLY happy ALL of the time. I’ve always wanted to make a first person game in this world so this seemed like a perfect time! After having finished our drinks we went up to the computer labs and started work: Adam Bowes made 3D models of security cameras, buildings and trucks, Alex Saye programmed real-time poster physics and I made a metric-fuckton of poster graphics ranging from government propaganda to XXX strip club advertisements. (Meanwhile we were all listening to plenty of Caravan Palace…)

TreeDiagram

Unfortunately we didn’t get the game finished. Despite our solemn vow to never make a branching tree-like story for a game ever again we ended up making one anyway. We had a load of bugs that we didn’t manage to squash in the last few hours and they ended up leaving us a little stressed out and on edge.

On the plus side we got a heck of a lot of comments saying that we’d created a really nice atmosphere for the game, which I tend to agree with as it’s pretty much exactly how I’d imagined the land of Happystan to be like (it was very heavily influenced by Orwell’s 1984). I also really liked the cool billboarding effect we had on the NPCs – totally gonna use that again at some point! I consider ‘District Smile B’ to be a glorious train wreck – both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Game Jam Round-Up (#7DGGC and #ScareJam)

I’ve been a little busy recently so I didn’t get chance to write a round-up for either the Gentlemanly Game Challenge OR the Scare Jam. Yes, I know it’s been a while since both of them… quite a while – but I don’t care! It’s time to round them up and discuss how they went! Grab a glass of wine substitute (grape juice) and enjoy my game jam round up! Cheers!

DSC_1502

So I’ll start with the Seven Day Gentlemanly Game Challenge. It was interesting to see what people took from the idea of ‘Gentlemanly’ as a theme. There was a whole lot of steampunk stuff – which I approve of, however I’m still not sure if steampunk always equates to gentlemanly or the vice versa.

We had a nice array of games. Team Noname (Now known as Volatile Element) made a cool RTS game in Unity. Kieran Hicks (who is now working with me on Hastag Dungeon) made a game in which you play a hobo who must rise through the ranks in order to get into the country club. There were some really juicy ideas in the game entitled ‘Monoculus Rift’ which placed the player in a retro environment as seen through a fancy monocle.

DSC_1484 DSC_1474 DSC_1494DSC_1487 DSC_1498

The Scare Jam was awesome. I can’t believe how many people turned up to make games. I was so impressed by the turnout from every year of the computing courses at Lincoln. All the games were pretty well done too and there was a great deal of variety among them. I’m not entirely sure why I chose to do a game jam based on scary games since i’m a very jumpy person myself. This was particularly evident when I jumped halfway across the room when playing one of the games.

Halloween

Alex Saye won the prize for the overall best use of mechanics for his game “14565” where you play a blindfolded person attempting to escape from a terrifying monster. Its lack of visuals and reliance on sound really made for a great experience as your imagination fills in all the blanks and makes it far more terrifying. You can download it here. Wear headphones.

Kieran Hicks received the award for scariest game. His 3D Gamemaker maze game pushed the boundaries of what most of the judges thought could be done in the software. Plenty of jump scares all around.

Team Volatile Element gained the final award for most interesting use of the theme for their game “Child’s Whisper” for the Oculus Rift. It was a surreal and spooky experience that had the player controlling their right and left eyes with a controller.

Duncan Rowland gave out a special award for a game developed using the Mindwave. This game tried to gauge the players stress levels in order to change the environment around them. It was a very interesting insight into getting the Mindwave hardware integrated with Unity.

As with all the game jams I’ve ran at Lincoln i’m always impressed at the creativity and skill the students have. It’s great to see people who are passionate making games and I love to give them opportunities to just make games for the hell of it. It’s my hope that at least one or two of the games will be developed further after the jams are done – there’s definitely a few gems that deserve the attention of the gaming public!

 

The Scary October Jam #ScareJam

Boo! So it’s time for the first of my many little game jams that I’m going to be running at the University of Lincoln! Since it’s Halloween soon I thought it might make sense to make it a spooky-themed scary game jam of occult hi-jinks!

Halloween

So ‘The Scary October Jam’ will be coming this Friday (18th October) to the University of Lincoln. I’ll be starting it at around 5pm and it’ll be finishing 72 hours later on the Monday! Anyone at the university is welcome to come along, we’d like to see as many first year games students there as possible – you can use the weekend as a crash course in GameMaker!

Let’s make some games that make people jump. Make games with all those creepy things that go bump in the night. Make something terrifying that’ll terrify the judges!

This time around we’re having an online poll to decide on a mechanic to add into everyone’s games. This should give people an interesting challenge and push them to think a little outside of the box with their game ideas. (Let’s avoid having a thousand and one jump-and-run games, people!)

You can come in a team of up to five people. The event will be in Computer Lab B on the top floor of the MHT building. Don’t be afraid to ask me some questions about it: if you want some more information on the jam then send me an email or drop me a message on Twitter.