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.

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.

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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - May 2013

We had another awesome Indie Games Night last night. We had around 40 people in attendance, so a pretty good crowd. We even had a special guest attend last night, Renaun Erickson. He's the game evangelist for Adobe. He was in town on some other business and heard about our little event and decided to come and also sponsor the pizza and soda.  We definitely appreciated that.

Adam Helps gave an awesome presentation on Curves. He had some great animations that brought the concept of Bezier curves to life. I knew a bit about them and had used them in prior projects, but this gave me a deeper understanding of how and why they work the way they do.  Adam tried to keep the math and the formulas to a minimum and I was able to follow it, although I admit it was stretching my brain a little. My math muscles have gotten weak.

We had a second short presentation with the guys from Helium Interactive (a group of UVU students that have now formed their own company).  The demoed their awesome game called DubWars . It’s a top down shooter that fires the weapons in sync with the dubstep music. It was built with Unity and is can currently be played on the OUYA store. 

As for the demos, I normally list and discuss each of them, but there were so many that I missed and I didn’t take great notes, so I’m not sure I can do them justice.  However I’ll mention some things here.  One game that captured my eye (and lots of others apparently) was “Momentum”.  It’s game in the vein of Super Monkey Ball or Marble Blast, however instead of you moving the ball through the level, you tilt the whole level to get the ball to move.  It’s similar to the old wooden maze games where you tilt the maze to get the metal ball past the obstacles to the end, but it’s even more similar to the more modern Perplexus Maze Game.

Tyler brought in his Oculus Rift and many of us tried the standard Unity demo out with it. It was amazing putting it on and looking around this virtual world. However the controls for the demo moved you around at unrealistic FPS shooter game speeds.  There were times my brain was getting confused between the motion my eyes were seeing and the signals from my inner ear saying just the opposite. I could only handle just a few minutes of it, before feeling some nausea. Perhaps something at a slower pace might be easier to handle. Or perhaps if it was combined with a hydraulic motion platform which might help keep visual and inner ear signals synced.

I saw a number of other demos, including a kid’s coloring book app and racing game for mobile tablets.  I saw Bryan’s Asteria, which is coming along nicely. Mike was demoing a version of D.R.O.D. Jay demoed Frayed Knights 2 a bit. I even demoed my simple Chameleon Chow Down game near the end. There were so many more games that I only caught glances of or completely missed.  There are times I wish I had multiple copies of myself to be able to catch everything that’s happening.

As usual there were some conversations happening as well. A lot of discussion surrounded the Oculus Rift, the OUYA, the Xbox One, and the like.  I also found out that GEEX has morphed into something bigger this year; it’s now the Salt Lake Comic Con.  Looks awesome!  Definitely some promising times ahead for us Indie’s.

Viva La Indie!

P.S. - Jay’s writeup of the evening can be found here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - March 2013

We had another awesome Indie Games Night last Tuesday night. We had just over 30 people in attendance. Neumont hosted the event and made pizza available. Thanks Neumont!

We began the evening with a presentation from Adam Ames, the founder and editor-in-chief of True PC Gaming, on how to work with the gaming press. He's very passionate about this topic, and his presentation showed that. He had tons of info that he dispensed to us, and he had tons left that he didn't get to because of the time. The main take away points that I got from his talk were:

#1 - Be Professional. You have to look, sound, and act the part if you want to be taken seriously by the press. Adam get tons on emails from individuals
#2 - Believe in Yourself. Show confidence and enthusiasm in your abilities and the game you are making. If you don't believe your game is great, why would the press think so?
#3 - Be Persistent - If something doesn't work out the first time, keep at it. If one door doesn't open, try another. Don't be afraid to ask; sometimes large doors can open just by asking. If something bombs, then learn from your mistakes and and try again, even if that means starting from scratch again. Keep at it and eventually the right doors will open.

After that we broke out into smaller groups for the game demos.  I think I missed several games, but here's the ones I saw (or noticed).

Monster Guru - Evan Munro (Gimo Games)
This one is an iOS game being developed by a few students. They had a successful Kickstarter for it last year and Evan is the one that showed it to me. The game is about discovering, capturing and training monsters. The game can be played based on your real movement in the physical world (when you move the character moves), but it can also be played in a traditional way as well. The art is first rate. As you move around the world new section open up, and you can find new monsters in that area.

Japanese Arena: Kana - Curtis Mirci (Califer Games)
Curtis showed me the progress he's been making to his Japanese learning game. It's starting to look like a more fully realized game now. He showed me some of the dialog in the lessons, and he's infused it with a lot of humor to add interest. It reads more like a cut scene with two characters talking to each other, which is more interesting than having a narrator talk to the user directly. There are "Quiz Attacks" at the end of a lesson that earn them points. He also showed me a new mode where the player is given an audible word and then they have to construct the word with the Japanese characters. There is also a practice mode where they can do the reverse, where they link together characters and the computer says the word. It's coming together.  Also in addition to all this, Curtis is also working on a press release system for indies. I'm sure he'll have more info on that later on.

Save the Princess, Dragon!  & Star Reacher - Spencer Lee (UgLee Games)
Spencer has been participating in the One Game A Month competition and he showed me his first two entries. His first entry, Save the Princess, Dragon!, is a Zelda like game where you are a dragon that has to save the princess. You can use fireballs and your claws against enemy blobs. There are keys to be found to unlock doors in this expansive dungeon crawl. The second entry, Star Reacher, is a side scrolling shooter game with tons of defenses to destroy and multiple obstacles to avoid. He developed both of these using GameMaker as these had to be created quickly.

Bimey - Tim, Ben, & Garrett
This is a Unity game being created by a few guys. It's a platformer game about a cute rabbit that has to save the forest from zombified animals. It's still in it's early stages and still rough, but it has improved since I saw it last. This time they were showing an OUYA based build of it and I controlled the rabbit with an OUYA controller. Very cool! I had to jump over pits, grab crates, and then throw them at zombie worms before they got me.

Space Combat Game - Darius Ouderkirk
Darius has been hard at work on a tablet game about turn-based space combat game. In the first phase you equip your ship with a ton of different options, that effect the attributes of the ship, such as shielding, maneuvering, fire power, etc. Then in the combat phase you have to plan out your moves with real physics. You set the direction and thrust for the turn and the game gives you a visual indicator where you'll end up at the end of the turn (and the next if you hold course). You have to avoid asteroids and other obstacles, and if you get close to an enemy ship, an automatic firefight will ensue.

Bullet Train Hell - Chris Tart (Logic Drill Games)
Chris has finally released his awesome Bullet Train Hell game on iOS. Congrats Chris! He was showing an OUYA port of the game on an actual OUYA dev kit. He's confident that he'll have it ready to go for the main OUYA launch date in June. I think that's one I'm going to have to pick up once my OUYA arrives, and the store opens.

War Command
I didn't really get to talk to these guys very much, but their game is an iOS trading card war game. It combines deck building strategy with physical war game strategy. They brought in a physical board and physical cards to play the game. They are planning to release this both as an iOS app and as a board game. The art they have on the cards is amazing and it seems like they are nearly done with it.

HexLocked - Tyler Wright
I noticed that Tyler had brought his Tetris like game with shapes made from hexagons. I didn't get a chance to talk with him about the progress he's made on it, but it was looking good from what little I saw.

As usual I'm amazed at what everyone is working on. It always gets me excited and energized to work on my own projects.

Viva la Indie!

P.S. - You can also read Jay's writeup of the evening here.

EDIT - You can now find Adam Ames' presentation here. Enjoy!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Utah Indie Games Night - January 2013

We had an awesome Indie Games Night last night and I counted over 50 people in attendance so it was a good sized crowd. It was certainly "cozy" at times in Ninjabee's downstairs room.

Casey Dockendorf kicked off our evening with a presentation on "Contracting Artists for Indie Game Projects". He spent some time discussing how to find artists for your game projects (such as public events, schools, and internet forums), as well as how to find contract work from an artists perspective. Casey has done years and years of freelance work, so he had lots of insight to share with us. He also mentioned the axiom with art that you can have any two of good, cheap, fast, but not all three. Which holds very true (and not just with art, but other work as well). He also discussed the varied ways to pay your artists, such as a rate per piece, or rate per hour, or lump sum for the whole job.  There is also the option of trading work for work in some cases.  He also mentioned the option of paying artists by royalties, however since this rarely pans out, most artists are not going to be interested in such an option. Lastly he discussed how you can better communicate your ideas to your artists, as phrases like "make it cooler" or "make it sexier", are very vague and ambiguous. One suggestion was to make a comparison to other similar works to help give the artist a mental picture of what you have in mind.  Also the scope (size / amount) of work should be communicated as well as the kind of art needed (concept, production, or marketing art).

Then we opened the floor to our game demos.  We had bring in some more tables as we had a lot of them. I'm aware of 13 demos that were shown, but I could easily have missed some.

Love & Space - Rachel Helps
This is a visual novel that is written in renpy. It's about a couple that falls in love and moves across the galaxy to a new planet. When the game gets going in full swing, you are planning out your day and more of the branching story unfolds. The game has has some great visuals and is off to a great start.

Asteria - Bryan Livingston
Asteria is a 2D space platformer game which Bryan describes as a cross between Terraria and Metroid. No pick axes, just ranged weapons and mining tools only. It's written in C# and XNA and he plans to use MonoGame to create Mac, Windows 8, iOS, and Android versions of the game. He has some great visuals in the game, but he is still looking for more freelancers to help him finish it off.

Bombs In My Eyes (BIME) - Tim, Ben, & Garrett
This is a cute platformer about a rabbit (named Bime) that gets bombs implanted in his eyes by the villian who's turned some of the forest creatures into zombies. Bime has to save the forest by killing of those zombies.  It's being made in Unity and it has some cool cartoony art and animations.  I also like the subtle marketing in the name "bime" (pronounced "buy me").

Attraction -
This is a platformer game about robots, that has an unual movement mechanic.  Besides the usual run and jump you can also use magnets in the level to either attract yourself towards or repel yourself from. It's in it's early stages but seem off to a good start.

Marr: Obert Skye's World of Yor - Chad & Jared - BlueLid Labs
This is an awesome iPad game built in Unity and takes place in Obert Skye's World of Yor world. 
Available now first of eight? games tower defense

Daemon Amor - Chad & Jared - BlueLid Labs
I didn't get a close look at this one, but it's also done in Unity by BlueLid Labs.  You play as a little demon that takes over for cupid and spits love on the unsuppecting humans below.

Stick Fighter - Tommy
This cool Street Fighter like game, but with stick figures.  It was fun to both watch and play. There's something about stick figure violence that makes me smile.

Super Dungeon Bros - React Games / Eric Wiggins
Eric brought his OUYA dev kit to show off Super Dungeon Bros.  This is a 3D co-operative 4 player dungeon hack-n-slash kind of game. The team put it together in about 12 days using Unity and they've done an excellent job on it. It was made for the OUYA create Game Jam

Saga Heros - Eric Wiggins
This is Eric's personal project (also made with Unity). It's a 3D RPG game similar to SAGA where you go around and kill beasts that attack you. The visuals are superb and it looks like this project is off to a great start.

Elemento - Vic Chelaru
Vic was showing his Match 3 like puzzle game that was running on a Windows 8 tablet. There are several different tiles, each one a different element, earth, wind, water, & fire. Each level is puzzle where you have perform a limited number of actions to clear the board, such as changing the element, swaping tiles, adding a tile (plus one above it), etc.  It's very polished and well done

Siphon Spirit - Peter Anderson
Peter showed of some more changes with Siphon Spirit. Mostly these are polish items, like a mouse button graphic to help people realize they can click to continue, and some improvements to the tutorial levels.  He's also added more cutscenes as well. He mentions that they hope to start a Kickstarter soon to raise some funds to help with music and art to finish the game. Hopefully that goes well for them.

LinkRealms - Herb Flower
Herb was there demonstrating some new additions to the LinkRealms universe, and he showed how easy it was to create a bot AI in their custom editor.  He created a complete AI in about 15 minutes, live at the event.  Very impressive.

Flexitris - McKay Salisbury
I didn't get a chance to see McKay's new additions to flexitris, but he was there showing it to a number of people.

It was a great evening. As usual I felt that so much was happening I was missing some good conversations, but I'm grateful for the ones that I was a part of.  So until next time...

Viva la Indie!