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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Oxy’s Top 10 Of 2015

It’s that time of year again for me to put together an arbitrary list of my favorite games from this year. Please remember these are the games I most enjoyed playing and I’ve not played everything that came out this year and as such this is a very personal list that probably won’t have everything you’d expect on it (for example Undertale as I’ve not played it yet).

Splatoon

Genuinely the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game in some time. It was the reason I bought a Wii U and I don’t regret it at all. I love the way the ink looks too – whoever programmed that shader needs a medal.

Bloodborne

I suck at this game, but I adore everything about it. I love the enviroments, lore and the fact that it has done survival horror with Lovecraftian elements so damn well.

Party Hard

Who’d have thought a game about murdering obnoxious people at a party would be so cathartic? I went into this game not knowing much about it, but I had a lot of fun with it and still haven’t unlocked everything.

Mushroom 11

I first played Mushroom 11 last year at Eurogamer, I was instantly captured by its unique control system. It is a beautiful little game that you should totally check out if you have the chance.

Until Dawn

This game takes all the wonderfully cheesy tropes of teen horror films and turns them into a grand adventure where each choice can lead to a horrific death. I am very happy that I had the chance to play through this with friends.

The Magic Circle

I’ve sang praise after praise for The Magic Circle. I loved it. You can check out my thoughts here.

Fallout 4 & Fallout Shelter

I’m a massive fan of the entire Fallout series and Fallout 4 did not disappoint. The ruins of Boston are really cool to explore and it develops so much lore that I’ve been theorizing about ever since Fallout 3. I’ve lumped in Fallout Shelter here too because it was potentially the only free to play game I’ve not felt conned into spending money on.

Downwell

Simple and elegant. Cheap and cheerful. Thoroughly enjoyable! This little rogue-like should be on your phone or computer immediately.

Cities: Skylines

This game is everything that SimCity should have been. It’s perfect. I have sank many an evening into building grand cities on this wonderful game. I’m so glad it exists.

Nuclear Throne

I FINALLY BEAT THIS DAMN GAME. YOU SHOULD ALL GO BUY IT. #BuyNuclearThrone

 

The Current Plan for Hashtag Dungeon

I’ve been getting periodic tweets and messages from people asking me what is going on with Hashtag Dungeon and when we’re going to be releasing on Steam. So I thought I’d give you some important information on it now to put your minds at ease.

So as you might know I was studying a postgraduate certificate of education before the summer. It was a really heavy workload and I didn’t have much time for game development myself – turns out having to plan five lessons every day in depth leaves you with very little time for anything other than sleep. I was also going through a bunch of awful personal stuff which left me questioning if I even wanted to continue making games altogether; all of that is sorted now but it really put a halt on development for a good few months. I’m now teaching computer science at Lincoln UTC and it’s great – I feel a lot less stressed and have much more time at the weekend and nights to work on game-related stuff.

Meanwhile Kieran was working on academic stuff over at The University of Lincoln as a research assistant so he’s been super busy too. But in about a week or so he’ll be finishing preparations for a big conference and can finally work full-time on the game for a while.

This isn’t to say that the game is in the same state as it was when we released the magic update last year, because it’s definitely different now. We’ve overhauled all the UIs, added lighting into the game and implemented a bunch of new enemies, backgrounds and traps. Originally we planned to release all these different things as little updates a la Minecraft, but we thought why not pool them all together for a massive Steam-release update so that new players get an awesome experience and old players have a tonne of new things to mess around with. We didn’t want to release on Steam half-finished because that just seemed like a bad idea in general.

How it used to look:

Screenie3

How it looks now:

Lighting Update

We’ve also put in a class system that lets you run through dungeons as a bunch of different characters including:

  • The Exotic Blood Mage
  • The Boastful Paladin
  • The Ancient Robot
  • The Mysterious Ninja

Each of these classes brings a different strategy to the game, and some classes will be able to tackle different dungeons easier than others. It’s going to be interesting to see which classes people prefer to play as!

So what’s the Plan?

So yeah this is the most important part of this post, the current plan for the game and what we’re looking to do:

  • We are looking to release the full 1.0 Hashtag Dungeon update onto itch.io on the 30 of September, roughly three weeks from now. We will be sending a message out to all current players to let them know it’s out so they can play it.
  • We will then attempt to fix all the bugs the community finds and prepare the Steam version of the game once we are happy that the game is as stable as possible.
  • We release on Steam as soon as that build is ready. and then give out Steam keys to everyone who needs one.

I’m really happy with how things look and I’m really looking forward to getting player feedback. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get the game onto Steam considering we got greenlit in December, but life is full of little distractions and road-bumps that make it hard to work on something like this full-time.

#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!

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.

Updating The Blog! (It’s been a while…)

So its been quite a while since my last blog post… theres a good few reasons for that and I’ll list them below. None of them are bad of course – in fact I’d say all the reasons for me being off the radar are pretty awesome and cool. It’s been a very eventful university semester.

Firstly, I completed and handed in my dissertation on visual variety in crowd simulations. I’m pretty happy with how it went… the project was completed on time and the results gathered by the evaluation supported the changes I’d made to the agent’s model in the world. You can read the full project report here, hopefully you won’t find any mistakes in it (if you do… please don’t tell me as it’ll make me panic.)

Secondly, I completed my last two assignments of the year:

  • A games design document for a ‘critical’ game looking at illicit gun-running, capitalism and dictatorships. The player assumes the role of an unscrupulous arms dealer who travels to a fictional island in order to make money off of the war brewing between two countries.
  • A pathfinding assignment in which I implemented a pre-baked pathfinding solution in order to simulate more agents at runtime… it allowed for the simulation to have 20,000+ agents moving around all at once.

Thirdly, myself and the rest of my wonderful council at the university’s anime society (JAMS) put on a big event in the university’s bar called ‘LinCON’ – we had a load of things going on such as an artists alley, a sumo suit arena, sushi, origami and calligraphy. It was a great night and from all the feedback I’ve received everyone had a great time. I’d specifically like to thank Pia Davison from Lucky-Con for taking a big chunk of her free time out in order to help us get ready in time!

Fourthly, it was my birthday last Friday so I had a wonderful party at The Shed, my local student pub. We took on the theme of “Steampunk… like a sir.” and I was most impressed with how good everyone looked in their shirts and dresses. I like my parties to be classy and with whiskeys and victory cigars this was no exception to that.

Certificate

Fifthly… and I think this is the biggest and most awesome news of this entire updateI’m lucky enough to now be the managing director of my own games company! I’ve literally been buzzing this whole week after receiving the news that I’m now in such a position at the age of twenty two. I’ve been in touch with a couple of initial clients and hopefully in the future Top Notch Studios will grow to be a well-known development company here in Britain!

Thank you for reading! I’m sure I’ll be doing more updates soon about other things I’m working on… and I’ll be typing up the next Laundry RP files soon when I get chance to!