Level Editor

 

I’ve been slowly working in a project for computer and console devices, a puzzle-action game based on a prototype I made for Ludum Dare back in 2013. The idea evolved quite a bit and I’m focused now on more puzzles and action, the idea actually changed a lot but the base is still the same.

 

Since last year I’ve been writing code for physics, gameplay, etc using OpenFL for this projects and after a while I decided to start working with Unity (I want to release the game for consoles as well and it seemed easier). The game involves big levels now and a lot of level creation, so I wanted to use a tool to create levels easy and simple, this really saves a lot of time when testing and changing features.

Inkscape

First I decided to use Inkscape as a level editor, the tool itself is very good and combined with its possibility of generating XML code from the elements you add to the document (graphically) it’s very handy. I wrote a small parser on Haxe for a small prototype I created last year, also used in the first version of this new project I’m currently working on.

It really worked very well when I was using OpenFL. After deciding to work with Unity, I also tried to do the same thing because I wanted to keep the levels separated from the game engine and also Inkscape itself runs faster and better when I’m focused on creating only levels. I wrote a parser in C# of the XML code that Inkscape generates and it worked well too.

Generally speaking, Inkscape is a really good tool for creating levels, it is lightweight and very flexible. Inkscape was also doing the basic functionality I needed from the editor but there was still work to do to really make it good enough for this project.

Unity and Custom editors

Since I’m still in the process of learning about Unity and all its features, I didn’t know you could customize the editor and include custom scripts to minimize the efforts when doing cumbersome or repetitive tasks.

This week while reviewing some code, I found out that you can actually create your own menus and customize a lot of things. So I decided to play a little bit with that and try to create a very small tile editor for this game.

After struggling a bit about understanding how to make everything work, I was able to put together the most basic functionality for the tile editor I wanted: adding tiles as fast as possible, having a grid that snapped tiles automatically to it, removing and moving tiles.

Having this functionality inside the editor while creating levels and the possibility of adding more stuff like rotation, layering, etc is really a great advantage if you want to save time and avoid doing repetitive tasks. I will keep improving what I have so far, keep posting about it and share it when it’s in a decent state for people to play with it.

Closing

Before writing this post I thought about detailed explaining how to write a parser for Inkscape and how to create a custom editor for Unity, however, I’m not really sure if it’s worth it. A lot of people have done this before and probably they explain it better than me.

If someone wants to know details about what I did, I’ll definitely explain everything step by step, meanwhile, you can check out the following links that helped me a lot understanding how to both processes work.

Once I clean up the code for the Unity editor I wrote and the Inkscape parser, I’ll upload them to my repository in Github.

Ah, in addition to the new project, Fiery Squirrel is also focused on this new mobile game: Kuon’s Saga, I’ll talk more about it soon!

Level Editor

SORLD: Ludum Dare 38

This will be a short post about the result of a game I made for Ludum Dare 38 last weekend. I will basically cover why did I decide to participate and how did I come up with the idea.

Why

Recently I’ve been very busy working on other projects that are planned to be released this year. However, after the theme was unvelied, I decided that if could find something that had a message I could transmit somehow (I want to make a full educational game in the future), I was going to participate.

In this case, I focused the brainstorming in two topics: what’s going on in Venezuela (my country) now  and global warming. I decided to go with the first topic because this is how I feel can contribute to what’s going on there, we can all contribute to a cause from different perspectives and my perspective is from the game development side.

How

The Jam lasts only two days and there was not a lot of time to decide what to do. As always I try to keep things as simple as possible and concentrate on a small idea.

important points for the game

  • Choose a message
  • Communicate the message clearly
  • Make something dynamic
  • Try as hard as possible make it fun
  • Polish as much as possible until the Jam is over

Message

As message, I just wanted people to be aware of what’s going on in other countries, make people think about what’s happening in other parts of the world. I wanted people to understand that despite the fact that we have different cultures, live in different places and have different ways of thinking, we all belong to the same planet and should care about each other.

I said earlier that I wanted to focus on what is happening in Venezuela and it’s true, however I also think it’s important to take a look at other countries because people are suffering everywhere.

communication

The message is communicated not only in an explicit way in the end of the game but also the whole mechanics are based on the idea of caring about others, helping and cooperating.

The rules of the game are:

  • Beat the aliens: To beat the aliens, members have to combine the power of their colors to attack
  • Stay alive: You need at least one house in your territory to respawn
  • You can attack any alien
  • You can give one of your houses away
  • You can repair your or someone else’s house

The game is made in a way that these rules are not explicitly taught. From the game you know you can move, grab and place houses, you can shoot and you can repair houses, but I don’t tell the player “to beat the aliens you need to cooperate”. The idea was that the player understood the rules by looking at the NPC or just using common sense.

The NPCs have different behaviors:

  • Attack an alien in my territory
  • If someone helps me, I’ll help too
  • Stay alive
  • Give the player a house if he is out of them

Since I didn’t have enough time to make things smoother, I included a condition to randomly decide to help someone sometimes, so the player could understand easier what to do.

Dynamism

The game is really simple. Since the theme of the jam was a small world, I just decided to make everything in a very small world created from four different parts. To add a fast pace, the aliens attack non-stop in a random way. In addition, all the NPCs work very hard to attack the aliens and try to stay alive too.

The focus here was trying to stay concentrated on the main message and make something enjoyable.

Polishing

After all the basic elements were complete, I just focus on trying to add things that improved the experience of players.

I think that when time is very limited like in a game jam, one should focus first on adding important feedback after finishing the basic mechanichs of the game. Shooting, receiving damage, reparing a house and subtle details to explain how to play were the core of this part.

Also the planet reacts to what is happening in the game, if it’s attacked, everything shakes and when something good happens (like defeating an alien), it winks.

These things are very small but they improve the experience of the game as a whole. I really wanted to put more efforts here but… not enough time.

Wrapping up

This is it, I wanted to make a small post and I feel it’s very long already, so to wrap up, this jam for me was different and interesting for the following reasons:

  • First time I base everything on communicating a message
  • First experience using Unity for a game jam
  • I tried to make simple but pretty graphics with a different palette of what I use to
  • Programming the NPC was a challenge but really fun

So if you have any questions, let me know.

You can visit the Ludum Dare 38 entry here and play the game online or download it in your computer.

By the way, I’ll still think about the idea for the global warming game, I think it’s an important issue.

 

SORLD: Ludum Dare 38

Collow: Work in Progress

Hello,

This is a quick post to keep you informed about what is going on with the project at the moment.

Code

As you probably would guess, Fluff Eaters left a lot of horrible code with it once I finally launched it in both platforms, Android and iOS. After the release, with less pressure and more time to work, I decided to separate all the core modules of Fluff Eaters in different modules for Haxe/OpenFL. Basically this is, breaking the code, making it modular and with that, be able to share it with as many projects as I want without creating new code.

I’m planning to explain roughly what everything does and, of course, give a proper documentation to it in the near future.

So far I’m only uploading everything separated to github and will keep updating it while I make progress.

If you are interested, here is the github link.

Media

These things are time consuming and there is no one else to do them but they have to be done anyway.

I updated the Collor’s website to something very simple with more information and the new design. Of course this is very basic but probably in the future it will get better depending on how things go.

I still have to fix it for mobile platforms but you can check it out here.

In addition, I updated the press kit for Fiery Squirrel and both games. For Collow it will get more stuff when the new trailer with new modes and stuff are done, you can visit it here.

screenshot4

New Stuff

There are a lot of new things in the game, at least a lot of new things to try, I haven’t implemented them all yet but for sure I will and, in case you are interested in being part of those tests, I’ll announce them when they are ready.

CHM6cJdUwAAvcNN
Brainstorming

Along with the Collow’s brainstorming, a lot of new ideas came up as well, ideas for new games, simple and easy to implement. When I finish separating everything (the code) in modules and it’s stable, I’ll probably try to prototype some ideas and share them here.

Let me know if there is anything in particular you want to know.

 

Collow: Work in Progress

See you later Bouncy!

Well, June is here and I finally have some time to make a new post.

Mainly I would like to share some final thoughts about Fluff Eaters, including downloads and sales in both platforms iOS and Android, the next project, prototype and future work.

Fluff Eaters

Keeping it simple and short, I will start with Fluff Eaters. We launched the iOS version a couple of weeks ago and we have some results now I would like to share. More from the experience than charts or numbers, I think it will be helpful.

Android

Let’s start with Android to compare. The Android version came in July last year, after presenting on Tokyo Game Show and GamExpo, the game was in development for enough time and was time to be released.

The expectations were not so high, first game we actually release, many things to experience and understand. From the promotion point of view and the overall attention it got, considering Fiery Squirrel is a tiny team, the results were very nice, some of them in Venezuela, and the rest in game review sites around the world. Generally speaking it was a good result.

From the economic point of view, the numbers are very low. For the paid version of the game, there are around 50 downloads, for the free version (which is not available anymore) with ads,  around 500 downloads, the free version generated almost zero profits.

Of course Fluff Eaters was not initially designed to be free, the free version was available for some time to test, basically.

iOS

First of all, I understand clearly that if a game is not properly promoted (featured on the App Store, has a good review in a big site, whatever gives it exposure), the game will not sell, Fluff Eaters was not featured on the App Store (at least not yet ;)), didn’t have much attention from the press but a couple of small mentions in Pocket Gamer and TouchArcade made the difference to get some downloads on the release date. Maybe for people used to release a lot of games, that’s a normal thing but since this is the first experience of this type, was quite good for us.

There were a couple of surprises on iOS, first, the game was featured on many Chinese sites, which was completely unexpected. In addition, the game was pirated a lot of times, we know that because we have Apple’s stats and some inner stats we created for ourselves plus the game center which gives us how many people are playing.

All of this translates into more than 350 people playing in less than three weeks, from which around 48 of them were actually bought and given away (promotional codes). I think that considering the game was not actually featured in the App Store, the promotion was not that big, the results are good, at least I’m happy with many people playing.

Thoughts about the results and how could they help?

  • Results from Google Play are clearly different from the ones from the App Store. In less than three weeks downloads in the App Store (for the paid version) were three times the downloads for Google Play
  • The promotion on the Chinese side was a big surprise, if I knew about that before, of course the strategy would have been different
  • Feature is everything in the market? I would say yes, if you wanna have a “successful game” whatever that sells, needs a very good exposure
  • Even though being featured is what brings you “success”, choosing the right strategy is very important. For example, from those 350 downloads, pirated, paid, gifts, whatever, if the game was free, people would be able to download it legally and review it, which I think is important… yes, I didn’t know that you could not review games that you downloaded using promotional codes (makes a lot of sense but didn’t consider it)
  • I personally like games you paid once with no in-app purchases, no ads. Clearly making a game like this now is not so easy to sell, so… different strategies will be tested for the upcoming projects and will share results too

player-lose-4

Upcoming Projects

Fluff Eaters is finally done (for a while at least :)), the next project should be Collow which has solid prototype of core mechanics here and you can test it. The plan is to expand it, test different ideas that are on paper yet and see how it goes. The strategy for this will be different, less develop, smaller scale projects and a business model different as well. Please stay tuned if you are interested on how it progresses.

 

fiery-header

There is a new idea about a very simple game, whose prototype will be probably done in one of the following weekends, once it’s done, it will be shared on twitter or something.

Feel free to ask questions.

See you later Bouncy!

Game Events

There are so many things I should’ve shared since like… 5 months ago, finally I’m able to post something. This time I’ll be focused on the experience at the events I’ve participated so far: IndieCadeTokyo Game ShowGamExpo 2013 and finally Tokyo Indie Fest 2015.

In a previous post I talked about this too but since recently I was at Tokyo Indie Fest, I would like to add more details to the rest of the events as well.

Fluff Eaters running on the Nexus 4
Fluff Eaters running on the Nexus 4

 

IndieCade

 

When the Fluff Eaters project started, I really wanted to take it to as far as it could go. The game was sent to IndieCade in 2012 as a very first prototype for PC made in HTML5. It was not intended to PC but thanks to what I explained here, that was the kickstarter to be more focused on game development.

Fluff Eaters was not selected as one of the finalist of the IndieCade but the opportunity to go to the festival, show the game (a mobile version of it) to people, get feedback, discuss about how to make it better and feedback from the judges of the contest was completely worth it.

Showing your game, prototype, proof of concept or whatever you are making or made is completely worth it, there are so many things you can learn from other people. In addition, going to those events is a bridge between you and people who could be interested on your work, you could find investors, publishers, etc, and more than all these things, you are going to have so much fun if you love games as much as I do.

So far I’ve had the chance to go twice to IndieCade, both of them have been amazing experiences, now I have some friends I made when was there and from time to time we chat about new ideas or to get feedback from each others work.

 

IndieCade Festival Culver City
IndieCade Festival Culver City

Tokyo Game Show

 

In 2013 there was a huge opportunity to be part of Tokyo Game Show (an event in Chiba, Tokyo) exhibitors as an indie game developer, the show was opening the area for the first time and Fluff Eaters was sent to the show and fortunately was accepted.

Great opportunity to show the last version of the game (which was already on Android) to the public, get feedback from them, see people’s reactions, understand what we were doing wrong at that time and finally meeting other developers.

The experience was truly amazing for so many reasons: at that time, the tutorial of the game was still a very big issue, watching people playing, explaining them how to play and seeing reactions was how the current tutorial was made. Something not so complex, that explained how to play in the easiest way we thought. I guess it’s interesting to mention that the tutorial of Fluff Eaters was the most difficult design part of the whole game.

In addition to the feedback from players, I was able to meet people from big companies such as Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, as well as recognized developers such as Nigoro, Q-Games and Nyamyam.

This was my first experience as an exhibitor in a show, of course I learned a lot of things from my mistakes, things I didn’t do and things that could be done better but I guess that this is how it is.

In my short experience, I understand that depending on your goals with these kind of events, you should work towards reach them as well as you can. For example, in this particular case, the tutorial of the game was a fail and I was looking for a better approach to explain how to play, that’s why I focused on it while was showing the game.

It’s important to promote yourself, make people know who you are, to do that you should make business cards because with them people will be able to get in touch with you, will recognize you, your logo, your name or simply because you make good games. In addition, offering business cards usually allows you to get cards from other people which is very important to contact them after the show.

I would recommend to make small things to give away to your players as well, you can think about flyers to promote the game, nice stickers about your characters, whatever that is not so expensive (in my case I didn’t have a lot of money to invest) but establish a connection between you and them. You could give them small prizes if they play a lot or are very interested in the game, it makes the difference.

Last thing I would like to share about the Tokyo Game Show, although it’s not directly related to development, it was very cool, I met the Mega Man‘s creator Kenji Inafune at a private party held by Sony for indies.

Boy playing at the TGS
Boy playing at the TGS

GamExpo 2013

 

GamExpo is an event that was held in my country (Venezuela) in 2013, to show to the people what we, game developers from the country, were making at the moment.

The experience was similar to the one I had at the Tokyo Game Show, this time with an almost completed version of the game and knowledge from the previous experience helped a lot to have a very nice experience.

I was able to see how people reacted to the game, how they played, how difficult was to understand and the general difficulty curve of the levels made for the show.

It was a great experience overall, I met a lot of developers I didn’t know, played their games (which were awesome) and shared a little bit about what was making, old prototypes, future projects, etc.

Fluff Cookies for the GamExpo
Fluff Cookies for the GamExpo
Bouncy Stickers
Bouncy Stickers

Tokyo Indie Fest

 

This is an event that was held in Akihabara this year for the first time and was a great opportunity for indies to show their games, promote them, show Japanese people what they were working or what was going to be released at the moment.

Since Fluff Eaters was released for Android in 2014 I wasn’t sure if was going to be selected, because I thought it was mostly directed to new games and unreased games but the release for iOS was coming soon so was a great opportunity to promote it and see how it went.

Luckily Fluff Eaters was selected to be exhibited at the show, both version, the Android version and the one on iOS were both there for people to try. The overall feedback was good.

At this event I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, from the industry, indie scene, publishers, investors, etc, so if you want to focus completely on game development I guess having contacts and meeting people is a key to progress and get better.

In addition, one of the nice things from this event is that finally Fiery Squirrel was there as Fiery Squirrel. What I mean is, at the GamExpo, Tokyo Game Show and IndieCade Fiery Squirrel was not consolidated yet, the logo, name, website, etc, was not there at all. So it was a great chance to promote the developer’s name as well.

It’s important to make yourself noticed by people, in order to promote what you make, get recognized as whoever or whatever you are is an important step to sell and reach people more effectively.

The both at TIF
The both at TIF
People playing at the TIF
People playing at the TIF

For all of you who met us at any of the events, thanks a lot for your support, developers, publishers, etc. In case you want to know any specific detail about what was mentioned in this post, comment below or send me an e-mail.

Next post will be about the upcoming projects.

Game Events