My First Appearance in a Game!

April 3, 2014 9:22 pm Published by Comments Off

Boot Hill Heroes marks the first game that I’ve made it into as a character. Success! One of my childhood dreams, as well as a lot of others who play games I’m sure, was to one day BE a character in a video game. To have it in a game that was born from the spirit of Earthbound is even sweeter. I consider Earthbound the game that matured my game-playing senses. It was the first time that I spent copious amounts of hours grinding to level up and beat a boss; my first foray into RPG 101. As a kid I was probably just drawn to the game because I thought the art looked really cool, but it ended up exposing me to what would become one of my favorite genres.

Thanks to Dave Welch and his Kickstarter for making it a reality! I haven’t had a whole lot of time to play it yet, but I did blaze through to see my character at the edge of the first town. The combat mechanics are an interestingly hectic twist on the traditional formula. You queue up actions based on power bars that are constantly filling, some defensive and some offensive. It makes optimal menu navigation a must-have skill. I’m looking forward to playing some more of it and seeing how the story plays out, even though my character will only ever say one line, haha.

Just wanted to share this small childhood milestone of mine.

Flappy Jam and Cyberpunk Jam

March 12, 2014 2:16 pm Published by Comments Off

The end of February got pretty busy. I finished up my Flappy Jam entry and then, the weekend after that, I started working on another game for the Cyberpunk Jam. My plan was to knock out this month early so I’d score some more downtime between March and April games. I just finished up the Cyberpunk Jam game last night so I’m in the clear to spend some quality time with Dark Souls 2 or Titanfall.

February’s motivation of choice was the Flappy Jam. Such a simple concept would be easy to execute and fun to elaborate on. The FF7 theme came from the idea that the difficulty in Flappy Bird gets gamers so frustrated that they want to destroy the pipes. So, like every other rational-thinking person, I thought of limit breaks and it just grew from there.

Even though this game jam already gave me the idea for what mechanics I’d have, I felt like it was still creatively rewarding to build on such a small set of features. The limit breaks felt like they were a good minimalistic way to enhance an already well-understood game. One thing that I found hard to zero in on was difficulty. Originally the game was punishingly difficult and since I was the developer, I thought it was perfect. When Pam played the game though, she had a different opinion. So I made the game easier and I believe it was for the best, considering that the purpose of such a quickly made game is to have a fun, brief experience.

For March I decided to join the Cyberpunk Jam because it was the weekend directly after Flappy Jam. Having two jams in such close proximity helped to keep my mind fresh and prevented me from being lazy. I will say that this month, for whatever reason, I had a hard time coming up with ideas. That’s when Pam came up with an idea for the game that we both liked. Since she thought of it we decided that she should be the game designer for this jam and I’d just work on putting the game together under her direction. It was an interesting role change.

Normally it’s easy for me to take an idea in my head and translate it into game mechanics, but this time it would be different. Now the ideas were coming from someone else so I needed to process them first and then I could start to organize them in my mind. The game also started to get a bit stretched out from the original vision with the addition of the 2D intro scene, but we managed to take the scope and fit it in by the deadline.

January’s game was pretty much all story and no gameplay. February’s game was all gameplay. March’s project landed somewhere in the middle between those two extremes. I’ll be watching Compohub to see what jams come up in April!

Global Game Jam 2014

January 28, 2014 1:26 am Published by Comments Off

Global Game Jam 2014 happened over Jan. 24th-26th where game developers and hobbyists from all over the world gather to grind out some quick entertainment experiences. I was unable to attend the local one here in Orlando, but that wasn’t going to stop me from making an “unofficial” game over the weekend!

The recent news stories about Banner Saga being asked to not use “Saga” in their name were fresh in my mind, so that’s how I ended up with this idea. I also absolutely love their game and have been playing it quite a bit. Pamela Vargas was also very interested in the concept and helped give me some ideas for the direction I could take it. The game is a simple side scrolling “Oregon Trail” type (as inspired by how Banner Saga so nicely incorporated it into their game) where you choose text responses to determine the ending.

You’re an indie developer trying to get your newest game concept out there into the world. Along the way you’ll find various outlets that can help you, but each has a cost. Try to get your game released with the highest success rating and hopefully in your travels you won’t be forced to change the name of it.

Following all the Global Game Jam 2014 stuff on twitter over the weekend almost made me feel like I was there. I’m very grateful to the people who tweeted all the crazy fun they were having.

Suits and Swords Released!

January 24, 2014 12:13 pm Published by Comments Off

Suits and Swords, a game that mixes equal parts RPG and Blackjack, released the other day to iOS, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store. My role was in writing the original GDD for proposal to Sony Pictures Television. Other commitments kept me from being on the dev team, so it’s kind of a nice surprise to be able to play the game after not having worked on it for so long.

The team at n-Space that worked on the game did an amazing job! Last I had looked at Suits and Swords it was just a big document with lots of text and concept art. It was surreal to go to the app store and download it to my phone to actually play as a completed game. Arguably, it’s the most fun I’ve had playing a game I’ve also worked on. The blackjack aspect of it is addicting and the RPG elements add a whole other layer to managing your hero and giving a good sense of progression.

I’m really proud of the game and congratulate the team on a solid release. Since the credits for the developers didn’t get put into the game, I’ll list them below:

Executive Producer
Michael Lee
Lead Designer
Brian Parker
Designer
Jon Weber
Lead Engineer
Christopher Camilleri
Engineering
Adam Szpakowski
Ross Gardner

Additional Engineering
Travis Cossairt
Writer
Jay Turner
Concept Artist
Seung Kim
2D Artists
Nick Freeman
Ashlee Hynes

Animation
Kristin Samuel
Audio
Tony Porter
QA
David Packard
GDD/Pitch/Concept
Steven Julson
Jason Pichon
Richard Livingston
Ted Newman
David Blosser

Also, here’s some coverage from news sites on the game:
http://kotaku.com/a-blackjack-role-playing-game-hit-me-1507299112
http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPad/Suits+and+Swords/review.asp?c=56842
http://www.polygon.com/2014/1/23/5337510/sony-pictures-television-launches-blackjack-rpg-suits-swords

You can grab the game here:
iOS App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id725701018
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sonypicturestelevision.blackjacktheknight
Amazon App Store: http://www.amazon.com/Suits-Swords-Kindle-Tablet-Edition/dp/B00HG1T8U4

Victory at #1GAMCRUNCH

August 31, 2013 11:46 pm Published by Comments Off

#1GAMCRUNCH is a game jam that’s held every month to help whip people into shape who have been slacking on their #OneGameAMonth¬†(#1GAM for short) games. I only just found out about the #1GAM stuff the week before this game jam, which was for memorial day weekend, so it was the perfect time to get started.

My Game: Serprers Berthder

The twist to this particular #1GAMCRUNCH was that it was going to be a competition. The main rule of the competition was to make a game without conventional controls, dubbed the #NoTouch challenge. Acceptable forms of control were things like voice commands, accelerometer input, etc. I immediately thought voice control was the way to go. Thursday evening before the game jam began, I did a quick test in Flash to make sure I could capture some kind of event from the microphone. Flash lets you detect the activity level of the mic, but I couldn’t find any 3rd party support for any kind of voice command recognition. As long as I could get some kind of input from the mic, though, I felt confident enough to register for the game jam.

The rest of my game jam schedule closely followed what they suggested to use on the game jam website:

Friday
8pm – 9pm: Wrote up a one page GDD that stated the voice control main mechanic for surprising, the “shsshing” mechanic that I’d LIKE to get in, and the rest of the general gameplay flow/story.
9pm – 12am: Started coding in Flash (noise meter, NPC AI, win state), and making placeholder assets. Pam (the artist) began concepting things. Realized I forgot about the “Angry god” theme, thought up ideas to squeeze it back into the design.

Saturday
2pm – 12am:¬†Wrote the code for the extra “shsshing” mechanic. Added “Angry god” theme mechanics (foot stomping and deity anger meter). Worked on fixing bugs. Pam worked on art asset creation.

Sunday
2pm Р6pm: Finished fixing bugs, made intro/rules/credits screens/states. Implemented final art assets.
6:15pm: Submitted to the website.
6:30pm – 11pm: Used final art assets to spruce up the intro/rules/credits screens before the cut-off at 12am

And, just like that, the game jam was over. I felt really good about what Pam and I accomplished in such a short amount of time. From Monday to Tuesday at 8pm we were able to play and rate the other games that people made for the challenge. We took some time on Monday to come up with a grading rubric with all the main points of the challenge and rated the games accordingly. There were some really cool entries that you can check out on the #1GAMCRUNCH site. Edit: site has been discontinued :( Tuesday night, Pam and I were anxious to find out the results. I kept refreshing my phone a little too often, haha, but we were ecstatic when we found out we had won.

This game jam was definitely a great experience. Hopefully it will encourage me to work on personal projects more often with the confidence I gained here.

Edit: I just realized this has been sitting in my drafts and I never actually posted it… whoops.

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2013 12:08 am Published by Comments Off

Annnnnd we’ve finally reached the first weekend of the year! I guess I should let you know what I’ve been up to recently. Over Thanksgiving break my niece and sister let me know that they had a funny idea for a game. My niece really loves Angry Birds so her and her mom would joke around calling them Angry Turds instead. This is what she really wanted for Christmas from me…. oooh boy… haha.

I immediately began searching that weekend for resources to quickly skin something that would resemble what she wanted. There had to be an free open source Angry Birds clone that I could just rip, right? Wrong. Whether there is or isn’t one out there, I couldn’t find it, but I did find some IMMENSELY helpful tutorials at¬†www.emanueleferonato.com¬†which set up most of the main gameplay systems. I was able to combine those systems into a single SWF and play around with them so I was satisfied for the time being. Over the course of the next month I didn’t get to spend too much time on it; only working on Saturdays or Sundays for the most part, but it was coming along nicely. The new systems I had to create were:

  1. Multiple “Birds” – Take the concept of the one bird in the tutorial, then allow the player to use two more after that while watching a reserve of them disappear so they knew how many they had left.
  2. Multiple “Pigs” – Similar to the above concept, but with the enemies instead.
  3. Death Animations – Allow for the pigs and birds to play death animations when they are removed from the game. The pigs were fairly simple, only allowing them time to play before removing them, but the birds (turds) required a bit more finesse. I created a smell/steam rising animation and then attached it to the position of the bird once it fell asleep so that the smell lines would always be oriented to rise upwards, no matter the ending position of the bird.
  4. Multiple Levels – Form a main SWF file for the other level files to be loaded into; creating a level loading system.
  5. Physics Modifications – In the tutorials the birds/pigs almost never stop moving once they’re in motion since they are made with spheres. I had to figure out when to increase the linear and angular damping so that the birds and pigs would fly and fall normally but eventually fall asleep so I could clean them up off the stage.
  6. Level Layouts – Thinking up a couple more quick levels to design and construct.
  7. Polish – The shower water spraying, water on the bottom of the screen swashing back and forth, blinking turds and pigs, win and game over screens/animations, and an about page with a Merry Christmas message to my niece and nephew were all parts of making the game feel like it was complete.

The bulk of the project really came together the weekend before Christmas; just in time.¬†I wasn’t sure that I could do it when I had promised to make it for a Christmas present, but I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.

Please let me know what you think if you happen to try it out: Angry Turds Game Link

GDC 2012

March 6, 2012 12:58 am Published by Comments Off

Well, tomorrow it looks like I’ll be on my way to GDC 2012! This will be my first GDC and also my first trip to San Fran so I’m pretty excited. Been spending a lot of time at work preparing for the days that my team will have without me this week so I won’t feel bad about leaving as much… but I still feel bad, haha. I guess there’s never really a good time to leave a team no matter what your schedule is like. I decided to go in for half the day tomorrow yet to wrap some things up and then catch my flight after lunch.

A couple weeks ago I put together my business card for this occasion. I had lots of ideas, but settled on this one due to 1. I’ve developed on a Nintendo Handheld and 2. I think it looks pretty sweet when printed up. Here are the front/back design files I put together:

The images alone really don’t do it justice. You’ll just have to see what they look like in person at the conference! I’ll try to take pictures of interesting stuff there, but can’t promise to be on the ball about that.

Double Fine Adventure

February 9, 2012 2:17 pm Published by Comments Off

Double Fine is out to revive the point and click adventure game genre, and they’re doing it with Kickstarter. This story spread like wildfire today across social media among my industry-related friends. Basically, some people at Double Fine were behind a lot of old beloved adventure games and fans are always telling them to make another one. Problem is, that publishers are very unlikely to take a chance on reviving a lost genre like that. By using Kickstarter, the studio is trying (attempt succeeded, by the way) to raise money to make that kind of game for their fans.

It’s the classic situation of gamers talking about their favorite games and complaining about how the studios who made them won’t take a chance (or don’t want to take a chance) on making another one. This time, though, the gamers can put their money where their mouth is and try to get that nostalgic dream game made. If you’ve ever had that kind of conversation when reminiscing about old games then you know what I mean.

Double Fine had a goal of $400,000 to make the game, which is a bargain amount to make a game for. As of the time of writing this post, it’s nearing double that at $800,000! The huge success in this way of funding games could mean a lot to the industry going forward, especially when it comes to publishing. Bypassing the publisher will have tremendous implications in the development of and control that the studio has over that game. Foremost in my mind are the rights to the intellectual property, which means the studio who creates the game has control over anything else created around that property (additional games, comics, t-shirts, figures, etc). In the industry today, that usually gets taken by the publisher. I don’t think that’s wrong,¬†because they are the ones shouldering most of the cost and risk, but I do think it would still be better left in the hands of the original creators; the developers.

If you haven’t checked out their kickstarter page, click on the image above and see for yourself if you would like to be a part of making their game happen (which, it already IS happening). I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

3DS Swapnote

January 15, 2012 10:28 pm Published by 5 Comments

At n-Space a good deal of us have a 3DS at our desk (a lot of that has to do with the games we’ve made for it, like Jaws, Rollercoaster Tycoon, and the upcoming Heroes of Ruin). Swapnote was an app released for the system on the last big update. It’s a program where you can send up to a four panel drawing to your friends via streetpass or spotpass. I saw an article on Kotaku about a game design student wanting to create a Dungeons & Dragons game via this drawing and sending system. This game would be like an old play by post (PbP) RPG, using the drawing to make maps and write out what happens to the player(s). Instead of creating a set of rules for it though, I found this program to be a very interesting way to practice creative improvisation with others.

My art director was getting into the game a bit so I decided to kick things off by sending him a picture message out of the blue. It started with him waking up in a dark cavern which I drew to the best of my abilities. The next day he immediately knew where I was going with it and drew his character running to find a way out. Many caverns, oceans, mountains and monsters later, we still have a pretty fun game going. Waiting for the little blue spotpass light to show up on my 3DS just got a little more exciting. I’d suggest trying this out with a friend to see where it leads (preferably one that is a good artist, because I’m clearly getting the better end of the deal here, haha!).

   

This Swapnote game reminds me when I was back in high school and some friends and I would try to tell collaborative stories together. On someone’s turn they would have to add to the story but, at the same time, not take anything away from what the previous speaker already laid out. This kind of exercise also reinforces a concept I learned in grad school improv called “Yes, and…” – meaning you have to always accept what comes at you and add to it. It’s more about having a positive collaboration instead of shooting everyone’s ideas down.

Edit: Just took a pic with my phone for reference, cha-ching!

MW3 Signing

November 18, 2011 7:18 pm Published by 1 Comment

We finally got the team back together to sign some games today. I made sure to run out to Toys R Us to grab some extra copies to give to the family. Surprisingly enough, we had four slots on the bottom of the main MW3 display which was awesome. When I was checking out, I realized that we probably should have taken the copies inside the glass case rather than the ones on special display. Whoops.

It was really great to hang out for a little while, sign the games, and almost kill our lead engineer with a champagne cork. No, seriously, he got hit in the eye. We’re all proud to have worked on the biggest entertainment franchise in the industry today; many of us on multiple Call of Duty games. All in all a great way to end the week before I go on my Thanksgiving break.

In other studio news, there was a remote controlled shark balloon that came for the Jaws 3DS team. We tried to have it sneak attack the Heroes of Ruin team, but, unfortunately, the motor in it makes some noise when the fin gets going. Someone hummed the jaws theme over the motor sound, and the shark slowly descended towards a trash can. If you’re going to fail, fail big! Good times.