Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Post of the day: small game Thursday - Girls like Robots

Girls like robots, nerds like courners, everyone likes pie, except for robots, fish like company... Yes, it's a puzzle game. Puzzle game with a story that's equivalent to a hallucinating chipmunk on coffee and steroids. Yes, it's that crazy and all over the place. But most importantly, it's funny.

The bad points

The game is pretty short. And that's pretty much it.

The good points

It's the best story that I've seen in a puzzle game. It's the most humorious recent story. It's crazy, it's all over the place, you literally do not know what the next level is going to be. And that's what's great about it.

Stare at this wonderful octopus rant:

Now that I gave away too much about this game - yes, you should get it.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Post of the day: Making a level background - some houses to combine with the sky backgrounds!

Did quite a few version of how the houses in the level could work. Going to post some of them below. Started working on several different styles as well in case those will be requested.

example of how the background works with the houses

Monday, 24 February 2014

Post of the day: Making a level background - my work so far

Took a weekend off, before all my university work hit me. Will be a busy week this week. It turned out though that being a level designer/ background pixel artist is fun. Started working on level 1, scene 1. For that I needed some Japanese houses and the sky. Ended up spending a whole lot of time on the sky behind the houses. Produced several different variations of it, so my group will have a nice choice. Houses are a work in progress at the moment. This is my work so far:

Background Sky

Initial sky that I started with. In case my group goes with very very very pixely look they can take it.

The same thing blended together far better. I included some transparent colours in between the ones portrayed above and then blended it all.

Added more blue.

Darkened the sky significantly.

lowered the blue down. Maybe the sun has already set and the nighttime is coming?

the darkest version. If I would go even darker I would have to start adding stars and my team is against celestial bodies at the moment.

What I did with houses so far

mostly just this. It took a while to get the shape even semi accurate. Will need to place some extra houses in a separate background tomorrow and finish these ones off.

Tomorrow's blog is likely to be about this again.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Post of the day: Tutorials

Games have changed a lot over the years. We went from extensive manuals, to in game tutorials to tutorials that you're allowed to skip or no tutorial at all. This article is based completely on my own opinions and in no way should be taken as actual rules.

Your game should not require a tutorial

By now we have clearly defined genres and clearly defined control schemes. For example if I'm in a first person game, I'll expect to walk with WASD (or I might try the arrow keys if WASD doesn't work). If I'm in an RPG or an MMO the movement can be also done with mouse clicks. However there are very few variations. Even when we're talking about inventory, quest log, skill sheet, etc management they should not be so complicated that I would need a full 20 minute tutorial to learn them. With very few exceptions a control scheme of a game should feel intuitive. You're in a game to enjoy a game world and not to spend hours trying to figure out how to walk.

The joy of being able to skip a tutorial.

Let's say I decided to play a realistic flight simulation game (one of those exceptions that I mentioned in the previous paragraph). Tutorial is most definitely a necessity. Let's say that that flight game had a campaign. I played trough it all and decided to play trough it again using the exact same plane that I was using before (maybe I just wanted to see if I can get a better score, or maybe I just wanted to enjoy myself this time without any challenge) and behold! The tutorial plays again! While the first time the tutorial was helpful and probably would be a welcome sight if I was returning to the game after months of not playing it, right now it annoys me. It's a series of repetitive tasks that I already know how to do. And here I am sitting, looking all grumpy, going trough 20-30 minutes of everything that I already know just so I could get into a game again.

The ability to repeat the tutorial 

Let's say that I am once again in a complex flight simulator and I started to lose my concentration on the game while in a tutorial. Maybe I was being talked to, maybe my dinner was burning, either way I did not pay attention to a few of the controls and now I have no idea what I'm doing. Repeatable tutorials! They're a blessing in this kind of situation.

Just move your tutorial onto the main menu

Best solution if you feel like your game needs a tutorial is to move it to the main menu. A person can just choose not to play it then and they can choose to replay it whenever they want. Example:

The whole game is a tutorial 

I'm referring to such games as for example Portal. As you go trough the game you're introduced to new mechanics slowly with mini tutorials. Whether it is good or not will depend on how well it is implemented. A game called Girls Like Robots does it with a lot of humour.

This way the tutorials of new mechanics are no longer annoying. They're amusing. They're part of the journey that you're on.

Pop up tutorials

While I have a lot against The Sims 3, one thing that it did right was the tutorials. When a player approaches a new mechanic a pop up shows up suggesting the player some help on understanding the mechanic. The player can accept, refuse or switch these pop ups off entirely.

You can also witness this kind of style of tutorial in Guild Wars 2:

How not to make a tutorial 

I absolutely love Assassin's Creed games, however the first one had one of the most annoying mandatory tutorial. Playing for the first time you would have been able to figure out what to do without this tutorial and if you're replaying this game these first minutes will make you grind your teeth. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Post of the day: small game Thursday - Game Dev Tycoon

A little bit about the developers. Greenheart Games was founded in July 2012 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Klug with a mission to develop games that are fun to play. They attracted a lot of attention after making a fake version of their own first game - Game Dev Tycoon, releasing it on pirate sites and having pirating gamers go bankrupt in their game from rampant piracy.

Let's jump to the good part - the game itself!
The gameplay is very simple. You start a new game and create a character. You start in the 80s and aim to become a successful game making company by around 2020s when you will be retiring. At first all you have to do is click on your character and select what they should do. Later in game there are two menus - things that people can do individually and things that you would be working on as a whole company.

(company menu on the left and personal menu on the right)

The goal is to make games that would be as profitable as possible. That is achieved by keeping with state of the art technology by researching the newest things and putting them into your new engines, by generating game reports of the games that you made to understand your audience better. For perfection you should match topic with genre, topic target audience with selected platform target audience and the genre with the interest in it on a specific platform. Lots of variables to take into the account. You are likely to end up experimenting, but then again that's what this game is about! While making the game you'll have 3 development cycles. In each one you'll have to decide what to invest most time into.

Afterwards you wait for reviews and hope that they're positive.

(obviously my game is not as perfect as it could have been)

Then you have the extra management to think about. See that blue number in the previous picture? That's my research points. You get some research points for generating game reviews, fulfilling contracts, making games and making engines. Making engines however is pretty expensive. I never managed to have enough research points to research everything as it comes up, therefore careful research points management is a must!

Other things include such tasks as staff hiring. The better your workers are the better games you'll produce, however you have to invest quite a hefty sum in order to be able to hire a person and there's no guarantee that the people suggested to you will be good at anything.

(I invested the maximum amount, but the results were not impressive)

Then there's small chance cards that will be coming up. Opportunities to have Interviews, cards asking you how you will deal with piracy and chance cards suggesting to release your old engines to the public.

Whatever decisions you'll make the game will not try to change your view on things. Unless, of course, you pirated the game.

Besides all of that there are a bunch of secret achievements and hidden Easter eggs. The game is easy to learn, however the amount of combinations that you can make will likely overwhelm you. It's a small game, but it is very well made. If you're into simulation games you're likely to lose hours playing this game.

As far as the quality goes I would give this game 10/10. However be mindful that what I shown you here is all the game is. If you're not into these kind of games, you probably won't love this one as much as I do.

You can get this game from the developer website or steam. I just can't stress enough how good this game is. If you don't feel like getting it, at least look into it. Knowing it is most definitely worth it!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Post of the day: Keep it simple, make it special - minimalist games.

A lot of aspiring game developers get burned by attempting to make an AAA title without the workforce and the money that such titles require. If you're able to create a polished, good, big game, please, go ahead, I am not saying that it should not be attempted. This post will merely serve to inspire by showing minimalist titles that received moderate success.

Super Hexagon

I recently picked this title up and it's simply addictive. The game mechanics are simple. Your mouse arrow is attached to a stationary hexagon. Your job is to move your mouse arrow to a different courner of the hexagon to avoid hitting into figures flying towards you. There are a few levels and in a level the difficulty increases every 10 seconds. Because you're likely to fail very early on you spend very little time actually being in game and therefore you tell yourself that it's alright to have one more try. The brutal gameplay and a wonderful music score keeps you playing for hours. The video next to this text shows off the gameplay of the first level.

Angry Birds

While the game is colourful and indeed quite amusing looking the mechanics of it are quite simplistic. You decide how hard to throw the bird and try to demolish a structure with as few birds as possible. The game certainly released at just the right time on the right platform to receive all of that popularity, but nonetheless it's a good example of a popular game with a very simple mechanic.

Flappy Birds

While the true story behind how this game became popular is unknown, the fact that the bird was hard to control, the average game play time was in seconds and you had the ability to show off your high score to your friends and challenge them most definitely played a part in its popularity. While no longer on the market the game raised enough commotion to spawn countless clones.

Gone Home 

Let me begin by openly telling you that I don't like this game. I think that the story lacks quality for a story driven game and it used controversial topics and nostalgia for an era to gain customers. Having said that, this game has accomplished something important in the industry. It brought a discussion on "how much gameplay does a game need?". Together with games like "Dear Esther" ts has started a new genre, that's yet to be named. Story driven exploration, or exploration driven story is the closest that I'll get to accurately describing this genre. In these kind of games you do nothing, but explore the environment around you. As you approach either important places or objects such as notes, recordings and such the story starts to emerge. That's the whole game. However the suspension of "what's next?" and the intrigue of feeling like a detective uncovering a story keeps you playing. I believe that this genre holds a lot of potential.
Having said all of that, what I believe and what I think of it doesn't matter - it was still a very successful game with very minimal gameplay.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Post of the day: Picture Tuesday

Like last Tuesday I'll present to you a new batch of unedited pictures. 

just here because they're visually pretty

thought that it looked interesting. I love reflections!

while the picture itself isn't that pretty, look at the water droplets in the wind!
umbrella in the litter box. 

while not correctly aligned, I still simply love that bright red building.

simply thought that it looks good.

beautiful green grass outside of this alley. 

badly aligned, but thought that it looks good.

love the sky.

love that silhouette of the guy in the distance. Might be able to do something artsy with this.

tried photographing ordinary things. This is the only remotely good photograph. 

looks interesting, main focus point on the guy's shirt.

look at the water!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Post of the day: FOV

FOV stands for field of view and determines the viewing arc, or in other words how much you can see while playing.

What is the correct FoV?

That depends on the size of the screen and your distance away from it. Usually console games tend to have about 65 FoV, while if you're playing on a 1080p monitor 90 FoV should be more natural. There is this calculator for calculating the correct FoV based on screen size, but FoV preferences are normally very personal.

Examples of different FoV

And this is a screenshot from above with me estimating about how much your character sees:

Why is having the correct FoV so important?

Your eye sees you monitor as an extension of reality. Looking trough a monitor should feel like looking trough a window. If the view "trough the window" is warped some of us experience a feeling as if we were poisoned. It is very similar to motion sickness, however instead of our body being confused because our eyes are telling us that we are moving and our inner ear knowing that we're not, it's our eyes viewing something warped and our brain not understanding the image.

Why did I make this post?

Because too many developers these days think that if 60 FoV is alright for consoles, it's also alright with PCs, not thinking about how many people won't be able to buy and play their games because they feel sick from incorrect FoV. Also too many gamers that don't get health problems from low FoV don't know what it actually is. With this post I seek to educate people unaware about what FoV is and send a plea to the developers to include an FoV slider whenever they can.