Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Backburner to the Fore

It seems it is time to make one of my backburner projects a more main focus.

I have seldom written about this project recently, but it has been in development now for approximately 6 years. It started when i was reading to me kids and then i witnessed otehr parents reading at their own children. I do not support the act of reading at children. I do not believe it builds up the sense of wonder and excitment that i think reading should instill in them. So i set about trying to alter this situation. From that i created my childrens books.

B4IR or Books for Interactive Reading

Yup, that is the web page/s that i have recently started on for my series of childrens books (major work in progress). With the aim of making it easier for parents to connect with their children while reading with them. It feels like a lofty goal of mine and yet i have witnessed a number of times parents reading my books with their children and both of them participating in a really excited way.

Can i make a business out of this and change the world at the same time? I do not know, but I need to try and push this simply because i think it will benefit certain families and help children to enjoy reading.

Lets see if i can actually make it a reality this time...

Unlike Xna games which really cost me nothing but a whole bunch of time. Bok publishing seems to cost a lot of money   AND   time.

Stay healthy
Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 26, 2011

Xna publishing on WP7, predisposed to fail

So two things. both of which i feel are very important. One of them i think MS will do as soon as they can get the back end sorted out. The other i have no belief they want to do. Can you figure out which is which as you read along?

1. In Game Transactions. These are now a staple of the both the IOS and Android phone systems. Though i know Apple is struggling with a bunch of issues on the iPhone. Still all the articles and blog posts i have read recently telling me this is a great way to make a project viable makes me want to create one or several Free games and charging people Freemium style for stuff. Alas MS do not have this in the current WP7 setup.

2. Achievements and other 'premium' Xna library content and accessibility. As far as i can tell Xbox Live Achievements and Leaderboards and possibly Avatars are all classed as premium content for the WP7 devices. I am not sure exaclty why this is, i feel it is a political decision to help out those Big companies such as EA etc to have special stuff of their own. cos them having lots of money to invest in a title and of course having licensed titels is not enough for them. Still this is MS decision and although i do not understand it, i can still hate it.

If MS decide not to open up their premium content  and with no in game microtransaction setup looking like it could happen in the next year. It seems to me the poor Xna developer is just setup to create games and apps to fill a void and not really helped to succeed. Yet Ms has made this wonderful environment for us to play in, but is that all they expect? Us to play in that place? One good thing is that although it may be predisposed to fail. It does not mean that everyone will, jit just means that it is harder than it could/should be to succeed.

Thats my latest complaint for the day,
Have a good one,

Da Voodoochief

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'd love to make

When i did my last post about not coming back to Xblig. It got me all nostalgic. I loved so much about the experience and the people. This inevitably got me to thinknig about what i would do. Berzerktron is an obvious choice for one of my unfinished games. However one of my favourite games (that i created) is in need of a sequel.

A Shooter did ok, it sold at approximately 30% conversion rate, which i love. However i have learn't since then a few mistakes i made when i created the title. In some ways they are subtle, but in some otehrs they are critical. So what if i was gonna do a sequel eh... What would i do?

1. The name was bad. Although i wanted to describe my game, i did not think about all the FPS games that are now called shooters. also naming it 'A Shooter' and not 'AShooter' was a mistake if anyone wanted to search for my game, it was lost ina  sea of search results. So this time i would want something else, something more poerwul and something that will describe the new game. In fact it would probably be named for it's increase in mass destruction as listed in the following items.
2. People found the intial levels a bit hard. Well people not used to shmups anyway. I now know this and so i would go the route of having too mmuch firepower at the start and then letting the gameplay come to them more slowly, instead of learning to play right from the go.
3. Options are always a good thing in games, or mostly are. I would want to add a nice screen to let the player place the firepower he has. so all that firepower at the start and then they have some ways to customize it too.
4. I would not change my A Shooter levels. This would give me a lot of time to get all the rest of the work done. Don't worry the game would feel and in fact would be a completely new shmup experience, and in some ways could show how different very similar seeming shmups could be. With this reduced amount of work creating the levels i wcould get the game out in a reasonable amount and of time.
5. I would want a score multiplier system in place so people could take more chances, but earn more points in a level. That would get peolpe really trying hard to beat their friends and their own high scores.

Isn't it a pity that i won't be making this exciting shmup of mass destruction becasue it isn't worth it if i don't have True MS supplied Leaderboards for people to outdo each other....

Da Voodoochief

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Xblig, i cannot come back

I am in one of those times in my life where i am at a crossraods. A crossroads of what i should do next. Now i am not talking getting married or anything quite so big, but i am talking about what I should do with my time.

At the moment my job could end in approximately 6 weeks. If it does what should I do? If it doesn't what should I do. whether or not i get a new job or carry on with my current job does not matter in some ways. As i will continue to develop Indie games. I cannot stop, my creative side demands that i let off some creative steam here and there. If i don't have a job i am sure i could survive quite well for some time before needing to find a new job. The thought of what games i could create full time makes my mouth salivate so much it makes me drool.

The thing is, and the reason for this post is that i have a love of Xblig, and Xbox360. I love the toolset (though i personally dislike managed languages, though i see their need). I really want to create another game for the Xbox. I have my Berserkatron game that i started and would love to finish. I also have many more designs that are designed and take up varying amounts of time to develop. My problem is that i will not be going back to Xblig. The reason why is simple. I grew up playing Arcade games, i was once in the British arcade games championships and i love that style of game. BUT.. and it is a big BUT... Arcade games NEED leaderboards. And until I am allowed access to them, i will not be able to bring myself to Xna on Xbox.

So i must be cast off because of some reason that Microsoft has to make the leaderboards hidden from us Xna Xblig developers. Now i have used the leaderboarsd in full priced software i have written on the Xbox360, i know how good and reliable they are. Alas i cannot get to them.

Oddly enough though Apple (yeah, Apple!) has Game Center and they give achievements as well as Leaderboards and more. Why is Microsoft so far behind on this one? Why are they a little off base... in my opinion?

I do believe though, unless i have established myself on another platform i would love to come back when the leaderboards appear.

I know a few people have alternatives for the Leaderboard issue on the Xbox and also the windows phone. I also rolled  my own version (with help from JWatte) and although it did work, it is just not a good solution. Viral score sharing is only good for immensely popular titles. So far i have not reached the critical awareness i need to make it work properly.

If anyone with any pull at Microsoft reads this post. please PLEASE PLEASE
Make leaderboards available to the common Xblig Xna developer.

Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 19, 2011

Being Ill, the responsibility

I am sure i am not the only one that works in an office that makes it hard to avoid other people. Now i do not usually avoid anyone as my job entails talking with everyone. Though i was ill on friday. I had a head cold and it was quite bad, however on friday i was not quite so bad. This mean't i was entertaining thought of coming into work. But i was not sure i should, because here we are in our Beta phase for our project and i really cannot afford to throw away any time from my team.

So i made the magnanimous decision to stay home and not have any chance of infecting more peolpe at work. I did manage to remote in and do several hours of work myself, but it was nothing compared to the destruction of work i could have wrought if i had infected several peolpe.  So i think my decision was a good one, and it did allow me to read/finish a book i had recently started (bonus!).

I wonder how many people go to work because of the pressure of completing stuff and actually do more harm than good?

Da Voodoochief

Monday, September 12, 2011

Will I have a Job ?

As my current project is coming to a close and we do not already have another job ready to start it is one of those times where i wonder.... 'Is this the end of my job?'.

I am sure other 3rd party development people have been through this nearly as many times as i have. Though it is something that never happened when i was working first party (ie: working from within a publisher). Nowadays though i am not sure if the same is true, as the last time i worked from within a company (THQ), we were unceromoniously let go before completing an in house project for them.

Anyway, i have about 2 months left to go and i wonder what i shall be doing 2 months from now. anyone who reads this blog knows i have several projects on the go and am hoping that maybe one at some time will be able to pay my mortgage, though at the moment that is not true. From my interactive childrens book series to phone apps and Xbox games, i have lots of expertise and desire.

So what will I do?
1. The company i work for could find more work.
2. I focus on my own projects and get the book series published
3. Work on more phone games
4. Work on more Xblig games
5. Find a different line of work to do
6. Find a job at another company

These all have their pros and cons. At this time i am hoping for continuity and the company finds more work (1). Meanwhile i will continue to pursue my other endeavours.

This is still a worrying time for any family member and i do have to say i am worried. I have 2 wonderful kids that are near high school age, and as all parents know that is not gonna be a cheap set of years coming up. So for now we need to make hay while the sun shines and see what comes along.

I sure hope i do not have to take a job working someplace else though as the commute time is gonna a bunch of hours to my day.. Then it will be very difficult to work on my own stuff.

Take it easy out there,
Da Voodoochief

Friday, September 9, 2011

WYSIWYG, but not in games

I have been reading with interest twitter comments and also a number of reviews of some recent games released into the Xblig service. I have also tried several (but not all) of these games on my Xbox.

A Group of Devs decided to upgrade the Xblig service and give it a much needed publicity and quality Boost. However the games chosen and are live now, have not quite had the impact that this group had hoped.

This group enabled devs to submit their game entries with a selection process, to enable the most qualified games to be a part of this promotion. Then there is a selection process to decide who gets into the final list of games. I LOVE the idea.

Or should i say... Loved the idea.

Me moaning...
Was all the decision and voting based on the look of the games? a short video stream demo of some of the gameplay. Certainly seems like it. In fact i love Xblig and Xna and my Xbox. I love the fact that some individuals are putting a lot of time and effort into trying to grow a brand or two, or just plain promote Xblig as a good place to go check out some cool games.

Well i had the chance to vote on the numerous title submissions, but i never did vote. I just couldn't. As I believe not in graphics or select video, but in gameplay itself(ahh i used the now outlawed gameplay word, smacks self (sic)). Ok, so i love the feel of a game, the way the platform jumping has a nice arc to it, or the way when you die you know why and know you can do better. The feel of a game is the most important thing to me, after that comes graphics and sound and stuff. So not being able to check out these games was something that made me abstain from voting. Now i must also add that i have nowhere near enough time to even play half of these games (which i find disappointing).

So then after the finalists are set, they MUST get their games done and into Xblig release by a certain time. OUCH, this is bad news, as some games take longer to develop than others, and anyone who has created games knows that they are always hard to finish, especially on a deadline. Usually i find that feel in a game is lost in favour of putting all the stuff we have designed and drawn into the game. (this btw, has happeend to me several times).

Ok, i have moaned enough about the fact i LOVE the idea of Devs getting together and doing a great promotion on several games that should knock ya socks off, and in the end they have come out and been mediocre to play. This i hope does not put all these wonderful people off trying again. Hopefully next time the vetting process can be refined a bit and we can actually get a set of Super Duper games to play. We all ned more good games.. right ?

IGSU i loved your concept.. I hope to Love it again next time.
Till then, keep on trying, cos the only way to fail is to give up.

Da Voodoochief

ps. I was no help in this promotion whatsoever and I am sad that i was absent.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reaching Beta

Ahh the amount of work and frustration and hours that go into making games.

It is a huge undertaking to create a game. Even the small ones take a lot more time than anyone gives them credit for. Then you have bigger games and even more time spent by a lot more people. So when you get to a milestone like Beta it is a good thing. Hopefully the milestone was hit on schedule. Though to be honest the amount of hours per week per person tends towards the outragous on most any project reaching Beta. also the tension can be felt throughout an office when  a team is at this very important point in a products development.

Our latest build is a pretty good Beta and I  put in my build notes that the game is now ready to have video taken of it. This is something i am hoping for, as then the product will be announced and i can talk about it in more detail. Still i am very proud of my team and the hard work and dedication they have put into to make this Beta build work properly.

The exciting part now is that we have about a month in Beta and we have only the bugs to fix and a couple of otehr things we need to address, like frame rate in certain heavy areas of the game. Still we have plans for all those areas and i am not too worried. So now i feel pretty good about making submission and this is the most relaxed i have felt about this product since  January this year.

Da Voodoochief