Hitpoint Games – Progress Update

I thought it might be a good idea to write a little blog post to talk about what is going on at Hitpoint Games; what our current plans are, what we are doing at the moment and what you have to look forward to this year.

Let’s start with Hashtag Dungeon: myself and Kieran have been doing postgraduate degrees so unfortunately development has stalled since last December. We had plans to bring out a bunch of different updates but decided against it so that we have one massive update before we release on Steam that’s jam packed with new stuff for both old and new players to try out. We’re returning to full time development in August when I move up to Lincoln, we’re looking at a late September release on Steam.

As part of the new update we have overhauled all of the user interfaces to make them easier to use. We’ve added a bunch of new traps and enemies and fixed a lot of renderings bugs. We’re also putting in different classes to play as: The Ninja, The Blood Mage, The Hunter, The Paladin and The Robot, to name a few – these will shake up the way you play the game and how you tackle certain enemies and situations.

So yeah: Hashtag Dungeon, on Steam by hopefully the end of September. We are definitely going to need some beta testers so I suppose we’ll release the update early on itch.io and ask people to help test it for us.

Secondly: Utopian – now called Utopia-N (based on the nth term of something…) has had a few changes. We’ve decided (for the moment) to remove the Wikipedia ties – the reason for this is that Wikipedia’s edits aren’t reliable enough to generate exciting and interesting gameplay: a lot of the time you’ll end up flying around a space without any enemies spawning because no one is vandalising Wikipedia at the time.

We’ve also made the decision to try and make it into a mobile game. We think it would be really cool to get something out on mobile which is exciting to play and also graphically impressive. We spent this weekend getting the controls nailed down and now we’re getting in the core gameplay. It should prove to be a really fun mobile game without any of the general awfulness of traditional mobile games.

Moving swiftly on, let’s discuss LUST: we’re currently working on the design document for this and I’ve drawn a lot of concept art for it. It’s not really safe for work though, so I’m not going to post it up on here until I finish teaching for the year. The game is going to be a procedurally generated FPS with a old-school aesthetic: nice low-poly enemies with pixelly textures. I’m really digging the way it’s looking and I’m excited to show you some screenshots of the level generation system when I get back from holiday!

Finally we’re still working on Nectar Collector alongside Andrew Deathridge. He’s just taking a break after having finished his course and should be back on the development in the next few weeks. It’s a game about bees, so I am happy about it no matter what happens.

The rest of this year will be a super exciting one for Hitpoint Games, we’re going to be releasing our first game on Steam and we’ve got a bunch of other projects simmering away. We are also accepting client work for the first time since opening our doors, which is a great way to keep us afloat whilst we continue doing this crazy little thing called game development. I’m really pleased to be spearheading things alongside Kieran and I’m sure you’ll all be pleased with what we’re working on.

#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!)

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.