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.)

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.

My Thoughts On: A Machine For Pigs

I have a confession to make: I never finished the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Why? Because of several reasons:

  1. I was a great deal younger and therefore my ability to man the fuck up was severely hindered.
  2. I was playing the game in the dark and with my best friend Mark, who was also unable to man the fuck up. In fact his jumping and breathing down my neck made things worse for me.
  3. We saw the first gatherer and after jumping out of the chair and yanking the mouse out of its USB port decided we’d come back and play it again later.
  4. We never came back to play it again later.

But I did get around to watching Jesse Cox’s wonderful play-through of it. So I didn’t miss out on the story or anything like that. I respected the fear inducing pursuits of the monsters and the creepy warping of the insanity meter. I loved the large levels with multiple rooms and paths.. and I really hoped that they’d make a new one.

So when I heard The Chinese Room were making the new one my first thought was “I don’t know if it’ll be as scary… but it’ll be damn pretty.”  When I saw it had a steampunk Victorian vibe I was pretty excited (I have a distinct love for steampunk…)

I’ve played it through now from start to finish. So I’m going to list my thoughts on it below – I’ve separated them into good and bad points to make it easier for anyone who reads this:

Good Points

I really liked the story (despite having guessed where it was going very early on…) It was creepy, sickening and macabre – it was definitely what I wanted from an Amnesia game. I’ve been told by a few people that they don’t think the ties between this game and the original are strong enough – but I think the references to the original game were just right without being too annoyingly in your face. I liked how they dared to be perverse in their storytelling  when so many games don’t dare to get anywhere close to that. I was engaged by it from start to finish and I liked the ending a great deal.

The setting of the game was beautifully done. I wouldn’t have expected any less from The Chinese Room, though. They really brought grimy industrial London to life. The levels were sufficiently terrifying and I was constantly impressed by the attention to detail in their grand design.

Enemy design was wonderful… the pig men were gross and their effect on the lights always made me think twice before going down a small corridor. There was one particular enemy type close to the end that REALLY caused me to panic in utter terror.

I liked the removal of the insanity, oil and health meters – it allowed to me focus more on the world and the issues at hand instead of fumbling around inside an inventory. Come to think of it the lack of inventory in general really helped to immerse me deeper into the game.

Bad Points

It was too damn short… I was surprised how quickly I managed to plow through it. I was even taking regular Facebook and food breaks to ensure I didn’t die from a heart attack or something.

The really terrifying enemy type I mentioned earlier is only used right at the end of the game for a few encounters. This is a real shame because it was a damned good heavy hitter. Now I know that using it more might have made it lose its impact… but it seemed a shame that it came and went so quickly.

The levels in the game were far too linear… it lacked a great deal of the exploration that made the first Amnesia so interesting. This linearity made the puzzles exceptionally easy too as the solutions to problems were normally a room or two away instead of far on the other side of the level. Hiding from the pig men was something that I would only have to do in order to progress past a certain location instead of in the original Amnesia where they were an ever-present threat. I think this made the game less scary as I knew there was always bound to be an obvious way past the creatures because I needed to get to the area behind them.

Man pigs raping small children is never going to be okay. You hear me? Never.

This Little Piggy Had A Conclusion

A Machine For Pigs is a most excellent game, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was genuinely terrifying at some moments and thats what I expected from the game. The story was most interesting and enthralling and was played out quite nicely through the use of notes and voice recorders. I would definitely say it lacks some of the things that made the original Amnesia so nerve-wrackingly terrifying but it does a good job of making you jump once in a while. It feels like a decent successor to the first and in an age where sequels never live up to the originals it does hold itself quite well. Nice work The Chinese Room… nice work indeed.