Monday, 14 December 2009


Forgot about the Ludum Dare 16 until it was already 24 hour in, and my Fiance had uni work to do so didn't have computer access the entire day, therefore missed out on the competition. Such a good theme too.
In other news-
Vermin is going very well. I get a bit done on it most days, I'm not bored of it yet, and I think it'll be very interesting to play when it's finished.
Swamp Fever hasn't seen much attention since I put the AI engine in place, but that's also because I've not realy had computer access.
All my other projects have sort of ground to a halt, with a view to carrying on with them whenever I can be bothered.
Also, I break up from work on Friday and have 2 weeks off for Christmas! Hopefully this means I'll have the time available to finish one of my games at least and release it in time as a sort of Christmas present from me to the world. I'm also hoping to finish my album in that time too, so as well as games there shall be music for people to enjoy/hate/not even notice.
See you soon folks!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Implant

I wrote a short story the other day. It was really hot. Don't really know what it's about. Not game related but I felt the need to show it somewhere anyway. It's pretty horrible.

I'm awake and my brain hurts. I look around me but it's dark. I can hear water dripping and wherever I am it smells of damp and rot. I seem to be lying down but I feel dizzy and the darkness makes it hard to discern my orientation. As I attempt to move I feel unable, as if held by some invisible force- I certainly can't feel any straps or restraints but in the back of my head it feels like somebody has been hitting me with a hammer for hours.
My skull starts to ache and tingling sensation starts all over my body. I feel like it's becoming harder to breathe and my heart is pumping and my head is pounding and my mind is pulsing and something is happening to me.
As I walk through the park in the lazy summer sunlight that comes in the evening I can smell the recently mown grass and feel the soft ground beneath my bare feet. Never has a day been so glorious as this and as the brass band plays overlooking the picnic goers I feel like I could not be happier than I am now and then everything turns black.
I don't know where I am and it feels like I'm falling. Everything hurts. This darkness terrifies me and I shake with fear and begin to cry, but no noise will comne out of my mouth and I cannot call for help.
A voice comes from the darkness telling me 'everything's okay' and I kind of want to believe whoever it is because I don't think I could take it if it wasn't. In the endless black that seems to be around me all I can see is my own despair, nothing seems right and my throat feels as if it could burst from my need to scream out.
Then I'm underwater but it's alright because I can still breathe and the blue ocean is mine for the taking. There seem to be no boundaries here, no walls or restraints or paralysis or control, just the endless wonders of the deep and the currents of the planet. I think I was upset a minute ago but perhaps my tears created this wonderful ocean, therefore perhaps my sadness has birthed something good and it wasn't a bad feeling after all. I swim with all the effort I can muster and seem to be moving faster than anything else, the colours of the fish and plantlife blurring into a fantastic shimmering rainbow. I see a shark homing into bit me but I'm not afraid of it, I throw a punch with my powerful right arm and it explodes into a mass of stars and fairly lights and red ribbon which move independently of the water's influence. I move up to the surface to look at the wonder of the sun but as my head reaches the surface something goes terribly wrong.
My body shakes and squirms, something is coming out of my stomach and I'm choking on it, the world is a nightmare. The world flips upside down and my vomit is pouring down onto the floor from out of my nose and mouth. I seem to be able to move without restraint now and as the room continues to barrel roll I struggle to my feet and look around, nothing but a faint amber glow in the distance. I walk forwards slowly, towards the light, shivering from both the ordeal I've been through and the bitter cold that now seems to stick to my apparently nude figure.
As I walk I feel the tugging in the back of my head, where I was in such pain forever ago and reach to find what could be causing it. A metallic attachment, some sort of cable, screws into my skull. As I pull further against it my brain feels like it's going to be wrenched out of my head if I'm not careful. It'm desperate to escape and almost have a fit as I panic trying to think of a way to get out of wherever I might be. Shaking with anger, I turn and put the cable into my mouth, biting down on it in an attempt to perhaps sever it and myself from the attachment to this place.
As my teeth cut the cord my head fills with colour and sound and a million tiny dots the size of planets swirl in every direction as every sound known to man screeches through my eyes in one second and then the world all seems a bit more real than it was split seconds ago.
I run as fast as I can but I'm in bullet time and the amber light seems to be only getting further away or perhaps dimmer and as I can no longer control my need to escape I finally manage to scream and blood or some other useful substance sprays out of my mouth and I fall into oblivion.
I'm in a world where everybody is screaming with either ecstasy or terror and the light is brighter than the sun and my eyes feel like they're burning away and I cannot close them to keep the light from flowing into my brain and gently toasting it. The truth, as some might call it, is slipping away and feels unimportant as I go blind from the situation and all I care about is nothing in particular and though the back of my head no longer hurts I have a feeling that something far more sinister is happening to me. I can move my body but it won't listen to my abstract commands and I don't want to live for one more second but perhaps everything will be okay if I just

Friday, 27 November 2009

A general idea for a Demake of Haze

I played a lot of Haze in my time working on it in QA. I think we calculated we'd spent around 2500 hours playing the game, so despite my dislike of the finished product, I probably know it better than any other game I've ever played.
I think Haze was pretty disappointing, it had an interesting concept and some original gameplay mechanics, but was executed, mismanaged, and tinkered with by a company who's name rhymes with Nooby Scoffed so much that it was a mere shadow of what it could have been. My proposal is to demake Haze, to simplify it and cut the crap to make a far more concise and compelling first person shooter story experience.
So here's what I came up with yesterday in terms of ideas for how to demake Haze. Note that it may not be well organised seeing as I just wrote down all the ideas I was having for it in Notepad, and can't really be bothered to make it into a full design document.

HAZE : Back to Basics
If I were to just demake the good bits, I'd take the Jungle, Quarry, some of Copperplant, Containership approach and Assault, Road Bridge, Mountain Ascent and the Observatory, cutting approximately half the levels out of the game, and turning all the crap cutscenes into text and image storyboards.
The basic gameplay would operate more like Doom than anything modern, with the player simply shooting their way through the levels, the Nectar abilities would increase defense and firepower, and Rebels would simply run faster and throw Nectar Grenades.

I'd also change the ending, removing Landcarrier altogether and giving Shane a final showdown with Duvall in the observatory, with Duvall operating operating a mounted gun and the player having to throw Nectar Grenades in order to get close enough to harm him. Essentially, the demade version should be a cleaner and much more concise version of the original, with greatly improved storytelling and flow, and all the crap bits removed.

The levels would be altered to make them clearer and less boring, chopping out the boring bits and replacing the excessive cutscenes with storyboard type scenes, or even just scrolling text and background images, and where possible avoiding interruption by having conversations over the radio. No need for any voice acting or animation, such things are unneeded to tell a story!

It'd still be an FPS, although to be fair perhaps if I can't manage the 3d bits I could just demake it into an overhead shooter, but to be honest this would be nowhere near as cool as a low res 3d demake.

Controls would be something like this-

WASD for movement
Mouse to aim
Left Click to shoot
Right click for Grenades
Space for context sensitive action (take cover, reload, open doors, taking weapons, press switches etc)
E for Nectar

Aiming up and down is done automatically, and isn't really needed with the simplified level design. Player carries only one weapon at a time, and can take an enemies weapon by standing over their body and pressing space. All weapons source their ammo from generic ammo pickups, but the main variance is in firing and reloading speeds.

Weapons cut-
Sniper Rifles
Mantel Shotgun
Rocket Launcher

Weapons Kept-
Assault Rifle- Both act the same but look different
Handgun- Extremelt low reload time for almost constant firing speed
Rebel Shotgun- Acts like Doom Shotgun
Flamethrower- Burns people to death.

There would be only two driving sections in the game, mainly to give some variety rather than just having lots of shooting. These would be the Quarry stage, which is entirely driving, listening to conversations, and running over rebels. Mountain Ascent is also partially driving, the first half is driving and then the second part is the shootouts at the Mantel Outpost and Vista Lejana rolled into one location, before the player goes through the cave to the observatory. The driving in Containership Approach is removed, to give just a jungle, castle and beach to fight through to reach the Containership.

With all cutscenes either happening in the background or as storyboards, there's no issue of the insanely long scenes as there was in the original allowing for a much faster and more urgent feel to the gameplay, it'll be much more running and gunning, like a sunny, real world Doom.

Graphics are simplistic, again, similar in style to those in Doom, with sprites for characters, moving around a 3d environment. However, environments are obviously styled like those in Haze, albeit far simplified, and unlike Doom we may be able to use some 3d objects for trees and things, but best to see how that would work out before really deciding.

Overdosing, which was a key mechanic in the original, would simply cause visual effects to the player meaning they are unable to tell friend from foe as everything looks the same, as well as causing weaponry to autofire, so it gives basically the same effect as before. Overdosing enemies causes them to enter berserk mode and just run around shooting in all directions before either snapping out of it or killing themselves.

With these cuts, remixed level design, rewritten plot, and some other gameplay modifications, I think that the Haze demake could be at least as enjoyable as the real thing, and probably much less irritating. It'd also be great for speedrunners due to its similarities to Doom!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

This week, I am mostly working on

2 games. Vermin, a side scrolling rpg in a sewer that's more than it seems, and Super Brothel Deluxe, a silly pimp simulation game.
Just thought I'd let you know.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

New Projects

Working on a couple of fairly exiting projects at the moment. The first is After The Storm, a metroidvania (aren't they all now?) about a pirate sent forwards in time 1000 years to a post apocalyptic world, trying to find a way home.
The second, and more exiting from a technical perspective, is Corpse City. This one's a run n gun zombie shooter with a massive twist- the entire game map is procedurally generated, allowing near infinite variety and replayability if I can get it right.
Progress on both is good, and the early parts of Corpse City have been created, making a very basic procedural cityscape and randomly located zombies. More design needs doing on After the Storm, but I'm really loving the direction it's going in, in my head at least. Nothing to show you I'm afraid, but through I'd do an update anyway.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Cave Full of Bats

Released 'One Night In The Cave' last night, a short horror game that took me about two hours to make. I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I also loved the creative frenzy that comes from making games in such a short time. Might try something similar in the near future. Enjoy it anyway!

PS-I've moved to Gamejolt, Yoyo is ugly and ineffective in comparison.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Hello again. I honestly don't know what I plan on working on recently. My mind is exploding with new, laregly inexplicable ideas and concepts for games, and other entertainment works. Let me just give an overview of what I'm working on now-

A number of games, including Harry Bones, Stranded Astronaut, ROT13, One Night In The Cave, Organic Mass Over Seattle and Ghost Machine.
Games I'm currently planning- Corpse City, Wall04

I'm also working on an album for my musical project/band Speedrun Facelift, which I hope to record the vocals for and release as soon as I have the opportunity.

I honestly can't tell you when anything is going to be out other than One Night In The Cave, which I began work on last night and hopefully shall release today. It's a short little horror game which should hopefully turn out well.

I think I worked out why I like games so much over other forms of entertainment. My mind, as I see it, is a constantly changing mosaic of sound, ideas, visions, colour, noise, narrative and emotion. As interesting as it is in here, it makes it rather hard to properly focus on any one thing, other than, as it turns out, video games. I believe they and I click so well because they blend together all the varying things going on in my head into one experience which I can immerse myself in, giving all the different parts of my brain trying to do differeng things something to focus on at once, something that no other form of media really does. Perhaps that's why for most of my life I've shared such a connection with them.

Then again perhaps not, but it's just an idea.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Dooming Industries

Hello again. I've been away from gaming and development for a while but now I'm back, fully rejuvenated, reprioritised, and otherwise better than when I went away. I have some interesting ideas I brought back from my absence too. One which has been going around my head a lot recently is the theme of Industrial Gaming.

This term seems rather unusual, and probably doesn't conjure up particulary clear images in ones head, it hasn't quite become clear for me either yet. I don't think it's something that's really been done before- I want to make games that are like industrial music. Games which have similar themes to the pieces and visual elements used like the harsh soundscapes and sampling noise of industrial. I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this, but I expect it will be interesting.

Another issue with it is whether or not some of the ideas I have can really be called games. They're certainly interactive media, but some of it seems so aimless and nihilistic that perhaps it isn't a game at all. I'll certainly let you know how the idea develops, whether it blooms into a mechanical black rose or withers into ash.

In other news, that Harry Bones game is going on the backburner, I want to experiment and get a better grounding Metroidvanias before I commit to a big one.

Friday, 14 August 2009

An unleashing, and a matter of self determination

Simplifire Part 2: SALOONS OF DEATH

I finished SALOONS OF DEATH, my new game yesterday. It was developed for the Experimental Gameplay Project 'Bare Minimum' contest. As Simplifire was an attempt to simplify the way we interact with certain shooter games, I decided I would take a few old ideas I had and massively rework them to create this.
right click on empty space to set target
left click to shoot
right click on self to perform context sensitive actions such as opening doors.
Press F4 for fullscreen, it's recommended due to the nature of the game and how small the window is.
It also uses only 3 colours.
I'm quite pleased with it, and hope you enjoy it.
More importantly, it has been decided that I'm taking a month off from both gaming in general and game development. To be honest, though I didn't realise it, I've been putting games before far more important things in my life for a while now, and it can't continue. This month will allow me to experience my time without them, to give more attention to more important aspects of my life, do many more varied things and generally get a better grip on my life. I will be back of course, with gaming and development being my main hobby, but for a month I am going silent.
Enjoy the new game, and I'll see you in a month.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Keep moving forward

After releasing H0MER, which was great fun making in one day, I'm moving back onto larger projects. I want to work in more depth and narrative as well as some real level design into my current projects. I have about 6 projects lurking around in my head at the moment, only 2 of which I see myself seriously working on in the near future. But have no fear, this should simply mean that my final products are of far higher quality than previous efforts.
I was on holiday last week too, so I couldn't do much more than design anyway, although I certainly did a lot of that. I noticed that a great many of my ideas are oriented largely around exploration, so I really ought to get around to actually releasing one based on that.
Oh, on that note, Harry Bones is going well. I'm really impressing myself with how much better of a coder I am now than a year ago.

Anyway, have a list of names of games I'm either working on or designing at the moment, most of which you'll probably never hear of again.
Harry Bones and the Dusty Dungeon
World Of Wonders
Stranded Astronaut
Cosmiccer Trigger Bomber
Dead Star

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Game in a day: HOMER

New game time people, made this one in a single day, started in free time at work, then finished it when I got home. I quite like it, and it helped me learn a few little graphical effects and some very basic AI. I also realised that even in abstract games, some small narrative does go a long way, so maybe I'll include more in future.

Anyway, it's called HOMER, seeing as all the weapons in the game home in on their targets.
Move with arrow keys.
Fire with X.
Use C to create a reflective sheild for a moment
The key to success is utilising the reflective sheild. If you deflect an attack it will be ready to use again alost immediately, but if you're too early you'll have to wait a moment to use it again, and if you're too late you'll be damaged.

The reflective sheild is an idea I was working on in a previous project, but it works much better how I've done it here.

I think I managed to get through this in one day because after reading all the articles in this week's Escapist about indie gaming I was really psyched up. It was fun to do, and I can see why lots of indie developers enjoy the rapid prototyping process.

PS Also, what the hell is going on with my font on here, something is seriously wonky with the text editor methinks.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Intense Vanity

Following the lead of Banov and a few others, I've made myself a facebook page, so that people can let me know they think I'm great without having to actually get to know me or anything about me.
Fan of Doom

Friday, 26 June 2009

High Voltage

I've just finished another game, a random little thing, not sure if I like it or not. It's about killing helicopters with lightning.
Been making it in my spare time at work, so it's not amazing, but I learnt some things from developing it.
I came up with the idea for the 'Shocking' competition on some website, but then became somewhat ill and unable to finish in time. I think you might enjoy it, if only to kill a minute or two.
This also fulfils my 3 games released this year quota, the only New Year's resolution I've ever stuck to. Go me!
I'm going to continue work on Harry Bones now, as well as some experimental bits. And yes, you'll see the rest of simplifire at some point, once I've finished simplifying it. But this weekend I'll be hosting a brilliant barbeque with my fantastic fiancee, so no game decelopment for the time being.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Harry Bones, a small demo

Thought I'd release a demo showing the current progress of Harry Bones and the Dusty Dungeon. It's not really anything from what I've got planned, just a large test room in which you can grab a number of the pieces of equipment that will be in the full version, and see what their effects are. There are also some environmental hazards and enemies to be seen, although you can't die and there's no attacking ability yet :)
Anyway, controls are pretty straightforward-
Arrow keys move, X fires the grappling hook when you get it.

So you know what the items are you're getting, I'll give you some information.
Grappling Hook- Allows Harry to propel himself forwards and upwards, clearing long gaps and pulling him out of quicksand
Spring Boots- Greatly boost Harry's jumping capacity
Quicksilver Greaves- Boost Harry's movement speed
Surface Soles- Allows Harry to walk on the surface of hazardous materials without harm.

Harry Bones Demo

Enjoy, next time I post a demo there'll be a great deal more to see.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

See The Future

I've had lot of interesting ideas recently, and whilst many of them are superpower or supernaturally based, the most exciting one for my is this new platformer I've started to work on.

I've never made a platformer before, or even really started, as I've never been able to get my head around programming the physics involved. However, I think I've finally cracked it, and as I'm so pleased with this achievement, I'd like to comment on what may be my next major project.

It's a metroidvania style platformer; thematically and settings wise very similar to the excellent La Mulana (if you've not played it, check it out, it's fantastic). I've always loved platformers, and with my all time favourite game being Super Metroid I've always wanted to make something of a similar style, and now I finally feel like I can. It's pretty exciting I must say.

Anyway, it's current title is Harry Bones and the Dusty Dungeon. this is obviously subject to change, but I'm seriously psyched about this one. It's also probably going to be the first project that I'll post updates on during it's development, as well as demos so you guys can give me feedback.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A strage Preview of Psychoblit

Not a lot to report. Doing a whole lot of designing and concept work, not a lot of actual development. But whilst I'm doing a bit of work I thought I'd present to you a rather bizzare preview of my next predicted release, obscured wonderfully by a glitch I just accidentally implemented.

glitchy part 2

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Asteroid Storm Release

Time to release one part of simplifire. And with that, I present to you Simplifire Part 3-Asteroid Storm.

It's basically a little survival shooter that you control with the mouse. I had fun making it, and I hope you enjoy playing it.

GMC Topic- Asteroid Storm
YoYoGames Instant Play

Oh, and it's part 3 because I originally intended to release all three as one package, but then ended up developing this one first as it was the simplest idea. I'm probably releasing Part 2 next, so I'm basically working backwards.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Keep It Simple, Stupid

I think it's probably time to release a bit of information regarding my current project. It's a series of small games, all shooters, focused around simplifying the controls in order to maximise accessibility. Therefore they're all mouse controlled, no keyboard whatsoever.
This approach was largely inspired by playing games with my fiance Anna Banana. We play co-op on Fable 2 mainly, as it's streamlined controls, general sense of silliness, and fairly easygoing pace make it something she can get into. We tried playing Left 4 Dead the other night, and although we both got killed she did surprisingly well, but the controls were certainly an issue. She wasn't immediately able to start doing stuff like in Fable 2, and found it at times to be frustrating to operate. Hence the inspiration for some shooters which are massively simplied in terms of controls.

Anyway, here's the plan, I'm working on 3 games based around this concept, each a different type of shooter.
1 Arena Shooter- Mechanaut (think Robotron)
1 Horizontal Run'n'gun- Psychoblit (think Contra)
1 Scrolling shooter- Asteroid Storm (think R-Type)

The project title, and a way of clumping the 3 together as they're all based on the same idea, is Simplifire.

Originally I just wanted some tech demos to demonstrate the control types, but have been hit by so much inspiration for each of them that I want to make them into little games of their own, and then possibly take the concept further and apply it to a full length feature.
Asteroid Storm is approaching completion already, and most of the work on it was done in my space time at work, so it's been refreshing to get a game out so quickly. So expect that in the next week or so, I'll keep you posted on how the others are coming along.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Trapped By The Dead Retrospective

Around 8 months ago (September 08) I began work on a new game, which I was determined would be my first full release. This game was to be a vertical gallery shooter, involving shooting and blowing up lots of zombies. Throughout development the game changed quite significantly, and I was often reminded of a mistake I made very early on: starting development before planning the game.

Originally the game was intended to have a greater degree of depth to the gameplay, with the vague idea of placing traps and repairing the barricade in order to give more of a survival theme to the game. I also hadn't settled on the storyline or overall structure of the gameflow, I had visions of switching to a different mode in which you could place explosive barrels and such whenever you felt like it, as well asrunning around to construct and repair the barricades that separate you from the zombies. As you can see, these never got implemented, as I couldn't figure a way of blending it effectively with the basic gameplay structure I had down.

On the subject of the basic gameplay structure, the original concept was to create something a bit like space invaders (as in easy to program and learn to play) but with zombies (because I like zombies). Looking back, this was a very poor design concept, as I hadn't really considered how this would work with any of the other stuff I wanted to do, and things were further complicated by my insistence on using scaling and perspective to show the zombies.

After I managed to get the basic gameplay of the zombies approaching and scaling appropriately, and me shooting them, I considered how to work in the deployment mechanic, and how to add in the backup mechanic. I eventually decided that as I'd used perspective it would be very difficult to efectively place traps and such, because it would have all sorts of depth and collision issues, and therefore scrapped the mechanic. Eventually I managed to come up with an ally that made some sense, and was able to start writing the story.

The story wasn't too much of an issue, I had some basic ideas I wanted to work with such as Jon and Jeff getting to know each other a bit, and a sudden change in circumstances at the end, with hints throughout at what was to come. Although spreading this across nine conversations was tiresome, I feel that the storyline was a vital aspect of the game, and that without it the game would be significantly less interesting.

Graphically, the game was challenging, as I'd never had to create such a large amount of visuals before (especially if you look at Cave Full of Spiders!), but I felt it taught me a few things about animation and general spriting, and I feel that the graphics were a success for the game, at least insofar as they were quite good for my first release that had some proper visuals.

The different zombie types, and the presence of that lovely projectile vomit were more a matter of necessity rather than something I'd planned all along. The variety in zombies (normal, fast, strong) was intended to give the player a little variety in the proceedings, even if it was largely superficial. I personally feel the game could have worked with nothing but fast zombies if some adjustments were made, but perhaps not.
Projectile vomit was created after I realised that until the zombies reached the barricade, there was absolutely nothing to do apart from hover the cursor over the horde and hold the left mouse button. It was boring! (Perhaps, in hindsight, this should have given me some indication or a more fundamental problem with the game I was working on). I added the projectile vomiting in order to give them something to do rather than pointing at zombies, and occaisionally blowing shit up.

Lets summarise shall we-

What went right with Trapped By The Dead

The game looks relatively good, especially when compared to my previous release, Cave Full Of Spiders, and I like the music JCB Man composed for me. I used plenty of colour and the scaling effect went perfectly. The only problem I feel really was the animation, which has always been an issue for me, but I felt I improved significantly over the course of the project.

In my opinion the project's main success, I feel I managed to deliver a storyline and script that while not amazing, certainly elevated the quality level of the game far beyond what it would have been without it.

What could have been better

Shooting them dead
The bulk of the gameplay in Trapped By The Dead is quite shallow, something I'm not too pleased about. Mostly you just have to move left and right to dodge vomit, and continuously fire at the front of a big line of zombies, occaisionally calling in backup and blowing some of them up. In my original idea, I wanted things to be a lot more tactical, but now I realise it would have needed a dramatically different setup. The scaling and perspective would have needed to be removed and a much simpler method used, as well as allowing for a much wider play area (it's astonishing how much of the game is just the background when you think about it).

Lengthly development cycle
When I first started working on Trapped By The Dead, I was planning on a Halloween release. This was some rather unrealistic optimism from me, as I ended up releasing in early May the following year. It eventually ended up that I'd spent so much time working on the damn thing I just wanted to be rid of it and thus ended up cutting some features which I'd wanted to include, on the grounds that having any more work to do would just end up with me never releasing it. The main thing I had to cut was a bonus game called Trapped By The Bread, in which the zombies were replaced by Bread, and you shot them instead. Thinking about it now, it probably wouldn't have been that much fun, but I suppose it would have been a nice novelty.


I'm not that pleased with how Trapped By The Dead ended up. I find the gameplay to be shallow and repetetive, and it took so long to make I can't help being fed up with it. I am however, still quite proud of it, as it is still more professional that Cave Full of Spiders, on the surface at least, and despite all the mean thing I've said about it I'm sure for somebody who hasn't been working on it for the past eight months it's probably quite enjoyable, and would encourage you to at least give it a go.

Trapped By The Dead

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Trapped By The Dead

It's finally completed, and I'm fairly confident it's bug free too. Trapped By The Dead has arrived.

It's taken 7 months to develop (I honestly don't know how it's taken so long) and I'm not fully happy with it, but by all means please try it out and see what you think. I'll give you some information about it's development soon.

Basically it's a gallery shooter in which you mow down waves of zombies whilst trying to avoid them from breaking your defences. Assistance comes from a man stationed across the street from you who helps out with a rocket launcher. Hopefully you'll enjoy it.

Friday, 1 May 2009

New things

If I can get a hold of the music from my good friend and artist of a different sort JCB Man, Trapped by the Dead should be released this weekend. I've had enough of developing it and just want it out of the way as soon as possible.
My latest projects have really taken over my thinking at the moment. I generally like to keep specifics a bit quiet until I've something to show you, but I'll give the hint that I'm focusing on accessability and simplification. Currently I'm working on some demos based around these ideas that I'll release in the near future along with probably an article on the subject, and then continue from wherever they lead me.
Stay Tuned.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Cave Full of Spiders Retrospective

Cave Full of Spiders was my first game, created out of the course of about a month, in order to fulfill my goal of actually completing and releasing a game.

To this end I made some absolute decisions about the fundamental nature of the game-
  • To minimise the use of graphics and sound
  • To focus on having simple gameplay mechanics
  • To make level design the primary focus of the game
  • To have at least one mechanic which would set the game apart from most

Coming from these decisions I went with the following strategies for my work-

Graphics would be extremely simple, I would spend as little time working on them as possible in order to free up time for more inportant things.

Sound, if there was any, would only be added at the end of the development cycle.

The game must be extremely easy to learn, and have absolute rules, leading me to use one hit kills for all entities.

Part of the reason for developing Cave Full of Spiders was to show off my level designing ability, so to this end I created a set of easy to understand traps and features which could be used in multiple ways, the small play area also made level design extremely quick, although it did have one majoer problem, to be explained later.

As far as game mechanics which would help make the game something special were concerned, I'd been considering a game with destructible terrain for some time, and liked the idea of an underground setting, but so far all my ideas had been for open ended platformers. When I started experimenting with destructible terrain, I realised how well it could work from a top down perspective. This then evolved into the overall idea for CFoS. Visually, my low detail graphics were perfect as there were no issues of sprites lining up or the like due to their flat colour nature.

The game concept

I didn't come up with a big design document for the game, partly because I was really revved up about doing some level design, but also because the idea was so simplistic it didn't take much explaining. The rules were these.
  • The player starts at a point in the level and must get to another point (the ladder).
  • Obstructing the player from reaching this goal are two main obstacles- Spiders and rock
  • Spiders will constantly attempt to move towards and collide with the player. Collision with a spider kills the player (they lose 1 life and restart the level).
  • Rock comes in two types, normal and hard. Normal rock can be cut through by using the player's weapon and firing at it, causing it to erode away. Hard rock is invulnerable, and serves as a way of defining the play area and setting particular routes the player shoudl use.
  • Gold nuggets are scattered around the levels. The general idea of this was to make most levels relatively easy to solve without obtaining the nuggets, but if the player wanted them they would have to face further dangers. The nuggets gave the player a big score boost, but were limited in their desirability, as well be explained further later.

This was the basic structure of the game. The player would arrive in a level, then have to cut through rock and avoid spiders to reach a ladder to the next level, throughout which they would have the opportunity to obtain gold nuggets and a higher score. I added other features after this to make things more interesting for both myself as the designer and the player.

  • Lava which would kill the player or any spiders on contact. This adds an environmental threat to the game.
  • Dynamite explodes when shot by the player, destroying any spiders, rock or players within the explosion. This serves the purpose of being a risky weapon against the spiders, as well as allowing rapid destruction of portions of the map.
  • Magma is like lava, but it expands from a central point for a period of time, and after a while it disappears. This has the same effects as lava, but is more dangerous as it expands to fill any space it encounters. This feature in particular caused me a lot of problems. For starters, it was originally supposed to be water, which would drown spiders but allow the player to live, however after extensive playtesting, this felt way too powerful, as the player could stand in the middle and a wave of death would slowly expand from them and kill everything within range. Additionally, it was intended to expand in much smaller increments, but I was unable to stop it from consuming exponentially greater amounts of processing power with each generation and eventually freezing the game. Thus I changed it to magma which killed both the player and spiders, and expanded in even segments, making it both a weapon and a threat to the player.
  • Crystals were added late in the game as I tried to come up with more interesting designs, I decided to add an item that would make the player temporarily invulnerable, but still to design the levels to they could use it to either get to safety or to get to more gold.

With this limited but fairly balanced set of features I assembled each of the games maps. Level design was pretty easy, and by having a general idea for each level, it was quite easy to put them together and make something that worked. The after testing the maps could be tweaked to balance them a little.

After I'd developed most of the maps and created 90% of the game, I decided to add a little story. It wasn't much, but I think it really added something to the game. I also added a quick explanation of how to play the game that would show before the player started the game, to make sure that the player would not be confused by anything in game.

Patching things up

Shortly after releasing the game, a bunch of bugs were discovered, things I'd missed due to my decision to test the game singlehandedly. I returned to these and fixed them, and added new features, such as a pause button, and ambidextrous controls, so you could use either WASD or the arrow keys to play, and either click would fire the gun. As soon as I released this I realised there was another exploit: now the player could use both control sets simultaneously to double their speed or firepower. I set about fixing these and finally managed to release the game as officially bug free.

What went right with Cave Full of Spiders
Rapid development-
By streamlining and minimising the graphical and audio aspects if the game, I was able to focus on design and programming, meaning I could get to the fun stuff very early on, and develop the entire game ove the course of a month (of course, the amount of free time caused by my recent redundancy also contributed top this).

Level design-
I thoroughly enjoyed working on the design for these levels, and found it a lot easier than I expected. The balanced feature set and absolute rules made it easy to design a variety of level types, and the destructible terrain meant that most of the levels could be completed in various ways. Introducing new features incrementally would also mean the player was not overwhelmed, nor would the game become overly repetetive.

Simple gameplay-
The game, in my opinion, is very easy to learn, and follows the same kind of rules throughout the level.

What could have been better
Greed mechanics-
The optional gold nuggets, while often tempting, don't give the player anything other than a score boost, meaning that they can easily be ignored by a player focused simply on reaching the exit. I wanted originally to implement online high scores, but it proved to be beyond my understanding, and was never achieved. Had this been in, the mechanic would have been more effective as it would have given an element of competition.

Little maps-
Though having a small play area accelerated the design process, it meant I was fundamentally limited in what I could achieve. By the time I'd reached my level quota I felt that any more maps would have been repeating elements of the old ones.

I know it was deliberately neglected for the purposes of rapid development, but the sound it honestly quite poor. I added a little piece of music to the game recently, but it's still nothing special.

Cave Full of Spiders can be found in a link to the left if you wish to know what the hell I was just writing about.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Next game

I've almost come to the end of development on my current project, and I'm wondering where to go next. I'm thinking I'd like to do something a bit different from what I have in the past, and as I've never even worked on a platformer before, I think I may go in that direction. Either that or some arty minimalistic thing. I've been coming up with lots of good ideas lately but they're all quite complex and rpg based, so I think I'll go for something a bit simpler for the time being.

Anyway, Trapped by The Dead, as my current project is known, shall be released soon.


Welcome to my current game designing hideout. As it is taking absolutely forever for my proper website to come together, I've decided to make a design blog type thing for myself.
So here we are. I'll be linking this to my games released on YoYoGames, so you can see anything and everything I make, as well as writing about them and generally mumbling about game design.