Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Midway Space Invaders

No, and no. We do not have a space invaders game inside The Midway. We will leave that to when we either get paid by the licensor, or until erm.. It becomes free to do so. I just wanted to clarify that fact before i continue with this post..

"If ya haven't got a space Invaders game, then what are ya gonna post about then I hear ya say!" (or maybe i am just talking to myself ?

This post is a little story of what happened last week. when we found ourselves with our very own invaders, invading our home space. here is a piccy to start, just top get ya warmed up before the Story really goes on. Please note that this picture is a mockup of the real event, and the likenesses have no bearing on real life whatsoever. (i cannot show gamertags, sooo ya have the mockup ok!)

Just a mockup of the Real live incident...

About 2 weeks ago...
We noticed that two people who we shall call invader 1 and invader 2 appeared in our online space. They never seemed to try and comunicate with us. Though we did try our best to talk with them. firstly we tried typing in English words to see if they would react. But it was as if we did not exist. Hello is fairly universal so we figured it would be aok. Next we tried to communicate through gesturing, greetings and such like waving. Again to no avail. It was a mite frustrating i have to say. Both me and my colleague were left with very few options of communication. however it did not seem to be an issue so we let it go.

About 1 week ago...
I had a crash that was very odd. I may have blogged about it, i know i did several days later, as it started happening mor and more. However 1 week ago, we were unaware fo the invaders power... What I did notice however was the fact that they seemed to be able to levitate. No surprise that an alien could levitate, but in the world of PS3Home, that should not be possible. This was a clue, though a subtle one that soething was wrong... just how wrong we would find out later.

A few days later...
 i happend to be in the space when i saw one the of the invaders walk smoothly up from where i was standing in front of them, he walked up into the air as if climbing an invisible staircase. I was shocked, and bemused at this time. We put our brightest brains on this strange happening. But were then distracted by a full The Midway test.
The test went well (i blogged about this). But right at the end of the test EVERYONE in there crashed. This was bad. The rest of the test went well. We had solved our frame rate issues and memory issues to be suddenly confronted by a crash we could not trace. And it was fatal to everyone in there.

Lots of Time...
What followed was a painstaking investigation using brains and brawn and soda. Lots of soda. Me and my colleague kept going into the scene trying hard to duplicate the crash. We noticed that the Invaders were in there. Then Pop we crashed. WTH we thought, we were jus standing there. It was at this point our suspicions about these seamingly inoffensive aliens began to appear. Suspicsions that they are not quite as calm and inncoent as they appear. So we kept going into the space to see what they were up to. We saw the fact that they did not appear to crash.. Ever. We also witnessed them walk all over the sky without a care in the world.
Then we had a revelation.. We saw them pop forward and a few seconds later pop back. This is a sure sign of entering a minigame. Woah! they had their own minigames. Which would also explain the fact they walked all over the sky.. it mean't they also had their Own scene. Like in a parallel dimension, and we could only see them, not their world. Something was very very wrong here.

Two days ago..
We tried once more for the whole morning to communciate with the invaders. We sent them private mesages only to be ignored. We felt they ust not be able to see us. how were we going to solve this issue. As we had now traced it to the fact that when the invaders play their minigame, they send some distressing network message thruogh some strange subspace portal to our minigame system, and our minigame system tries hard to translate their message only to be doomed and crash when index 48 is out of range (whatever that is!). Their alien tongue was literally killing us! ARGH!

As we were investigating who could possibly be in our reality with their own landscape we got lucky. We had tested our systems and various crossovers and had conclusively determined what was going on. The invaders were using Our Key.. the special number that Sony give us to access our space online. They were also using our key. This was not supposed to happen. but it was. We knew we had to get rid of the invaders, we had to repel boarders!

We communicated..
although we thought they could not see us. Yesterday one of them spoke. He said 'please do not play 'Pliers Spice'. We were shocked the invaders have spoken. what followed was an intense conversation that led us to expel the invaders as they moved onto another spaces key. No longer our problem we could now safely test our crashes.

Today, i am glad they have gone, the world is a much more peaceful plac without Space invaders in it. We are now also working on the submission of the Space, so wish us luck.

If you are ever confronted with space Invaders, the most important thing to do is communicate with the. Good Luck!


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smart Bomb type 3 is in

Yes it is true. I have three types of smart bomb for my shooter.

I know, i know. I coulda just done one. But where would the fun have been in that ?

I now have the....
The bullet halter and fader.
The Fruiterizer, which turns bullets into top shelf fruit.
The Revertinator, which turns all Alien bullets into Your bullets and fire them away from you.

They all have their own personalities, but in the end, they will all remove bullets off the screen, and give you a break from impending doom! And hey, who doesn't want a break from impending doom!

I was gonna post a picture, but undfortuneatly this last smartbomb does not show well in pictures, not like the fruiterizer. It is a multipart thing, i guess i could show a series of pictures, but i have no way atm to capture that. After all i use the print screen key on my keyboard. Yeeouch!

The writing of this smart bomb went very smooth. I knew what i wanted, and had all the routines already written for other purposes. So it went well. Makes a change it seems lately.

Now i would write about my PS3 Home story about Space Invaders, but that will have to wait till tomorrow. It has been a busy day, and a busy night ta boot.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Intercept bullets

Or Predictive fire.

Here is a little story of how my night went.

I really wanna get some Intercept bullets done. Ones that will predict wheer you will be if you carry on with your current heading and velocity. Sounded easy and i need this to add to the arsenal of the Aliens that wanna kill ya.

Woah, writing this was so easy. Just speed of me enemy bullets multiplied by the place where they think the player to be, which is just the time it would take my bullets to travel to him (using current position, no fancy refactoring for this game!). Then multiple the players veloicty by that travel time and add it to his bas position. There ya go. Easy.

In fact i wrote it very quickly, and after it didn't work i realised the age old problem for programmers. If ya don't call the code, it cannot do anything!! haha!

So i fixed it up. and when i did the bullet seemd to predict a distance way too far ahead of where you could possibly be. so after checking my code i decided to play it once more. When i did, i found it to be quite accurate, only. It looked crap!

Yup.... it looked crap. Bullets flying off allover the place, none coming near me as i quickly moved up and down in the same place. BAH! i say!

So what to do? Well i simply dampened down the predictive accuracy. I set it to exactly half and OMGoodness, it actually now works like i really wanted and imaginged in the first place haha.

Here is an excert of my conversation i was having with a friend currently residing in Colorado. Via msn messenger. (yes my text is red in messenger too!)

robert says:

robert says:
I decided to just halve it's accuracy, so it goes not as far out.
robert says:
and OMG it is freaking awesomeness
robert says:
and truly hard, haha!
robert says:
i loves it!
robert says:
so part design, part coding and part hacking, i actually have what i desired
robert says:
i love writing games!

And here is a look of what it did to my streaming enemy bullets as i wiggle up and down.
There are a couple of bullets from this boss that were fired from a different place and a different method. But mostly this is a really fast stream he fires at me in the middle of his attack sequence.

So the moral of the story is... "You can get what ya want, but not always the way ya expect to get it!"


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Quality or size vs Price point

It seems i am no good at balancing my price point with what i view as my quality (yes that include how much is actually IN the game).

I should clarify that i am no good at the 80msp priceline, or 1 dollar a game. I play flash games on the PC (ok, my son and daughter do and i join them). Anyway i like those games. They are 1 dollar games in my mind, very easy to pickup and put down. Trolley dash etc.. Well one issue i find is that a dollar game could quite easily be an experience that is less than 8 minutes. Or have nothing really extra over it's initial offering except that people would need to play for longer to see the extra upgraded wheels etc. Ok, so i guess that is extended gameplay...

So what do i do, the costing for my latest game was to be within a certain time period or amount of work that it will feel aok at 80msp. But as i work on it, i find that i cannot stint on quality items like fading things in/out. or cross fade. Or time things so they look nice and not too abrupt. I want sparkles or effects surrounding everything i do, even if they are so subtle like footsteps in dirt producing dust etc. Not that anyone noticed in Pellmell for example.

So what to do? Well i will carry on. I am a gameplay designer and programmer first and foremost. I love that job. And wish my day job consisted of such things. There it is all a lot more technical or management work. So i will continue on this way and maybe one day i will find a balance of smaller workload and quality output to match the lowest price point. Until then i will take the hit. Or get some real graphics and make the game 3 dollars, which is where it is headed (if i get graphics haha!).


Boss Health Bar

I am feeling a bit tired lately. Maybe it is the late nights and early mornings. They call it burning the candle at both ends, but i think i maybe burning the candle in the middle as well. I have a real day job as most will know working for Mass Media, and i have this Indie part time job. I am also a father of two with a wife and other interests, like keeping the house and stuff working :O

anyway, i have been procrastinating for some time now in putting in a heath bar for my bosses. I felt it wasn't retro enough etc. Well i put effects on the boss to show how damaged he is, but still i wasn't satisfied. Here  i got plain lazy. I just didn't wanna go to the hassle of puting up a special health bar for the bosses.

Tonight that has all channged, as i decided i should bite the bullet and put one in. Then see if i liked it or not. and .....

There it is. And i lurve it. LOL. If i had known how much i woulda liked it, i would have put it in weeks ago. Shows ya that although you can resist a good idea, it is hard to really justify not doing it. In this picture you can see the Boss firing a stream of bullets at me and at the very botton you can see my debug text, telling me where i am on a level (great for placing aliens).

Being tired like this i always want to go for short cuts. Not do an effect etc. With this planned as an 80MSP game, i should be taking shortcuts.. But somehow my consience and pride cannot do it. Oh i won't do all i could. That was put into Pellmell, and i know where that went. The way of original and complete games. So this one is complete, but a LOT more obvious what it is...

Could be time for some playtest i think. Even though i have test graphics... or do I ?

G'night all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Midway latest Sandbox test

It went very well. I love starting with something so incredibly positive.

We have been plagued the last few weeks with performance issues, and with no real tuner to help sort this out we have made sevral stabs in the dark to make the whole experience faster. Then a few days ago we made a breakthrough and with that breakthrough we managed to shave off 7ms of time when playing the minigames. Woohoo!

It was great. So much code was aleterd though that we had to get another test in. Always best to retest altered stuff, however confident the programmer or team are that 'It's all good, the same as last time!!". Never believe them.

So we got a few new bugs from this test, ones probably made during all the reworking on the performance or server flooding we have done. Easy fixes though. but just as the test was ending we asserted in some Sony code. Yeeouch, i hear ya say. I would be depressed about this at this point, as it crashed all 18 people in the scene. But i am not gonna be, as i have no control over this. It might be my bug, but I need help from Sony to show me the way, or simply put.. WTH does their assert really mean.

So onto another stress test hopefully on monday then maybe submission, only 2 weeks overdue.....


Dang Saving and Multiple devices

It seems that MS have half written the Saving code for the Xna suite. I would love to of just said i wanna save this file, and it handle it by noticing there are multiple choices and sorting it all out for me. Then keeping which device they chose etc internal to their system.

However they did not do this, so we all (all XBlig devs) have to go and do it ourselves. All of us writing very similar code to handle this situation. then we have to handle issues like the MU being pulled etc. The Xna community of Peers would love to be able to fail for not re-requesting confirmation if somone slects no device. It does get a bit more ocmplex than that but..

Take it from me, this is just not fun code to write. I have actually been there in the trenches on the PS2 and written all that crappy memory cardflow that they demand in their TRCs. If the user has swapped cards put up this message, then if he has a full card put up this one and then go around once more for the memory card dance.

Although i am complaining about MS in this case, it is not a fully heartfelt complaint. Their system is in fact a bit there, unlike the hell of the PS2.

Personally i couldn't care less if some bozo happens to pull out his MU while selecting the MU device. It seems to me he was in fact trying to break it anyway. BOO to you!

But i am not in a situation to ignore this current thread of making our games more robust for the BOZO's out there. Now i love good solid software, i do not like confirmations tbh. I write them into my code, but i do not really agree with a lot of them. The industry has just come to expect them, and maybe games players have to. To me i just am not sure where it should all end ?

Quit ?
Are you sure ?
Are you really sure ?
etc etc.. i know ya get my meaning here.

Well back to the main reason for this post. I cannot find a nice flow diagram of what i need to write to make the MU and hard drive selecting work in a nice manner. One that has confirmations in it, and handles errors and the like. Therefore i need to create one. haha!

Yup i love me some diagrams at times. This one i will vet through the XBlig and Xna community first to see if i can get a good consensus on what we all want. Then i can get on and write it once, not more than once which i also hate, lol.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Blog Readership Question

I have been writing this blog for some time now. I write articles most days, and some times more than one a day. I am told that readerships of such blogs should in in the hundreds if i keep up my posting. In fact the articles i read a long while back stated that it did not matter much waht i wrote about, so long as i wrote something. At some points in time i would write something that would appeal to most everyone. Sound advixe, or so it sounded at the time. But i have to say that currently i am underwhelmed by my lack of readership. I read about a month ago that i HAVE to put tages onto my posts so that search engines can find them. This has been sound advice and i have gone from a single reader a day to about 10 or so. This is a positive move.

Don't get me wrong, if i had noone reading ii would probably keep writing this Blog. I find it at times to be a great way to store some useful info, or use it like a wiki or museum. Later i am sure i will come back and read some of my old posts and be amazed. either way, i am going to continue with it.

I am wondering if anyone out there has any ideas how to publicize this more though. I would love some more readers. Maybe then i can get people to comment and end up with some discussions, or find that some people would like more articles on AI or something. I dunno, just some interaction would be nice.

I did put the URL on Digg, but i think i need to go back and read up on what i am supposed to do after that. Cos so far i have not recieved a single jump from that site. Something that is a little odd (guess i did something wrong, bah!)


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Midway Music

In The Midway there is music, like in most places in Home on the PS3. Well we have the obligatory music with Disco ball and also some other more scene related music. Check out the pictures to see both of these places. Though i cannot put sound in pictures for ya.

There is High Roller and me dancing along to some music. This is Home after all.

What the heck is that thing with pipes coming out of it ? Something Mcgyver created ? the answer is.. well actually i think i will leave the name for now and let you all wonder what it is. Needless to say it plays some wonderful Midway music. I love this music and it never gets old, only issue is that ya prolly don't wanna dance to it.


A Shooter is really born

I was calling the shooting game sorcerygames is currently working on as 5th Moon. This was an awesome name, and i was gonna theme the game around this.

Now things have changed.

Originally i was going to actually call the game 'A Shooter'. But we liked 5th moon better. However one of the reasons fro using 'a Shooter' was to see just how important it could be to name the games, not something creative, but something obvious... I mean, REALLY Obvious. A lot of the games that get good downloads have obvious names. anything with a Zombie in it is a sort of good example, though not the best. Take Jonny platformer biscuit romp for example. And more if you go LOOK!

So now i am back to the original name. We shall see if this appears to make a difference to downloads. I also believe it do for the iphone apps. iShooter for example. so without more delay, here is the new title page. With more letters in the name it actually looks better too.

the letters bounce just the same way as they did when it had it's other name.


The Midway Prizes

Have i mentioned anything about prizes in The Midway scene, coming to a PS3 in the near future? No? Yeah.. Well yeah should have been the answer. Some people are obviously not reading back along my blog, or are new to it.

That above is a Prize board, and here are a few details about it.
1. It is the Prize board for a game called Frog Flinger (you may be familiar with that one ;)
2. It shows 5 prizes, though there is 10 prizes for the game.
3. The check marks depict prizes i have won.
4. The yellow border depicts the prize i am currently after.
5. The number on top is the Game number (think ID) 
6. The prizes are (from the bottom). T-shirt, Earring, Terrarium, Stuffed Frog, Froggy themed dressing gown.

As you progress the prize board will update, there is a prize board per minigame.

When you win a prize you get your name scrolling along in lights, so everyone else in the Scene can see just how good you are, and be jealous of the prizes you just won!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Midway and Frog Flinger

I realise i have been a bit lax lately on keeping the PS3Home area of ours called The Midway in the public eye. Ok, so i just haven't published any pictures, ggeeezz!

So here is one of the games.

As you approach Frog Flinger...
It has some nice signage and a lovely picture of a fron being flung, or is that flinged, lol.

Then as you get close you can see what the action is about. Once question that comes to mind is "Can i weild that hammer ?"
Trigger the minigame by entering the game from the X button woooH!

Above is what you actually see whilst playing the game. In fact i can answer that previous question as well. YES, you can use that hammer. It is carefully picked up by your avatar when you choose to play the game. Thgen you can smack the launching frogapult and see if you can time it well enough to land your frogs onto the spinning lillypads. now those lillypads turn quite slowly at first, but later they turn with a more devilish desire to make ya miss. You have to land three frogs out of 5 attempts to win a prize in this game. Remember there are 10, yes 10 prize levels in the game.

I hope that introduction to Frgo Flinger is interesting to people. It is the first real show of a minigame i have done, besides more of a tease. Now if i get some ineterst in this kind of review, i could expand it, or cover the other games in the same way.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

An article on Game difficulty

I just read a very interesting article on game difficulty. Is so highlights my own feeling about the fact that computer games should not cheat etc that i thought i would highlight it here.

The Difficulty with Difficulty

When i have new teams mates and we are writing games, i always make it a point to tell them not to cheat. now they can make the AI as good as can be, which would mean perfect... Or at least perfect in the control scheme that is present. That is why they must also make AI's use the same controller inputs that the player uses. This usually helps stop them cheating speed etc. This kind of thing really helps keep players from feeling cheated.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Method Boss Design... Issue

Here I am, having just completed two more bosses for my shooter. I am going with the evolutionary design if you haven't read my Blog before. Which means to evolve the Boss from one level to the next.

Evolving the boss does not mean that you play in the same way with him, and just get faster etc. In fact i am finding to my delight that small changes in the boss can make significant changes in your play tactics.

So what's the Issue i face?
Well it seems i have created a monster, a monster of a boss. He is only slightly evolved from the previous level boss, but this one does a firing sequence that makes you have to dodge his bullets in a rather unique way.. or DIE!

Is this bad ?
I do view this as bad, because a player will come to this bos at the end of the levl and have no idea how to survive, as most if not all players will die on his third firing sequence. Nasty huh! Yet i know the secret to defeating him, and it is fairly easy...
Is this Good ?
I do view this as a good thing. It means you will have to think a bit more creatively. It means you will have to even go to video if you fail to figure it out yourself. Old school shooters and arcade shooters had learning curves and boss method learning in them.

I love this, i dislike this. ARGH! some people will enjoy this challenge, but some will throw their controllers. Which pill should i take ? The red or the blue one ?

I would LOVE some input from the people that read this blog, but as you are all anonymous and also so very quiet i guess i shall have to figure it out myself.

One thing is for sure. I personally love this boss. My partner is gonna hate it, lol


Smartbomb effect #1 complete

Yes it is true. I believe i have completed the first Smart Bomb effect. Here is a picture.
I left the Boss in this picture (he is the source of all the bullets). As you can see i went with the size i previously discussed. I also added in the cardinal directions as filler or dummie lines. The only real difference between them and the real lines, is the fact they do not end in an enemy bullet.

I went with all i had previously written, but here are some highlights of this particular smart bomb.
1. It is instantly there but take a second to fully fade away. Looks pretty.
2. The bullets it hits are instantly stopped from moving.
3. The bullets that get smarted are still dangerous till they are gone (faded away).
The gameplay that is in this Smart bomb i believ to be unique in that smart bombs usualy remove enemy bullets immediatley. Not this one. You will still have to be careful for a very short time once they have been stopped. Also new bullets being launched are still dangerous. (this is boss #5)

This picture above was too pretty to ignore. As you can see, under your score you will see your available Smart bombs. Very simple and very obvious I hope. This boss is level #6 boss. He has a special method to play him. Or you die... I may need to keep him till later in the game. As he is a method boss, and not one i feel easy to discover.

This finishes up this smart Bomb. Onto the next in a few days. till then i hope to get anotehr level laid out, and two more bosses done, though it looks like i have done that now :O haha


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Subscribe with RSS feeds

Someone asked if i had an RSS feed from this Blog, as they wre missing my prolific posting. Well i have added the widget on the right side bar.

Hope this works, as i haven't tested it


Smart Bomb effect

Above is what i am currently coding. The effect or one of them for one of my smart bomb types. In the shooter for my next XBLIG game you will have a secondary weapon. This is going to be smart bombs. Each smart bomb type will have it's own, special way of helping you out. This smart bomb effect is for general smarty pants bomb. One that just clears the screen of enemy bullets. Of course it would be boring to just make them disappear. Soooo i came up with an idea.

In the first picture you see i have set off my smart bomb and then moved out of frame. The effect is that i have  abunch of line go from my ship at time of activation and hit each bullet on the screen. Then after a second they all disappear. Oh, and for that second the bullets are stopped in their tracks. But are still dangerous !

Here in this second picture you see me just moved left from when i fired the shot. It is a picture of the 4th level bosses bullets, and i think ti loks quite cool. One downside is if this effect is fired off with not a lot of bullets it looks crap. However it looks it's best if you are surrounded as you may have noticed.

I just had to include this third picture. Generally i still thinkn that if all th ebullets are on one side it wdoes not look as good as when you are surrounded. But man, that looks cool, hitting all those streaming bullets from the boss.

So my next task is to make this effect look better in all situations, for that i am going to include some dummy lines in each of the cardinal positions, we shall see if that helps or not.

Finally i need to actually make the lines fade out, but for that i have to rewrite the list iterator code, so it can wait :D


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lists in C# and RemoveAll

So there i am last night, working diligently on the Roundline class. A lovely thing, though i really need to rewrite it's simplified functionality. Well that was sort of what i was doing. Adding in more controls etc.

I am going to use variable width lines for one of my smart bombs for the new shooter. This should look great if i can possibly do it. Adding in the variable width functionality is also priceless as far as adding in Tech to my rather small tech that i use for writing my games. Gameplay shouldn't need tech, but eye candy does.

So all i wanted to do was attach a bunch of lines to each smart bomb explosion. simple enough, but then they need to all die at the correct time. so i added in an ID to the line class. I thought that removal from a list would be so easy. Just for Each loop thru the list and remove them as i go. This is not so easy, oooh no! So upon research on the web i found Removeall. This is exactly what i needed, then a single command would allow me to remove all the list itmes that were corresponding to my ID. Well what a pain. Yep, i have to say that it took me an hour of reading and trying to get the SINGLE line of code to compile. though once it did, it worked a treat.

So lists... hmm,. I usually use arrays for everything and control numbers of stuff etc with Defines. I never ever make stuff grow and shrink. I have seen the horrors this does to memory fragmentation etc. I also know that allocating and deallocating memory is soo freakin slow. So i don't do it. But it seems like i need to learn lists. Just so i know what i am talking about.

BTW: my problems with messing badly with memory come from 26 years of experience, most on machine that had a fraction of the memory of that handy usb pen drive you have on your key ring.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

3 ways to make a better Indie game

This is going to seem obvious, but there are a few ways to create a better Indie game. Now i am assuming that you can already make Indie games. In fact i am assuming that you have already made at the very least 1 Indie game. Now you want to up your game and make a better one. Probably better in every way. Especially as you have seen poor downloads and the self recriminations have started about how you should have spent more time or money on that Box art etc.

Well here is the skinny, it's no real surprise. I am about to present three ways to make your games better.
1. Spend more time on them
2. Spend more money on them
3. Get good help

So onto 1.
If you spend more time on your project you should see it be much tidier, as you do not ignore those creeping little bugs that you published with in your last game. This one mainly means not finishing till your finished. Less timetable and more dedication to the product etc. The real downside to this is that it can get too be a long dev cycle. Leading to burnout on the original idea etc. Well, if you burn out on it, maybe it just wasn't really up to the improved quality of game you were after anyway.

To 2.
Spending more more sounds silly ? Well try getting better music for your game for starters. Lose that programmer music behind. There are plenty of sites on the web to get great music from. Admittedly browsing for music takes many hours (it does for me!). The end results are great though. So spend some money on an important aspect of your new game, that you did not on the last one. Be it SFX or Graphics or Music or even.. Yes, i'll say it.. focus testing. the real downside to this is it costs money, and Indie developers don't have any.

To 3.
Good help is priceless. It is also really hard to get a hold of. In fact it seems to be in short supply. I know so many talented people myself. however trying to get them to commit to helping me is like pulling teeth. Believe me i have tried very hard. I have gone through about 8 friends and mostly to no avail. However if you find just one co-conspiritor, it makes all the searching worthwhile. They can produce stuff you cannot (usually), and they help with motivation as well. I was lucky enough to have an artist friend of mine pull my art out of the drain for my first two titles Aceball and Pellmell. Get help, cos if they spend time on the project, it is like having two of you, only this new one is more talented in areas you are not. THIS by far is the best way to make a better Indie game. Getting cohorts!

Good luck, adn i wish everyone a better subsequent title after this encouraging lecture 8D

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Midway 'The Story ending'

You may remember that i was a bit drunk in my last story. Well now i am on the up, and when someone is recovering in this way they have to have someone to talk to. Myself i have a large stuffed animal to discuss lifes little problems with. Problems like, how come i took all those bottles of beer from the fridge, adn yet they are still there ? How come i don't age etc....

Well here is a picture of me with my freindly and always attentive stuffed animal.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to make a Hit Indie Game (for XBLIG)

An opinion piece on Xblig success...

So we have seen a number of real hits on the XBLIG channel on the Xbox360. It has been a little surprising just how well a game can do. Ok, so very few are really breaking through at this point. But we do have a few. Obviously the lead at the moment on this is Zombie game, but there are others that have proved to be very profitable by the creators. We know that people have to download your game to see it. They are likely not to buy it unseen. However how do ya get awareness for your title out to those 35 million Xbox owners ?

Some have just been plain lucky, others have been given great awareness. Most however had had a great deal to do with several things, in my opinion.

I will get this one over with first. If you are lucky enough to get some notoriety or mention on Major Nelsons Blog, or one of very many lucky things. The name of your game can get out there, whether it's in outrage or amusement or real interest. I will name for example one 'A Kitchen Sink War'. This game was the xna starter with a few different graphics and it is terrible (sorry authors). The horror and outrage was awesome to see, but i'll bet it downloaded so freaking many. Example number two will be, yes you guessed it. The Massage apps. The newest one allowing you to pleasure the other controllers. This makes me wanna puke tbh. Outrage is one of the words i would use for this. But they have been popular. They have had so many downloads and one that declared months ago that it had made over 60,000 dollars, freakin ell! My third example is Major nelson mentioning massage apps again. This boosted their notoriety immensely and it hit kotaqu and more. Many downloads were had at this lucky turn of events.

Some games have brilliant design, some not so much. But what effect does this truly have on sales ? Obviously noone really knows, but i suspect that if your game is badly designed, once they download it. It will not sell. Maybe we only really need to design the trial period. Then they can suffer the rest of the game. I do know that a lot of the most 'popular' games have had a nice design. they have tried to be succinct and honest about their play. Another thing seems to be to lose the idea of a unique design. Those games seem to be relegated to not being downloaded, or only being downloaded about 3000 times in their publishing month. Most of all, whatever you make, make it feel solid. Make it feel like a place people don't mind being.

This is similar to design, but it does not matter how well you design your game or your menu. If your implementation is crap. Noone will care. If it feels harsh and unforgiving, they won't want to stay around. So take a little bit more time on that joystick debounce and make it work for your game. The most popular games are generally well programmed. Even if they happen to be anotehr twin stick shooter for example.

Marketing ?
I do not have much to say for this right now. I have personally tried quite a variety of routes to get my stuff noticed. So far to no avail. I have read everything about this subject i can in the last few months. I am most assuredly having more success. But it doesn't really seem worth the effort. It appears that hoping luck will take me somewhere is a more likely scenario. Though i paint this in a dark light, have no fear. As i am an optimist, and i beleive that if we just keep trying, one thread that we started might just get lucky. So if we put more threads and lines out there in our marketing campaigns. We just might make ourselves lucky.

This was going to be a discussion on how to make a better Xblig game. But it appears i have waffled long and hard, and not got to that yet. So it can wait for another post.

The Midway "A True Story"

This is the story of a slightly overweight fella with nice hair. some say hair too nice for a beer swilling slob, but then they don't really know me. Noone really knows me. They all look at me as they pass me standing there playing games and think i am some sort of zombie. Some sort of dude, who occasionally plays a girl. At least when i do that i get some attention.

But this isn't about cross-gendering. This is about me. The real me, the one noone pays attention too. hold on, i need a beer....
Not a lot of choice for beer, but that's ok. I have had quite a few already. Probly why there are only a few left. I wonder though where the heck i have put my money. I realise now i came out without my pants on. That can happen when youre in a stupor. at least i remembered my glasses, or everything would be more blurred. I think i'll just take all the beer they have left. They can put it on my Tab.

Some small time later...

WOAH! I am feeling frisky. Geez, that was the good stuff. I need to go play some Poker, and then go meet some chicks in The Midway. That's a happening place.

Some small time later...

Ok The midway was great, but all those flashing lights have made me feel a bit queazy. Just too happening and too much fun, and that can lead to bad things. 'Buuurrrrp'. Maybe i need a lie down. Maybe after i use the potty.

Oh boy! you have no idea how much this stinks. Now get outta my face i need to finish up!

This was just One story of a guy, playing a guy in PS3 Home, and he has great hair too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Midway, waiting for ?

I know you were all on tenterhooks wondering what my character was waiting for eh! I am also fairly sure that you expected me to reveal the answer next time.

I'll come clean and tell ya that i forgot about revealing any answers. Yup, i forgot i put in the question in the first place. I have been so caught up in finishing this place. It is so exciting, but the 3rd test produced some unexpected results and so I am worried about my delivery date to Sony (Monday!). However my Boss met with some great Sony Home dev dudes from England and the States yesterday at GDC and they have offered to help.

This is awesome news as i am sure they have a real toolset to with which to see where our performance drains are. Thanks in advance Sony dudes. Till we talk to them again, we are going to do some final tests on prizes and also make sure we crush our final 20 or so final thoughts (changes). all minor which is awesome.

Till then i leave ya with the new picture of my character revealing more of what he was waiting for. If i get chance tomorrow i will post up the Final and Revealing picture. Otherwise it'l be monday.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh Man, The 3rd The Midway Test was good. but..

Yes, we did another test. This time I had to have a discussion with the team abuot the new update to 1.3.5 for PS3Home. Do we ? Don't we ? Pros cons and all that.

In the end we decided to update one machine to 1.3.5 and see if our scenes would run aok. They should, but would they ? In the end they did. So i made the decision to change ALL of the Home installations in the comapny to 1.3.5. It seemed like a tough decision to make, but people playing 1.3.2 would not be able to see anyone playing in the newer HDK runtime. So i updated quite a few of the machines myself. Then we were ready for the 5pm test.

It went very well. Better than the previous tests. We ended up with a few known problems, but they are basic bugs. Like the wrong prize showing etc. Easy stuff. also some text alignment issues. They are always there, even when ya ship usually. The test went so smoothly i was actually able to really look at profiling numbers and memory, as much as one can on PS3 Home.

This was Bad. This is the part where i do a 'what went wrong' bit i guess. The profiling showed that we could run real slow, at about 40-44ms. This is bad when our target is about 35ms. It adversely effects the gameplay we have in our minigames. Yeeouch, not good. It is hard in home to see just where the time is going as well. so today we are looking into what is slowest and speeding it up. I just hope we can get the performance upgraded fast enough for our deliverable to Sony. time will tell, and the weekends work of course.

I really had hoped that 1.3.5 would speed up the rendering or any other system to be honest. It did speed up the load times, so that is a plus. There were also some bug fixes, the most notable to us is the fixed Queues for playing minigames.

I hope to grab some more pictires, but all of a sudden my time is taken up with looking for performance optimizations.. ARGH!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wanted to Peer Review, but didn't

I looked thru the list, so many bug fixed versions, or translated version. I don't want to do those ones again. I really wanted to test something not yet on the marketplace.

I managed to find a couple that interested me, but oh man. I click on the links, and then i see i cannot review them... Cos neither had a video. And i have blogged before about that issue. So with that frustration, i am done for the morning.

I may go back tonight and see if there are any other games i am interested in. I may go see if any are by people in my twitter list. That would be a good thing.

Now off to work on 5th Moon i go.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bonus Midway Piccy

I have not posted enough pictures from The Midway the last several days. So here is another....
What am I waiting for ? I can see it is gonna be a long wait though, Geez, 16 hours. OMGoodness.

And finally my last piccy for the day. Yeah i was gonna do more action shots of what goes on in The Midway, but the servers are down, so no group playing for me :(

I am hoping this does not give me a Tom Hanks moment. After all I am quite happy being the age I am. Though this is in the PS3Home space, so would it just effect my Avatar ? One wonders... /ponder


The midway Test #2

Above is where you can buy tickets to play the games.

Ok, so it was planned for Monday and didn't happen due to some unfotunate issues with Token/tickets. We solved the server spamming issues and were up and running correctly later in the evening. Too late for a real test though.

So Tuesday afternoon rolled around and were were ready. You could feel the anticipation from the people here at Mas media. Myself and the main programmer on the job were a little nervous, as we seriously hoped we had fixed a number of the issues that came out of the first test.

So with great fanfare 4:30pm rolled round. People had started popping in from, well from where avatars go when not in Home. The place took about 10 minutes to really get populated, i figured we needed at the very least 10 human players bashing on the games. Now buying tockens in the test sandbox are free, but we had of course implemented the tokens playing restriction. So everyone had to buy them and also clear their inventories of the previously won prizes. Yeah, sucked.. but we had fixed a few of those prizes, so had to have it fresh.

The test started well and we were seeing much better performance from the previous test. I was busy moving from one game to the next while observing what people were doing. Looking for anomalies, but hoping not to find any. Then all of a sudden a workmate comes to my cube and announces that he has crashed both his machines. Oh Noes, how did that happen, it was so stabel, 15 minutes in and he had two crashes. As it turns out though he had a 100% duplication. It was to press the 'Select' button. Woot! I had given out specific instructions not to do this, as bringing up that Sony menu causes us to run out of memory. This really should not happen and we of course have a ticket open with them as I speak (or type). So after that initial panic, we know it was aok to crash like this.. lol.

Then the test continued for about another 10 minutes. When we declared the test over. We had a couple of crashed machines, and they were all to do with memory running out. It appears that taking a picture in Home can also use our Dev memory. This is odd and i sure hope there is a fix in the works, or the real Runtime does not do this. Cos it's bad. They give me 9.2MB for Main memory, and then steal some for a menu or for a picture. That should not happen. Ya give me 9.2MB i am gonna use 9.2MB.. ok !?

The test was amazing. Even though we told people that the test was over they continued to play the games till way after the end. Most till told to get productive by their producers, lol. all in all an excellent test.

Today is wednesday and we would be doing a 3rd test, but this afternoon the sony servers are down. So no test as yet. We are coming to the end though. Next up is to test the Personal space we give away for FREE. Yup i said it here first :]


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Music and Sound are important, but balance is supreme

Anyone who thinks that all it takes to put music and sfx in their game is to find the sounds. Is Sorely mistaken. I and friends spend so long on getting not only the right sounds, but also then balancing them properly together it is insane. It always takes ages, and can be frustrating if you haven't alloted the time, but it is also, soo well worth while. I can recommend spending more time on audio for every game you produce. That also includes me!

My friend and I spent a long time tonight just accumulating some basic sfx and a few scores of music. It went well, and after a mere 3 hours i have 5 sfx and 3 music tracks to use for the moment. Some may last the course, some may not. We shall see.

I am however having more issues with that crappy Xact 3.0. We made a completely new xact project and put in our sound. But as soon as i turn on compression, the xactblder just malfunctions. This is very frustrating, and will mean that i have less music. ARGH! i want more music darn it! so i guess i will waste some hours trying hard to fix this for this project.

Only down side to tonight is that i have not got anything done on the press contacts for Pellmell the rebirth, bah! However i now have 3 EOL bosses working :)


Press address accumulation

I have spent the last few hours accumulating press email addresses. This is so i can more readily and easily get my games new out. Or that is the beleif i have. If i can get a nice list of about 15 or so places that could, or just might, review my games. Then i have a victory and can dance a bit.

Right now though i just want to sleep. Cos it really takes it outta ya being bored scrounging around the internet looking for contacts. It is also a pretty tough job.

So many sites are not interested in the XBLIG games or Indies in general. They have enough to do to keep up with the big games news etc. Why bother with us small guys.

so now my list is too big. That sucks.

What doesn't suck though is that the New version of Pellmell went through Peer review today. YAY! so i need to get some codes out for that, and send out some competition codes as well.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Boss Evolution

Start simple is what i think, especially when ya have so many of something to give. You can incrementally add more each time. This is a great system unless ya get people bored on the way to the exciting conclusion. So many movies and also games suffer from this.

But i am here to talk about the fact i have 'finished' my first and second level bosses. This is a proof of concept for me, to know that i can keep expanding on what this boss does, but keep it exciting and challenging enough as it develops. Yes, that is right. I aim to use the same boss for every level. This means that he needs to evolve.

Here is the boss from my first level...
When he comes on he basically just sits there shooting bullets at you. He fires a simple sequence of a trajectory fire, and then a dual-split trajectory fire. The second one causing two bullets to go either side of you. You must dodge through them to shoot him, as he will not be moving into your bullets, obviously.

Here is the second level boss...
This is the same boss i hear you cry! Well duh! But this boss once he comes on does NOT stand still. Nope siree, he starts moving in a very simple up and down pattern. while he does this he fire a nice trajectory bullet as he passes over the vertical center. Then when he changes direction at each end he fire that dual-split trajectory bullets. This means now bullets are coming from different directions at you. They are also a slight amount more up tempo (fires faster, as you can see from the pictures). This means even more dodging than the lazy dodging of the first boss. This boss is actually quite exciting, and he actually does move into you firepower (not that i am showing that!).

This bosses test graphics are probably frightening most of you readers away i am sure. Well Gameplay is king in my house. And though i love Mommys best games, and what they are achieving. Shoot1up (which i own), is not truly my kind of skillfull shooter. It is a bit messy, and relies on getting enough new ships to combat the ones you WILL lose. However this shooter should be able to be completed with no loss of life, and in fact i will be testing the difficulty to make sure that i do not even take a hit while playing properly. The extra hits your ship can take are there as a catch, or safety net. But now i am waffling about general game design philosophy. so time for bed.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pellmell at 80% thru Peer Review

Getting so close now. It will be nice to have this new version of the game out. Not that it is a rocket science update or anything. But a nicer product is a nicer product.

When Pellmell was released last year, we did not have these wonderful codes to get the games promoted. Now i have 50 of them, and it's time to get the promotion machine going again. So i can give lotsa codes away.

Not that it will make much difference at all. Hopefully though it might help some the sites that support the XNA and XBLIG effort. Which of course in turn will benefit me when i do something that the world actually wants to download.


The Midway getting there

This here is the Porta-potty. This one happens to reside in the Personal space. Oh... Have i mentioned the Personal space that  The Midway has ?

Anyway, this little beaut is not just for pooping in. In fact ya canna poop in home, as you cannot eat. Strange place really. It is also used to Teleport people around. Hence the name 'Tele-Porta-Potty'.

We have spent some good hours since the big test working through some of our issues we managed to accumulate during the test. We had about 10 things to do or fix. Of those we have done maybe 6 or so. We have also managed to finish testing all the prizes and make sure they work once uploaded. I had a couple of typos in two of the category xml files, but now they are done, all the prizes work. Woohoo!

So tomorrow i work on Big Bangs prizes, and then onto Trigger Happy In-A-Box.

So i was asked earlier today from a lovely person who resides somewhere in the UK, is this space going to be available in Europe. Some people may already know that Sony have sever areas (much like Xbox and Wii). Well i can tell you that the European SCEE group has requested the Space. This is awesome news for us and was a big shock. As we did not tell them about it haha. But a good friend of ours did, and we believe they will go into our Sandbox on Monday and check out the scene for themselves. They have stated unofficially that they would love a simultaneous release in Europe alongside America. I would love that to happen. The more people that get to play these games and see all the work we have put in would be great.


A Big The Midway test (1st)

So Friday afternoon we got to do our big test. Though for some time in the morning i thought it just wasn't gonna happen.

The test is to put up our PS3Home space called 'The Midway' onto the Sony Sandbox. Once it is all up there we have lots of people in and out of the office goto this space. Then we all bash on the multiplayer games that litter this scene.

Getting things up into the Sandbox is a semi time consuming task though. It takes about 3 minutes for the small item to be uploaded, that would be things like priozes and minigames really. Large items are only really the Scene itself which can take about 40 minutes or so.

We have been uploading the prizes now for 2 days, and it was the boss that took this job from me, thankfully. As my time was taken just making sure that the right thumbnails and right placards and rigth prizes were being given out and working. This ended up being a big job, lots of small things wrong that just ate up waaay more time than anyone expected, that includes me. In fact i thought it would be a 3 day job and it turned out to be about 8. Not good time management really.

So we managed to get everything uploaded sort of by friday lunch time. Then i got to go in with my main programmer. We had a look around and found several things wrong, as well as we were running out of memory. OUCH. Not a good time. So we battled through the issues during lunch time. I put back the big test till 4pm, hoping this would give us enough time to get the major issues resolved.

Went for a quick lunch and then it was back to a major problem or two. Ya gotta eat, when development gets tense, make sure it's on a full stomach. We managed to solve our issues with some good thinking and even managed to upload mostly what we needed to by 4pm. We made some good decisions on what could be not uploaded (non fatal issues). Fatal issues being ones that would crash people out etc.

By the time 4pm came around we had the space ready to go and already had about 10 people in it, though at this time not really testing it, just doing what people in Home tend to do which is dance. I managed to get a lot of people into the space, including one person in Utah and one in Illinois and finally one more remote from Georgia. What a great way to test some online gaming :D

Initally the test was going exptremely well. Till i noticed that if 3 people played a game called Rebound, the performance went through the floor. This was bad and from that moment on we started having issues.  Something went wrong and this caused a chain reaction to break most peolpe in the different games they were playing. We have no idea what actually broke it all. As it went down like a house of cards. But it sure was interesting up to that point. We lasted about 20 minutes of peolpe bashing on stuff till it broke.

So we reset and went in for a quick second test. This was going well as i had told people not to play Rebound. Then people started runnning  out of memory. We recorded their TTY output and stopped the test.

It went well, better than i epected by quite a bit. We ended up with a small list of about 10 things to fix. The only bad one being the catalyst to crahsing everyone. That is in my mind not a bad test at all.

final thoughts..
I am very excited about this product, and seeing people, so many people playing these games and the vision realised was a very powerful sight. I look forward to my next test.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

This here is the midway. Looking from the place you come into the scene, or the spawn point. As you can see there is a nice welcome message, although this does double as a welcome message and also an informative message, telling you vital things like who is doing well at what. It is a very busy place, and i hope this picture depicts it better than i could possibly verbalise it.

Hope you like what you see, as today i finally got through testing all the prizes, YAY! and the Boss even uploaded them to the Sony Home sandbox, yeah! Saves me doing ti, and to be honest i have been inundated with just making all the prizes work.


ok so 12 powerup levels, lol

Alrighty, so it wasn't 10. I couldn;t do a 24 to 10 fixup too easily. So now there are 12 powerup levels. haha

They work quite well, every time you collect a firepower upgrade token, you really see the upgrades. Which is awesome.

I am so tired tonight. I cannot do much. It was so hard to do the little work i have done. I am still glad i have done it. Maybe more wine will help, i dunno. either way, apart from a new blog post, i am done for tonight. Must be all this work i get paid for wearing me out.

So Ten firepower upgrades it is.

Yes, i have finally formalized my firepower designs, Here are the highlights...

1. 10 actual upgrades to collect
2. Those 10 upgrades actually upgrade your firepower in 24 ways
3. Extra fire coming out of the back and the sides eventually
4. Shoot a whole group of special enemies and the powerup will be released for collection
5. You will get one chance to collect the firepower upgrade per level.
6. If ya miss it, there will be an opportunity on all levels.

With this all in mind, i am going to design and balance 20 levels of actual gameplay. This will give approximately 30-35 minutes of straight play through time. Though there will be both an endless mode and an ended mode (ended mode??).

should be good , and although these levels will vary in length, they should show quite a lot of different gameplay opportunites for aliens to attack you.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Big Bang from The Midway

Here is a picture from the Personal space we have created. And it contains a picture of the Big Bang cannon.

Woot! is it large. I would even take bets that it is large enough a cannon to be able to get into.....

As you can see from this picture and the last one i put up, we have a very colorful space. The lighting is mood setting and the scene is lively. I cannot show you how lively from pictures though. I have no way to capture video of the game either to put that up.. That is disappointing. The scene has lots going for it, but it is busy and exciting and i love that. Especially after all the boring places in PS3Home... Yeah, plenty of those :O

Well i am not gonna play this minigame right now, as i have to get it's prizes sorted out first. And i have lots to go, so far i have completed 80 levels of prizes.... yyeeeouch!


Played a few XNA XBLIG game for Peer review tonight

And they were quite good. I don't do reviews, but i want to mention these games. They should be downloaded by Xbox players!!

You Will Die
This was the first one i tested. Nicely done, and i liked the premise. You against a ship that will get bigger and badder as you defeat it. It was a little hard to start off with though. There is no give in the game, and i like Give. Not a bad effort and i have to say i really think it's good. It just needed a slightly more experienced touch on the balance and difficulty. I look forward to DeadPixels next game.

Lethal Judgement.
This game has so much eye candy it is hard to see where the bullets are. A very well put together shooter with a lot of nice ideas, all in one place. Gonna be a hard game for none shooter players, so anotehr game that could do with a slightly better learning / difficulty curve. Still it was fun, but i do not think it is multiplayer, boo hoo!

Againh, go download these games, if ya don't like the trials, ahh well. better luck on the next ones. But these are good qulaity titles and worth the look.

I will mention that i took these two to review tonight as i passed unexcited by a load of crap that is in review right now. Most without a video, and i have ranted about that previously. Well i quickly skipped past any game that had not got a video. Then it was watch soem videos of some horrendous .. erm.. games. Then i got to these two. Thanks goodness.

Good night.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Midway is Full of games to play

Here is a picture of Darla's Darts.
*See the players throw darts at the ballons and completely screw it up haha!
*Ok so they might actually pop the balloons, so you could do the nice thing and clap their skill at darts.
*I am sure thry will win some prizes if they get good enough

Unlike the real Midway, we don't cheat at our games, and we have lotsa prizes to give away. That is of course what i am knee deep in at the moment. getting them all tested and working. wish me luck.

Darla is one hot lady and there are rumours that she is around every now and again.

ps. Darla is the pinup girl on the backdrop.