Archive for the ‘The October Game’ Category

Future Schedule Thoughts

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

It’s now half way through the month, and progress on my “October Game” is minimal to say the least. I suppose that was to be expected, since I did have several things to finish this month. My week-days have been filled with various tasks, leaving only weekends to work on this new thing. Next week I’ll be busy with my “1 more thing”, leaving me the last week of October for a final crunch. Then on to November for “the next” Smiles thing.

*sigh*… Something has to change.

I’m clearly a victim of my willingness to consider every noteworthy Smiles related opportunity I find. If I keep going as is, I could easily fill another year with Smiles stuff. Six months from now, I would probably still have another year lined up.

I don’t really follow a schedule. Rather, what I do is note important dates, and simply prioritize what needs to be done by when, giving priority to what’s easy or more lucrative. I’m practically working every day (or half working, watching the e-mailbox). It is fine, and I enjoy what and how I do it, but I didn’t quit mainstream game development and start my own company to eternally develop Smiles.

This was one of my motivations for declaring the October Challenge. Phil and I have both been developing and supporting our respected games for the past couple years (him even longer than me). And we’d be silly to ignore any serious new market or opportunity that comes up, but it really is time to move on.

So, starting in November, I’m going to try sticking to a new weekly schedule. 1 day a week on Smiles related stuff, 1 day a week on New Stuff (required), then 3 days shared between the two. I’ve been talking a bit about my plan with some friends. Here’s roughly what my new week looks like:

Sunday: Day off (possibly “gone dark” too)
Monday: No Obligation Day (like a day off, but checking e-mail)
Tuesday: Work (Smiles Day) **
Wednesday: Work (Smiles Day)
Thursday: Work
Friday: Work (New Game Day)
Saturday: Work (New Game Day) **

It’s been an observation of mine that Monday’s aren’t very interesting. I don’t mean that in the classic job sense, but really, I rarely get interesting e-mails or requests bright and early Monday morning. Tuesday on the other hand, that’s when the week really begins.

To contrast, Friday’s get less and less interesting as the day goes on. Important e-mails usually stop rolling in by 3 PM, Engadget and other news sources start to dry up around the same time, you’ve already read your webcomics for the week by then, and so on. Fridays are boring. Then comes Saturday where there is no news. Normal people at normal jobs are enjoying their weekends. In a sense, it’s the perfect time to work without interruption (and distraction). And I still need a real day off in there somewhere, hence Sunday.

This past month I’ve been practically following this schedule already, which is how I came up with it. The bottom line is new game developments can’t wait anymore. I’ve decided I’m not actually starting until November, since I’m planning to break the schedule during the final week of October (no Smiles stuff… at least no scheduled work). As it stands, I have some concerns about my October game, but that’s for a different post.

October Game – Week 2 (more like day++)

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Busy busy. I didn’t get to put much time in to the October game this week, but their certainly was progress.

Before:

Map is getting dizzy

and after… some element are mocked up (character and outlining):

Zoomed in to what I assume will be more what the real zoom will be... will try 1 more.

For the full transformation, hit the jump.

(more…)

October Game – Week 1 (more like Weekend 1)

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I’ve been doing my daily logs over at the Ludum Dare site, to try and encourage more people to participate there. I’ve really only worked on the game for 2 days, despite my plans to start early. Today I was busy with something else, so this week’s update will be light.

This “week” was about getting the foundation of editor up and running. Currently it works on a 2 button mouse (right click to erase), but the editing interface will support a touch screen (tile zero is the eraser). There’s currently no UI, but I can cycle tiles with the mouse wheel. It auto saves/loads the map to a specific file.

It started out looking like this:

I don't know what it is, but in tile editors I always want to draw H's

Then by the end of the night Saturday, it looked like this:

Dirt Fortress

If you’re interested at all in the process from A to B, hit the jump for more.

I was going to do some work today (Sunday), but there’s so little time left, I’m calling it a night early.

(more…)

My October Agenda

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The response to the October Challenge has been incredible! I think the one thing that’s most amazing about it: everybody gets it. Every appearance of it on the internet has encouraged a plethora of “I’m in!” or “It’s ON like Donkey Kong!” responses. I’ve had dozens of direct tweets and people hunt me down in IRC just to tell me how much they love the idea. Very awesome!

For October 1st, I’ll be setting up and doing a new post on the Ludum Dare site, explaining how we can keep a list of finished games (i.e. using the existing Ludum Dare competition system). I’m putting it off a few days so I can actually get started.

So lets get started.

I already have the business stuff done (been doing it for a few years now). I also already have dev program memberships and payment info registered with most platforms (iOS, AppUp, …). If you haven’t done this yet, you should. Paperwork takes time to ship, be received, and approved.

So me, I’m jumping right in to development.

I shouldn’t say my time is short, since I am a full-time independent developer (sorry students and dayjob folk). Still, I’m treating the next month as a fraction of that. Despite, I’m still expecting to take the entire month to finish. My “first sale” will likely not be until early November, as store approvals do take time.

I have a rough plan scribbled down in my notepad and sketchbook (and in my head). I’m going to create a game by combining several things I know extremely well, something I could (if crunching like a maniac) probably get playable during a traditional LD competition time-line.

Looking back, one of the things about the iPhone App Store I completely didn’t expect was something I want to call “Incremental Game Development“. Coming from a console games background, our games need to be finished and seriously tested before they ever hit the market. So I as a console developer did exactly that. Took 4 month, and finished a game. Around the same time, a game called Fieldrunners was released. This game is the gold standard of the Tower Defense genre available for many major mobiles (iPhone, PSP, DS). It was almost expected that between the three of us (Smiles, Edge, Fieldrunners), Fieldrunners was going to win the IGF Mobile, which they did. There is one thing few people remember though: Fieldrunners launched *WITHOUT* sound!

This was such a shock for me. I was filled with such jealousy as they flew by me in the charts. Who releases a commercial quality game without sound!? Why is it selling so well!? Then they did something else. They released an update with sound. Sometime later, they updated again… and again. Each update was welcomed by press coverage and created much buzz in the community.

What!

I look back now with much respect for Subatomic Studios, having taught me something I was blind to, coming from the Console games business. They are my choice example for what I consider Incremental Game Development. Pocket God is another title that grew and evolved dramatically over time, but it was Fieldrunners that woke me up to it.

Today there are plenty of monetization options in games. Redefining how we get paid redefines how we make games. So if we can start selling a game as soon as it becomes compelling and fun, then why not do that?

Incremental Game Development is not the beta/preorder model. It is like it, but it’s not a promise of future updates or a “fuller” game. It’s a way to gauge interest and fund further development. You make the most compelling foundation or vertical slice of your game you can, and sell it for a low price for a larger user base. So in essence, I am making an incremental game.

So Mike, what are you making?

A “Single Screen” 2D Platformer.

A traditional “Single Screen” platformer has the problem that: once you change the resolution or the aspect ratio, it no longer works. Mike, the crazy portability guy, couldn’t sleep at night if he was making a game for 1 screen resolution today. So what I’ll likely do instead is pick a general room size, and scale/scroll to something fitting on whatever the native display is.

There’s certainly more to it than that, but I’m generalizing. I have a list of choice elements I’m looking to add, and a bigger plan if things go well. But the goal of my design is something simple and open. Kind-of like how a roguelike is developed: You get the core game working, and iterate new features until it’s a Dward Fortress. I have a list of things I want to try, and will be playing it by ear all month long. At its core though, it will be a platformer, and it will have fixed sized rooms.

That is the current technical challenge ahead for me; A pretty easy one at that. The point is to be able to finish quickly, so I can look at it, and decide what it needs next (or what I’m in the mood to try).

Artistically, to save time, I’m strongly considering a main character in the style of the “bird things” from my TIGSource Comicompo page. This, but cleaner:

That’s all for now. It’s now midnight Friday (having LD start time Deja Vu), so it’s time for a bit of planning/prep before bed.

The October Challenge

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

You might think I’m contractually obligated to start something ridiculous every few years, though I don’t remember signing the papers.

My new project is awesome, I love it, but it’s going to take me all of next year (and maybe more) to make it. I’m so fascinated and taken by it, it’s something I NEED to make. But that’s next years agenda.

This year, 2010, there’s still a good 3 months left. I’m doing Smiles stuff still, and will likely be doing more up until the end of the year. I’ll have more to talk about there very soon (actually I could talk now since we’re almost done, but busy busy).

Aside from the IGF, contest season is nearly over now. Intel has some new cars up for grabs, but I think I’ve reached my car-winning-quota with Smiles.

Phil and I have been bantering back and forth all summer (maybe all year) how we’re going to sit down and make some new games. We released our iPhone games some 2 years ago; He did the Steam thing and I did the Intel and other ports thing. Boy-oh-boy wouldn’t we like to start something new!

We run a little something called Ludum Dare, a reasonably well known internet game-jam that does hundreds of entries per event. So today, I decided to issue a challenge to the community.

Make a game — take it to market — sell 1 copy

Compared to the usual game jam and compo fare, this is a drastic change from the norm. Sales and marketing usually don’t factor in to the creative process of a Ludum Dare; Neither does filling out tax forms and setting up bank accounts. There’s a fantastic community of developers involved in indie, freeware and compo/jams. The compo/jam is the catalyst for many to take the plunge and start creating games regularly. After that, we leave it up to you figure out how to do more with it. I’m especially excited about this, not only for me (new game!), but for all those developers that haven’t taken the business dive yet. We regularly get many thank you’s after an LD, from developers that needed that little bit of external encouragement to finally sit down and do it. This wild diversion could be the seed needed by a handful of jammers to finally make the leap in to selling games. It’s crazy optimistic, but the one thing we’ve learned from LD is that deadlines are an amazing thing.

This week I’ve been thinking about a small “couple week” game; In reality it will take longer, but it is nice to focus on a super small scope sometimes. So on a whim, I throw out the challenge to our #ludumdare IRC channel. To my surprise, I get a great instant response, which gets the gears turning.

I draft up the following up, tweet it, and inform the mailing list.

http://www.ludumdare.com/…/povs-challenge-make-a-game-sell-1-copy/

This all started as a vague race; First one to sell a copy wins. But it really should be more than that, so I shaped it in to something like an LD+ (minus all the restrictions). This should be October, the whole freaking month! That gives us a few days to prep, spread the word, or even start early. I know I’m going be hit with obligations these next 6 weeks, so no time to waste.

That’s what’s going on. I haven’t decided how I’m going to document my attempt, but stay tuned. I’m thinking blog here with some re-posting elsewhere. And if you too want to get in on the action, to figuratively “join in the App revolution”, or get started on something new (like Phil and I), please do! Spread the word. We’ll be in a holding pattern at the Ludum Dare website and IRC channel (as usual), so catch us there.

Lets do this!