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.

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#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.

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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

#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):

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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!

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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:

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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!)

#1GAM February – “Hideous” Character Update

I had a little meet up with Alex and Amelia on Friday and we discussed the character for Hideous. Amelia did some amazing conceptual pieces based on a bunch of random creepy-pasta images I bombarded her with. We decided on parts of each monster to take forward into the next iteration of the character design:

Amelia's Monster Concept

We’re adding in more code to improve the way in which players see one another in varying light levels, this should make the game more fair when it comes to seeing one another in the maze. Kirt is working hard on making more models in order to make the environment more interesting. Things are coming together beautifully!

Oh and I’m uploading (fairly) recent test-builds here if you want to see the game being created.

#1GAM Lincoln Meet-Up Number 1

So today we had our first official meet-up of students who are thinking about doing #1GAM at The University Of Lincoln. We started off with a quick listen to @McFunkypants’s keynote and then proceeded to have a chat about how things were going to go down!

We each took turns writing down themes and putting them into a hat in order to give ourselves some inspiration – this then devolved into me pulling them out and reading them aloud. We settled on the idea of using one of the themes as a ‘main theme’ and then each choosing one of the others as a complimentary one. The main theme we chose was “Underwater” so I’m looking forward to some really nice looking games coming out of it!

Since we only have a little while to work on our January games (having left it a little late…) the majority of the group seemed to be thinking about making something reasonably simple to get them into the swing of things. Next month’s meeting is on the first, so we should get a really nice bunch of games made for February.

Lincoln Students Doing #1GAM?

One Game A Month Keynote by McFunkypants:

This is just a quick blog post to alert any Lincoln Computing (or non-computing as the case may be…) that tomorrow is my first meet-up session for #onegameamonth – an on-line quest to make one game each month for the whole year! If you’re interested in making games and want to take up the challenge then please do come along!

A number of students have expressed an interest in working on the “one game a month” (#1GAM) online competition, which is designed to encourage people make more games.
More detailed information about the event can be found at the website: http://www.onegameamonth.com

The complabs have been booked out for bi-weekly #1GAM meetings on Fridays from 5PM to 7PM, in order to help competitors meet, discuss and create ideas and games for #1GAM.

If you are interested in participating, why not come along to the first meeting, this Friday?
This could be a perfect time to find people to work with in a team or to discuss your ideas with like minded designers!

For more information on the meet-ups send an email to Sean Oxspring at Sean.Oxspring@hotmail.com or send a tweet to @OxyOxspring

DATES FOR MEET-UPS:

18-01-2013, 01-02-2013, 15-02-2013, 01-03-2013, 15-03-2013, 29-03-2013, 12-04-2013, 26-04-2013

Now I know you might have some assignments and things right now – but consider this as a little challenge to not only improve your coding skills but also your portfolio of games! I’m planning on doing  most of my entries in a 48 hour stint during one weekend of the month… so I think that if you tried to do that kind of thing too you wouldn’t have much trouble fitting it into a hectic student schedule!

Even if you just have a passing interest in maybe taking part… I hope to see you there!

(Oh… and OneGameAMonth is ran by @McFunkyPants – you should totally follow him on Twitter because he is pretty cool and I think he has an awesome voice.)

My First Ludum Dare Is Over!

So I just submitted my finalised build of the game to the Ludum Dare website. It’s probably got more bugs than I can shake a stick at, but I’ve fixed as many as I could find in the last few hours and added as much visual polish as I could. It’s now time to pack for tomorrow’s trip to Wolverhampton for teaching stuff and then put my feet up and have a cup of tea. I am knackered!

I proudly present “THE EVIL REVEAL” a game in which you play an evil CEO who has plans for world domination. You are about to present your evil plans to the company’s board of investors… hoping that they’ll all fall into line and become your evil minions. Unfortunately for you: All of your employees have consciences, and will eventually become scared of your insanely evil ramblings. When they get too scared, they’ll attempt to flee the room and alert the authorities! Luckily, you have an array of dastardly traps set up in order to kill and maim your enemies!

Evil Plan Reveal

So here’s a little post mortem from my first attempt at a Ludum Dare:

What Went Well:

  • Programming/Designing Speed: The time-period I had to make the game was quite tight, not only due to the 48 hour limit but also I had some other things on at the time… I’ll talk about them in the second section.
  • Idea Generation: I came up with quite a few ideas in the morning for the game I was going to make, but I’d like to thank Alex Saye for providing me with the inspiration for the final version of my game by showing me this Mitchell and Webb comedy sketch.
  • Graphics: I really like the style I achieved in this game, I was going for a style similar to that of Lone Survivor. I think it works quite well and its definitely different from what I normally do when it comes to art in games… not to say that my traditional style menu screen didn’t pop-up like usual.

What Didn’t Go Well:

  • Lack of OOP methodology: I’m afraid I slipped quickly into a non-object oriented approach quite quickly when I started this project, unfortunately meaning I ended up with LOADS of arrays for storing different Board Member variables (like whether they were on fire or if they were dead.) One day I’ll learn to pre-plan my classes… but right now my clsSprite.cs file has never really done me wrong!
  • Going Out Drinking: I kinda might have gone out drinking with friends on Saturday night. This probably cut out a massive amount of time I could have used to make the game better. But I feel that I made up for it by coding til about 6AM afterwards though.
  • Sleeping In: Pretty self explanatory – I’m in serious need of a fixed sleep pattern as I keep waking up at midday. Like with the point above this cut deeply into my possible coding and asset creation time.
  • Balancing Issues: The final game is a little broken if you play it right. The flame-thrower is really OP right now and it spreads like wildfire between the Board Members and always guarantees a kill. It kinda makes the Tesla Coil useless… but it’s still a lot of fun to hear a loud zap noise as the people get killed by it.
  • Lack of AI: I considered having some form of AI to allow the board members to avoid getting hit by certain traps. It would have been really cool to see them avoid traps that they’ve seen other board members get nabbed by – unfortunately due to time constraints and my lack of path-finding knowledge this was to remain a dream!

Just to finish things off, here is a trailer for the game that I whipped up in about ten minutes: