Tag Archives: Game Development

SUPERCHROMA: A New Beginning

When I finished SPACE COLORS, I was pretty much immediately all ready to make its sequel. While a lot of my influences for the game were games like Armada and Subspace, the game I actually ended up creating in SPACE COLORS was far more minimalistic in every sense. It was a different game from those that were my influences, and that was very intentional. I wanted to establish a tone, style, feel, inner loop, and touch interface that I was happy with and, with SPACE COLORS, I (more-or-less) did all of that.

I wanted to be able to step away from the game for a while, so in the interim I worked on work projects (like the recently-released Loot Raiders and other secret projects) and a separate side-project (Gravity Blot). But as I thought about doing a third shmup game, which I definitely wanted to do, I tried out a bunch of prototypes and couldn’t find anything that I was happy with. And then the idea of SPACE COLORS 2 came to mind, and from there on out it was just figuring what that game could be.

I decided I didn’t want to just make a sequel to the game. That didn’t seem necessary at all. If I wanted to add more to SPACE COLORS, then I could just release a new version on the App Store to the surprising number of people who bought the game and have that new content out there immediately.

But, as it tends to do, my mind went back to Armada and Subspace and I decided that I should pursue actually making a game that could be a worthy follow-up to those games. To my knowledge, no one else out there is making something like that — which is sad on its own accord — so, hey, why not me?

So, SPACE COLORS 2 will be an open-world action/RPG. It won’t have any of the rogue-like design that SPACE COLORS was built around, nor will it have the absolute gameplay minimalism. It’s going to be a big world divided into multiple different sectors, with each sector having its own unique look, feel, and enemy set. These sectors will also be fixed. The north-east sector closest to the player’s starting base will always be, say, the Imperial faction’s sector.  That’s not to say that the universe is going to be pre-designed and static whatsoever — the game still is going to revolve around a randomly-generated universe, but the universe is just going to be divided into these consistent sectors. And, of course, the further you get from the origin (the player’s base), the more difficult, more numerous, and more complex the enemies will become. And if you die, you don’t start from scratch, you’re just returned to your home base — though, likely at some kind of a loss or maybe a Dark Souls-esque reason to go back and retrieve your cargo. But this is me just rambling about could-bes and what-ifs at this point.

One thing I want to put an emphasis on is procedural loot generation and being able to customize your ship. I don’t know how far I’ll be able to take the actual visual customization, but I do plan on complete functional customization. Which is what I’m primarily working on this weekend (the feature screen is the first time the game is working with the new game code/backend).

There will also be a ship-doll:

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.39.13 PMThis is, obviously, a super early and work-in-progress paper doll, but it is functional, which is my goal throughout development: to keep the game constantly functional and playable. I did that with SPACE COLORS and while it led me to frequently get distracted with new things to fix, I think it led to a better game.

Now, unlike SPACE COLORS, I do plan on this game being free-to-play. I’m going to make it the best free-to-play game I possibly can but, primarily, I just want to make sure that this kind of game is open to as vast and wide an audience as it possibly can be, because I want this kind of game to catch on. I would love shameless clones of an action/shmup/rpg/open-world game cluttering the app store (after SC2 comes out, of course). That is like a dream world to me.

I’m also planning on a small-scale multiplayer arena mode.

All of this is to say that it’s my biggest side-project that I’ve undertaken in a long time. I think it will be pretty great, though. And there’s also a 99% chance that the game will be called SUPERCHROMA (name suggestion courtesy of my friend Josh Sutphin).

So, with that, the first screen of SUPERCHROMA:

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 2.32.42 PM

 

Enigmo: Explore

Me and Chance Ivey wrote a bit about the development/release of the recently-released Team Chaos zen-inducing physics puzzler, Enigmo: Explore, on game industry site Gamasutra.

When given the opportunity to work on the Enigmo franchise, we all had a small moment of personal joy, as the game has always been special to us. I recall Enigmo being my very first phone game purchase, and how much it reminded me of an extremely important game from my childhood – The Incredible Machine. With simple controls and goals, both puzzle and dexterity elements to each level, I loved everything about this game.

There’s something magical about those “old-school” puzzle games; The Incredible Machine empowered its players with something that’s been lost over time: the play-in-the-sandbox feeling. It would provide you with a puzzle, a variety of tools, and then you, are the player, were on your own to figure out how on earth you were supposed to solve the puzzle at hand given a seemingly impossible set of items with which to solve it. Enigmo was the same way; you had a puzzle in front of your face, you had your toolset, and beyond that… You have your brain.

And, as it turns out, your brain isn’t quite as trustworthy a puzzle-solving tool as you’d like to think it is. Games like The Incredible Machine and Enigmo had this way of intensely focusing your puzzle-solving efforts in one direction — thinking that’s the direction that you had to go in order to solve the puzzle at hand. When, really, one small course correction along the way would have solved the puzzle in half the time, with half the brainpower, and reassured you, as the player, that your spot in MENSA was still there waiting for you. It’s a magical quality of these types of puzzle games; no guiding hands, just the reassurance that the puzzle in front of your eyeballs can be solved. Even if you weren’t sure how.

We’re eagerly awaiting the v1.1 patch which will single-handedly remove the most-despised feature that managed to slip into our v1.0 launch: the time-dependent one star level completion.

And, beyond all that, I’ve also got a whole new game — the first that I’ve fully designed and developed on my own (in collaboration with a particularly talented Chaotic Moon Studios illustrator, Alan Defibaugh) — coming to iOS real, real soon that I’m excited to share about.

Starhawk

As of tomorrow, May 8th, 2012, you’ll all be able to buy your own copies of Starhawk! I think you should do this.

Starhawk!

I’ve been working Starhawk since I left Stardock almost three years ago and moved out to Utah (and then to Austin). It’s been weird to freely talk about the game at all, but it’s even weirder to see the game in stores, ads, and the fact that people are a mere fourteen hours away from buying it and playing it themselves.

My focus on the game has primarily been mission design/implementation, cut scene design, inner loop tuning/balancing, and writing a whole lot of LUA script for our missions, tools, and other systems. All things considered, I ended up working pretty heavily on five of the missions in the campaign. I also ended up doing a final (and in some case, last) pass of refinement/camera movements/scripted sequences throughout every mission in the campaign in the final weeks of development. It’s been a great project and we’re all super proud of it and hope y’all buy at least a few thousand copies per-person in your family.

More importantly, though, is that I think our team here at LightBox Interactive has accomplished truly impressive and my coworkers are all totally ace.

Balance Source Release

Around a year ago, I released the first of what became four straight particle-only games in Unity. The game, Balance, was both my first attempt at a more rapid design and development cycle as well as an attempt to treat a game as a very focused expressive piece (kind of like a short story). Balance is also still my only attempt to make a one-button game ever and, aside from Broken, it is my favorite of the games I’ve worked on independently.

Anyway, point is: someone recently asked me if I would release the source for any of these recent games, so I am! All of the content that I think is necessary to build the game (under Unity 3.0) can be found here. I also uploaded a new build of Balance with a couple bug-fixes and an improvement to the postprocessing effects.

This release does come with the obvious caveat of: things are ugly. I treat the programming of my independent projects like one would a rough sketch; too much thought into architecture and system design generally just impedes progress when it’s late at night and you’ve been drinking, so I just generally roll with it. I don’t think this is as big an issue with Balance as, say, Broken or my current project, since Balance is a simple game, but who knows! Do let me know if there are any issues or if I neglected to include some critical file or what not. And if this actually proves useful to anyone, I’ll do similarly for Doubt and In the Wind in the future.

Broken


Broken is my newest game; you can click the above image to check it out. Alternatively: here. There’s also a Universal Mac OS X build and a Windows build.

It is, to some extent, a game I’ve been wanting to make for a long time but, well, it ended up going in a somewhat different direction than I had always wanted to take that game. Oh well. The metaphor isn’t exactly what one might call subtle. It’s a strangely personal and yet impersonal game and I’m glad I finally got around to making it. And I owe a big thanks to colleague Josh Sutphin for composing some music specifically for the game based on a prototype and some information that I passed along.

And I guess when I said that I was done with the particle-styled games I was, really, just completely lying. I just like the style too much.

Aside from the more narrative/thematic goals I had for the project, I wanted to do something to evolve the style I’ve been working with for the last year while still keeping to the fundamentals of it: abstract visuals and a very dynamic scene. This was also my first project using the new version of Unity, so I wanted to see what kind of visual effects I could work in that I hadn’t messed with before. Strangely enough, the two biggest changes I made had nothing to do with the change in platform at all, just a change in how I composed the scene. The first step was putting a 2D plane in the scene and attaching point lights to every object, then modulating the range/intensity of that light whenever I wanted to draw attention to the object (generally when it was hitting something or when the object was destroyed). The next step was creating a 7.5%-sized render target — which was a duplicate of the finalscene minus some additional post effects — and overlaying that on the final composition for the pixelated look. Without any bloom, the frame buffer acted as a new-retro-styled bloom effect, which I really dug. I then went the extra unnecessary step and added Star Trek (2009)-style lens flares to everything, though, because… Well. That one has no deep meaning. I just thought it looked good. The final real stylistic step was to also apply a noise filter to the 7.5%-sized render target to get a more dynamic background.

One of the goals I had for the new style was to incorporate more pixel art into the game, but I really only did that with the individual heart pieces (the mines are untextured 2D quads too, I suppose). I’m going to be relying a lot more on low-fidelity pixel graphics for my next project.

All things considered, I’m happier with the way the style turned out than I am the actual game systems, but the design of the thing does accomplish all of the “storytelling” goals I had for it. Those goals just happened to turn out to be far more cynical than I was originally anticipating. Still, I’m curious to hear any reactions to the game. The next project, which I’m loosely describing as a “Monster Hunter shmup” at the moment, is going to be a somewhat more traditionally-played game.

One of the experiment that came out of my visual style exploration is the following image; I think this game needs to be made:

Next Up

I haven’t neglected this site, I’ve just chosen to go from a weekly entry to writing lengthy posts on more interesting, more well-considered topics. I’ve also been working on a few new projects. The next of which is this (and, no, there are no compression artifacts in the image):

And aside from Halo Reach, ClaDun: This is an RPG! is probably going to end up being one of my favorite games of the year.

The Particle Trilogy

As a little break from Caper Corp., I finished a making a new video game this weekend. This one is called In the Wind. Much like Balance and Doubt, In the Wind’s entire visual style is driven by particle effects. Well 2D text too, but that’s only because making particles to represent text looked ghetto at the size I needed the text to be. In the Wind brings an end to the particle trilogy style of games I started back in December. This game would have been completed back in January or so, but unlike both Balance and Doubt, In the Wind was started more because I liked this color composition:

Unfortunately, that was really all I liked about the game that I was thinking about making, so it never really got beyond some movement physics, a wind effect/simulation, and the tree. My goal with the game was to always convey a “natural economy,” in that everything in the game was able to act because of the energy the center tree provided, and the player’s goal was to just feed more and more energy into the tree. It was an okay idea, but I never really had the thematic commitment to it that I did for the other two games. My goal with the particle projects was: no more than seven average days of work (so an hour or two after work and then maybe a weekend afternoon) and a set of systems which mechanically conveyed a single, coherent theme. For Balance and Doubt, I had the theme and the systems down for what I wanted to convey and, between the two, Balance is the only one that really succeeded as a fun little project (though I still have some love for Doubt, despite that). For In the Wind, I never really had that and, as a result, despite the second wind I got that drove it to completion, the game kind of waffles. The other problem was that after a night of work on In the Wind, I was already prepared to go back to work on Caper Corp., so it was this weird divided interest.

Still, I was able to get In the Wind done in a fashion very similar to the other games in the series: a Saturday after returning from a run I realized I had to scramble together all of the final elements (usually some systemic touches, audio, and a starting/ending screen), upload it to my site, post to Twitter, and get some quick feedback, incorporate those changes into a new build, and voila. New game.

Working on these three games with the self-imposed constraints under which they were worked on was a fun little endeavor. It was nice to do something a little bit different and to establish a visual style that was (hopefully) uniquely mine and explore some one-off systems. And now it’s back to Caper Corp., which should have another entry forthcoming at some point in the next week or two.

Final games in the particle trilogy (because they’re not real games if they’re not part of a trilogy):