Progress, Level Edition and Game Jam’s Feedback

This week I would like to talk about three different topics, the progress I’ve been making on the games I’m creating, the status of the Unity Level Editor and some thoughts on the past Ludum Dare 38 experience.

Progress

Fiery Squirrel is currently working on a couple of games. One of them is (tentatively) called Zin, which is the game that is benefiting from the new tile editor. There is also another game I mentioned in previous posts, Kuon’s Saga, developed in collaboration with Gabriel Uguet, illustrator and creator of Serpentarius, an online comic.

ZIN

Zin is a action-puzzle game that narrates the story of a little creature unable to move by itself due to a magic curse. The creature needs to recover its powers and escape from its captors. This is a very simple game for computer and consoles that involves mastering different kinds of abilities and gameplay mechanics.

The game is still in very early stage of development, I’m currently focused on designing and testing the first level, including concept art, sounds, etc. The game is divided in four different chapters, each one with four levels.

In case you are curious, you can play a very early prototype made for Ludum Dare some time ago in Newgrounds. The game now includes many more things and it’s bigger but the essence is still the same.

For this week, the focus was to create and test levels with the new editor, which is really helping a lot with the new tiles and perspective of the art. I hope next will show some new screenshots and progress.

Kuon’s Saga

This is a game that has been in development for some time, despite its simplicity and its casual nature, we created different versions of the game and tested too many things on a very slow development pace.

The game is planned to be released for free at some point next month and will include one level with 24 waves for players to enjoy. Progressively, depending on players’ feedback and reactions, we will keep adding new content with new levels and challeneges. This will be available for Android and iOS.

This week has been basically working on completing all the final elements for the gameplay, including graphical stuff and level design. By next week we will have a very solid demo to show.

Level Edition

I have good news about the Unity Tile Editor. All the basic functionality is already working properly and we submitted it for approval to the Unity Asset Store. The editor will be free and available for people to download.

This first version is a beta that will be expanded in the upcoming weeks, there are a lot of things to improve, from the functionality side of the editor to the usability, we plan to add new stuff to help automatize cumbersome tasks and create levels faster and easier.

For all of you that are interested in the details on how was the editor created, I’ll be posting details about the code in future articles. If you have specific questions, please let me know.

The video shows all the current features that will be available for people when the asset is approved on the Asset Store.

Game Jam’s Feedback

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was part of the Ludum Dare 38 three weeks ago. After playing a lot of different games and receiving feedback from people on the game I made, I have some thoughts that might be useful for people making games out there.

First of all I want to thank people for their observations, getting feedback is really nice and one of the reasons I like participating in this event. Comments from people really help improving our work, they show us a perspective that we probably do not have or just different ideas that enrich our way of thinking.

Feedback

When I talk about feedback, it’s not only players’ comments, ideas and bug reports. Feedback is also related to that concept of making your game react to the player’s input and be able to clearly show in the screen or  through speakers what is going on in your game.

I decided to talk a little about this because my most recurrent comment on other people’s games was exactly that: “it would improve a lot if it had more feedback”.

And this is something that I really think developers can easiy do. Feedback does not really require super high art making skills or 3D modeling years of experience, this is all about the feeling of the game, this is related to showing the status of the game in a very clear way.

In SORLD for example, although I know there is a lot to improve and much more feedback to add, the basic actions have clear feedback and they were implemented in very few time. Shooting, being hit, recovering, dying and making progress are some of the basic actions that this game includes and they were represented with particles, screen shake, sprite rotation, sound effects, etc.

Seriously, with few changes on the feedback side, adding particles, sound effects, changing the rotation a little, zooming in and out, in most of the cases make the game feel much better and meaninful and it’s not really a difficult thing to do.

Jan Willem Nijman from Vlambeer has more experience than me on this topic and he gave a nice talk about “Game Feel” which is related to what I mentioned here. Enjoy the talk if you haven’t already and hope this helps you make better games!

This was basically it for this week. A lot of things going on, I’m trying to keep people up to date about what we are doing here and get some comments on what would be interesting to talk about for future post.

Have a great weekend!

Progress, Level Edition and Game Jam’s Feedback

Fluff Eaters: The Journey

As I mentioned in the previous post, I would like to talk about the creation of Fluff Eaters and Collow, my two first released games. I’m going to start with Fluff Eaters this time and, in the next post, something very short about Collow and then will be focused on OpenFL.

Before these two games, I worked in a couple of projects: Kamicats, Lost in Spice that will be added to the section of games soon. These were projects made for Dream Build Play, a contest sponsored by Microsoft to create games in XNA. Illustrations and part of the game design was made by Gabriel Balda. These projects were submitted to Dream Build Play, did not win and were not finished but I learned a lot from them.

KamiCats
KamiCats: DBP 2011
won
Lost in Spice: for DBP 2010

In addition, I worked on more projects that were not finished, one for a JavaFX contest and a couple of game jams too.

Hourglass
Hourglass: JavaFX Contest 2008
Pandamonium
Pandamonium: Game Jam 2011
Caramelo
Caramelo: Ludum Dare 2011

All of them will be added to the games section later, if you have questions about the development of any, please let me know. All of them, except Caramelo, were drawn and animated by Gabriel.

The idea

After working on unfinished projects, in the end of 2011 I had an idea about making a new game, something I wanted to create and complete, promote and sell. Of course the market for mobile games was growing and everybody was making games for it so I decided to think about an interesting idea and give it a try.

Playing some games at that time, I thought that many of them were not intended to the platform they were running on, a lot of those games were just ports made different patforms to mobile, adding controllers to mimic gamepads and somehow (as a player) it didn’t feel “right”, something was missing, so I said: well, let’s think about something I like, that is designed for touchscreen devices.

I searched about traditional games in my country, things that were not tried before, things from my childhood and the idea of Jacks came to my mind. After thinking a lot about a possible gameplay for this, the core mechanics, etc, I started to search on the markets, to see if somebody did something similar before and, surprisingly, I found nothing.

Jacks
Jacks

Prototypes

The beginning of the next year I started working on prototypes for Fluff Eaters, the earliest version of the game looked like this:

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/UFGsJis-GOQ” width=”320″ height=”240″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

I tested a lot of things with it, controllers, feedback, some simple levels, etc.

While I was working on this early prototype, I thought about the narrative and story behind the game as well. Since it’s a casual game, I wanted something simple, made different sketches, tested a lot of things and ended up with this:

Paws City
Early sketch of Paws City
Sand Land
Early sketch of Sand Land

Looks like ugly art but it was very helpful when I discussed about the art with the illustrators.

Pokki 2012 / HTML5

While I was working on these prototypes, a contest to launch a new platform that was based on HTML5 was promoted and with it, my decision to put more efforts on the idea. I decided to participate in this contest for two reasons: one, an “excuse” to work seriously on the game and two, to learn HTML5.

I contacted Tamara Hadeed (Miss Uh!) and Alejandro González (X2terra) to work on the graphics of the game (as freelancer illustrators). In addition, Stefano Merino (@stefmerino) accepted to work on the project as well, and composed original soundtracks for the gameplay, main theme and an additional theme (which will be used in the new mode).

Since the beginning of the project, Gabriel Balda contributed in a lot of aspects of the game, from graphic design decisions (although Tamara and Alejandro made the illustrations and animations, small things had to be fixed as well and of course changes through time, Gabriel helped a lot here), to the website of the game (which was completely designed and coded by him).

Pokki
Pokki 2012

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/99UFe6nl8co” width=”320″ height=”240″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

Dream Build Play 2012 / XNA

The game did not win the Pokki contest but was very useful to have a solid base on what the gameplay and all its features became later.

In the middle of the same year, Dream Build Play was launched one more time and I thought: well, if the game was really intended to mobiles in the first place, why not creating a Windows Phone Version and let’s try to submit something fot the contest this year.

In fact I made a new version of the game (crazy, I know) but as every other thing that could be called a mistake, for me was… a different way of learning and definetely I learned a lot of things from it.

The reason to not keep working on this version of the game? well, Microsoft decided to change the main language of its new Windows Phone at that time to C++ and, since the game was already written in C#, instead of looking for any way to port it easily to the new platform, I decided to put aside that version and started looking for a good framework to work on Android and iOS, which is the thing that I probaly should have done from the beginning.

It was true learning, I had the opportunity to playtest more and more, having the chance to see my mistakes in design and to think about the future of the game.

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/nrbkYNu9kdE” width=”320″ height=”240″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

IndieCade

The game kept evolving and with it, more opportunities to show it to people from the industry. In spite of the early version of the game, I decided to send it to IndieCade and had the opportunity to get feedback from people that know a lot about games and got a chance to be part of the festival. This was the beginning of many awesome experiences, from sharing thoughts to other fellow developers, to making important contacts on the industry, including publishers, other developers and media.

In addition, being part of the festival, attending to talks, playing other people’s games, are experiences that definetely help you grow in this field. I recommend it 100% to anybody who is making games, it’s a great experience.

Using feedback from people of the IndieCade, the jurors and other developers, the game changed from what you saw in the previous iteration to the next one, new types of platforms, new elements, puzzles created to give another level of challenge to the game, etc. All these things really enriched the game in many different ways.

IndieCade
IndieCade

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/Ci4jsfraE28″ width=”320″ height=”240″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

Final Version

The “final” version of the game, as I already mentioned, was made in OpenFL which is a framework that allows you to create games in one language (Haxe) and export it to a variety of platforms, including the ones I was interested in for Fluff Eaters (Android and iOS).

I don’t want to talk about details here since I’m going to explain about the process of development in future posts and will be mainly focused on OpenFL. If you have any particular question regarding this topic, feel free to do it on the comments.

The framework is very good (although sometimes is a headache), its performance (which was one of the things that worried me the most) is good, if you know how things work and what to do to get the best of it, you can get good results.

OpenFL
OpenFL
Paws City
Paws City

 

Tokyo Game Show 2013 / GamExpo 2013

This is, of course, one of the most interesting things that have happened with the game since its creation, the Tokyo Game Show and GamExpo are two events where the game was presented to the public. A lot of people from different backgrounds, countries, ages, played the game and I had the possibility to see how they reacted to it, emotions, comments, feedback, something that is incredibly good to improve your work.

I wanted to mention this to point out the importance of promoting your game, no matter where, no matter how, it’s not important if the event is not the biggest one in the world, you have to get noticed somehow, see people’s reactions while they play, get them interested about what you are doing and the experience of getting contact with your players.

Besides players, you have a chance to see what others are making, play with their games, talk to them about the development and their experiences, talk about yours, meet publishers, media, people from the industry, etc.

If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate, do it, you will not regret it.

Tokyo Game Show 2013
Gamexpo
GamExpo

Release

The game was released in July, this year, you can get it from Google Play, the iOS version is still in development and new features will be added to both version of the game.

[iframe src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/V6x-3i9F58s” width=”320″ height=”240″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]

I was not planning to make such a long post but wanted to give you a good introduction to what the story behind the game was.

There are a lot of details that are not covered here, of course, if you have any particular interest on something related to any of the tools used or want me to talk about something specific in future posts, let me know.

Next post will cover very briefly the making of Collow and its future and the first post about OpenFL: basics, probably will be talking about sprites, sounds, etc, if there is anything you want to know, let me know.

Fluff Eaters: The Journey