Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Bit of Minor Self-Indulgence

I've been fairly quiet of late on the old bloggerooni, youtoobs and the tweeters due to my life going through some changes. I'm not only morphing into apparently an illiterate moron (refer to the first sentence for evidence), but I'm also moving house and attempting to switch careers whilst also closing the physical distance between myself and the missus. Along with it being festival season (which is work for me) I've unfortunately had plenty of excuses for not keeping up with my videos, pixel art, blogging and whatever other drivel I insist on forcing upon you; I have made massive leaps with my mobile game Dungeon Burglars however. I'm currently testing it on the latest and last generation of iPhones, and I'm hoping after a few minor tweaks it will be ready for the masses. It will be free to play, with no micro-transactions and (hopefully) will be worth the download for the odd 5 minutes of play on the commute to work. There will be unobtrusive banner ads during select points of the game, which will not affect gameplay whatsoever (hey, I gotta at least try to break even and make my money back after paying the necessary development fees).

There's no real reason for this post except for giving people who are vaguely interested some 'behind-the-scenes', "oh my god what a scoop" related gossip. I'm not often this self-indulgent so forgive me for it! Work wise, I have been looking for something within the games industry since my decision to switch career last october. I am not a coder, and have no qualifications for design and development in this industry; I will refrain from quoting Liam Neesom - no need to tell you all about my special set of skills. In my spare time I have attempted to keep this blog going, working on my pixel art, start a mobile game (and actually have pretty much finished the bugger) and write multiple CV and cover letters convincing potential employers that my degree in media production and my work as an event production manager and sound engineer can somehow become relevant enough to warrant an interview. It's been tough.

I have always enjoyed writing and video games, and so combining the two makes perfect sense to me. This has spurred me to try writing different styles of article, from retrospective and current gaming culture, to critical analysis of crappy Kickstarter projects. I've not done as much as a lot of people, but I'd like to focus more time into it when I've sorted out moving house, and finding a job. I've applied for QA and testing jobs, associate producer at entry level, reporter, PR and marketing internships and even a design internship in Hamburg of all places. As I said, it's been tough. I'm not giving up, but I do need actual options. I also really don't want to leave London behind!

This has gotten a bit too personal; I'm writing everything my brain is telling me to without really thinking about it at this point! This unnecessary blog post is basically my reasoning behind briefly stopping video uploads and other things. In terms of video, I have experimented with a couple things including a weekly news video and more recently a group 'let's play' of a god-awful game in a similar vein to some of my favourite YouTubers: Retsupurae. I quite like the format so I may do some more. I have to work out a method of splitting hangouts audio and the game audio next time, as the game was pretty loud in places. That video is here.

Finally thoughts are, I really want to work in this industry and I won't stop until that happens. Until then, I will do everything I can to make up for my lack of relevant education and experience! Anyway, that's probably enough. There will be a post soon announcing Dungeon Burglars' release. I'm excited for it! My first ever completed game, I hope you guys will enjoy it - even for a few minutes! Thanks for taking the time to read this. - oP

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sh*tStarter: Poorly Presented Concepts & Begging

I was going to write about a promising Kickstarter project this morning, but instead I found my eyes glazed over, dumfounded by the sheer quantity of blatant begging and naivety. I'm not saying I'm a cynic; I'm a fan of the crowd funding model, and I feel that most projects I look at are sincere and transparent. It's just that there's a level of preparation required in order to present a captivating project with high production values, capable of drawing in potential backers. It's a business pitch, but without the stress of dressing in a suit, sweating on the way to a conference room, and looking an investor in the eyes and asking for his/her money with a lump in your throat. So as a Kickstartererer, you have an advantage over the IRL marketers and businessy peoples, in which case there's no real excuse for a half-arsed pitch.

This isn't a new thing, Kickstarter has had numerous crap filling it's pages for a long time, both accidental and deliberate. The potato salad pitch for example, requesting backer support in order to make: potato salad, has had copycats with even more ludicrous 'investment opportunities' cropping up. Let's keep things game related though; I'm going to reference a few projects that I have problems with, and in most cases my criticisms will be mainly constructive... well, I hope.

Kingdom of Oberon by Trini-V Games

First up we have this 'dark' MMO, offering a unique multiplayer experience, as this statement clearly proves.
Now, what, you may ask, sets us apart from the multitudes of other MMOs on the market today, such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars and Everquest? First of all, our world will be split into multiple islands, allowing separate and drastically differing areas to explore, while still keeping them connected. 
It helps when pitching you game, to have someone well-versed in the design philosophy, development schedule, financial details oh and of course the lore. In this case, we have one of these boxes ticked... sort of. It doesn't help when your entire video is 15 minutes long and is presented by someone who isn't a part of your company. No offence to the 'guest speaker' but I would have requested from him some form of scripting, editing and possibly some production values? Investors want to feel safe and comfortable when funding a project, and a bit of fancy editing and well spoken commentary assists with giving us a little faith. I appreciate that you have learnt the backstory of the game, but I'd much rather see some gameplay than take your word for it. How about screenshots, no? Concept art?

Ok that'll have to do....

There is some minor descriptions of gameplay elements, including Borderlands-esqe weapon generation and classes, but all in all this project is presented extremely poorly and is more like the ramblings of a wannabe fantasy novelist if anything. I don't want to deny someone of their dream of creating a fantasy world, but building an MMO isn't exactly a small undertaking. Plus, recycling old and standardised MMO features and claiming that they are unique isn't going to fly. It's ok to be innovative! To top things off there are no links to the developer's site, and no social media contact details besides those belonging to the YouTuber who is pitching the game.

Cookie Crush Raga by InnovatelTek

Ignoring the obvious cheap cash-in nature of this project, and by judging it on it's presentation; Cookie Crush Raga is a multi-platform puzzle game and is presented, at first glance, quite professionally. Upon analysing the content however, it becomes apparent that the developers have gone to great lengths (as in, hundreds of words worth of... great lengths) to explain every little detail of the game as opposed to showing us succinct video gameplay.

Its obvious that this is nothing more than a bunch of mock ups, and there is no real detail about how the funding will be spent on the development process. Maybe I'm being too judgmental; who wouldn't want to see screenshots of a login page and lists of GUI components down to the player's name? The kickstarter also treats us to paragraph upon paragraph of information about astrology and how it features within the concept... What's wrong with being short and concise?

If you respect developers who are open and transparent about their project's risks, like the example below, then this'll be right up your street.
In doing a unique and great project like this, certainly there is the risk that people won't get it, they won't understand what the game is all about, and why uniqueness is important.
I'm not going to bash the potential audience that this game could have, or the concept at it's core; my problem is solely with the fact that this bored the hell out of me. Too much about nothing. Ok next.

Swine Bomb by Max Garrod

What element of a kickstarter project is most likely to tip the scales and convince you to invest? Is it the fact that the game is already finished and is free to download? Um, no! I am giving no opinion or criticism of this game whatsoever, mainly because there is no video footage, screenshots or even description, other than:
Swine Bomb is a great, faced pace game filled with bombs, timers and a little flying pig.
This developer is asking for £5000 in investment for advertising his existing game. This is not much better than the other kickstarters begging for money so that they can buy the equipment to become the next Pewdiepie. The only tier costs £7, the reward of which is being one of the first people to find out about the next game... I don't need to say much else.

So that was just a few different examples of bad kickstarters (not what I was originally going to write about). I will write about something a bit more positive next time! Hopefully! -oP

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Dungeon Burglars DevLog: 7

It's been another busy month of work for me, but I have found time to do a lot of work on the game. I have completed the 12 main levels and after some testing decided that it was a bit too easy (although I knew what was coming). I had a thought this weekend and quickly added 2 new 'support' burglars: The Cleric and the Sapper. Despite all the work I've done, this video is a short one showing off these new additions. Check it out!

Next on the agenda:

  • Music
  • Last SFX changes
  • Add boss 'The Bankrupt King'
  • Create endurance mode (99999 enemies)
  • Final graphics polish

Any feedback is welcome! What do you think of the new support classes? Thanks for reading! -oP

Friday, 1 August 2014

Early Access First Impressions: 'Jotun'

'Early Access First Impressions' is just that, first impressions. This is not a review, and is heavily opinionated.

Let's be honest, Vikings are bloody awesome. Norse themes are awesome. Rape and pillaging is awe.. no wait, that's not so awesome. The mythology at least has grabbed my attention and so I draw your attention to Jotun!
Jotun is an action-exploration game for PC and Mac that takes you on an epic journey through Viking purgatory.
In this 2D top-down game, the devs want to create the perfect balance of exploration, discovery and combat. Inspiration has been derived from Shadow of the Colossus in that respect. You will explore the landscape in the search for Runes with which to summon the 'gigantic Norse elementals'. Defeating them will appease the gods, and secure your exit from purgatory.

The hook of Shadow of the Colossus was the idea of fighting huge monsters, climbing them and delivering the killing blow in the most risky (and sometimes frustrating) circumstances. The video unfortunately doesn't reveal any actual combat, but a still rendering teases a jotun's ice breath attack.

Inspired by the mechanics of The Legend of Zelda and SSB, the combat in Jotun is fast-paced and organic. Fighting the jotun requires the ability to dodge projectiles, use proper positioning and attack at the right moment.

Unlike SotC, Jotun will require puzzle solving in order to progress, which will be a welcome addition alongside the solemn loneliness of exploration. For me, in SotC the 3D aspect emphasised the solitude, and created a sense of emotional depth (something I believe a 2D medium may struggle to recreate). Considering the top down perspective, there is no landscape to peer across and to remind you of your insignificance. However, I hope to be proven wrong.

The game looks beautifully rendered, a bright colourful palette along with an art style reminiscent of The Banner Saga (come on, it came out recently so I'm bound to draw comparisons), but I consider this a hell of a good thing personally!

The Kickstarter itself is concise and direct, with a video of gameplay albeit (as I mention above) without any actual combat or detailed puzzle solving. Despite the lack of 'gameplay', the page is well presented; simple and to the point. It's also always nice to get a look at the individual developers and their past work, for reassurance of the quality of the project. There is a brief financial breakdown which again, is nice to see as a potential investor.

Our goal is to reach alpha within six months, beta within nine months and full launch within twelve months. Therefore Jotun will be released in September 2015.

The reward tiers are broken down into a table, which I haven't seen done before on a Kickstarter; I appreciate how simplified the devs have presented this, as in the past I have been very confused/frustrated by seeing higher tiers offer identical (or even lesser) rewards. Stretch goals are few and far between, but as they said in their video: perhaps community input could influence the direction of the development.

I'm excited for this, and considering that it's got $31,243 of $50,000 funded already (Canadian; at time of writing), there's obviously plenty of other Norse souls excited for it too.  I'll be waiting for some combat footage before I pledge, but I'm optimistic I'll open my wallet! Go have a look and see for yourself! -oP