JumpJam!

I thought I’d write a quick post to let everyone know about the game jam I’m running over at The National Videogame Arcade in a few weeks time. It’s called JumpJam! and it’s going to be all about the miraculous form of movement – jumping.

jumplogo

The game jam is being ran on the weekend that The National Videogame Arcade opens, it’s going to be tied in with the main Jump! exhibition that will be on show for the first few months there. The best games made at the jam have the chance of being shown alongside the exhibition… which is pretty awesome!

I’m also looking for people to help run sites across the globe for the jam, if you’re interested in running a site then please send me a message on Twitter or through the sign-up form on the link below.

You can find out more about the jam and sign up for it here.

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#GGJ15 Post-Mortem

BigGodLogo

So last weekend I had the pleasure of helping run the Lincoln site for Global Game Jam 2015. I worked with Kieran and we made a really odd game called “Big God, What Do?” which is about a tribal god and his little villagers. Here’s the little blurb taken directly from our submission on the GGJ website:

“Big God, What Do?” cry the tribes-people of a small, jungle village. The idol in the center of town stirs to life and an ethereal voice echoes around the near vicinity: “Okay, guys, you need to bring me some pigs and throw them in the fire.”

BGWD? is an experimental multiplayer game where one player assumes the role of an ever-present deity whose belief is slowly dwindling. This player has to yell orders to his followers in game through the shrine in the middle of the map, then the other players must go forth and collect the items he needs. There is a catch, however: the villagers can only hear their god when they are very close to the shrine, and the things that the god needs are constantly changing.

The game was really fun to make, it was quite a challenge to get audio streaming across a network clearly – the final result was still rather choppy which was a shame. Unfortunately we could only get the game working on local area networks, so the game only really worked in the computer labs.

FinalScreenBGWD

I learnt how to 3D model using a free package called Wings3D, I’ve never done 3D modelling before so I was very interested in trying it out. I don’t think I did an awful job either; apparently I went against a tonne of 3D modelling conventions, but I was bound to make some mistakes on the first attempt!

I think that after a few hours I had a reasonably good-looking low-poly art style going. I actually really love how the game looks, and I definitely want to use this kind of style again in the near future!

Oh… and I also managed to get a photo of me and Kieran where he’s not pulling a silly face:

KieranAndMe

It was very refreshing to work with Kieran on something other than Hashtag Dungeon. Working on a project for too long without a break can get kind of stale; I think this jam was exactly what I needed to remind myself that I love making games and that I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want.

It was definitely a great jam and I had a tonne of fun! Roll on the next game jam I’m hosting in March!

My Top Ten Games Of 2014 (Cross-Media)

Here are my top ten games for 2014 for your perusal, enjoy:

Luftrausers


This glorious dog-fighting game was a heck of a lot of fun. Extra juicy with all the gratuitous explosions you’d expect from a game with the Vlambeer logo attributed to it. The soundtrack is brilliant as well – go listen to it.

Shovel Knight


This game is a beautiful love-letter to the glory of old school NES games. It feels good to play and gets me feeling very nostalgic. What makes it awesome though is that despite it’s heavy inspiration by old games it has it’s own distinct personality, it looks and plays like something unique. It looks gorgeous, plays beautifully and has a soundtrack that is easy on the ears.

Alien Isolation


As a fan of the Alien series I was hyped for this game – and it really didn’t disappoint. The game is nightmarish and unforgiving, the xenomorph is not playing around and there are no stealth-game patterns to avoid it. Nowhere is safe and you’ve got to keep your wits about you to survive – which is a very difficult thing to do.

Push Me, Pull You


It’s fucking weird but really fucking fun. Technically I suppose it’s not actually out yet… but I played it in 2014 so that’s what counts!

Pandemic: Contagion


I’ve always wanted to play as the infections in Pandemic and this year they have given me the chance in Pandemic Contagion. In this version of the game you play as the infections trying to wipe out mankind. I played this in the LiSC office on top of a coffin and it was bloody brilliant. If you like Pandemic then there’s a good chance you’ll like this one too.

Desert Golfing


A minimalist mini-golfing game that is great for playing every once in a while for a few seconds… I’m on hole 2304 right now. I would highly recommend you get it just for when you’re really bored.

Goat Simulator


This game is completely stupid and I love it. It shows that games aren’t all serious nowadays, sometimes they are just for the fun and the madness.

The only thing that makes me sad about Goat Simulator is the plethora of crappy clone attempts afterwards such as Rock Simulator and Grass Simulator – they don’t capture the craziness of Goat Simulator, the thing that actually makes the game fun.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted


I adored this game. I’m sad that it doesn’t seem to be on many people’s top 10 lists this year. Sir, You Are Being Hunted did a wonderful job of procedurally generating the drab and dreary British countryside, right down to the silly town names!

Sir, You Are Being Hunted does a wonderful job of reminding me of my childhood (bear with me, this will make sense). When I was a young lad I spent a lot of time playing man hunt with my friends in the woods near my house – pretty much exactly the same environment as you get in Sir, You Are Being Hunted – it gives me feelings of nostalgia: remembering hiding behind a dry-stone wall as my friends were trying to find me. That adrenaline-fueled feeling of anxious waiting as they walked past was awesome and I miss it.

Like Alien Isolation, there isn’t anywhere in this game that is 100% safe, really. The robots patrolling the islands are actively looking for you and do not sleep or eat until you are full of lead, laying dead on the floor.

If you’ve not played it before I’d highly recommend it if you like your stealth survival games quintessentially British.

P.T.


Yes this is technically just a demo/teaser thing, but I felt like I had to include it on this list. It was in itself a great and incredibly terrifying ARG game. It got people talking, it got people hyped, it was clever and made people think. It did what most horror games can’t do with a SINGLE CORRIDOR.

South Park: The Stick Of Truth


This game is perhaps the best adaptation of a TV/Movie series that I have ever had the pleasure to play. It feels like you’re actually playing an episode of South Park. All the jokes are there, all the characters that make the series amusing, and most importantly the unapologetic satire that I love from Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


This isn’t part of the Top 10 but it’s the one game that defined my 2014:

Hashtag Dungeon


This was the first game that I’ve properly released. It’ll be something that will be important to me for the rest of my life and I will treasure it. It’s a bit buggy here and there, but it’s sound for the most part and we’re continuing to work on it. Kieran and I are really proud of how much we’ve achieved in 2014 – and no matter how much I moan and how upset I might appear to be, I am genuinely happy that Hashtag Dungeon has done as well as it has. In the new year we shall be releasing on Steam, let’s see what the future holds, I guess!

VideoBrains November Talk: Using APIs For Completely Insane Reasons

I was in London a few weeks ago and I did a talk on using APIs to make weird and wonderful games. Apparently it went reasonably well despite me being unable to recall exactly what I said or did…

They recently uploaded the video so I thought I’d make a blog post to show it on my own website!

I warn you – it’s definitely an interesting one:

(In other news I’m still pretty down ever since the end of GameCity – don’t let my cheery nature on that video fool you… I was screaming internally. Being on my own is horrid, being on my own in LONDON is even scarier.)

GameCity 9 – Spooky Text Adventures

So two weeks ago I had the pleasure of showing Hashtag Dungeon at the GameCity Open Arcade. It was a really cool event, with a lot of really cool people. I got some really great feedback for the game and we sold a bunch of new copies, and that’s awesome.

I also got to hang out with the creator of Depression Quest, Zoe Quinn. It was really interesting to meet her and see how she was getting on after all the stuff that’s been going on recently. I had the pleasure of watching her destroy Christos most easily in a game of Nidhogg:

Wednesday night had the unveiling of the grand plan for GameCity next year: the opening of the new National Video Game Arcade – a place where I am really hoping to exhibit some of our more wacky projects in the future!

I was also in charge of designing and running a ‘spooky text adventure’ on the Thursday night. Using a piece of software programmed for the event by GameCity staff, I was able to assume the role of a paranormal entity that was communicating through a computer. The game itself was held on the third floor of Nottingham Library – we turned all the lights off, played spooky videos and music through the TVs and speakers and hid clues in a variety of different places. The objective of the game was to talk to the ghost and then solve its riddles whilst avoiding the hooded figures walking around the library.

Library Picture

The event was a big success! Thanks to the help of people like Jake TuckerSam Smith, Christos Reid, Jenni Goodchild, Jason Alan Dewey and a bunch of others, we managed to get a good few scares out of people and create a really creepy atmosphere.

Friday night was fun, video game karaoke at a pub in Nottingham. It was weird to be surrounded by a load of industry people I look up to all getting drunk and singing their hearts out. I also played a rather heated game of boop with C418… I’m not sure which one of us actually won the game in the end, but now we’re having a poke war on Facebook and I don’t think it’s ever gonna end.

Whilst the week was somewhat spoiled for me due to a really distressing and stressful situation in my personal life, I really enjoyed the events that I did end up going to. I’d like to thank all my friends who kept me from having a mental breakdown, you’re all awesome and I look forward to seeing you next year.

#LD30 ‘Going Postal’ Post-Mortem

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

After a long week of making sure that Alex gets on with her final year coursework, building Minecraft server transport networks and making new enemies for Hashtag Dungeon; I thought it’d be nice to take part in Ludum Dare 30 with a few friends.

For those who don’t know, Ludum Dare is a big, weekend long game jam where loads of people from around the world come together and make games and then show them to one another in order to be judged. It’s pretty awesome and this is the second time I’ve managed to find time to do one.

I called up my friends Mark Boyde-Shaw and Amelia George to see if they wanted to join me in making a game, they accepted and joined me at my house for a weekend of excellent game development work!

After waiting up till 2am on Saturday for the theme to be revealed (the theme was ‘Connected Worlds’) the three of us spent a good hour or so discussing possible ideas. These ranged from a horror game where you slowly bring more ghosts into a house by destroying wards, to a crazy planet destroying simulator. Eventually we all agreed on an interesting idea and swiftly moved to our respective beds to sleep.

Morning came and the three of us reconvened in the living room to start work. Mark had been very busy overnight working on a possible storyline for our game, the elevator pitch for the game (entitled ‘Going Postal’) is as follows:

You are a mailman on a small planet with a few houses on it. You deliver mail to houses in order to connect the people who live there together. You can however, choose to deliver mail to the wrong house in order to cause absolute chaos within the small community.

Amelia got to work immediately on making art assets for the game. I went to work on programming the main part of the game with the little help of some placeholder programmer artwork (yes, I do the art for #Dungeon and no, I don’t care that this art is terrible in comparison):

LD30_Pic1

I went into the game jam feeling pretty lazy and I wasn’t really looking to have very pretty code… so in the end I may or may not have put almost all the code into one giant script attached to the planet. This caused a few major problems later on in the evening but for the most part everything worked out fine so I am not too bothered about it. Game jam code is always disgusting.

Over the course of the day, Mark wrote out all the possible letters we wanted to have in the game and the outcomes of each of them. He then printed them off and cut them out in order to arrange them into a cohesive story. PHYSICAL PROTOTYPING FTW!

LD30_Pic2

Once we had an order of letters that we all agreed upon, I set about adding them into the game. It was a very time consuming part of the jam which went on for several hours. Each letter had several recipients who each had different writing styles, letter artwork and house locations around the planet – some of them also had special events tied to them.

It was around this time we also started replacing my horrific excuse for placeholder art with Amelia’s glorious artwork – the tiny microplanet town of Dreamsdale was born:

LD30_Pic3

Mark and I worked on giving each of the characters a believable and unique personality. There were a total of eight characters living on the planet in the end:

  • King Harold IV – The pompous king who is loud, bold and brash. He lives in the palace.
  • Queen Anne III – The wife of Harold who we based around Mrs. Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances. She also lives in the palace.
  • Daisy ‘Sugarplum’ Dumpling – The baker who has the personality of a particularly annoying american teenage girl. She lives in the cute gingerbread house.
  • Sergeant R Murphy – A war veteran who has seen his share of horrors in a ‘Great War’ – he is a no-nonsense soldier who doesn’t like to express his feelings. He lives in the fortified bunker.
  • Mr Frank Fisher – The town fisherman who lives on a small boat in the only lake on the planet. He is a kind natured man who likes poetry and the outdoors.
  • Mr Boris Bletchley – The manager of Dreamsdale’s waste disposal and energy plant. He is a perverted old man who smells horrible – but he’s trying to turn over a new leaf.
  • Dr Eugene Egbert – The geeky scientist who moved to the planet in order to study the local area. He doesn’t really get other people. His letters are all typed in the same manner as Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck (A, I, and E replaced by 4, 1, and 3, respectively). He lives in a hi-tech tree house.
  • Sister Jane Jazzpunk – A nun who is also a talented musician. She is always looking for more people to donate to the church and spread the word of her god. She lives in the church.

Of course we didn’t manage to get everything we wanted to into the game. We wanted it so that if you sent letter to the wrong houses then the world would change slightly in appearance. We also didn’t manage to add all the ending cutscenes we wanted. The options on the letters were also not particularly clear to players, and could have used some work.

Luckily we also managed to get in touch with our friend Will Bryce, who frequently writes music for our games. He managed to come up with a cute little tune to play in the background of the game. Adding music and sound really brought the game to another level of juiciness.

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All in all the game jam went well, we took it easy and had plenty of rest breaks. We didn’t want to burn ourselves out doing a full 24 hours straight and I think it really was beneficial because the end result was far less buggy than I’d expected. The feedback we’ve had on the Ludum Dare website has been incredibly encouraging. I look forward to seeing our final scores!

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

Hashtag Dungeon Launch Week!

So it’s been a week since we launched Hashtag Dungeon so I thought i’d do a little post about how it’s gone so far and the problems we’ve encountered over the week.

Launch day was incredibly hectic for me and Kieran. We were finding and fixing bugs till about 11:00 that night. Unfortunately it was also the day that Sky Broadband in Lincolnshire decided to stop working – completely. Kieran had to upload the final build of the game at about 2:30 in the morning via is phone. I was up till 3:30am getting the itch.io store front set up properly.

Oh… and Kieran had to go and get the banner from the printers halfway through the day because they’d managed to mess up printing in twice and it was almost not ready for when we needed it…

London Anime Gaming Convention

This late launch would all have been fine if we didn’t have to be up at around 5-6am in order to get to London for the London Anime and Gaming Convention 2014… so there was absolutely no time for a lie in! Luckily we were in good spirits and managed to (with the aid of coffee) make it to London in time for set up. Many thanks to Tom, one of our most excellent musicians, for driving us down in the car.

Myself, Tom and Kieran sitting proudly behind our booth at LAC!

LAC was very exciting for all of us! It was our first experience of running a booth at an actual convention. I’d like to thank Pia for helping us arrange getting a table for the convention – we couldn’t have done it without you!

You might be thinking, “Surely going to a convention the day after release might be a bad idea? Surely you won’t have access to your builds if there’s a problem with the version online?” – Yes, yes it was a bad idea. It was only a matter of time before my phone started going crazy with tweets from people who weren’t able to download the game. It turns out that because i’d included a ‘#’ in the uploaded file name people weren’t able to download it from the itch.io servers. Whoops…

Some Bad Stuff Happened

Whilst I was at the convention the booth opposite us (manned by Ubisoft and GAME) decided they were going to do a free giveaway. I was manning the booth alone because it was too expensive for the other guys to come back for a second day, so I was naturally a little on edge about looking after all the equipment around me. Crowds gathered to get free swag and the guys on the other booth decided that they’d throw out PHYSICAL COPIES of random games into the crowd. One of them landed on the Hashtag Dungeon table… people turned and piled towards me in order to grab the game, knocking our banner and almost pushing my laptops off the table onto the floor. I wasn’t happy at all.

Oh yeah and then I also got assaulted on the underground and had a bunch of other personal problems occurred over the week that left me feeling awful. I became pretty unproductive because I was really upset. I think karma was balancing itself out again because of the buzz I got from the launch! I’m okay now though – much more stable. Thanks to Louise, Alex, Richard, Byron and Christos for being there for me. I don’t often have particularly emotional weeks but occasionally everything becomes too much for my brain to compute.

Soft Launch

We decided we’d go for a soft launch and not actively contact sites like Polygon yet because we want to make sure the servers are able to handle the load over time. We were worried that if we got a massive surge of people playing in the first week we might end up having problems we wouldn’t be able to deal with quickly. We wanted to avoid a situation like other online-based games have on launch.

Having a soft launch has been excellent because we’ve been able to deal with bug reports on a one-on-one basis. If we’d had loads more people playing we’d probably get spammed with the same bug report over and over again. It’s nice to have a small community at this point as we can talk to them all directly.

Kieran has been amazing at responding to and fixing bugs. He’s worked tirelessly every day fixing things and communicating with players who are having issues. He’s even finished the first version of the Hashtag Dungeon launcher that allows us to push updates out to our players quickly and easily. I want to thank him for being the best co-developer ever, he’s been amazing. He’s been really on the ball whilst I’ve been feeling pretty down.

Coming Soon

I’m going to be at the Loading Bar on Monday showing the game off at a big event! Thanks to Failnaut for inviting me along to show the game off! I’m really excited for it – hopefully we’ll get some interest in the game and maybe sell a few more copies!

I’m also working on making the bosses in the game harder. One of the new bosses I’ve just added is The Infernal Soul Organ. Good luck trying to take him on… it’s not a boss that shows much mercy:

SoulOrgan

We also have a tutorial video coming soon with wonderful voice over work by my good friend Greg. I’m looking forward to hearing it! It should give non-players a better idea of how people make dungeons.

If you’ve not played the game and are interested then you can buy it from our website! The current build is Alpha 1.3.2 and once you’ve purchased the game you’ll get access to all updates afterwards for free! Supporting us now means that we’ll be able to continue to make the game bigger and better.