shawn's blog

That’s Not A Pixel – March 25th Update

Posted in Thats Not A Pixel by Shawn on March 25, 2015

So, I’m working on a game called That’s Not A Pixel. It’s up for $1 on itch.io for reasons I explained in a previous post. But I do plan to give the game as much as support as I can. In between work and other projects, I managed to upload a new version. Here are some of the more important things updated:

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Added:
Pause Button/Screen – Because some times you just need to walk way from the game, for whatever reason.
Elapsed game timer – I originally added this so I can see how long it takes before I lose, simply for balancing purposes, but I actually enjoy having it there. Plus, it gives me a reason to do some noticeable things at specific time intervals.
Particles on collisions – It looks better than just enemies disappearing.

Modified:
Overall game balance – I made it a bit easier…despite the fact that I *really* didn’t want to. As the game goes on, the speed of the player increases. I’m using an animation curve to handle that. I’m also using an animation curve to manage the time between pixels spawning. I’ve lowered the rate at which the enemy speeds up, and made adjustments for the enemy spawn curve so they spawn at a slower rate. The cap for the minimum spawn interval has also be raised.

Fixed:
Scoring post loss – If your player ‘died’, and you jumped over a specific enemy post death, you gained points. I’m not into giving out freebies. Well, I don’t mind, really, but it didn’t seem right in this situation.

TODO:
Multiple levels of difficulty- The framework is there. I just need to actually apply the settings to the game world.
Sound Effects – There are a few sounds missing, the most important being when enemies are destroyed and when the player jumps.
Spawning patterns – This was suggested to me, and I really like it. Right now, enemies spawn one at a time. More variety would be interesting.
Screen shake – Not a lot. Just a little. Probably on collisions. I actually had this. Just looks like it just wasn’t set up to run correctly.
Options button – There’s no options button for mobile, so there’s no way to options screen. Maybe I should just ignore mobile users! (…that was a bad joke…)
Twitter button – So everyone can tweet things about how well they do, or how much they hate the game.

That’s all I have for now, or at least, some of the more interesting things. If you want to support the game’s development, head over to the game’s page!

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That’s Not A Pixel

Posted in Thats Not A Pixel by Shawn on March 21, 2015

I’m putting a game on itch.to. It’s called That’s Not A Pixel, and it’s a game jam game that’s $1.

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In Philly, we meet up every Thursday for Philly Dev Night. It’s been going on for a while now, and we’ve been having game jams pretty much monthly. This month’s game jam theme is ‘Profit’. Now, the actual game is required to have the theme of profiting, rather, you have two weeks to bring the game to a playable state, then try and make the game profitable over the following four weeks.

Now, this game jam theme appealed to me, but not because of the idea of making money. What I really liked about the theme is that it requires participants to run through a smaller, and possibly simpler, version of the indie game dev gauntlet: make a game, put it on the market, make money, support it for some time afterwards. I don’t know what percentage of game jam games go from just a jam game to something more afterwards, but it doesn’t seem like many. Personally, I really like the idea of supporting game jam games well after the game is completed. I’m getting involved in this game jam because it requires jammers to keep up on their game after the submission deadline, something most jams don’t explicitly ask for.

So, for me, this jam is all about continued support and feedback. I’m also going to use this game jam to work out a system of potential player feedback and support for another project I’m working on, Foresight Fight. For that game, I’d really like to create a robust system that provides early feedback, allowing me to make necessary and quality adjustments early on. I could do something like Steam’s Early Access, but it’s not necessary if all I want is a way to get feedback.

This is going to be an experiment for me, and I’m going to continue working on the game for as long as people want to provide feedback and support for it. Or until it’s clear that the game reached a point where any more progression seems to take away from the game.

If you’re interested in some more, it’s pretty much a quick reaction game. You see pixels, and you either collect them, hit them, or avoid them. And it’s intentionally difficult, so we’ll see how much traction it gets, if any.

And it’s on itch.io, so check it out!

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What is Foresight Fight?

Posted in Foresight Fight by Shawn on March 19, 2015

I’ve had this game idea stuck in my head for a while now, and only recently have I been able to experiment and play with it. The concept reminds me of one of the first games I worked on. It was a puzzle game where players needed to input commands, then watch as their character tried to either reach the goal, or survive for a number of seconds, the objective being different based on the level. I’m pretty sure there was a third game mode, but I don’t remember it. Anyway, it’s where the idea for this game came from. I wrote a super short blog post back in December with just the title screen from the game, and a paragraph saying “It’s a fighting game”. It was a poor update, so I’m going to take some time now and write something that’s a bit more detailed.

Foresight Fight is the title of the game, and as I mentioned, it’s a fighting game. Not a traditional fighting game though, which is the part that worries me the most at this stage of development. The premise of the game is that the fighting is not in real time. Rather, there are multiple phases to a battle. The first phase is the Queue Phase, the current name until I can think of something better. During the Queue Phase, players input their commands. For example, let’s say player one enters “Left, Right, Attack, Left”. After the Queue phase ends, the Execution Phase begins. The Execution Phase is where moves are, well, executed. Now player one’s character will move left, right, then attack, and finally, move left again. In the game world, those series of moves would most likely be useless, or at least would be if their opponent wasn’t close by.  After the Execution Phase, you have the Results Phase, which is just figuring out who wins the round.  

Now, there are actually two ways to win. You either become the last player standing, meaning all other opponents have been eliminated, or you can retrieve your gem, which just requires that you make contact with it. Having multiple win conditions was important, as I wanted to increase the paranoia that someone has when playing against another person. For example, a match may start out with both players going for their respective gem, but can quickly turn into a game of cat a mouse, an element that I thoroughly enjoy in multiplayer games.

At this point in the world of fighting games, it seems that most of them are an exhibition of twitch skills. It is true, though, that there’s a great amount of skill that someone needs in order to do well in a competitive fighting game. I love each iteration of Smash Brothers, but at this point in time, I don’t think I have the skill to play on a competitive stage. Of course, that’s something that could be fixed with enough practice.

With Foresight Fight, I wanted to try and take a step back from that. Not the part about practice, rather, the part that requires players needing to make all of their decisions during such a small window. The Queue Phase allows people to spend some time formulating theories or plan out their strategy. I’m not trying to completely separate myself from quick reaction elements, as the game does have a mode where players have a limited amount of time to enter their move set. So, being able to quickly identify a situation and execute moves with the highest chance of success is present and important in Foresight Fight.  

 

One element that I’d love to capture is the spectator element. Mainly, I want each match to tell a story as they progress, and allow people simply watching a chance to become engaged in the story on the screen. The progression of the story is different from that of a traditional fighting game, even though the basic theme of ‘Player vs Player’ remains. Fighting games have a fairly linear progression of excitement during each match. That’s to say, from the beginning of a match, all the way to the end, the excitement level of spectators traditionally start out at a certain point, then increases as the match progresses. As it stands now, Foresight Fight increases in steps. This progression format has a number of upsides that I can think of, as well as a few obvious downsides that I’m looking to overcome.

But that’s it for a short introduction to Foresight Fight! Of course, as work progresses, I’ll share more information with the world.

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What is ‘Choices’?

Posted in Choices by Shawn on March 16, 2015

So, I started a podcast called Choices. It’s a fictional investigated podcast where listeners choose what the investigator does next, and it’s something that’s pretty different from the projects I’m used to working on. I figured, since voting for Episode One has finished, I’d write up something about how this started.

Some time late last year, I received a text message from a few of my friends. We’re in one of those group messages and there are times where everyone is talking about something that I don’t understand. Anyway, the messages they were sending to each other, and to me, were about the podcast Serial. These messages came in before I had a chance to listen to the series, so a lot of what was being said was noise. The chain of messages were bit harder to follow since I missed about the first 20 of a series of on-going texts. After catching up, I finally got around to asking what it was and was directed to go and listen to the thing. I’m pretty sure they said that it was something I “definitely had to listen to”. Of course, I didn’t.  A few days later, they were at it again with the text messaging, talking about the podcast. This time around, instead of asking questions, I decided to just go ahead and listen. If it was something strong enough to keep their attention for an extended period of time, I figured that I should at least give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. I instantly found myself lost in the experiences that a group of people had about 15 years ago, and in the ongoing stories that are playing out to this very day.

Now, there’s a lot about the podcast that people find interesting. For some, it’s the mystery, and for others, it was how the entire thing was packaged by host, Sarah Koeing. I do think that she did an great job, despite some criticisms that I’ve stumbled across. For me, two of the most appealing aspects of the entire thing were the community discussions, and the rawness of the podcast. The podcast itself, recording, music, host voice, that wasn’t raw. Those were well done. The rawness that I’m referring to is that of the people involved. Over the course of the series, you hear the emotions of characters, whether they were extremely important or possibly a red herring. But at the end of the day, it came down to the fact that they were just people. Again, that, and the community discussions, are what I think may have pulled me in so hard.

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After finally listening to the podcast, I was finally able to join in the discussion with my group chat buddies. As with us, no conversation stays serious for too long, and we started joking about making our own podcasts. I joined in with jokes too, but after I was finished speaking with them, I wondering if creating a podcast was something I should actually consider looking into. The entire idea of the thing seemed interesting, and it’d be a nice change of pace from game development. At first, I wasn’t sure about what I cover as a podcast topic, but since I was fresh off of listening to Serial, I became attached to the idea of doing something similar. I’m not experienced enough to be an investigator, nor do I want to spend my time trying to become one. It’s just not for me. But I couldn’t pull myself away from doing something similar. And, as with most things, I really wanted to turn this into some sort of game. Additionally, it was important to try and generate some community discussion, if possible. Since I didn’t want to become a real investigator, I figured that maybe I should just become a fictional one. It would free me up from a number of responsibilities, like doing mountains of actual research. That may sound like I’m lazy, but to me, it actually would have been more restrictive to stick to a non-fictional story. I would be confined into telling the story that was presented, and would basically just be me making my own version of Serial. And there was no point to doing that when Serial already accomplished the task, and would likely do it better than I could ever hope of doing.

Because it was fictional, I would be missing out on some important things that made Serial so interesting. First, I would be missing the people. In Serial, there were people who were interesting characters, voices who I felt like I could identify with one way or another. That was something I could hope to overcome during my recording sessions, something I’ll discuss in a later blog post. The other thing I’d be lacking was a way to get the community involved. I could have just told a mystery, and had people discuss that, similar to many movies or novels. But that wasn’t going to be enough. It needed it to be more than just “Hey, this is an interesting story, let’s talk about it!”. I felt like it needed some from of interactivity. Quite often, while listening to Serial, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I would have done that’, or ‘I wonder what would have happened if she found that out first’. A lot of questions flew through my mind. In reality, I didn’t really want to take control over what she did. However, I wondered what it would be like if I could.

VoteOne

And that’s what drove me to having Choices be driven by the listeners. I could try and create a community where people would discuss the podcast. The community could potentially be invested for multiple reasons. Either they enjoy the story (hopefully!), or they feel like they have a voice in what happens next. The community could help the story progress, and the puzzles solved would be because I was directed by others to go in a certain direction. It wasn’t a complete ARG, or maybe not even one to begin with, but it was something that was bit more interactive than a traditional podcast, or a mystery novel. It was something that a lot of people could easily jump into and play a part. Of course, to get to even half of the level of discussion that Serial had, I would need people to listen to the podcast, a trick that I haven’t learned how to pull of yet. That’s okay though. Fortunately, it’s been pretty fun doing the whole thing.

Episode One of Choices is finished, and voting has taken place. For the first episode, I decided to keep things simple. There were two things that people could vote for, and fortunately, there were actually few votes, though not as many votes as listens. As things progress, I’m hoping that the story and listener participation should hopefully get more complex.

Well, that’s what I plan to do. Of course, we’ll see what happens.

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