Jan 3, 2015

A Ludum Dare space cluedo, some greenlight, a mysterious project and a happy new year!

Hi to all of you!

First things first: I wish you all a happy new year 2015! I hope it will be filled with fun, achievement and great gaming experiences!

For Oddly Shaped Pixels, it will certainly be a great year (let's hope so), primarily because:

 Super Rocket Shootout has been greenlit! 

That's a wonderful news for me and for everybody who has been following and supporting the game. That means that the game will get to a final state where it can be considered as a fully delivered game, and not just a fun demo as it has been up until now.

The future of the game will be largely discussed on the Steam page so I invite you to go and check it out, and follow the game to get all the news and have the opportunity to be part of the development process.

Now, some other great news: Oddly Shaped Pixels will be releasing (at least) one other game in 2015! I've been contacted by a publisher and we've come to an agreement so I'm really pleased to tell you that some game of mine you've already playing will be expanded and will come to your favorite handheld device during the first semester of 2015! I'm still a bit mysterious because I have to check first with my publisher if I can talk freely about it, but anyway, I'll make an official announcement when I'm given the permission!

And to conclude this post and to remember the last bits of 2014, here's a game I've had the opportunity to make during the Ludum Dare #31 with some really talented people that are:
- Deconstructeam, the guys behind the great "Gods Will Be Watching"
- Kevin Cerdá, the great game designer behind Nihilumbra and now part of the team working on "Rime"

It's called Atticus VII and it's about playing a ship's AI while a crew member has been mysteriously murdered. It mixes elements of story telling, deductions and micro management. It also has a great replay value since there's not (or almost not) a unique right ending, but 12 different endings, each with its own meaning and set of revelations about the whole picture.

You can play the game on the Ludum Dare entrye page.

This Ludum Dare was for me the occasion to experiment making a game as part of a team, and it has taught me a lot. Firstly because I had the chance to participate in the game design with certainly two of the most emergent and talented spanish game designers (Jordi de Paco and Kevin Cerdá), and secondly because I've had to learn being part of the team and not a self centered one-man-army. I have to confess it has been hard, especially with the turn of events (I had to withdraw from beeing the lead programer due to technical setbacks), letting aside the ego boost of making a game on my own. But what an enriching experience and what an amazing game we made!! It clearly could'nt have been possible being on my own.

The game has been really well received and I'm really proud to say that it has ranked #12 on overall. It's great to see that players have felt compelled to play the game and to replay it until they understood the whole story. You can check the reddit thread just to see how players exchange their clues and views of the story, it's great to see!

Yet the game still has some design and game design issues, not because we didn't see (or foresee) them, but mainly because we decided that what had to prevail was to make this rich story fit in the 3 days of competition. Almost 2000 lines of dialogs have been written and arranged to create a complex narrative structure!! It's just amazing to have been able to make so much content in do little time, and I guess it's thanks to a natural and almost unspoken task repartition we've come up with. The counterpart is that the game still has some bugs and several elements of the mechanics, interface and story sill could benefit from a bit of polishing.

But anyway, the game is great and it has been a wonderful way to close 2014, a year that has allowed me to enter the world of game design and to start the foundation of what I hope will be a long path of creations and personal achievements.

Thank's for the reading and stay tuned for more news!


Dec 5, 2014

Super Rocket Shootout on Greenlight!

Hi folks!

A really small post to tell you that at last I've managed to find some time and launch the Greenlight campaing for Super Rocket Shootout.
It's all happening  over there: Vote on Greenlight

So please vote for the game and tell everybody about it!

Don't forget to visit the official Super Rocket Shootout to download and try the demo!

Oh, I almost forgot: there's a new trailer, and it's Fulld HD 60fps compatible so enjoy!



Oct 14, 2014

Awe: a Ludum Dare post-mortem

Hi folks!

A new post about the last Ludum Dare (#30) whose theme was "Connected worlds", and which resulted in the creation of a lot of wonderful games.

Mine is called Awe and you can play it there on Gamejolt.

The game

Before starting the Ludum Dare, I was already thinking of making a game about peace and calm. I wanted to have a go at a totally non-violent and non-conflict-based game. I also wanted to start experimenting on multiplayer games, especially the way games like Journey did.

Don't know if you've played the game (as a matter of fact, I haven't, since I don't own a PS3 or PS4, but I've watched so many gameplay vids on Youtube that it almost feels as if I'd had my hands on it), but in Journey, the multiplayer part integrates seamlessly with the solo part, and in a totally strange way: you can only communicate with other random players by emitting some musical note and interacting with your surroundings. A striking point is that there's no identification or personalization possible, all players have the same looking avatar. It results in a strange communication process based solely on the goals and attitudes of each player.

And that's what I tried to do with Awe: you can play offline but you have a multiplayer mode where you'll be able to play with a random stranger (if someone else is playing the game of course) and interact with him on the same planet.

The gameplay itself is kind of simple, although not really explained, what leaves the player self-exploring all the possibilities. I won't explain it in detail, in case you haven't played it yet, but I'll only say that it's based on colors and musical note (although the musical aspect is purely atmosphere-related and doesn't have any impact on the gameplay).

As for the design, since gamejams are (for me at least) a way to step out of you comfort zone and since all my games were 2D, I decided to go with a simple low poly render.

What went right

Well, I'm really pleased to say that the game has been well received by all that have tried it. Here you have the results of the Ludum Dare and as you can see, it's a lot of improvement since my last participation.

I've also had the honor to appear in various web sites (the biggest of all may certainly be the article of Rock Paper Shotgun) and several gameplay vids have been made of the game (you have to check this one, it's just hilarious)

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the general look and feel of the game and I can say that I made what I intended to achieve, which is pretty great. I've had lots of compliments about the music and the ambience for being relaxing and peaceful. Exactly the feeling I wanted to give!

What went wrong

The first thing that went wrong was about the color recognition mechanic. In order to see if a color picked by the player is inside a pattern and since the number of colors on the planet are potentially (!) infinite (a base color modulated by two colored light sources), I had to measure the distance between the clicked color and the fixed colors used in the pattern.

At first it was a simple distance between the R, G and B components of each color, but I soon discovered that the result was really bad and from the point of view of the player, was interpreted as almost a game-breaking bug. I had to investigate a bit on the color theory on Internet and it helped me a lot fine-tuning my algorithm.

At the end, it's still not perfect but it's way better and less frustrating for the player that at the beginning.

The second aspect of the game that didn't come out as planned was the multiplayer part. First, the fact that somebody must be playing the game at the same time without being already connected to an other player is a bit limiting. Just after the Ludum Dare finished, there was plenty of people and it was easy to find somebody to play with. Now, it's kind of difficult since the traffic has reduced a lot.

The other point about multiplayer that didn't come out as planned was that "silent" interaction idea. I had the chance to have a play session with somebody in which we gradually found a way to communicate and to interact together to build the larger patterns. Unfortunately, it was one of many experiences and all my other attempts were only unsynchronized and chaotic clicking between the two of us that never allowed us to complete a single pattern. I guess it's not specifically related to my game but to any multiplayer experience but still, it's an interesting situation to experience.

What from there

I've had lots of comments telling me that players would be delighted to see an extended version of Awe, with more patterns to discover, more stuffs to build, more interactions between players.

The truth is that, although I don't have the time right now with all my ongoing projects, I'm really considering expanding it cause there're lots of interesting concepts in the game that'd deserve to be deepened: the color pattern discovery mechanics, the possibility for the player to "create" his own music, the god-like aspect, the "silent" interaction between 2 (or maybe more) players. There's plenty of room for a bigger and better project, that's for sure!

Sep 1, 2014

Super Hyper Hippo - My Gameboy Jam entry

Hi folks!

A small post to tell you a bit about a game I made for the GameBoy Jam #3, a 10 days game jam that consists in making a game with the technical limitations of a Gameboy, that is a resolution of 160x144 and 4 colors (plus transparency).

The game is called Super Hyper Hippo and it's a platformer in the vein of the Warioland games (a special mention for the Warioland 4 for the GBA that is actually one of my favorites). Due to the time limit I couldn't make make more than 5 levels but you also have a final boss to defeat.

As of the gameplay, it's all platformer-related. A button allows you to jump (the more you keep it pressed, the higher you'll jump), an other button allows you to dash and break boulder blocks (like in the Warioland series). The twist is that you can mix the dash with a rolled attack (useful to break ground boulders) and combined the two of them to make combos and reach hidden parts of the level.

I also made what I like to call the "triple replay value", a concept well known by platformers addict (the recent Rayman's being a good example of it):
- you first have to finish a level to proceed to the next one
- you can try to find some small ordbs hidden in each level (getting them generally involves advanced techniques)
- finally you can try to speed run each level in order to beat the time limit set for each level
Completing all these 3 challenges will earn you the 3 medals, meaning that you've fully beaten the level.

At a more art-related level, this game was for me the opportunity to focus a bit more on animations. Since my past games were all a bit stiff, I really wanted to give this one a nice bouncy feel. I had recently watched again the work of amazing french animator Jeremie Perin and it inspired me a lot. At the end, I'm quite happy of the final results, especially given the time constraints.

As for the reception, it has been really well appreciated. I've had lots of good comments overall and the game ranked #11 (of some 250 entries), which is not bad at all.

You can have it go here at Gamejolt (best played under Google Chrome or with the desktop version)

Jul 21, 2014

Madrid's Gamergy 2014

Hi folks!

It's been now more than 2 weeks that I participated in the latest Madrid Gamergy and I wanted to write a bit about it, mostly to give credits to all the people I met there.

So, Madrid's Gamergy is mainly an event built around e-Sports, with live competitions of LoL, COD, Starcraft 2, Fifa 14 and so on. But there were also lots of stands to try all the new games (damn I wish I've had the time to try Evolve...), a Mario Kart 8 tournament, a stage for live performances of famous gaming-related spanish youtubers and many more things. And there were a big space dedicated to Mediavida, a pretty huge spanish forum, who made an open call to any spanish dev to come and showcase their game.

Some poster I made for the event

I hadn't heard of Mediavida until then but my dear friends of Red Little House studios told me 3 days before the event that there were some remaining free space that I could happily use. So here I was, rushing to build a decent showable build and we went me and my girlfriend to Madrid's IFEMA convention center with my good old Mac Mini, a monitor and 4 controllers under the arm.

I had shown Super Rocket Shootout before, but mainly to friends and game devs. This time was the first time I would show the game to a real live audience, with real live gamers expectations and raw uncut critics, not to some fellow gamedev that can empathetically see beyond bugs and placeholders.

Anguishly watching the first matches

And hopefully the response was as high and as good as my pre-event's fear and stress were. From the opening on Saturday 10am to the closing on Sunday 9pm, my 4 valliant Logitech F310 controllers never went playerless more than 2 minutes. Kids were getting back to the game, kids were playing with their father and mother, people were playing with others. It was just amazing and incredibly rewarding to see. People were laughing and although it's a competitive game, people were reacting really good to each other, even when they didn't know each other. There were a really good overall ambiance and the people playing were always happy to let other persons try the game.

My lovely girlfriend explaining the controls
Great kids playing the game

Father and son VS Father and son

It may be a bit presumptuous but I didn't receive any real critic about the game. People were just eager to playing more and I was asked a lot if it was already available to purchase, for what platforms/consoles it was available... One kid even went home and purchased a controller only to be able the play the game with his friends at home. Sadly I had to tell him that the demo were not available already but that it soon would be. So touching!

Besides connecting with the public I also got to meet a lot of great people evolving around the game industry.

First I've got to know some really cool spanish fellow devs:

  • my valencian friends of Red Little House studios that are currently working on "Fleish & Cherry in Crazy Hotel"
  • Mr Badger who was showcasing a nice Windwaker-like RPG made with Blender
  • Pixelfan Games, that were showing some of their games and making some really cool live drawings
  • Human Pride Games who definitely won the "longest waiting queue" award with their great Oculus Rift endless runner

The whole Mediavida sponsored indie dev team

I also had the honor and opportunity to meet 2 of the most emblematic people in the spanish gamedev community: Ivan Fdez Lobo, creator and MD of the Gamelab event (and all related events) and "Gonzo" Suarez, the creator of the Commandos series. Talking with them was such a blast and they offered me a lot of really useful insights and advices. The cool part was that that they enjoyed watching the game and they told me how they'd see it make it further.

Gonzo Suarez trying to impress my girlfriend. He clearly did!
Explaining the game to Gonzo
My friends of Red Little House and I surrounding the Man
Here are more photos of the event:

Equally fun with only 3 players
Kids playing the game on the main podium
Commenting a live match between Raquel from Red Little House and some really skilled kids

My valliant F310 controllers
More people gathered around the game

To sum up Madrid's Gamergy was really a great experience. I'm really thankful to Mediavida to let met participate because it has been so rewarding and uplifting. I'm now working on the public demo and thinking of all the ways (crowdfunding, finding a publisher, participating in other similar events ...) I have at my disposal to take the next step for Super Rocket Shootout.

Jun 4, 2014

Guns, Beats n' Dragons - A lowrez tribute to Super Smash TV

I've recently participated in the Lowrezjam, a game jam whose theme was to make a game in a resolution of 32x32!

You can play the game here on Gamejolt

I have made a playthrough video on Youtube

I wanted to make a small top-down shooter and even if this resolution was not the fittest for that kind of game, I gave it a try.

You play a fictionnal character armed with a gun and go through a maze of rooms shooting at different types of enemies. As for Super Smash TV, each room as a number of enemy waves and when you complete it, you're allowed to advance to the next room until you meet the final boss.
Some rooms give you the possibility of different paths:
- the "middle" path is the most straight forwardm and the easiest
- the "north" path is a bit harder, but as the enemies you fight give you more point, you'll be able to score higher
- the "south" path is the toughest, you only get one heart power-up (instead of two) but it's the path that will allow you to make the higher scores.

The notable gameplay mechanics are:
- the jump: you can jump to dodge enemies and bullets
- the crates: some killed enemies will drop crates that will give the player random new weapons (bouncing bullets, piercing bullets, double shots, triple shots and machine gun) with limited ammos. As long as you pick up crates with one of these wepons equiped, you'll reload your ammos. The fun twist is that if you shoot a crate, it will explode and make some zone damage.

The game can be played only with the keyboard although it's easier to aim and shoot with the mouse.

Until now,  feedback is pretty good and apart from the criticism for the low resolution and the text font (quite hard to write something in 32x32), I'm pretty happy about how it feels and plays. The game has good  action-feedback and pretty decent animations that would almost make you forget it's only 32x32!

Have a go at it and don't hesitate to drop me some feedback!

Ludum Dare 29 - Postmortem

Last month I participated to my first Ludum Dare whose theme was "Beneath the surface".
I made a game called "Digable Planet", that you can play here (Postcompo version of it).

Here you have the results (ranking is over some 1450 entries in the composition category).

What went right:

First of all, completing a "full" game in 48 hours is in itself an achievement for me.
Besides, as the results show, I made an overall rank of #124 (the top 10%) which I guess it's not bad. I was a bit deceived I must confess but seeing my game and the ones that made better scores, I can understand why.
Overall the reception was great, I had some nice comments and even someone donated some money.
It's really encouraging!!
I'm quite happy with the music and graphics in general, and although I started deep playtest 1 or 2 hours before the submission deadline, the gameplay is quite balanced, at least for a play session of 15min to 1 hour. Then you can find the best way to solve the problem every time.

What went wrong:

Before the beginning of this LD, I had told myself that I would make a game entirely and only playable with the mouse, since all the games I had made until then were only play with the keyboard.
Problem is I totally forgot to take in account people that don't have a mouse, and specifically that don't have a mouse wheel (people playing with the gamepad). The game was just to hard to play for them as the selection of the different machines was made to fast.
An other critic made was the lack of feedback, especially when you're about to drill the core, and that the game over screen seemed to popup without any reason. I indeed hadn't put any alert that the end of the game was near.
And, as always in my case, the final critic was that the gameplay was not explained clearly. I have to say that gameplay was exlpained clearly, but outside of the game and it's true that when you test a game in a game jam, you don't want to go through a full page of text to understand what it's all about. My problem was that there wasn't any explanation or tutorial ingame and players had to wonder a bit in order to understand what to do and how to do it.

What from there:

After all the feedback, I made a post compo version with better feedback and alternat controls. I guess in this state, the game is more enjoyable and closer to what I had in mind.
Overall, I've learnt some valuable lessons from this game jam:
- the feedback of any user action is one of the key feature that make a can enjoyable. Sounds, graphics, text, effects, anything has to be made so that the player knows instantly that the game has taken his action in account and what effect on the game his action has had. It seems self obvious, especially in well designed games, but that's most of the time the difference between a regular game and a great game.
- a game should explain ingame the basic actions so that the player knows what it's all about and what the basic controls are, so that he can start playing right away
- controls should be the more universal and accesible possible: give the option to play with keyboard and/or mouse, take in acount left or right-handed people, take in account keyboard with different key layouts (QWERTY vs AZERTY), even give the option to remap the key.

To conclude, I'd say that it has been a really useful and fun experience and I'm pretty sure I'll hop on the next Ludum Dare!