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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#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

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.