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Friday
Oct312014

Weekly Update: Happy Halloween!

After preparing our game for Game On last Thurs and attending the Captivate Conference last Fri-Sunday (you can read our notes from the conference here), we took Monday off, so I have a little less to report this week!

I posted the Color Thief feedback from Game On on Tuesday.

And today I posted the PowerPoint slides from the talks that Issam and I gave at Captivate: Bootstrapping Trouble Impact & Technical Strategies for Indie Studios. 

On the Color Thief front, this week I made a few new animations for swimming (underwater), sliding on ice, and walking. 

Issam hooked up the walking animation and made the controller a little more responsive. This way, when you press lightly on the controller, the chameleon walks - and when you press more, he runs. 

Mostly this week he's been working on ice. We want the character and various objects to slide on icy surfaces.

I've been working on making the ourdoor level borders a little better. We'd been using these particularly flat looking "tree walls" and I want it to look a bit nicer.

Current tree walls:

Starting work on new borders:

Here's Miles in his Halloween costume!

Friday
Oct312014

Captivate Conference: Presentations

Issam and I gave talks at the Captivate Conference this year! Here are our slides:

Description: Many AAA game developers are responding to the allure of freedom that indie game development offers - but what does that actually look like in the longer term - especially when you don't make a hit right away? Trouble Impact is a 2 person game studio made up of former Activision employees, and we've just finished our second year of being self-funded indies. We will talk about our experience making the shift from big studio culture to the indie lifestyle, how we could have better prepared before setting off on our own, and show how we leverage our AAA development experience to keep our business going.

Click here for the PowerPoint slides.

 

Description: The initial expectation of a small, 2-person game studio is that a technical strategy is not necessary, especially if you are using an engine like Unity. Our experience the last 2 years has taught us that given the small amount of resources available and the need to keep costs low, forming a technical strategy is required to really take advantage of your team's skills and make sure that your studio can quickly respond to opportunities. We will discuss topics such as minimizing technical debt, porting, creating content faster, taking advantage of subscription software, cloud computing, advanced source control and how to limit external dependencies.

Click here for the PowerPoint slides.

Tuesday
Oct282014

Feedback from Game On

Since I only did a short update on Friday, I wanted to make sure I took some time to write down some of the feedback that we got from playtesters at Game On last Thursday. It was a really fun event - it's great to occasionally poke your head up and watch some players actually enjoying something you're working on every once in awhile. It's good for morale!! That said we still have a long way to go. :)

Tan vs. Orange. I had added a tan column at the start of the outdoor section so that players could turn on the fountains if they wanted to, but everyone (like literally every single playtester) thought that the tan was the color they needed to put on the large orange door. Even after adding it to the door, it still wasn't obvious that it was the wrong color. We need to make these colors a lot different to keep people from being confused!

Desaturated Ivy. The first time players see ivy without color is when they need to interact with it for a puzzle, so a lot of people were missing it. I think we need to add another bit of ivy earlier on where you actually need to take the color off of it - this way they can see that they're the same thing.

Sentinel Heads. When I had the huge statue sentinels, it was totally obvious that their heads were swiveling to look at the chameleon if he was the wrong color, but now that they're so small, no one sees it. It was definitely a helpful clue in understanding how the sentinels worked, so I'd like to find a way to make it more obvious again. (Every player I asked said they hadn't noticed them moving.)

Big Yellow Door. I made a note of this before, but I thought the gigantic moonstone would help and it didn't! When players enter the large room, they almost never see the big yellow door on the right, so they don't understand that gathering yellow is their goal. I think I need to redesign the layout of this whole section so that they can't miss it.

Big Purple Door. This is pretty much the same issue but with the big purple door. Actually the only way you can see the big purple door from the bottom floor is to head all of the way over into the empty corner of the room (there's no reason to go there) and turn around. Players don't tend to stop and survey a room before wandering around, so again, I think I need to redesign the layout.

Monday
Oct272014

Captivate Conference

Last Friday-Sunday, Issam and I attended the Captivate Conference! There was an expo, several networking events, an indie game competition (our game, Amelia vs. the Marathon won!!), and a lot of talks (I'd say there were 5-6 talks in every time slot, 5-6 timeslots a day). We really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it to local game developers. 

Issam did a talk about technical strategy for indie studios on Friday, and the 2 of us did a talk about our studio and what we've learned on Sunday. I'll be posting both presentations on the website as soon as we fill in all of the notes (we tend to not put a ton of text on the slides themselves). 

Here are some highlights from the conference: 

 

Augmented Reality: The State of the Art, Adam Gravois

Gravois spoke about where AR tech is currently, and what sort of things people are actively making with it. Some really cool examples were the glasses.com virtual try on app, which lets you take a short video of yourself, and then try glasses on on top of it, and the IKEA furniture app, which lets you digitally place furniture in your home. The glasses app is particularly neat because, as Gravois pointed out, it's tiring to have to constantly hold your device up to your face in order for it to work, and this app gets around that by having you capture your image once - then you can browse as much as you want to. The IKEA app is smart in that it uses the IKEA Catalogue for scale instead of requiring your to print out a marker. 

Nonlinear Level Design, Raphael Colantonio & Ricardo Bare

Colantino and Bare spoke about Arkane's design approach, mostly through examples from Dishonored. Their games focus on rules-based simulation over narrative, which allows for unexpected results. They want the player to have a ton of freedom to improvise - and when players found cool exploits in playtesting, they would design the level around them, rather than cutting or limiting the ability of the player. They embrace a "say yes to the player" philosophy - where if they think of something that seems cool, they try to add it, since it's likely that players will think the same thing. In this type of approach, they mentioned that it's important to reward the player for accomplishing an objective, rather than rewarding them based on how they did it, so that they player doesn't feel like the game is trying to limit their freedom.

 

Linking Local Musicians & Game Developers, Panel Discussion

This was a panel discussion between some local musicians, producers and people who hook up TV shows and commercials with music licenses and a guy that sources the music for big budget games such as COD. Most of the practical advice was really directed towards the music producers - saying what the Austin scene was currently lacking and why big budget games don't tend to look locally for soundtracks.

One thing I took away from this talk though was that Issam and I had been taking a pretty traditional approach to our music since we don't know a lot about it. Our assumption was that we could find something orchestral or hire someone to create something with that sound, but thinking a little more about it, we could definitely look into making some more creative choices about what kind of style music we end up pursuing. 

Vector Power: Using Illustrator to Create Great Art, Billy Garretsen

Garretsen spent the hour walking through a piece to show how to achieve more a painterly look in Illustrator and it was really valuable. I haven't used Illustrator since college, so I really didn't know what it was capable of. I wish I'd made our Amelia icon that way, so I hadn't had to do all of that retouching work for all of the different sizes we needed. :)

Back to Reality: The Emergence of Real-World Gaming, Patrick Moran

Moran gave examples of real-world gaming - or games that take place in real-world space. First he talked about purely physical "play" events, such as obstacle course races like Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder, and an experience where people pay for survival training and then get left alone on an island for a length of time.

More in the vein of "games," there are experiences called escape rooms, where players are left inside of a locked room, with a series of puzzles to solve in order to escape.

He also talked about games where interface with tech to play in the real world, such as Ingress, which is a game where players capture real-world territory by using their smartphones, or Zombies, Run!, which is a game that tells you were zombies are in relation to your real-world jog, encouraging you to run faster. :)

Sunday Keynote, James Ohlen

Ohlen talked about the history of BioWare. I didn't really take any notes, but it was cool to hear the lessons that they'd learned as a studio over time, and how their focus on story evolved. :)

Unreal Engine 4: Workflow Primer, Leo Gonzales

Issam has been pretty interested in Unreal lately, so we checked out this panel where Gonzales walked through a couple of different things in Unreal. He mostly showed off how the visual scripting works in the engine, and how quick and easy it is to create something from scratch. He also showed a lot of really cool examples of effects work he had created in the engine. 

Overall it was a really great conference, and I think we will plan on attending it next year! 

Friday
Oct242014

Weekly Update: Game On

Short update today since we're off to Captivate today-Sunday!

Last night we showed Color Thief, The Bard and Amelia vs. The Marathon at Game On, and it was really fun! We met a lot of people and got some great feedback. Here are some Vines I took!: 

Friday
Oct172014

Weekly Update: Lots of Little Things

This week we've been doing a lot of little things in preparation for Game On next Thursday.

I've made a number of small changes to the level. First I replaced the old large doors with new doors, so that the multi-room puzzles work again. I also had to widen the Buddha statue room so that the door could open without clipping through the wall. :) 

I've also been adding ivy to the first outdoor section, and adding a new area for players to find color to open the first large door. 

Issam turned off the foliage renderer when the leaves are "animated out." For the ivy, he fixed the collision so that the ivy is climbable again, and changed the color test logic so that it works better.

He removed some unused debug code (leftover from when objects could hold more than one chameleon's worth of color). He added and 'invert horizontal' option to the pause menu for the manual camera controls, as well as mouse sensitivity sliders, and made the pause menu work with the mouse.

He also removed the button prompt HUD, and added the option for us to have HUD tutorials instead (so that players can learn the controls of the game) (Although we don't have any examples to show yet.)

We have a busy week ahead of us!

Miles put up with me smothering him when I needed a quick break. 

Friday
Oct102014

Weekly Update: Ivy, Door Locks & Camera

This week we've still been working on the feedback from the post I made a few weeks ago, and we had a playtest session on Tuesday and got some fresh notes.

I've been redesigning the first area - adding a new puzzle before you enter the temple and removing some of the puzzles in the large room. 

Here's a little bit of art that's been added in the first section:

As our friend Sara noticed in the playtest - you can make faces!!

Since all objects now only take on chameleon's worth of color, we had to change the way the big doors work (they used to take 3x color) - so now they're made up of 2 sections, which each need to be colored for the door to open: 

We also hooked up the new ivy and had people start playing with it on Tuesday. I want to make some changes, since I think it currently gives a slightly incorrect impression about how color works, but this is what it looks like right now: 

Issam made a really cool change where the trees only have leaves when the trunks have color. It also shows up in the shadows, which looks neat:

Issam also worked on the camera controls after getting feedback on his latest round of changes:

In the playtest on Tuesday, some players noticed some awkward conflicts where the auto camera would sort of fight the manual camera - so Issam changed it so that the auto camera won't engage until the player walks for at least 2 seconds without using the manual camera. He also fixed an issue where the camera would freak out sometimes when switching from manual to auto if the character was looking down (it would pop positions back and forth - not it chooses one and sticks with it instead of going crazy.)

He also fixed some bugs with Color Materials (we can now have a children object have it's own color material). Finally, he lowered the radius of the raycast that happens when the player is trying to interact with a color object, which works better with the wall geometry in the beginning of the game. 

Miles spent the week being tortured by these fall decorations I hung (listen with sound!!!):

 

Friday
Oct032014

Weekly Update: Camera & Level Overlook

This week!

We hooked up the effects I made last week for when the chameleon is running on a surface without color: 


I redesigned the fountains:


And I've been working on the overall layout for the rest of the temple. I'd always pictured this impressive vista the first time you get a big view of the outdoors, so I've been trying to nail it down. This is what I've got right now: 


The issue with this current setup is that the camera is bad at going down stairs. It's also Inktober this month, so for yesterday's drawing I tried to do some concept art (I think it came out pretty messy...):


Issam has been working on camera controls, and added a manual camera control for the mouse, so when you play on PC you can use WASD & mouse look-at. We got a suggestion at Fantastic Arcade to try combining the "action" button with the jump button (since you never do both at the same time), so the "Y" button has been removed and we're trying this to see how it plays.  Also the camera doesn't look up when you jump as the chameleon (which is less disorienting). He also set it up so that the Unity fog settings are set in code (whereas they used to be set from each scene). 

Also we are signed up to show our game at Game On Austin, which is Oct 23rd!

Miles has been... relaxing.

 
Friday
Sep262014

Weekly Update: Starting to Address FA Feedback

This week we've been looking at feedback from Fantastic Arcade (and IndieCade feedback), and coming up with a plan of attack for our next milestone! 

To start the week off, I wrote up a big list of feedback, which is posted here. I'm starting off by redesigning the sections of the level that have issues. I also made some effects for when the chameleon is walking on surfaces without color (they're not hooked up yet though, so I will post a video later!)

Issam has been doing a lot of stuff! He fixed the prefab system and created a system that reimports perfab objects when they are changed.

After some issues...

...he fixed the sentinels, so that the new ones now import correctly and look at the player:

It's a little hard to tell from the Vine, so here's a screengrab as well: 

He also fixed the shadows and sunrays, which have been missing for a little while. The outdoor sections of the level look pretty now! He also made the colors brighter when they are fully saturated.

We also made the change from the feedback to try setting all object color sizes to one. We want to test it for awhile and see what players think. It was definitely causing confusion before have bigger objects require more color - this is simpler and speeds up the overall pace of the game. 

He also hooked up the ivy that I was working on last week, so it works in game now!

And it's hard to tell in this vine, but he worked on the camera controls too. 


Here's a photo of the 3 of us from this morning's team meeting:

Monday
Sep222014

Fantastic Arcade 2014 Recap!

 

Fantastic Arcade was last Thurs-Sun! It's a free event in Austin that takes place in a movie theater and adjoining bar, which a lot of indie devs from across the country attend. Even though it's free, I'd say it's much more of a developer-facing event, as opposed to fan-facing, and the talks are generally about development.

They have a selection of around 40 games: 8 spotlight games, which are shown in arcade cabinets, and 28 showcase games which are shown on a dozen or so laptops (the laptops have all of the games in a launcher -- this is where our game was!). Sony also had an area with some kiosks set up featuring indie games that are scheduled to release on PS4. There's a program of talks, given by the spotlight game developers (and some additional devs) and tournaments. The programmed events don't really overlap like at bigger gaming events, so it's pretty much a bunch of developers hanging out in the same area with each other all day. Overall it's a really chill event, and a good opportunity to meet other developers. :)

Here are some of the cool things we saw!

 

Games:

Donut County

This game is actually based on a prototype that the developer made for the Molyjam, which is pretty awesome! You control a hole in the ground which you move around with your mouse. Anything that fits in the hole falls into it, and as more and more things fall into it, it gets incrementally larger so you can eventually clear the stage. There are some puzzles that you have to solve in order to make more things appear (i.e., get the chicken into the henhouse so it can make some eggs for you to suck up), so that your hole can become big enough to clear the stage. The developer talked about the backstory, which is based on the idea of gentrification and erasing culture. I'm really excited to see where he goes with it.  

 

Gang Beasts

I'd played Gang Beasts before Fantastic Arcade, but this is a good chance to mention it. It's basically a crazy fighting game, that currently supports up to 8 players (I got the opportunity to play with 7 other people and it was AMAZING). I recommend checking out videos as the best way to understand it. It's currently available as an early access game on Steam.


Titan Souls

I didn't actually play Titan Souls, but Issam really liked it. It's a really difficult game where you face a bunch of different bosses - dying until you figure out how to fight each boss, and then dying until you actually manage to pull it off. 


Nidhogg

This was my fist opportunity to play Nidhogg and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was at the Sony Kiosks (as opposed to being a Festival game) It's sort of like... 2-man football if there was no ball and players constantly died and respawned. Your goal is to get to your respective end zone (the left-most screen for the player facing left, and the right-most screen for the player facing right), while your opponent does everything possible to get in your way and/or kill you. Again, this one might be better understood through video. My only criticism of the game was that it would really benefit from some sort of time limit (maybe there is one and it was just turned off?), because I played for like, 10min straight against someone I was evenly matched with and it was completely exhausting and got pretty not fun towards the end. It was completely exhausting. You can buy Nidhogg directly on their website, and the game will be coming out on Vita and PS4 at some point.

 

Starwhal: Just the Tip

Starwhal was another Sony kiosk game that I'd heard of but never played before. You fight other players as narwhals - damage is inflicted by touching the other players' hearts with your horn. Your control your head with the joystick and propel yourself forward with X (I think this also makes your body wiggle). It's intentionally difficult to control, which makes it really fun. 

 

Talks/Events:

Gorogoa

I met Jason Roberts briefly during SXSW and checked out the demo of Gorogoa afterwards (you can play the full demo online for free! Do it!). It's a beautiful game where you move panels to solve puzzles. Jason spoke a bit about his inspiration and how the project started, but he mostly talked about how he was having some difficulty deciding how much the gameplay should involve 'traditional' puzzles (where you learn a system and use it), vs. having the player progress using exploration and more dream-like connections. This really hit home for me, since I spend a lot of time wondering where to be traditional about gameplay and where to try to move in a different direction, towards my own 'vision.'

 

Astro Duel Tournament

I'm part of a playtesting group with Rusty Moyer so I've gotten to play Astro Duel a number of times. I'm disappointed I didn't do better in the tournament! >:( Astro Duel is a 4 player competitive multiplayer game for iPad. It's fast-paced, simple to learn and really fun! I recommend checking it out! I took some Vines of the tournament here, here and here


Super Game Jam

Super Game Jam is a documentary mini-series where developers have 48 hours to make a game. It's not competition-style - each episode simply focuses on a pair of developers that are given a theme and work together on a game. We only saw episode 4, but I felt like it was shot very honestly and was wonderful to watch. You can buy the episodes on Steam.

 

Barfcade

Barfcade was one of the closing events of the weekend. It was a gameshow where hosts Thu Tran (filmmaker, gamemaker), and Wiley Wiggins, led the contestants through a series of trivia questions, Barfcade games (games made during a 2 week game jam before the event), and gross food challenges (eating mayo-filled donuts, durian popsicles and bologna, sriracha, anchovy tacos). You can play all of the submitted Barfcade games at the bottom of this page

And I will leave you all with this video of the contestants eating sticks of butter.