While sitting here in my parents house recovering from two days of heavy Christmas drinking, trying to ignore my fathers flatulence and the deeply depressing sounds coming from a previously recorded episode of Eastenders, I thought it a good time to look back on this year and provide some updates on some of the projects I’ve been working on.
Trills was an idea I had back in 2013. I prototyped it on my lunch-break at work and had my colleagues help me test it. We liked the mood and slower pace of the game but like with most of my projects, when I sat down to think about turning it into a full game the realization of how much work it’d take to complete put me off. I knew a local-multiplayer game would be hard to get noticed and didn’t feel that it was worth the effort. Here’s a video of the original prototype:
After releasing a trailer for Brute and getting a good response I felt fired up and confident about the sort of thing I can achieve on my own. It put my art and programming anxieties to rest for a handful of very productive months. I looked back at the original Trills prototype and decided to make a super lightweight, releasable version of the game.
It took me three weeks to create a stable build of the game with 4 game modes and a text-less interface. I’m quite proud of the final release, though as I expected from the start, it didn’t pick up a great deal of traction. I didn’t put the time into protomoting the game, but I never intended the game to be popular. My main goal was to release it on itch.io so I can learn the requirements of releasing something before releasing Brute in 2016
At the time of writing Trills has been downloaded 645 times, viewed 2,379 times and purchased 12 times earning $41.98. The game was released for free with optional pay what you want pricing. The suggested price is $2.50, the average price for the 12 sales is $3.49.
What made me most happy was having the game picked up on Offworld and RPS with both sites noting the games satisfying feel and presentation. I was also pretty chuffed with my release trailer which I thought captured the mood and feel of the game quite well:
One of my biggest anxieties when making games is art. I’m not a visual artist at all and really struggle with it. When collaborating with artists I realize just how difficult and time consuming the craft is. Alongside my poor programming skills I find art to be the biggest blocker when I develop games on my own. However when I saw this tweet I felt very inspired:
— Jumpy Wall (@jumpywall) July 26, 2015
The game looks amazing and is so simple in its execution. I copied the idea of switching palettes and applied it to a prototype I made a few years ago. I made many iterations on the style and found that I could achieve a convincing presentation if I concentrate on flat, sharp shapes, colour and highlights.
Here’s my first art test:
This was after two days of playing with mechanics and aesthetics. I used an interview about Nuclear Throne as a feel guide to help convey physicality out of interactions.
My goal with Brute is to make something as immediate and playable as the original Flash game N. This is a game I played for many hours and is a constant inspiration in my work. It was only later when I got a PS4 I remembered that N++ also features shifting colour pallets…
I’m colourblind, so I used a browser tool called Cooolers to generate schemes for me. I’ll need to work with an artist to make sure that all the schemes work before I release, as I’m sure some are hard on the eyes.
The rest of the game came together very quickly over about 4 months of near-daily development around audio work and Orbit. From the start I made sure to limit the scope of the game. I decided on 50 levels with an additional 50 unlockable ‘remix’ levels. The game would two speedrun modes in addition to the regular ‘Grid’ mode. Making these decisions early on really helped the flow of development. Everything game together quite smoothly. In August I released the first trailer for the game to celebrate making the first draft of the 50 standard levels:
The high point of this year for me was reading a positive preview of the game on RPS. I think it helped that I sent Graham Smith a technical preview build of the game and targeted my mail to him personally as I knew he likes this sort of game. I think it also helps to be honest and upfront about comparing the game to N++ as it immediately tells readers if the article is at all interesting to them based on their taste.
So far I’ve received mostly positive reception for what I’ve shown of Brute, with no real negative comments. People seem to like the style and that really helps me to feel more confident as a designer.
At this point, the games levels are mostly complete, in January I will send out another test build featuring all 50 standard levels with a rating system built in so that I can get a feel for what levels work. During this time I’ll also try to collect final assets from the composers I’m collaborating with to create a vibrant, reactive soundtrack.
Overall I’m quite excited about this game and I’m hoping my love of the genre and style will be felt through the game as it’s played.
If you want to help test the game in January, please get in contact
Orbit has been a shared passion project between myself and Tyler Barber for gosh, five years now on and off. A high point of development was in March 2014. We released some gameplay footage to get some feedback about our aesthetics. We also sent out playable builds of the game to a select handful of people and were pleased to receive positive feedback.
I came to a realization a couple of months after this that my programming skills weren’t fit to be able to release a stable, well performing final version of the game. We were building the game in Construct 2, which is a tool I love but especially back then, I just couldn’t get good performance out of it. I worked with Adam Bradley and he expressed interest in helping out on the project and after talking to Tyler we decided to bring him on board.
He had a hell of a lot of work to do as we wanted to bring the whole project to Unity AND develop a set of editor tools so that Unity behaved similar to how we were using Construct 2 when designing levels and integrating art assets. Thinking back to it now, I’m quite blown away by what he achieved, it took a long time, working weekends and without any real planning or scheduling in place. Fast forward to now and we have so many amazing features that just weren’t possible in Construct. We have about 4 hours worth of gameplay designed and integrated though much of the game is still in pieces.
I think we’re all very excited about the project still, even though development has taken a long time. It’s important to remember though that this is our first game as a team and it started out as the first thing Tyler and I ever worked on in games. We’ve learnt so much and still have a great deal to learn but I believe we’re approaching an apex where the game will finally start coming together. All the pieces are there, we just now need to stick them together and start crafting the feel and experience of playing the game. We’ve not released any footage of the game this year apart from a couple of gifs on this blog, here’s one showing some hacking – it’s all changed of course
Here’s a game I couldn’t nail this year I started it at the very beginning of the year after making a promise to myself that I’d release a simple game this year. There’s a seed of an idea in it which I think has a lot of potential, I just haven’t found the right design / gameplay loop to make it compelling enough while also achievable to finish. It started out as an idea to make a slow, ambient blend of Asteroids and Lunar Lander:
I instantly feel in love with the mood of this prototype and I tried hard to turn it into an actual game:
I had ideas but not a real game, so I shelved the project and became frustrated with game development. It felt like everything I tried would come up against a roadblock. After struggling with this game for a few months I gave up on my solo efforts until I hit a vein of inspiration with Brute.
Riding on the Brute high the last thing I did this year was another little stab at Nereus:
I had the idea of stripping the game back to its core components and concentrate on the ‘docking’ mechanic. I wanted to build a system that would generate random space stations for the player to dock with but I failed to be able to generate the structures with Constructs physics system. So I took the random generation element away and started to create hand-made levels. After a while I realized that this interpretation of the idea just doesn’t work with hand made levels, not with a great deal of effort I am not ready to spend on the project. So the game is again shelved, but I’m not frustrated by it this time. Maybe one day I’ll come back to it with a killer gameplay loop and make it.
My ambitions for 2016 are to release Brute in February and to divert the majority of my attention to Orbit. I’ve gone back to full-time audio work so my time is again limited. Progress on Orbit has been so positive over the last 6 months I’m going to try to be generous with my time with Tyler and Adam to give them as much support as I can. There’s a few core things we need to work on, ironing out editor bugs, finalizing design choices and getting the main environments designed and integrated with art and audio. I’d love to send out another preview build around the middle of the year and get some outside feedback on what we’re doing. I think it’s something the team needs to help push us into the final straight to get it out of the door.
I hope to develop my coding skills further this year and get my speed up in Unity so that I can drop Construct 2 to make Unity my primary engine to both prototype as well as develop.