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!

Apr 8, 2014

Assasseed's Crin, an Assassin's Creed demake

Hi !
I've recently participated in the mini Ludum Dare 50 whose theme was demake.
If you don't know what a demake is, here's a pretty solid definition.

My entry is called Assasseed's Crin, and as you've already guessed, it's a demake of the fist Assassin's Creed.

It's a fast paced scoring game where you'll have to rush your way to the guards of Damascus in order to kill your next target. You'll gain progessively new abilities to help you eliminate your targets faster. Get to 30 and you'll be rewarded by the Assasseed's Crin Gold Trohpy,

Just try it here, it's totally free!

Disclaimer: This game is not related to or endorsed by Ubisoft Entertainment. Ubisoft Entertainment is the owner of all copyright and trademark rights on Assassin’s Creed. Oddly Shaped Pixels does not claim any copyright or trademark right on the elements based on Ubisoft’s franchise “Assassin’s Creed”.

Mar 31, 2014

Super Rocket Shootout - Advanced gameplay


I've made a small video explaining more in depths the whole combo mecanics and super attacks behind Super Rocket Shootout gameplay. Feel free to watch!

Next Super Rocket Shootout video will be a live session so stay tuned!


Mar 29, 2014

A Logical Dive: A post-mortem attempt

It's been a long time since my last post and it's mostly due to the fact that I'm working hard on Super Rocket Shootout, but there isn't anything really showable or worth mentioning right now, although the global quality will definitely depend on this work.

To keep this blog running I'll write today about a game I made during the Cyberpunk Gamejam, a jam that took place from March 1st to March 11th. The idea was to make a game with a theme related to cyberpunk and more specifically to this image by Filipe Andrade.

The game is called A Logical Dive and you can play it here.

Until then I had never released something and never completed a game project but I had read several times that attending game jams was a unique and rewarding experience. Besides, I was not in a big motivation phase regarding the Super Rocket Shootout dev so I decided to hop on.

1- The making

For the game idea, I mostly focused on the image and the whole design stemmed from my interpretation of it. For what I could see, I decided that there should be two characters, one falling from/between buildings, and the other one watching for him from "above". Aside from that, since I was already making Super Rocket Shootout and was a bit afraid of leaving my comfort zone for my first jam, I decided to stick to the 2d  platformer genre.

Nevertheless, since I wanted to experiment a bit, I decided that the game should revolve around 3 axis:
  •  the platformer part
  •  a puzzle aspect
  •  a quite strong narrative
Although my first idea was initially to make a faster paced game in the vein of the Rayman Legends levels where you have to fall through a level as fast as you can, I ended up mixing a platformer style with a mini game based on boolean logic. To fit the story and the background, one character is in charge of exploring the level (a younger more agile one) and the other one (older but wiser) is in charge of hacking some device in order to let the first one reach the end of the level. From there came the title, A Logical Dive.

At first I wanted to make some 10 levels and to build a complete story around them but I soon realized that 11 days and one person was not enough. So I ended up with 4 levels, which is not a lot, clearly, but implemented at the end a "best time" scoring system to maintain a bit of interest. As for the story, 4 levels was not enough to write something really deep and decent so I just decided to leave the game with an unfinished plot but tried to end it on a climax. For those who went through the 4 levels, I guess (hope) it left them with a need for more :)

I coded the game with Unity and the 2dToolkit framework, the same tools I use for SRS and that I'm now quite familiar with. Apart from the parallax scrolling manager and a few coding tricks, I decided to made it all from scratch. On the one hand, it was rewarding and taught me new ways of coding stuffs (and correcting some SRS bugs as well) but on the other hand, I spent most of these 11 days re-designing the wheel and had to sacrifice other aspects of the game for that.

For those familiar with game jams, it's something normal cause you're normally not allowed to re-use bits of your own code (unless they're open source and available to others, time before the jam). Except that for this jam, there was no such clause so I guess I could have re-use a lot more code but hey, I wanted to do it the hard way!

The art and music were also created during these 11 days and even if they're nothing incredible, I'm quite happy with the result and the global atmosphere it gives to the game.

2- What went ok

Well, first of all, the jam itself went ok, cause the game ended 4th place, which I really couldn't believe since some really great entries were submitted, entries that even scored lower than A Logical Dive (better said, were rated lower by the participants).

If you watch closely the ratings, you'll see that the game ended 1st place for the Relevance, which is really rewarding, and also in accordance with my design process since, like I said before, I based the whole idea on an intense brainstorming session when interpretating the theme image.

On an other level, I think the global art direction/atmosphere was ok, and I got a few comments saying that they liked it and found it immersive.

The dialogs and the global story went also pretty good and I'm happy with the way the interactions between the characters seem natural.

3- What went wrong

If the art, relevance and atmosphere went ok, the gameplay and basically the whole level design is what went wrong, and really wrong!
Not long after submitting my entry, I got a message from Jordi de Paco, my fellow indie dev from Deconstructeam, that the game was way to frustrating:
  • first, the boolean mini game was not that clear
  • second, he often ended stuck in the levels and had to restart and redo everything from the beginning

For the first point, although I managed to develop a tutorial through the introduction part, I realized that indeed, the mini game wasn't really well explained. Since I didn't want to deeply change the game and the dialogs, I went for a detailed explanation outside the game. It's definitely not the best way to do it, but at least it helped the players understand the hacking part (those who read it, clearly) and I hadn't had any comment on this aspect after that.

For the second point, it was a bit of a slap in the face, but totally deserved. Indeed, I decided, as a game design rule, that since the player was moving in some kind of maze, he HAD to get stuck and HAD to restart the level to find the correct path. HUGE MISTAKE! Because what appeared from by point of view as a coherent level design choice, from the player position, it was definitely a flaw in the game design and the "PRESS R TO RESTART LEVEL" mechanic was the laziest way to go around bad level design.

And it's totally true.

When a player dies in a game, he (most of the time) can only blame himself or his skills. That creates frustration but with the feeling that he has to get better. It's a good kind of frustration, a motivating one. Take Super Meat Boy for instance. It may be one of the most frustrating game for an inconsistent player. But the frustration you get makes you want to get better and if you stick at it and you finally clear a stage, the rewarding feeling is just incredibly satisfactory. Whereas if you get frustrated by getting stuck, and have to re-do a level 3 or 4 times to get the right path, you may have achieved the level, but it's not because you've improved your skills, it's just because you ended up finding the only way (or one of the only ways) a bad level designer gave you to complete the level.

This flaw is directly related to my lack of experience, clearly, but it's not an excuse and I may have see that one coming if I had playtested the game with other players. It's a bit of a problem when you're making a game alone cause if nobody tries your game and gives you an objective feedback, how are you going to say by yourself what is feasible, what is not, what is good and what definitely needs a change.

Getting back to the game jam and after Jordi's and other players comments, I patched the game by putting more "elevators" so that players don't get stuck (although it's still lacking one or two and you still can get stuck...) and by leaving the computers and cameras hacked after restarting a level. It's now a better game that it was when I first uploaded it, but it will definitely need a lifting on the level design side.

On the whole, I think I gave to much focus on the art and the ambiance and to little on the game design and the overall gameplay. Game jams are made for experimenting and in this way, I learned some valuable lessons from all these errors, but game jams are also made, in my opinion, to get you out of your comfort zone and to make you rethink/reshape your whole game creation process. And that, I'll try to keep in mind for my next one(s).

4- What from there?

Well, as I had read so far, participating in a game jam is indeed a unique and rewarding experience. I encourage every game/indie developer to try it a least once, even if it's with an unfinished game or even if the result is not what was expected. I've spent 11 days sleeping 4 hours a night, eating the bare minimum and going to my daily work looking as an extra from the Walking Dead but damn, it felt so good completing a game, seeing people play it and connecting and exchanging with other developers.

Besides, when you're involved in a mid/long term project, it really gives you fresh eyes and brings you new ideas, new ways of doing or not doing things.

The only drawback I can see to game jams is that it's so addictive that one can easily spend his whole dev time game jamming. There are so many game jams getting organized every months, each one more appealing than the other, that I could easily occupy all of my free time only with jams, and although I'm currently trying to get something done for the Mini Ludum Dare 50, I think it will be my last game jam for a while if I want to advance on Super Rocket Shoutout dev and to maintain a minimum of social life!