Friday, May 30, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - May 2014

We had another awesome Indie Games Night this past Thursday night.  We had a little over 40 people there so it was a good turnout.  Thanks again to UVU for hosting the event and thanks also to everyone for coming and making the night great!

We started the evening with an awesome presentation by Josh Sutphin of Third-Helix on "Starting an Indie Games Business".  He talked a little bit about the nuts and bolts of starting an indie game business, and also about how to maybe do that full time. That's the dream right? He also talked about how to pick up some contract work to help fill in the gaps as the reality is you might not make enough on your games to pay the bills. At least initially. He also talked about that dirty little secret about going indie that not many seem to discuss and that is one of the motivation trap. That is after first going indie your motivation is very high and you're on cloud nine, but after a while you can get distracted by other things, because "Hey, I can do whatever I want now. There's no boss". So you can find yourself squandering your time and not really getting anything accomplished.  Sometimes it can be hard to pull your motivation back up after falling into this rut. He talked a lot about how to set boundaries for yourself (and others) so you can keep a good routine going and make forward progress on your business.  He had a lot more good points that he shared. If you want to watch his presentation you can find it here.

Then we got into our game demos as usual. Here are the ones that I was able to see, but I know I missed a bunch.

Peter was showing his new card game based in the world of Elduurn (Siphon Spirit). It's a co-op game for three players and where you are battling boss monsters. Everyone has different skills and abilities that they can use to kill the monster before they monster kills them.  He'll be posting a free print-n-play version of the game soon.

Super Wall Ball
This was a cute skill based tablet game where you play as a turtle and try to keep a ball in motion by repeatedly kicking it against a wall. You have to get the timing and rhythm down in order to do this. It has a frustrating but addictive quality to it, sort of like Flappy Bird in that sense.  I finally got to 10 volleys back and forth before I gave up. I really loved the cartoony art.

Cameron was showing his exploration game called Parallax. I was blown away by the visuals. It looked incredible.  There are doors that will teleport you other parts of the island. I believe it was built with Unity.

 Andrew showed his creepy Unity game where you are in a house that has been haunted by ghosts. The game play is similar to "Gone Home" where you can move around, pick up and examine objects to figure out what is happening. The game is set at night and it's raining outside. You have a flashlight but can turn lights on in the house, but the lighting is still low, which definitely sets that creepy mood.

I saw this one a bit second hand, but was told that this mobile game was created in only 80 hours. I was very impressed as it seemed very complete and polished.  It was a game similar to Geometry Wars where you have to move around and destroy your enemies while avoiding their bullets. Also it's already been released on the iOS app store now.

Goblin Dash 
In this mobile Unity based game you play as a hero with a sword that has to encounter a hoard of goblins one after another. You have both blocking and attacking moves in upper, middle, and lower directions.  The goblins will give you a slight hint as to where they will attack so you have to be quick to block and then counter their moves, so that you can slay the goblin and move onto the next one.  I was very impressed with the art and game play.

Curtis has been working on a match-3 game using tiles with Japanese characters on them. It's meant to help people learn the sounds and meaning of each character by repetition.  Every time they get three matching tiles together, the sound of that character is said aloud. The English equivalent of the character is also shown.

Lyle was showing his co-op game "Together". I didn't get a chance to play it again but he has a Kickstarter for the game that just barely started. So go back it!

I know Vince, Jeff and some others had some games they were showing but I didn't get a moment to see them. As always there was so much happening and not able to absorb it all. What a great time to be an indie.

Viva la Indie!

P.S. You can find some other write-ups of the event at these links



Friday, March 28, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - March 2014

Wow we had another awesome indie games night last night. We had a little over 40 people in attendance so that was a good turnout. Thanks again to Neumont University for hosting the event, and a big thanks to Goo Technologies for sponsoring pizza for the evening. Thanks also to our Kickstarter panelists, those showing demos, and everyone else for coming and making the event awesome!

We started the evening off with a discussion panel on "Running a Successful Kickstarter". Lyle Cox was our moderator and Paige Ashlynn and Jaron Frost were our panelists. Paige is from Tripleslash Studios and their game is Magnetic by Nature. Jaron is from Fridgecrisis Games and his game is Villages. The guys did an awesome job of dishing out some great info. Here's some of my take-aways (tips) from the panel:

- When converting viewers into backers, show that you are capable and show yourself in the video to humanize the project.
- Use social media to get hype going, and start months before the actual kickstarter kick-off.
- Try to get some cross promotion going with other Kickstarter projects.
- Make sure to add extra float to budgets to account for unknowns
- Keep physical rewards small and manageable
- Be conservative on stretch goal
- Don't over promise and under deliver; Do under promise and over deliver instead
- Ask for more money than you might think to at first (don't sell yourself short)
- Kickstarters are LOTS of work, so be prepared for it

And if you missed the panel, you can watch it here, thanks to Jaron and his wife. (There's a few minutes missing from the end, but nothing big). You guys are awesome for doing that!

After the panel, Brett Unzaga of Goo Technologies gave us a short demo of their HTML5/WebGL engine that is now out in open beta. They're looking for people to give the beta a try, so if you'd like to do that head on over to their site, create an account, and start creating something awesome with it.

I didn't get to see many of the projects; just a handful as I got involved in some really great conversations. I say a couple of new projects and a couple of older projects that are making progress. I don't think I can do them justice, so I'm not going to even try to enumerate them this time. There were definitely a bunch of awesome ones there however.

I talked a bit with the Raptor Circus guys and I love their concept. They are focused on those indies that want to turn their games into a profitable business. It's an area where our Indie Nights have fallen short, so it's nice to see them fill in this gap. This is certainly a group I want to be involved with, as I've been spinning my wheels on my MonkeyTime Software business for way too long.

We also talked about dealing with the motivation drain as an indie. It's something I'm well acquainted with and have had some success in overcoming here and there, but far from every time. It's something I still struggle with, and it's something that every indie faces at some point. Josh S. mentioned this is like the "dirty little indie secret that no one talks about", and I'd have to agree with that. The indie community doesn't say much about that. They tend to focus on the upsides of being indie and not so much on the downsides. Yes folks, it does take more than just uploading your tiny game to the iOS appstore. The riches don't magically come flowing after that.

Anyway it was definitely another incredible indie night. Thanks everyone for making it awesome!

Viva la Indie!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Utah Indie Games Night - January 2014

We had another amazing Indie Games this past Wednesday night. I didn't get an accurate count, but it looked like close to 40 people were there. Definitely was a great night filled with pizza, presentations, lively discussions, and lots of games! Thanks once again to Ninjabee for hosting the event.

Spencer Buchanan gave an awesome presentation on mHealth  and games. In his new job he's been partnering with doctors and nurses to produce games that help people learn about and cope with their serious illness. The big take away I got from his talk was he mentioned that when working with people outside the industry there needs to be a respect for each others strengths and expertise in order for a project to succeed. The doctors shouldn't question your game design decisions in the same way you shouldn't question the doctors methods either. Each has to respect what the others bring to the table. He did an awesome job with the presentation and had a lot of good info to share.

After Spencer's presentation we opened it up for demos. As usual I probably missed a few of them. Here they are:


Spirits of Elduurn
Curtis showed this flash puzzle game that uses the Mythology from Siphon Spirit . It's a puzzle game where you have to move a pair of spirits (one black, one white) in tandem to collect energy and then defeat the evil dark spirit. Sometimes the moves get tricky as they could kill one of your spirits and you need both of them to complete the level.

Saga Heroes
Eric has added caves and the like since I saw this game last. It's an OUYA RPG game set in the Saga  universe and it looks very polished. I played it for a while and finally made it to the cave levels. The lighting works very well on those levels. He's done an awesome job with it thus far.

Together
Lyle's co-op puzzler now has a name and some really awesome art. I believe it still had programmer art, last time I saw it, so it looked like a totally different game with this new art. The idea is you work together to solve the puzzle via a series of doors and switches. You also have to pick up all the objects before the exit will open and you can finish the level. I played this a bit with Curtis and I kept dying. Luckily Curtis was able to come and rescue me. As long as one player is alive they can resurrect the other and you both can continue. I really like the co-op aspect of this game.

Dub Wars
The Dub Wars guys were there showing off a new build of Dub Wars, that now works with the LeapMotion controller. So "yes", it now has guesture control. I tried if for a bit and although it was a bit more sluggish than a standard controller, I could definately see someone getting into this as it kind of makes you feel like a "Grandmaster DJ" controlling the game.

Space Combat Game
Darius has been hard at work on his space game combat game. I noticed he now has a targetting system in place and it can fire missles at the enemy ships as you glide past them. Looks like it's coming along.

EverAvatarQuest
Ben has been working on a multiplayer RPG that uses Xbox avatars. So you can play as "you" in the game, and not the limited set of characters that you have in other RPGs. He had a questing system in place where you can buy/sell weapons (and really big swords I might add), talk to bots to get them to join your crew, arm them, and then go out and kill vicious animals. He built it in XNA and hopes to finish it off, even though XNA is dying.

Candy Defender Saga / Redacted
Jay showed his One Game a Month entry / Candy Jam entry. It's a quick Space Invaders clone that he built to teach himself the GameMaker: Studio engine. At this point it looks, feels, and plays much like Space Invaders. However I know he has plans to swap out the art (such as the alien ships becoming lawyers) so it fits the theme for the Candy Jam, which is a protest against recent trademark trolling.

Happy Candy Pirates
I also took a little bit and showed my latest entry from the Global Games Jam. It's entered into two other game jams as well, that were happening at the same time (The Candy Jam and GMC Jam). In the game you're a pirate looking for treasure, but along the way you encounter red and blue candy that switches the world between happy and sad. In the happy world the red doors are open and harmless bunnies roam around, but in the sad world the blue doors are open, and the bunnies are now dangerous skeletons. Also if you stay in the happy world too long, the bunnies start multiplying which means there will be more skeletons to face in the sad world.

Mental Institution & Ro-Bee Cop
Rhett was showing off his entry in the Global Games Jam, Mental Institution, a game about a guy trying to escape an asylum. He was also showing a prototype of a new game called Ro-Bee Cop that he's making in GameSalad. Apparently he's taken a liking to that engine, and since Rhett is primarily an artist, I can see the "no programming" aspect of the engine appealing to him.

Magnetic By Nature
I noticed the Tripleslash guys were there showing off their latest build of Magnetic By Nature. I didn't really get a chance to try it out again, but I know they are getting very close to a release.

Board Game (Name in flux)
Vince was there with a board game he's been working on, and he had several people playing it with him. Apparently it's an evolution of the Narwhals and Unicorns game that he worked on with Spencer and showed at our Indie Night a couple of months ago. I didn't get a chance to sit down, get into the details and play it, but it looked like the players were enjoying it.


During the evening Steve brought out a Gigabyte Steam box and let people try it out. I tried using it for a while and the controller definitely has a much different feel to it. It's something that will take me some more time getting used to. Though I was getting better with it in my short exposure to it. I know that Valve is going to be changing the layout of the physical buttons to make them more like a traditional D-pad and X/Y/A/B buttons. That should help some, but I would still like to have an analog stick on the left. I'm okay with the touch pad on the right as it acts like a mouse, which I see being useful for a lot of Steam games. Anyway it was still usable and I could see people liking it.

Again it was an awesome evening. Thanks to everyone for helping to make it incredible!

Viva la Indie!

P.S. You can find Jay's write up of the event here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - November 2013

Okay I've been negligent in getting my writeup of Indie Night done, but here it is. We had a good Indie Games Night this past Wednesday evening (11/20/2013). It was an average turnout with a little over 30 people in attendance.  Thanks again for the EAE department of the U of U for hosting this.

Vladimir Chopine of GeekAtPlay gave a great presentation on Concept Art and started his presentation off by showing samples of his and his daughters work.  He also contended that the most important part of your game is not the art, code, or game play, but rather the "story".  He also made the point that even with abstract games like Tetris there is still a story there.  However it may be the story that we as the play are putting into the game ourselves. He then mentioned that concept art (and art in game) can tell a story.   It helps communicate the story of the game as well as the vision and feel of the game. It's certainly needed to unify that vision for a team making the game.

After Vladimir's talk we opened the floor for game demos.  I believed I missed a couple of them, but here's the ones I saw.

CyberHeist
This one is a two player co-op game. One plays as the hacker to open doors and give directions to the other player. The other plays as the thief/spy that infiltrates to get the item or data they are after.

Bug Out
This is an interesting mix between Galaga and Arkanoid.  The game play is similar to Arkanoid where you have a paddle and break bricks with a ball, however instead of bricks they are space aliens (like in Galaga).  Occasionally one alien will break off and try to attack your ship/paddle.

Spectrum Specter
A retro looking maze game with four different colored walls. There are different buttons that change your characters color and you can move through walls of that color.  There are also enemies of different colors to watch out for, and they too can move through walls of their same color.  The object is just to survive as long as you can.

RoboHobo
Josh Jones showed his Zero Hour game jam entry. You give directions to a hobo whom you hope to convince not to commit suicide and stay alive.  There is food there which he'll need to eat to not starve and of course he can die if he goes over the cliff.

The Preordained Spot
Josh also showed his entry from the Latter Day Game Jam.  The object is to find where the golden plates might be buried.

Avatar Paint (Working Title)
This one is a interesting puzzle game where you have to paint the ground with different colors to match the goal pattern.  You can only switch colors by moving to a color changing space (sort of like a paint can space). Often you'll have to paint and repaint a space several times to reach the desired pattern.

It was a great evening.  Hope to see everyone at the next one!

Viva la Indie!

(EDIT: Added the name to Josh's second mini-game)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - September 2013

Well, I've been negligent in getting this posted, but here it is. We had another great Indie Night this past Thursday night, with there being around 40 or so people in attendance. I was also a bit late to the event myself (which is very unusual) as my flight home from JavaOne in San Francisco was delayed an hour and I drove straight from the airport to the event. Luckily I wasn't later than that.

We did something a bit different this time around. Instead of a formal presentation we did an informal postmortem for our first annual indie game jam. A number of us shared some things that went well or didn't go well and what we learned from the jam. I was able to produce a game with a lot more content this time around, so it was a personal success for me. I also shared some thoughts on how important it is to use tools that you know as you don't have time to learn them in a game jam setting. I've done some jams with the intent of learning an engine. I did get some learning done in those instances, however I didn't get much of a game done. Another guy shared his experience of how some constant team battles prevented them from getting their game done. It's unfortunate when things like this happen, but it was a learning experience for them.

We then opened up the time for game demos, and I didn't get to see many of the games shown (not even close). Here's the two that I saw.

D.R.O.D.: The Second Sky - Mike Rimer

Mike's been hard at work on the next installment in the DROD series. It has the same dungeon crawling puzzle mechanic that fans of the series like, but it's now showing a much bigger world, including a map screen that shows the various dungeons, and a new underground train or subway that gets players between dungeons.  There's also a storyline that explains why the dungeons are "growing". There are also some new game play elements, such as tiles that restrict your movement to only one direction, and something called a temporal split token. That token lets you essentially clone yourself and replay your past moves to help you solve certain puzzles. Sort of a Braid-like game play mechanic. The game looks awesome so far.

Siphon Spirit - Curtis Mirci

Curtis has been hard at work on a level editor for Siphon Spirit, which is definitely a huge addition to the game. His hope is to allow players to create and share their own levels, so that players will have more to enjoy after completing the game. It's coming along nicely and it certainly should be something a normal user can use.

As usual we had tons of great conversations about the industry and more. It's a great time to be an indie.

Viva La Indie!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

JavaOne 2013

I'm at JavaOne for part of this week. Past couple of days been learning about some new and not so new Java technologies. I found Java ADK and Nuvos interesting as they are some cross platform APIs that can create iOS and Android applications using Java. Could be some interesting things happening there.

Attended one session on creating games with JavaFX. Couple more like it coming tomorrow. Looks like it's getting more and more possible to REALLY make games purely in Java. Of course there's always Minecraft too (parts are done in Java, but I believe it still has some native pieces right now).

Definately some interesting technology coming down the pike. I'm off to a session on teaching Java with Minecraft and Greenfoot.

Ciao for now!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - July 2013

We had another awesome Indie Games Night last Tuesday night. We had around 40-50 people in attendance. The EAE department of the U hosted the event. Again a big thanks to them.

We began the evening with presentation from Lyle Cox on "Creating Intrinsically Rewarding Games". He began with a discussion about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how different game motivations fit into the various levels. For example most sandbox games fit in the Self Actualization level as it feeds the creative element very well. He also got into Self Determination Theory a bit.   With this he mentioned a study where it was found that too many extrinsic rewards in a system can actually reduce the intrinsic rewards that one gets out of an activity. In the study there were three groups of children. In the first group the kids were asked if they wanted to color and if they did they would give them a certificate (an extrinsic reward). In the second group the kids were asked if they wanted to color and weren't told about the certificate, however a certificate was given to them if they did color. In the last group they were just simply asked if they wanted to color. They found that the last group had the most motivation sometime later and the first group had the least. This is because the reward was contingent upon doing the action. They would only color if they got the certificate and not for the fun of it (the intrinsic reward). While it's not completely clear how we can use this when designing games as everyone is motivated by different things. Lyle definitely gave us some "food for thought" and some things to consider when making game design decisions.

After that we broke out into smaller groups for the game demos. There were a bunch of demos being shown that night and I know I missed a bunch.  Here's the one's I caught.

Patient Empowerment Game - EAE dept
The EAE department of the U partnered with some physical therapists to design a game to help kids fight cancer. The game is built in XNA, runs on a PC, and uses PS3 Move controllers to play the game. The game can be calibrated to respond to more or less movement based on how sick the patient is. Supposedly this will help get gain some of the motivation and movement needed to help them battle their disease. There's 5 different mini-games that each use a different motion, and the downtrodden superhero in the game gets stronger as the game progresses (a metaphor for the patient getting stronger).

Co-Op Puzzle Game - Lyle Cox
Lyle also showed off his game that he's working on. It's a two player game where you play as a boy and a girl that need to work together to solve the puzzle in the level to open the exit. Each level has a different puzzle that involves picking up coins, avoiding nets, activating switches that open or close hedge walls or reverse the direction of one-way fences. Also you have to avoid a killer Tribble on some levels. Okay the stand in art looked like a Tribble, although it may be something else in the final game.

Space Combat Game - Darius Oderkirk
Darius showed his progress on his turn based space combat game. Last time I saw it, it wasn't much to see visually, but now it's got a lot more art now and looks like a game. It's apparent that he's been working hard on it. It's a game about building your fleet, exploring, and fighting enemy fleets.

We Need to go Deeper - Deli Interactive
This game is co-op rougelike/exploration submarine game that takes place in a Jules Vern like world. You and one or two friends work to manage the sub to take it into ever deeper and more dangerous waters.  One person will be manning ship navigation while the others will be fixing leaks, maintaining engines, or firing torpedos at sharks or giant squid. The game is written in GameMaker and can be played on a single machine with split screen on on separate PCs with a networked connection.

Equalize - Rainblade Studios
This one is an iPad math game with a Tetris like mechanic. The idea is eliminate the rows by dropping the current number in the row to get the row total to equal the goal for that row. On the first level the goals are all zeros, but as the levels get higher the goal could get higher or lower. Also the speed at which the numbers fall also increases as the levels go up. I'm not really into math games, but this one looks like it could get intense fast.

There were a bunch of demos that I didn't get to see. I know that Bullet Train Hell, Siphon Spirit, LinkRealms, and Magnetic by Nature were shown, but I didn't get to see them. I'm sure there were a bunch of other that I missed.

As usual I'm amazed at what everyone is working on. It was nice to have some great conversations and reconnect with friends.These events always gets me excited and energized to work on my own projects. Currently I'm working on a point-n-click adventure game in GameMaker. Stay tuned for more on that.

Viva la Indie!

BTW Jay's writeup of the event can be found here.