Title says it all, go play if you want: CLICK
I did Ludum Dare this weekend and pretty much had a ridiculous amount of fun making a game. The game, Leaf Me Alone was a product of the first three hours of the jam me and David saying “I have no idea what to do that’s minimal”, and eventually collapsing into “fuck it, here’s a random idea I had, lets make this anyway”.
The game’s ‘minimalist’ qualities lie in it’s aesthetic, and it’s stripped down metroidvania form. ANY Ludum Dare game is minimal, that’s a given, which is why we were a bit shitty at thinking up ideas for this jam. We didn’t want to make a game about squares or shapes and saying “yeah, minimal yo” because that wasn’t fun or interesting to us. My main personal thoughts were “we need an idea that is interesting both as a game, but interesting to create from an audio perspective” since I had @autotwitch on board making the music and audio I knew it would need to take full advantage of this fact, because it blows my mind how good his work is – the end result of this jam proves that.
So we set off with a concept of “hey did you play wind waker? Well I think you could do loads of cool stuff with that leaf man”, and ran from there. We didn’t pay too much attention to the theme from this point, but really LD is just about making a game, and I was pretty happy to be doing just that.
I spend my time alone in my bedroom most days, drawing, programming and thinking, designing Chroma. I used to think Chroma was a lot like Fez until this jam. Fez is lonely, but open and loving and beautiful. When people saw LMA being made they said “FEZ FEZ FEZ!” which is true and fact, it was inspired heavily by Fez, although actually more by Melodisle! I learned a lot about color in this jam which is INFINITELY useful in my main project so I’m super happy about that. But Chroma is a grim place, born from rough times and sad thoughts; it has it’s core, I guess most of my game ideas generally come from the same place in my head. But Leaf Me Alone broke away from this as much as it could, I became a child again, 7 or 8 year old me just colouring stuff in in nice bright colours, in a permanent state of joy as I filled in each pixel, then each tile. I didn’t worry about puzzle layouts, whether it was difficult enough. I lay some shapes down and thought “that looks cool” and that was that. The design of the game was 50/50 split, David might not even think so but it was, and it was all the better for it. At one point making the tree area he just said “we need a throne at the top, and it needs an animal king, A SQUIRREL, GET A SQUIRREL IN THERE!” and child-like me just loved it, drew a tiny pixelly squirrel (although first time round messed up the animation and it was dry humping it’s throne, yikes).
This game was pure fun to make, and pure joy for me to go back and play through. I feel like a kid when playing and that makes me feel pretty good. It’d be nice to expand upon it, I sure have loads of ideas for making it bigger and more interesting, and it let me try out some cool ideas and to learn flash.
Basically this post is me saying that this weekend re-kindled my love for making games, and reminded me why I love it. It’s about the experience, good or bad, I can look back on why I wanted to do this in the very first place when I was 5 playing through sonic on my megadrive, and remember what games really can mean.
Learned flash yesterday and made a 2 player bomberman style weird territory annihilation game!
E drop bomb
SPACE: Drop bomb
Or a Link for bigger screen: BOMBERJAM
So here I go, today I finished my job and I’m now a full time independent game making person.
Chroma is now my day job, so pretty exciting stuff. Also signed a contract with audio creation person and super cool dude James Dean to do the audio for the game today – looking forward to working with him and doing some weird and interesting things with sound.
So it’s an exciting time, also a fucking terrifying, because if I screw up I kinda end up homeless and stuff so there’s that. I have enough in the bank to live off for at least a year + go to some events like GDC at some point so I should be okay for a while.
The one thing I’m weary of is going more insane, lack of human contact while I sit in my room all day tapping on a keyboard. I’ll do many things to avoid this but hopefully I’ll handle it.
Also, Antichamber today – fuck yeah.
Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar
Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined;
Till at his second bidding darkness fled,
Light shone, and order from disorder sprung.
Thought I’d write a short blog post to detail some of the weird and hopefully interesting methods I’m taking in the development of Chroma in terms of level and world design.
- There are no power-ups or upgrades that alter the character in game beyond getting the light/shadow power at the start
- There is only one level, the entire world is one large seamless map with no intermittent loading.
- The player can go pretty much anywhere straight away, there are very few areas that are locked ‘until you get item xyz’ type things.
- It’s mostly non-linear; different areas generally have multiple connective nodes, so there’s not often ‘only one way’ to get somewhere.
So with those things in mind I can tell you it’s a brain explosion inducing thing to design. Teaching the player without pointing things out is very important to me, yet in a non-linear environment there’s a chance a player can encounter something new that seems very difficult or advanced or obtuse as they haven’t been introduced to it before. This is pretty interesting, because I kind of like that.
I see Chroma as a metroidvania type exploration game with a puzzle backbone. Instead of collecting a new power to access a new area, the player behind the keyboard learns or figures out patterns and advances these methods themselves to figure out escalating puzzles. So they might find something really strange and can’t work out how to use it, then later find a different version of it used in a different manner and think “oh snap” and realise what they need to do at the previous thing they found.
That said, they should never be totally stuck, if they can’t do a puzzle there’s always a different way to go, leading to new adventures. Also if people crack harder puzzles early on without seeing some of the pre-cursor then that’s fine too, they’d probably feel pretty smart, which is a good thing.
Since the world is just one big level, and the game revolves quite heavily on the ‘where? why? what? and who?’ the world you are in has purpose and meaning, the actual environment needs to be a certain way with functioning areas for a bigger purpose, so I have to design around this.
So far I have mapped out a fair bit of the start and middle of things, and added a few puzzles.
Here’s the optimal method of designing for this non-linear environment as I see it:
- Place general areas + purpose on paper
- Subdivide into more specific purposes (this is story/environment based)
- Put into the editor the rough, physical view of this paper map
- Analyse paths that can be taken and assess where puzzles can go and how to escalate their difficulty/complexity
- Design puzzles that fit in around the purpose of each section and build them into the map, altering the base physical structure where needed.
- When rough puzzles are in you can start pumping more back story into everything and polishing the environment.
- Iterate (a lot)
That’s a rough breakdown of what I think the best way to do things is, I don’t totally follow this, however. I like designing the puzzles and testing them in game and building around them, and for things like the IGF I had to get SOME puzzle bits in, but admittedly the IGF build was very bare and lacked gameplay, ended up being more of a tech demo (which is why I think I don’t have a chance at this years IGF but not to worry).
So in theory if I followed my own rule set the game should get exponentially better, since it starts off massive and barren but I think you need to use common sense when approaching it too, sometimes you need to make sure things work the way you imagined, and that things fit together properly before going all out on stuff. I have a terrible habit of starting to polish things before I’ve nailed the basics but I’m getting a lot better with this at the moment (everything outside the start area looks desolate at the moment due to lack of polish!).
Not sure why I’m writing this or who for, mostly so I can re-read and take a look at how I do things and see if I can improve it. Either way I thought it might be interesting to someone to see how I do/think about things in design. It feels like I’m doing things the best way, but a really weird way, and means that the game lacks a lot until I get round to iterating more on it.
Hopefully it will end up being fun and interesting anyway!
(started out by using the phrase “short blog post”, error).
Thought I’d write a post about the year in summary, particularly my favourite games of the year.
There’s been a bunch of really great games released in 2012 throughout the year, and I’ve still not had chance to play most of them. But there are two games that really stick out to me as my favourites of the year, and pretty much make it onto my list of favourite games of all time.
Pretty much a masterpiece of design purity, I’ve really poured way too many hours into this game and I’m still coming back for more. One of the outstanding things about Super Hexagon (to me) is that it has an actual end, simple thing for a game to have I know, but it seems unexpected in this kind of arcade game. The ending is fucking mindblowing, seriously. I saw Terry complete it at gamecity and people left the room carrying their jaws. After that I played it every day until I could complete it myself. He said some interesting things that stuck a chord with me at gamecity (Terry, that is), he said he liked it when a game doesn’t care if a player can complete it all (paraphrasing here). You can see this kind of theme through his other games, most notably VVVVVV, which is also preeeeetty hard in some places.
Anyway I realised I liked that too, I just never noticed. Even Braid had those stars that most players probably never got. I think this prospect will be at the heart of Chroma, so if I ever say Super Hexagon was an inspiration and people are like “say whaaaaat?” you know what I mean (hopefully). Hard games are good games.
This links in nicely to a game which is now probably my favourite game of all time:
This game totally surprised me in the best ways possible. I was super hyped for it before it came out, looked gorgeous seemed complex and interesting and just generally made my face produce drool. When it was released after that notoriously long development time, it became clear why it took so long.
The game was WAY deeper and more complex than I could have ever imagined a game to be. It made me think of the TV show LOST (before the final season/episode where my hopes and dreams were crushed into oblivion). So many secrets, have they all been discovered? Probably not. That’s what I love about Fez. Not only is it a beautiful and technical masterpiece, playing it feels like I’m taking a glimpse at a slice of time on an infinite timeline, the world feels soaked in history that goes back thousands of years and forward thousands more.
I could probably (and have) talk(ed) for ages and ages (especially after a couple of pints) about why Fez is one of the best games ever made, but I’ll keep it short and say, if you haven’t played it, play it. Hopefully it’ll be out on PC sometime soon for the people that don’t have Xboxs and I’ll probably play through it all again.
So those two have been my top games of the year, and fill me with hope and inspiration. I look forward to 2013 in which I hope to release Chroma. My aim/dream is that maybe someone will write a post like this next year and Chroma will be one of their favourite games of the year. Anyway late merry Christmas and happy new year guys!
The other day I did something brave/stupid/insane/awesome/terrible/insertadjectivehere. I quit my job.
I’m still working as I have a contractual 3 month ‘lame duck’ period, which means by the new year I’ll be fully independent… and that scares the mother loving fuck out of me.
I’ve saved all my spare money for the past two years working at my day job, and I estimate I can survive for about a year on the savings, taking into account I might have to invest money on some things like possible trips to things like GDC and hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to the next TigJamUK! Also I really need a laptop. I get small amounts of income from my iOS game Hyper Snake, but it doesn’t put much of a dent into my rent payments.
So I’m still mixed up in how I feel about this, if I succeed in my adventure I’ll be living a dream, if I fail… Then everything I thought I could achieve falls through, and my dream becomes an unobtainable fantasy. This is why I am most afraid, I’m afraid of failing.
I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I tend to focus on the negatives. The positive side of this is that I’ll be able to focus entirely on Chroma, meaning I can hopefully make it a great game, and if I can pull my shit together and worry less, I’ll have the best time making it.
In other news, I’ve submitted Chroma to the IGF. Fingers crossed that it gets some coverage as a result, we’ll see. Again, pessimistic. People who’ve seen it lately or have been following development have been super supportive and wished me luck, and I appreciate that to a phenomenal degree – really inspires me to do the best I can and helps me push past some of the rough bits.
Just thought I’d write something to vent my thoughts at this strange time in my life.
Duality – the state or quality of being two or in two parts.
Thought I’d write a little something to
A) Throw up some updates on Chroma, how it’s coming along and what kind of role it’s taking in my life
B) Note some of the themes of the game and some random design facts I will be applying
C) MISCELLANEOUS BRAIN FARTING
So I have now been off work (the day job) on holiday (making games) for one week, and I can safely say when the second week is over and I have to go back I will be a sad panda. It’s been good, and I’ve made a lot of progress so far – fingers crossed for more. It’s been a bit of a battle, because a lot of the stuff I’ve been doing has been pretty nasty and/or complex to code so I had to push through some walls to get stuff done, not much fun design stuff happening. I wish I could have got more done so far but I underestimate how long things will take and give myself a hard time when I’m being slow or lazy.
Anyway, I have now got a FULL intro working to the point where you get your power and the game gets going. It isn’t totally finished yet, there’s a bit in the middle that I think will be pretty rad but also a total bitch to code so at the moment it’s half there… TODO.
The picture above (which is 1920×1200 if anyone deems it worthy of a place on a desktop) shows part of the intro phase, loss of character only occurs for a very small amount of time for ‘cut scene-ness’ but I’ll get to that in a second. The picture portrays a key theme the game will have, light and shadow, yin and yang, 2 parts of the same entity in harmony, working together to overcome obstacles. The game is inherently dark, in lighting and in tone (if that actually makes sense), it’s pretty much a metaphor of itself.
Here’s a few key design things the game will follow:
Lot’s of sound from different objects in the world and ambient noise, but no music.
Pet peeve – text in games. If I wanted to read a story I’d buy a book, I want to play a game; a game is the BEST medium to tell a story through – there’s no need for streams of writing to deliver chunks of story. There’s a really cool sense of mystery and imagination in older games like Sonic on the genesis/megadrive where you knew the jist of what was going on and then you filled in the blanks with your imagination – now THAT was cool. I might take this no text thing a step further (maybe too far) in not having any text in game at all – no title, no options text (if I can pull that off) just imagery and intuition. The title is just a handle so it can be found outside of the game, within the confines of the game it’s not really relevant.
Let me play, please
I’m not a fan of cut scenes. I don’t like losing control of the character, which is why I’m keeping that to an absolute minimum. So far, I think you lose control for around a maximum of 10 seconds, and it won’t be too much more in the full game hopefully – just on specific collection points.
Anyway there’s a wall of text and a half, hope some of that was interesting to someone. Even if not at least I vomited some thoughts out of my brain so I can re-read it later and check whether I’m sane.
What a battle. Almost threw my Mac out of a window several times because it decided to be very temperamental about building, failing at random parts sometimes for obscure reasons. I couldn’t get the feature of changing screen resolutions in properly – specifically flipping from full screen to windowed, but I don’t have the time (or patience) to keep debugging it at the moment so here it is!
Download from the Telepaint page: here
Hope you Mac owners enjoy!